12.30 From the Washington Post: “The Justice Department is investigating whether former U.S. Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell violated federal law by diverting campaign funds for personal use, law enforcement sources said Wednesday. The probe of the Delaware Republican arose in response to a complaint from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. The watchdog group alleged in September that O’Donnell had used campaign funds for rent, meals and other personal expenses.” Not surprised.
12.29 Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post: “During the lame-duck session, it seemed to dawn on GOP leaders that they begin the new Congress burdened with great expectations – but lacking commensurate power. It’s going to be a challenge for Republicans just to maintain party unity, much less to enact the kind of conservative agenda they promised to their enthusiastic, impatient voters. In the Senate, there could be as many as 11 Republicans who might defect and vote with the Democrats, depending on the issue. There’s a small but newly assertive group of moderates – Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, Scott Brown of Massachusetts and independent Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, along with newcomer Mark Kirk of Illinois – who seem likely to fit that mold. And judging by the vote tallies in the lame-duck session, a half-dozen other GOP senators are willing to go their own ways. This means that if Majority Leader Harry Reid plays his cards well – and recently he has been playing very well indeed – it will be difficult for Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to keep enough of his troops together to sustain a filibuster. The new Senate will be considerably more Republican than the old Senate, but whether it’s more conservative remains to be seen.”
12.28 Cara and I visit Rose in Maryland
12.26 18 1/2 inches of snow
12.24 Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post: “Riding the lamest of ducks, President Obama just won the Triple Crown. He fulfilled (1) his most important economic priority, passage of Stimulus II, a.k.a. the tax cut deal (the perfect pre-re-election fiscal sugar high – the piper gets paid in 2013 and beyond); (2) his most important social policy objective, repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell”; and (3) his most cherished (achievable) foreign policy goal, ratification of the New START treaty with Russia. . . . The great liberal ascendancy of 2008, destined to last 40 years (predicted James Carville), lasted less than two. Yet, the great Republican ascendancy of 2010 lasted less than two months. Republicans will enter the 112th Congress with larger numbers but no longer with the wind – the overwhelming Nov. 2 repudiation of Obama’s social-democratic agenda – at their backs. “Harry Reid has eaten our lunch,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, lamenting his side’s “capitulation” in the lame-duck session. Yes, but it was less Harry than Barry. Obama came back with a vengeance. His string of lame-duck successes is a singular political achievement. Because of it, the epic battles of the 112th Congress begin on what would have seemed impossible just one month ago – a level playing field.”
12.23 From the AP: “Not even B-list celebrities are spared the wrath of WikiLeaks. Formerly classified cables reveal that former Playboy bunny Anna Nicole Smith managed to nearly take down the government of the Bahamas after moving there in 2006 and allegedly seducing the immigration minister. Smith became the epicenter of a national scandal after reportedly bribing Shane Gibson to expediate her residency process, and after a local newspaper ran photos of the two in bed. The news mobilized the political opposition, and eventually ousted top government officials. “Not since Category 4 Hurricane Betsy made landfall in 1965 has one woman done as much damage in Nassau,” read a November 2006 cable. Smith also disgraced medical officials by accusing them of botching her son’s treatment after he was hospitalized for an overdose. “Lying in disarray in her wake are Doctor’s Hospital, the Coroner’s Court, the Department of Immigration, local mega-lawyers Callenders and Co., formerly popular Minister of Immigration Shane Gibson, and possibly Prime Minister Christie‘s PLP government,” the cable added. Less than a year later, the formerly popular governing party was out of office, and Smith was found dead in a Florida hotel.”
12.23 Gail Collins in the Times: “Good work, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry. We appreciate the way you’ve evolved from one of the world’s worst presidential candidates into an extremely useful senator. . . .Good work, Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, the lone Republican who stuck with the treaty through thick and thin and never mutated into a scary new entity. Good work, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Unlike your hapless predecessor, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, you’ve had legislation shooting off to the White House like angry birds in that video game. Unemployment compensation! Gay rights! Food safety! Judicial appointments! Arms control! Health care for 9/11 responders! But let’s admit it. Nothing would have gotten done if Obama hadn’t swallowed that loathsome compromise on tax cuts for the wealthy. If he’d taken the high road, Congress would be in a holiday war. The long-term unemployed would be staggering into the new year without benefits. The rest of the world would look upon the United States as a country so dysfunctional that it can’t even ratify a treaty to help keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists. The people who worked at ground zero would still be uncertain about their future, and our gay and lesbian soldiers would still be living in fear. It’s depressing to think that there was no way to win that would not have involved giving away billions of dollars to people who don’t need it. But it’s kind of cheery to think we have a president who actually does know what he’s doing.”
12.22 A headline writer on “Fox and Friends” conflated two identifiers of guest Elie Weisel, smashing together “Holocaust Survivor” and “Nobel Prize Winner” into what might be the rudest headline of all time.
12.22 From The Economist: “As options multiply, there may be a point at which the effort required to obtain enough information to be able to distinguish sensibly between alternatives outweighs the benefit to the consumer of the extra choice. “At this point”, writes Barry Schwartz in “The Paradox of Choice”, “choice no longer liberates, but debilitates. It might even be said to tyrannise.” In other words, as Mr Schwartz puts it, “the fact that some choice is good doesn’t necessarily mean that more choice is better.”
12.22 They’re showing that Charlize Theron commercial for J’adore perfume again.
12.21 In today’s NR.com, a couple of paragraphs from a 1982 New York Times article on Haley Barbour’s challenge that year to the octogenarian incumbent Democratic Senator, John Stennis: “This being Mississippi, race is a factor in the campaign, but mainly because neither candidate has offered much to black voters. The Republicans have tried to remind them that in 1964 Mr. Stennis sponsored legislation to export Mississippi blacks to states that wanted to practice integration. But the racial sensitivity at Barbour headquarters was suggested by an exchange between the candidate and an aide who complained that there would be ‘’coons’’ at a campaign stop at the state fair. Embarrassed that a reporter heard this, Mr. Barbour warned that if the aide persisted in racist remarks, he would be reincarnated as a watermelon and placed at the mercy of blacks.”
12.20 Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, a potential Republican presidential candidate, recalling the 1960s civil rights struggle in his hometown, Yazoo City: “I just don’t remember it as being that bad.”
12.20 Quoted in a New York Times review of Karen Abbott‘s A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee, a telegram sent from Eleanor Roosevelt to Gypsy Rose Lee in 1959: “May your bare ass always be shining.”
12.20 Another quote from Gypsy Rose Lee, circa 1940: ““I like my men on the monster side,” she once told a friend, in one of her least guarded-sounding statements. “A snarling mouth, an evil eye, broken nose — if he should happen to have thick ears, good! And I like a little muscle, hair on the chest, none on the head. A nervous tic excites me and if with all these other things he wore green suits — bank night!”
12.20 Paul Krugman in The New York Times: “When historians look back at 2008-10, what will puzzle them most is the strange triumph of failed ideas. Free-market fundamentalists have been wrong about everything — yet they now dominate the political scene more thoroughly than ever. How did that happen? How, after runaway banks brought the economy to its knees, did we end up with Ron Paul, who says “I don’t think we need regulators,” about to take over a key House panel overseeing the Fed? How, after the experiences of the Clinton and Bush administrations — the first raised taxes and presided over spectacular job growth; the second cut taxes and presided over anemic growth even before the crisis — did we end up with bipartisan agreement on even more tax cuts? . . . .It’s also worth pointing out that everything the right said about why Obamanomics would fail was wrong. For two years we’ve been warned that government borrowing would send interest rates sky-high; in fact, rates have. . .stayed consistently low by historical standards. For two years we’ve been warned that inflation, even hyperinflation, was just around the corner; instead, disinflation has continued, with core inflation. . .now at a half-century low. The free-market fundamentalists have been as wrong about events abroad as they have about events in America — and suffered equally few consequences. “Ireland,” declared George Osborne in 2006, “stands as a shining example of the art of the possible in long-term economic policymaking.” Whoops. But Mr. Osborne is now Britain’s top economic official. And in his new position, he’s setting out to emulate the austerity policies Ireland implemented after its bubble burst. . . .But such failures don’t seem to matter. To borrow the title of a recent book by the Australian economist John Quiggin on doctrines that the crisis should have killed but didn’t, we’re still — perhaps more than ever — ruled by “zombie economics.” Why? Part of the answer, surely, is that people who should have been trying to slay zombie ideas have tried to compromise with them instead. And this is especially, though not only, true of the president.”
12.19 After leading the Eageles 24-3 at the half and 31-10 with seven and half minutes to go, the Giants collapse and lose 38-31, the final blow coming on DeSean Jackson‘s 65 yard last-second punt return.
12.18 The Senate repeals Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, allowing gays in the military.
12.18 James Kwak on The Baseline Scenario: “This is the mindset of the ambitious educational elite: You go to Harvard (or Stanford), maybe to Oxford (or Cambridge) for a Rhodes (or Marshall), then to Goldman (or McKinsey, or TFA), then to Harvard Business School (or Yale Law School), then back to Goldman (or Google), and on and on. You keep doing the thing that is more prestigious, opens more doors, has more (supposed) impact on the world, and eventually will make you more and more famous and powerful. Money is something that happens along the way, but it’s not your primary motivation. Then you get to Peter Orszag’s position, where you can do anything, and you want to go work for Citigroup? Why do our society and culture shape high-achieving people so they want to be executives at big, big companies that are decades past their prime? Why is that the thing people aspire to? Orszag wanting to work at a megabank — instead of starting a new company, or joining a foundation, or joining an NGO, or becoming an executive at a struggling manufacturing company that makes things, or even being a consultant to countries with sovereign debt problems — is the same as an engineer from a top school going to Goldman instead of a real company. It’s not his fault, but it’s a symptom of something that’s bad for our country.”
12.15 Twenty-seven year old Alina Kabayeva, member of the Russian parliament, former rhythmic Olympic gymnast, and reputed mistress of Vladimir Putin, appears in a £21,000 gold Balmain dress on the cover of Russian Vogue.
12.15 Jake Tapper on ABCNews.com: “Frustrated with Sen. Jim DeMint’s support for a move to require an oral reading of the START nuclear disarmament treaty with Russia – a move that could take as long as 12-15 hours in these waning lame duck days — an Obama administration official notes that DeMint only attended five of the 12 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on START, nor was he present for the final vote to order the treaty reported on the 16th.”
12.15 Dana Milbank in The Washington Post on Tea Party disappointments: “Since Republican Kristi Noem defeated Democratic Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (in part by making an issue of Herseth Sandlin’s marriage to a lobbyist), Noem has hired her new chief of staff from . . . a lobbying firm! And on Tuesday afternoon, she was the guest of honor at a “Meet & Greet” with Washington high-rollers at the powerhouse lobbying firm Barbour Griffiths Rogers. Once these boys start throwing money at Noem’s feet, she’ll soon be chin deep in lobbyist greenbacks. It was probably inevitable that the Tea Party activists would be betrayed, but the speed with which congressional Republicans have reverted to business-as-usual has been impressive. House Republican leaders rejected a Tea Party-backed candidate as the new chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, instead installing Hal Rogers of Kentucky, who is known as the “Prince of Pork” and who once said pork is a “bad word for making good things happen.” Many Tea Party favorites, meanwhile, have discovered the appeal of Washington lobbyists’ cash and advice. South Dakota’s Noem is one of at least 13 incoming Republican lawmakers who have hired lobbyists to run their offices.”
12.13 Fareed Zakaria in The Washington Post: “What Washington is trying to do is reignite the consumption bubble – hoping to get Americans to spend money and take out loans. This plan, presidential adviser Lawrence Summers tells us, will get the economy to “escape velocity.” It’s an intriguing theory. If Americans keep spending money, using their credit cards, and buying houses, this will trigger the next technological and economic revolution. China has a different theory of how to get long-term, sustained growth. The Chinese have doubled their spending on education – with stunning results – and continue to build the world’s best infrastructure. Reuters reports that Beijing is contemplating a plan to invest $1.5 trillion over the next five years in seven crucial industries. The targeted sectors are alternative energy, biotechnology, new-generation information technology, high-end equipment manufacturing, advanced materials, alternative-fuel cars, and energy-saving and environmentally friendly technologies. Somehow, housing and retail didn’t make the list.”
12.13 Richard Holbrooke dies.
12.12 Henry Porter in The Guardian: “Publication of the cables has caused no loss of life; troops are not being mobilised; and the only real diplomatic crisis is merely one of discomfort. The idea that the past two weeks have been a disaster is self-evidently preposterous. Yet the leaks are of unprecedented importance because, at a stroke, they have enlightened the masses about what is being done in their name and have shown the corruption, incompetence – and sometimes wisdom – of our politicians, corporations and diplomats. More significantly, we have been given a snapshot of the world as it is, rather than the edited account agreed upon by diverse elites, whose only common interest is the maintenance of their power and our ignorance. The world has changed, not simply because governments find they are just as vulnerable to the acquisition, copying and distribution of huge amounts of data as the music, publishing and film businesses were, but because we are unlikely to return to the happy ignorance of the past. Knowing Saudi Arabia has urged the bombing of Iran, that Shell maintains an iron grip on the government of Nigeria, that Pfizer hired investigators to disrupt investigations into drugs trials on children, also in Nigeria, that the Pakistan intelligence service, the ISI, is swinging both ways on the Taliban, that China launched a cyber attack on Google, that North Korean has provided nuclear scientists to Burma, that Russia is a virtual mafia state in which security services and gangsters are joined at the hip – and knowing all this in some detail – means we are far more likely to treat the accounts of events we are given in the future with much greater scepticism. . . .We should relish the fact that publication of the cables, as well as the shameful reactions to it, have brought light, not fire.”
12.12 Very cool image from photographer David Vincent Wolf.
12.12 Dana Milbank in The Washington Post: “Rather than caving in to liberals’ complaints and allowing Democrats on Capitol Hill to take the lead – as Obama did to his peril over the past two years – he has pushed back with the full force of his office. In private persuasion and in public talk, the White House has delivered to disgruntled liberals a message summed up by Vice President Biden in a private session with lawmakers on Wednesday: Take it or leave it. This is a hopeful sign that Obama has learned the lessons of the health-care debate, when he acceded too easily to the wishes of Hill Democrats, allowing them to slow the legislation and engage in a protracted debate on the public option. Months of delay gave Republicans time to make their case against “socialism” and prevented action on more pressing issues, such as job creation. Democrats paid for that with 63 seats.”12.12 Snow causes the roof of the Minneapolis Metrodome to collapse.
12.11 Eliot Spitzer in Slate: “What’s shocking about the bailouts is what we still don’t know about them. We don’t know what the banks knew about impending risks as the events unfolded. We don’t know what the government officials who extended these loans asked before they handed over trillions of your dollars. Just as I have little confidence anymore that we are given accurate information about the reality of conditions in Afghanistan, so I lack any confidence that the government officials in charge have been anything close to honest about the reality of the bailouts. Remember, part of the reason we passed fundamentally inadequate financial reform legislation is that the folks at the center of these events—Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, and GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt—fought vigorously to keep from the public the critical information about the loans and support they received.”
12.10 Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post: “Barack Obama won the great tax-cut showdown of 2010 – and House Democrats don’t have a clue that he did. In the deal struck this week, the president negotiated the biggest stimulus in American history, larger than his $814 billion 2009 stimulus package. It will pump a trillion borrowed Chinese dollars into the U.S. economy over the next two years – which just happen to be the two years of the run-up to the next presidential election. This is a defeat? If Obama had asked for a second stimulus directly, he would have been laughed out of town. Stimulus I was so reviled that the Democrats banished the word from their lexicon throughout the 2010 campaign. And yet, despite a very weak post-election hand, Obama got the Republicans to offer to increase spending and cut taxes by $990 billion over two years. Two-thirds of that is above and beyond extension of the Bush tax cuts but includes such urgent national necessities as windmill subsidies. No mean achievement.”
12.9 David Samuels in The Atlantic: “The true importance of Wikileaks — and the key to understanding the motivations and behavior of its founder — lies not in the contents of the latest document dump but in the technology that made it possible, which has already shown itself to be a potent weapon to undermine official lies and defend human rights. Since 1997, Assange has devoted a great deal of his time to inventing encryption systems that make it possible for human rights workers and others to protect and upload sensitive data. The importance of Assange’s efforts to human rights workers in the field were recognized last year by Amnesty International, which gave him its Media Award for the Wikileaks investigation The Cry of Blood – Extra Judicial Killings and Disappearances, which documented the killing and disappearance of 500 young men in Kenya by the police, with the apparent connivance of the country’s political leadership. Yet the difficulties of documenting official murder in Kenya pale next to the task of penetrating the secret world that threatens to swallow up informed public discourse in this country about America’s wars. The 250,000 cables that Wikileaks published this month represent only a drop in the bucket that holds the estimated 16 million documents that are classified top secret by the federal government every year. According to a three-part investigative series by Dana Priest and William Arkin published earlier this year in The Washington Post, an estimated 854,000 people now hold top secret clearance – more than 1.5 times the population of Washington, D.C. “The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive,” the Post concluded, “that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.” The result of this classification mania is the division of the public into two distinct groups: those who are privy to the actual conduct of American policy, but are forbidden to write or talk about it, and the uninformed public, which becomes easy prey for the official lies exposed in the Wikileaks documents.”
12.7 James Kwak on The Baseline Scenario: “The Bush tax cuts were always bad policy. . . .Killing the tax cuts would alone reduce the national debt by roughly as much as the deficit commission’s entire proposal. And killing the tax cuts was the path of least resistance. Obama could have done it by doing nothing. Or he could have done it by taking a strong negotiating position and being willing to walk away from the table.”
12.7 Gary Sargent in The Washington Post: “Much of the debate about the left and Obama tends to focus on Obama’s ideological tendencies — on the question of whether he’s too quick to trade away core liberal priorities because he’s at bottom not ideologically in sync with progressives. But one of the key things that angers liberals [is] Obama’s approach to negotiating. The argument is that Obama is too quick to signal that compromise, even at great cost, is his paramount goal. This weakens Dems in negotiations with Republicans and emboldens them to hold out for more than they otherwise might be able to secure. In other words, the case against Obama is not just about ideology. It’s also that his approach is not as hard-headed and pragmatic as it could be. In fairness, if Obama wraps up a deal on the tax cuts quickly, and as a result is able to secure the time necessary to get DADT repealed before the end of the year, you could then argue that his approach turned out to be pretty pragmatic, after all. But that hasn’t happened yet.”
12.6 Dandy Don Meredith dies. “Turn out the lights, the party’s over.”
12.6 Met with Frank Rich
12.3 Elaine Kaufman dies; I’m very glad to have had my Elaine’s party.
12.2 Steve Pearlstein in The Washington Post: “While most of us would prefer to alter [The Simpson-Bowles Budget Reduction Plan] a bit one way or another, any plan that is both fiscally and politically credible is going to involve most of the same compromises. As Harvard economist Ben Friedman put it this week, the differences in economic impact among the credible options would be “small potatoes,” particularly when compared with the large economic benefits of adopting any of them. “From a macroeconomic standpoint, the details don’t make that much of a difference,” agrees David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor’s. “What matters – and it matters a lot – is to get things back into balance. In the scheme of things, we’re arguing about minutia.” In fact, I’d argue that pushing through a grand budget compromise would be the most effective thing we could do for the economy, even in the short run. Lifting that black cloud and demonstrating to ourselves and the world that our political system can function would provide a big boost to the confidence of consumers, investors and business executives whose “animal spirits” have been in hibernation. How large a boost? Here’s a wild guess: 1,500 points on the Dow Jones industrial average, half a percentage point off the yield on 30-year Treasury bonds, 750,000 jobs created and an extra percentage point of gross domestic product growth in 2011. Longer run, the impact would be even greater.”
