12.31 In the Winter Classic Alumni game, the Flyers bear the Rangers 3-1. Hey, Bernie Parent! Hey Bobby Clarke, where’d ya get those teeth? That’s the redoubtable Dave Poulin with Clarkie, of course.)
12.29 Felipe Fernandez-Armesto on cNN. com: “The 2012 election will be like all the others, bought by millions of dollars, abandoned by millions of voters. Iran could have rejoined civilization, but, instead, the irrational alienation of Iranians has continued. Imaginative initiatives could have helped to reverse the clash of civilizations, but inter-communal violence has gone on accumulating. . . .The year’s non-events have, at least, taught us two truths. First, the global political system is sclerotic. The inertia of the U.S. government, with decision-making deadlocked and almost every program frozen — the promising and menacing alike — seems representative of a world baffled into pusillanimity by the scale of its problems. . .Second, 2011, like other unremarkable years, has confirmed the already dominant features of the history of our day: intractable economic stagnation, moral and intellectual torpor, tacky culture, environmental degradation. We can congratulate ourselves, as we head into 2012, only on escaping the infamous old Chinese curse: We do not live in interesting times.”
12.28 Cheetah dies at 80
12.24 Rose visits
12.22 George Will in The Washington Post: “Gingrich’s unsurprising descent into sinister radicalism — intimidation of courts — is redundant evidence that he is not merely the least conservative candidate, he is thoroughly anti-conservative. He disdains the central conservative virtue, prudence, and exemplifies progressivism’s defining attribute — impatience with impediments to the political branches’ wielding of untrammeled power. He exalts the will of the majority of the moment, at least as he, tribune of the vox populi, interprets it. Atop the Republican ticket, Gingrich would guarantee Barack Obama’s reelection, would probably doom Republicans’ hopes of capturing the Senate and might cost them control of the House. If so, Gingrich would at last have achieved something — wreckage, but something — proportional to his swollen sense of himself.”
12.22 The Freedom Tower under construction, looking north from Albany Street.
12.22 Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin was overheard talking on his cellphone at the Delta Crown lounge at Reagan National Airport about a woman who spoke to him at a church auction three weeks ago. He said that the woman approached him and praised first lady Michelle Obama. He told the woman that Michelle should practice what she preaches — “she lectures us on eating right while she has a large posterior herself.”
12.21 Lunch at Willis with Joe Plumeri and Josh King
12.18 Vaclav Havel dies at 75.
12.17 Prairie Home Companion, with Itzhak Perlman, at Town Hall, followed by an excellent dinner at Saju with Greg, Susan, Ginny, David, Jo, Cathy and Tim.
12.16 Christopher Hitchens dies at 62.
12.15 The Wainwright-McGarrigle Not So Silent Night, at Town Hall, with Ginny and Molly, following a mediocre dinner at Kellerini Taverna.
12.13 Thomas Frank in Pity the Billionaire: “The issue, the newest Right tells us, is freedom itself. Not the doings of the subprime lenders or the ways the bond-rating agencies were compromised over the course of the last decade. Details like that may have crushed the economy, but to the nascent Right they are almost completely irrelevant. What matters is a given politician’s disposition toward free markets, and, by extension, towards the common people of the land, whose faithful vicar the market is. Now, there is nothing really novel about the idea that free markets are the very essence of freedom. What is new is the glorification of this idea at the precise moment when free-market theory has proven itself to be a philosophy of ruination and fraud. The revival of the right is as extraordinary as it would be if the public had demanded dozens of new nuclear power plants in the days after Three Mile Island.”
12.13 New photo of Cara and Belle.
12.12 Anne Applebaum in the Washington Post: “The British prime minister, David Cameron, did not intend to emerge from negotiations in total isolation. In essence, he tried to blackmail the rest of Europe: You agree to give special protections to the City, Britain’s financial services sector — all of those men doing deals in offices — and we will agree, grudgingly, to a new European treaty or amendments to those that exist. But some of what he wanted was redundant, and some of it was presented too late or with too much arrogance. “Nobody understood what Cameron wanted — nobody,” one diplomat told the Financial Times. “We were talking about big things — saving the Euro — and he was asking for peanuts. It was not the time or place.” So the 26 went ahead and did a deal without him. Everyone else in the room thought the priority was to save the European economy, and they arrived prepared to give things up. In their view, Cameron behaved as though his priority was to save the City, and he arrived with demands. As an even more undiplomatic diplomat told me, “He cares more about those spivs in the City than he cares about us.” Which is undoubtedly true: For the City dictates Britain’s outlook on the world more now than ever before. . . .Something has shifted further in the London mentality, if not the British mentality, in the past decade. Britain’s recession, the worst in decades, is almost invisible in booming central London. And the London City now has more in common with an offshore hub like Dubai than it does with Paris or Berlin.”
12.11 In a very exciting game in which the lead exchanged hands eight times, the Giants defeated the Cowboys 37-34, thanks to Jason Pierre-Paul‘s last second block of a Dallas field-goal attempt. Eli Manning passed for 40 yards and two TDs.
12.9 Paul Krugman in the Times: “The popular image — shaped in part by Oliver Stone — is that buyouts were followed by ruthless cost-cutting, largely at the expense of workers who either lost their jobs or found their wages and benefits cut. And while reality is more complex than this image — some companies have expanded and added workers after a leveraged buyout — it contains more than a grain of truth. One recent analysis of “private equity transactions” — the kind of buyouts and takeovers Bain specialized in — noted that business in general is always both creating and destroying jobs, and that this is also true of companies that were buyout or takeover targets. However, job creation at the target firms is no greater than in similar firms that aren’t targets, while “gross job destruction is substantially higher.” So Mr. Romney made his fortune in a business that is, on balance, about job destruction rather than job creation. And because job destruction hurts workers even as it increases profits and the incomes of top executives, leveraged buyout firms have contributed to the combination of stagnant wages and soaring incomes at the top that has characterized America since 1980. . . .Bain during the Romney years seems to have been especially hard on workers, since four of its top 10 targets by dollar value ended up going bankrupt. (Bain, nonetheless, made money on three of those deals.) That’s a much higher rate of failure than is typical even of companies going through leveraged buyouts — and when the companies went under, many workers ended up losing their jobs, their pensions, or both. So what do we learn from this story? Not that Mitt Romney the businessman was a villain. Contrary to conservative claims, liberals aren’t out to demonize or punish the rich. But they do object to the attempts of the right to do the opposite, to canonize the wealthy and exempt them from the sacrifices everyone else is expected to make because of the wonderful things they supposedly do for the rest of us.”
12.9 Lindsay Lohan poses for Playboy, posing a Marilyn Monroe in the classic shot. What a mistake. What a blunder. The biggest get for the magazine in years, and she is unrecognizable. Proof of Hefner’s malign influence.
12.9 David Brooks in The New York Times: “In the two main Republican contenders, we have one man, Romney, who seems to have walked straight out of the 1950s, and another, Gingrich, who seems to have walked straight out of the 1960s. He has every negative character trait that conservatives associate with ’60s excess: narcissism, self-righteousness, self-indulgence and intemperance. He just has those traits in Republican form. As nearly everyone who has ever worked with him knows, he would severely damage conservatism and the Republican Party if nominated. He would severely damage the Hamilton-Theodore Roosevelt strain in American life. It’s really too bad.”
12.8 Visited David Berg at his home in Wainscott, Long Island. Dinner at the Palm.
12.7 Robert Frank in Slate: “The good news is that we could pull a few simple policy levers that would greatly reduce the adverse effects of growing income gaps without threatening the benefits that have been made possible by improved technology and increased competition. The simplest step would be to scrap the current progressive income tax in favor of a much more steeply progressive tax on each household’s consumption. Families would report their taxable income to the IRS (ideally under a tax code that greatly simplifies the calculation of taxable income), and also their annual savings, as many now do for IRAs and other tax-exempt retirement accounts. The difference between those two numbers—income minus savings—is the family’s annual consumption expenditure. That amount, less a large standard deduction—say, $30,000 for a family of four—is the family’s taxable consumption. Rates would start low and would then rise much more steeply than those under the current income tax. Families in the bottom half of the spending distribution would pay lower or no higher taxes than under the current system. But high marginal rates on top spenders would not only generate more revenue than the current system, but would also reshape spending patterns in ways that would benefit people up and down the income ladder. If top marginal income tax rates are set too high, they discourage productive economic activity. In the limit, a top marginal income tax rate of 100 percent would mean that taxpayers would gain nothing from working harder or investing more. In contrast, a higher top marginal rate on consumption would actually encourage savings and investment. A top marginal consumption tax rate of 100 percent, for example, would simply mean that if a wealthy family spent an extra dollar, it would also owe an additional dollar of tax.”
12.7 President Obama, in a speech in Osawatomie, Kansas: ““This country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share and when everyone plays by the same rules. . . .This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class, and all those who are fighting to get into the middle class. At stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home, and secure their retirement. . . .Fewer and fewer of the folks who contributed to the success of our economy actually benefited from that success. Those at the very top grew wealthier from their incomes and investments than ever before. But everyone else struggled with costs that were growing and paychecks that weren’t — and too many families found themselves racking up more and more debt. . . This isn’t about class warfare. This is about the nation’s welfare.”
12.6 Pakistani actress Veena Malik is suing FHM India for “doctoring” photographs to show her in the nude, wearing a tattoo reading ISI, the initials of the akistani secret service. FHM India editor Kabeer Sharma said the photos are authentic and claimed there’s video footage of the shoot to prove it.
12.6 David Brooks in the Times: “Over the past 40 years, small business leaders have eloquently complained about the regulatory burden. And they are right to. But it’s not clear that regulations are a major contributor to the current period of slow growth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics asks companies why they have laid off workers. Only 13 percent said regulations were a major factor. That number has not increased in the past few years. According to the bureau, roughly 0.18 percent of the mass layoffs in the first half of 2011 were attributable to regulations. Some of the industries that are the subject of the new rules, like energy and health care, have actually been doing the most hiring. If new regulations were eating into business, we’d see a slip in corporate profits. We are not.”
12.6 At a book signing event in South Carolina, an eight year-old boy named Elijah confronts Michele Bachmann, who had aired her views on gays and lesbians, by saying “My mom is gay and she doesn’t need fixing.”
12.6 Richard Cohen in the Post: “Obama’s most astounding bit of good luck is the motley crew of opponents the Republican Party has coughed up. It is simply amazing that in a country of 313 million people, many of them literate, the political opposition consists of ignoramuses, dimwits, contrarians, Christian jihadists and, now, two men so thoroughly hollow that a moral principle would make a rattling sound inside them.”
12.6 Marc Thiessen in the Washington Post: “Gingrich is likely to have staying power that Perry and Cain did not enjoy for one simple reason: His conservative supporters have nowhere else to go. While Romney succeeded in bringing down his surging opponents, he failed to win over virtually any of their defecting supporters. His RealClearPolitics polling average now stands at 20.4 percent, and since entering the race he has rarely exceeded 25 percent in any poll. It seems that no matter what happens with the rest of the field, three-quarters of the GOP electorate wants someone — anyone — but Romney.”
12.5 Paul Krugman in the Times: “The Washington Post quotes an unnamed Republican adviser who compared what happened to Herman Cain, when he suddenly found himself leading in the polls, to the proverbial tale of the dog who had better not catch that car he’s chasing. “Something great and awful happened, the dog caught the car. And of course, dogs don’t know how to drive cars. So he had no idea what to do with it.” The same metaphor, it seems to me, might apply to the G.O.P. pursuit of the White House next year. If the dog actually catches the car — the actual job of running the U.S. government — it will have no idea what to do, because the realities of government in the 21st century bear no resemblance to the mythology all ambitious Republican politicians must pretend to believe. And what will happen then?”
12.4 Michael Tomasky in The Daily Beast: “It’s the end of the line for the hit (for a month anyway) situation comedy The Herman Cain Show—as something worth tuning into, anyway. As the obituaries are rushed to press, most of the experts will chalk the demise up to the candidate’s inexperience and his staff’s ineptitude. It’s not that those things aren’t true, but they miss the real point. The real culprit is Cain’s bottomless vanity.” Are you kidding me? Explaining why Cain’s campaign collapsed is like asking why I’m not going to be quarterbacking the Giants next Sunday. The reasons are as many as they are obvious, and none warrants a column.
12.3 Herman Cain, on suspending his campaign: ““I believe these words came from the Pokémon movie. ‘Life can be a challenge. Life can seem impossible. It’s never easy when there’s so much on the line. But you and I can make a difference. There’s a mission just for you and me.’” The verses he cited are from the song “Power of One,” by Donna Summer, which was the theme of the 1999 movie.
12.3 George Will, quoted on Twitter: “Gingrich embodies the vanity and rapacity that make modern Washington repulsive.”
12.1 Philip Rucker and Peter Wallsten in The Washington Post: “A Gallup poll released Tuesday showed Gingrich’s “positive intensity score” surging among Republicans as Romney’s score dropped to his lowest level of the year. Gingrich’s score, however, has not reached the levels achieved earlier by Cain, Bachmann and Perry before they quickly fell from front-runner status. The question looming over the race is whether Gingrich will suffer the same fate. Increasingly, Romney’s advisers believe he will not. They are calculating that primary voters will overlook Gingrich’s rocky career in public life — including ethics charges, extramarital affairs and a decade of trading his influence to enrich himself. Voters “know all that, and they’ve discounted those things,” said a third Romney adviser. “The leadership of the campaign recognizes that Gingrich has got staying power, that he’s a very serious candidate.” This adviser said that the campaign considers Gingrich’s rise “absolutely” different from Cain’s or Perry’s, in part because they cannot count on him withering under his new spotlight. “Clearly there is a very strong, clear view that it’s a real contest,” the adviser said. “But Romney is doing the right things to win it. It’s not slipping away. Romney’s got to fight for it. He always was going to have to fight for it. It’s just now clear who the fight is with.”
12.1 From hollywood-elsewhere.com: Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln for Steven Spielberg‘s upcoming movie.
11.30 Mark McKinnon in The Daily Beast: “The race is not over, by any means. Newt is a “Warshington” insider, when the country is tired of insider games. He is an undisciplined bomb thrower, when the people are looking for predictability. And he has little congressional support, when folks are looking for an end to the “Standoff on the Hill.” But the Cain Train has come off the tracks, Bachmann has proved to be weak tea, Perry’s posse is outnumbered, Paul has peaked, Santorum never struck, and Huntsman is making some progress in New Hampshire but has yet to break through. Meanwhile, make-no-waves Mitt Romney remains steady. But in the end, Newt, like John McCain in 2008, may beat expectations. Lazarus may yet again rise, defying the laws of nature and gravity.”
11.30 Dana Milbank in the Post: “No question, Barney Frank is one of the smartest on Capitol Hill and probably the most colorful. But he is also one of the most notorious bullies, known for berating staff, alienating allies and causing aides to cower in fear of his gratuitous and frequent browbeatings. The stories are legendary: making a young network employee cry when he scolded her for trying to un-rumple him before a TV appearance; demanding that an aide “answer the [expletive] question” before giving him a chance to respond; asking a woman escorting him to a Chicago meeting, “Why do you care what kind of flight I had?” The invective poured forth with great fluency. He asked critics: “On what planet do you spend most of your time?” When the Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim asked a question Frank didn’t like, he replied, “What is this, some kind of idiotic contest?” Berating reporters rarely hurts a politician, and few could begrudge Frank an elegantly worded swipe at the opposition. But the gratuitous nastiness, to allies and especially to his own staff, have kept him from achieving far more in his three-decade career on the Hill. People who worked with Frank tell me that the former chairman of the House Financial Services Committee is “smart but not thoughtful.” He loved to fight and was a master of political combat, but he had little to show for it. He advanced gay rights, but trends have been moving in that direction anyway. He enacted the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul, but the fiddling-around-the-edges legislation has pleased few on the left while antagonizing business. This isn’t to take away from his role as a modern Mark Twain. “Conservatives,” he quipped, “believe that, from the standpoint of the federal government, life begins at conception and ends at birth.” And: “The problem with the war in Iraq is not so much the intelligence as the stupidity.” And: “I’m used to being in the minority. I’m a left-handed, gay Jew.” But in the end, Frank’s legacy is more that of an entertainer’s than a legislator’s.”
11.28 From a speech delivered in Berlin by Polish Foreign Minister Rados?aw Sikorski: “I demand of Germany that, for its own sake and for ours, it help the euro zone survive and prosper. Nobody else can do it. I will probably be the first Polish foreign minister in history to say this, but here it is: I fear German power less than I am beginning to fear its inactivity.” The Polish FM, who said he was living the “scariest moment of his ministerial life,” warned that the break-up of the euro zone would be a crisis “of apocalyptic proportion.” To prevent this, more fiscal discipline from member states and a greater role for the ECB are necessary, but it is not enough, said the FM. “We ask Berlin to admit that it is the biggest beneficiary of current arrangements and that it therefore has the biggest obligation to make them sustainable. As Germany knows best, she is not an innocent victim of others’ profligacy. What, as Poland’s foreign minister, do I regard as the biggest threat to the security and prosperity of Poland in the last week of November 2011? It is not terrorism, and it is certainly not German tanks. It is not even Russian missiles, which President Dmitry Medvedev has just threatened to deploy on the EU’s border. The biggest threat to the security of Poland would be the collapse of the euro zone.”
11.28 Barney Frank announces that he will not run for reelection.
11.27 Ken Russell dies at 84. Women in Love; Altered States– wow!
11.27 The New Hampshire Union Leader endorses Newt Gingrich for the GOP nomination. According to the New York Times’ Nate Silver, candidates endorsed by The Union Leader on the average finished with 29 percent of the vote in New Hampshire — an 11-percentage-point improvement from the 18 percent they averaged in the polls when the endorsement was made.
11.23 Jennifer Lopez on the American Music Awards.
11.23 Thomas L. Friedman in the Times: “I voted for Barack Obama, and I don’t want my money back. He’s never gotten the credit he deserves for bringing the economy he inherited back from the brink of a depression. He’s fought the war on terrorism in a smart and effective way. He’s making health care possible for millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions, and he saved the auto industry. This is big stuff. But, as important as all of these achievements are, they pale in comparison to the defining challenge of Obama’s presidency: Can he put the country on a sustainable economic recovery path at a time when, if we fail, it could be the end of the American dream? I believe the best way for Obama to do that is by declaring today that he made a mistake in spurning his own deficit reduction commission, chaired by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, and is now adopting Simpson-Bowles — which already has Republican and Democratic support — as his long-term fiscal plan to be phased in after a near-term stimulus. . . . My gut says that if the president lays out such a plan — one that begins with him taking all the political risks on himself and then demanding the G.O.P. and his own party follow — he will be both defining himself and the future in a way that would earn him so much centrist support and respect that it would leave every possible Republican opponent in the dust, no matter how obstructionist they are.”
11.22 Fox’s Megyn Kelly says that pepper spray is “a food product.
11.21 The Congressional Supercommittee fails to come up with a plan to cut the deficit.
11.21 Michelle Bachmann appears on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. As she walks on, the house band Roots plays Lyin’ Ass Bitch by Fishbone
11.20 Paul Krugman on This Week with Christine Amanpour: “Newt Gingrich is a stupid man’s idea of what a smart person sounds like.”
11.18 Way to go, Senator Bernie Sanders!
11.17 Fareed Zakaria in the Post: “Growing evidence shows pretty conclusively that social mobility has stalled in this country. Last week, Time magazine’s cover asked, “Can You Still Move Up in America?” The answer, citing a series of academic studies was, no; not as much as you could in the past and — most devastatingly — not as much as you can in Europe.The most comprehensive comparative study, done last year by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, found that “upward mobility from the bottom” was significantly lower in the United States than in most major European countries, including Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark. Another study, by the Institute for the Study of Labor in Germany in 2006, uses other metrics and concludes that “the U.S. appears to be exceptional in having less rather than more upward mobility.” A 2010 Economic Mobility Project study found that in almost every respect, the United States has a more rigid socioeconomic class structure than Canada.”
11.17 Joe Biden, in a photo that appeared on ABCnews.com.
11.17 David Ignatius in the Post: “Mitt Romney said President Obama should have worked “on a covert basis to encourage the dissidents.” Herman Cain said he would “assist the opposition movement in Iran that’s trying to overthrow the regime.” Newt Gingrich promised “maximum covert operations .?.?. including taking out their scientists, including breaking up their systems. All of it covertly, all of it deniable.” Romney also promised “covert activity” against Syria, while Gingrich argued for a “mostly covert” effort to topple the Syrian regime. What is it about “covert” that the Republicans don’t understand? What would be the U.S. reaction to similar public threats against this country if they were made by Iranian or Syrian politicians? This kind of loose talk is one reason the world doesn’t take the CIA as seriously as it once did. Activities that are so glibly discussed lose some of their credibility, in addition to their deniability. Here in the Persian Gulf, many leaders would secretly love to see the United States (and probably Israel, too) take a pop at Iran, so long as they don’t have to face the blowback. That’s the risk of secret war; the enemy can respond covertly, where and when it chooses.”
11.15 Herman Cain comments on Libya, sort of.
11.14 E.J. Dionne in the Washington Post: ““And I will tell you,” Perry declared, “it’s three agencies of government when I get there that are gone: Commerce, Education and the — what’s the third one there? Let’s see.” Yes, let’s see what “gone” might imply. Would Perry end all federal aid to education? Would he do away with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the part of the Commerce Department that, among other things, tracks hurricanes? Energy was the department he forgot. Would he scrap the department’s 17 national labs, including such world-class facilities as Los Alamos, N.M., Oak Ridge, Tenn.?”
11.22 Say it, Lawrence O’Donnell! Loud and proud!
11.13 William Deresiewicz in the Times: “Today’s ideal social form is not the commune or the movement or even the individual creator as such; it’s the small business. Every artistic or moral aspiration — music, food, good works, what have you — is expressed in those terms. Call it Generation Sell. Bands are still bands, but now they’re little businesses, as well: self-produced, self-published, self-managed. When I hear from young people who want to get off the careerist treadmill and do something meaningful, they talk, most often, about opening a restaurant. Nonprofits are still hip, but students don’t dream about joining one, they dream about starting one. In any case, what’s really hip is social entrepreneurship — companies that try to make money responsibly, then give it all away.”
11.13 Jeffrey Sachs in the Times: “The new movement also needs to build a public policy platform. The American people have it absolutely right on the three main points of a new agenda. To put it simply: tax the rich, end the wars and restore honest and effective government for all.”
11.13 Katie Roiphe in the Times: “Codes of sexual harassment imagine an entirely symmetrical universe, where people are never outrageous, rude, awkward, excessive or confused, where sexual interest is always absent or reciprocated, in other words a universe that does not entirely resemble our own. We don’t legislate against meanness, or power struggles, or political maneuvering, or manipulation in offices, and how could we? So should we be legislating against rogue flirtations, the floating out of invitations? Obviously there is a line, which if the allegations against Mr. Cain are true, he has crossed, but there are many behaviors loosely included under the creative, capacious rubric of sexual harassment that do not cross that line.”
11.12 Silvio Berlusconi resigns. Bunga bunga!
11.9 In Republican debate, Rick Perry embarrasses himself by failing to name the third cabinet-level department he would eliminate. “I’m glad I had my boots on tonight,” Mr. Perry said, “because I sure stepped in it out there.”
11.9 Joe Paterno fired in wake of sex abuse scandal.
11.9 ABC News: “Hours after being publicly identified as one of several women to accuse Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain of sexual harassment, civil servant Karen Kraushaar told ABC News that Cain could be described as a “monster.”‘
11.8 Woody Allen, quoted on Hollywood Elsewhere: “”In my next life I want to live my life backwards. You start out dead and get that out of the way. Then you wake up in an old people’s home feeling better every day. You get kicked out for being too healthy, go collect your pension, and then when you start work, you get a gold watch and a party on your first day. You work for 40 years until you’re young enough to enjoy your retirement. You party, drink alcohol, and are generally promiscuous, then you are ready for high school. You then go to primary school, you become a kid, you play. You have no responsibilities, you become a baby until you are born. And then you spend your last 9 months floating in luxurious spa-like conditions with central heating and room service on tap, larger quarters every day and then Voila! You finish off as an orgasm!”
11.6 In a thrilling come-from-behind victory, the Giants beat the Patriots 24-20. There were three lead changes in the last three minutes, and each team drove the field within the last two minutes.Before the season, reporters asked Eli Manning if he would place himself among the game’s elite quarterbacks. Eli said yes, and everyone kind of stifled their laughter. But he keeps piling up the wins, he keeps bringing the team from behind, he keeps leading the team on drives in the last two minutes. Plus he’s won a Super Bowl. It’s not Aaron Rogers, but he wins.
11.4 Ginny and I went to the Halloween Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor. THe carving is really impressive!
11.4 The Washington Post: “Businessman Herman Cain and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney are running nearly even atop the field of 2012 GOP presidential hopefuls, with most Republicans dismissing the harassment allegations that over the past week have roiled Cain’s campaign.” These numbers show that the Republicans really don’t want Romney. I think somebody else is going to get into the race.
11.4 Lunch with Henry Bushkin
11.3 Lunch with Ed Rucker at the Oyster Bar.
11.2 Lunch with Mark Reiter at the Red Hat in Irvington.
11.2 Robert Kuttner in The American Prospect: “If the International Monetary Fund, European Union, and European Central Bank are as good as their word and hold the bankers to the terms that were negotiated, we can expect Papandreou to urge Greek citizens to ratify the bargain. If, on the other hand, political and financial elites try to wriggle out, then the Greek people can draw their own conclusions—and we will all be in the uncharted waters of a likely default by a eurozone country. In the meantime, Papandreou is showing real leadership. It is about time someone stood up against the banker-led austerity consensus. . . .Despite its past sins of inefficient bureaucracy, Greece is the underdog here. In return for inflicting hardship on its own people, the Greek government deserves some real relief to allow its economy to grow again. But that’s not the kind of game bankers play when they are permitted to get away with it. Greece now has the desperation power of the weak. Papandreou’s is a brave, nervy, high-stakes move, and one that deserves our respect.”