12.2 Bulgari ad featuring Julianne Moore is banned in St. Mark’s Square in Venice
12.2 Ezra Klein in The Washington Post: “Now it looks like all the tax cuts will be extended, at least for the moment. But it’s a baffling outcome. The structure of the situation favored — and continues to favor — the Democrats. No tax cuts pass without their support, and Republicans have previously admitted that their position isn’t popular enough to prevail in a standoff. The only thing that’s changed is that Republicans have realized Democrats aren’t confident enough to enter a standoff. But it didn’t have to be this way. Think back to early this week, when the president announced the federal pay freeze. “The hard truth is that getting this deficit under control is going to require broad sacrifice,” he said. “And that sacrifice must be shared by the employees of the federal government.” Here’s what he could’ve said next: It also must be shared by those among us who’ve prospered most in recent years. Even before the financial crisis, middle-class incomes had stagnated. But the incomes of the wealthiest Americans hadn’t. Similarly, America’s upper class has recovered from the crisis much quicker than the working class. There’s nothing wrong with that: The country depends on the ingenuity and resourcefulness of its most successful citizens. But in a time of high deficits and belt tightening, it makes $700 billion in tax cuts that go solely to the top 2% an unreasonable expense. Those tax cuts were passed in a time of surplus, and now we’re in a time of deficits. As our situation changes, so must our policy. I will veto any bill that extends those tax breaks. He not only could’ve said it, he could’ve stuck to it. But he didn’t. Instead, Jack Lew and Tim Geithner are now supposed to negotiate out a deal, and the White House will be blamed for the inevitable concessions and disappointments it includes.
12.2 Found this nifty photo of Amy Loyd, Lee Froehich and Hugh Hefner on Amy’s Facebook page
12.2 Dana Milbank in The Washington Post: “Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), a member of the House GOP’s majority transition committee, introduced a constitutional amendment that would allow a group of states to nullify federal laws with which they disagree.”This repeal amendment gives states a weapon, a tool, an arrow in their quiver,” he told a group of state legislators assembled at the Hyatt in downtown Washington. Of course, states have fired similar arrows before, and it led to a Civil War and Jim Crow – but Bishop wasn’t going to get into that. “I actually hope to have a series of statutes and amendments — several amendments and several statutes — that we can introduce this year,” Bishop continued, “with the sole goal of not just cutting down the power of Washington to do things to people, but more importantly, is to empower states.” . . .Lest you think this is a hair-brained scheme by one Republican lawmaker, consider that the Repeal Amendment, as proponents call it, has won the endorsement of the man who will be the next House majority leader, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.). . . .The mechanics of the amendment are also a bit odd. It would allow the repeal of any federal law – from civil rights to health care – if two-thirds of the states say so. But that could mean that the 33 smallest states, which have 33 percent of the population, have the power to overrule the 17 largest states, which have 67 percent of the population.”
12.2 In Vanity Fair, Johnny Depp on what Disney executives thought of Captain Jack Sparrow: “”They couldn’t stand him. They just couldn’t stand him. I think it was Michael Eisner, the head of Disney at the time, who was quoted as saying, ‘He’s ruining the movie.’ Upper-echelon Disney-ites, going, What’s wrong with him? Is he, you know, like some kind of weird simpleton? Is he drunk? By the way, is he gay?… And so I actually told this woman who was the Disney-ite… ‘But didn’t you know that all my characters are gay?’ Which really made her nervous.”
12.2 Andrew Sullivan in The Atlantic: “Would arresting Julian Assange really put an end to Wikileaks or something like it? The point, surely, is that Assange is to Wikileaks as bin Laden is to al Qaeda or Mark Zuckerberg is to Facebook. The “culprit” is the Internet, and how it facilitates asymmetrical power and transparency and removes any individual’s responsibility for that transparency and asymmetry. No single editor or newspaper editor had to take the hit for this. No one could stop it. Even if every MSM outlet refused to publish these, the blogosphere would soon swarm over downloads which could be shifted from server to server. The only way to stop this is to ensure that no one in the entire government has access to non-top-secret info (impossible) or that government itself return to the days of carrier pigeons. This is our new reality. The character or crimes of Julian Assange are a red herring.”
12.1 Cara is accepted by the University of Kentucky. Go Wildcats!
12.1 Meeting with Mort Kunstler. Horrible rainstorm; zero visibility on the Throgs Neck Bridge. Mort, btw, was known as The King of Adventure because of the vivid illustrations he did for men’s adventure magazines in the sixties. This illustration was for a story called “The G.I. Tiger-Bandit of Saipan” for Male Magazine in February 1964.
11.29 Fareed Zakaria in The Washington Post: “We are fighting a crisis caused by excessive debt by encouraging excessive debt. Is that really the best way to get growth? The investment manager and guru Jeremy Grantham says no. In his latest quarterly letter, he points out that over the last generation, American government has created conditions that encouraged everyone to keep accumulating debt. But far from getting a bang, the country’s growth rate actually slowed down over that period. In fact, the effect of all this government-subsidized debt has been deeply destructive. It created asset bubbles in stocks, bonds, commodities and more. One stunning chart in his letter underscores the extent to which the Fed created what he calls “the first housing bubble in history,” meaning the first time that U.S. house prices rose dramatically across the board – and are now falling just as dramatically. Debt-fueled growth “is, in an important sense, not the real world,” Grantham writes. “In the real world, growth depends on real factors: the quality and quantity of education, work ethic, population profile, the quality and quantity of existing plant and equipment, business organization, the quality of public leadership (especially from the Fed in the U.S.), and the quality (not quantity) of existing regulations and the degree of enforcement.” This strikes me as the common-sense view of economics. We can push and pull fiscal and monetary policy all we want, but long-term growth depends on these broader and deeper factors.
11.29 Leslie Nielsen dies.
11.27 George Packer in The New Yorker: ““George W. Bush and the Redemptive Dream,” a new study by Dan P. McAdams, a psychology professor at Northwestern, argues that September 11th offered a geopolitical version of what the personal conversion experience had given Bush: a story of redemption and mission—in this case, one that could be extended to the country and the world. Nine days after the “day of fire,” Bush addressed a joint session of Congress: “In our grief and anger we have found our mission and our moment. . . . We will rally the world to this cause by our efforts, by our courage. We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail.” McAdams traces Bush’s resolve over the Iraq war to this “redemptive dream”: “Psychological research shows that powerful narratives in people’s lives make it nearly impossible, in many cases, to consider ideas, opinions, possibilities, and facts that run counter to the story.” By this interpretation, 9/11 shut and sealed the door to Presidential decision-making.”
11.26 President Obama gets elbowed in the mouth during a 5-on-5 basketball game at Fort McNair and requires 12 stitches to close the cut.
11.24 Lunch with Mark Reiter at Dolphin in Yonkers
11.24 The day after North Korea fired dozens of missiles into South Korea, killing two and injuring 12, Sarah Palin appeared on Glenn Beck‘s radio show and said “”Obviously, we’ve got to stand with our North Korean allies.” Obviously.
11.24 In The New York Daily News: “The nationwide poll released yesterday revealed 24% of people between the ages of 45 and 65 say that life between the sheets is anything but steamy. . . .[M]en and women in this age group have wildly different expectations of what they want in the bedroom. While 61% of men say sex is an important part of a healthy relationship, 53% of women say it doesn’t really matter, the poll found. . . .More people aged 66 and above reported being satisfied with sex than those half their age. Only 17% of elders were unhappy with their sex lives, while 20% of those aged 30-44 reported being dissatisfied.
11.24 Joe Posnanski on si.com: “I suspect before it’s all done, the Yankees offer Jeter something like three years, $51 million, Jeter holds a typically classy press conference where he says that he knows he’s getting older but he still thinks he has a lot to offer the Yankees, and everything is forgotten by Game 2, when Cliff Lee allows three hits in a breezy seven innings, and Jeter gets the 2,928th and 2,929th hits of his career. The ending here is as sure as the final scene of Richard Gere carrying off Debra Winger, or Richard Gere carrying off Julia Roberts, or Richard Gere … well, you know. Everything that happens between now and the inevitable ending is probably pointless.”
11.24 On The Laura Ingraham Show, Palin responds to Barbara Bush: “”I don’t want to concede that we have to get used to this kind of thing, because I don’t think the majority of Americans want to put up with the blue-bloods — and I want to say it will all due respect because I love the Bushes — the blue-bloods who want to pick and choose their winners instead of allowing competition.”
11.24 President Obama, as he pardoned two turkeys for Thanksgiving: “Can somebody explain to me what the whole wattle thing’s about?”
11.24 In The Washington Post, newly elected Republican Congressman Allen West of Florida says he is “even more focused that this liberal, progressive, socialist agenda, this left-wing, vile, vicious, despicable machine that’s out there is soundly brought to its knees.”
11.22 Barbara Bush to Larry King about Sarah Palin: “’I sat next to her once, thought she was beautiful. And I think she’s very happy in Alaska — and I hope she’ll stay there.”
11.19 Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post: “Everyone knows that the entire apparatus of the security line is a national homage to political correctness. Nowhere do more people meekly acquiesce to more useless inconvenience and needless indignity for less purpose. Wizened seniors strain to untie their shoes; beltless salesmen struggle comically to hold up their pants; 3-year-olds scream while being searched insanely for explosives – when everyone, everyone, knows that none of these people is a threat to anyone. The ultimate idiocy is the full-body screening of the pilot. The pilot doesn’t need a bomb or box cutter to bring down a plane. All he has to do is drive it into the water, like the EgyptAir pilot who crashed his plane off Nantucket while intoning “I rely on God,” killing all on board. But we must not bring that up. We pretend that we go through this nonsense as a small price paid to ensure the safety of air travel. Rubbish. This has nothing to do with safety – 95 percent of these inspections, searches, shoe removals and pat-downs are ridiculously unnecessary. The only reason we continue to do this is that people are too cowed to even question the absurd taboo against profiling – when the profile of the airline attacker is narrow, concrete, uniquely definable and universally known. So instead of seeking out terrorists, we seek out tubes of gel in stroller pouches.. . . .and pretend airline attackers are randomly distributed in the population.”
11.18 David Ignatius in The Washington Post: “It’s a strange populism that denounces Wall Street in one breath and, in the next, shouts down tax changes that would treat the financiers’ incomes like those of everyday folks. But that pro-billionaire version of populism seems to have won big in the midterm elections. And it probably means the demise of a congressional effort to strike down one of the most outrageous provisions of our messed-up tax code, which is the special treatment of “carried-interest” compensation that’s paid to many investment fund managers.This loophole is so unfair that it gets criticized even by some of the tycoons who have benefited from it, such as former Treasury secretary Robert Rubin and other prominent investors I’ve queried. Basically, it taxes the money paid to managers of private-equity funds and similar partnerships at 15 percent, as if it were risk capital, rather than at ordinary income rates of 35 percent. (I’m assuming that the neopopulist Congress will balk at letting that rate rise to its old, pre-Bush level of 38 percent.) As is so often the case with policies that benefit big business, the carried-interest break survives by invoking small business. It’s argued that if congressional reformers have their way, they will gut compensation for all the little mom-and-pop partnerships that depend on carried interest. (Not to mention the hard-pressed little guys who own oil partnerships.) . . . The Joint Committee on Taxation said treating most carried interest as ordinary income would raise $17.7 billion over 10 years, not small change for a country that needs to get serious about balancing the budget.
11.17 Sen. Lisa Murkowski becomes the first incumbent senator to win through a write-in campaign, beating the scruffy, thuggish Tea Party favorite Joe Miller. As entertaining as he would have been, it’s better when the extremists don’t win, and the special interests sow is returned.
11.17 George Romney’s portrait of Emma Hamilton
11.17 Steven Pearlstein in The Washington Post: “For too many Republicans, the aim is to politicize policy, trash the institutions of government and intimidate anyone who might disagree with their radical ideology. There’s no better proof of that than the so-called debate over extending the Bush tax cuts on incomes above $250,000. Unable to defend more tax cuts for the rich, Republicans like to pretend that their real concern is for job creation, citing the fact that about half of all business profits now flow through partnerships and small corporations that are taxed at personal rates. But look more closely at the argument and it turns out to be “largely bogus,” according to Eric Toder, a former Treasury and IRS official who now works at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. Very few of those businesses earn more than $250,000 in profit, and those that do tend to be very successful hedge funds and law firms that are flush with cash and unlikely to be dissuaded from hiring extra employees or make new investments because of a 4 percentage-point change in the marginal tax. Because most hiring and investment can be done with pre-tax dollars, Toder said, the tax rate is largely irrelevant to those decisions. That’s the micro view. The macro view, from the forecasting firm Macroeconomic Advisers of St. Louis, is that not extending tax cuts for high-income households would reduce gross domestic product growth by – drumroll here – two-tenths of one percent in each of the next two years. And the difference in the unemployment rate? A whopping one tenth of one percent! These inconvenient truths, however, are simply ignored by Republicans, who would have us all believe that extending upper-income tax cuts is the most crucial economic issue we face – not just this year but for all time.
11.14 Ted Koppel in The Washington Post: “The commercial success of both Fox News and MSNBC is a source of nonpartisan sadness for me. While I can appreciate the financial logic of drowning television viewers in a flood of opinions designed to confirm their own biases, the trend is not good for the republic. It is, though, the natural outcome of a growing sense of national entitlement. Daniel Patrick Moynihan‘s oft-quoted observation that “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts,” seems almost quaint in an environment that flaunts opinions as though they were facts. And so, among the many benefits we have come to believe the founding fathers intended for us, the latest is news we can choose. Beginning, perhaps, from the reasonable perspective that absolute objectivity is unattainable, Fox News and MSNBC no longer even attempt it. They show us the world not as it is, but as partisans (and loyal viewers) at either end of the political spectrum would like it to be. This is to journalism what Bernie Madoff was to investment: He told his customers what they wanted to hear, and by the time they learned the truth, their money was gone.”
11.14 Andrew Sullivan in The Atlantic: “This is the era of the Big Lie, in other words, and it translates into a lot of little lies – “death panels,” “out-of-control” spending, “apologies for America” etc. – designed to concoct a false narrative so simple and so familiar it actually succeeded in getting into people’s minds in the midst of a brutal recession. And integral to this process have been conservative “intellectuals” who should and do know better, but have long since sacrificed intellectual honesty for the cheap thrills of enabling power-grabs.”
11.13 At the San Diego airport, airline passenger John Tyner tells the TSA agent who was frisking him “If you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested.” This spawns a national catchphrase: “Don’t touch my junk.”
11.13 Burmese human rights activist Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been held under house arrest for seven years, has been released.
11.12 Rory Stewart, author, former soldier, humanitarian, adventurer, romantic, and Conservative member of Parliament, as quoted in The New Yorker: “If you cannot always do all that you pretend, perhaps you can do more than you fear.” I like the way this sounds, but I’m sure I don’t know what it means.
11.11 E.J. Dionne Jr. in the Washington Post: “Moderate Democrats would do better calling attention to how extreme and out of touch the conservative program actually is. Moderates should be more offended than anyone that the GOP’s ideological obsessions (health-care repeal, tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation) have little connection to solving the country’s problems, particularly the economic difficulties in the electorally pivotal Midwest. The best news for Democrats is that the Republicans’ fixation on repealing the health-care law will give its supporters a 10th inning – an unexpected second chance to win the struggle for public opinion. The most politically potent attack on the health-care effort was not on the plan itself. It was the argument that Democrats should have spent less time on this bill and more on job creation. Every moment the Republicans devote to destroying this year’s reform opens them up to exactly the same criticism. Moreover, reopening the health-care debate will allow the law’s supporters to defend its particulars. What, exactly, do the Republicans want to repeal? Tax breaks helping businesses cover their employees? Individual tax credits? (Yes, repealing the health bill would be a big tax increase.) Protections for people with pre-existing conditions or for adult children under age 26? Republicans are also showing who and what they really care about by their other big priority: making sure the Bush tax cuts are extended for the wealthy in the coming lame-duck congressional session that Democrats will still control. Even in this year’s very conservative electorate, only 18 percent said cutting taxes should be the next Congress’s highest priority. Only 40 percent said the Bush tax cuts should be extended for all, including the wealthy; 51 percent were opposed to this, including 36 percent who favored extending them only to those earning under $250,000 a year (Obama‘s position), and 15 percent who opposed extending them at all. Yes, the moderate, middle-of-the-road position is the one held by the president. Why sell it out?
11.10 Kathleen Parker in The Washington Post: “The overlay of social and Tea Party conservatism is everywhere becoming more defined, and Sarah Palin is the intersection of these two ideological sectors. Her own life is a human diorama of social conservative principles, and she is now strategically developing the part of her profile that earned her ridicule as a vice presidential candidate. Watching Palin drop foreign policy and economic nuggets into the twitterverse confirms that the real agenda for Palin is President Palin, and therein lies fresh terror for Republicans. She’s too powerful to ignore, and too (fill-in-the-blank) to take seriously. She is – in a word yet again whispered rather than uttered – “Dangerous.” Not only would Palin the presidential candidate drive away other Republican candidates, but she would most certainly lose a national election. Thus, the GOP finds itself in a pickle: How to shed itself of this attractive nuisance? The answer, alas, is the stuff of all complicated relationships: Can’t live with her, can’t live without her.
11.10 In the New York Daily News: “A study by the American Psychological Association found that New Yorkers are more stressed than most Americans over health issues, housing costs and personal safety. Seventy-five percent of Gothamites polled said economic worries are causing them stress – which is 10% higher than the rest of the country. Still, stress in the city has gone down overall since 2008 when the economy collapsed.”
11.10 Tony Karon in Time on President Obama‘s public endorsement of India receiving a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council: “India, don’t hold your breath. . . .Given the power that attaches to a permanent seat on the Security Council, then, it’s not hard to see why some of the incumbents are not exactly enthusiastic about sharing their status with anyone but their closest allies. . . . Washington is making no secret of the fact that it is promoting a greater strategic role for India, a democratic ally, in response to China’s growing regional ambitions. China may beg to differ — it is the only permanent member that has not publicly backed India’s claim — and it will certainly be encouraged to do so by its long-standing ally, Pakistan, which cites what it says are India’s continued violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions over Kashmir as grounds for exclusion. China has also opposed any move to elevate its old enemy, Japan, into permanent membership. Although Brazil’s efforts to join the permanent five were thought to have suffered in the U.S. and France as a result of its opposition, along with Turkey’s, to sanctions against Iran, Britain on Tuesday reiterated its support for Brazilian membership, expressly talking of strengthening its own ties with Latin America. And France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy, for similar reasons, is pressing for an African seat.”
11.8 Kim Kardashian appears in W, photographed by Mark Selinger, with an art treatment by Barbara Kruger.
11.8 Tony Judt in the Times: “The intellectual gangs of New York have folded their knives and gone home to the suburbs — or else they fight it out in academic departments to the utter indifference of the rest of humanity. The same, of course, is true of the self-referential squabbles of the cultural elites of Russia or Argentina. But that is one reason neither Moscow nor Buenos Aires matters on the world stage. New York intellectuals once did, but most of them have gone the way of Viennese cafe society: they have become a parody of themselves, their institutions and controversies of predominantly local concern. And yet, New York remains a world city. It is not the great American city — that will always be Chicago. New York sits at the edge: like Istanbul or Mumbai, it has a distinctive appeal that lies precisely in its cantankerous relationship to the metropolitan territory beyond. It looks outward, and is thus attractive to people who would not feel comfortable further inland. It has never been American in the way that Paris is French: New York has always been about something else as well.
11.8 Paul Krugman in the Times: `The real damage is being done by our domestic inflationistas — the people who have spent every step of our march toward Japan-style deflation warning about runaway inflation just around the corner. They’re doing it again — and they may already have succeeded in emasculating the Fed’s new policy. For the big concern about quantitative easing isn’t that it will do too much; it is that it will accomplish too little. Reasonable estimates suggest that the Fed’s new policy is unlikely to reduce interest rates enough to make more than a modest dent in unemployment. The only way the Fed might accomplish more is by changing expectations — specifically, by leading people to believe that we will have somewhat above-normal inflation over the next few years, which would reduce the incentive to sit on cash. The idea that higher inflation might help isn’t outlandish; it has been raised by many economists, some regional Fed presidents and the International Monetary Fund. But in the same remarks in which he defended his new policy, Mr. Bernanke — clearly trying to appease the inflationistas — vowed not to change the Fed’s price target: “I have rejected any notion that we are going to try to raise inflation to a super-normal level in order to have effects on the economy.” And there goes the best hope that the Fed’s plan might actually work. Think of it this way: Mr. Bernanke is getting the Obama treatment, and making the Obama response. He’s facing intense, knee-jerk opposition to his efforts to rescue the economy. In an effort to mute that criticism, he’s scaling back his plans in such a way as to guarantee that they’ll fail.”
11.7 Karen Tumulty and Dan Balz in the Washington Post: “President Obama‘s failure to channel the anxieties of ordinary voters has shaken the faith that many Democrats once had in his political gifts and his team’s political skill. In his own assessments of what went wrong, the president has lamented his inability to persuade voters on the merits of what he has done, and blamed the failure on his preoccupation with a full plate of crises. But a broad sample of Democratic officeholders and strategists said in interviews that the disconnect goes far deeper than that. “There doesn’t seem to be anybody in the White House who’s got any idea what it’s like to lie awake at night worried about money and worried about things slipping away,” said retiring Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D). “They’re all intellectually smart. They’ve got their numbers. But they don’t feel any of it, and I think people sense that.” Bredesen had voiced such reservations long before the election, but more Democrats are saying the same thing after Tuesday’s defeats – although few are willing to cross the White House by doing so publicly. Obama “is not Bill Clinton in the sense that he’s not an extrovert. He doesn’t gain energy by connecting with people,” said a Democratic strategist, who worked in the Clinton White House and asked not to be named while offering a candid criticism. “He needs to be forced to do it, either by self-discipline or others. There’s no one around him who will do that. They accommodate him, and that is a bad thing.” William A. Galston, a Clinton White House policy adviser who is now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said the midterm election revealed what had always been a “missing middle” to the Obama campaign message. “Hope is a sentiment, not a strategy, and quickly loses credibility without a road map,” Galston wrote in a paper released two days after the election. “Throughout his first two years in office, President Obama often struggled to connect individual initiatives to larger purposes.”
11.6 Willaim Saletan in Slate: “If health care did cost the [Democrats] its majority, so what? The bill was more important than the election. . . .A party that loses a House seat can win it back two years later, as Republicans just proved. But a party that loses a legislative fight against a middle-class health care entitlement never restores the old order. Pretty soon, Republicans will be claiming the program as their own. Indeed, one of their favorite arguments against this year’s health care bill was that it would cut funding for Medicare. Now they’re pledging to rescind those cuts. In 30 years, they’ll be accusing Democrats of defunding Obamacare. Most bills aren’t more important than elections. This one was. Take it from Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader. Yesterday, in his election victory speech at the Heritage Foundation, he declared, “Health care was the worst piece of legislation that’s passed during my time in the Senate.” McConnell has been in the Senate for 26 years. He understands the bill’s significance: It’s a huge structural change in the relationship between the public, the economy, and the government. Politicians have tried and failed for decades to enact universal health care. This time, they succeeded. In 2008, Democrats won the presidency and both houses of Congress, and by the thinnest of margins, they rammed a bill through. They weren’t going to get another opportunity for a very long time. It cost them their majority, and it was worth it. . . .Will Republicans revisit health care? Sure. Will they enact some changes to the program? Yes, and Democrats will help them. Every program needs revisions. Republicans will get other things, too: business tax breaks, education reform, more nuclear power, and a crackdown on earmarks. These are issues on which both parties can agree. Which is why, if you’re a Democrat, you deal with them after you’ve lost your majority—not before. It’s funny, in a twisted way, to read all the post-election complaints that Democrats lost because they thought only of themselves. Even the chief operating officer of the party’s leading think tank, the Center for American Progress, says Obama failed to convince Americans “that he knows their jobs are as important as his.” That’s too bad, because Obama, Pelosi, and their congressional allies proved just the opposite. They risked their jobs—and in many cases lost them—to pass the health care bill. . . .But Democrats didn’t lose the most important battle of 2010. They won it.”
11.5 Steve Kroft interviews President Obama on 60 Minutes. Kroft: “There is this feeling, Particularly among people who are among your most ardent supporters, who feel a little disappointed that they think that you’ve lost your mojo. That you’ve lost your ability, that touch you had during the campaign, to inspire and lead. Everybody in Washington writes about a sort of aloofness that you have. How do you respond to that?” Obama: “You know, I think that over the course of two years we were so busy and so focused on getting a bunch of stuff done that we stopped paying attention to the fact that leadership isn’t just legislation. That it’s a matter of persuading people. And giving them confidence and bringing them together. And setting a tone. And making an argument that people can understand. And I think that we haven’t always been successful at that. And I take personal responsibility for that. And it’s something that I’ve got to examine carefully as I go forward.”
11.5 Reports ABC: “A government report shows that the nation’s employers increased their payrolls by 151,000 during October, significantly better than the +60K economists were expecting. This marks the first month since May where the nation has seen headline jobs gain. When one takes out the jobs loss that came from the government sector (the Federal, state and local government’s laid off 8K workers), one sees private sector companies adding 159K workers during October. Expectations were that the private sector would add 60K.”
11.4 The odious Tom DeLay, in an interview with Brian Ross of ABC News, offers advice to fellow Republicans: “”They need to be more aggressive at turning back the Obama agenda and repealing the agenda. In fact, what I would do differently than we did when we took over in 1995 is I would have at least one week a month as a repeal session. So members could come in and repeal government — repeal the bad things in government, and spend all week repealing bad laws.”
11.3 Simon Johnson on The Baseline Scenario: “The President needs to find people and themes capable of cutting across the political spectrum; specifically he needs to promote strongly the ideas of Elizabeth Warren – what we need in financial services, above all else, is much more transparency. The premise – and central mistake – of the Obama administration in 2009-10 can be summed up in what the president said to leading bankers on that fateful day, March 27, 2009: “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks”. The organizing notion then, provided by Larry Summers and presumably Tim Geithner, was that the “responsible” administration would protect global megabanks from “dangerous” populists, in return for cooperation and better behavior. This kid gloves strategy turned out to be a very bad bet. . . [T]he White House also should have. . . stress[ed] at every turn Professor Warren’s central idea, the need to protect families from opaque small print and deceptive practices. . . . In effect, this is applying the best idea from the 1930s reforms (when it was applied to securities and other investments) to mortgages and credit cards. In the 1920s, there were terrible abuses of consumers around the investments that they were sold. In the 2000s, the abuses were concentrated on the liabilities side of the consumers’ balance sheet, i.e., on what they borrowed; again these were egregious abuses. This is the key point that Ms. Warren communicates effectively time and again – and to very broad audiences (including CEOs, in her effective no-drama style). The nonfinancial private sector completely gets and understands this point; if you sold boxed cereal in the same way that financial services have been sold (by some people), you would be kicked out of the boxed cereal business – by your industry colleagues. The financial sector, unfortunately, has lost its moral compass and ability to police itself. The right approach is to require full disclosure of all material information – just as we do for the securities industry. It’s not perfect, to be sure, but it has served us well for going on 80 years.”
11.3 Eliot Spitzer in Slate: “President Obama lost his capacity to harness the support of the disaffected middle when he enhanced the bailout of Wall Street without getting anything meaningful in return. That was the emotional Rubicon for this administration. Had the bailout been accompanied by fundamental reform, genuine contrition, and actual pounds of flesh, the public might have accepted it. But when the banks, in the midst of the foreclosure morass and economic disaster, returned to the same old bonus behavior, the public sensed one thing: betrayal. The president had become one of “them,” and the space for the Tea Party to capture the anxiety of the middle was created. Franklin Roosevelt never would have let it play out this way. He would have raked the Wall Street titans over the coals, demanded that all bonuses be returned, and forced real reform on them. Compare the president’s meek statement to Wall Street: We are all in this together. The president ended up getting the worst of all possible bargains. He gave Wall Street what they wanted yet got their enmity. He evoked taxpayer ire by making taxpayers pay for Wall Street excess, yet didn’t align himself with the taxpayer emotionally.”
11.3 E.J. Dionne Jr. in The Washington Post: “Obama was not wrong to fight for health care, to stimulate the economy when it was in deep peril, or to push for financial reform. But by failing to defend these achievements, the president and his allies opened the way for partisan critics, who shifted the conversation to airy language about “big government” and “bailouts.” One result: Only a third of Tuesday’s electorate, exit polls indicated, thought the stimulus had made the economy better. Now Obama needs to offer proposals that advance the common interest and progressive ideals in ways that force Republicans to pay a price for opposing them. The economy still needs far more support, and Obama should take up the old Republican idea of revenue-sharing by offering states large-scale assistance to prevent layoffs and tax increases. This would be welcomed by the many new Republican governors. Will congressional Republicans really want to pick a fight with them? Obama should also push forward with an infrastructure bank, which has bipartisan support. There is no better time to rebuild our nation’s crumbling public facilities than when borrowing is cheap. And he should address the decline of American manufacturing, a prime cause of the discontent that roils the Midwest.”
11.2 John Fund in The Wall Street Journal: “A new AP poll reports that 51% of Americans now think President Obama doesn’t deserve re-election. More surprising, 47% of Democrats believe he should face a challenge for the party’s nomination in 2012. . . .Key donors have told the White House that the president should decide for certain whether he’s running for re-election by the end of December. Should Mr. Obama’s approval ratings slip further next year, there’s talk that some donors may call on him not to run, or promote an independent candidacy by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It could go further. Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told MSNBC in July that a primary challenge to Mr. Obama “is really possible,” especially if he were to go back on his pledge to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan next year. A disgruntled peace candidate such as former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold or Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich could find the prospect of rallying disgruntled leftists too tempting to resist. All three men forswear any interest in challenging Mr. Obama, yet it’s noteworthy that Mr. Dean is stepping up his speaking schedule around the country after the election. Mr. Dean blames Republicans for blindly opposing the president but says Democrats have some responsibility for voter anger. “There was a misunderstanding of the kind of change people wanted,” he told the AP last month. “Democrats wanted policy change. Independents and Republicans wanted to change the way business was done in Washington, and that really hasn’t happened.”
11.2 Richard Cohen in The Washington Post: “Palin‘s Sunday performance was instructive. This was the show in which she said that the CBS affiliate in Anchorage, KTVA, is staffed by “corrupt bastards.” This demure protest from the Evita of the North was a response to a tape in which the station’s staffers were overheard saying they would look for a child molester at a campaign stop for senatorial candidate Joe Miller, whom Palin endorsed. “You know that of all the people that will show up tonight, at least one of them will be a registered sex offender,” one of the staffers said. Case closed. But hold on. How do you find a sex offender in a crowd? Do you go from person to person asking, “S’cuse me, but are you a sex offender?” Because if that is not done, then I can’t see how you can ever find one. Do sex offenders wear special uniforms? No. It’s obvious then that these staffers were joking – playing into the Palin stereotype of them as liberal hacks who would do anything to destroy her. This is what she believes and she recited the story with such obvious conviction that when she ended with the “corrupt bastards” tag, it seemed downright appropriate. The fierce stupidity of this woman is hard to comprehend. It is the well from which she draws her political sustenance. It explains why she did not pause to wonder about the tape and the sheer impracticality of finding a sex offender in a crowd. This sincerity, uncomplicated by any sophistication whatsoever, is what fuels her considerable charisma. The fact that KTVA is only a CBS affiliate and the staffers not CBS employees did not give Palin pause. To her, this was Katie Couric‘s CBS, the network she thinks so unfairly skewered her by asking, for instance, what newspapers she reads. It’s all a seamless conspiracy of them – they and them and those and them and all those elites who . . . she’ll show ‘em.”
11.2 Matt Bai in The New York Times: “The impact of the anti-incumbency wave of 2010 — if, in fact, it materializes in the way polls would indicate — will be judged in the next few days by the number of seats that change hands in Washington and in statehouses across the country. In the longer term, though, the importance of any wave election isn’t only about the sheer number of seats gained and lost, but also about when the wave hits — or, more specifically, where it falls in the economic cycles of the country. And if you look at it that way, history suggests that the expected big bang of 2010 may well end up reverberating loudly through our politics for a long time to come. That’s because, in the years ahead, the country might well experience the kind of economic recovery that the White House had hoped would take hold in time for this year’s elections. This isn’t a sure thing, by any means; some economists are still predicting a long period of Japanese-style stagnation. But most Washington observers seem to be betting on the kind of upturn that’s more evident to voters. And it’s the politicians who catch the political wave at such fortunate economic moments — particularly governors who get themselves elected during hard times and then preside over the upswing — who tend to establish themselves as folk heroes and turnaround experts, rising to national prominence not just because of their policies but also because of their timing. Which could be very good news for some Republicans like John Kasich, who may yet become Ohio’s next governor, or for an unknown like Nikki Haley, who stands to win in South Carolina. It isn’t just governors, of course, who can benefit from good timing. Should Republicans take control of one or both chambers of Congress, an improving economy in the next several years could bolster the profiles and credibility of some of the party’s younger leaders and their more innovative ideas. But governors have a particular ability to capitalize on a turn in the economic cycle. Go back to 1982, when Republican incumbents, still mired in the economic slump that catapulted Ronald Reagan to the presidency two years earlier, suffered a stinging defeat at the polls, if not quite the massive wave they had feared. Democrats picked up a net gain of seven governors’ seats that year. Among the winners were two former governors who had been turned out of office before: Michael S. Dukakis and Bill Clinton.
11.2 Ylan Q. Mui and Jia Lynn Yang in The Washington Post: “Republicans have a message for the businesses that worked closely with the Obama administration over the past two years on key controversial issues: We won’t forget. Take the case of Wal-Mart, the behemoth big-box retailer that liberals have long loved to hate. Several years ago, it began to break ranks with industry groups by speaking out in favor of an increase to the minimum wage and health-care reform. And, for the first time in its history, it gave more money to Democrats than the GOP for Tuesday’s elections. The corporation’s moves caught the eye of Republican Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan. During a phone call with company lobbyists last year during the fight over the health-care bill, Camp bluntly reminded Wal-Mart of its unpalatable position on the issue, according to sources familiar with the conversation. Now, Wal-Mart’s political team finds itself in an awkward position. Camp is poised to become the next chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Companies that worked with the Democrats over the past two years would face a far less sympathetic audience from Republicans, who are expected to make significant gains in the midterm elections. If they gain control of Congress, party leaders have pledged to revisit the health-care bill and lower taxes for businesses. “Some businesses joined in on the hang-me-last strategy,” said Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.). “I think upon reflection, in moments of candor, they may say they were foolish to do that.””
11.1 James Kwak of The Baseline Scenario, in an interview on The Straddler: “Middle class wages have been declining for ten years and stagnant for thirty years, and if you have a financial system that allows people making $15,000 a year to take out $400,000 mortgages, I don’t think that’s the fault of the guy making $15,000. I think it’s the fault of the financial system. But, let’s say I’m a guy who makes $15,000 a year. I realize, wow, I can get a $400,000 mortgage and I can live in this house for a few years, and if housing prices go up, I can flip it and I can actually make a couple hundred thousand dollars. And let’s say I’m really clever, and I say, if housing prices go down, I’ll just walk away and I will have gotten to live in a really nice house for three years at no cost to myself. I mean, that’s the worst, most cynical spin you can put on it, right? But this is exactly what people on Wall Street do. The person who is criticizing the janitor for doing this is the same person who thinks that businesses should exploit every legal opportunity to make profits. So even if you attribute the worst possible state of mind to the guy making $15,000, he’s still just doing what any businessman should do under the circumstances. But our national ideology somehow doesn’t allow us to think about it in those terms.”
11.1 Simon Johnson on The Baseline Scenario: “Should we take seriously people who, in the current US political debate, argue that they are “fiscal conservatives”? No. These self-labeled conservatives are very far from even being willing to discuss the real issues – let alone make proposals that would have significant effects. . . . US “fiscal hawks” are just pretending. Perhaps this will prove effective in the midterm elections, but then they will face the music – what exactly will they put on the table that will make any difference at all? Unless and until you are ready to really reform the financial sector, you cannot be taken seriously in the fiscal space. It’s the big banks that blew up the economy, caused a devestating recession, and pushed up debt by 40 (forty) percentage points relative to GDP. None of today’s “fiscal conservatives” showed up to work hard on constraining global megabanks over the past 18 months. They have repeatedly and explicitly earned the right not to be taken seriously.”
11.1 Accomplishing what Willie Mays, WIllie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry, Felipe Alou, The Count of Montefusco, Bobby Bonds, Atlee Hammacker, Jeff Leonard, Barry Bonds and Will The Thrill Clark never could, the San Francisco Giants of Tim Lincecum, Edgar Renteria and Aubrey Huff won the World Series.,
10.30 From the Washington Post: “Two packages mailed from Yemen and addressed to synagogues in Chicago contained explosive material and represented a “credible terrorist threat,” President Obama said Friday, as authorities focused their investigation on an increasingly lethal affiliate of al-Qaeda. U.S. counterterrorism officials suspect that the packages, which were intercepted in Britain and Dubai, were sent by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which had already demonstrated a flair for sophisticated bombmaking in an attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day. . . .The two packages were intercepted at separate locations, one on a UPS plane at East Midlands Airport near Nottingham, England, and the other at a FedEx facility in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. Officials provided no details on the kind of explosives found, but they said they were looking at the possibility that the substance used was PETN, the same explosive used in the Christmas Day plot. A U.S. official said the search for the devices was triggered by a “tip from a very close ally of the United States.” The tip was relayed to U.S. authorities Thursday and contained “very specific information” about devices in packages being shipped to the United States from Yemen, the official said.”
10.29 Chris Evans will play Captain America, with a premiere in July 2011
10.29 Karen Tumulty in The Washington Post: “Newt Gingrich looks an awful lot like a man who is running for president. The former speaker, who flirted with the idea in the past, is less coy about it this time. Gingrich says he won’t make an official announcement until early next year. But he notes that he is already “transitioning” his four businesses so that they don’t become political impediments. The remaining question, Gingrich said in an interview, is “whether or not it is practical, which I increasingly think it is.”
10.29 David Corn on Politics Daily: “As the Obama administration heads into its second half — and braces for what will be a tougher slog in Washington — Elizabeth Warren stands as something of a test for the president. She symbolizes an economic approach different from what the White House has embraced: a middle-class populism that targets the big banks and financial firms for preying on consumers and that seeks to hold these companies accountable for the greed and excesses that precipitated the economic catastrophe that hit the nation. Certainly, the president at times — especially recently on the campaign trail — has pumped up the populist volume. But the main economic pitchmen for the first two years of his presidency have been Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner, who don’t exude an “I’m on your side” sentiment. That’s what Warren does so well. She talks economics in real-people terms and comes across as caring more about families than abstract markets, though she clearly understands the connection between the two. As Obama considers his post-election policy and political strategies, he will have to ponder whether to continue to center his economic policies in the conventional world of Summers and Geithner (even though Summers is departing the White House). There is another option: Take true and obvious steps toward a more populist stance and make full use of Warren and her ability to deliver a “we get it” message.