11.2 I do not believe it, but we now own a horse. Hello, Star.
11.1 Richard Cohen in The Washington Post: “The Citigroup settlement is being reviewed by a perplexed U.S. District Court Judge Jed S. Rakoff. Among other things, he wants to know why he should authorize a settlement “in which the SEC alleges a serious securities fraud but the defendant neither admits nor denies wrongdoing.” This is a marvelous question that goes to the heart of the matter. The settlement is itself a CDO, a legal version of a black hole in which next to nothing is disclosed. Why no guilt? Why no guilty people? Why such a non-punishing punishment? The SEC will have to tell it to the judge.. . .As for Obama’s government, it has been too gentle with these miscreants. Why not a single major banker has been cuffed and frog-marched to some Financial District Guantanamo is unclear. Why their firms have gotten off with modest fines and non-confession confessions is not clear, either. That, in itself, is a crime.”
11.1 As reported in Rolling Stone, Pete Townshend referred to Apple as a “digital vampire” that is “bleeding” artists and “destroying copyright as we know it” while delivering the inaugural John Peel Lecture in Salford, England yesterday. He attacked music fans who illegally download music, saying they “may as well come and steal my son’s bike while they’re at it… I wonder what has gone wrong with human morality and social justice.”
10.31 According to Mona Simpson, the last words of Steve Jobs were “OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.”
10.31 George Will in The Washington Post: “Republicans may have found their Michael Dukakis, a technocratic Massachusetts governor who takes his bearings from “data” (although there is precious little to support Romney’s idea that in-state college tuition for children of illegal immigrants is a powerful magnet for such immigrants) and who believes elections should be about (in Dukakis’s words) “competence,” not “ideology.” . . . .Has conservatism come so far, surmounting so many obstacles, to settle, at a moment of economic crisis, for this?”
10.29 The east coast is buffeted by a fierce nor’easter that brings snow to NY for the first time since 1952, and for only the third time in recorded history.
10.29 Molly and I visit Cara at UK.
10.28 Katie Roiphe in Slate: “It’s not that one wants one’s gossips to be nice, exactly, but one wants them nuanced, substantive. One wants to remember an amazing line, and not have a vague impression of cloudy nastiness. Think of great or colorful or stylish pieces of nastiness that stay in your head. Take for instance what other writers made of Mary McCarthy’s smile. Susan Sontag wrote, “Mary McCarthy can do anything with her smile, even smile with it”; Dwight Macdonald said in an interview “When most pretty girls smile at you, you feel terrific. When Mary smiles at you, you look to see if your fly is open”; Randall Jarrell wrote of his McCarthy character in a novel, ‘Torn animals were removed at sunset from that smile.”
10.27 Dahlia Lithwick in Slate: “It must be painful for the pundits at Fox News. The more they demand that OWS explain itself in simple, Fox-like terms, the more cheerfully they are ignored by the occupiers around the country. As efforts to ridicule the protesters fail, attempts to repurpose the good old days of enemies lists falter; and efforts to demonize the occupiers backfire, polls continue to show that Americans support the protesters and share their goals. The rest of us quickly cottoned on to the fact that the only people who are scared of the “violent mobs” at Occupy Wall Street are the people being paid to call them violent mobs. Mark your calendars: The corporate media died when it announced it was too sophisticated to understand simple declarative sentences. While the mainstream media expresses puzzlement and fear at these incomprehensible “protesters” with their oddly well-worded “signs,” the rest of us see our own concerns reflected back at us and understand perfectly. Turning off mindless programming might be the best thing that ever happens to this polity. Hey, occupiers: You’re the new news. And even better, by refusing to explain yourselves, you’re actually changing what’s reported as news. Because it takes a tremendous mental effort to refuse to see that the rich are getting richer in America while the rest of us are struggling. Maybe the days of explaining the patently obvious to the transparently compromised are finally behind us. By refusing to take a ragtag, complicated, and leaderless movement seriously, the mainstream media has succeeded only in ensuring its own irrelevance.”
10.23 Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone: “The reality is that Occupy Wall Street and the millions of middle Americans who make up the Tea Party are natural allies and should be on the same page about most of the key issues, and that’s a story our media won’t want to or know how to handle. Take, for instance, the matter of the Too-Big-To-Fail banks. . . These gigantic institutions have put millions of ordinary people out of their homes thanks to a massive fraud scheme for which they were not punished, owing to their enormous influence with government and their capture of the regulators. This is an issue for the traditional “left” because it’s a classic instance of overweening corporate power — but it’s an issue for the traditional “right” because these same institutions are also the biggest welfare bums of all time, de facto wards of the state who sucked trillions of dollars of public treasure from the pockets of patriotic taxpayers from coast to coast. Both traditional constituencies want these companies off the public teat and back swimming on their own in the cruel seas of the free market. . . .The banks know this. They know they have no “natural” constituency among voters.”
10.20 Libyan strongman Moammar Ghaddaffy is killed.
10.14 From the Associated Press: “Poland’s former President Lech Walesa says he supports the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York that protests corporate greed. . . .The 68-year-old Walesa said the global economic crisis has made people aware that “we need to change, reform the capitalist system” because we need “more justice, more people’s interests, and less money for money’s sake.” “We cannot accept a situation when capitalism is making huge money and then does not know what to do with it,” Walesa told the AP. “It should invest in new jobs.”
10.14 Sofia Vergara in Vanity Fair.
10.11 James Kwak on The Baseline Scenario on We are the 99 Percent, the tumblr associated with Occupy Wall Street: “There aren’t many extravagant ambitions here: no expectations of material consumption, no expectations of self-actualization through work, no 60s-style dreams of peace and community. Instead, as Mike Konczal puts it, `The demands are broadly health care, education and not to feel exploited at the high-level, and the desire to not live month-to-month on bills, food and rent and under less of the burden of debt at the practical level. The people in the tumblr aren’t demanding to bring democracy into the workplace via large-scale unionization, much less shorter work days and more pay. They aren’t talking the language of mid-twentieth century liberalism, where everyone puts on blindfolds and cuts slices of pie to share. The 99% looks too beaten down to demand anything as grand as ‘fairness’ in their distribution of the economy. There’s no calls for some sort of post-industrial personal fulfillment in their labor—very few even invoke the idea that a job should ‘mean something.’ It’s straight out of antiquity—free us from the bondage of our debts and give us a basic ability to survive. . . . It shows, in Warren Buffett’s words, how far the class warfare has already gone—and how overwhelmingly his class has won. When the primary hope of workers is not to feel so tired anymore, it seems we’ve regressed back to a time even before the organized labor movement.”
10.11 Eugene Robinson in the Post: ““Economic justice” may mean different things to different people, but it’s not an empty phrase. It captures the sense that somehow, when we weren’t looking, the concept of fairness was deleted from our economic system — and our political lexicon. Economic injustice became the norm. . . .The result is clear: a nation where the rich have become the mega-rich while the middle class has steadily lost ground, where unemployment is stuck at levels once considered unbearable, and where our political system is too dysfunctional to take the kind of bold action that would make a real difference.”
10.10 Joe Nocera in the Times, writing about The Way Forward: Moving From the Post-Bubble, Post-Bust Economy to Renewed Growth and Competitiveness, by Daniel Alpert, Robert Hockett and Nouriel Roubini: “Its analysis of our problems is sobering. Its proposed solutions are far more ambitious than anything being talked about in Washington. And its prognosis, if we continue on the current path, is grim.” Their solution: $1.2 trillion in spending on infrastructure; reructuring the mortgage debt that is crushing so many Americans; and a “global rebalancing,” which includes a radical change in the current dysfunctional relationship between creditor and debtor nations, and even a new global currency that would be administered by the International Monetary Fund.”
10.10 Joe Plumeri is the Grand Marshall of the Columbus Day. Salut!
10.9 Paul Krugman in the Times: “Wall Street’s Masters of the Universe realize, deep down, how morally indefensible their position is. They’re not John Galt; they’re not even Steve Jobs. They’re people who got rich by peddling complex financial schemes that, far from delivering clear benefits to the American people, helped push us into a crisis whose aftereffects continue to blight the lives of tens of millions of their fellow citizens. Yet they have paid no price. Their institutions were bailed out by taxpayers, with few strings attached. They continue to benefit from explicit and implicit federal guarantees — basically, they’re still in a game of heads they win, tails taxpayers lose. And they benefit from tax loopholes that in many cases have people with multimillion-dollar incomes paying lower rates than middle-class families. This special treatment can’t bear close scrutiny — and therefore, as they see it, there must be no close scrutiny. Anyone who points out the obvious, no matter how calmly and moderately, must be demonized and driven from the stage. In fact, the more reasonable and moderate a critic sounds, the more urgently he or she must be demonized, hence the frantic sliming of Elizabeth Warren.”
10.8 James Stewart in the Times: “Mr. Jobs made no secret of his focus on design; in a Jan. 24, 2000, interview, Fortune magazine asked if it was an “obsession” and whether it was “an inborn instinct or what?” “We don’t have good language to talk about this kind of thing,” Mr. Jobs replied. “In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains and the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service. The iMac is not just the color or translucence or the shape of the shell. The essence of the iMac is to be the finest possible consumer computer in which each element plays together. … That is the furthest thing from veneer. It was at the core of the product the day we started. This is what customers pay us for — to sweat all these details so it’s easy and pleasant for them to use our computers. We’re supposed to be really good at this. That doesn’t mean we don’t listen to customers, but it’s hard for them to tell you what they want when they’ve never seen anything remotely like it.” For all his accolades, this aspect of Mr. Jobs was hard for many business people to understand, or to copy. Go into a computer store today, and there’s a bland array of mostly indistinguishable keyboards and monitors — and then there’s Apple. Ditto the cellphone stores. “Most people underestimate his grandeur and his greatness,” Gadi Amit, founder and principal designer of New Deal Design in San Francisco, told me. “They think it’s about design. It’s beyond design. It’s completely holistic, and it’s dogmatic. Things need to be high quality; they have to have poetry and culture in each step. Steve was cut from completely different cloth from most business leaders. He was not a number-crunching guy; he was not a technologist. He was a cultural leader, and he drove Apple from that perspective. He started with culture; then followed with technology and design. No one seems to get that.”
10.6 The Tigers eliminate the Yankees, 3 games to 2.
10.6 In the city with Henry Bushkin.
10.5 Douglas Rushkoff on CNN.com: “We are witnessing America’s first true Internet-era movement, which — unlike civil rights protests, labor marches, or even the Obama campaign — does not take its cue from a charismatic leader, express itself in bumper-sticker-length goals and understand itself as having a particular endpoint. Yes, there are a wide array of complaints, demands, and goals from the Wall Street protesters: the collapsing environment, labor standards, housing policy, government corruption, World Bank lending practices, unemployment, increasing wealth disparity and so on. Different people have been affected by different aspects of the same system — and they believe they are symptoms of the same core problem. . . .Anyone who says he has no idea what these folks are protesting is not being truthful. Whether we agree with them or not, we all know what they are upset about, and we all know that there are investment bankers working on Wall Street getting richer while things for most of the rest of us are getting tougher. What upsets banking’s defenders and politicians alike is the refusal of this movement to state its terms or set its goals in the traditional language of campaigns.”
10.5 Steve Jobs dies at 56.
10.5 Bruce Bartlett in the Times: “In my opinion, regulatory uncertainty is a canard invented by Republicans that allows them to use current economic problems to pursue an agenda supported by the business community year in and year out. In other words, it is a simple case of political opportunism, not a serious effort to deal with high unemployment.”
10.3 Robert J. Samuelson in the Post: “The fear factor is feeding on itself — and it’s smothering the recovery. We are prisoners of our rotten mood. Everywhere, the bias is to spend less and wait to see how things turn out. Just as optimism sustained the boom, pessimism prolongs the bust. This is the reverse of “irrational exuberance,” because as long as most people feel this way, the psychology is self-fulfilling. Unfortunately, that’s how they feel. . . .Imagine an economy doing just slightly better: Consumers work off some pent-up demand; stock prices are 10 percent higher; companies channel $200 billion of their cash to new products or plants; entrepreneurs nurture 10 percent more start-ups. A stronger recovery would be self-sustaining. The good news is that this could happen. Mood swings can go both ways. Objectively, some economic conditions have improved. Households, for example, are much less indebted. Much mortgage and consumer debt has been paid down or written off. Federal Reserve statistics show debt service burdens (the share of income devoted to repaying) at their lowest levels since 1994. Consumers could be more expansive. . . .Many real devils stalk the economy: housing’s collapse; Europe’s debt problems; persistent budget deficits. This is no time for happy talk. But acute risk aversion is a self-inflicted wound. Franklin Roosevelt was right: What we have to fear is fear itself.”
9.29 Conor Friersdorf in The Atlantic on the speech Chris Christie gave the other night at the Reagan Library: “He made four key assertions that are now heretical within the Republican Party, and the significance of his speech is almost entirely wrapped up in those passages of politely stated dissent. 1. Compromise is core to politics, a necessary characteristic of good leadership, and the only way to solve problems. . . . 2. American exceptionalism isn’t a natural state of being or an inheritance — it is something to which we aspire, and we’re presently falling short. “For American exceptionalism to truly deliver hope and a sterling example to the rest of the world, it must be demonstrated, not just asserted,” he said. “Unfortunately, through our own domestic political conduct of late, we have failed to live up to our own tradition of exceptionalism.”. . . . 3. Americans should care what foreigners think of us. . . .4. Americans cannot remake the world in our image through force. “We certainly cannot force others to adopt our principles through coercion. Local realities count. . . We need to limit ourselves overseas to what is in our national interest so that we can rebuild the foundations of American power here at home – foundations that need to be rebuilt in part so that we can sustain a leadership role in the world for decades to come.” I’m fine with all of this.
9.28 From a review of Michael Lewis‘s Boomerang in the Times: “Greece, Mr. Lewis writes, ran up astonishing debts — from high-paying government jobs and generous pensions, as well as waste, bribery and theft — that came to “about $1.2 trillion, or more than a quarter-million dollars for every working Greek.” In just the last 12 years, he says, “the wage bill of the Greek public sector has doubled, in real terms” with the average government job now paying almost three times the average private sector job. Those who work in jobs classified as “arduous” can retire and start collecting pensions, he adds, “as early as 55 for men and 50 for women”; more than 600 Greek professions have somehow managed “to get themselves classified as arduous: hairdressers, radio announcers, waiters, musicians, and on and on and on.”
9.29 E.J. Dionne in the Post: “No wonder partisans of low taxes on wealthy investors hate Warren Buffett. He has forced a national conversation on (1) the bias of the tax system against labor; (2) the fact that, in comparison with middle- or upper-middle-class people, the really wealthy pay a remarkably low percentage of their income in taxes; and (3) the deeply regressive nature of the payroll tax.”
9.29 Mark Thiessen in the Post: “Rep. Paul Ryan. . . wants the wealthy to give something back: the billions of dollars in government benefits, taxpayer subsidies and corporate welfare they receive each year and do not need. Instead of raising taxes, which would hurt growth and job creation, Ryan told me: “We want to stop subsidizing corporations. We want to stop subsidizing [wealthy] individuals. And you can get more money for savings to reduce the deficit without damaging the economy this way.” On the face of it, I don’t have a problem with this.
9.26 Matt Miller in The Washington Post: “There’s a staggering void in the debate. The parties act this way because their core constituencies have a stake in a failed status quo. But where does that leave the majority of us who are not in the Republican or Democratic base? Where does it leave the country? Daniel Patrick Moynihan wisely observed that if issues can’t be discussed, they can never be advanced. Given the abdication of both parties, and the pinched boundaries of debate we’re thus left with, the only way to learn if a constituency can be built for a bold agenda to renew the country is for independent candidates to try to do just that in 2012. This doesn’t mean both parties are equally to blame for Washington’s dysfunction. But they’re unacceptable and disappointing in their own ways. . . .With America on the road to slow decline, the stakes are too high for “inadequate” and “retrograde” to be our only choices.”
9.25 Boardwalk Empire returns.
9.23 Huffington Post reports that Texas inmates who are set to be executed will no longer get their choice of last meals, a change prison officials made Thursday after a prominent state senator became miffed over an expansive request from a man condemned for a notorious dragging death. Lawrence Russell Brewer, who was executed Wednesday for the hate crime slaying of James Byrd Jr, asked for two chicken fried steaks, a triple-meat bacon cheeseburger, fried okra, a pound of barbecue, three fajitas, a meat lover’s pizza, a pint of ice cream and a slab of peanut butter fudge with crushed peanuts. Prison officials said Brewer didn’t eat any of it.
.9.16 Tim Allen, ranting on the ABC series Last Man Standing: “What the heck is fantasy football? I got a fantasy for you. Get off the fricking couch, you moron. What happened to men? Men used to build cities just so they could burn them down. They used to get a haircut from a guy named Hank. Modern men, what do you do? You run from things, from responsibility, from fatherhood. You can’t even change a tire! Get off the couch, you moron, and go outside! See something bright called the sun. It’s like a tanning bed, but it’s free!”
9.16 Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, on why al-Qaeda is winning, in The Atlantic: “The only chance a relatively small and weak actor like al-Qaeda has to beat a strong actor like the U.S. is by turning its strength against it. The group has managed to put the U.S. in a position where many of its offensive and defensive measures — armies deployed in far-away and hostile places, travel and commerce slowed by cumbersome security theater — do in fact make the U.S. more vulnerable by exhausting it. That might not be an assault of the sort we experienced on September 11, but it is still, unfortunately, all too effective.”
9.15 Ostensibly, another phone hacking victim: Scarlett Johannson
9.12 George Will in the Washington Post: “Today, for reasons having little to do with 9/11 and policy responses to it, the nation is more demoralized than at any time since the late 1970s, when, as now, feelings of impotence, vulnerability and decline were pervasive. Of all the sadness surrounding this anniversary, the most aching is the palpable and futile hope that commemoration can somehow help heal self-inflicted wounds.”
9.9 Paul Krugman in the Times: “In early 2009, as the new Obama administration tried to come to grips with the crisis it inherited, you heard two main lines from critics on the right. First, they argued that we should rely on monetary policy rather than fiscal policy — that is, that the job of fighting unemployment should be left to the Fed. Second, they argued that fiscal actions should take the form of tax cuts rather than temporary spending. Now, however, leading Republicans are against tax cuts — at least if they benefit working Americans rather than rich people and corporations. And they’re against monetary policy, too. In Wednesday night’s Republican presidential debate, Mitt Romney declared that he would seek a replacement for Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman, essentially because Mr. Bernanke has tried to do something (though not enough) about unemployment. And that makes Mr. Romney a moderate by G.O.P. standards, since Rick Perry, his main rival for the presidential nomination, has suggested that Mr. Bernanke should be treated “pretty ugly.” So, at this point, leading Republicans are basically against anything that might help the unemployed.”
9.9 Anne Hathaway, going gothic in Interview.
9.9 Simon Johnson in the Baseline Scenario: “Standard & Poor’s. . . continues to rate securities based on subprime mortgages as AAA. In short, S.&P. is suggesting that these mortgages are more creditworthy than the United States government – a striking proposition. . . . Just focus on all the things that can go wrong with subprime mortgages – housing prices can fall, people can lose jobs, the economy may fall into recession and so on. Now weigh those risks against the possibility that the United States government will default.”
9.9 James Kwak in The Baseline Scenario: “If working forty hours per week is better than working forty-eight, why is working forty better than working thirty-two? One of the more obvious solutions to the unemployment problem is job-sharing or, more radically, a four-day work week. Various European companies have implemented shorter work weeks (and paid people less), with no productivity losses (I believe—I’m basing this on what people I trust have told me). (There’s the problem of fixed benefit costs, but there must be solutions to that.) I realize that this does nothing for economic growth and GDP. But it would modestly reduce the problem of unemployment-induced poverty, reduce welfare and disability claims on state and federal governments, and allow people to maintain their job skills, which is important for the economy in the long run.”
9.9 Massive waves of rain overnight, successive deluges. More than six inches of rain since Labor Day.
9.8 Thomas L. Friedman Jr. in the Times: “Why has this been a lost decade? An answer can be found in one simple comparison: How Dwight Eisenhower and his successors used the cold war and how George W. Bush used 9/11. America had to face down the Russians in the cold war. America had to respond to 9/11 and the threat of Al Qaeda. But the critical difference between the two was this: Beginning with Eisenhower and continuing to some degree with every cold war president, we used the cold war and the Russian threat as a reason and motivator to do big, hard things together at home — to do nation-building in America. We used it to build the interstate highway system, put a man on the moon, push out the boundaries of science, teach new languages, maintain fiscal discipline and, when needed, raise taxes. We won the cold war with collective action. George W. Bush did the opposite. . . . Rather than use 9/11 to summon us to nation-building at home, Bush used it as an excuse to party — to double down on a radical tax-cutting agenda for the rich that not only did not spur rising living standards for most Americans but has now left us with a huge ball and chain around our ankle. And later, rather than asking each of us to contribute something to the war, he outsourced it to one-half of one-percent of the American people. Everyone else — y’all have fun. We used the cold war to reach the moon and spawn new industries. We used 9/11 to create better body scanners and more T.S.A. agents. It will be remembered as one of the greatest lost opportunities of any presidency — ever.”
9.7 In a Republican candidates’ debate, Rick Perry called Social Security “a Ponzi scheme.” Is the Republican electorate crazy enough to choose him?
9.7 Anne Applebaum in Slate: “We were, in the terms defined by the war on terror, successful: Ten years after 9/11, al-Qaida is in profound disarray. Osama bin Laden is dead. Fanatical Islam is on the decline. . . .And yet, 10 years after 9/11, it’s also clear that the war on terror was far too narrow a prism through which to see the entire planet. And the price we paid to fight it was far too high. In our single-minded focus on Islamic fanaticism, we missed, for example, the transformation of China from a commercial power into an ambitious political power. We failed to appreciate the significance of economic growth in China’s neighborhood. . . .We also missed, at least initially, the transformation of Russia from a weak and struggling partner into a sometimes hostile opponent. . . a historic chance to make a deal on immigration with Mexico. . . .Finally, we stopped investing in our own infrastructure—think what $3 trillion could have done for roads, research, education, or even private investment, if a part of that sum had just been left in taxpayers’ pockets—and we missed the chance to rethink our national energy policy.”
9.6 Amazing photo of two guys fixing an antenna on the Empire State Building. Who snapped the shot?
9.6 Teamsters President James P. Hoffa at a rally in Detroit yesterday: “”We got to keep an eye on the battle that we face: The war on workers. And you see it everywhere. . . There is only one way to beat and win that war. The one thing about working people is we like a good fight. And you know what? They’ve got a war, they got a war with us and there’s only going to be one winner. It’s going to be the workers of Michigan, and America. We’re going to win that war. President Obama, this is your army. We are ready to march. Let’s take these son of bitches out and give America back to an America where we belong.”
9.5 Paul Krugman in the Times: “Friday brought two numbers that should have everyone in Washington saying, “My God, what have we done?” One of these numbers was zero — the number of jobs created in August. The other was two — the interest rate on 10-year U.S. bonds, almost as low as this rate has ever gone. Taken together, these numbers almost scream that the inside-the-Beltway crowd has been worrying about the wrong things, and inflicting grievous harm as a result. Ever since the acute phase of the financial crisis ended, policy discussion in Washington has been dominated not by unemployment, but by the alleged dangers posed by budget deficits. . . . The interest rate when that editorial was published was 3.7 percent. As of Friday, as I’ve already mentioned, it was only 2 percent. I don’t mean to dismiss concerns about the long-run U.S. budget picture. If you look at fiscal prospects over, say, the next 20 years, they are indeed deeply worrying, largely because of rising health-care costs. But the experience of the past two years has overwhelmingly confirmed what some of us tried to argue from the beginning: The deficits we’re running right now — deficits we should be running, because deficit spending helps support a depressed economy — are no threat at all. And by obsessing over a nonexistent threat, Washington has been making the real problem — mass unemployment, which is eating away at the foundations of our nation — much worse. . . .And somehow the private sector hasn’t responded to these layoffs by rejoicing at the sight of a shrinking government and embarking on a hiring spree.”
9.5 As reported in the New York Daily News, a 51-year-old Frenchman has been ordered to pay his ex-wife $14,000 for being a dud in bed during their 21 years of marriage. A judge in Nice ruled that the legal code stipulating married couples must agree to a “shared communal life,” implied that “sexual relations must form part of a marriage.” He ruled that meant the woman’s complaint of a lack of fire in the bedroom constituted grounds for divorce. The 47-year-old wife wasn’t satisfied, though, and demanded 10,000 Euros in compensation for “lack of sex” during her two decades with her husband. T
9.5 Harold Meyerson in The Washington Post: “Of all the lies that the American people have been told the past four decades, the biggest one may be this: We’ll all come out ahead in the shift from an industrial to a post-industrial society. Yes, we were counseled, there will be major dislocations, as there were during the transition from an agrarian to an industrial economy, but the America that will emerge from this transformation, like the America that emerged 100 years ago, will be one whose citizens are ultimately more prosperous and secure than their industrial-era forebears. What a crock. On Labor Day 2011, the America that’s replaced the vibrant industrial giant of the mid-20th century is a basket case. We’ve lost the jobs that created the broadly shared prosperity that made us the envy of the world. In their place, when we’ve created jobs at all, they’ve generated neither prosperity nor security.”
9.1 An exhausting schlep on a clotted Long Island Expressway to 44 On the Bluffs road in North Haven, Long Island to lunch with Joe Plumeri. Splendid view of the bay, though. Reward: the Yanks beat the Red Sox in a taut, very well-played game that ended with Mariano Rivera striking out Adrian Gonzalez with the bases loaded.
9.1 I don’t much care that DC Comics has boldly jettisoned the history of all its characters, and renumerated each and every one of its titles to begin again this month with Issue No. 1. I just like this Jim Lee illustration of a reinvigorated Justice League of America, featuring Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, Green Lantern, and Cobalt, whoever he is. (Paul Lindstrom reliably informs me that Cobalt was one of the Teen Titans. I repeat: Who he?)
8.31 David Kocieniewski in the Times: “At least 25 top United States companies paid more to their chief executives in 2010 than they did to the federal government in taxes, according to a study released on Wednesday. The companies — which include household names like eBay, Boeing, General Electric and Verizon — averaged $1.9 billion each in profits, according to the study by the Institute for Policy Studies, a liberal-leaning research group. But a variety of shelters, loopholes and tax reduction strategies allowed the companies to average more than $400 million each in tax benefits. . . .The CEOs of those companies were paid an average of more than $16 million a year, a figure substantially higher than the $10.8 million average for all companies in the S&P 500.”