10.28 Matt Millerin The Washington Post: “The economy Obama inherited and has tried imperfectly to fix is now not so deep a calamity that everyone feels impelled to rally around their president. Instead, it’s just awful enough for everyone to feel Obama has failed. . . .The American people in their wisdom are about to punish a party they’re furious with by giving more power to a party they can’t stand. Talk about a pathetic set of options. Economic anxiety that fuels disgust with both parties is the seminal political fact of our time, but it will be ignored by Washington in the orgies of ecstasy and despair we’ll soon witness. Republicans will be blind in victory, Democrats blind in defeat. For the next two years we’ll thus be ruled by the blind fighting the blind. Psychologists talk about a phenomenon called “confirmation bias” to describe our tendency to process information or interpret events in ways that confirm what we already think. While the Darwinian survival value of this instinct may not be obvious, it explains virtually everything we’re hearing from both parties. Take the GOP. So long as they ignore their own approval ratings, Republicans feel they’re on the threshold of a satisfying vindication as the public revolts against Obama’s socialist overreach. How this indictment can be offered with a straight face is a mystery, when Obama’s chief lefty sins seem to be (1) a stimulus on a scale that former Reagan adviser Martin Feldstein and other Republican economists thought was necessary, and (2) enacting Romneycare for the masses. But who can fathom the Republican mind? If Republicans are happily deluded, however, Democrats are fatally condescending. In the Democrats’ eyes, their coming setback is proof of little more than the public’s plodding failure to understand all that’s been done for them. To be sure, there’s truth in their complaint that the White House didn’t fight the PR wars well (Exhibit A is Romneycare being successfully and ludicrously branded as socialism). But far bigger than the Democrats’ communications problem is their reality problem. You want to shake Democrats and scream: “No, no, it’s not that – it’s that unemployment is still near 10 percent, trillions are being added to the debt with no plan to stem the tide, plus you designed health reform so that no one would feel any real benefits for years.” Oh, and, by the way: “Not a single banker who walked away rich while destroying his or her firm, wrecking the economy and leaving taxpayers with the bill has gone to jail or been forced to give back the ill-gotten gains. And despite ‘reform,’ Wall Street is still free to operate like a casino.” In this context, “Hey, but it could’ve been a depression,” was never going to be a winner.”
10.28 David Broder in The Washington Post: “The size of the Republican gain will be exaggerated by the severity of the party’s losses in the preceding elections. Republicans will pick up many seats in the House, perhaps 50 or so, because they lost so many in 2006 and 2008. . . . [But] it appears increasingly likely that Republicans will have to share control of Congress with a Democratic Senate. For the first time in eight decades, a shift in control of the House may not be accompanied by a similar shift in the Senate. The mandate likely to be given the GOP is of the most provisional sort. What this means to me is that the voters are withholding any real verdict on their party preference. The polling says that the ratings they give the parties individually have rarely been weaker. Large majorities of Republicans express doubts about the GOP. As do large majorities of Democrats about their own party. Why the suspended judgment? Just look at the landscape. Neither party can claim success on the most urgent task, providing an economic blueprint that allows people to lead their lives with confidence. The stewardship of George W. Bush and the Republicans was a disaster. The Democrats and Barack Obama have been only marginally more successful. Who in either party has put forward explanations of economic forces that make sense to most voters? No one. The steadiest voice has come from an unelected official, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. And the bearded academic is hardly a pop figure.”
10.27 In the Times, Thomas L. Friedman on the midterm elections: “Let’s have more tax cuts, unlinked to any specific spending cuts and while we’re still fighting two wars — because that worked so well during the Bush years. . . .Let’s immediately cut government spending, instead of phasing cuts in gradually, while we’re still mired in a recession — because that worked so well in the Great Depression. Let’s roll back financial regulation — because we’ve learned from experience that Wall Street can police itself and average Americans will never have to bail it out. Let’s have no limits on corporate campaign spending so oil and coal companies can more easily and anonymously strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its powers to limit pollution in the air our kids breathe. Let’s discriminate against gays and lesbians who want to join the military and fight for their country. Let’s restrict immigration, because, after all, we don’t live in a world where America’s most important competitive advantage is its ability to attract the world’s best brains. Let’s repeal our limited health care reform rather than see what works and then fix it. Let’s oppose the free-trade system that made us rich. Let’s kowtow even more to public service unions so they’ll make even more money than private sector workers, so they’ll give even more money to Democrats who will give them even more generous pensions. . . .Let’s pay for more tax cuts by uncovering waste I can’t identify, fraud I haven’t found and abuse that I’ll get back to you on later. All that’s missing is any realistic diagnosis of where we are as a country and what we need to get back to sustainable growth.”
10.27 From The Washington Post: “The Rand Paul campaign volunteer who stepped on the head of a liberal activist after she had been wrestled to the ground outside a debate said Wednesday that the incident has been blown out of proportion and that the activist owes him an apology. “She’s a professional at what she does,” Tim Profitt, who was fired Tuesday from Paul’s Senate campaign, said in an interview with local television station WKYT. “When all the facts come out people will see that she’s the one who initiated the whole thing.” Profitt acknowledged that “I put my foot on her and I did push her down” as she attempted to confront Paul outside a debate Monday night but said, “I would like for her to apologize to me to be honest with you.” He said he believed the activist, 23-year-old Lauren Valle, posed a danger to Paul, a Kentucky Republican and darling of the tea party movement.
10.26 Quote from Ken Buck, the Republican nominee for Senate from Colorado: “I disagree strongly with the concept of separation of church and state. It was not written into the Constitution. While we have a Constitution that is very strong in the sense that we are not going to have a religion that’s sanctioned by the government, it doesn’t mean that we need to have a separation between government and religion. And so that, that concerns me a great deal.”
10.25 In the Times, Michiko Kakutani reviews Life, by Keith Richards: “For legions of Rolling Stones fans, Keith Richards is not only the heart and soul of the world’s greatest rock ’n’ roll band, he’s also the very avatar of rebellion: the desperado, the buccaneer, the poète maudit, the soul survivor and main offender, the torn and frayed outlaw, and the coolest dude on the planet, named both No. 1 on the rock stars most-likely-to-die list and the one life form (besides the cockroach) capable of surviving nuclear war. Halfway through his electrifying new memoir, Life, Keith Richards writes about the consequences of fame: the nearly complete loss of privacy and the weirdness of being mythologized by fans as a sort of folk-hero renegade. “I can’t untie the threads of how much I played up to the part that was written for me,” he says. “I mean the skull ring and the broken tooth and the kohl. Is it half and half? I think in a way your persona, your image, as it used to be known, is like a ball and chain. People think I’m still a goddamn junkie. It’s 30 years since I gave up the dope! Image is like a long shadow. Even when the sun goes down, you can see it.”
10.24 Frank Rich in the Times: “No matter how much Obama talks about his “tough” new financial regulatory reforms or offers rote condemnations of Wall Street greed, few believe there’s been real change. That’s not just because so many have lost their jobs, their savings and their homes. It’s also because so many know that the loftiest perpetrators of this national devastation got get-out-of-jail-free cards, that too-big-to-fail banks have grown bigger and that the rich are still the only Americans getting richer. This intractable status quo is being rubbed in our faces daily during the pre-election sprint by revelations of the latest banking industry outrage, its disregard for the rule of law as it cut every corner to process an avalanche of foreclosures. Clearly, these financial institutions have learned nothing in the few years since their contempt for fiscal and legal niceties led them to peddle these predatory mortgages (and the reckless financial “products” concocted from them) in the first place. And why should they have learned anything? They’ve often been rewarded, not punished, for bad behavior. The latest example is Angelo Mozilo, the former chief executive of Countrywide and the godfather of subprime mortgages. On the eve of his trial 10 days ago, he settled Securities and Exchange Commission charges for $67.5 million, $20 million of which will be footed by what remains of Countrywide in its present iteration at Bank of America. Even if he paid the whole sum himself, it would still be a small fraction of the $521 million he collected in compensation as he pursued his gambling spree from 2000 until 2008. A particularly egregious chunk of that take was the $140 million he pocketed by dumping Countrywide shares in 2006-7. It was a chapter right out of Kenneth Lay’s Enron playbook: Mozilo reassured shareholders that all was peachy even as his private e-mail was awash in panic over the “toxic” mortgages bringing Countrywide (and the country) to ruin. Lay, at least, was convicted by a jury and destined to decades in the slammer before his death.”
10.22: Alex Anderson, the creator of Rocky and Bullwinkle, dies at the age of 90.
10.22 Yanks eliminated by Texas. They never had the pitching.
10.22 Paul Krugman in the Times: “The British government’s plan is bold, say the pundits — and so it is. But it boldly goes in exactly the wrong direction. It would cut government employment by 490,000 workers. . .at a time when the private sector is in no position to provide alternative employment. It would slash spending at a time when private demand isn’t at all ready to take up the slack. Why is the British government doing this? The real reason has a lot to do with ideology: the Tories are using the deficit as an excuse to downsize the welfare state. But the official rationale is that there is no alternative. Indeed, there has been a noticeable change in the rhetoric of the government of Prime Minister David Cameron over the past few weeks — a shift from hope to fear. . . .Never mind that British debt as a percentage of national income is actually below its historical average; never mind that British interest rates stayed low even as the nation’s budget deficit soared, reflecting the belief of investors that the country can and will get its finances under control. Britain, declared Mr. Osborne, was on the “brink of bankruptcy.” What happens now? Maybe Britain will get lucky, and something will come along to rescue the economy. But the best guess is that Britain in 2011 will look like Britain in 1931, or the United States in 1937, or Japan in 1997.”
10.22 From a Washington Post article, quotes from Bill Clinton on the campaign trail for Democrats, here for Patty Murray: “”To hear the Republicans tell it, from the second President Obama took his hand off the Bible taking the oath of office, everything that happened after that was his fault. I’d like to see any of you get behind a locomotive going straight downhill at 200 miles an hour and stop it in 10 seconds. . . .Look, folks, I’ve seen this movie before, in 1994. I called the president the other day, and I said: ‘Relax. They haven’t said anything about you they didn’t say about me. The only reason they’re being nice to me right now is because I can’t run for anything any more.’ . . . [The Republicans are saying] `I know you’re angry. I know you’re scared. So let’s make this a referendum on everything that’s bothering you about life right now – take everything that’s not working right now and put Patty Murray’s face on it and make it a referendum.’ It is not a referendum. It. Is. A. Choice–a choice between two different sets of ideas. Keep on being mad. But concentrate your anger so that it clarifies your judgment instead of clouding it. . . . The worst thing you can do right now is bring back the shovel brigade to start digging the hole again.”
10.22 On The O’Reilly Factor, Juan Williams said “”But when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they’re identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.” This prompts NPR to fire him, saying that this was latest in a “pattern of commentaries” that violated the news organization’s guidelines. NPR says they have repeatedly told Williams that some of his statements on Fox violate NPR’s ground rules for its news analysts. The rules ban NPR analysts from making speculative statements or rendering opinions on TV that would be deemed unacceptable if uttered on an NPR program, including making personal attacks or statements that negatively characterize broad groups of people, such as Muslims. “When an analyst states personal opinions on an issue, our feeling is they have undermined their credibility as an analyst.” Fox News then awarded Williams a new multiyear contract worth nearly $2 million that will expand his role on the cable news channel and its Web site. “Juan is an honest man whose freedom of speech is protected by Fox News on a daily basis,” said Roger Ailes.
10.21 Jesse Drucker on Bloomberg News: “Google Inc. cut its taxes by $3.1 billion in the last three years using a technique that moves most of its foreign profits through Ireland and the Netherlands to Bermuda. Google’s income shifting — involving strategies known to lawyers as the “Double Irish” and the “Dutch Sandwich” — helped reduce its overseas tax rate to 2.4 percent. . . .“It’s remarkable that Google’s effective rate is that low,” said Martin A. Sullivan, a tax economist who formerly worked for the U.S. Treasury Department. “We know this company operates throughout the world mostly in high-tax countries where the average corporate rate is well over 20 percent.” The U.S. corporate income-tax rate is 35 percent. In the U.K., Google’s second-biggest market by revenue, it’s 28 percent. Google, the third-largest U.S. technology company by market capitalization, hasn’t been accused of breaking tax laws. . . .The tactics of Google and Facebook depend on “transfer pricing,” paper transactions among corporate subsidiaries that allow for allocating income to tax havens while attributing expenses to higher-tax countries. Such income shifting costs the U.S. government as much as $60 billion in annual revenue. . . .Based on a rough analysis, if the company paid taxes at the 35 percent rate on all its earnings, its share price [which closed yesterday at $607.98] might be reduced by about $100. . . .The company, which tells employees “don’t be evil” in its code of conduct, has cut its effective tax rate abroad more than its peers in the technology sector; [Apple Inc., Microsoft, IBM and Oracle] reported rates that ranged between 4.5 percent and 25.8 percent for 2007 through 2009. Google is “flying a banner of doing no evil, and then they’re perpetrating evil under our noses,” said Abraham J. Briloff, a professor emeritus of accounting at Baruch College. “Who is it that paid for the underlying concept on which they built these billions of dollars of revenues? It was paid for by the United States citizenry.”
10.22 Anthony Faiola in The Washington Post: “The new Conservative-led coalition headed by Prime Minister David Cameron announced cuts deeper than the ones made by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, outlining a plan to eliminate half a million government jobs, slash welfare benefits and reduce $131 billion worth of other public spending on everything from fighter jets to social security to the arts by 2015. . . .In the aftermath of the financial crisis — with collapsing tax revenue and soaring stimulus spending — the budget deficit here is one of the highest in the industrialized world, standing at 11.5 percent of economic output, or slightly higher than in the United States. Now, budget cuts are set to yank billions out of the British economy, costing jobs that may not be offset by the private sector and potentially stalling the still-fragile economic recovery. . . .evertheless, British officials have decided that a potential loss of market confidence and the weight of the debt on the economy and the British pound are now the greater threat. “Today is the day when Britain steps back from the brink, when we confront the bills of a decade of debt,” George Osborne, the chancellor of the exchequer, or Britain’s treasury secretary, declared before Parliament on Wednesday. . . .[The] British, unlike their peers in continental Europe, appear culturally more willing to cope with what Cameron has dubbed a new “age of austerity,” with polls showing almost twice as many Britons supporting deep debt reduction as opposing it. . . .Rodney Barker, a professor of government at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said Britain was unlikely to face crippling industrial strikes like the ones that erupted during Thatcher’s crusade to shrink government and break the unions in the 1980s. “Most trade unionists realize that old-fashioned protest is counterproductive,” Barker said. But he warned of a current of public anger spreading from other groups, including middle-class families and single parents hit by the government’s decision to scrap child benefits for anyone earning more than $70,000 a year. A far greater risk, economists say, is that Britain might find itself in a situation similar to that in neighboring Ireland, where a year-old attempt to impose deep budget cuts has quashed consumer sentiment and plunged the economy back into negative territory. “The government is taking a big gamble,” said Paola Subacchi, an international economics expert at Chatham House, a London-based think tank. “It is asking the nation to tighten its belts for a number of years in order to find a new path to prosperity. But if you don’t get it right, you might implode growth, and it’s a disaster.”
10.21 According to The Washington Post and other papers, Virginia Thomas, wife of Clarence Thomas, left the following message on the voice mail of Anita Hill‘s phone at Brandeis University. “”Good morning Anita Hill, it’s Ginni Thomas. I just want to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometimes and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband. So give it some thought. And certainly pray about this and hope that one day you will help us understand why you did what you did. Okay, have a good day.” Hill gave the voice mail to campus police, who turned it over to the FBI. In a statement released by her publicist, Ginni Thomas said her call to Hill was an effort to extend “an olive branch to her after all these years, in hopes that we could ultimately get past what happened so long ago.”
10.20 Noreen Malone in Slate: “In case you’re not the sort of reader who clicks on links headlined “At Least One Candidate for Congress Has Fellated a Reindeer Nose”: Krystal Ball is a 28-year-old Virginia Democrat running for Congress in a very Republican district. She found herself suddenly in the national spotlight when a right-wing blog published six- or seven-year-old photos of Ball dressed as sexy Santa, performing the aforementioned act on a dildo affixed to her antler-wearing then-husband’s nose. National sites like Gawker racked up hundreds of thousands of pageviews by republishing the photos. That, combined with her seriously? name quickly made Ball a punch line. But instead of backing away red-faced, Ball took umbrage: She fired back with a statement that was not only unapologetic but defiant. Soon it morphed into a manifesto of Facebook-generation feminism: “Society has to accept that women of my generation have sexual lives that are going to leak into the public sphere. Sooner or later, this is a reality that has to be faced, or many young women in my generation will not be able to run for office.” As for the photos, she finds them “tremendously embarrassing, but mostly because I’m shy, not because I think that what I did was wrong.” Millennial [bloggers]. . .were indeed enthused. One 26-year-old I know went so far as to breathlessly compare the statement to Obama’s 2008 speech on race. But what’s most interesting about Ball is something that might not endear her to the left. She admires Sarah Palin—maybe not her policy views, but her nervy willingness to run as a mother of young children, and her unapologetic folksiness. And in a way, she has modeled herself after Palin. In her wholehearted embrace of femininity, her sense of entitlement, her bold jump to the front of the line, Ball may be the left’s answer to Sarah Palin.
10.20 Sabathia bears down, Yanks slug, Rangers lose focus. Result, Yanks close gap to three games to two, and head back to Texas.
10.20 Dana Milbank in The Washington Post: “There is genuine populist anger out there. But the angry have been deceived and exploited by posers who belong to the same class of “elites” and “insiders” that the Tea Party movement supposedly deplores. Americans who want to stick it to the man are instead sending money to the man. Consider the candidates on the ballot next month who are getting Tea Party support. In the Connecticut Senate race, there’s Linda McMahon, who with her husband has a billion-dollar pro-wrestling empire. The challenger to Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold in Wisconsin, Ron Johnson, is a millionaire manufacturing executive. The former head of Gateway computers, Rick Snyder, is spending generously from his fortune to win the Michigan governor’s race. In New York, the Republican gubernatorial candidate is developer Carl Paladino, with a net worth put at $150 million. And Rick Scott, running for governor in Florida, has a net worth of $219 million from his career as a health-care executive. Then there’s California, where the Republican Senate nominee is former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina and the gubernatorial candidate is former e-Bay boss Meg Whitman. Democrats have their phony populists, too. Billionaire Jeff Greene, who cashed in on subprime mortgages, made an unsuccessful attempt at the U.S. Senate nomination in Florida. But more often this year, it’s the Democrats who are defending themselves against the “elite” allegation. . . .And who will be helping these anti-elite elites get into office? Well, there’s FreedomWorks, a Tea Party outfit run by Dick Armey, the former Republican lawmaker whose last job was with a big lobbying firm. His deputy at FreedomWorks is Matt Kibbe, who worked for none other than the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. There’s also the Tea Party Express, the creation of longtime Republican consultant Sal Russo. A colleague at Russo’s consulting firm pitched the Tea Party Express idea as a way to boost the company’s bottom line. According to an internal e-mail intercepted by the New York Times, it came from a “desire to give a boost to our PAC and position us as a growing force/leading force.” The guy who put together the Tea Party “Contract From America” previously worked on Rudy Giuliani‘s presidential campaign. Another Tea Party group, Americans for Prosperity, has been lavishly funded by the billionaire Koch brothers. A movement of the plutocrats, by the political professionals and for the powerful: Now that’s something Tea Partyers should be mad about.”
10.19 Maureen Dowd in the Times: “At least, unlike Paris Hilton and her ilk, [Marilyn Monroe], the Dumb Blonde of ’50s cinema had a firm grasp on one thing: It was cool to be smart. She aspired to read good books and be friends with intellectuals, even going so far as to marry one. But now another famous beauty with glowing skin and a powerful current, Sarah Palin, has made ignorance fashionable. You struggle to name Supreme Court cases, newspapers you read and even founding fathers you admire? No problem. You endorse a candidate for the Pennsylvania Senate seat who is the nominee in West Virginia? Oh, well. At least you’re not one of those “spineless” elites with an Ivy League education, like President Obama, who can’t feel anything. It’s news to Christine O’Donnell that the Constitution guarantees separation of church and state. It’s news to Joe Miller, whose guards handcuffed a journalist, and to Carl Paladino, who threatened The New York Post’s Fred Dicker, that the First Amendment exists, even in Tea Party Land. Michele Bachmann calls Smoot-Hawley Hoot-Smalley. Sharron Angle sank to new lows of obliviousness when she told a classroom of Hispanic kids in Las Vegas: “Some of you look a little more Asian to me.” As Palin tweeted in July about her own special language adding examples from W. and Obama: “ ‘Refudiate,’ ‘misunderestimate,’ ‘wee-wee’d up.’ English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!” On Saturday, at a G.O.P. rally in Anaheim, Calif., Palin mockingly noted that you won’t find her invoking Mao or Saul Alinsky. She says she believes in American exceptionalism. But when it comes to the people running the country, exceptionalism is suspect; leaders should be — as Palin, O’Donnell and Angle keep saying — just like you. In Marilyn’s America, there were aspirations. The studios tackled literary novels rather than one-liners like He’s Just Not That Into You and navel-gazing drivel like Eat Pray Love. Walt Disney’s Fantasia paired cartoon characters with famous composers. Even Bugs Bunny did Wagner. But in Sarah’s America, we’ve refudiated all that.” A grab bag of complaints and accusations that’s a big bigger than usual. Okay, but not Dowd at her most acute.