8.30 From paidcontent.org: “Steve Jobs pried open many content companies’ thinking, because his focus was always on getting something great to the customer with as few obstacles as possible. In that sense, he was like a corporate embodiment of the internet; except he thought people should pay for what they got. He always, always insisted you should pay for value, and that extended to content too. The App and Music Store remains one of the biggest generators of purely digital revenue in the world, and certainly the most diverse; while Google’s Android might be the fastest-selling smartphone mobile OS, its Market generates pitiful revenues, and I haven’t heard of anyone proclaiming their successes from selling music, films or books through Google’s offerings. Jobs’s resignation might look like the end of an era, and for certain parts of the technology industry it is. For the content industries, it’s also a loss: Jobs was a champion of getting customers who would pay you for your stuff.”
8.28 Hurricane Irene hits, and we flood with four feet of water in the basement, and a large, sharp tree branch jauntily impaled on the roof of our porch. Doughty sump pump plugs away throughout, and by the next morning, the cellar is drained. Losses: washer, dryer, refrigerator, furnace, water hearer. Gains: muck and odor.
8.25 Oriole great Mike Flanagan commits suicide at age 59.
8.23 A 5.8 magnitude earthquake, centered in Mineral, Virginia, shook the eastern seaboard today. It was the most powerful earthquake in the east in more than a century.
8.21 Columbus-Canton-Pennsylvania, New Jersey-HOME
8.20 Lexington KY-Columbus OH
8.18 Cleveland-Cincinnati-Lexington, Kentucky.
8.17 New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania-Cleveland, Ohio.
8.16 To Nashville with Joe Plumeri on a private jet!
8.15 Warren Buffet in the Times: “Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent. . . .Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack. According to a theory I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends. I didn’t refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. . . . Since 1992, the I.R.S. has compiled data from the returns of the 400 Americans reporting the largest income. In 1992, the top 400 had aggregate taxable income of $16.9 billion and paid federal taxes of 29.2 percent on that sum. In 2008, the aggregate income of the highest 400 had soared to $90.9 billion — a staggering $227.4 million on average — but the rate paid had fallen to 21.5 percent.”
8.13 Michelle Bachmann wins the Iowa straw poll
8.12 Liaquat Ahamed in The Washington Post: “Nearly three years after the financial crisis began, a third of residential mortgages in America remain underwater. Since then, about 1 million homes have been foreclosed on every year, and by one estimate, an additional 11 million households — one out of every five — could lose their homes unless something is done. A large-scale government program to restructure residential mortgages and help households refinance underwater mortgages would reduce the debt overhang and support consumer demand. Most important, by channeling public money to help individual families, rather than Wall Street, this initiative could alter the political dynamics that currently doom any government efforts to jump-start the economy. It wouldn’t be cheap. But it would be less expensive than another deep recession.”
8.12 So long to the garden in Fair Harbor.
8.12 Don Peck in The Atlantic: ““The rich seem to be on the road to recovery,” says Emmanuel Saez, an economist at Berkeley, while those in the middle, especially those who’ve lost their jobs, “might be permanently hit.” Coming out of the deep recession of the early 1980s, Saez notes, “you saw an increase in inequality … as the rich bounced back, and unionized labor never again found jobs that paid as well as the ones they’d had. And now I fear we’re going to see the same phenomenon, but more dramatic.” Middle-paying jobs in the U.S., in which some workers have been overpaid relative to the cost of labor overseas or technological substitution, “are being wiped out. And what will be left is a hard and a pure market,” with the many paid less than before, and the few paid even better—a plutonomy strengthened in the crucible of the post-crash years.”
8.10 Henry Porter in VF.com: “We thought we knew and understood our society, but it turns out that Britain has been seething with envy and has produced a heartlessness that are both really tough to acknowledge. As BBC TV news showed CCTV pictures of a young man, who had been injured in the face, being robbed by two larger men pretending to help him, I thought of the delinquent gangs in Anthony Burgess’s dystopian novel A Clockwork Orange, a book I always thought was a little far-fetched. Looking at the kids on the street and hearing what they had to say from behind their masks to the TV cameras, I realized that his vision may, if anything, have underplayed the neuropathic lacks of reason and feeling. The really worrying point is this—it wasn’t just the un-lettered, unemployable members of the underclass who rioted this week. Among those who made court appearances yesterday were a university graduate, an army recruit, a graphic designer, a youth worker, and a forklift driver, all of them with either a job or prospects. I have no idea why these people rioted and looted, and I am not sure they will fully understand their actions, either, but I do know that if it can happen here, it can happen in other countries too. Envy is globalized. All that is necessary for a rampage to be coordinated on Twitter, or by Blackberry’s BBM messaging service, is for an angry group of people on the street to test authority and find it wanting. Perhaps it is not more complicated than this—the British rioted because they could.”
8.7 Paul Krugman in the Times: “Right now the economy desperately needs a short-run fix. When you’re bleeding profusely from an open wound, you want a doctor who binds that wound up, not a doctor who lectures you on the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle as you get older. When millions of willing and able workers are unemployed, and economic potential is going to waste to the tune of almost $1 trillion a year, you want policy makers who work on a fast recovery, not people who lecture you on the need for long-run fiscal sustainability. Unfortunately, giving lectures on long-run fiscal sustainability is a fashionable Washington pastime; it’s what people who want to sound serious do to demonstrate their seriousness. So when the crisis struck and led to big budget deficits — because that’s what happens when the economy shrinks and revenue plunges — many members of our policy elite were all too eager to seize on those deficits as an excuse to change the subject from jobs to their favorite hobbyhorse. And the economy continued to bleed. What would a real response to our problems involve? First of all, it would involve more, not less, government spending for the time being — with mass unemployment and incredibly low borrowing costs, we should be rebuilding our schools, our roads, our water systems and more. It would involve aggressive moves to reduce household debt via mortgage forgiveness and refinancing. And it would involve an all-out effort by the Federal Reserve to get the economy moving, with the deliberate goal of generating higher inflation to help alleviate debt problems. The usual suspects will, of course, denounce such ideas as irresponsible. But you know what’s really irresponsible? Hijacking the debate over a crisis to push for the same things you were advocating before the crisis, and letting the economy continue to bleed.”
8.6 Riots in London. Here, buildings burn on Tottenham High road in North London. Tom Rachmann in Slate: “Meanwhile, youth fashion displayed influences, too. As the state sought to curb anti-social behavior with CCTV surveillance cameras, a new style gained currency: the hood, which proved standard looting attire, as seen in disturbing videos of gleeful mobs smashing storefronts, nearly all in hoodies or balaclavas.”
8.5 Standard & Poor’s lowers America’s credit rating. “When comparing the U.S. to sovereigns with ‘AAA’ long-term ratings that we view as relevant peers—Canada, France, Germany, and the U.K.—… the trajectory of the U.S.’s net public debt is diverging from the others. … in contrast with the U.S., we project that the net public debt burdens of these other sovereigns will begin to decline, either before or by 2015.”
8.5 Walter Monheit dies at 85. “I think that behind our bravado, all of us at Spy were bound together by a feeling of being outsiders—Spy was in some ways an overcaffeinated version of the Island of Misfit Toys. Walter was the perfect mascot/elder because he was one of us,” said Susan Morrison in David Kamp‘s lovely piece in Vanity Fair. Vaya con disco, Walter.
8.5 Ezra Klein in the Washington Post: “Where will the recovery come from? The problem is that no one has an answer. And as one hopeful hypothesis after another is dashed, the markets are beginning to panic. It won’t come from the United States. Our recovery has slowed, and updates to the Commerce Department’s growth figures have shown that the hole we’re in is significantly deeper than we realized. Thursday’s news only underscored that conclusion, as the early signs suggest that Friday’s job numbers report will be disappointing. It won’t come from Europe or Japan . . ..or the world’s emerging economies, driven by China. . . . As bad as the daily data were two years ago, it was easier to tell a story of recovery. The full scope and stickiness of the financial crisis wasn’t yet visible, and the disappointments of the aftermath hadn’t yet sunk in. Today there’s more stability, but we seem to have stabilized into an era of high unemployment, low growth and endless risk. Rather than recovering from the crisis, it is almost as if we have settled into it. And no one quite knows how we’re going to escape.”
8.4 Matthew Dickinson on salon.com: “Others will certainly remind voters that Hilary Clinton did warn you. Remember that 3 a.m. phone call? Remember the warning about the rose-colored petals falling from the sky? Remember about learning on the job? Sure you do. Doesn’t a part of you, deep down, realize she was right? If I heard it once this past week, I heard it a thousand times: you were duped by Obama’s rhetoric – the whole “hopey-changey” thing. And you wanted to be part of history too – to help break down the ultimate racial barrier. That’s ok. We were all young once. But now it’s time to elect someone who can play hardball, who understands how to be ruthless, who will be a real…uh….tough negotiator in office. There won’t be any debate about Hillary’s, er, “man-package”. All of these factors mean Hillary will appeal to precisely those voters who are most disillusioned with Obama, and who the Democrats lost in the 2010 midterms: older voters, the less educated and independents. Moreover, she has stronger support in the key battleground states of Ohio and Florida and maybe even Pennsylvania, whose electoral votes may determine the 2012 election. And the chance to finally put a woman in the Oval Office will energize voters in a way that Obama’s candidacy cannot.”
8.4 Went to Atlanta to visit John Addison at Primerica.
8.4 Two interesting morsels from Eric Schmidle‘s “Getting Bin Laden” in The New Yorker: 1.) “The first round, a 5.56-mm. bullet[fired by a Navy SEAL], struck bin Laden in the chest. As he fell backward, the SEAL fired a second round into his head, just above his left eye. On his radio, he reported, “For God and country—Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo.” After a pause, he added, “Geronimo E.K.I.A.”—“enemy killed in action.”; Morse; #2: The government official who joined Obama to watch the event in the White House were fed from “sandwich platters from Costco.”
8.4 Fred Kaplan in Slate: “Leon Panetta and his staff should start coming up with targeted cuts. Some questions they might ask: Does the Army really need 570,000 active-duty soldiers? Does the Air Force really need more F-35 Stealth aircraft (funded at $11 billion, for 43 more planes, next year alone)? Does the Navy really need $4 billion for two more Virginia-class submarines, or $1 billion for a down payment on a new aircraft carrier? And, really, do we need to buy new nuclear weapons, or “improve” the existing ones, at a cost of $100 billion over the next 10 years? (President Obama signed on to this sum, in part, as a deal to get the Senate to ratify the New START treaty with the Russians, but c’mon. The treaty allows the United States and Russia to retain 1,550 long-range nuclear warheads. Who cares to make the case that letting the arsenal rot to 500, or 200, would endanger national security?) The fact is, not all social programs really help people in need—and not all defense programs really help the national defense. Many of them stem from institutional imperatives (for example, the fact that, until recently, the Air Force was run by fighter pilots), contractor games-playing (for example, the tendency for weapons manufacturers to spread subcontracts to as many congressional districts as possible, the better to build constituencies), and bureaucratic politics (the mutual back-scratching game, which has been going on since the mid-’60s, of divvying up the defense budget among the Army, Navy, and Air Force, in almost precisely even proportions). . . .But if these realities can’t be changed, they should at least be recognized—in order to grasp the underlying fact that the Defense Department is as much a bureaucracy as any other federal agency, and thus to demystify the incantation that Program X, Y, or Z, or Mission Q, R, or T, can’t be slashed or killed without doing grievous harm to “national security.” Maybe the claim is true; but it’s time to start setting priorities and asking for proof.”
8.3 Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, 83, lays on a hospital bed flanked by his two sons Gamal and Alaa inside a cage of mesh and iron bars in a Cairo courtroom as his trial begins.
8.3 Bubba Smith dies at 66.
8.2 Joe Nocera in the Times: “You know what they say: Never negotiate with terrorists. It only encourages them. These last few months, much of the country has watched in horror as the Tea Party Republicans have waged jihad on the American people. Their intransigent demands for deep spending cuts, coupled with their almost gleeful willingness to destroy one of America’s most invaluable assets, its full faith and credit, were incredibly irresponsible. But they didn’t care. Their goal, they believed, was worth blowing up the country for, if that’s what it took. Like ideologues everywhere, they scorned compromise. . . . After this latest agreement was finally struck on Sunday night — amounting to a near-complete capitulation by Obama — Tea Party members went on Fox News to complain that it only called for $2.4 trillion in cuts, instead of $4 trillion. It was head-spinning. All day Monday, the blogosphere and the talk shows mused about which party would come out ahead politically. Honestly, who cares? What ought to matter is not how these spending cuts will affect our politicians, but how they’ll affect the country. And I’m not even talking about the terrible toll $2.4 trillion in cuts will take on the poor and the middle class. I am talking about their effect on America’s still-ailing economy. America’s real crisis is not a debt crisis. It’s an unemployment crisis. Yet this agreement not only doesn’t address unemployment, it’s guaranteed to make it worse. (Incredibly, the Democrats even abandoned their demand for extended unemployment benefits as part of the deal.) As Mohamed El-Erian, the chief executive of the bond investment firm Pimco, told me, fiscal policy includes both a numerator and a denominator. “The numerator is debt,” he said. “But the denominator is growth.” He added, “What we have done is accelerate forward, in a self-inflicted manner, the numerator. And, in the process, we have undermined the denominator.” Economic growth could have gone a long way toward shrinking the deficit, while helping put people to work. The spending cuts will shrink growth and raise the likelihood of pushing the country back into recession. . . .Our enemies could not have designed a better plan to weaken the American economy than this debt-ceiling deal.”
8.2 Dana Milbank in the Washington Post on the reaction of Congressional Democrats to the debt ceiling deal: “Democrats were despondent about the deal. . . .“It’s a Trojan Horse with Scylla and Charybdis inside!” Rep. Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Democrat. . . .“It’s robbing Peter and Paul,” protested Sen. Frank Lautenberg. . . .In his private sessions with House and Senate Democrats, Vice President Biden reportedly likened dealing with the Republicans to negotiating with terrorists and said GOP leaders had “put guns to their heads.” . . . .Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. reported a crime by the Republicans. “A minority within the Congress of the United States has held up the president,” he told reporters. “You have this small element,” added Rep. Elijah Cummings, “which is basically willing to hold Congress and the nation hostage.” Cummings read a complaint he received from a constituent calling the deal “a total capitulation.” Democratic leaders made no attempt to calm their pitchfork-wielding backbenchers, such as Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, who described the deal on TV as a “Satan sandwich.” “It probably is — with some Satan fries on the side,” agreed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
8.1 Paul Krugman in the Times: “The deal itself is a disaster, and not just for President Obama and his party. It will damage an already depressed economy; it will probably make America’s long-run deficit problem worse, not better; and most important, by demonstrating that raw extortion works and carries no political cost, it will take America a long way down the road to banana-republic status. Start with the economics. We currently have a deeply depressed economy. We will almost certainly continue to have a depressed economy all through next year. And we will probably have a depressed economy through 2013 as well, if not beyond. The worst thing you can do in these circumstances is slash government spending, since that will depress the economy even further. . . . Those demanding spending cuts now are like medieval doctors who treated the sick by bleeding them, and thereby made them even sicker. . . . Make no mistake about it, what we’re witnessing here is a catastrophe on multiple levels.”
8.1 Jim Fallows in The Atlantic: “The Republicans, with control of only one house of Congress, succeeded on virtually every point that mattered to them, especially to their most intransigent members. The Democrats, in control of the presidency and the other, “senior” house, succeeded on nothing that should have mattered to them, starting with implicitly legitimizing the conversion of the debt-ceiling vote into a hostage-taking exercise — and ending with embracing a “compromise” that in the short term depresses hopes for dealing with our one genuine economic emergency, the unemployment crisis, and that in the long-run is likely to be as bad for our political system as for our economic prospects. . . .Two notes of commentary. From Greg Sargent at the Washington Post yesterday (emphasis in original): Anything can happen, but it apppears the GOP is on the verge of pulling off a political victory that may be unprecedented in American history. Republicans may succeed in using the threat of a potential outcome that they themselves acknowledged would lead to national catastrophe as leverage to extract enormous concessions from Democrats, without giving up anything of any significance in return. Not only that, but Republicans — in perhaps the most remarkable example of political up-is-downism in recent memory — cast their willingness to dangle the threat of national crisis as a brave and heroic effort they’d undertaken on behalf of the national interest. Only the threat of national crisis could force the immediate spending cuts supposedly necessary to prevent a far more epic crisis later.”
7.31 Uncle Steve dies.
7.27 James Kwak in The Baseline Scenario: “According to the Tax Policy Center, 65 percent of the dollar value of the Bush tax cuts (in 2010, once the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts were phased in) went to the top income quintile, and a staggering 20 percent — that’s tens of billions of dollars — went to the top 0.1 percent. Even if you look at the impact in percentage terms, the rich still took home more than their share: after-tax income went up by 0.7 percent for the bottom quintile, 2.5-2.6 percent for the middle three quintiles, 4.0 percent for the top quintile, and 8.2 percent for the top 0.1 percent.”
7.27 Illustration by Edward Sorel in The New Yorker.
7.27 Geoffrey Robertson in Newsweek: “Where will it end? There is a “twilight of the gods” atmosphere in Britain as the Murdochs tremble and Scotland Yard’s top cops fall on their swords prior to the prosecution and imprisonment of detectives. A nasty form of institutional corruption—the “revolving door” through which Murdoch men moved from their desks at News of the World to Scotland Yard’s press office—has been exposed. There will be a judicial inquiry and more scandals to come. But hey! It’s the British summer—and Parliament has just closed for its slothful three-month recess. When it returns in mid-October, much of the righteous anger against the Murdochs will have dissipated. Had Rupert told the truth to the second-rate politicians (whom he really despises), he would have pointed out that News of the World had 4 million readers because he catered to the tastes of a prurient society, addicted to its Sunday-morning snigger at the sex lives of others. All the bribery and corruption and illegality brought forth no story of any genuine public importance. Come October, the British will be missing the paper they fondly call “the Screws of the World.” So come back then, Rupert, when all will be forgiven. We will remember only your humility, and Wendi’s killer punch.”
7.27 Niall Ferguson in Newsweek: “The very fact that the word “default” now regularly appears in the same sentence as “United States” illustrates the folly of the House Republicans’ strategy. Who among us knowingly jeopardizes his own credit score? To risk doing so now, even as the economic agonies of Southern Europe illustrate the dangers of losing fiscal credibility, beggars belief. The fiscal arithmetic is stark—and it can’t be adequately addressed by spending cuts alone. Even before the financial crisis, federal spending was bound to rise because of demographic pressures and rising health-care costs. With current policies, total spending will average at least 23 percent of GDP in the current decade, rising to 27 percent in 2031, compared with 21 percent in the period 1971–2009. To keep federal revenues at their long-run average of 18 percent—in other words, to avoid raising new revenue—while eliminating the deficit therefore implies truly drastic cuts. . . . Reduce national security by three fifths or Social Security (and Medicare) by two fifths. That is the choice implied by the “No New Revenue” dogmatists, who oppose even the elimination of tax loopholes. It does not sound to me like an election-winning platform—more like a domestic row gone nuts.”
7.27 Peter King on si.com: “In the top-notch Yogi Berra story by Joe Posnanski in our July 4 issue, I was amazed to read this: From 1950 to ’56, Berra caught both ends of a doubleheader 117 times … and seven times he caught both ends of a doubleheader on back-to-back days.”
7.25 Robert J. Samuelson in the Washington Post: “We have left our collective comfort zone. Ideas and institutions that, on the whole, served well since World War II are under a cloud. The same was true in the 1920s and early 1930s. Then, the world’s leading nations vainly struggled to maintain the gold standard, which — before World War I — had anchored a prosperous economic order. There was a natural impulse to cling to familiar ideas and practices in which people were invested politically and intellectually. This inertia contributed to the Great Depression’s severity. Amid today’s unrelenting political uproar, something similar is happening. Economic weakness in advanced countries stems partly from the residual trauma on consumers and companies following the ferocious 2008-09 financial crisis. But the effect is complicated by a backward-looking mentality. Governments everywhere are striving to protect the old order because they do not understand and fear the new.”
7.23 Amy Winhouse dies at 27.
7.23 Heat waves continues, almost as strong. Heat, languor, lassitude.
7.22 Sweltering. The real-feel temperature is 115 degrees.
7.22 At least 91 people are dead after coordinated attacks in Norway apparently perpetrated by Anders Behring Breivik, a right right Christian fundamentalist extremist. After a bombing near the prime minister’s office in downtown Oslo in which seven have so far been killed, a gunman shot up the Labor Party’s annual conference for young people.
7.21 In an email from Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla) entitled “Unprofessional and Inappropriate Sophomoric Behavior from Wasserman Schultz”, West writes “Look, Debbie, I understand that after I departed the House floor you directed your floor speech comments directly towards me. Let me make myself perfectly clear, you want a personal fight, I am happy to oblige. You are the most vile, unprofessional and despicable member of the US House of Representatives. If you have something to say to me, stop being a coward and say it to my face, otherwise, shut the heck up.”
7.20 Deborah Orr in The Guardian: “How did Rebekah Brooks impress Rupert Murdoch, then? The only possible conclusion is that Brooks was “working towards the Führer”. The phrase is borrowed from the historian Ian Kershaw, who coined it to explain how Hitler motivated others to formulate policies without considering anything at all except how they would play with him. . . . Rupert’s faith in her speaks badly of him as a man who clearly loves nothing more than to be “worked towards”. His whole empire can be viewed as a vast machine for underpinning his awesome ego. And, heavens, that machine was efficient. The degree to which the Metropolitan police, the political and much of the media establishment currently appear also to have been “working towards the Führer” truly is staggering. . . .Frankly, the most believable aspect of the whole farrago is Rupert’s claim to have known next to nothing. All of News International, including his son and his doted-upon surrogate daughter, would have been straining their every sinew to ensure that he did not get wind of the lengths to which they were going to please him. That would destroy the object of the exercise.It seems logical to contend, as well, that this culture prevailed throughout News International. Brooks and James Murdoch, it is possible, may have had sub-Führer status themselves, with everyone under their command working towards them too. Brooks may really not have known very much about what was going on in her newsroom. James may really not have understood that big payouts meant big secrets. If either was the case, then it was because of the strenuous efforts of all concerned, especially themselves, to keep it that way.”
7.20 Tom Verducci in si.com on the 1998 Yankees: “The greatest team in the history of integrated baseball started out closer to disaster than eminence. The 1998 Yankees lost four of their first five games, stirring the tabloids into full bloodthirst with reports that Davey Johnson was in line to replace Joe Torre as manager. Before the sixth game, in Seattle, Torre held a meeting in which he told his players he was disgusted with their play. And then he asked if any of his veterans wanted to speak. Pitcher David Cone stepped forward. “Guys, we’ve got to get going,” Cone said. “We’ve got to get it together as a team. And we’ve got to do it now or this whole thing could be dismantled because the owner will react.” Then Cone riled the room by explaining how the Mariners had insulted them when Edgar Martinez swung from his heels on a 3-and-0 pitch in a one-sided game the previous night — with no retaliation from the New York pitchers. “We’ve got to get the emotion going here,” Cone said. “We’ve got to look across the way and find something in our opponent we don’t like. That team took us out in the ’95 playoffs. I hate this place, the Kingdome. I left half my arm on that mound. I left a vein out on that mound in ’95, and it pisses me off to see these guys walk all over us and us have no pride being the Yankees.” With that, the greatness commenced. Eight batters into the game that night, New York led 6-0, on its way to a 13-7 win, the start of a 64-16 run — the greatest 80-game stretch in Yankees history.”
7.20 Ruth Marcus in The Washington Post: “Running for Congress in 2006, the Minnesota Republican [Michelle Bachmann] explained her decision to specialize in tax law. She’d never taken a tax course in law school, Bachmann told the Living Word Christian Center, but her husband decided she should pursue an advanced degree in the subject. “Tax law! I hate taxes! Why should I go and do something like that?” Bachmann recalled thinking. “But the Lord said, ‘Be submissive. Wives, you are to be submissive to your husbands.’?” (Illustration: Barry Blitt for The New Yorker.)
7.19 Joe Nocera in the Times: “Rupert Murdoch, despite giving us Homer Simpson, generally has not been a force for good over the course of his long career. His Bill O’Reilly-ed, Glenn Beck-ed Fox News has done a great deal to coarsen the political discourse. His tabloids have lowered the standards of journalism on three continents — and routinely broken the law on at least one of them. He had dumbed down his prestige papers, like The Times of London. He has run roughshod over cross-ownership rules meant to prevent one man or company from having too much power — and then used his lobbying might to get those rules diluted. He has put kowtowing to China ahead of freedom of the press, even killing a book set to be published by his HarperCollins unit that the Chinese authorities objected to. He has consistently used his media properties to reward allies and punish enemies. It’s a long list. Throughout his career, Murdoch has never just been satisfied with besting the competition, as most decent businessmen are. He’s not truly happy unless he has his foot on a competitor’s neck and is pressing it downward.”
7.19 Gem #2 from today’s story on the hacking scandal in the NY Times by Jo Becker and Ravi Somaiya: “At a dinner party, Lady Rothermere, the wife of the billionaire owner of The Daily Mail, overheard Ms. Brooks saying that The Mail was just as culpable as The News of the World. “We didn’t break the law,” Lady Rothermere said, according to two sources with knowledge of the exchange. Ms. Brooks asked who Lady Rothermere thought she was, “Mother Teresa?””
7.19 Gem #1 from today’s story on the hacking scandal in the NY Times by Jo Becker and Ravi Somaiya: “Mr. Murdoch was attending a conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, early this month when it became clear that the latest eruption of the hacking scandal was not, as he first thought, a passing problem. According to a person briefed on the conversation, he proposed to one senior executive that he “fly commercial to London,” so he might be seen as a man of the people. He was told that would hardly do the trick, and he arrived on a Gulfstream G550 private jet.”
7.17 US loses the Women’s World Cup to Japan on PKs. Boo,
7.16 Marly and DJ‘s wedding. Best moments: seeing Cara and Molly dancing, and seeing Cara next to Ginny, dancing and singing `Don’t Stop Believing’
7.14 David Ignatius in The Washington Post: “Murdoch wouldn’t have been so successful if some of his venerable rivals hadn’t, in fact, been elitist, skewed to the left and sometimes just plain boring. Murdoch’s publications and television networks may have coarsened standards, but they are also entertaining. Being irreverent is not the problem. The media world could use more of that Murdochian energy, not less. The trouble with the Murdoch empire is something that Alexander Hamilton, America’s wisest observer of the dangers of populist rhetoric, would have understood. News Corp.’s identification with the common man seems to have bred an arrogance and contempt for traditional rules. In the name of the masses, anything goes. Sadly, these qualities are characteristic, through history, of those who claim to speak in the name of the people and, buoyed by mass popularity, begin to cross the lines.”
7.14 The Washington Post, quoting Eric Cantor: `“The president told me, ‘Eric, don’t call my bluff. You know I’m going to take this to the American people,’?” Cantor said. “He then walked out.” But as he left, Obama added: “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
7.14 Conrad Black in The Financial Times: “ No one should begrudge the Guardian, the BBC, CNN, the New York Times and others their fun at his expense, nor take it too seriously. He is, as Clarendon said of Cromwell and the British historian David Chandler updated to Napoleon “a great bad man”. It is as wrong to dispute his greatness as his badness. . . .Although his personality is generally quite agreeable, Mr Murdoch has no loyalty to anyone or anything except his company. He has difficulty keeping friendships; rarely keeps his word for long; is an exploiter of the discomfort of others; and has betrayed every political leader who ever helped him in any country, except Ronald Reagan and perhaps Tony Blair. All his instincts are downmarket; he is not only a tabloid sensationalist; he is a malicious myth-maker, an assassin of the dignity of others and of respected institutions, all in the guise of anti-elitism. He masquerades as a pillar of contemporary, enlightened populism in Britain and sensible conservatism in the US, though he has been assiduously kissing the undercarriage of the rulers of Beijing for years. His notions of public entertainment and civic values are enshrined in the cartoon television series The Simpsons: all public officials are crooks and the public is an ignorant lumpenproletariat. There is nothing illegal in this, and it has amusing aspects, but it is unbecoming someone who has been the subject of such widespread deference and official preferments.”
7.13 Harold Meyerson in the Post: “Republicans, to be sure, have long waged a war on government, but only now has it become an apocalyptic and total war. At its root, I suspect, is the fear and loathing that rank-and-file right-wingers feel toward what their government, and their nation, is inexorably becoming: multiracial, multicultural, cosmopolitan and now headed by a president who personifies those qualities. That America is also downwardly mobile is a challenge for us all, but for the right, the anxiety our economy understandably evokes is augmented by the politics of racial resentment and the fury that the country is no longer only theirs. That’s not a country whose government they want to pay for — and if the apocalypse befalls us, they seem to have concluded, so much the better.”
7.12 David Brooks in the Times: “The tragedy is that in Barack Obama and John Boehner we have leaders who would like to do something big. They seem to know that you need bipartisan cover if you want to really cut spending. They seem to know circumstances for deficit reduction will only get worse in the years ahead. But they are bracketed on all sides — by the tax cut and Medicare brigades, by the wonks hatching budget gimmicks that erode trust, by political hacks who don’t want to lose their precious campaign issues: tax cuts forever, Medicare spending without limit. Mostly, they are buffeted by the proud, by those who think they have a magic lever to control human destiny and who will not compromise it away. This is the oldest story known to man.”
7.12 Penelope Cruz, on the set of new Woody Allen movie, on people.com.
7.11 Joseph Stiglitz in Slate: “A decade ago, in the midst of an economic boom, the United States faced a surplus so large that it threatened to eliminate the national debt. Unaffordable tax cuts and wars, a major recession, and soaring health care costs—fueled in part by the commitment of George W. Bush‘s administration to giving drug companies free rein in setting prices, even with government money at stake—quickly transformed a huge surplus into record peacetime deficits. The remedies to the U.S. deficit follow immediately from this diagnosis: Put America back to work by stimulating the economy; end the mindless wars; rein in military and drug costs; and raise taxes, at least on the very rich. But the right will have none of this, and instead is pushing for even more tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, together with expenditure cuts in investments and social protection that put the future of the U.S. economy in peril and that shred what remains of the social contract. Meanwhile, the U.S. financial sector has been lobbying hard to free itself of regulations, so that it can return to its previous, disastrously carefree, ways. . . .There is an alternative: an economic-growth strategy supported by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. Growth would restore confidence that Greece could repay its debts, causing interest rates to fall and leaving more fiscal room for further growth-enhancing investments. Growth itself increases tax revenues and reduces the need for social expenditures, such as unemployment benefits. And the confidence that this engenders leads to still further growth. Regrettably, the financial markets and right-wing economists have gotten the problem exactly backward: They believe that austerity produces confidence, and that confidence will produce growth. But austerity undermines growth, worsening the government’s fiscal position, or at least yielding less improvement than austerity’s advocates promise. On both counts, confidence is undermined, and a downward spiral is set in motion. Do we really need another costly experiment with ideas that have repeatedly failed? We shouldn’t, but increasingly it appears that we will have to endure another one nonetheless. A failure of either Europe or the United States to return to robust growth would be bad for the global economy. The failure of both would be disastrous—even if the major emerging-market countries have attained self-sustaining growth. Unfortunately, unless wiser heads prevail, that is the way the world is heading.”
7.11 Paul Krugman in the Times: “Everybody knows that President Obama tried to stimulate the economy with a huge increase in government spending, and that it didn’t work. But what everyone knows is wrong. Think about it: Where are the big public works projects? Where are the armies of government workers? There are actually half a million fewer government employees now than there were when Mr. Obama took office. So what happened to the stimulus? Much of it consisted of tax cuts, not spending. Most of the rest consisted either of aid to distressed families or aid to hard-pressed state and local governments. This aid may have mitigated the slump, but it wasn’t the kind of job-creation program we could and should have had. This isn’t 20-20 hindsight: some of us warned from the beginning that tax cuts would be ineffective and that the proposed spending was woefully inadequate. And so it proved. It’s also worth noting that in another area where government could make a big difference — help for troubled homeowners — almost nothing has been done. The Obama administration’s program of mortgage relief has gone nowhere: of $46 billion allotted to help families stay in their homes, less than $2 billion has actually been spent. So let’s summarize: The economy isn’t fixing itself. Nor are there real obstacles to government action: both the bond vigilantes and structural unemployment exist only in the imaginations of pundits. And if stimulus seems to have failed, it’s because it was never actually tried. Listening to what supposedly serious people say about the economy, you’d think the problem was “no, we can’t.” But the reality is “no, we won’t.”
7.11 Kathleen Parker in the Washington Post: “Republicans have made enormous advances toward government reforms that were viewed as unachievable a year ago. Voting no may have become the aphrodisiac of small-government conservatives, but it is not necessarily an act of bravery or wisdom. Sometimes it’s just stubborn.”
7.10 Off a beautiful cross by Megan Rapinoe, Abby Wambach scores in the 122nd minute to tie Brazil and force a shot out, which the US wins, and thus reaches the semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup
7.10 John Schwartz in the Times: “A study, “Abnormal Returns From the Common Stock Investments of Members of the U.S. House of Representatives”. . . .finds that House members “earn statistically significant positive abnormal returns,” outperforming the market by 6 percentage points. Senators do even better. . . .They beat the market by 10 percentage points a year.”
7.10 Sheila Blair, in an interview with Joe Nocera in the Times: “During the crisis, however, Treasury and the Fed were adamant about protecting debt holders, fearing that if they had to absorb losses, the markets would be destabilized and a bad situation would get even worse. “What was it James Carville used to say?” Blair said. “ ‘When I die I want to come back as the bond market.’ ” “Why did we do the bailouts?” she went on. “It was all about the bondholders,” she said. “They did not want to impose losses on bondholders, and we did. We kept saying: ‘There is no insurance premium on bondholders,’ you know? For the little guy on Main Street who has bank deposits, we charge the banks a premium for that, and it gets passed on to the customer. We don’t have the same thing for bondholders. They’re supposed to take losses.”
7.9 Derek Jeter reaches 3000 career hits in grand style.
7.7 The immortal John Mackey dies at 69.
7.7 Reprehensible hacking findings leads News Corp. to shut News of the World.
7.4 Robert Samuelson in the Post: “We are now engaged in a messy debate over big budget deficits and the size of government. The struggle nominally pits liberals against conservatives, but this is misleading. The real debate involves reactionaries vs. radicals. Many liberals are reactionaries and many conservatives are radicals. A reactionary is someone who, says Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, desires “a return to an earlier system or order.” This defines many liberals. They “pine,” Michael Barone writes in the Wall Street Journal, for “the golden years of the 1940s, ’50s and early ’60s [when] .?.?. Americans had far more confidence in big government.” Modern liberals want yet-bigger government to enhance social justice. They defend virtually all Social Security and Medicare benefits. Everything can be financed, they suggest, by cutting defense or increasing taxes on the rich. Conservatives have become radical by seeking “drastic political, economic or social reform.” Their obsession with tax cuts when even today’s taxes don’t cover today’s spending implies radically shrinking government programs that are woven into America’s social fabric. All this ignores a basic conservative tenet: to respect existing institutions and traditions that anchor the social order. Change — especially radical change — is a last resort, not because today’s world is perfect but because efforts to improve it might make it worse. Both visions are unrealistic. Given an aging population — which boosts Social Security and Medicare spending — government is automatically expanding. Since 1971, federal spending has averaged 21 percent of the economy (gross domestic product); just continuing present programs could easily raise that to 28 percent of GDP by 2021. The liberal-reactionaries can’t smoothly finance that. In 2011, the deficit is already twice the entire defense budget. The richest 10 percent already pay 55 percent of federal taxes. The blanket embrace of all benefits for the elderly — no matter how rich — will require much higher taxes or steep cuts in other programs, including those for the poor.”
7.2 Emma Stone gets the cover of Vanity Fair
7.1 In the Times, A. E. Hotchner quotes a depressed Ernest Hemingway at the end of his life: ““What does a man care about? Staying healthy. Working good. Eating and drinking with his friends. Enjoying himself in bed. I haven’t any of them. You understand, goddamn it? None of them.”
7.1 Deval Patrick in The Washington Post: “It is now clear that the Republican strategy is to drive America to the brink of fiscal ruin and then argue that the only way out is to cut spending for the powerless. Taxes — a dirty word thanks to Norquist’s “no new taxes” gimmick — are made to seem beyond the pale, even as the burden of paying for our society shifts disproportionately to the middle class and working poor. It is the height of fiscal folly. It is also not who we are as a country. For nearly a decade, our federal government paid for two wars and a costly prescription drug benefit with borrowed money. Our government paid for the Bush tax cuts with borrowed money. Now, after exhausting the budget surplus left by the Clinton administration, the only spending Republicans are willing to discuss cutting is spending that helps the poor and vulnerable — meaning anything that does not touch the interests of large corporations and the very rich. Last December, Republican hard-liners held hostage benefits for people out of work in exchange for an agreement to extend the Bush tax cuts for those who make a million dollars or more a year. Last month, many of the same lawmakers rallied to protect special tax benefits for oil companies that have made record profits on high gas prices. Meanwhile, some mom-and-pop stores and college students pay more in taxes than some of our largest corporations. Still, taxes are sin to the hard-liners, though they have difficulty demonstrating a correlation over the past decade between tax cuts and economic growth.”
6.30 Dana Milbank in the Post, reporting on Obama‘s press conference: ““The tax cuts I’m proposing we get rid of are tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, tax breaks for oil companies and hedge fund managers and corporate jet owners,” he said. “I think it would be hard for the Republicans to stand there and say that, ‘The tax break for corporate jets is sufficiently important that we’re not willing to come to the table.” He mentioned the corporate jets six times before parking that bit of class warfare with a challenge to Republicans to ask their constituents “are they willing to compromise their kids’ safety so that some corporate jet owner continues to get a tax break?” Obama, his fingers sometimes curled over the front of the lectern, mostly managed to avoid the testiness he often flashes when challenged. “You keep saying that there needs to be this balanced approach of spending cuts and taxes,” the Associated Press’s Ben Feller said, “but Republicans say flatly they –” Obama, smiling, finished the sentence. “They don’t want a balanced approach.”
6.30 Mark Mazower in the Times: “Today, after the euphoria of the ’90s has faded and a new modesty sets in among the Europeans, it falls again to Greece to challenge the mandarins of the European Union and to ask what lies ahead for the continent. The European Union was supposed to shore up a fragmented Europe, to consolidate its democratic potential and to transform the continent into a force capable of competing on the global stage. It is perhaps fitting that one of Europe’s oldest and most democratic nation-states should be on the new front line, throwing all these achievements into question. For we are all small powers now, and once again Greece is in the forefront of the fight for the future.”
6.28 Fran Lebowitz, as quoted in the Times: “What kind of moron would put their bag on the floor of a cab? Anyone who does that deserves to lose it. That’s what I mean — that’s a tourist. What New Yorker would let their bag out of their clutches? I have all the habits of someone who lived here in the ’70s, you know? Which is that, if I have a pencil, I have a death grip on it. I see the people on the subway, they take their Blackberry out, I think really? If that got stolen, I wouldn’t even feel sorry for you.”
6.28 David Brooks in the Times: “In 1961, John F. Kennedy gave an Inaugural Address that did enormous damage to the country. It defined the modern president as an elevated, heroic leader who issues clarion calls in the manner of Henry V at Agincourt. Ever since that speech, presidents have felt compelled to live up to that grandiose image, and they have done enormous damage to themselves and the nation. That speech gave a generation an unrealistic, immature vision of the power of the presidency. President Obama has renounced that approach. Far from being a heroic quasi Napoleon who runs the country from the Oval Office, Obama has been a delegator and a convener. He sets the agenda, sketches broad policy outlines and then summons some Congressional chairmen to dominate the substance. This has been the approach with the stimulus package, the health care law, the Waxman-Markey energy bill, the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill and, so far, the Biden commission on the budget. . .All his life, Obama has worked in nonhierarchical institutions — community groups, universities, legislatures — so maybe it is natural that he has a nonhierarchical style. He tends to see issues from several vantage points at once, so maybe it is natural that he favors a process that involves negotiating and fudging between different points of view. Still, I would never have predicted he would be this sort of leader. I thought he would get into trouble via excessive self-confidence. Obama’s actual governing style emphasizes delegation and occasional passivity. Being led by Barack Obama is like being trumpeted into battle by Miles Davis. He makes you want to sit down and discern.”
6.28 Eugene Robinson in the Post on what our government is: “At present, we’re operating a heavily armed, heavily indebted health insurance company — a giant, profligate Aetna or Prudential, with nuclear weapons.”
6.28 Philip Roth to The Financial Times: ““I’ve stopped reading fiction. I don’t read it at all. I read other things: history, biography. I don’t have the same interest in fiction that I once did.” How so? “I don’t know. I wised up … ”
6.27 Robert J. Samuelson in the Post: “It may be that gobs of stimulus can’t rescue the global economy but that gobs of austerity might sink it. Our predicament is that it’s not just a few countries that face austerity but most advanced nations. We’ve arrived at a historical reckoning of the post-World War II welfare state, burdened with aging populations and huge debts. Germany’s gross public debt is 87 percent of its economy (gross domestic product); Japan’s, 213 percent; Britain’s, 89 percent; and the United States’, 101 percent. . . .If all cut spending and raised taxes (to control debt) and increased interest rates (to pre-empt inflation), where would growth come from? . . . .The present need to sustain recovery seems to collide with future needs to curb debt. Our public debate is confusing and our policy paralyzed because no one — most obviously, Obama — has disarmed the contradiction.”
6.24 Gene Colan dies
6.24 New York State Senate approves bill allowing gay marriage
6.24 Per The Baseline Scenario, a quote from Kambiz Foroohar‘s profile in Bloomberg Magazine of Gary Gensler, current chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission: “As a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) partner and then Treasury undersecretary, Gensler had lined up with the hands-off- derivatives crowd behind the $601 trillion global market. He says the near-collapse of the world’s financial system changed his mind about regulation. “’My thinking has evolved,’ Gensler says in his ninth- floor Washington office, which is decorated with artwork by his three daughters. ‘I was part of the consensus view on derivatives, and it’s fair to say that the consensus missed it. We should have done more to protect the American people.’”
6.24 Cara’s party
6.24 Dow Jones reports that more than 250 women in a remote town in southwest Colombia were refusing Friday to have sex with their partners until the central government followed through with a decades-old plan to pave the town’s only access road.
6.23 Peter Falk dies
6.23 Whitey Bulgar arrested
6.23 Cara’s graduation
6.18 Clarence Clemmons dies at 69.
6.17 Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal: “The problem with Afghanistan, and Iraq for that matter, is not only that after 10 years our efforts have turned out of be—polite word—inconclusive. We are spending money we don’t have for aims we cannot even articulate.”
6.17 David Brooks in the Times on the Fannie Mae scandal: “The scandal has sent the message that the leadership class is fundamentally self-dealing. Leaders on the center-right and center-left are always trying to create public-private partnerships to spark socially productive activity. But the biggest public-private partnership to date led to shameless self-enrichment and disastrous results. It has sent the message that we have hit the moment of demosclerosis. Washington is home to a vertiginous tangle of industry associations, activist groups, think tanks and communications shops. These forces have overwhelmed the government that was originally conceived by the founders. The final message is that members of the leadership class have done nothing to police themselves. The Wall Street-Industry-Regulator-Lobbyist tangle is even more deeply enmeshed. People may not like Michele Bachmann, but when they finish Reckless Endangerment they will understand why there is a market for politicians like her. They’ll realize that if the existing leadership class doesn’t redefine “normal” behavior, some pungent and colorful movement will sweep in and do it for them.”
6.17 Eugene Robinson in the Post: “For all his dazzling smarts, for all his New York savvy, Anthony Weiner was both ignorant and naive about the Internet. There are certain things about the cyberworld, and about human nature, that anyone tempted to make a hobby of “sexting” really ought to know. First is the fact that the Internet is not, repeat not, a private space. It is essentially a public realm in which it is difficult, if not impossible, to be active yet remain unobserved. Weiner’s downfall began three weeks ago when, via the networking site Twitter, he sent a photo of his underwear-clad crotch to a college student in Washington state with whom he had been Twitter-messaging, or “tweeting.” Weiner realized immediately that he had made a mistake — rather than send the photo through a private channel, he sent it through a public channel that would have made it accessible to any of Twitter’s 300 million users. I repeat: 300 million.”
6.16 Anthony Weiner resigns.
6.16 Amazing photo taken by Getty Images’ Rich Lam, taken in Vancouver during the riots that broke out after the Boston Bruins beat the Canucks in Game Seven to win the Stanley Cup.
6.16 From the Times: “In a hearing on Wednesday, when Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, demanded to know how long the United States would support Pakistan, or as he put it, “governments that lie to us,” Mr. Robert Gates, a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, had an unvarnished answer. “Well, first of all, I would say based on 27 years in C.I.A. and four-and-a-half years in this job, most governments lie to each other,” Mr. Gates said in his flat Kansas twang. “That’s the way business gets done.”
6.12 Behind Dirk Nowitzki, the Dallas Mavericks win the NBA championship
6.11 Joe Nocera in the Times: “The real reason Elizabeth Warren has become a piñata is that. . . she dreamed up the idea of a federal agency that could help prevent consumers of financial products — like, oh, predatory subprime mortgages — from being taken advantage of. Then she lobbied to turn it into reality, as part of the Dodd-Frank reform law. And now, working for the administration, she is busy setting up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which will “go live” in less than six weeks. What’s worse, she’s been doing a pretty good job of it so far. . . . She has attracted first-rate talent for virtually all the top jobs. The new bureau’s first move was to persuade two government agencies to combine mortgage forms into one easy-to-read document — no easy task given how government works. She has consistently talked about making bank disclosures easier for consumers to understand. You would think that Republicans would like this sort of thing. Instead, they portray Warren as a polarizing ideologue bent on creating an agency that, as Mitch McConnell. . . put it recently, “could be a serious threat to our financial system.” How, precisely, an agency that tries to keep financial consumers from being gouged threatens the system is something no one ever explains. (Unless, of course, gouging consumers is central to bank profitability. Hmmm…)”
6.10 California brings hope of reform by announcing a legislative map whose districts have been redrawn by an entirely non-partisan commission.
6.9 In the North Salem Daily, Cara and Jessica Upham celebrate International Helmet Awareness Day
6.8 Thomas L. Friedman in the Times: “You really do have to wonder whether a few years from now we’ll look back at the first decade of the 21st century — when food prices spiked, energy prices soared, world population surged, tornados plowed through cities, floods and droughts set records, populations were displaced and governments were threatened by the confluence of it all — and ask ourselves: What were we thinking? How did we not panic when the evidence was so obvious that we’d crossed some growth/climate/natural resource/population redlines all at once? “The only answer can be denial,” argues Paul Gilding, the veteran Australian environmentalist-entrepreneur, who described this moment in a new book called The Great Disruption: Why the Climate Crisis Will Bring On the End of Shopping and the Birth of a New World. “When you are surrounded by something so big that requires you to change everything about the way you think and see the world, then denial is the natural response. But the longer we wait, the bigger the response required.”. . . .Gilding is actually an eco-optimist. As the impact of the imminent Great Disruption hits us, he says, “our response will be proportionally dramatic, mobilizing as we do in war. We will change at a scale and speed we can barely imagine today, completely transforming our economy, including our energy and transport industries, in just a few short decades.” We will realize, he predicts, that the consumer-driven growth model is broken and we have to move to a more happiness-driven growth model, based on people working less and owning less.”
6.8 Ruth Marcus on Weiner in the Post: “ One explanation for sexual misconduct by politicians is a misplaced sense of entitlement: believing they can get away with this behavior. Weiner intellectually understood the risk he was taking; emotionally, he seems to have deluded himself into believing he was immune from ordinary consequences. Otherwise, he might have stopped the first time his not-yet-wife caught him straying online. Weiner’s conduct reflects another aspect of the male political animal: the creepy link between the politician’s appetite for votes and adulation and his questing after sexual attention and conquest.”
6.8 Weiner‘s case prompts Maureen Dowd to use in her Times column this sad, stinging quote from George Orwell: “Any life when viewed from the inside is simply a series of defeats.” Ouch!
6.7 Rep. Anthony Weiner admits that he had internet conversations and texted photos of himself. Note: among the photos behind him are pix of himself and his wife, and himself and Bill Clinton.
6.6 Met with James Bennet of The Atlantic.
6.6 James Carville on Imus in the Morning: “If 54,000 new jobs [created per month] is the new standard, it’s going to be a very, very rough 2012 for President Obama. But the three-month average was 160,000. If that is the case, then he will do OK. I can’t tell you what will happen. But yes, if this, if this last jobs number is an indication of future job numbers, it’s going to be very, very rough. . . .[This recovery] is gruesome on people. This unemployment rate for this long is a humanitarian crisis of the first magnitude.”
6.5 Jerusalem, with Mark Rylance
6.4 Margaret Schmidt‘s graduation party.
6.2 E.J. Dionne in the Post: “Thus our choice: Government can keep its current promises, undertake the complicated and often frustrating work of bringing health costs under control, and work for the day when everyone has health insurance. Or it can ask individuals to carry an ever-heavier load, expect invisible hands to perform miracles and leave Americans to take their chances with the insurance companies. I think I know how this debate will come out.”
6.2 According to the AP: “The French prosecutor’s office opened a preliminary investigation Wednesday after a former government minister alleged that another ex-minister had participated in an orgy with young boys in Morocco. Former Education Minister Luc Ferry will likely be questioned after alleging during a television show that another minister was caught at an orgy in Marrakech, a judicial official said. Ferry said during a television that he heard about the case from a prime minister. He did not specify which one. “Me, I know and I think I am not alone,” Ferry said on the show on Canal Plus cable TV debating the long-standing French tradition of respect for private lives.
6.1 Donna St. George in The Washington Post: “Nearly two decades after a zero-tolerance culture took hold in American schools, a growing number of educators and elected leaders are scaling back discipline policies that led to lengthy suspensions and ousters for such mistakes as carrying toy guns or Advil. This rethinking [is] . . .part of a phenomenon driven by high suspension rates, community pressure, legal action and research findings. . . . Now, in many areas, efforts are underway to find a more calibrated approach to school discipline. Educators are increasingly focused on the fallout of suspensions, which are linked to lower academic achievement and students dropping out. In Delaware, for example, zero-tolerance cases were a repeated issue in the Christina School District, where a 6-year-old with a camping utensil that included a knife was suspended in 2009. Discipline procedures were revamped last year, giving administrators the discretion to consider a student’s intent and grade, as well as the risk of harm. Out-of-school suspensions in the state’s largest school system fell by one-third in a year. “It’s a more child-centered approach,” said Wendy Lapham, a spokeswoman for the Christina schools.”
6.1 Did he or didn’t he? Did Rep. Anthony Weiner send a photo of his member to a woman in Seattle? Or was his account hacked? That’s his story, anyway. In an interview with MSNBC’s Luke Russert, Weiner maintained that a prankster posted the photo of a bulging male member in gray briefs to his Twitter page late Friday and directed it to a young woman in Seattle that the congressman follows. But when asked if it was in fact a picture of him, Weiner said “You know, I can’t say with certitude. My system was hacked. Pictures can be manipulated. Pictures can be dropped in and inserted.” He later told CBS News the picture “doesn’t look familiar.”
5.31 From ABC’s The Note: “Many of the mainstream media are looking for kind of a conventional campaign type tour and I’ve said from that beginning that this isn’t a campaign tour except to campaign on our Constitution, our charters of liberty,” Sarah Palin told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren in an interview broadcast last night. “I don’t think I owe anything to the mainstream media ? I want them to have to do a little bit of work on a tour like this.”
5.28 After a competitive first half, Barcelona blankets Manchester United, and walks away with the Champions Cup, 3-1.
5.25 Cara‘s prom
5.25 Thomas L. Friedman in the Times: “Does Bibi have any surprise in him or do the Palestinians have him right: a big faker, hiding a nationalist-religious agenda under a cloak of security? It may be that Israeli and Palestinian leaders are incapable of surprising anyone anymore, in which case the logic on the ground will prevail: Israel will gradually absorb the whole West Bank, so, together with Israel proper, a Jewish minority will be ruling over an Arab majority. Israel’s enemies will refer to it as “the Jewish apartheid state.” America, Israel’s only true friend, will find itself having to defend an Israel whose policies it does not believe in and whose leaders it does not respect — and the tensions between the U.S. and Israel displayed in Washington last week will seem quaint by comparison.”