10.19 Jodie Foster, quoted in People, on Mel Gibson: “He is incredibly loved by everyone that’s ever come into contact with him or works with him. He is truly the most loved man in the film business, so, hopefully that stands for something.”
10.17 Martin Fackler in the Times about deflationary Japan: “As living standards in this still wealthy nation slowly erode, a new frugality is apparent among a generation of young Japanese, who have known nothing but economic stagnation and deflation. They refuse to buy big-ticket items like cars or televisions, and fewer choose to study abroad in America. Japan’s loss of gumption is most visible among its young men, who are widely derided as “herbivores” for lacking their elders’ willingness to toil for endless hours at the office, or even to succeed in romance, which many here blame, only half jokingly, for their country’s shrinking birthrate. “The Japanese used to be called economic animals,” said Mitsuo Ohashi, former chief executive officer of the chemicals giant Showa Denko. “But somewhere along the way, Japan lost its animal spirits.” When asked in dozens of interviews about their nation’s decline, Japanese, from policy makers and corporate chieftains to shoppers on the street, repeatedly mention this startling loss of vitality. While Japan suffers from many problems, most prominently the rapid graying of its society, it is this decline of a once wealthy and dynamic nation into a deep social and cultural rut that is perhaps Japan’s most ominous lesson for the world today. The classic explanation of the evils of deflation is that it makes individuals and businesses less willing to use money, because the rational way to act when prices are falling is to hold onto cash, which gains in value. But in Japan, nearly a generation of deflation has had a much deeper effect, subconsciously coloring how the Japanese view the world. It has bred a deep pessimism about the future and a fear of taking risks that make people instinctively reluctant to spend or invest, driving down demand — and prices — even further. “A new common sense appears, in which consumers see it as irrational or even foolish to buy or borrow,” said Kazuhisa Takemura of Waseda University in Tokyo who has studied the psychology of deflation
10.17 Natasha Singer in the Times, on the problems of a rapidly aging global populations: “Governments, industry and international agencies will have to work together to transform the very structure of society, by creating jobs and education programs for people in their 60s and 70s — the hypothetical new middle age — and by tackling diseases like Alzheimer’s whose likelihood increases as people age. “What we need is a very fundamental and profound transformation that is proportionate to the social shifts that are upon us and that is truly innovative in the public arena, innovation that is driven by industry,” says Michael W. Hodin of the Council on Foreign Relations. Here’s one simple suggestion: Influential international organizations, government agencies, companies and academic institutions should take up aging as a cause, the way they have already done for the environment. Although the United Nations, for example, set eight “millennium development goals” — ensuring environmental sustainability, promoting gender equality, and so on — for 2015, the list did not include ensuring the sustainability and equality of aging populations. “This is quite unacceptable that aging hasn’t been included in these goals,” says Baroness Greengross, a member of the House of Lords in Britain and chief executive of the International Longevity Centre U.K in London. Here’s another suggestion: Governments with national health programs or other state coverage could start curbing the growth in medical spending ahead of the looming elderquake. If countries wait to act, says Peter S. Heller of Johns Hopkins University, they will have to scramble reactively to cut their budgets in response to burgeoning older populations, the way Greece, Ireland and Spain have done recently. At the same time, he says, politicians must also start educating citizens to understand that greater longevity may entail personal sacrifices, like increased savings and a willingness to pay higher shares of their medical and long-term care costs. But the carrot may be a better approach than the stick, says Laura L. Carstensen of Stanford. She describes her outfit as a multidisciplinary research center whose “modest aim is to change the course of human aging.” Rather than uniformly extending the retirement age, she says, governments and the private sector could develop incentives that motivate older people to remain in the work force. Those incentives might include bonuses for people who work until they are 70, exempting employers from paying Social Security taxes for employees over retirement age, more flexible work schedules, telecommuting options, and sabbaticals for education and training. “Maybe culture needs to change first,” says Professor Carstensen, “and policy will follow.”
10.17 Robert Frank in The New York Times: “In a recent working paper based on census data for the 100 most populous counties in the United States, [researchers]. . . found that the counties where income inequality grew fastest also showed the biggest increases in symptoms of financial distress. For example, even after controlling for other factors, these counties had the largest increases in bankruptcy filings. Divorce rates are another reliable indicator of financial distress, as marriage counselors report that a high proportion of couples they see are experiencing significant financial problems. The counties with the biggest increases in inequality also reported the largest increases in divorce rates. Another footprint of financial distress is long commute times, because families who are short on cash often try to make ends meet by moving to where housing is cheaper — in many cases, farther from work. The counties where long commute times had grown the most were again those with the largest increases in inequality. The middle-class squeeze has also reduced voters’ willingness to support even basic public services. Rich and poor alike endure crumbling roads, weak bridges, an unreliable rail system, and cargo containers that enter our ports without scrutiny. And many Americans live in the shadow of poorly maintained dams that could collapse at any moment. Economists who say we should relegate questions about inequality to philosophers often advocate policies, like tax cuts for the wealthy, that increase inequality substantially. That greater inequality causes real harm is beyond doubt. But are there offsetting benefits? There is no persuasive evidence that greater inequality bolsters economic growth or enhances anyone’s well-being.”
10.17 From an article in The New York Times that quotes Dan Ariely: “A certain amount of psychological guesswork is part of an economist’s job, which accounts for the rise in popularity of behavioral economics, an effort to account for the slippery, indefinite nexus of money and humans. “The entire question of how emotion will change people’s behavior is pretty much outside the standard model of economics,” said Dan Ariely, a professor at Duke University and author of The Upside of Irrationality. “Pride is not in the model. Revenge is not in the model. Fear is not in the model. Even simple things like the disenchantment of people who are fired from their jobs — the model doesn’t account for how devastating that experience can be,” and what that sense of devastation will mean for the economy, he said. “We can make fun of economics, and I’ve made a professional habit of it,” said Professor Ariely. “But there’s a good reason that human irrationality isn’t part of the standard economic models, and this gets to the dilemma of economics. If you have a simple problem, you can offer a simple solution. But the economy is a hugely complex problem. So we either simplify the problem and offer a solution, or embrace the complexity and do nothing.”
10.17 James Kwak on The Baseline Scenario: “It first turned out that in their haste to foreclose on houses, the law firms filing for the foreclosures (in many states, you have to get a judgment from a court in order to foreclose) were cutting corners and sometimes filing fake documents. Then it turned out that sometimes they were filing fake documents because the real ones didn’t exist. In particular, it is possible that many of the trusts that issue mortgage-backed securities never had properly-endorsed copies of the notes that underlay those mortgages. . . .The question is this: Why, just weeks from an election in which Democrats are probably going to get clobbered, is the Obama administration sitting on its hands, writing this off as a bunch of technicalities, and opposing a foreclosure moratorium? Not only would it be good politics for an administration that has a hard time establishing credibility with ordinary people, but you would think a halt to foreclosures is actually what the Treasury Department wants. Over the summer, Steve Randy Waldman pointed out that Treasury essentially confirmed what many had suspected all along–the main point of HAMP (the mortgage modification program) was not to help homeowners, but to spread out the foreclosure wave over time in order to prop up housing prices and therefore protect the economy. A foreclosure moratorium, by temporarily halting the flood of foreclosed houses onto the market, would be even better. The scary possibility is that what they’re really afraid of is systemic risk: the possibility that . . .the mortgage securitization trusts (the entities that bought mortgages and issued mortgage-backed securities) could sue the investment banks, forcing them to buy back the underlying mortgages at the original cost. Since those mortgages are now worth far less than before, this would impose huge losses on the Big Six banks. Big banks losing money isn’t what’s scary. What’s scary is that the administration may be pooh-poohing the foreclosure fraud crisis because it wants to protect the big banks once again.
10.16 Rangers clobber Phil Hughes and the Yanks. Yanks face the scary prospect of now falling to the impeccable Cliff Lee, and then falling behind in Game Four when they pitch the erratic AJ Burnett. Makes you wonder why Giardi didn’t start the reliable Andy Pettitte in Game 2, where his chances of winning would have been better than he faces in trying to counter Lee. Oh well, let’s see what happens.
10.14 Suspense Writers’ Panel at Hunter
10.11 Robert J. Samuelson in The Washington Post: “We have entered the Age of Austerity. It’s already arrived in Europe and is destined for the United States. Governments throughout Europe are cutting social spending and raising taxes — or contemplating doing so. The welfare state and the bond market have collided, and the welfare state is in retreat. Even rich countries find the costs too high, but the sudden austerity could perversely trigger a new financial crisis. Europe’s plight is now the most obvious threat to the already lackluster global recovery. . . .Clearly, most European nations waited too long to overhaul their welfare states. (The same is true of the United States.) The added costs of the global recession have now forced them to do the politically unthinkable: chop social spending and raise taxes in trying economic times. They have little choice, but it may be a mission impossible. On the one hand, huge deficits and debts — the sum of past deficits — mean some countries can no longer borrow at reasonable interest rates. . . . On the other hand, abrupt tax increases and spending cuts threaten deeper recessions. . . .Austerity is transforming economics and politics. The Age of Entitlement was about giveaways; the Age of Austerity will be about take-backs. The Age of Entitlement was about maximizing economic growth; the Age of Austerity will be about minimizing economic reverses. Similar dilemmas confront most advanced societies. Even Germany’s government debt as a share of the economy is large (73 percent in 2009). Governments are caught in a vise. Without unpopular spending cuts and tax increases, unmanageable deficits may choke their economies. But those same spending cuts and tax increases also threaten economic growth. The United States is not exempt.”
10.11 E,J. Dionne Jr. in The Washington Post: “The 2010 election is turning into a class war. The wealthy and the powerful started it. . . .[C]orporations and affluent individuals are pouring tens of millions of dollars into attack ads aimed almost exclusively at Democrats. . . . This extraordinary state of affairs was facilitated by the U.S. Supreme Court’s scandalous Citizens United decision, which swept away decades of restrictions on corporate spending to influence elections. The Republicans’ success in blocking legislation that would at least have required the big spenders to disclose the sources of their money means voters have to operate in the dark. The “logic” behind Citizens United is that third-party spending can’t possibly be corrupting. The five-justice majority declared that “this Court now concludes that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption. That speakers may have influence over or access to elected officials does not mean that those officials are corrupt. And the appearance of influence or access will not cause the electorate to lose faith in this democracy.” You can decide what’s more stunning about this statement, its naivete or its arrogance.”
10.10 Garrison Keillor, quoted in The New York Times, on why, despite living in New York, he won’t abandon his Twins and root for the Yankees: ““If I go to games at Yankee Stadium, I’m sitting with a lot more testosterone than if I go to a game at home. The air is really heavy, and there is an expectation not only of victory but of triumph and domination. We were not brought up to be dominant in the Midwest. I wouldn’t switch. It’s a different crowd. When I’ve gone to Yankee Stadium, I sit among mostly guys–big, stocky guys wearing black. They’re unshaven, sort of stylishly unshaven, and they’ve had a couple of belts, and they bellow. They’re just tremendous bellowers. None of this is what you would find in Minnesota. We, you know, we clap.”
10.6 Lawrence B. Glickman on The Baseline Scenario: “One of the most telling statements of our political era, made ten years ago this week by Dick Cheney during his Vice Presidential debate with Joe Lieberman on October 5, 2000, was actually a misstatement that went largely unnoticed. And therein lies an important lesson about the place of government in our political culture. In response to the Democratic nominee Lieberman’s jibe that Cheney had profited handsomely from the job he had recently departed as CEO of the Haliburton Corporation, the Republican nominee replied, ”I can tell you, Joe, the government had absolutely nothing to do with it.” . . . .His statement was a whopping lie. Despite his denial and his antigovernment rhetoric, the company Cheney ran depended on billions of dollars of government contracts and loan guarantees. It would not be an exaggeration to say that government was Haliburton’s primary source of support. . . .Cheney was the beneficiary of a long-term campaign against government that at the time of his comment was at least three decades in the making, and that has reached new heights in our current political moment. A narrative pushed by conservative think tanks and parroted endlessly by politicians and pundits has prevailed in which the state, especially the federal government, is depicted in almost entirely negative terms, as a drag on the economy and a threat to freedom. . . .The prevailing narrative treats laissez-faire as the American norm and understands state intervention in the economy as a recent development. History tells a different story. Ever since the Constitution was described in 1787 as `a revolution in favor of government,’ Americans have recognized that the state has a positive and essential role to play in promoting economic dynamism and political freedom. Early national citizens promoted internal improvements. Nineteenth-century Republicans supported public spending on railroads and the democratic experiment of Reconstruction. Progressives endorsed antitrust legislation. Free and robust markets have been the wellspring of economic growth in the United States. But, from the Erie Canal to the Internet, government policy–including land grants and consumer protection laws–has provided a framework for markets to operate, choices to proliferate, and citizens to consume.”
10.8 Met Doug Stern, Mary Anne Grimes and Saul Ferrer at United Media
10.6 In The Atlantic, Josh Green reveals that Rich Iott, the Republican nominee for Congress from Ohio’s 9th District, and a Tea Party favorite, enjoys wearing a German Waffen SS uniform and participating in Nazi re-enactments. He’s the one second from the right.
10.6 Timothy Garton Ash in The Guardian: `An already stale cliche has it that “the Facebook generation doesn’t care about privacy any more”. Of course norms change with generations, but what really seems to have happened here is that people threw themselves with enthusiasm into this amazing new experience, and now, a few years on, are sometimes horrified by the consequences. In his new book, The Facebook Effect, David Kirkpatrick reports a 2009 poll of American employers which found that 35% of companies had rejected job applicants because of information they found on social networks. One in three! No one is going to persuade me that “the Facebook generation” is cool with that. . . .I suppose we could just roll over and accept that this is the way the world is going. “Privacy is dead. Get over it,” as Scott McNealy, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems, reportedly once advised. Or we can fight back, to restore some of our lost privacy. We can do this by setting our own standards and sharing them. We can do it by working directly on companies like Facebook, whose ultimate sources of revenue we are. You can use Facebook to shape Facebook. We can also try to push our governments in at least three ways: to curb their own incursions into our privacy; to regulate overintrusive companies better; and to punish private violations.”
10.6 Roy Halladay of the Phillies pitches a no-hitter against the Reds in the opening game of the National League playoffs.
10.6 Steven Pearlstein in The Washington Post: “If you asked Americans how much of the nation’s pretax income goes to the top 10 percent of households, it is unlikely they would come anywhere close to 50 percent, which is where it was just before the bubble burst in 2007. . . .It wasn’t always that way. From World War II until 1976, considered by many as the “golden years” for the U.S. economy, the top 10 percent of the population took home less than a third of the income generated by the private economy. But since then…virtually all of the benefits of economic growth have gone to households that, in today’s terms, earn more than $110,000 a year. Even within that top “decile,” the distribution is remarkably skewed. By 2007, the top 1 percent of households took home 23 percent of the national income after a 15-year run in which they captured more than half – yes, you read that right, more than half – of the country’s economic growth. . . There are moral and political reasons for caring about this dramatic skewing of income, which in the real world leads to a similar skewing of opportunity, social standing and political power. But there is also an important economic reason: Too much inequality, just like too little, appears to reduce global competitiveness and long-term growth, at least in developed countries like ours . . . .[and] can lead to financial bubbles. The liberal version of this argument comes from former Labor secretary Robert Reich . . .Because so much of the nation’s income is siphoned off to the super-rich, Reich says, a struggling middle class trying to maintain its standard of living had no choice but to take on more and more debt. . . . The more conservative version of this argument comes from economist Raghuram Rajan . . .[who] argues that in order to respond to the stagnant incomes of their constituents, politicians took a number of steps to keep the “American Dream” within reach, including subsidization of home mortgages and college loans. He might have added that politicians also were quick to cut taxes for the middle class. . . . The biggest problem with runaway inequality, however, is that it undermines the unity of purpose necessary for any firm, or any nation, to thrive.”
10.5 Paul Krugman in the Times: “Modern American conservatism is, in large part, a movement shaped by billionaires and their bank accounts, and assured paychecks for the ideologically loyal are an important part of the system. Scientists willing to deny the existence of man-made climate change, economists willing to declare that tax cuts for the rich are essential to growth, strategic thinkers willing to provide rationales for wars of choice, lawyers willing to provide defenses of torture, all can count on support from a network of organizations that may seem independent on the surface but are largely financed by a handful of ultrawealthy families. And these organizations have long provided havens for conservative political figures not currently in office. Thus when Senator Rick Santorum was defeated in 2006, he got a new job as head of the America’s Enemies program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a think tank that has received funding from the usual sources: the Koch brothers, the Coors family, and so on. Now Mr. Santorum is one of those paid Fox contributors contemplating a presidential run. What’s the difference? Well, for one thing, Fox News seems to have decided that it no longer needs to maintain even the pretense of being nonpartisan. Nobody who was paying attention has ever doubted that Fox is, in reality, a part of the Republican political machine; but the network — with its Orwellian slogan, “fair and balanced” — has always denied the obvious. Officially, it still does. But by hiring those G.O.P. candidates, while at the same time making million-dollar contributions to the Republican Governors Association and the rabidly anti-Obama United States Chamber of Commerce, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, which owns Fox, is signaling that it no longer feels the need to make any effort to keep up appearances. Something else has changed, too: increasingly, Fox News has gone from merely supporting Republican candidates to anointing them. . . .As the Republican political analyst David Frum put it, “Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us, and now we are discovering we work for Fox” . . . .The Ministry of Propaganda has, in effect, seized control of the Politburo.”
10.5 Richard Cohen in The Washington Post: “[During Kent State], The governor of Ohio, James Rhodes, demonized the war protesters. They were “worse than the Brownshirts and the communist element. . . . We will use whatever force necessary to drive them out of Kent.” That was the language of that time. And now it is the language of our time. It is the language of Glenn Beck, who fetishizes about liberals and calls Barack Obama a racist. It is the language of rage that fuels too much of the Tea Party and is the sum total of gubernatorial hopeful Carl Paladino‘s campaign message in New York. It is all this talk about “taking back America” (from whom?) and this inchoate fury at immigrants and, of course, this raw anger at Muslims, stoked by politicians such as Newt Gingrich and Rick Lazio, the latter having lost the GOP primary to Paladino for, among other things, not being sufficiently angry. “I’m going to take them out,” Paladino vowed at a Tea Party rally in Ithaca, N.Y. Back in the Vietnam War era, the left also used ugly language and resorted to violence. But the right, as is its wont, stripped the antiwar movement of its citizenship. It turned dissent into treason, which, in a way, was the worst treason of all. It made dissidents into the storied “other” who had nothing in common with the rest of us. They were not opponents; they were the enemy: Fire!”
10.4 Visit The University of Vermont with Cara. Had a momentary look at Lake Champlain
10.3 The Giants’ defense has 10 sacks, nine in the first half, and knock two quarterbacks out of the game in a 17-3 victory over the Bears.