5.23 From the Guardian (UK): “”Chronic media multitasking is quickly becoming ubiquitous, although processing multiple incoming streams of information is considered a challenge for human cognition. A series of experiments addressed whether there are systematic differences in information processing styles between chronically heavy and light media multitaskers. A trait media multitasking index was developed to identify groups of heavy and light media multitaskers. These two groups were then compared along established cognitive control dimensions. Results showed that heavy media multitaskers are more susceptible to interference from irrelevant environmental stimuli and from irrelevant representations in memory. This led to the surprising result that heavy media multitaskers performed worse on a test of task-switching ability, likely due to reduced ability to filter out interference from the irrelevant task set. These results demonstrate that media multitasking, a rapidly growing societal trend, is associated with a distinct approach to fundamental information processing.”
5.23 Robert J. Samuelson in the Washington Post: “The larger message is that the recovery is feeding on itself. Healthy economic growth doesn’t have to be supported by government and, ideally, is not frustrated by perverse policies. The greatest barrier to recovery now could be psychology — stubborn gloom — which conditions household and business spending decisions.”
5.22 Tornadoes ravage the midwest. A particular strong storm strikes Joplin, Missouri, killing 116 at last count.
5.21 The day ends without the world preceding it.
5.20 From The Daily Caller: “In a Thursday appearance on “On the Record” on the Fox News Channel, host Greta Van Sustren asked Sarah Palin if she had the “fire in the belly’ for such a run, especially after former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee announced he would not be running in 2012 on his Saturday night show. Palin’s response: She does indeed. “That’s a great question,” Palin said. “I think my problem is that I do have the fire in my belly. I am so adamantly supportive of the good traditional things about America and our free enterprise system and I want to make sure America is put back on the right track and we will do that by defeating Obama in 2012. I have that fire in my belly.”
5.18 A Gingrich functionary named Rick Tyler sent this defense of his boss to The Huffington Post: ““The literati sent out their minions to do their bidding. Washington cannot tolerate threats from outsiders who might disrupt their comfortable world. The firefight started when the cowardly sensed weakness. They fired timidly at first, then the sheep not wanting to be dropped from the establishment’s cocktail party invite list unloaded their entire clip, firing without taking aim their distortions and falsehoods. Now they are left exposed by their bylines and handles. But surely they had killed him off. This is the way it always worked. A lesser person could not have survived the first few minutes of the onslaught. But out of the billowing smoke and dust of tweets and trivia emerged Gingrich, once again ready to lead those who won’t be intimated by the political elite and are ready to take on the challenges America faces.” Forget “billowing smoke and dust of tweets and trivia”–well, no, don’t forget it, savor it for a moment, but then move on to ask yourself when on earth did Newt Gingrich become a Washington outsider?
5.18 Eva Green, making Camelot memorable
5.18 Dana Milbank in The Washington Post: ““I don’t think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate,” Newt Gingrich told David Gregory, criticizing the House Republicans’ plan to replace Medicare with a voucher system. Moments later, he added, “I’m against Obamacare, which is imposing radical change, and I would be against a conservative imposing radical change.” It was vintage Gingrich — impulsive and undisciplined — and it pretty much wrecked his just-launched presidential campaign. . . . But Gingrich was taking basically the same position on Medicare he took 16 years ago, when, as speaker of the House, he was the commanding general of the Republican Revolution. What has changed since then is not Gingrich but the Republican Party — and the approach to Medicare is a prime example. Compared to today’s Republican agenda, the Revolution of ’94 now appears to be a halcyon period of moderation and good sense. Then, there was a hope that government-run Medicare would “wither on the vine” when recipients were offered alternatives. Now the plan is to pull the whole thing up by the roots.. . . That’s almost exactly what he told Gregory on Sunday when he said House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s plan to force people off fee-for-service Medicare is “too big a jump. I think what you want to have is a system where people voluntarily migrate to better outcomes.”. . . . .[H]is political analysis on this point is shrewd. He has learned, over time and at great cost, that important policy will fail if it is forced on one side by the other. Even if legislation passes, such as last year’s health-care reform, public support will be badly weakened if opinion makers on both sides don’t provide validation. Republicans understood this when they criticized Democrats for overreaching, yet now they are attempting precisely the same thing with Ryan’s budget.”
5.17 Harmon Killebrew dies at 74.
5.17 Stefanie Cohen in the New York Post: “The Big Apple, experts say, is most likely a breeding ground for people who like themselves . . . a lot. “There is reason to believe that New York City may have a higher level of people with narcissistic personality disorder than other cities,” says Frank Yeomans, director of training at the Personality Disorders Institute of Weill Medical College. “Because New York is special, people who want to be special come here. Striving people come to centers of excellence and achievement.” . . . .Psychoanalyst Joan Lachkar, author of “How To Talk to a Narcissist,” says New Yorkers Bernie Madoff and Donald Trump offer prime examples of narcissistic personality disorder. . . .Trump is a “flaming narcissist who didn’t care who he stepped on to get to [President Obama’s] birth certificate,” she says. “He will do anything to prove his point.” Even his hairdo is a sign, she says. “He talks about [his combover] like he’s discovered something or developed a new technique. A normal person would say ‘Who cares?’ ”
5.15 Went to Wilmington to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Bernie McGinley‘s ordination.
5.15 Newt Gingrich on Meet the Press: “”One of the painful lessons I’ve have to learn — and I haven’t fully learned it, honestly — is that if you seek to be president of United States, you are never an analyst, you’re never a college teacher, because those folks can say what they want to say. And someone who offers to lead America has to be much more disciplined and much more thoughtful.”
5.11 Sorry to see that Fox cancelled Human Target, a consistently satisfying piece of popcorn television, paced with the familiar, comforting excitement of the comic books of my youth. (And don’t say `That’s because the series originated as a comic book.’ Plenty of comix have been messed up tranferring to another medium.) One thing they got right was the relationships of the main characters, and the stoic, non-plussed resolve they exhibited in the face of great danger. Mark Valley was a very good Chance, although he has an altogether too sunny a disposition for the dark background Chance carries with him. Jackie Earle Haley was wonderful as the lethal Guerrero and Janet Montgomery was flip and sexy as Ames, but Chi McBride’s Winston, the worrywart who was their buzzkilling counterweight, was a little too grim. I will most miss Indira Varma, playing the wealthy Ilsa Pucci. There was great potential in these characters, and the series, to its credit, usually succeeded. (I am particularly sorry to see the show go because it was a program Molly and I enjoyed watching together.)
5.11 Thomas L. Friedman in the Times: “So Osama bin Laden was living in a specially built villa in Pakistan. I wonder where he got the money to buy it? Cashed in his Saudi 401(k)? A Pakistani subprime mortgage, perhaps? . . . I just wish it were as easy to eliminate the two bad bargains that really made that attack possible, funded it and provided the key plotters and foot soldiers who carried it out. We are talking about the ruling bargains in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, which are alive and well. The Saudi ruling bargain is an old partnership between the al-Saud tribe and the Wahhabi religious sect. The al-Saud tribe get to stay in power and live however they want behind their palace walls, and, in return, the followers of the Wahhabi sect get to control the country’s religious mores, mosques and education system. . . .The Pakistani ruling bargain is set by the Pakistani Army and says: “We let you civilians pretend to rule, but we will actually call all the key shots, we will consume nearly 25 percent of the state budget and we will justify all of this as necessary for Pakistan to confront its real security challenge: India and its occupation of Kashmir.”
5.10 Spoken Interludes, with Michael Korda and Alexandra Styron, hosted by DeLaune Michel (pictured).
5.8 George Will on ABC News The Week: “Al Qaeda had vaulting ambitions to establish a caliphate that stetched from Indonesia to Spain. Now with the waves of modernity sweeping the Middle East, therer sits this old man with a TV remote. The New York Times reports that in one of his handwritten notebooks, he says his project was to derail an American train on a bridge, perhaps to coincide with the State of the Union address. You don’t build a caliphate derailing an American train. It’s a pathetic ambition.”
5.8 Katy Perry distinguished the cover of the June Vanity Fair
5.7 From the Washington Post: “When bin Laden’s corpse was laid out, one of the Navy SEALs was asked to stretch out next to it to compare heights. The SEAL was 6 feet tall. The body was several inches taller. After the information was relayed to President Obama, he turned to his advisers and said: “We donated a $60 million helicopter to this operation. Could we not afford to buy a tape measure?””
5.6 David Brooks in the Times: “We no longer have a leadership class — of the sort that existed as late as the Truman and Eisenhower administrations — that believes that governing means finding an equilibrium between different economic interests and a balance between political factions. Instead, we have the politics of solipsism. The political culture encourages politicians and activists to imagine that the country’s problems would be solved if other people’s interests and values magically disappeared. The democratic triumph has created a nation that runs up huge debt and is increasingly incapable of finding a balance between competing interests. Today, the country faces three intertwined economic challenges. We have to make the welfare state fiscally sustainable. We have to do it in a way that preserves the economic dynamism in the country — that provides incentives for creative destruction. We also have to do it in a way that preserves social cohesion — that reduces the growing economic and lifestyle gaps between the educated and less educated. These three goals are in tension with one another, but to prosper America has to address all three at the same time. ”
5.6 Paul Krugman in the Times: “the clear and present danger to the American economy isn’t what some people imagine might happen one of these days, it’s what is actually happening now. Unemployment isn’t just blighting the lives of millions, it’s undermining America’s future. The longer this goes on, the more workers will find it impossible ever to return to employment, the more young people will find their prospects destroyed because they can’t find a decent starting job. It may not create excited chatter on cable TV, but the unemployment crisis is real, and it’s eating away at our society. Yet any action to help the unemployed is vetoed by the fear-mongers. Should we spend modest sums on job creation? No way, say the deficit hawks, who threaten us with the purely hypothetical wrath of financial markets, and, in fact, demand that we slash spending now now now — which might well send us back into recession. Should the Federal Reserve do more to promote expansion? No, say the inflation and dollar hawks, who have been wrong again and again but insist that this time their dire warnings about runaway prices and a plunging dollar really will be vindicated. So we’re paying a heavy price for Washington’s obsession with phantom menaces. By looking for trouble in all the wrong places, our political class is preventing us from dealing with the real crisis: the millions of American men and women who can’t find work.”
5.6 Charles Krauthammer in the Post: “The new post-bin Laden dispensation is that the entire decade-long war on terror was an overreaction — as shown by the bin Laden operation itself, which, noted one critic, looks a lot like police work, the kind of law enforcement John Kerry insisted in 2004 was the proper prism through which to address the terror threat. On the contrary. The bin Laden operation is the perfect vindication of the war on terror. It was made possible precisely by the vast, warlike infrastructure that the Bush administration created post-9/11, a fierce regime of capture and interrogation, of dropped bombs and commando strikes. That regime, of course, followed the more conventional war that brought down the Taliban, scattered and decimated al-Qaeda and made bin Laden a fugitive. Without all of this, the bin Laden operation could never have happened.”
5.5 Dan Kadlec on CBS Money Watch: “A new report, Behavioral Finance in Action by Shlomo Benartzi of UCLA shows. . . that those who can conjure a realistic vision of their future self tend to have a significantly higher savings rate. Benartzi writes: “When people are confronted with vivid visual images of themselves that have been digitally aged, they take notice. Hal Ersner-Hershfield and six colleagues performed such an experiment on young volunteers, using age-progression software in a virtual reality environment. These algorithms use a framework of key facial features to build an image of what that person will look like in, say, thirty years’ time. Some of the comments on seeing age-rendered future selves included: “Wow, I look just like Grandma,” “Oooh, I don’t know if I want to see this” and “Whoa, this is freaky.” But more pertinently, the volunteers in the experiment who see their future selves more than double the amount of money they say they would allocate to retirement savings.” Perhaps most interesting, the research shows, is that the savings effect is nil when people are shown age-processed images of other people. Only when they see their own future selves do they change their savings behavior.”
5.4 THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN in the Times: “There is only one good thing about the fact that Osama bin Laden survived for nearly 10 years after the mass murder at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that he organized. And that is that he lived long enough to see so many young Arabs repudiate his ideology. He lived long enough to see Arabs from Tunisia to Egypt to Yemen to Syria rise up peacefully to gain the dignity, justice and self-rule that Bin Laden claimed could be obtained only by murderous violence and a return to puritanical Islam.”
5.3 The T-Mobile girl is named Carly Foulkes.
5.3 Jonathan Capehart in the Post on the White House Correspondents Dinner: “The best Seth Meyers line was this one: “Donald Trump said that he was running for president as a Republican. That’s funny, because I thought he was running as a joke.” The joke was on Trump Saturday night. And he didn’t crack a smile. That’s a big error in politics. If you can’t laugh at what others say about you there’s no way you’re going to survive in this arena or in Washington. Asked his reaction to the dinner on Fox News on Sunday, Trump was his typical thin-skinned self with a dollop of self-pity: “ You go to a certain level and you raise to a certain level, let’s say in this case in the polls, and, boy, does the world come after you, especially if you happen to be conservative. . . I’m a little bit surprised to see it. . . I knew what I was really getting into last night. I had no idea it would be to that extent, where just joke after joke after joke. It was almost like “Is there anyone else they could talk about?” No, Mr. Trump. There was no one else to talk about and that was by your design. You wanted to play in the big leagues. Well, welcome to the game.”
5.2 David Ignatius in the Washinton Post: “Tthe idea that the U.S. would run away — an analysis that bin Laden based on America’s flight from Beirut after 1983 bombings and from Somalia in 1994 after bloody attacks on U.S. troops there — has been convincingly refuted. Even after catastrophic mistakes in Iraq, President George W. Bush pressed on to sustain the American narrative of persistence in battle. “We will be relentless in the defense of our citizens,” said President Obama in announcing bin Laden’s death from the White House, just before midnight. “Justice has been done.” They were statements that might have been in a classic Western movie.”
5.1 Navy Seals execute Osama bin Laden in his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
4.30 At the White House Correspondents Dinner, President Obama mocks Donald Trump. “I know that he’s taken some flak lately, but nobody is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than The Donald, and that’s because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter, like: did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac? All kidding aside, we all know about your credentials and experience. In an episode of ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ … the men’s cooking team did not impress the judges from Omaha Steaks. You, Mr. Trump, recognized that the real problem was a lack of leadership. So ultimately, you didn’t blame Lil Jon or Meatloaf, you fired Gary Busey. These are the kinds of decisions that would keep me up at night. Well handled, sir. Well handled.”
4.29 Prince William and Kate Middleton are married. The pageantry! The Queen’s landau! The Household cavalry! Rule Brittania!
4.29 Johann Hari in The Independent: “Trump probably won’t become the Republican nominee, but not because most Republicans reject his premisses. No: it will be because he states these arguments too crudely for mass public consumption. He takes the whispered dogmas of the Reagan, Bush and Tea Party years and shrieks them through a megaphone. The nominee will share similar ideas, but express them more subtly. . . . The Republican Party today isn’t even dominated by market fundamentalism. This is a crude Nietzscheanism, dedicated to exalting the rich as an overclass and dismissing the rest. So who should be the Republican nominee? I hear the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were considering running – but they are facing primary challenges from the Tea Party for being way too mild-mannered.”
4.27 ““Human frailty continues to be the currency in which it trades. Malice remains its animating impulse.”–Janet Malcolm in Iphigenia in Forest Hills, on journalism
4.27 In the June 2011 issue of Avantgarde, model Valerie van der Graaf is photographed by Klaas Jan Kliphuis
4.26 Tom Verducci in si.com: “There are 12 36-and-older players this year with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. Only two of them rank among the top 80 players as ranked by OPS: Chipper Jones (64th) and Jamey Carroll (79). The rest of them all rank below the OPS median: Johnny Damon, Ichiro Suzuki, Bobby Abreu, Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui, Orlando Cabrera, Vladimir Guerrero, Raul Ibañez, Jeter and Tejada. It’s a who’s who of who was. The Steroid Era tricked us into thinking players still could be impact players at this age. We’re finding out how fraudulent that era was. The ban on amphetamines, in place since 2006, also could be taking a toll on older players, including how often they stay in the lineup.”
4.26 Michael Falcone and Amy Walter of ABC News’s The Note: “Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, citing a lack of fire in the belly, became the latest to join the “not ‘gonna do it” caucus yesterday. At this point, we’ve had more potential Republican primary candidates definitively announce that they won’t run than they will. . . .A smaller and less prominent field means Pawlenty gets to position himself as the anti-Romney candidate. His allies also believe that Pawlenty has the best chance of capturing the now free-agent Barbour donors. On the other hand, Romney, as the nominal frontrunner, no longer has to compete against another establishment candidate with a deep fundraising base. But, what does it say about the Republican field when the guy with the most experience takes a pass while newbies like Donald Trump and Michele Bachmann get the most attention? To be sure, Barbour had his own very weighty baggage. But, there is concern among GOP establishment figures that the field may start to get defined by the fringes instead of the center.”
4.24 Saw War Horse at Lincoln Center with the fam.
4.22 Paul Krugman in the Times: “Here’s my question: How did it become normal, or for that matter even acceptable, to refer to medical patients as “consumers”? The relationship between patient and doctor used to be considered something special, almost sacred. Now politicians and supposed reformers talk about the act of receiving care as if it were no different from a commercial transaction, like buying a car — and their only complaint is that it isn’t commercial enough. What has gone wrong with us?. . . . There’s something terribly wrong with the whole notion of patients as “consumers” and health care as simply a financial transaction. Medical care, after all, is an area in which crucial decisions — life and death decisions — must be made. Yet making such decisions intelligently requires a vast amount of specialized knowledge. Furthermore, those decisions often must be made under conditions in which the patient is incapacitated, under severe stress, or needs action immediately, with no time for discussion, let alone comparison shopping. That’s why we have medical ethics. That’s why doctors have traditionally both been viewed as something special and been expected to behave according to higher standards than the average professional.”
4.21 si.com reports that hours after beating archrival Barcelona to win the Copa del Rey trophy for the first time in 18 years, Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos let the 33-pound cup fall from the top of the team bus during celebrations early Thursday morning. The front right wheel of the bus rolled over the trophy and crushed it.
4.21 Max H. Bazerman and Ann. E. Tenbrunsel in the Times: “Participants [in an experiment] who faced a potential fine cheated more, not less, than those who faced no sanctions. With no penalty, the situation was construed as an ethical dilemma; the penalty caused individuals to view the decision as a financial one. When we fail to notice that a decision has an ethical component, we are able to behave unethically while maintaining a positive self-image. No wonder, then, that our research shows that people consistently believe themselves to be more ethical than they are. In addition to preventing us from noticing our own unethical conduct, ethical fading causes us to overlook the unethical behavior of others. In the run-up to the financial crisis, corporate boards, auditing firms, credit-rating agencies and other parties had easy access to damning data that they should have noticed and reported. Yet they didn’t do so, at least in part because of “motivated blindness” — the tendency to overlook information that works against one’s best interest. Ample research shows that people who have a vested self-interest, even the most honest among us, have difficulty being objective. Worse yet, they fail to recognize their lack of objectivity.”
4.20 Harold Meyerson in the Washington Post: “Taxing the income from Americans’ labor doesn’t yield what it once did. We need to raise the taxes on Americans’ investments, too. From 1959 through 2007, the share of Americans’ personal income that came from wages and salaries declined from 68 percent to 57.6 percent. . . Meanwhile, the share from dividends rose from 3.3 percent to 7.1 percent and the amount from interest from 5.8 percent to 11.3 percent. The share of income from realized capital gains rose during those years from 1.6 percent to 8.2 percent. . . . And yet, we tax income derived from long-term capital gains and dividends at a rate of 15 percent, while we tax income from Americans’ labor at a rate that goes up to 35 percent. . . . Why tax capital income at a lower rate? Only bankers and the depraved believe that income from other people’s labor rates a moral discount over income from one’s own labor. The case for taxing capital at a lower rate is economic: that low tax rates on investment spurs more investment, and more jobs, in the American economy. Plainly, that’s no longer the case.”
4.19 Richard Cohen in The Washington Post: ““Donald [Trump] is a believer in the big-lie theory,” his lawyer told [Marie] Brenner [of Vanity Fair]. “If you say something over and over again, people will believe you.” . . . The shocker would be a statement that Trump always tells the truth. American political life is doing away with the back story. Increasingly, politicians are becoming religious types, Eagle Scouts who mastered all the knots, a monasticism leavened only by the occasional martini. They do not stray. They avoid midlife crises. They came out of the womb with certainty, avoided acne, married the first girl they dated and went on to make a fortune in something or other. Then there’s Trump. He is all back story. We know his flops. We know he curses. We know his women. We know he lies. We know he has bad taste — in buildings, in ties, in associates (the late Roy Cohn, for instance, and now Roger Stone). He did not treat his wives well (according to them) and Ivana, in particular, retaliated by enlisting the New York gossip columnists. And now we must add this nonsense about Barack Obama possibly having been born outside the United States. Trump’s a birther. Why not? He’s everything else — and, anyway, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Such a man cannot become president. This is the required sentence. But the import, the gravamen, the theme of the Vanity Fair piece was more or less that Trump was finished — too much bad publicity, too many bad real estate deals, too many enemies, too much of just plain excess. And yet, like Melville’s whale or Spielberg’s shark, he keeps coming, coming, coming.”
4.18 E. J. Dionne Jr. in The Washington Post: “When it comes to governing, the ruling class now devotes itself in large part to utterly self-involved lobbying. Its main passion has been to slash taxation on the wealthy, particularly on the financial class that has gained the most over the past 20 years.. . .Listen to David Cay Johnston, the author of Free Lunch: “The effective rate for the top 400 taxpayers has gone from 30 cents on the dollar in 1993 to 22 cents at the end of the Clinton years to 16.6 cents under Bush. So their effective rate has gone down more than 40 percent. . . .Those at the top of the heap are falling far short of the standards set by American ruling classes of the past. As John Judis. . . put it in The Paradox of American Democracy,” the American establishment has at crucial moments had “an understanding that individual happiness is inextricably linked to social well-being.” What’s most striking now, by contrast, is “the irresponsibility of the nation’s elites.”. . . .Resolving the deficit problem requires the very rich to recognize their obligation to contribute more to a government that, measured against other wealthy nations, is neither investing enough in the future nor doing a very good job of improving the lives and opportunities of the less affluent.”
4.17 We went go-kart racing in Mount Kisco. I believe I finished last, and by a large margin. According to the official records, my best laptime was 53.80 seconds (the course record is 29 seconds and change) and you finished 10″th – well done. I like to think that there were 11 drivers, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there were only nine. Here’s a picture of Molly, who outperformed me significantly.
4.15 Dana Milbank in The Washington Post: “Obama, without Pelosi charting his leftward course, has drifted to where he appears to feel most comfortable: in the middle, splitting differences. Depending on where you stand, that may be a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s hard to quarrel with the politics of it. Liberals howled about Obama’s spending deals with Republicans in December and again this month, but the latest CNN poll finds that 58 percent approve of the deal to avoid the shutdown and, by 48-35 percent, Obama and the Democrats are getting the credit. Obama perhaps has calculated that the way to appeal to independent voters is to position himself above the fray. But at what cost? Pelosi loyalists say that, ideology aside, Obama simply isn’t getting as much from negotiations as he should, because his bottom line is fuzzy. “The first rule of politics,” one senior congressional aide said, “is to know where you want to get to before you start. His decisions don’t seem to be anchored to anything.”
4.15 Peter Wallsten and Lori Montgomery in The Washington Post: “Republicans are feuding over whether to abandon the party’s long-held opposition to higher taxes in pursuit of a deficit-cutting deal with Democrats. The rift in the Republican ranks has surfaced in a bitter back-and-forth between two heroes of the conservative movement: Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who has been working with a bipartisan group of senators on a compromise to reduce government borrowing, and Grover Norquist, author of the no-tax-increase pledge that has become a rite of passage for GOP candidates. . . . The tensions between Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform and Coburn’s office have intensified, with each side sending the other terse, accusatory letters claiming to be the true conservatives. Coburn charges that the tax pledge, as interpreted by Norquist, is inflexible, and Coburn’s spokesman now labels Norquist the “chief cleric of sharia tax law.”
4.13 President Obama: “There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. And I don’t think there’s anything courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill.”
4.13 Harold Meyerson in The Washington Post: “As in 1861, we are again divided over whether Southern or Northern labor systems, and Southern or Northern versions of government, shall become the national norm. In the private-sector economy, the Southern labor system — in which workers are paid less and have fewer rights — has been winning for decades. Despite their huge growth in members during the 1930s and 1940s, unions never succeeded in penetrating the South, where white racial animosity toward blacks thwarted efforts to build working-class solidarity. The gap between Northern and Southern wages remained vast — so vast that many Northern companies began relocating facilities there, particularly after the civil rights revolution of the ’60s made the South seem less culturally foreign. With the arrival of Wal-Mart in 1962 and the company’s expansion into America’s leading private-sector employer, the Southern labor system came north. Ferociously anti-union, and bitterly opposed to President John F. Kennedy’s decision to extend the minimum wage to cover retail workers, Wal-Mart developed a business model. . .that was premised on low-wage workers being economically compelled to shop at the lowest-priced chain — which, not coincidentally, was Wal-Mart. As Wal-Mart grew, it used its market power to compel manufacturers and companies along its supply chain to lower their wages. When Americans could no longer be found to make products as cheaply as Wal-Mart wished, the chain turned to China, where labor was cheap and workers had no rights. Not slaves, to be sure, but not really free, either.”
4.11 Former Senator Alan Simpson on Hardball with Chris Matthews: ““We won a governorship in New Jersey, one in Virginia, by not talking about social issues. Who the hell is for abortion? I don’t know anybody running around with a sign ‘Have an abortion, they’re wonderful.’ They’re hideous. But they’re a deeply intimate and personal decision, and I don’t think men legislators should even vote on the issue. . . .You’ve got homosexuality. You’ve got don’t ask, don’t tell. We’ve got homophobes in our party. That’s disgusting to me. … If they’re going to get off on that stuff — [former senator Rick] Santorum has said some cruel, cruel things about homosexuals. Ask him about it. . . .You know, that’s the kind of guys that are going to be on my ticket. I’m not sticking with people who are homophobic, anti-women, moral values while you’re diddling your secretary, while you’re giving a speech on moral values. Come on, get off of it.”
4.8 Chris Cilizza in The Washington Post: ““I suspect the bottom fell out [for Sarah Palin] over the Arizona shooting when Palin’s response seemed more political than sympathetic,” said Mark McKinnon, a Republican media consultant. “Obama showed great leadership during the crisis and Palin showed none.” Others traced the decline to 2009 when Palin abruptly announced she would leave the governorship. . . . Regardless of the exact timing of the tipping point, Palin’s slippage has coincided with two other developments that have exacerbated her political problems. First, Republican primary voters seem focused — to an almost laser-like level — on fiscal issues rather than social ones. . . .The second complicating factor for Palin is the rapid rise of Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann as a potential — heck, likely — 2012 candidate. . . .Bachmann is not is anywhere near as divisive — or well-known — a figure as Palin. And that means she has room to grow — in Iowa and beyond. Palin, if you believe polling, has a hard ceiling in terms of public support, and that ceiling continues to get lower.”
4.7 Matt Miller in the Washington Post: `My own view is that unless we can find a politically viable way to shrink our radically inefficient health sector’s claim on American output, we won’t be able to retire the boomers, provide decent coverage to the uninsured, shift health costs from corporate payrolls to government budgets (which would be good for business and for workers), and invest in the nonelderly priorities I’ve cited for less than 40 percent or so of GDP as the boomers age. This would still leave us with a government much smaller than those in Europe and Scandinavia, conservative cries to the contrary aside. Instead, Paul Ryan’s “path to prosperity” would leave America with 50 million or 60 million uninsured. . . and with decrepit roads, bridges, sewers and airports, lagging R&D and a middling teacher corps. Apart from 30 million fewer uninsured, Obama’s plans don’t adequately address these nonelderly priorities either.”
4.4 Times Talks–fab!
4.4 Dahlia Lithwick in Slate: “Today, by ordering a military trial at Guantanamo for 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his co-defendants, Attorney General Eric Holderfinally put the Obama administration’s stamp on the proposition that some criminals are “too dangerous to have fair trials.” In reversing one of its last principled positions—that American courts are sufficiently nimble, fair, and transparent to try Mohammed and his confederates—the administration surrendered to the bullying, fear-mongering, and demagoguery of those seeking to create two separate kinds of American law. This isn’t just about the administration allowing itself to be bullied out of its commitment to the rule of law. It’s about the president and his Justice Department conceding that the system of justice in the United States will have multiple tiers—first-class law for some and junk law for others.”
4.4 Robert J. Samuelson in the Washington Post: “GE seems plenty competitive in tax avoidance. The question is: Can we do anything about it? The answer is “yes,” but the right response is counterintuitive. It’s not to raise taxes on multinational companies but to lower them. To offset that tax loss and cut budget deficits, we should then increase individuals’ taxes on corporate dividends and capital gains (profits from sales of stock or property). They enjoy a ridiculously low top rate of 15 percent — a giveaway to the rich that makes no sense as economic policy. The wealthiest 1 percent of Americans receives two-thirds of capital gains and dividends.”
4.2 Cara rides in Gardnertown.
4.2 UK is eliminated.
4.1 Mob protests against Terry Jones in Kandahar left nine dead and more than 90 injured.
3.31 On March 20, the odious religious fanatic Terry Jones, pastor of the 30 member Christian congregation at Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, donned a judicial robe, put the Koran on trial, and then ordered a copy to be burned in a portable fire pit. Yesterday, a mob of odious religious fanatics in Mazar-e Sharif in Afghanistan attacked a U.N. compound and killed seven U.N. employees.
3.31 A rainy, chilly spring evening, the very last of the light about to yield to the night. I’m sitting in Dad’s old Buick behind Tazza waiting to pick up Cara, when Ginny pulls up in the Toyota and gives me a big smile. There had been a miscommunication: Cara had forgotten that I was coming and called Ginny, who was coming home from work late. No problem–I went a picked up the pizza I had ordered for dinner. And I left with an unaccountable feeling of happiness–a good day’s work accomplished, Cara collected, a warm pizza in our warm living room on a chilly evening, my wife’s smile.
3.29 Johann Hari, writing on Facebook: “British politics today is dominated by a lie. This lie is making it significantly more likely you will lose your job, your business, or your home. The lie gives a false explanation for how we came to be in this crisis, and prescribes a medicine that will worsen our disease. Yet it is hardly being challenged. Here’s the lie. We are in a debt crisis. Our national debt is dangerously and historically high. We are being threatened by the international bond markets. The way out is to eradicate our deficit rapidly. Only that will restore “confidence”, and therefore economic growth. Every step of this program is false, and endangers you. Let’s start with a fact that should be on billboards across the land. As a proportion of GDP, Britain’s national debt has been higher than it is now for 200 of the past 250 years. Read that sentence again. Check it on any graph by any historian. Since 1750, there have only been two brief 30-year periods when our debt has been lower than it is now. If we are “bust” today, as George Osborne has claimed, then we have almost always been bust. We were bust when we pioneered the Industrial Revolution. We were bust when we ruled a quarter of the world. We were bust when we beat the Nazis. We were bust when we built the NHS. . . . .David Cameron claims that, despite these facts, they need to cut our debt by slashing our spending because the bond markets demand it. If they do not obey, then our national credit rating will be downgraded, and we will have to pay much higher interest on our debt. But here’s the flaw in that plan. That’s not what the bond markets say.”
3.29 New Britney Spears album, tour, receive tepid reviews.
3.28 Robert J. Samuelson in the Washington Post: “It isn’t often that the government launches a major program that achieves its main goals at a tiny fraction of its estimated costs. That’s the story of TARP — the Troubled Assets Relief Program. Created in October 2008 at the height of the financial crisis, it helped stabilize the economy, using only $410?billion of its authorized $700?billion. And most of that will be repaid. The Congressional Budget Office, which once projected TARP’s ultimate cost at $356?billion, now says $19?billion. This could go lower. You would hardly know. Almost everyone loves to hate TARP. . . . One lesson of the financial crisis is this: When the entire financial system succumbs to panic, only the government is powerful enough to prevent a complete collapse. Panics signify the triumph of fear. TARP was part of the process by which fear was overcome. It wasn’t the only part, but it was an essential part. Without TARP, we’d be worse off today.”
3.26 Rainbow cloud over Mt. Everest.
3.27 From the San Antonio Express: “With the backdrop of an oversized U.S. flag on stage at Cornerstone Church Sunday, Newt Gingrich called for a return to historic, Christian roots he said were critical to protecting the nation’s freedoms. Pulling from his years as a college history professor, he cited the prayers of past U.S. presidents such as Washington and Lincoln. He recited portions of the Declaration of Independence. And he recounted Franklin D. Roosevelt giving a six minute-plus prayer on the radio after the Normandy invasion. . . .He warned that America is headed toward becoming a godless society unless voters take a stand against President Barack Obama and liberal-minded college professors and likeminded media pushing his agenda. “There’s a desperation with which our elites are trying to create amnesia so that we literally have generations who have no idea what it means to be an American,” he said.
3.26 Geraldine Ferraro dies at 75.
3.26 From a report in the Times: “As a German Green party politician, Malte Spitz, recently. . .went to court to find out exactly what his cellphone company, Deutsche Telekom, knew about his whereabouts. The results were astounding. In a six-month period — from Aug 31, 2009, to Feb. 28, 2010, Deutsche Telekom had recorded and saved his longitude and latitude coordinates more than 35,000 times. It traced him from a train on the way to Erlangen at the start through to that last night, when he was home in Berlin. . . .“At any given instant, a cell company has to know where you are; it is constantly registering with the tower with the strongest signal,” said Matthew Blaze, a professor of computer and information science at the University of Pennsylvania who has testified before Congress on the issue. Mr. Spitz’s information, Mr. Blaze pointed out, was not based on those frequent updates, but on how often Mr. Spitz checked his e-mail.”
3.24 David Kocieniewski in the Times: “General Electric, the nation’s largest corporation, had a very good year in 2010. The company reported worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, and said $5.1 billion of the total came from its operations in the United States. Its American tax bill? None. In fact, G.E. claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion. . . .The company has been cutting the percentage of its American profits paid to the Internal Revenue Service for years, resulting in a far lower rate than at most multinational companies. Its extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore. . . . Although the top corporate tax rate in the United States is 35 percent, one of the highest in the world, companies have been increasingly using a maze of shelters, tax credits and subsidies to pay far less. In a regulatory filing just a week before the Japanese disaster put a spotlight on the company’s nuclear reactor business, G.E. reported that its tax burden was 7.4 percent of its American profits, about a third of the average reported by other American multinationals. Even those figures are overstated, because they include taxes that will be paid only if the company brings its overseas profits back to the United States. With those profits still offshore, G.E. is effectively getting money back. Such strategies, as well as changes in tax laws that encouraged some businesses and professionals to file as individuals, have pushed down the corporate share of the nation’s tax receipts — from 30 percent of all federal revenue in the mid-1950s to 6.6 percent in 2009. Yet many companies say the current level is so high it hobbles them in competing with foreign rivals.”
3.24 Fareed Zakaria in Time: “Call it the Goldilocks military plan: Not too much, not too little, not too unilateral, not too American. The operation against Muammar Gaddafi‘s regime in Libya mirrors the moderate temperament of its architect, Barack Obama. But will it work in the rough realities of international politics?”
3.23 Elizabeth Taylor dies at 79.
3.22 Jennifer Grose in Slate: “In October 2009, Roseanne Barr invited readers of her blog to join in a fictitious “ten million bitches march” on Washington, D.C. “[T]hat stripper chick Sarah Palin thinks she is roguing it up?” Roseanne asked. “Well, wait till all the fat pissed off bitches show up for my speech.” Together, she promised, they would tell off the “bankers and insurance ponzi scheming bastards” who are “robbing the women and children of this country blind.” Just this past January, Roseanne repeated a more decorous version of her anti-Palin battle cry in an interview with USA Today while she was promoting her new book, Roseannearchy. “I think she’s stealing my act, so that pisses me off,” Roseanne said of Palin. “And she’s not even doing it right. Be for the working people, not against them.” . . . All this is why I am thrilled about Roseanne’s return to the small screen. . .Roseanne will be uniquely situated to call out Sarah Palin and her Mama Grizzlies on their faux-folksy charade and remind women that it’s generally liberals—not conservatives—who have their best interests at heart. While Roseanne isn’t a politician (though she’s joked about running for President) she and Sarah Palin are now playing in the same cultural space as reality TV stars, best-selling authors, and Internet pundits. It’s not just that Roseanne will be better at reality TV than Palin, or that she’ll use comedy to disarm Palin and company, though that’s part of it. It’s that she’s never afraid to go against the Democratic Party line, and she has a longstanding appeal to many women who feel alienated by mainstream liberal feminism and mainstream liberal politics—the very women Sarah Palin and her Mama Grizzlies have been trying to woo….It probably goes without saying that she actually has the “real America” bona fides Sarah Palin likes to boast about—Roseanne never went to college, she had three kids by the age of 26 and has worked as a dishwasher, a waitress, and a maid. Just as important, her politics, like those of many Tea Party women Sarah Palin has claimed as her own, defy any easy peg. Perhaps these women would be willing to listen to Roseanne—she’s the progressive side of the same independent coin.” Good piece, even though Grose fails to quote Roseanne’s insult of Palin: “geopolitically challenged pom pom queen.”
3.21 Adrianne Palicki, standing at 5’11”, once the engaging Tyra of Friday Night Lights, will be the new Wonder Woman. I do think I liked her better as a blonde.
3.21 Paul Krugman in the Times: “The fact that Elizabeth Warren is so well qualified is, of course, the reason she’s being attacked so fiercely. Nothing could be worse, from the point of view of bankers and the politicians who serve them, than to have consumers protected by someone who knows what she’s doing and has the personal credibility to stand up to pressure. The interesting question now is whether the Obama administration will see the war on Elizabeth Warren for what it is: a second chance to change public perceptions. In retrospect, the financial crisis of 2008 was a missed opportunity. Yes, the White House succeeded in passing significant new financial regulation. But for whatever reason, it failed to change the terms of debate.”
3.19 At war with Libya! From the Times: “The shift in the administration’s position. . . became possible only after Mrs. Clinton joined Samantha Power, a senior aide at the National Security Council, and Susan Rice, Mr. Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations, who had been pressing the case for military action. . . .In joining Ms. Rice and Ms. Power, Mrs. Clinton made an unusual break with Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, who, along with the national security adviser, Thomas E. Donilon, and the counterterrorism chief, John O. Brennan, had urged caution.”
3.18 Kentucky; Cara wins a scholarship!
3.18 In a Q&A with the Times, Cal Ripken Jr. reveals a moment of tutelage:
Q.: Most people have no idea that in your first three months in the major leagues, in late 1981 and early 1982, you hit .125. How bad were your issues then?
A. It was just killing me. I do remember letting it come out a little bit at one time. I slammed my helmet on the ground after an at-bat. Ken Singleton took me into the video room the next day. He showed me the example of what I did: “How do you feel about that? What does it look like?” “It looks horrible.” He said: “We don’t do that up here. We put our bat and helmet in the rack.” He took me to a closet down underneath Memorial Stadium. There was this big rubber thing hanging from the ceiling. He told me: “You see this here? You can come down here and beat the hell out of it with the bat, then come back to the bench.” There were plenty of times I went back there. Nobody saw it. It didn’t do anyone any harm.”
3.16 Spoke at Civil War Forum of Metropolitan New York at the Roger Smith Hotel.
3.16 Interviewed Joe Ricketts and James Solomon today.
3.16 Killing time at a TNT March Madness promotion at the Time Warner Center.
3.13 A line from The Social Animal, by David Brooks: ““The adult personality — including political views — is forever defined in opposition to one’s natural enemies in high school.” I can’t tell when this is brilliant, or just glibly insightful.
3.11 Interviewed Robert Redford today.
3.11 Paul Krugman in the Times: “Today’s Republicans. . .claim to care deeply about deficits — but they’ve spent the past two years putting cynical, demagogic attacks on any attempt to actually deal with long-run deficits at the heart of their campaign strategy. . . .Republicans aren’t the only cynics. As the national debate over fiscal policy descends ever deeper into penny-pinching, future-killing absurdity, one voice is curiously muted — that of President Obama. The president and his aides know that the G.O.P. approach to the budget is wrongheaded and destructive. But they’ve stopped making the case for an alternative approach; instead, they’ve positioned themselves as know-nothings lite, accepting the notion that spending must be slashed immediately — just not as much as Republicans want. Mr. Obama’s political advisers clearly believe that this strategy of protective camouflage offers the president his best chance at re-election — and they may be right. But that doesn’t change the fact that the White House is aiding and abetting the dumbing down of our deficit debate.”
3.11 From The New York Times: “A huge earthquake struck Japan on Friday, churning up a devastating tsunami that swept over cities and farmland along the northern part of the country and threatened coastal areas throughout the Pacific. Walls of water whisked away houses and cars in northern Japan, where terrified residents fled the coast. Trains were shut down across central and northern Japan, including Tokyo, and air travel was severely disrupted. A ship carrying more than 100 people was swept away by the tsunami, tKyodo News reported. A fire broke out at the nuclear plant in Onagawa, but Japanese officials said it was extinguished. Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the disaster caused major damage across wide areas. Several hours after the quake, Kyodo News was reporting 32 deaths, but with rescue efforts just getting under way, the extent of injuries and damage is not yet known. The United States Geological Survey said the earthquake had a magnitude of 8.9, and occurred at about 230 miles northeast of Tokyo and at a revised depth of about 17 miles. The Japanese Meteorological Agency said the quake had a magnitude of 8.8, which would make it among the biggest in a century.” Video shows tsumani,
3.10 Newt Gingrich in an interview with the Christian News Network: “”There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate. And what I can tell you is that when I did things that were wrong, I wasn’t trapped in situation ethics, I was doing things that were wrong, and yet, I was doing them.”
3.10 E.J. Dionne Jr. in The Washington Post: “Here’s the key to the Wisconsin battle: For the first time in a long time, blue-collar Republicans – once known as Reagan Democrats – have been encouraged to remember what they think is wrong with conservative ideology. Working-class voters, including many Republicans, want no part of Walker‘s war. A nationwide Pew Research Center survey released last week, for example, showed Americans siding with the unions over Walker by a margin of 42 percent to 31 percent. Walker’s 31 percent was well below the GOP’s typical base vote because 17 percent of self-described Republicans picked the unions over their party’s governor. . . .Walker won support from fewer than half of Republicans in two overlapping groups: those with incomes under $50,000 and those who did not attend college. Walker’s strongest support came from the wealthier and those with college educations, i.e., country club Republicans. Republicans cannot afford to hemorrhage blue-collar voters. In a seminal article in the Weekly Standard six years ago, conservative writers Reihan Salam and Ross Douthat observed: “This is the Republican Party of today – an increasingly working-class party, dependent for its power on supermajorities of the white working-class vote, and a party whose constituents are surprisingly comfortable with bad-but-popular liberal ideas like raising the minimum wage, expanding clumsy environmental regulations, or hiking taxes on the wealthy to fund a health care entitlement.” . . . .In 2010, working-class whites gave Republicans a 30-point lead over Democrats in House races. That’s why the Wisconsin fight is so dangerous to the conservative cause: Many working-class Republicans still have warm feelings toward unions, and Walker has contrived to remind them of this.”
3.9 David Broder dies at 81.
3.7 Three inches of rain last night, plus or minus, resulting in a flood of the Pocantico. Rescued the cars.
3.7 Fareed Zakaria in The Washington Post: “As countries get rich, you might assume that they focus greater attention on their children. Not in the United States. The federal government’s expenditures on children have shrunk as a share of the budget over the past 30 years. In 1960, about 20 percent of the federal budget went to programs dedicated to the health, development and education of Americans under the age of 18. Today it’s 10 percent and falling. By contrast, spending on the elderly has skyrocketed, doubling as a percentage of the budget during that time. Spending on Social Security and Medicare alone makes up close to 40 percent of the budget. In a decade, that share will rise considerably, perhaps to as much as half the federal budget. Whatever the exact percentages are – what you define as programs for children and the elderly can vary – the conclusion is clear: The federal government spends between $4 and $5 on elderly people for every dollar it spends on children. Why is this happening? To put it bluntly, children don’t vote or make campaign contributions, and the elderly do both aggressively. . . . In fact, the contrast between what we spend on the old and the young is part of a broader problem that threatens America’s economic future. Look at the economic debate in Washington: We continue to avoid dealing with the large entitlement programs and the largest domestic giveaways, such as the tax deduction for mortgage interest. No tax increases, such as a value-added tax or a gas tax, are even remotely possible. Instead, legislators make a show of cutting the budget by trumpeting the savings in the much smaller pie of discretionary spending, slashing education, infrastructure, science and other such programs. The net effect is that the United States will continue to massively subsidize consumption and starve investment. This is exactly the opposite of what history tells us produces long-term economic growth.”
3.6 Thomas L. Friedman in The New York Times: “When one looks across the Arab world today at the stunning spontaneous democracy uprisings, it is impossible to not ask: What are we doing spending $110 billion this year supporting corrupt and unpopular regimes in Afghanistan and Pakistan that are almost identical to the governments we’re applauding the Arab people for overthrowing?”
3.6 Jeffrey Rosen in The Washington Post: “More than any other justice, Samuel Alito is emerging as a stalwart defender of privacy, particularly in cases with strong free speech interests on the other side. He cares more about the government’s ability to protect a range of privacy values – including dignity, anonymity and community standards of decency – than anyone else on the court.”
3.6 George Will in The Washington Post: “Let us not mince words. There are at most five plausible Republican presidents on the horizon – Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former Utah governor and departing ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, former Massachusetts governor Romney and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty. So the Republican winnowing process is far advanced. But the nominee may emerge much diminished by involvement in a process cluttered with careless, delusional, egomaniacal, spotlight-chasing candidates to whom the sensible American majority would never entrust a lemonade stand, much less nuclear weapons.” By whom he means Huckabee, Gingrich, and presumably Palin.
3.5 With thirty seconds left in an overtime period in a high school basketball game in Fenville, Michigan, 16 year old Wes Leonard dropped in a lay-up to give his team a victory that capped a perfect season. After the teams exchanged handshakes, Fennville players scrambled for a team photo to commemorate their record. That was when the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Leonard collapsed and died, the victim of an enlarged heart.
3.4 Charles Moore, in an interview with Mervyn King in The Telegraph: “The key question, in his view, is not why an individual bank says it needs to pay bonuses (the reason cited is always the need to keep talent), but: “Why do banks in general want to pay bonuses? It’s because they live in a ‘too big to fail’ world in which the state will bail them out on the downside.” They are tempted to excessive risk and excessive payments: “It is very unproductive to single out individuals. Bankers were given incentives to behave the way they did. That’s what needs to change. We must resolve this problem.” . . . In the Governor’s mind, this is not ultimately a technical but a moral question. It goes to the heart of whether people are ready to accept life in a free economy. Over the past 30 years, he says: “We changed Britain away from a sclerotic economy with inefficiencies and problems in labour relations. Everyone got to the point where we no longer expected government to bail us out. Everyone bought in to market discipline. We were all better off. It was working very successfully.” But now, people have every right to be angry, because “out of what seems to them a clear blue sky”, the crisis comes. . . .“But, surprise, surprise, the institutions bailed out were those at the heart of the crisis.”
3.3 Fareed Zakaria in Time: “According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), our 15-year-olds rank 17th in the world in science and 25th in math. We rank 12th among developed countries in college graduation (down from No. 1 for decades). We come in 79th in elementary-school enrollment. Our infrastructure is ranked 23rd in the world, well behind that of every other major advanced economy. American health numbers are stunning for a rich country: we’re 27th in life expectancy, 18th in diabetes and first in obesity. Only a few decades ago, the U.S. stood tall in such rankings. No more. There are some areas in which we are still clearly No. 1, but they’re not ones we usually brag about. We have the most guns. We have the most crime among rich countries. And, of course, we have by far the largest amount of debt in the world. . . .The Harvard historian Niall Ferguson. . . puts things in historical context: “For 500 years the West patented six killer applications that set it apart. The first to download them was Japan. Over the last century, one Asian country after another has downloaded these killer apps — competition, modern science, the rule of law and private property rights, modern medicine, the consumer society and the work ethic. Those six things are the secret sauce of Western civilization.” To this historical challenge from nations that have figured out how the West won, add a technological revolution. It is now possible to produce more goods and services with fewer and fewer people, to shift work almost anywhere in the world and to do all this at warp speed. That is the world the U.S. now faces. Yet the country seems unready for the kind of radical adaptation it needs. The changes we are currently debating amount to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”
3.3 Matt Miller in The Washington Post: “The one thing I know for sure, however, is this: The future of the country depends on the public-sector workers known as teachers. That’s because unless we dramatically improve our educational performance, America’s standard of living will be at risk. The second thing I know for sure is that we’ll never attract the kind of talented young people we need to the teaching profession unless it pays far more than it does today. With starting teacher salaries averaging $39,000 nationally, and rising to an average maximum of $67,000, it’s no surprise that we draw teachers from the bottom two-thirds of the college class; for schools in poor neighborhoods, teachers come largely from the bottom third. We’re the only leading nation that thinks it can stay a leading nation with a “strategy” of recruiting mediocre students and praying they’ll prove excellent teachers.”
3.2 Robert Reich on robertreich.org: “Democrats have become irrelevant. If they want to be relevant again they have to connect the dots: The explosion of income and wealth among America’s super-rich, the dramatic drop in their tax rates, the consequential devastating budget squeezes in Washington and in state capitals, and the slashing of public services for the middle class and the poor. It is not a complicated story. Begin with what’s happened to the typical American, whose wages have been stagnant for thirty years. Today’s typical 30-year-old male (if he has a job) is earning the same as a 30-year-old male earned three decades ago, adjusted for for inflation. . . . The bottom 90 percent of Americans now earn, on average, only about $280 more per year than they did thirty years ago. That’s less than a 1 percent gain over more than a third of a century. Families are doing somewhat better but that’s only because so many families now have to rely on two incomes. But wait. The American economy is more than twice as large now as it was thirty years ago. So where did the money go? To the top. The richest 1 percent’s share of national has doubled – from around 9 percent in 1977 to over 20 percent now. The richest one-tenth of 1 percent’s share has tripled. The 150,000 households that comprise the top one-tenth of one percent now earn as much as the bottom 120 million put together. Given this explosion of income at the top you might think our tax system would demand a larger share from them. But you’d be wrong. You’re not taking account of the power of the super rich. As income and wealth have risen to the top, so has political power. As a result, their taxes have plummeted.”
3.2 Ruth Marcus in the Washington Post: “For a man who won office talking about change we can believe in, Barack Obama can be a strangely passive president. There are a startling number of occasions in which the president has been missing in action – unwilling, reluctant or late to weigh in on the issue of the moment. He is, too often, more reactive than inspirational, more cautious than forceful. Each of these instances can be explained on its own terms, as matters of legislative strategy, geopolitical calculation or political prudence. He didn’t want to get mired in legislative details during the health-care debate for fear of repeating the Clinton administration’s prescriptive, take-ours-or-leave-it approach. He doesn’t want to go first on proposing entitlement reform because history teaches that this is not the best route to a deal. He didn’t want to say anything too tough about Libya for fear of endangering Americans trapped there. He didn’t want to weigh in on the labor battle in Wisconsin because, well, it’s a swing state. Yet the dots connect to form an unsettling portrait of a Where’s Waldo? presidency: You frequently have to squint to find the White House amid the larger landscape.”
3.1 Jane Russell dies at 89. ““These days I’m a teetotal, mean-spirited, right-wing, narrow-minded, conservative Christian bigot, but not a racist,” she told an Australian newspaper, The Daily Mail, in 2003. Bigotry, she added, “just means you don’t have an open mind.”
3.1 “I am on a drug — it’s called Charlie Sheen,” he told ABC. “It’s not available because if you try it once, you will die. Your face will melt off, and your children will weep over your exploded body,” he said, adding, “Too much?” When the ABC reporter told him he seemed “erratic,” Mr. Sheen tried to explain. “You borrow my brain for five seconds, you’d be like, ‘Dude, can’t handle it, unplug this bastard,’ ” he said, adding that his brain “fires in a way that is — I don’t know, maybe not from this particular terrestrial realm.”
3.1 Bob Woodward on foreignpolicy.com: “Rumsfeld‘s memoir is one big clean-up job, a brazen effort to shift blame to others — including President Bush — distort history, ignore the record or simply avoid discussing matters that cannot be airbrushed away. It is a travesty, and I think the rewrite job won’t wash.”