10.2 Visit The University of New Hampshire with Cara
10.1 In an article by John Maggs in Politico, Elizabeth Warren criticizes the Troubled Asset Relief Program and especially the bailout of AIG: ““The rescue of AIG continues to have a poisonous effect on the marketplace. By providing a complete rescue that called for no shared sacrifice on the part of AIG and its creditors, the government fundamentally changed the rules of the game on Wall Street. As long as the biggest companies in America believe that you and I will bail them out, the worst effects of the AIG rescue will linger.” As Maggs reports “Under the new repayment plan, the government will convert its 80 percent ownership stake in the company to common stock and sell it off over the next few years. Recouping that investment will depend on AIG’s continued success, and the strength of the stock market. If either falters, taxpayers could lose money. . . .Warren has repeatedly made this point about AIG, and the broader TARP. In fact, it was repeated in a report by Warren’s panel only two weeks ago, [which said]. . . that while TARP was needed to stabilize the financial system, it has failed to fulfill its statutory responsibilities of helping reduce home foreclosures and “maximize overall returns to the taxpayers.” TARP, it found “was mismanaged and could post significant costs far into the future.” . . . .In the last year, the government’s overall commitment to the financial rescue has risen from $ 3 trillion to $3.7 trillion – an increase, in other words, nearly as large as the controversial $750 billion commitment to TARP in 2008.”
9.30 Gillian Trett in The Financial Times: “The question of whether the modern world has a sensible scheme for handling bank collapses is absolutely crucial for the future. If governments cannot afford to let banks go bust when bankers (and investors) make stupid decisions, but always need to bail them out, then you do not have financial capitalism. And in that case, governments might as well call a spade a spade and nationalise the whole banking system up front.”
9.30 Simon Johnson on The Baseline Scenario: “Three serious mistakes were made in the implementation of TARP. First, there was no need to be so excessively generous to the financial executives (and their boards) at the institutions that had to be saved. In part this generosity was due to insufficient safeguards in the legislation. . .but mostly this was a choice insisted upon by key people in President Obama’s economic team. The bankers were not even embarrassed by what happened. . . . Second, the Obama administration missed the opportunity to change the structure and the incentives of Wall Street. . . . The Treasury line, then and now, was that the “essential functions” of the financial system had to be preserved, and this meant no one could be “punished.” This is again a complete divergence from best practice, for example as recommended by the I.M.F. (with United States backing) in many situations over the last 50 years. The issue is not punishment or retribution; it is responsibility – and it provides incentives to be careful in the future. . . .Third, by the time the administration put forward its financial reform ideas, the big banks were back on their feet – and ready to throw huge numbers of lobbyists and unlimited cash into the fight to preserve their right to take inordinate risk and to mismanage their way into disaster. . . .The Dodd-Frank Act, while including some sensible consumer-protection measures, essentially does very little to reduce system risk as we move into a new credit cycle. In particular, there is nothing that ensures our biggest banks will be safe enough or small enough or simple enough so that in the future they cannot demand bailouts.”
9.30 Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone: “Vast forests have already been sacrificed to the public debate about the Tea Party: what it is, what it means, where it’s going. But after lengthy study of the phenomenon, I’ve concluded that the whole miserable narrative boils down to one stark fact: They’re full of shit. All of them. At the voter level, the Tea Party is a movement that purports to be furious about government spending — only the reality is that the vast majority of its members are former Bush supporters who yawned through two terms of record deficits and spent the past two electoral cycles frothing not about spending but about John Kerry‘s medals and Barack Obama‘s Sixties associations. The average Tea Partier is sincerely against government spending — with the exception of the money spent on them. In fact, their lack of embarrassment when it comes to collecting government largesse is key to understanding what this movement is all about.”
9.29 AOL reports “Intelligence agencies have uncovered a sophisticated al-Qaida plot to kidnap and murder tourists at landmarks across Europe, allegedly modeled after the 2008 Mumbai siege that left nearly 200 people dead in hotels, cafes and a train station in India. The plot has been thwarted by the CIA, which launched a recent barrage of drone strikes against Pakistani militants in the mountainous border region with Afghanistan, a senior U.S. intelligence official told Fox News.”
9.29 Screening double feature: Casino Jack and the documentary Gerrymandering. Best part of Casino Jack? Contemplating Rachelle Lefevre
9.29 Lunch with John Stacks at Cafe Joul on First and 58th
9.28 Yanks at last clinch playoff berth. Ho hum
9.27 Met Carol Gershowitz and Lisa Wilson at United Media
9.24 Howard Samuels and Todd Shuster for breakfast at AQ Kafe for breakfast near Columbus Circle
9.23 Howard Samuels and Amy Williams for lunch at Periyali restaurant in Chelsea
9.23 Jeff Bercovici on AOL: “Forbes magazine unveils a new look this week, with a redesigned issue on newsstands tomorrow featuring its signature Forbes 400 list, but for a sense of how much the company has changed since Lewis D’Vorkin took over as chief content officer earlier this year, you need only witness the reaction to the previous issue’s cover story. . . .in which conservative writer Dinesh D’Souza argued that President Obama inherited an anti-colonial ethos and anti-business bias from his father . . . [S]ome Forbes contributors have been using the new blogs they’ve been given to express their misgivings. Shikha Dalmia, an analyst at the libertarian Reason Foundation, called D’Souza’s thesis “intellectual goofiness” and said his article suffered from “factual inaccuracies” — the latter in running up against Forbes‘s official assertion that “[n]o facts are in contention.” (D’Souza has, in fact, conceded one factual error involving the timing of Obama’s visit to Pakistan.) On Wednesday, a Forbes staffer, copy editor and book reviewer Craig Silver, followed that up with an even more sharply-worded critique: He calls D’Souza’s piece “a stupefyingly inane, quasi-racist bomb-toss” that was “utterly devoid of intellectual probity” — and that’s just some of it. I asked Silver whether he’d gotten any unfavorable response to his post from Forbes’s management. “No pushback so far,” he told me.
9.23 Harold Meyerson in The Washington Post: “There are un-Americans among us. They don’t share our values, yet they control the most powerful offices in the land. We must rid ourselves of this fifth-column menace. That’s pretty much the Republican and Tea Party line these days. When a right-wing talk show host interviewing Sharron Angle, now the Republican senatorial candidate in Nevada, told her last year that “we have domestic enemies” and that some of them worked within “the walls of the Senate and the Congress,” Angle chirped up, “I think you’re right.” The Tea Partyers aren’t wrong about the growing influence of un-Americans in high places. They’ve just misidentified who those un-Americans are. As the right-wingers see it, even President Obama‘s more conventional ideas have no place or precedent in the American experience. Ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, Dinesh D’Souza reasons in his summa idiotica currently on the cover of Forbes magazine, cannot be explained within the confines of American political thought. However, he writes, “if Obama shares his father’s anticolonial crusade, that would explain why he wants people who are already paying close to 50% of their income to pay even more.” I’d like to see D’Souza explain why the highest tax brackets during the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower took 90 percent of people’s incomes.”
9.22 The dress chosen by Katy Perry for her appearance on Sesame Street inspires comment, criticism
John Batchelor in The Daily Beast: “Newt Gingrich spoke to a closed-door breakfast of the Republicans of the House the other day after the last primaries, and the irony you need to know is that the only members who showed up were the clueless Boehner crew, who are not in on the joke that in the GOP cloakroom they call Newt “Fat Elvis.” . . . .“The young [House members] have no ties to him,” an observer explains of Gingrich, “they think, what an asshole.” Does Gingrich notice that the young do not turn up to celebrate his wisdom? Not much, because Gingrich wanted only the obeisance of being feted at the breakfast as a “special guest,” so he could go on Fox News to boast, as one indifferent observer put it, that “I addressed the House Republicans, and they need me.” . . . .The more useful question than why Gingrich lays himself out for ridicule by the young and restless (and it is likely he hears the snickers when he walks in) is why do Minority Leader John Boehner and his leadership team put up with a busybody? “You appease Newt,” a Republican concludes, reminding me again that John Boehner and his “Young Guns” are all conflict-averse, “and then he won’t say bad things about you on TV.” Gingrich has been emailing House members for years with his searing advice and grandiloquent concepts, and everyone is mostly used to the fact that Boehner puts up with it just as if he was still Newt’s waterboy and bagman from 1995, handing out Big Tobacco checks to good soldiers on the floor of the House. In sum, Boehner is not afraid of Newt, but then again he acts as if he is beholden in the way of a co-dependent dealing with an abusive and cranky older relative. The best description for this strange family arrangement follows along the satirical description of Gingrich as the “Fat Elvis” of the Republican Party. A wag in the cloakroom observes of Gingrich, “He’s turned Boehner and Cantor into Red and Sonny“—a reference to Red and Sonny West, the Elvis bodyguards. . . . “It’s [Gingrich's] self-satire.”
9.20 Paul Krugman in The New York Times: “These are terrible times for many people in this country. Poverty, especially acute poverty, has soared in the economic slump; millions of people have lost their homes. Young people can’t find jobs; laid-off 50-somethings fear that they’ll never work again. Yet if you want to find real political rage — the kind of rage that makes people compare President Obama to Hitler. . .you won’t find it among these suffering Americans. You’ll find it instead among the very privileged, people who don’t have to worry about losing their jobs, their homes, or their health insurance, but who are outraged, outraged, at the thought of paying modestly higher taxes. The rage of the rich has been building ever since Mr. Obama took office. At first, however, it was largely confined to Wall Street. Thus when New York magazine published an article titled “The Wail Of the 1%,” it was talking about financial wheeler-dealers whose firms had been bailed out with taxpayer funds, but were furious at suggestions that the price of these bailouts should include temporary limits on bonuses. When the billionaire Stephen Schwarzman compared an Obama proposal to the Nazi invasion of Poland, the proposal in question would have closed a tax loophole that specifically benefits fund managers like him. Now, however, as decision time looms for the fate of the Bush tax cuts — will top tax rates go back to Clinton-era levels? — the rage of the rich has broadened, and also in some ways changed its character. For one thing, craziness has gone mainstream. It’s one thing when a billionaire rants at a dinner event. It’s another when Forbes magazine runs a cover story alleging that the president of the United States is deliberately trying to bring America down as part of his Kenyan, “anticolonialist” agenda, that “the U.S. is being ruled according to the dreams of a Luo tribesman of the 1950s.” When it comes to defending the interests of the rich, it seems, the normal rules of civilized (and rational) discourse no longer apply. At the same time, self-pity among the privileged has become acceptable, even fashionable.”
9.20 Robert L. Samuelson in The Washington Post: “When Obama took office in early 2009, the economy and financial markets were in virtual free-fall. By summer, they were not. Only a rabid partisan can think that Obama’s policies had nothing to do with the reversal. His forcefulness helped calmed the prevailing hysteria. True, many recovery policies came from the Federal Reserve, and others — notably, the unpopular Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) — began under the Bush administration. Obama’s contributions included the “stimulus program,” a rescue of the auto industry and a “stress test” for 19 large banks. The stress test explored whether banks needed big infusions of capital. Most didn’t. The process was messy, and, although many details can be questioned, the overall impact was huge. Without government’s aggressive response, gross domestic product would have dropped 12 percent instead of 4 percent and 16.6 million jobs would have been lost instead of 8.4 million, estimate economists Alan Blinder of Princeton and Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics. Unemployment would have hit 16 percent. These numbers, too, can be disputed (they seem high to me), but the direction is certainly correct. Up to a point, blaming Obama for the sluggish recovery is also unfair. Millions of Americans were over-borrowed. Paying down debts was bound to crimp the $10 trillion of annual consumer spending. Could anyone have realistically neutralized this? Nope. Nor could the housing collapse be quickly reversed. The right’s sweeping indictment of Obama is wildly exaggerated. It is not, however, entirely misplaced. Confidence is crucial to stimulating consumer spending and business investment, and Obama constantly subverts confidence. In the past year, he’s undone some of the good of his first months. He loves to pick fights with Wall Street bankers, oil companies, multinational firms, health insurers and others. He thinks that he can separate policies that claim to promote recovery from those that appeal to his liberal “base,” even when the partisan policies raise business costs, stymie job creation or augment uncertainty — and, thereby, undermine recovery. His health-care “reform” will make hiring more expensive to employers by mandating insurance coverage. The moratorium on deep-water oil drilling kills jobs; the administration’s estimate of employment loss is up to 12,000. Obama’s proposal to increase taxes on personal incomes exceeding $250,000 ($200,000 for singles) is the latest example of his delusional approach. It satisfies the liberal itch to “get the rich.” Well, the rich and most other taxpayers will ultimately have to pay higher taxes to help close budget deficits. But not now. Raising taxes in a weak economy doesn’t make sense. Just consider this astonishing fact: These affluent households represent almost a quarter of all consumer spending, according to Zandi. Increasing their taxes, he estimates, would cost 770,000 jobs by mid-2012.”
9.20 E.J. Dionne Jr. in The Washington Post: “It’s remarkable how timidity leads Democrats to fight this year’s campaign on Republican terms. Nowhere is this more obvious than on taxes, where the entire debate revolves around what to do about the cuts enacted under George W. Bush. Almost no one is talking about extending the progressive tax cuts that were included in President Obama’s stimulus program. Nor are we discussing the impending death of a pro-work public assistance program that, for a rather modest sum, has helped provide jobs to 250,000 low-income Americans. At least on the Bush tax cuts, Obama has drawn a clear and sensible line. He’s said that Congress should extend the reductions for the middle class but not those for families earning more than $250,000 a year. For the life of me, I don’t get why some Democrats are so afraid of this vote. Substantively, most of the 31 House Democrats who signed a letter last week urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to chicken out of this fight claim to be deficit hawks. Why, then, add $700 billion to the deficit for the purpose of continuing a tax program that disproportionately benefits millionaires? And politically, why shouldn’t Democrats dare Republicans to vote against extending middle-class tax cuts and then have to explain that they opposed them because not enough money was going to the rich?
9.17 David Brooks on the Tea Party in the Times: “This doesn’t mean that the Tea Party influence will be positive for Republicans over the long haul. The movement carries viruses that may infect the G.O.P. in the years ahead. Its members seek traditional, conservative ends, but they use radical means. Along the way, the movement has picked up some of the worst excesses of modern American culture: a narcissistic sense of victimization, an egomaniacal belief in one’s own rightness and purity, a willingness to distort the truth so that every conflict becomes a contest of pure good versus pure evil. The Tea Party style is beginning to replicate itself in parts of the conservative world. Dinesh D’Souza’s Forbes cover article, “How Obama Thinks,” contained the sort of untethered assertions that have become the lingua franca of this movement. Obama got his subversive radicalism from his father’s grave, D’Souza postulated: “He adopted his father’s position that capitalism and freedom are code words for economic plunder.” The fact that Newt Gingrich embraced this offensive theory is a sign of how severely the normal intellectual standards have been weakened. But that damage is all in the future. Right now, the Tea Party doesn’t matter. The Republicans don’t matter. The economy and the Democrats are handing the G.O.P. a great, unearned revival. Nothing, it seems, is more scary than one-party Democratic control.”
9.17 Erik Eckholm in the Times: “The percentage of Americans struggling below the poverty line in 2009 was the highest it has been in 15 years, the Census Bureau reported Thursday, and interviews with poverty experts and aid groups said the increase appeared to be continuing this year. . . .[F]our million additional Americans found themselves in poverty in 2009, with the total reaching 44 million, or one in seven residents. Millions more were surviving only because of expanded unemployment insurance and other assistance. . . .The share of residents in poverty climbed to 14.3 percent in 2009, the highest level recorded since 1994. The rise was steepest for children, with one in five affected, the bureau said. . . .For a single adult in 2009, the poverty line was $10,830 in pretax cash income; for a family of four, $22,050.”
9.17 Karen Tumulty in the Washington Post: “Some strategists think the 2012 GOP primary race might evolve into two contests. One would be for the backing of the tea party and the forces it represents. The likely front-runner would be Palin, if she decides to run. But she would possibly get competition from Huckabee and Gingrich. The other would be to produce a more traditional establishment alternative. Romney could have the edge in that one, although there might also be support for such figures as Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Indiana Gov. Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. That could turn what traditionally has been an orderly coronation into a long and bitter fight for the Republican nomination – which is the way Democrats usually do it. . . . For the first time in my career, I just literally think all bets are off,” said Ralph Reed, the longtime GOP operative who heads the Faith and Freedom Coalition. “The old arguments that used to be made based on pragmatic consideration are no longer selling at the grass roots.”
9.14 Yanks re-take first place after a thrilling 8-7 victory over Tampa. Yanks had a comfy 6-0 lead until Tampa racked up 7 runs in an abysmal fifth. Yanks tied the score in the next inning, and the game stayed tied, in huge measure to stellar relief pitching and an excellent diving catch in deep center by Curtis Granderson in the ninth. The in the tenth, Jorge Posada hit a mammoth home run, which held up though a tense bottom of the inning, which ended with rookie right fielder Greg Golson nailing Carl Crawford at third with a brilliant throw to end the game.
9.14 Bob Herbert in the Times, discussing Robert Reich‘s new book Aftershock: “There was plenty of growth, but the economic benefits went overwhelmingly — and unfairly — to those already at the top. Mr. Reich cites the work of analysts who have tracked the increasing share of national income that has gone to the top 1 percent of earners since the 1970s, when their share was 8 percent to 9 percent. In the 1980s, it rose to 10 percent to 14 percent. In the late-’90s, it was 15 percent to 19 percent. In 2005, it passed 21 percent. By 2007, the last year for which complete data are available, the richest 1 percent were taking more than 23 percent of all income. The richest one-tenth of 1 percent, representing just 13,000 households, took in more than 11 percent of total income in 2007. That does not leave enough spending power with the rest of the population to sustain a flourishing economy. This is a point emphasized in “Aftershock.” Mr. Reich, a former labor secretary in the Clinton administration, writes: “The wages of the typical American hardly increased in the three decades leading up to the Crash of 2008, considering inflation. In the 2000s, they actually dropped.” A male worker earning the median wage in 2007 earned less than the median wage, adjusted for inflation, of a male worker 30 years earlier. A typical son, in other words, is earning less than his dad did at the same age. This is what has happened with ordinary workers as the wealth at the top has soared into the stratosphere. With so much of the middle class and the rest of working America tapped out, there is not enough consumer demand for the goods and services that the U.S. economy is capable of producing. Without that demand, there are precious few prospects for a robust recovery.
If matters stay the same, with working people perpetually struggling in an environment of ever-increasing economic insecurity and inequality, the very stability of the society will be undermined.”
9.14 Daniel de Vise in the Washington Post: “For the first time, more women than men in the US received doctoral degrees last year, the culmination of decades of change in the status of women at colleges nationwide. The number of women at every level of academia has been rising for decades. Women now hold a nearly 3-to-2 majority in undergraduate and graduate education. Doctoral study was the last holdout – the only remaining area of higher education that still had an enduring male majority. Of the doctoral degrees awarded in the 2008-09 academic year, 28,962 went to women and 28,469 to men, according to an annual enrollment report from the Council of Graduate Schools.
9.14 David Brooks in the Times: “The fact is, the American story is not just the story of limited governments; it is the story of limited but energetic governments that used aggressive federal power to promote growth and social mobility. . . .In other words, there have been leaders who regarded government like fire — a useful tool when used judiciously and a dangerous menace when it gets out of control. They didn’t build their political philosophy on whether government was big or not. Government is a means, not an end. They built their philosophy on making America virtuous, dynamic and great. They supported government action when it furthered those ends and opposed it when it didn’t. If the current Republican Party regards every new bit of government action as a step on the road to serfdom, then the party will be taking this long, mainstream American tradition and exiling it from the G.O.P. . . .It would also be a policy tragedy. Republicans are right to oppose the current concentration of power in Washington. But once that is halted, America faces a series of problems that can’t be addressed simply by getting government out of the way. The social fabric is fraying. Human capital is being squandered. Society is segmenting. The labor markets are ill. Wages are lagging. Inequality is increasing. The nation is overconsuming and underinnovating. China and India are surging. Not all of these challenges can be addressed by the spontaneous healing powers of the market. . . .Republicans are riding a wave of revulsion about what is happening in Washington. But it is also time to start talking about the day after tomorrow.”