2.28 Happy 18th birthday, my beautiful, independent Cara!
2.28 Frank W. Buckles of Charles Town, West Virginia, the last survivor of the nearly five million Americans who served in uniform in the First World War, died at age 110. A rear-echelon ambulance driver on the Western Front in 1918, he had been safe from the worst of the fighting, but later, as a civilian, he endured 38 months of cruel captivity at the hands of the Japanese. He had been the last survivor since Feb. 4, 2008, when a Florida man who had been in Army basic training when hostilities ended in November 1918 died at 108. With Mr. Buckles’ death, only two of the approximately 65 million people mobilized by the world’s militaries during the Great War are known to be alive: an Australian man, 109, and a British woman, 110. Mr. Buckles’ secret to longevity? “When you think you’re dying,” his son-in-law once heard him quip, “don’t.”
2.28 David Ignatius in The Washington Post: “Hezbollah is a ruthless political player, but it’s a mistake to underestimate the finesse of its tactics. Officials insist that no matter what the West may think, the Shiite militia is logical (meaning self-interested) in pursuing its policies. And the ever-logical Hezbollah seems to realize that even the self-styled “resistance” must make adjustments in this period of Arab upheaval.”
2.28 Scott Shane in The New York Times: “For nearly two decades, the leaders of Al Qaeda have denounced the Arab world’s dictators as heretics and puppets of the West and called for their downfall. Now, people in country after country have risen to topple their leaders — and Al Qaeda has played absolutely no role. In fact, the motley opposition movements that have appeared so suddenly and proved so powerful have shunned the two central tenets of the Qaeda credo: murderous violence and religious fanaticism. The demonstrators have used force defensively, treated Islam as an afterthought and embraced democracy, which is anathema to Osama bin Laden and his followers. . . . For many specialists on terrorism and the Middle East, though not all, the past few weeks have the makings of an epochal disaster for Al Qaeda, making the jihadists look like ineffectual bystanders to history while offering young Muslims an appealing alternative to terrorism. “So far — and I emphasize so far — the score card looks pretty terrible for Al Qaeda,” said Paul R. Pillar. . . [of] Georgetown University. “Democracy is bad news for terrorists. The more peaceful channels people have to express grievances and pursue their goals, the less likely they are to turn to violence.”
2.27 Victoria Coren in The Observer: “Last week, I bought a train ticket to Nottingham. First class return, £22 each way. Not bad, eh? Thanks, East Midlands Trains! For the return leg, I’d booked a seat on the 11.02 train. But I had a late night playing poker, and decided to get the 12.02 instead. I wasn’t too worried about the seat booking; I knew I’d find a space at that quiet time of day. As it turned out, I was the only person in the carriage. Half an hour into the journey, a woman trundled down to check the tickets. She checked mine, then asked to see the seat booking. I told her the seat was booked for an earlier train but she demanded to see it anyway. Puzzled, I handed over the receipt… and she triumphantly announced that I was on the wrong train and I’d have to buy a new ticket. You can imagine the dull debate that ensued, where I pointed out that the ticket itself only specified the date, she explained that I should know the seat-booking receipt held the real conditions, I said nobody knows that… until I gave up, thought “Life’s too short” and handed over another £22. “No, no,” said the ticket lady. “It’s £101″. I made some sort of noise, but she wasn’t joking. “Fine,” I sighed. “I’ll move to standard. I think it would be mean of you to make me do that when I bought a first-class ticket, made an honest mistake and the carriage is empty, but OK.” “Standard ticket, then?” smiled the lady. “That’s £60.” Sixty pounds! For a two-hour journey, one-way, outside commuting hours! That’s a stupid, punitive fare even if it were my first ticket, never mind the second one I was being forced to buy for no logical reason. . . .That’s my story. You’ve probably got your own. Everybody knows what’s happened to the trains since they were licensed to private companies: impenetrable rules, incomprehensible fares, crazy fees if you have to make a short-notice decision. It has nothing to do with any “true price” for the journey, only the vast amounts they can get away with if you have no choice. Let’s be honest, it’s extortion. . . .But then I heard the amazing story of Tom Wrigglesworth, the stand-up comedian. He was on a Virgin train from Manchester to London and saw a 75-year-old woman discover that she had accidentally boarded a train 30 minutes earlier than the one for which she’d bought a ticket. The train attendant insisted that the old lady must pay £115 (10 times her original fare) since she was on the wrong train. Not having the money, stuck on a train she couldn’t afford, the old lady burst into tears. The gallant Wrigglesworth stood up and began a whip-round in the carriage. It didn’t take long; everyone was disgusted by the policy and sympathetic to the elderly passenger. Wrigglesworth handed over his gathered £115 to safeguard the bullied old lady… at which point the train staff radioed British Transport Police and asked that he be arrested for begging. They were waiting for him at Euston.”
2.24 Simon Johnson on The Baseline Scenario: “Our main fiscal issues are three: . . . The most immediate problem is that our largest banks and closely related parts of the financial system blew themselves up in 2007-08. The ensuring recession and associated loss of tax revenue will end up pushing up our government debt, as a percent of GDP, by around 40 percent. . . .Second, we need to control healthcare spending as a percent of GDP. The issue is most definitely not about cutting the current level of such spending or immediately reducing the benefits in Medicare. . . . Third, our tax system is completely antiquated. For the same level of tax revenue relative to GDP, we could greatly reduce the distortions (e.g., disincentives to work) just by modernizing. The right and the left agree we should tax consumption more and income less, but neither is willing to make any kind of meaningful move towards a value added tax (VAT). The right seems afraid that this tax will be too effective and power an expansion of government. The left thinks a VAT is necessarily regressive (imposing more burden on poorer people), despite all the evidence that the impact of VAT depends on how it is designed – because you can choose what gets zero taxes (e.g., baby clothes) and high taxes (e.g., yachts). . . .How does the Republican initiative to cut spending fit in with these budget issues? Not very much is the generous answer. . . .The Republicans have seized a moment. To them, this is not really about fiscal responsibility; this is about an opportunity to shrink the size of government. But the Democrats have played perfectly into their hands. The heart of their mistake was the president’s refusal to explain clearly how the financial system produced a recession that has pushed up our national debt.”
2.24 Matt Miller in The Washington Post: “Chris Christie‘s big straight-talk credential so far is his willingness to stare down the teachers unions. Their archaic practices need to be challenged, and Christie deserves credit for taking them on. But is it really “courageous”? Courage is when a politician tells his strongest supporters things they don’t want to hear. I’m a little tired of Republicans calling for an “adult conversation” that mainly takes things away from adults who don’t vote Republican. No, until Christie steps up, the closest thing to a GOP truth-teller is Mitch Daniels . . . .He’s refused to take Grover Norquist‘s anti-tax pledge. . . .Then, in his thoughtful CPAC speech recently, Daniels said slaying the “red menace” of debt was of such paramount importance that conservatives needed to be open to “the second best way.” “Purity in martyrdom is for suicide bombers,” he said. “I for one have no interest in standing in the wreckage of our Republic saying . . . ‘you should have done it my way.’ ”
2.23 Jake Tapper on ABC News: “President Obama has instructed the Justice Department to stop defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, which has since 1996 allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex partnerships legally recognized in other states.
2.22 Jon Cohen and Dan Balz in the Washington Post: “The deep recession has had a profound effect on virtually every segment of the country’s population. But if there is an epicenter of financial stress and frustration, it is among whites without college degrees. By many measures, this politically sensitive group has emerged from the recession with a particularly dark view of the economy and the financial future. Whites without college degrees also are the most apt to blame Washington for the problems, and are exceedingly harsh in their judgment of the Obama administration and its economic policies.”
2.20. William & Mary College, 7:45 AM
2.17 Dana Milbank in the Post: “But his physique also works to his advantage by reinforcing Chris Christie‘s appeal as something other than the blow-dried politician who says whatever the voters want to hear. Christie isn’t pretty, and he tells ugly truths. . . .”The president’s not talking about it because he’s waiting for the Republicans to talk about it,” Christie said. “And our new, bold Republicans that we just sent to the House of Representatives? They’re not talking about it because they’re waiting for him to talk about it.” Christie, however, is talking about it. “You’re going to have to raise the retirement age for Social Security,” he said. “Whoa-ho! I just said it, and I’m still standing here. I did not vaporize into the carpeting, and I said it.” He resumed: “We have to reform Medicare because it costs too much and it is going to bankrupt us. Once again, lightning did not come through the windows and strike me dead!”
2.17 Diane Kruger appears in German GQ.
2.16 Jonathan Capeheart in the Washington Post on Sarah Palin: “A new poll from the University of New Hampshire only adds to the brief against her running. Among likely Republican voters, the former governor of Alaska garnered just six percent support. Blowing out the field was former next-door Gov. Mitt Romney with 40 percent. Rudy Giuliani, who came in fourth during the New Hampshire primary in 2008, came in second with 10 percent. Now, here’s where the news is really bad for Palin. Romney has a net favorability rating among likely Republican primary voters at a solid 57 percent. Palin has a net negative favorability rating of -17 percent.”
2.16 Diana B. Henriques in the Times: “Mr. Madoff spoke with great intensity and fluency about his dealings with various banks and hedge funds, pointing to their “willful blindness” and their failure to examine discrepancies between his regulatory filings and other information available to them. “They had to know,” Mr. Madoff said. “But the attitude was sort of, ‘If you’re doing something wrong, we don’t want to know.’ ” While he acknowledged his guilt in the interview and said nothing could excuse his crimes, he focused his comments laserlike on the big investors and giant institutions he dealt with, not on the financial pain he caused thousands of his more modest investors. In an e-mail written on Jan. 13, he observed that many long-term clients made more in legitimate profits from him in the years before the fraud than they could have elsewhere. “I would have loved for them to not lose anything, but that was a risk they were well aware of by investing in the market,” he wrote.
2.15 Kenneth Mars dies at 75.
2.14 David Carr in the Times: “The Huffington Post, social networks and traditional media may all seem like different animals, but as advertising, the mother’s milk of all media, flows toward social and amateur media, low-cost and no-cost content is becoming the norm. For those of us who make a living typing, it’s all very scary, of course. It’s less about the diminution of authority and expertise, although there is that, and more about the growing perception that content is a commodity, and one that can be had for the price of zero. (Content manufacturers like Demand Media that gin up $15 articles based on searches, put the price only slightly above that.) Old-line media companies that are not only forced to compete with the currency and sexiness of social media, but also burdened by a cost structure for professionally produced content, are left at a profound disadvantage. For the media, this is a Tom Sawyer moment. “Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?” he says to his friends, and sure enough, they are soon lined up for the privilege of doing his chores. That’s a bit like how social networks get built. . . .“The technology of a lot of these sites is very seductive, and it lulls you into contributing,” said Anthony De Rosa, a product manager at Reuters. “We are being played for suckers to feed the beast, to create content that ends up creating value for others.” Last month, Mr. De Rosa wrote — on Tumblr, naturally — about how audiences became publishers, essentially painting the fence for the people who own the various platforms. “We live in a world of Digital Feudalism,” he wrote. “The land many live on is owned by someone else, be it Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr, or some other service that offers up free land and the content provided by the renter of that land essentially becomes owned by the platform that owns the land.”
2.14 Felix Salmon in the Times: “The glory days of publicly traded companies dominating the American business landscape may be over. The number of companies listed on the major domestic exchanges peaked in 1997 at more than 7,000, and it has been falling ever since. It’s now down to about 4,000 companies, and given its steep downward trend will surely continue to shrink. Nor are the remaining stocks an obvious proxy for the health of the American economy. Innovative American companies like Apple and Google may be worth hundreds of billions of dollars, but most of them don’t pay dividends or employ many Americans, and their shares are essentially speculative investments for people making a bet on how we’re going to live in the future. Put another way, as the number of initial public offerings steadily declines, the stock market is becoming little more than a place for speculators and algorithms to compete over who can trade his way to the most money. What the market is not doing so well is its core public function: allocating capital efficiently. Apple, for instance, is hugely profitable and sits on an enormous pile of cash; it is thus very unlikely to use its highly rated stock to pay for any acquisitions. It hasn’t used the stock market to raise money since 1981, and there’s a good bet it never will again. Meanwhile, the companies in which people most want to invest, technology stars like Facebook and Twitter, are managing to avoid the public markets entirely by raising hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars privately . . .At risk, then, is the shareholder democracy that America forged, slowly, over the past 50 years. Civilians, rather than plutocrats, controlled corporate America, and that relationship improved standards of living and usually kept the worst of corporate abuses in check. With America Inc. owned by its citizens, the success of American business translated into large gains in the stock portfolios of anybody who put his savings in the market over most of the postwar period. Today, however, stock markets, once the bedrock of American capitalism, are slowly becoming a noisy sideshow that churns out increasingly meager returns. The show still gets lots of attention, but the real business of the global economy is inexorably leaving the stock market — and the vast majority of us — behind.”
2.14 Paul Krugman in the Times: “Republican leaders like to claim that the midterms gave them a mandate for sharp cuts in government spending. . . .The key point to understand is that while many voters say that they want lower spending, press the issue a bit further and it turns out that they only want to cut spending on other people. That’s the lesson from a new survey by the Pew Research Center, in which Americans were asked whether they favored higher or lower spending in a variety of areas. It turns out that they want more, not less, spending on most things, including education and Medicare. They’re evenly divided about spending on aid to the unemployed and — surprise — defense. . . .Pew also asked people how they would like to see states close their budget deficits. Do they favor cuts in either education or health care, the main expenses states face? No. Do they favor tax increases? No. The only deficit-reduction measure with significant support was cuts in public-employee pensions — and even there the public was evenly divided. The moral is clear. Republicans don’t have a mandate to cut spending; they have a mandate to repeal the laws of arithmetic. . . . The answer, once you think about it, is obvious: sacrifice the future. Focus the cuts on programs whose benefits aren’t immediate; basically, eat America’s seed corn. There will be a huge price to pay, eventually.”
2.12 William Saletan in The New York Times: “Humanity is migrating to cyberspace. In the past five years, Americans have doubled the hours they spend online, exceeding their television time and more than tripling the time they spend reading newspapers or magazines. Most now play computer or video games regularly, about 13 hours a week on average. By age 21, the average young American has spent at least three times as many hours playing virtual games as reading. It took humankind eight years to spend 100 million hours building Wikipedia. We now spend at least 200 million hours a week playing World of Warcraft. Elias Aboujaoude, a Silicon Valley psychiatrist, finds this alarming. In Virtually You, he argues that the Internet is unleashing our worst instincts. It connects you to whatever you want: gambling, overspending, sex with strangers. It speeds transactions, facilitating impulse purchases and luring you away from the difficulties of real life. It lets you customize your fantasies and select a date from millions of profiles, sapping your patience for imperfect partners. It lets you pick congenial news sources and avoid contrary views and information. It conceals your identity, freeing you to be vitriolic or dishonest. It shields you from detection and disapproval, emboldening you to download test answers and term papers. It hides the pain of others, liberating your cruelty in games and forums. It rewards self-promotion on blogs and Facebook. It teaches you how to induce bulimic vomiting or kill yourself. In short, everything you thought was good about the Internet — information, access, personalization — is bad. Aboujaoude isn’t shy in his indictment. He links the Internet to consumer debt, the housing crash, eating disorders, sexually transmitted infections, psychopathy, racism, terrorism, child sexual abuse, suicide and murder. Everything online worries him: ads, hyperlinks, even emoticons. The Internet makes us too quarrelsome. It makes us too like-minded. It makes us work too little. It makes us work too much.”
2.12 From Jay McInerney‘s review in the New York Times of J.D. Salinger: A Life by Kenneth Slawenski: “For this reader, the great achievement of Slawenski’s biography is its evocation of the horror of Salinger’s wartime experience. Despite Salinger’s reticence, Slawenski admirably retraces his movements and recreates the savage battles, the grueling marches and frozen bivouacs of Salinger’s war. It’s hard to think of an American writer who had more combat experience. He landed on Utah Beach on D-Day. Slawenski reports that of the 3,080 members of Salinger’s regiment who landed with him on June 6, 1944, only 1,130 survived three weeks later. Then, when the 12th Infantry Regiment tried to take the swampy, labyrinthine Hürtgen Forest, in what proved to be a huge military blunder, the statistics were even more horrific. After reinforcement, “of the original 3,080 regimental soldiers who went into Hürtgen, only 563 were left.” Salinger escaped the deadly quagmire of Hürtgen just in time to fight in the Battle of the Bulge, and shortly thereafter, in 1945, participated in the liberation of Dachau. “You could live a lifetime,” he later told his daughter, “and never really get the smell of burning flesh out of your nose.”
2.12 Conor Williams in The Washington Post: “in Britain, a group called U.K. Uncut has been protesting government austerity cuts in an especially promising way. It seeks out corporations and individuals that avoid paying taxes, calculates how much their taxes would be without loopholes, and then highlights programs that could be saved if they paid their share. Cellphone giant Vodafone recently settled a tax bill of 6 billion pounds — about $9.6 billion — for 1 billion pounds, or about $1.6 billion. Meanwhile, the British government cut $11.2 billion in public services to the nation’s poor. So U.K. Uncut shut down a number of Vodafone’s stores with sit-in protests. . . .There’s no reason that the president couldn’t use these sorts of arguments to shape the political agenda in 2011. Imagine if, every few days, the White House announced something like this: “This year many big oil corporations recorded record profits (ExxonMobil reported over $30 billion in earnings), while American taxpayers provided them $4 billion in tax subsidies. If Congress acts to stop these fiscally irresponsible programs, we could use this money to double Race to the Top education funding.”
2.12 Wayne Rooney scores an amazing goal with a bicycle kick as Manchester United beats Manchester City 2-1. “One of the greatest goals in the history of the Manchester Derby at Old Trafford!” See the video here.
2.12 James Kwak in The Baseline Scenario cites an estimate by the Tax Foundation that says that “in 2004, the average middle-quintile household received $16,781 in benefits from the federal government. That same study says that, on average, middle-quintile households get back $1.30 in transfer payments and other government spending for every $1 that they pay in taxes. . . .this is just common sense, anyway. When you have a progressive tax system and an income distribution with a much longer tail at the high end, you would expect people in the middle to be net beneficiaries of government. I don’t really think that the point of democracy is for people to simply vote their self-interest. That could lead to all sorts of things, like the tyranny of the majority that Tocqueville warned about. But right now, it would be a distinct improvement if people would vote their self-interest”
2.11 After eighteen days of protests, Hosni Mubarak resigns.
.2.10 Douglas Rushkoff in The Guardian, coming to a conclusion that I came to months ago: “Why exactly should AOL’s purchase of HuffPo feel so strange to many of us who have contributed to the site over the years? It’s because we write for HuffPo for free, and – because it’s Arianna – we do it without resentment. There’s value being extracted from our labour, for sure, by advertisers or whoever, but the sense was always that we were writing for Arianna. . . . The site itself has served its purpose for her, forever removing the label of senator’s ex-wife and establishing her as one of the pre-eminent progressive voices of this decade. . . . But, if the terms of the deal and her quotes are to be believed, Arianna didn’t zig, she zagged: she’s not leaving publishing for politics. Rather . . . HuffPo and Arianna will now be part of AOL, for real. We’re not really witnessing the demise of HuffPo – just the demise of the justifications for writing for free. I would do it for Arianna. I won’t do it for AOL.”
2.10 Seven percent of adults in the UK were given an e-reader for Christmas, according to research from Book Marketing Limited, with most receiving a Kindle. This festive bonanza brings the total number of adults with a digital reader in the UK to 6.5m, it was revealed by the Publishers Association at their annual digital conference “Here and Now”.
2.10 Rep. Chris Lee (R-NY) has resigned after sending a picture of himself stripped to the waist, to a woman who had advertised for a man “who did not look like a toad” on the internet. “”Hope I’m not a toad. i’m a very fit fun classy guy. Live in Cap Hill area. 6ft 190lbs blond/blue. 39. Lobbyist. I promise not to disappoint.”
2.10 James Kwak on The Baseline Scenario: “We know some things that make people happy: Short commutes. Predictability. Control over the environment (random noises are bad). Eating, but only until satiation. Sex, but only until satiation. Money—but only to a point; once your basic needs are met and you don’t face constant insecurity, more money no longer buys you more happiness. Participation in social groups. Marriage, usually. (Children, not so much.) Being appreciated by your boss. Generosity toward other people—even if the generosity is not observed by anyone. Work that is challenging but not overwhelmingly so. Physical contact with other people. And finding quarters in pay phones. . . .There is one huge caveat to this list. These are factors that contribute to happiness in the moment, which is what is primarily measured by studies that ask people how happy they are right now (and measure the effect of treatments administered in the last few hours or days). Daniel Kahneman has a brilliant TED Talk making the point that there are two different kinds of happiness: happiness in the moment and satisfaction with your remembered life.”
2.9 Lunch at The Oyster Bar with Henry Bushkin.
2.9 Dana Milbank in the Washington Post: “There are also some indications that [Arianna Huffington] has sold out in the ideological sense and committed the Huffington Post to joining the mainstream media – the evil “MSM” of “HuffPo” blogger ire. Announcing the deal, she and her new boss went out of their way to say that the new Huffington Post would emphasize things other than the liberal politics on which the brand was built. . . .”It’s time for all of us in journalism to move beyond left and right,” Huffington said Monday on PBS’s “NewsHour.” “Truly, it is an obsolete way of looking at the problems America is facing.” That is almost exactly what Huffington said in 2000, when she was making her last ideological transformation, from a conservative Republican into a liberal icon. “The old distinctions of right and left, Democrat, Republican, are pretty obsolete,” she told Fox News then. It’s a stock line for Huffington, but if she and Ted Armstrong are taken at their word, they are planning a radical reshaping of what had become an important voice for liberalism and a gleeful participant in the left-right game. . . . This transformation should come as no surprise to anybody who has followed Huffington’s remarkable career. Greek-born and Cambridge-educated, she has always been on the move ideologically, from her early squabbles with feminism to her role as a minister with the new-age Movement for Spiritual Inner Awareness, from her membership in Newt Gingrich‘s brain trust to her stint as populist activist – all before her greatest act, the Huffington Post. I say this with admiration. Huffington deserves every one of those millions she’ll be paid by AOL for creating this online sensation. She was once derided as “the most upwardly mobile Greek since Icarus” because of her many well-connected friends, but Huffington has earned her place as one of the extraordinary personalities of our time: an entrepreneur and writer who is always chasing the next big idea, wherever it is on the ideological spectrum. Yet this is also why Huffington and her Web site are unlikely to remain as they were. Anybody who expects her to continue as a reliable voice of the left is a poor student of Huffington history.”
2.8 Saw American Idiot last night with Molly, Cara, and Cara’s friend Brooke Marin. The show was okay–some of the throbbing spectacle worked really well–but there was no story and just paper-thin characters. Rage and alienation, alientation and rage–if you’ve seen Brando, James Dean, The Who, The Animals, The Sex Pistols, well, you won’t be seeing anything new here. The show does not much improve on “We Gotta Get Out of This Place.”
2.6 Best Super Bowl commercial belongs to Chrysler.
2.6 The Green Bay Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers, 31-25 in Super Bowl XVL. A pretty good game that was in doubt until the final possession, but I don’t think either team played as well as it is capable of playing. Packers receivers dropped far too many passes, the Steelers had three turnovers that led to touchdowns, and neither defense took charge. Ben Roethlisberger looked like he had trouble throwing the deep ball; I wonder if the knee injury he sustained early in the game was a factor. If I were an ardent Steeler fan, instead of just an admirer, I would be weeping today. But I liked the halftime show featuring the Black Eyed Peas. The ads were a triumph of slapstick–four of them featured somebody throwing a can or bottle at somebody!–and they got boring after a while. But as usual, the Schmidts put on a good spread.
2.5 A report from The Guardian: “David Cameron will today signal a sea-change in the government fight against home-grown terrorism, saying the state must confront, and not consort with, the non-violent Muslim groups that are ambiguous about British values such as equality between sexes, democracy and integration. To belong in Britain is to believe in these values, he will say. Claiming the previous government had been the victim of fear and muddled thinking by backing a state-sponsored form of multiculturalism, the prime minister will state that his government “will no longer fund or share platforms with organisations that, while non-violent, are certainly in some cases part of the problem”. In a major speech to a security conference in Munich, he will demand: “We need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and much more active, muscular liberalism.”
2.4 Andy Pettitte retires. Joel Sherman in the New York Post: “Pettitte falls into the unique category of players about whom you never heard a bad word inside a clubhouse. He was universally respected, in many cases loved. His sincerity was palpable. He cared about teammates, remained upbeat and non-judgmental. But mainly it was about how Pettitte performed his job. In the past 48 hours, numerous ex-teammates used the words “accountability” or “responsibility” in speaking of Pettitte. He felt a burden not to let the clubhouse down. He treated side sessions like games, and his workout routines were methodical and manic. He refused excuses and defined dependability — which explains why his teammates rallied around him universally when he divulged his use of human growth hormone. No team ever thought Pettitte’s failures came because he was unprepared mentally or physically. That is why the Yankees were always so comfortable handing him the ball in any circumstance: They knew he would be unafraid of the moment, committed fully to the responsibility. A former Yankee, who wanted anonymity because he did not want to insult any ex-teammates, said, “No one I ever played with cared more about doing well for the team than Andy Pettitte.”
2.3 Maria Schneider , the object of desire in Last Tango in Paris, dies at 58. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.
2.2 David Leonhardt in the Times: “The Carnival Corporation wouldn’t have much of a business without help from various branches of the government. The United States Coast Guard keeps the seas safe for Carnival’s cruise ships. Customs officers make it possible for Carnival cruises to travel to other countries. State and local governments have built roads and bridges leading up to the ports where Carnival’s ships dock. But Carnival’s biggest government benefit of all may be the price it pays for many of those services. Over the last five years, the company has paid total corporate taxes — federal, state, local and foreign — equal to only 1.1 percent of its cumulative $11.3 billion in profits. . . .Of the 500 big companies in the well-known Standard & Poor’s stock index, 115 paid a total corporate tax rate — both federal and otherwise — of less than 20 percent over the last five years, according to Capital IQ, a research firm. Thirty-nine of those companies paid a rate less than 10 percent. Arguably, the United States now has a corporate tax code that’s the worst of all worlds. The official rate is higher than in almost any other country, which forces companies to devote enormous time and effort to finding loopholes. Yet the government raises less money in corporate taxes than it once did, because of all the loopholes that have been added in recent decades. “A dirty little secret,” Richard Clarida, a Columbia University economist and former official in the Treasury Department under President George W. Bush, has said, “is that the corporate income tax used to raise a fair amount of revenue.” Over the last five years, on the other hand, Boeing paid a total tax rate of just 4.5 percent, according to Capital IQ. Southwest Airlines paid 6.3 percent. And the list goes on: Yahoo paid 7 percent; Prudential Financial, 7.6 percent; General Electric, 14.3 percent.’
2.2 Ruth Marcus in the Post: “It’s striking how much more responsible and specific California governor Jerry Brown was in his State of the State address Monday than President Obama was in his State of the Union speech the week before. The man once known as Governor Moonbeam sounded more like Governor Laser Beam when it came to addressing the state’s fiscal crisis. . . . Brown began with the subject of the state’s dire fiscal situation and stuck to it. “California faces a crisis that is real and unprecedented,” he said. “Although our state’s economy has started to recover, we will not create the jobs we need unless we get our financial house in order. . . .Kicking the can down the road . . . is simply out of the question. If you are a Democrat who doesn’t want to make budget reductions in programs you fought for and deeply believe in, I understand that. If you are a Republican who has taken a stand against taxes, I understand where you are coming from. But things are different this time. In fact, the people are telling us – in their own way – that they sense that something is profoundly wrong. They see that their leaders are divided when they should be decisive and acting with clear purpose.” That was the kind of rise-above-partisan-politics message I was hoping to hear from the president. But the words above are Brown’s, and they were coupled with a specific proposal: a call for a special election to let voters decide whether to extend for five years a set of temporary tax increases. Yes, you read that right: increases.”From the time I first proposed what I believe to be a balanced approach to our budget deficit – both cuts and a temporary extension of current taxes – dozens of groups affected by one or another of the proposed cuts have said we should cut somewhere else instead,” Brown noted. “Still others say we should not extend the current taxes but let them go away. So far, however, these same people have failed to offer even one alternative solution.”
1.31 Yves Smith on Naked Capitalism: “The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission’s central conclusion, that the crisis was avoidable, merely validates conventional wisdom. The commission’s report, including the dissents, are irrelevant. The report fails to tie together elements like excessive leverage, imprudent investment, poor risk management, lack of government oversight and opaqueness. These conclusions, in turn, rest on one foundation, namely, massive fraud in the residential mortgage-backed security and collateralized debt obligation markets. But that’s insufficient. Why, starting in 2005, did investors increasingly demand not just any old subprime loans, but the “spreadiest” or worst, even as appetite for good mortgages was falling? The answer is simple: follow the money. John Paulson made nearly $20 billion for his hedge fund by shorting subprime. This amount of money was simply inconceivable in the mortgage business prior to that point. How did this happen? Paulson didn’t make this money by investing in good loans, but by investing in bad ones. A small cartel subverted the market to create bad loans so they could bet against them. By any normal standard, this activity was both fraudulent and obscenely profitable. The failure to dig into how the industry profited from creating toxic instruments seems designed to preserve the fiction that the 2010 financial reforms are adequate. If the meltdown was the result of deliberately subverting normal checks against the creation of bad products, that implies that you cannot rely on the system to correct itself, that both root and branch reform, including replacing individuals who perpetrated and oversaw these abuses, is critical to putting the major dealer banks back on a sound footing. Follow the money is a simple rule, and it’s one the commission should have heeded. Failing to do so led the commissioners to produce a wandering, ponderous description of things in the capital markets they don’t like.”
1.29 Simon Johnson on Davos in The Baseline Scenario: ““[F]rom a CEO perspective. . . .[p]rofits are good – this is the best bounce back on average in the post-war period; given that so many small companies are struggling, it is reasonable to infer that the big companies have done disproportionately well (perhaps because their smaller would-be competitors are still having more trouble accessing credit). Executive compensation at the largest firms will no doubt reflect this in the months and years ahead. In terms of public policy, the big players in the financial sector have prevailed – no responsible European, for example, can imagine a major bank being allowed to fail (in the sense of defaulting on any debt). And this government support for banks has translated into easier credit conditions for the major global corporations represented at Davos. The public policy issue of the day, from the point of view of such CEOs, is simple. There needs to be sufficient fiscal austerity to strengthen public balance sheets – so that states can more effectively stand behind their banks in the future, and to keep currencies from moving too much. Leading bankers, in particular, insisted on the paramount importance of providing unlimited government support to their sector during 2008-09; now they insist with equal or greater vigor that support to all other parts of society be curtailed. This is where cognitive dissonance creeps in. Most CEOs feel that the provision of general public goods is not their responsibility, although they are very happy to help guide (or capture) the provision of public goods specific to their firm. But it is reckless decisions by some in the financial sector that produced the crisis and recession – this is what accounts for the 40 percent of GDP increase in net government debt held by the private sector in the United States (to be clear: it’s the recession and mostly the consequent loss of tax revenue). And CEOs are happy to lead the charge both against raising taxes and in favor of deficit reduction. This adds up to public goods being weak and so much under pressure around the world. No one can put significant resources to work helping to bring down unemployment. No one is seriously addressing the loss of skills faced by the long-term unemployed. No one is offering real resources to help improve education for lower-income children or adults who did not finish high school. Self-anointed “fiscal conservatives” claim the budget issues we face are all about discretionary nonmilitary spending. This is nonsense. The U.S. faces an incipient fiscal crisis (a) in the shorter term, because of what the big banks did and what they are likely to do in the future, and (b) over the next few decades, if we fail to control rising health care costs (both in general and as funded by government budgets). The gap between the CEOs’ world and the real world should be bridged by the official sector. But where are the politicians and government officials who can explain what we need and why? Who can confront the CEOs in the highest profile public forums, and push them on the social responsibility broadly defined?”
1.29 Went to Churrasquiera Ribatejo with Josh and Debbie.
1.29 Is this the Egyptian “tank man” that Jeff Widener immortalized in Tiennamann Square in 1989? It was taken by an Egyptian Reddit user named latenightcabdriving.
1.29 Dana Milbank in the Post: “How much longer can Glenn Beck‘s brutal routine continue at Fox News? The latest omen of Beck’s end times came on Thursday — Holocaust Remembrance Day — when 400 rabbis representing all four branches of American Judaism took out an ad demanding that Beck be sanctioned for “monstrous” and “beyond repugnant” use of “anti-Semitic imagery” in going after Holocaust survivor George Soros. . . .The statement’s signatories included the chief executive of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and his predecessor, the dean of the conservative Jewish Theological Seminary rabbinical school, and a number of orthodox rabbis. . . .”The prime minister of Malaysia called Soros an ‘unscrupulous profiteer,’” Beck reported. “In Thailand, he was branded the ‘economic war criminal.’ They also said that he sucks the blood from people.” Puppet master. Unscrupulous banker. Bloodsucker. These are hoary anti-Semitic stereotypes. The Malaysian leader’s words cited by Beck came from remarks describing a Jewish conspiracy against Muslims. And Beck wasn’t done. He called Soros “a collaborator” with Nazis who “saw people into the gas chambers,” and “a Jewish boy helping send the Jews to the death camps.” In fact, Soros’s father had hidden the boy from the Nazis by placing him with a Hungarian man assigned to record belongings of Jewish families that had fled. “It is not appropriate to accuse a 14-year-old Jew hiding with a Christian family in Nazi-occupied Hungary of sending his people to death camps,” the 400 rabbis wrote in their ad on Thursday. . . . [T]wo weeks ago on Fox News, he identified nine men responsible for the “era of the big lie.” He spoke of them as propagandists who saw themselves as an “intelligent minority” manipulating the masses. Of the nine men Beck attacked, eight were Jews. “A classic case of anti-Semitic dog-whistling,” alleged Jeff Goldberg of the Atlantic.
1.27 George Will in the Post: “Too many American parents, [Education Secretary Arne] Duncan says, have “cognitive dissonance” concerning primary and secondary schools: They think their children’s schools are fine, and that schools that are not fine are irredeemable. This, Duncan says, is a recipe for “stasis” and “insidious paralysis.” He attempts to impart motion by puncturing complacency and picturing the payoff from excellence. He notes that 75 percent of young Americans would be unable to enlist in the military for reasons physical (usually obesity), moral (criminal records) or academic (no high school diploma). A quarter of all ninth-graders will not graduate in four years. Among the 34 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development nations, only four (Mexico, Spain, Turkey and New Zealand) have dropout rates higher than America’s, whose 15-year-olds ranked 23rd in math and 25th in science in 2006. Canadians that age were more than a school year ahead of their American counterparts; Koreans and Finns were up to two years ahead. Within America, the achievement gaps separating white students from blacks and Hispanics portend (according to a McKinsey & Co. study) “the economic equivalent of a permanent national recession.” Another study suggests that a modest improvement (from a current average of about 500 to 525) over 20 years in an international student assessment of 15-year-olds in the OECD nations – improvement in reading, math and science literacy – would mean a $115 trillion increase in these nations’ aggregate GDP. Of that, $41 trillion would accrue to America. McKinsey calculated that if American students matched those in Finland, America’s economy would have been 9 to 16 percent larger in 2008 – between $1.3 trillion and $2.3 trillion.”
1.27 Robert J. Samuelson in the Post on three common budgetary myths: “Myth: The problem is the deficit. The real issue isn’t the deficit. It’s the exploding spending on the elderly – for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid – which automatically expands the size of government. If we ended deficits with tax increases, we would simply exchange one problem (high deficits) for another (high taxes). Either would weaken the economy, and sharply higher taxes would represent an undesirable transfer to retirees from younger taxpayers. Myth: Eliminating wasteful or ineffective programs will close deficits. The Republican Study Committee – 176 House members – recently proposed $2.5 trillion of cuts over a decade in non-defense, non-elderly programs. This plan would kill dozens of specific programs. Now, many of these programs should go; they’re either unneeded or ineffective. Consider one candidate for elimination, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. In an information-drenched society, it’s hard to justify government subsidies for TV and radio. But this budget category covers only a sixth of federal spending, and squeezing it harshly would penalize many vital government functions (research, transportation, the FBI). The Republicans’ cuts are huge, about 35 percent. Even so, they would reduce projected deficits by at most a third. Over the next decade, those deficits could easily total $7 trillion to $10 trillion. Myth: The elderly have “earned” their Social Security and Medicare by their lifelong payroll taxes, which were put aside for their retirement. Not so. Both programs are pay-as-you-go. Today’s taxes pay today’s benefits; little is “saved.” Even if all were saved, most retirees receive benefits that far exceed their payroll taxes. Consider a man who turned 65 in 2010 and earned an average wage ($43,100). Over his expected lifetime, he will receive an inflation-adjusted $417,000 in Social Security and Medicare benefits, compared with taxes paid of $345,000, estimates an Urban Institute study.”
1.26 John Miller in The Washington Post: “Republican lawmakers in nearly a dozen states are reaching into the dusty annals of American history to fight President Obama‘s health care overhaul. They are introducing measures that hinge on “nullification,” Thomas Jefferson‘s late 18th-century doctrine that purported to give states the ultimate say in constitutional matters. GOP lawmakers introduced such a measure Wednesday in the Idaho House, and Alabama, Kansas, Maine, Missouri, Montana, Oregon, Nebraska, Texas and Wyoming are also talking about the idea. The efforts are completely unconstitutional in the eyes of most legal scholars because the U.S. Constitution deems federal laws “the supreme law of the land.” The Idaho attorney general has weighed in as well, branding nullification unconstitutional. “There is no right to pick and choose which federal laws a state will follow,” wrote Assistant Chief Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane. Regardless of the very dubious constitutional nature of the efforts, the nullification push has become a rallying cry in conservative states at a time when anti-government angst is running high and “state’s rights” are a popular belief among the tea party crowd. Delegates at Idaho’s Republican convention last year urged seizure of federal lands and resurrection of the gold standard. Conservatives in Montana lined up the out the door of a legislative committee room last week to speak in favor of a bill that would make sheriffs the supreme local authorities, another measure widely believed to be unconstitutional. In Texas, a nullification proposal threatens state officials who don’t comply with jail time and fines. Last year in Austin, an insurance salesman led a Texas State Capitol rally as protesters hoisted signs urging not just nullification, but “secession.” In Alabama, a version of nullification sponsored last year by Republican Sen. Scott Beason passed the Senate, but died in a Democrat-led House committee. He’ll resurrect it this year.”
1.25 Protests in Egypt
1.25 Richard Cohen in the Post on the GOP Brain drain: “It is simply impossible for a centrist to capture the Republican presidential nomination – maybe even to be a Republican. (I challenge any of the above to wholeheartedly endorse evolution or global warming.) The party continues on a course that has already driven out the political moderates and pro-choicers that once comprised its intellectual and financial core and, in the staffing of administrations, still somewhat does – Colin Powell, for instance. To call this a brain drain understates the calamity. It’s a political lobotomy.”
1.24 Paul Krugman in the Times: “The financial crisis of 2008 was a teachable moment, an object lesson in what can go wrong if you trust a market economy to regulate itself. Nor should we forget that highly regulated economies, like Germany, did a much better job than we did at sustaining employment after the crisis hit. For whatever reason, however, the teachable moment came and went with nothing learned. Mr. Obama himself may do all right: his approval rating is up, the economy is showing signs of life, and his chances of re-election look pretty good. But the ideology that brought economic disaster in 2008 is back on top — and seems likely to stay there until it brings disaster again.”
1.23 Frank Rich in the Times: “At its core, the new “True Grit” is often surprisingly similar to the first. . . .[b]ut what leaps out this time, to the point of seeming fresh, is the fierce loyalty of the principal characters to each other. . . and their clear-cut sense of morality and justice, even when the justice is rough. More than the first “True Grit,” the new one emphasizes Mattie’s precocious, almost obsessive preoccupation with the law. She is forever citing law-book principles, invoking lawyers and affidavits, and threatening to go to court. “You must pay for everything in this world one way or another,” says Mattie. “There is nothing free except the grace of God.” That kind of legal and moral cost-accounting seems as distant as a tintype now. The new “True Grit” lands in an America that’s still not recovered from a crash where many of the reckless perpetrators of economic mayhem deflected any accountability and merely moved on to the next bubble, gamble or ethically dubious backroom deal. When Americans think of the law these days, they often think of a system that can easily be gamed by the rich and the powerful, starting with those who pillaged Lehman Brothers, A.I.G. and Citigroup and left taxpayers, shareholders and pensioners in the dust. A virtuous soul like Mattie would be crushed in a contemporary gold rush even if (or especially if) she fought back with the kind of civil action so prized by the 19th-century Mattie. Talk about Two Americas. Look at “The Social Network” again after seeing “True Grit,” and you’ll see two different civilizations, as far removed from each other in ethos as Silicon Valley and Monument Valley. While “Social Network” fictionalizes Mark Zuckerberg, it mines the truth of an era — from the ability of the powerful and privileged to manipulate the system to the collapse of loyalty as a prized American virtue at the top of that economic pyramid.”
1.23 Robert Reich in the Times: “[In his State of the Union address], Mr. Obama should point out that the United States economy is now more than twice the size it was in 1980, but the real median wage has barely budged; that in the late 1970s, the richest 1 percent of Americans got about 9 percent of total income, while by the start of the Great Recession the richest received more than 23 percent; that wealth is now even more concentrated. And the economy is bogged down because most Americans, unable to borrow as before, no longer have the purchasing power to get it moving again. The president should make it clear that corporations aren’t to blame; they’re meant to make profits. Nor is it the fault of the rich who have played by the rules. But he should stress that a future with no jobs or lousy jobs for most Americans is not sustainable — not even for American corporations, whose long-term profitability depends on broad-based domestic demand. The solution is to give average Americans a better economic deal. For starters, he should propose to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (essentially, a wage subsidy) all the way up through the middle class. And he should suggest making the tax system more progressive: The rate on the $50,000 to $90,000 income bracket should be cut to 10 percent; on the $90,000 to $150,000 bracket, to 20 percent; on the $150,000 to $250,000 bracket, to 30 percent. Make up the revenue by increasing taxes on the $250,000 to $500,000 bracket, to 40 percent; from $500,000 to $5 million, to 50 percent; and anything over $5 million, to 60 percent. Tax capital gains the same as ordinary income.”
1.22 Taking a limo to see Levon Helm in Woodstock!
1.21 Speaking about America and the immigrant experience to the group to a group called Iowans for Tax Relief, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann said “It didn’t matter the color of their skin. It didn’t matter their language. It didn’t matter their economic status. It didn’t matter whether they descended from known royalty or are of a higher class or a lower class. It made no difference. Once you got here, we were all the same. Isn’t that remarkable? It is absolutely remarkable.Bachmann went on to say that while slavery was still tolerated when the nation began, the “very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States.”
1.21 Keith Olbermann, the intelligent, informed, eloquent, opinionated, vain, arrogant, prickly, self-impressed sorehead, announces that he is leaving MSNBC.
1.19 David Leonhardt in the Times: “Alone among the world’s economic powers, the United States is suffering through a deep jobs slump that can’t be explained by the rest of the economy’s performance. The gross domestic product here. . . has recovered from the recession better than in Britain, Germany, Japan or Russia. Yet a greatly shrunken group of American workers, working harder and more efficiently, is producing these goods and services. . . . Why? One obvious possibility is the balance of power between employers and employees. Relative to the situation in most other countries — or in this country for most of the last century — American employers operate with few restraints. Unions have withered, at least in the private sector, and courts have grown friendlier to business. Many companies can now come much closer to setting the terms of their relationship with employees, letting them go when they become a drag on profits and relying on remaining workers or temporary ones when business picks up. Just consider the main measure of corporate health: profits. In Canada, Japan and most of Europe, corporate profits have still not recovered to pre-crisis levels. In the United States, profits have more than recovered, rising 12 percent since late 2007. For corporate America, the Great Recession is over. For the American work force, it’s not.”
1.19 Katrina vanden Heuvel in The Washington Post: “The clearest and boldest counter to the court’s ruling [in the Citizens United case} would be a constitutional amendment stating unequivocally that corporations are not people and do not have the right to buy elections. Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) introduced such an amendment to counter Citizens United during the last session of Congress and views it as the only sure way to beat back the court. “Justice Brandeis got it right,” she noted last February. ” ‘We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.’ ” . . . Success will require a coalition that transcends party. In this case, there is promising news. An August 2010 Survey USA poll found that 77 percent of all voters – including 70 percent of Republicans and 73 percent of independents – view corporate spending in elections as akin to bribery.. . .Reversing Citizens United is about more than any one issue or court case – it is, at its base, a question of whether American democracy itself can beat back a corporate takeover, whether our most cherished principles of self-government can ultimately prevail.”
1.16 Linebacker Bart Scott‘s rant has been getting a ton of attention, but it seems like just another day at the office to me.
1.16 Jets upset Patriots 28-21. “”I was dead wrong,” said Rex Ryan in pitch-perfect post-game remarks. “I thought it would come down to me and Belichick and thank goodness it never did because he won that battle like he always does. . . .We came here for a reason. We thought we were the better team. Now clearly, that Monday night game, we weren’t. They were clearly head and shoulders better than we were, but I knew if we applied ourselves and we played the way we were capable of, then we would beat them. And that’s exactly what happened.”
1.16 Gratuitous nudity
1.13: In The Washington Post: “”Journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn,” Sarah Palin said in the video. “That is reprehensible.” Blood libel – a phrase that other conservatives have also used in recent days – was her way of decrying liberal critics who had tried to draw a connection between Palin’s campaign rhetoric and the Tucson shootings. But it also has a specific, ugly historical context. Blood libel is the centuries-old anti-Semitic myth that Jews use the blood of Christian children for rituals such as baking unleavened bread during Passover. It was used to justify persecution of Jews. Her choice of words immediately overshadowed the point she was trying to make.”
1.12 Chris Cillizza in The Washington Post: “Palin is as much provocateur as politician at this moment. From “death panels” to “how’s that hopey, changey thing working for you?” to “blood libel”, Palin more often adopts the language of talk radio than of party politics. Put simply: These sorts of statements are more likely to wind up on a bumper sticker or T-shirt than in the Republican party platform.”
1.10 Simon Johnson on The Baseline Scenario: “Today’s most dangerous government sponsored enterprises are the largest six bank holding companies: JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley. They are undoubtedly too big to fail – if they were on the brink of failure, they would be rescued by the government, in the sense that their creditors would be protected 100 percent. The market knows this and, as a result, these large institutions can borrow more cheaply than their smaller competitors. This lets them stay big and – amazingly – get bigger. In the latest available data (Q3 of 2010), the big 6 had assets worth 64 percent of GDP. This is up from before the crisis – assets in the big six at the end of 2006 were only about 55 percent of GDP. And this is up massively from 1995, when these same banks (some of which had different names back then) were only17 percent of GDP. No one can show significant social benefits from the increase in bank size, leverage, and overall riskiness over the past 15 years. The social costs of these banks – and their complete capture of the regulatory apparatus – are apparent in the worst recession and slowest recovery since the 1930s. Paul Volcker gets it; no wonder he has resigned. Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, gets it. Tom Hoenig, president of the Kansas City Fed, gets it. Elizabeth Warren, the tireless champion of consumer rights, gets it. Gene Fama, father of the efficient financial markets view, gets it better than anyone. . . .Do the people running the country – including both the executive branch and the legislature – understand economics and finance or not? If the country’s most distinguished nuclear scientists told you, clearly and very publicly, that they now realize a leading reactor design is very dangerous, would you and your politicians stop to listen? Yet our political leadership brush aside concerns about the way big banks operate. Why? Top bankers, including Bill Daley, have pulled off a complete snow job – including since the crisis broke in fall 2008. . . . Most smart people in the nonfinancial world understand that the big banks have become profoundly damaging to the rest of the private sector.”
1.8 Seahawks upset Saints in opening round of the playoffs. Marshawn Lynch’s unbelievable 67 yard-run late in the fourth quarter seals the win.
1.8 Jets beat Colts 17-16, on a last second field goal, on the wild card round of playoffs.
1.8 Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a three-term Arizona Democrat, and at least 17 others were shot Saturday morning when a gunman opened fire outside a supermarket where Ms. Giffords was meeting with constituents. Six of the victims died, among them John M. Roll, the chief judge for the United States District Court for Arizona, and a 9-year-old girl. “When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government — the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous,” said the Pima County sheriff, Clarence W. Dupnik. “And unfortunately, Arizona, I think, has become the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry. That may be free speech, but it’s not without consequences.”
1.7 On The Daily Beast, Lloyd Grove quotes Joe Klein saying that he is not the author of the anonymoysly-written new novel of the Obama administration O: A Presidential Novel. “For the record, what I’m saying is I didn’t write it,” says Klein. Of course, he also denied writing Primary Colors.
1.7 Headlines from The Daily Mail: Mystery of mass animal death epidemic deepens after 8,000 turtle doves fall dead in Italy with strange blue stain on their beaks * Blue stain believed to be sign of poisoning or hypoxia – lack of oxygen that is precursor to altitude sickness * Cold weather and overbreeding blamed for deaths of two 2million fish in Chesapeake Bay * Disease behind deaths of 100,000 fish in Arkansas River * Hundreds of confused birds plummeted to their deaths in multiple locations in the US * Rapid movement of Magnetic North Pole towards Russia may have caused bird deaths
1.7 NPR reports “Britain’s plaintiff-friendly libel laws have become an international embarrassment, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said Friday, vowing to change rules that have made the country a “libel tourism” destination for angry corporations and foreign celebrities. In a speech on civil liberties, Clegg said the existing laws, which place the burden of proof on defendants, have a chilling effect on journalism and scientific debate. It is “simply not right when academics and journalists are effectively bullied into silence” by the prospect of costly legal battles, he said. Libel laws in many countries, including the U.S., generally require plaintiffs to prove a published article was both false and written maliciously. In Britain, the burden of proof falls on the defendant to demonstrate what it published was true.”
1.7 From The Washington Post: “New research suggests that the smell of a woman’s tears is associated with a dip in testosterone, the principal male hormone, and a general decline in sexual arousal. . . .”Emotional tears” are considered by many biologists to be uniquely human. They’re known to have a different chemical composition than tears shed when the eye is simply irritated.”
1.5 In Slate: Serial killers just aren’t the sensation they used to be. . . .The number of serial murders seems to be dwindling, as does the public’s fascination with them. “It does seem the golden age of serial murderers is probably past,” says Harold Schechter, a professor at Queens College. Statistics on serial murder are hard to come by. . .but the data we do have suggests serial murders peaked in the 1980s and have been declining ever since. James Alan Fox, a criminology professor at Northeastern University. . .keeps a database of confirmed serial murderers starting in 1900. According to his count, based on newspaper clippings, books, and Web sources, there were only a dozen or so serial killers before 1960 in the United States. Then serial killings took off: There were 19 in the 1960s, 119 in the ’70s, and 200 in the ’80s. In the ’90s, the number of cases dropped to 141. And the 2000s saw only 61 serial murderers. . . . Why the down trend? It’s hard to say. Better law enforcement could have played a role, as police catch would-be serial killers after their first crime. So could the increased incarceration rate, says Fox: “Maybe they’re still behind bars.” Whatever the reason, the decline in serial murders tracks with a dramatic drop in overall violent crime since the ’80s.”
1.5 Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone: “John Boehner is the ultimate Beltway hack, a man whose unmatched and self-serving skill at political survival has made him, after two decades in Washington, the hairy blue mold on the American congressional sandwich. . . .In the new Speaker of the House, the Republicans own the perfect archetype — the quintessential example of the kind of glad-handing, double-talking, K Street toady who has dominated the politics of both parties for decades. In sports, we talk about athletes who are the “total package,” and that term comes close to describing Boehner’s talent for perpetuating our corrupt and debt-addled status quo: He’s a five-tool insider who can lie, cheat, steal, play golf, change his mind on command and do anything else his lobbyist buddies and campaign contributors require of him.”
1.3 From the New York Post: “A troubled Hell’s Kitchen resident jumped from his ninth-floor apartment window yesterday — but survived because he landed atop a mountain of trash bags that had been piling up since the Dec. 26 blizzard, cops said. “Maybe it was lucky we had this snow and they hadn’t cleared the garbage,” said Katharina Capatos, the aunt of the victim, Vangelis “Angelo” Kapatos. Kapatos, 26, of 325 W. 45th St., jumped just after noon, landing on his back on garbage bags heaped high outside the 10-story building, authorities said.”