9.13 Bill James in Slate: “ I have just finished writing a book called Popular Crime, and one of the issues I looked at is why America’s crime rate is much higher than that of most other advanced nations. This attitude that we have toward following the rules is certainly very relevant to that. Violent crimes are terrible, terrible things, devastating to people’s lives, and we do have more crime in America because we are not people who take all of the rules very seriously. This latitude that we give one another creates a space in which a culture of crime lives and breeds. It is dishonest not to admit that this is true. At the same time, America is an immensely creative country, very inventive, extraordinarily dynamic, meaning that things change in America at a staggering pace. Not only do Americans derive fantastic benefits from this, but the entire world derives great benefits from it, from the things that Americans invent and create. And this … nature that we have (which is not truly nature or truly natural) … of giving one another space to ignore the rules and do whatever we think is right is central to our creativity, our inventiveness, and to the power of American society to stagger, adjust, and rush forward. So am I saying, then, that in order to get the dynamism and power of American life, we have to put up with crime and with the other dangers that crop up in a society in which people don’t pay a hell of a lot of attention to the rules? . . . .No, not at all; that’s a sloppy, defeatist answer. . . .The answer is tolerance and vigilance, and it is a sense of perspective.”
9.12 The indispensable Henry Porter in the Observer of London: “Rupert
Murdoch is a problem for British society and the News of the World phone-hacking story. . .is a symptom of the chronic malignity of his power. In the last 40 years, we have grown used to News International (NI), so that it is difficult to imagine Britain without Murdoch’s occupation, without, for instance, the leaders of the main parties humiliating themselves and our political system to gain his endorsement, or News International journalists and executives treating the law, national institutions and Parliament with disdain. Murdoch has become one of the political issues of our time, as menacing in his own special way to democracy and conduct of politics as many other threats our society faces, only we do not see it, because his power is used behind the scenes to extend his commercial influence and so his grip on the flow of so much of the information in Britain. . . .His overriding concern is that the government remains covertly in step with his plans for expansion and that the flow of profits to News Corp remains uninterrupted. It is as though we had handed over a huge chunk of British agricultural land or given up our food distribution networks to a relentless foreign corporation. But the amazing thing about Murdoch’s power is that it is maintained even though we owe him absolutely nothing and he is, theoretically, at the mercy of laws and regulations that can be activated to control him. . . .Anyway, the good in his enterprises must surely be set against the detriment to British society, laid bare in the phone-hacking scandal. These are as follows. First, he has been responsible for a distortion of politics in the last four decades. In an unguarded moment at Davos three years ago, he replied to a question about shaping the agenda on the Iraq war: “We basically supported the Bush policy.” And so he did. In the nine days before the invasion, freedom of information requests reveal that he had three conversations with Tony Blair. No British political party has succeeded at an election in the last 30 years without Murdoch’s blessing and the drumbeat of his papers can make life extremely difficult for a government when he withdraws his support, as he did from Labour last year. This ability to intervene decisively in general elections gives him immediate access to the prime minister and power to his editors to dictate laws, such as Sarah’s Law. It was hardly a surprise when David Cameron employed the former editor of the News of the World, Andy Coulson, now mired in the phone-hacking scandal, to be his director of communications. . . .Second, News International regards itself as above the law of the land. As well as paying out large sums to several victims of the phone hacking, who might otherwise have brought cases against NI in open court, it is suspected of subverting the police. . . .Unseen political influence, paying the police for stories and the hobbling of due process are the standard procedures followed by crime families and though I do not say that Murdoch is a criminal, there is a case for placing the influence of the media magnate, his clannish associates and family on the spectrum of undesirable behaviour in a democracy.”
9.11 Ted Koppel in The Washington Post: “The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, succeeded far beyond anything Osama bin Laden could possibly have envisioned. . . .Over the past nine years, the United States has blundered . . . with one overreaction after another. Bin Laden deserves to be the object of our hostility, national anguish and contempt, and he deserves to be taken seriously as a canny tactician. But much of what he has achieved we have done, and continue to do, to ourselves. Bin Laden does not deserve that we, even inadvertently, fulfill so many of his unimagined dreams. . . . .Perhaps bin Laden foresaw . . .something along the lines of Abu Ghraib, “black sites,” extraordinary rendition and even the prison at Guantanamo Bay. But in these and many other developments, bin Laden needed our unwitting collaboration, and we have provided it — more than $1 trillion spent on two wars, more than 5,000 of our troops killed, tens of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans dead. Our military is so overstretched that defense contracting — for everything from interrogation to security to the gathering of intelligence — is one of our few growth industries. We have raced to Afghanistan and Iraq, and more recently to Yemen and Somalia; we have created a swollen national security apparatus; and we are so absorbed in our own fury and so oblivious to our enemy’s intentions that we inflate the building of an Islamic center in Lower Manhattan into a national debate and watch, helpless, while a minister in Florida outrages even our friends in the Islamic world by threatening to burn copies of the Koran. If bin Laden did not foresee all this, then he quickly came to understand it. In a 2004 video message, he boasted about leading America on the path to self-destruction. “All we have to do is send two mujaheddin . . . to raise a small piece of cloth on which is written ‘al-Qaeda’ in order to make the generals race there, to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses.” Through the initial spending of a few hundred thousand dollars, training and then sacrificing 19 of his foot soldiers, bin Laden has watched his relatively tiny and all but anonymous organization of a few hundred zealots turn into the most recognized international franchise since McDonald’s. Could any enemy of the United States have achieved more with less? Could bin Laden, in his wildest imaginings, have hoped to provoke greater chaos? It is past time to reflect on what our enemy sought, and still seeks, to accomplish — and how we have accommodated him.
9.9 Met Gary Lippman in Soho
9.9 From an article in Esquire by John H. Richardson, here’s Newt Gingrich on the possibilities of a run for the presidency: “The underlying thematics are beginning to be universalizable in a way that has taken years to work.”
9.8 Steven Pearlstein in The Washington Post: “Somewhere between the rantings of the Republican right, which is peddling the nonsense that excessive government spending is to blame for high unemployment, and the Democratic left, which clings to the false hope that another helping of fiscal stimulus is all that is needed to get millions of Americans permanently back to work, is this stubborn reality: The loss of 8 million jobs reflects problems that are largely structural, not cyclical, which means they won’t be brought back by fiddling with a magic dial in Washington that controls how much the government spends. . . .Right now, the United States is running a trade deficit that is likely to reach $450 billion this year. That’s down considerably from the $750 billion at the height of the economic bubble, but still more than a wealthy advanced economy should have. Bringing it down – either by producing more of what we consume (fewer imports) or more of what other countries consume (more exports) – represents the path toward sustainable, long-term job creation. The problem with that strategy is that for the past two decades we have allowed our industrial and technological base to deteriorate as talent and capital were grossly misallocated toward other sectors of the economy, even as other countries were able to attract the investment, the technology and the know-how to serve the U.S. and global markets. For a time, none of this seemed to matter because we were consuming so much that we were able to support job creation at home as well as overseas. But now that the debt-fueled consumption binge is over, we find that we don’t have the companies, the workers or the competitive products to replace the stuff we now import or expand our share of export markets. Even when we do, our companies are disadvantaged by an overvalued currency or unfair trading practices. . . . In this election season, the politicians who are really serious about creating jobs and bringing down unemployment won’t be the ones screaming about tax cuts, or stimulus or some imagined government takeover of the economy. They’ll be the ones talking about how to make the American economy competitive again.”
9.8 Kathleen Parker in the Times: “The moral of this tale is that Obama is out of touch with the American people — and he still just doesn’t get it. They are sad and mad, and the disappointer in chief is banging pots at a bogeyman that doesn’t exist. Got hope? Nope.”
Someone must have thought it just a boffo idea to go to Cleveland and smack John Boehner around. You know, get mad, kick some [expletive], blast the party of no, remind people that, hey, we’re the yes-we-can band. But it’s too late to rally for another round. When the nation is punch-drunk with promises, and even the young — jobless and disenchanted — have been tilting right, change really is in the air.
9.7 Richard Cohen in The Washington Post: “Behold something we never thought we’d see with Obama: The Incredible Shrinking Presidency. This is an amazing and, to me, somewhat frightening, turn of events. The folks who ran a very smart presidential campaign in 2008 have left the defining of the Obama presidency to others, in this case people on the edge of insanity. . . . In other words, the longer Obama has been in office, the more ignorant people have become about him. . . .It is clear by now that Obama has allowed others to define him. For this, Obama needs to blame Obama. His stutter-step approach to certain issues — his wimpy statements regarding the planned Islamic center in Manhattan, for instance — erodes not just his standing but his profile. What we thought we knew, we do not. Like a picture hung in the sun, he fades over time. Obama is stuck with Obama — the good and the bad. There is more of the former than the latter, so all is not lost. But what Obama can do — what he must do — is get some new people. His staff ill-serves him so that he presents a persona at odds with his performance. Not only has he compiled a pretty remarkable legislative record, but he moved with dispatch to rescue the financial system, save the auto industry and — in case no one was looking — implement reforms of our woebegone education system. The more he wins, the more somehow he loses. . . .The president needs to fire some key people. Either that, or the way things are going, the American people are going to fire him.”
9.6 Paul Krugman in the Times: “The economic moral [ of the Great Depression] is clear: when the economy is deeply depressed, the usual rules don’t apply. Austerity is self-defeating: when everyone tries to pay down debt at the same time, the result is depression and deflation, and debt problems grow even worse. And conversely, it is possible — indeed, necessary — for the nation as a whole to spend its way out of debt: a temporary surge of deficit spending, on a sufficient scale, can cure problems brought on by past excesses. But the story of 1938 also shows how hard it is to apply these insights. Even under F.D.R., there was never the political will to do what was needed to end the Great Depression; its eventual resolution came essentially by accident. I had hoped that we would do better this time. But it turns out that politicians and economists alike have spent decades unlearning the lessons of the 1930s, and are determined to repeat all the old mistakes. And it’s slightly sickening to realize that the big winners in the midterm elections are likely to be the very people who first got us into this mess, then did everything in their power to block action to get us out. But always remember: this slump can be cured. All it will take is a little bit of intellectual clarity, and a lot of political will. Here’s hoping we find those virtues in the not too distant future.”
9.5 Joseph E. Stiglitz and Linda J. Bilmes in The Washington Post: “In early 2008, we put the total cost to the United States of the Iraq war at $3 trillion. This price tag dwarfed previous estimates, including the Bush administration’s 2003 projections of a $50 billion to $60 billion war. But today, as the United States ends combat in Iraq, it appears that our $3 trillion estimate (which accounted for both government expenses and the war’s broader impact on the U.S. economy) was, if anything, too low. For example, the cost of diagnosing, treating and compensating disabled veterans has proved higher than we expected. Moreover, two years on, it has become clear to us that our estimate did not capture what may have been the conflict’s most sobering expenses: those in the category of “might have beens,” or what economists call opportunity costs. For instance, many have wondered aloud whether, absent the Iraq invasion, we would still be stuck in Afghanistan. And this is not the only “what if” worth contemplating. We might also ask: If not for the war in Iraq, would oil prices have risen so rapidly? Would the federal debt be so high? Would the economic crisis have been so severe? The answer to all four of these questions is probably no. The central lesson of economics is that resources — including both money and attention — are scarce.”
9.5 Jim Kessler in the Washington Post: “There is a model for Democrats: Ronald Reagan‘s triumph in 1982. What can Obama and the Democrats learn from the Great Communicator? Plenty. Reagan understood that the economy was so bad that to tout his “accomplishments” would be laughable. But though he couldn’t sell the electorate on where the nation was at the time, he knew he could sell them on where he planned to take it. With the country shaken by a series of recessions and foreign policy setbacks, he rallied Americans behind his optimism (“Don’t let anyone tell you that America’s best days are behind her”) and faith in American exceptionalism (“the last, best hope of man on Earth”). Things might look bleak today, he told voters, but blue skies lie ahead. If Democrats are to hold on in November, they must follow Reagan’s tack, sketching a vision for the future that has the United States leading the globe with the world’s strongest economy — one fueled by private-sector growth and a successful middle class. And they must resist the temptation to succumb to a populism that portrays members of the middle class as weak, powerless victims. . . .Optimism wasn’t Reagan’s only tactic, of course. He also told people that there were only two routes to take — his, or the one that led back to Jimmy Carter. In the process, he portrayed the Democrats as the party of pessimism, limits and the belief that, as he put it, “the United States has had its days in the sun, that our nation has passed its zenith.” . . . .Now it is time to borrow another page from Reagan, by offering a more positive, powerful, muscular view of what this country can achieve.
9.2 Robert Reich in the Times: “The national economy isn’t escaping the gravitational pull of the Great Recession. None of the standard booster rockets are working. . . . because the real problem has to do with the structure of the economy, not the business cycle. No booster rocket can work unless consumers are able, at some point, to keep the economy moving on their own. But consumers no longer have the purchasing power to buy the goods and services they produce as workers; for some time now, their means haven’t kept up with what the growing economy could and should have been able to provide them.
This crisis began decades ago when a new wave of technology — things like satellite communications, container ships, computers and eventually the Internet — made it cheaper for American employers to use low-wage labor abroad or labor-replacing software here at home than to continue paying the typical worker a middle-class wage. Even though the American economy kept growing, hourly wages flattened. The median male worker earns less today, adjusted for inflation, than he did 30 years ago. But for years American families kept spending as if their incomes were keeping pace with overall economic growth. And their spending fueled continued growth. How did families manage this trick? First, women streamed into the paid work force. . . .Second, everyone put in more hours. . . .When American families couldn’t squeeze any more income out of these two coping mechanisms, they embarked on a third: going ever deeper into debt. This seemed painless — as long as home prices were soaring. . . .Eventually, of course, the debt bubble burst — and with it, the last coping mechanism. Now we’re left to deal with the underlying problem that we’ve avoided for decades. Even if nearly everyone was employed, the vast middle class still wouldn’t have enough money to buy what the economy is capable of producing. ”
9.2 Paul Krugman in the Times: “The actual lessons of 2009-2010, then, are that scare stories about stimulus are wrong, and that stimulus works when it is applied. But it wasn’t applied on a sufficient scale. And we need another round. I know that getting that round is unlikely: Republicans and conservative Democrats won’t stand for it. And if, as expected, the G.O.P. wins big in November, this will be widely regarded as a vindication of the anti-stimulus position. Mr. Obama, we’ll be told, moved too far to the left, and his Keynesian economic doctrine was proved wrong. But politics determines who has the power, not who has the truth. The economic theory behind the Obama stimulus has passed the test of recent events with flying colors; unfortunately, Mr. Obama, for whatever reason — yes, I’m aware that there were political constraints — initially offered a plan that was much too cautious given the scale of the economy’s problems. So, as I said, here’s hoping that Mr. Obama goes big next week. If he does, he’ll have the facts on his side.”
9.1 From the AP: “A New York City man who plunged 40 stories from the rooftop of an apartment building has survived after crashing onto a parked car. Witnesses and police say 22-year-old Thomas Magill jumped from the high-rise at West 63rd Street on Tuesday. He landed in the backseat area of a Dodge Charger after crashing through the windshield. He suffered broken legs. Police say he’s in critical condition.
The car’s owner, Guy McCormack, of Old Bridge, N.J., told the Daily News he’s convinced that rosary beads he kept inside the Dodge saved Magill’s life.”
9.1 Kathleen Parker in The Washington Post: “Glenn Beck‘s “Restoring Honor” gathering on the Mall was right out of the Alcoholics Anonymous playbook. It was a 12-step program distilled to a few key words, all lifted from a prayer delivered from the Lincoln Memorial: healing, recovery and restoration. . . .He may as well have greeted the crowd of his fellow disaffected with: “Hi. My name is Glenn, and I’m messed up.” . . . .For Beck, addiction has been a defining part of his life, and recovery is a process inseparable from the Glenn Beck Program. His emotional, public breakdowns are replicated in AA meetings in towns and cities every day. Taking others along for the ride, a.k.a. evangelism, is also part of the cure.”
8.31 Roger Federer scored a point by hitting a shot backwards and between his legs in an early round of the US Open.
8.30 Fascinating article in The New Yorker by Jane Mayer about arch right-wing brothers David and Charles Koch, underwriters of so much nasty vitriol and self-serving anti-reform vitriol and tea party nonsense, and major philanthopists to boot!
8.30 Christopher Hitchens on Slate: “In a rather curious and confused way, some white people are starting almost to think like a minority, even like a persecuted one. What does it take to believe that Christianity is an endangered religion in America or that the name of Jesus is insufficiently spoken or appreciated? Who wakes up believing that there is no appreciation for our veterans and our armed forces and that without a noisy speech from Sarah Palin, their sacrifice would be scorned? It’s not unfair to say that such grievances are purely and simply imaginary, which in turn leads one to ask what the real ones can be. The clue, surely, is furnished by the remainder of the speeches, which deny racial feeling so monotonously and vehemently as to draw attention. Concerns of this kind are not confined to the Tea Party belt. . . .Almost every European country has seen the emergence of populist parties that call upon nativism and give vent to the idea that the majority population now feels itself unwelcome in its own country. The ugliness of Islamic fundamentalism in particular has given energy and direction to such movements. It will be astonishing if the United States is not faced, in the very near future, with a similar phenomenon. Quite a lot will depend on what kind of politicians emerge to put themselves at the head of it. Saturday’s rally was quite largely confined to expressions of pathos and insecurity, voiced in a sickly and pious tone. The emotions that underlay it, however, may not be uttered that way indefinitely.”
8.30 E.J. Dionne in The Washington Post: “Seen from the inside, the administration is an astonishing success. President Obama has kept his principal promises and can take credit for achievements that eluded his Democratic predecessors. . . .But Obama and his party are also in a hole because the president has chosen not to engage the nation in an extended dialogue about what holds all of his achievements together, or why his attitude toward government makes more sense than the scattershot conservative attacks on everything Washington might do to improve the nation’s lot. There was a revealing moment in early August when Obama told an audience at a Texas fundraiser: “We have spent the last 20 months governing. They spent the last 20 months politicking.” Referring to the impending elections, he added: “Well, we can politick for three months. They’ve forgotten I know how to politick pretty good.” Obama’s mistake is captured by that disdainful reference to “politicking.” In a democracy, separating governing from “politicking” is impossible. “Politicking” is nothing less than the ongoing effort to convince free citizens of the merits of a set of ideas, policies and decisions. Voters feel better about politicians who put what they are doing in a compelling context. Citizens can endure setbacks as long as they believe the overall direction of the government’s approach is right. Franklin D. Roosevelt was a genius at offering such reassurances, which is why his fireside chats are the stuff of political legend. Ronald Reagan never stopped campaigning . . . . It is too late to turn the midterm election into a triumph for the administration but not too late to salvage his party’s congressional majorities. Given dismal Democratic expectations, that would now be rated as a victory. But doing so will require Obama to think anew about what “politicking” really means, to pick more than tactical fights with his adversaries, and to lay out, without equivocation or apology, where he is trying to move the country. It’s just too bad he didn’t start earlier.”
8.30 Top-notch analysis by Robert J. Samuelsonbin The Washington Post today: “The logic of the economic recovery isn’t working — or, at any rate, not well. By that logic, over-borrowed Americans would repay loans and replenish depleted savings, creating a temporary drop in consumer spending and economic activity. But once savings increased and debt declined, consumer buying would strengthen. . . .It isn’t that Americans aren’t behaving as anticipated. They may actually be outperforming. “Consumers are deleveraging (reducing debt) . . . and rebuilding saving faster than expected,” writes economist Richard Berner of Morgan Stanley. In 2007, the personal savings rate was 2 percent. Now it’s about 6 percent. Temporarily, this hurts buying. . . .This severe retrenchment might now signal a rebound in consumer spending, says Berner. . . .If Berner’s right, the worst is over. He expects consumption to grow 2 to 2.5 percent annually, propelling a steady — if unspectacular — recovery. Indeed, consumption spending grew at a 2 percent annual rate in the second quarter. Berner forecasts unemployment to decline slowly to about 9 percent by year-end 2011. The trouble with this analysis, as Berner admits, is that it presumes that most of the adjustment has already occurred. But what if worried Americans are only midway? . . . . The present pessimism could be a passing fad. Doubts about recoveries are standard in the early years, notes Susan Sterne of Economic Analysis Associates. Still, there are calls for government to do more. But with interest rates already low and budget deficits high, additional actions might boomerang, especially if they seem desperate and aggravate anxiety. The recovery is a creature of confidence, or its absence. “In normal times, psychology doesn’t matter much. It reflects economic conditions,” says Zandi. “But in abnormal times, it’s the reverse. Psychology determines economic conditions.” What the boom and bust left is a massive case of collective doubt.
8.29 Dana Milbank in the Washington Post: “Glenn Beck updated the meaning of the civil rights movement so that it is no longer about black people; it is about protecting anti-tax conservatives from liberals. Civil rights leaders, he said, “purposely distorted Martin Luther King‘s ideas.” Over the past century, Beck reasons, “no man has been free, because we’ve been progressive.” To his followers, he says: “We are the people of the civil rights movement.” ”
8.28 Brian Wheeler on bbc.com: “Privacy campaigners might have been forgiven for thinking all their Christmases had come at once when the coalition government came to power. As the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats groped about for common ground on which to base their unlikely coalition, the abolition of ID cards and the dismantling of the “database state” suddenly shot to the top of the political agenda. Here was one issue on which both parties could heartily agree – that the state under Labour had become too powerful and too concerned with gathering and storing the personal details of citizens. . . .But some fear that despite the big headline announcements, behind the scenes it is very much business as usual for the database state.” See full article here.
8.27 Herobuilders.com is offering an Anna Chapman action figure for 29.95
8.27 Mohamed A. El-Erian in The Washington Post:“ Policymakers must break this active inertia by implementing a structural vision to accompany their current cyclical focus. Measures are needed to address key issues, which include the change in drivers of growth and employment creation; the high risk of skill erosion and lost labor productivity; financial deleveraging in the private sector; debt overhangs; the uncertain regulatory environment; and the unacceptably high risks facing the most vulnerable segments of society. Specific measures would include pro-growth tax reform, housing finance reform, increased infrastructure investments, greater support for education and research, job retraining programs, removal of outdated interstate competition barriers and stronger social safety nets. That, of course, is what is desirable; how about what is likely? . . . .[T]he prospects for a sufficiently bold policy reaction are doubtful. Post-financial crisis, it is no longer just about the “unusually uncertain” economic outlook and related challenges for a policy approach that remains too reactive and ad hoc. The politics of structural change are now a material impediment. An already polarized political environment is becoming even more fractured by real and far less substantive issues. There is virtually no political center that can anchor consensus and enable sustained implementation of policy. Meanwhile, as anti-Washington sentiments rise, interest in a national agenda is increasingly giving way to the election cycle. Internationally, the impressive degree of cross-border coordination seen during the global financial crisis has been reduced to inconsistent — and at times contradictory — national responses.
This worrisome trio of increasingly ineffective national and global policy stances, intense political polarization and growing social pressures speaks to the risk that the economy’s recent soft patch will evolve into something even more troublesome and sinister.”
8.27 Paul Krugman in the Times: “So what should officials be doing, aside from telling the truth about the economy? The Fed has a number of options. It can buy more long-term and private debt; it can push down long-term interest rates by announcing its intention to keep short-term rates low; it can raise its medium-term target for inflation, making it less attractive for businesses to simply sit on their cash. Nobody can be sure how well these measures would work, but it’s better to try something that might not work than to make excuses while workers suffer. The administration has less freedom of action, since it can’t get legislation past the Republican blockade. But it still has options. It can revamp its deeply unsuccessful attempt to aid troubled homeowners. It can use Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored lenders, to engineer mortgage refinancing that puts money in the hands of American families — yes, Republicans will howl, but they’re doing that anyway. It can finally get serious about confronting China over its currency manipulation: how many times do the Chinese have to promise to change their policies, then renege, before the administration decides that it’s time to act? Which of these options should policy makers pursue? If I had my way, all of them. . . .It’s time to admit that what we have now isn’t a recovery, and do whatever we can to change that situation.”
8.27 Simon Johnson on The Baseline Scenario: “The distribution of income in the United States is undoubtedly becoming more unequal. Specifically, over recent decades, it has become harder for people with only a high-school education to build a secure middle-class future for their families. We can argue about proximate causes, including the relative roles of new technology and globalization, but there is no question that unionized jobs, well-paying assembly line work and prosperous small-business niches have all tended to disappear. The financial crisis may be behind us, but the link to the likely intense debate this fall regarding fiscal policy is direct — we are told that fiscal austerity requires outright and immediate further cuts in the benefits previously promised to people at the federal, state and local level. Never mind that this is simply not true – at least in the form currently presented (here are a primer on short-term issues and another on the longer-term perspective). A vocal class of people – including some at the upper end of the income distribution – incessantly insist that “entitlements must be cut” while refusing to address the real causes of both our recent surge in government debt (the financial crisis, caused by perverse incentives in the financial system) and the genuine longer-term issues we face (which are about controlling the future increase in health-care costs – not cutting the level of benefits today). The self-described “fiscal conservatives” really cannot be taken seriously – in the financial reform debate, they either didn’t show up or preferred to keep the existing system in place, and they refuse to put serious health cost-control measures on the table. If the “conservatives” don’t really want to reduce the shocks that have caused government debt to explode recently – or to deal with the underlying, longstanding health-care cost issues in a reasonable fashion – what exactly is going on? That’s a question they should answer for themselves, and hopefully they will be pressed on this in public debates during the run-up to November’s elections. But there is a striking similarity between the longstanding stated intention to “starve the beast” (meaning press for reduction in government by creating binding constraints, like a perceived crisis) and what we are seeing play out today. And there is very real danger that this strategy will work, in the sense that the contours of a coming “fiscal crisis” – what will be discussed and how the issues are framed – will largely be structured by scaremongers who wish to cut pensions and health-care benefits for middle Americans in the years ahead and who will work hard to keep meaningful tax reform off the table. People who push for this view are not being fiscally responsible, and they are well down the road to exacerbating third world-type problems in the United States – and to creating the conditions for another financial crisis.”
8.25 John Dickerson on Slate: “Sarah Palin has special medicine. That’s about the only clear conclusion to be drawn from Tuesday’s primary results. She backed five candidates in Arizona, Florida, and Alaska—and they all won. The rest of the results from the evening defied easy matching. The themes of anti-incumbency and voter anger are still out there, but the candidates who mastered those forces (or avoided them) did so in different ways. . . Nevertheless, we can say this: Sarah Palin is having a good morning. Twenty of the candidates she’s endorsed have won. Ten have lost. That’s a pretty good record. . . .Palin now has more support for a favorite story line of hers: The pundits and so-called experts said things were going to go one way but she had faith; she knew the real deal. This is part of her larger pitch: that she understands something fundamental about conservative voters. That, in turn, is what voters believe about her, which makes them think she has a special light to guide the country out of the muck. How much real power Palin has to change minds or give candidates she endorses helpful exposure is still a big question. She may just be good at picking winners. But the Palin brand now grows ever stronger because other Republicans will want to access that magic. Even if they don’t believe it really exists, they have to pretend it does or risk winding up like Lisa Murkowski.”
8.25 “I’ve made some plenty smart cracks about people on Social Security who milk it to the last degree. You know ‘em too. It’s the same with any system in America. We’ve reached a point now where it’s like a milk cow with 310 million tits! Call when you get honest work!” –former Senator Alan Simpson, now the GOP co-chair of the president’s deficit commission. Feminists have called for his resignation.
8.25 Christina Hendricks will appear in an ad campaign for London Fog
8.24 David Brooks in The New York Times: “We’re all less conscious of our severe mental shortcomings and less inclined to be skeptical of our own opinions. Occasionally you. . . find someone who takes mental limitations seriously. For example, Charlie Munger of Berkshire Hathaway once gave a speech called “The Psychology of Human Misjudgment.” He and others list our natural weaknesses: We have confirmation bias; we pick out evidence that supports our views. We are cognitive misers; we try to think as little as possible. We are herd thinkers and conform our perceptions to fit in with the group. But, in general, the culture places less emphasis on the need to struggle against one’s own mental feebleness. . . . The ensuing mental flabbiness is most evident in politics. Many conservatives declare that Barack Obama is a Muslim because it feels so good to say so. Many liberals would never ask themselves why they were so wrong about the surge in Iraq while George Bush was so right. The question is too uncomfortable. There’s a seller’s market in ideologies that gives people a chance to feel victimized. There’s a rigidity to political debate. Issues like tax cuts and the size of government, which should be shaped by circumstances (often it’s good to cut taxes; sometimes it’s necessary to raise them), are now treated as inflexible tests of tribal purity. To use a fancy word, there’s a metacognition deficit. Very few in public life habitually step back and think about the weakness in their own thinking and what they should do to compensate. . . .The rigors of combat discourage it. Of the problems that afflict the country, this is the underlying one.”
8.24 According to Chinese state media, traffic on the Beijing-Tibet Highway has “returned to normal” after a massive jam slowed traffic to “a snail’s pace” for nine days.
8.21 Frank Rich in the Times: “In the five months after The Times’s initial account there were no newspaper articles on the project at all. It was only in May of this year that the Rupert Murdoch axis of demagoguery revved up, jettisoning [Laura] Ingraham’s benign take for a New York Post jihad. The paper’s inspiration was a rabidly anti-Islam blogger best known for claiming that Obama was Malcolm X’s illegitimate son. Soon the rest of the Murdoch empire and its political allies piled on, promoting the incendiary libel that the “radical Islamists” behind the “ground zero mosque” were tantamount either to neo-Nazis in Skokie (according to a Wall Street Journal columnist) or actual Nazis (per Newt Gingrich). These patriots have never attacked the routine Muslim worship services at another site of the 9/11 attacks, the Pentagon. Their sudden concern for ground zero is suspect to those of us who actually live in New York. All but 12 Republicans in the House voted against health benefits for 9/11 responders just last month. Though many of these ground-zero watchdogs partied at the 2004 G.O.P. convention in New York exploiting 9/11, none of them protested that a fellow Republican, the former New York governor George Pataki, so bollixed up the management of the World Trade Center site that nine years on it still lacks any finished buildings, let alone a permanent memorial.”
8.21 Maureen Dowd in the Times on Obama: “How can a man who has written two best-selling memoirs and been on TV so much that some Democrats worried he was overexposed be getting less known and more misunderstood by the day? The president who is always talking about wanting to be perfectly clear is ever more opaque. The One, who owes his presidency to the intense feeling he stirred up, turns out to be a practical guy who can’t deal with intense feeling. He ran as a man apart — Joe Biden was enlisted to folksy him up — and now he must deal with the fact that many see him as a man apart. Too lofty to pay heed to the daily bump and grind of politics, Obama has failed to present himself as someone with the common touch. And to the extent that people don’t know him or don’t get him, he becomes easier to demonize. Obama is the victim of the elevated expectations he so skillfully created in 2008. He came as a redeemer and then — tied up in W.’s Gordian knots, dragged down by an economy leeched by wars and Wall Street charlatans — didn’t redeem. And nothing bums out a nation that blows with the wind like a self-appointed messiah who disappoints. If we’re not the ones we’ve been waiting for, who are we?
8.20 Thomas Boswell in The Washington Post: “Clemens had to realize that, in a forum this public, somebody was going to end up facing perjury charges. And the Mitchell Report, after an enormously long and expensive study by his own sport, had already thrown him under the bus and made him the poster boy for the Steroid Age. That very day, as Clemens and McNamee testified, committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) summed up the obvious problem: “They don’t disagree on a phone call or a meeting. If Mr. McNamee is lying, he has acted inexcusably and he has made Mr. Clemens an innocent victim. If Mr. Clemens isn’t telling the truth, then he is acting shamefully and has smeared Mr. McNamee. I don’t think there is anything in between.” Somebody, even if it took a couple of years to complete the case, was going to be charged with perjury. And now, no surprise to anybody – except perhaps to whomever was giving the Rocket legal or public relations advice – it’s turned out to be Clemens. . . .In Clemens’s case, this was so unnecessary. And, apparently, he was the only one who didn’t know it. The night before Clemens testified to Congress, I was at a function where some of the usual Washington suspects from law and politics were mingling. In this town, discussing probes and indictments is like chatting about the soybean harvest in more sensible places. All night, I heard the same question: “How can he testify? Doesn’t he realize that, once he does, they can’t let it go of it until they get to the bottom of it?”
8.20 Matt Kinsmen in Folio on the changing role of edit: “This year the publishing catchphrase is “marketing services” (with of course, a strong social media component). Depending on your definition, magazine publishers have always offered “marketing services,” but today that increasingly has come to mean going beyond custom publishing and targeting below-the line-budgets. . . .Increasingly, publishers are bypassing the agencies to work directly with the brand on the marketing message. . . .[W]hat does that mean for traditional publishing roles, such as editors and salespeople? While salespeople focus on the consultative sale rather than just slinging inventory, editors are walking that fine line between editorial independence and client obligation. Business-to-business publisher Watt is offering to develop social media strategies for clients, which includes editors doing “ghost blogs” by interviewing project managers, then writing up a blog post under the client’s brand based on that conversation. Watt is charging $100 to $200 per blog posting. McGraw-Hill considers the topic of marketing services to be a nomenclature issue, since they’ve offered similar services for generations. However, editors are becoming more targeted in both their traditional outlets as well as more client-oriented work. “Many of these services we’ve never viewed as publishing solutions,” Glenn Goldberg, president of McGraw-Hill’s Information & Media segment, tells me. “But increasingly there is a need for edit and there’s a question of how you define that. We will never mess with the independence and integrity of the edit process. There are some immutable truths to doing editorial properly. People are making big ticket decisions based in large part on edit, and you want the best people offering an independent view.” Having said that, Goldberg, continues “We need to deliver value in a lineup of other products and services. With AviationWeek, for example, we have wonderful journalists who know the business but we also know there are certain needs those customer segments have. We won’t tell them what to write but based on that knowledge there are needs that customers want written about. The days of editors saying ‘I want to write about this’ are numbered.””
8.19 The Washington Post reports the results of a new poll that says “the number of Americans who believe — wrongly — that President Obama is a Muslim has increased significantly since his inauguration and now accounts for nearly 20 percent of the nation’s population.”
8.19 Last US combat troops leave Iraq
8.19 Roger Clemens indicted for lying to Congress
8.19 To Long Island to see Joe Plumeri. We’ll see.
8.18 Rod Blagojevich, on a taped phone conversation, quoted in the Washington Post: “”Do you have the testicular virility to make a decision like that, knowing what’s coming your way and then stick to it, which is what I did, and knowing all of this that we’re dealing with now is what we have to deal with? I say I do.”
8.18 Rooney Mara to play Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
8.18 Maureen Dowd in the Times: “Newt Gingrich fancies himself an intellectual, a historian, a deep thinker — the opposite number, you might say, of Sarah Palin. Yet here is Gingrich attempting to out-Palin Palin on Fox News: “Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington.” There is no more demagogic analogy than that. Have any of the screaming critics noticed that there already are two mosques in the same neighborhood — one four blocks away and one 12 blocks away. Should they be dismantled? And what about the louche liquor stores and strip clubs in the periphery of the sacred ground? By now you have to be willfully blind not to know that the imam in charge of the project, Feisal Abdul Rauf, is the moderate Muslim we have allegedly been yearning for.”
8.18 Thomas L. Friedman in the Times: “America will probably need some added stimulus to kick start employment, but any stimulus right now must be in growth-enabling investments that will yield more than their costs, or they just increase debt. That means investments in skill building and infrastructure plus tax incentives for starting new businesses and export promotion. To get a stimulus through Congress it must be paired with spending cuts and/or tax increases timed for when the economy improves. . . . America’s solvency inflection point is coinciding with a technological one. Thanks to Internet diffusion, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and the shift from laptops and desktops to hand-held iPads and iPhones, technology is destroying older, less skilled jobs that paid a decent wage at a faster pace than ever while spinning off more new skilled jobs that pay a decent wage but require more education than ever. There is only one way to deal with this challenge: more innovation to stimulate new industries and jobs that can pay workers $40 an hour, coupled with a huge initiative to train more Americans to win these jobs over their global competitors. There is no other way.”
8.18 Scott Turow in the Times: “The Constitutional amendment this nation most urgently requires is one that reverses the notion that unrestricted political spending deserves protection as free speech. Without that, who could fault a juror for looking around at contemporary political life and feeling that Rod Blagojevich had been unfairly singled out?” Amen.
8.17 Rod Blagojevich escapes conviction on 23 of the 24 counts filed against him. He was convicted on the charge of lying to the FBI by saying that “he did not keep track of or want to know who was contributing to his campaign or how much was being given”, an activity which itself is legal.
8.17 Bobby Thomson, author of The Shot Heard ’round the World, dies.
8.17 Bill Pennington in the Times on Dustin Johnson being denied a chance to win the P.G.A. Championship on Sunday when he suffered a two-stroke penalty because he violated a rule for touching his club on the ground in a hazard (he didn’t think he wa in a bunker): “Since those bunkers caused a minor controversy in much the same way at the 2004 P.G.A. Championship, the rules committee this year went out of its way to remind players about the rule. It was atop the course’s rules sheet. In a radio interview Monday, Johnson’s fellow pro Steve Elkington said the special bunker rule was taped to the back of doors in the toilet stalls of the men’s locker room so it could not be missed. Johnson said he never read the rule sheet.” A terrible comment on reading in America.
8.17 Michael D. Shear in The Washington Post: “As Washington and the nation continued this week to process President Obama‘s remarks on the Islamic cultural center planned near Ground Zero, one fact remained indisputable: This was a controversy of the president’s choosing. True, some folks had been publicly pushing Obama to join the fray. But having chosen to stay silent for weeks, and with Washington virtually empty for August break, there seemed to be little pressure on him to do so. And yet, with little warning, Obama decided that his voice — the president’s voice — was an important one to add to the debate. One Republican consultant said flatly right after the remarks, “He is right on principle, but he will get slaughtered on the politics. It’s almost like they’ve decided to throw in the towel” on the midterm elections, said the consultant, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “If the power to decide this was his alone, I could understand this, but it is not. He chose to walk into this from the sidelines, which seems to me a foolish waste of political capital on a local issue. A curious mix of ego and self-aggrandizement, albeit for the right cause.” The president’s advisers often describe Obama’s early months in office as largely dictated by the crises unfolding around him. They say the economic collapse, the bank and auto failures, the H1N1 pandemic and the oil spill crisis all forced him to act. But at other times, the president has seemed almost to welcome the danger that comes with wading into a difficult political situation. The more fraught, the better, it seems.”
8.17 According to an article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Shahzeen Attar of Columbia University’s Earth Institute et al, “Many Americans believe they can save energy with small behavior changes that actually achieve very little, and severely underestimate the major effects of switching to efficient, currently available technologies. The largest group, nearly 20 percent, cited turning off lights as the best approach—an action that affects energy budgets relatively little. Very few cited buying decisions that experts say would cut U.S. energy consumption dramatically, such as more efficient cars (cited by only 2.8 percent), more efficient appliances (cited by 3.2 percent) or weatherizing homes (cited by 2.1 percent). Previous researchers have concluded that households could reduce their energy consumption some 30 percent by making such choices—all without waiting for new technologies, making big economic sacrifices or losing their sense of well-being.”
8.16 Saw Salt with Molly. Pretty good thriller–the set-piece in St. Bartholomew’s Church was best.
8.16 William Saletan on Slate: “Consider the arguments for [stopping the mosque.]
1. The project is a statement of Islamic conquest. This is Gingrich‘s position. “The ground zero mosque is a political statement of radical islamist triumph,” he tweeted Friday in response to Obama‘s speech. Debra Burlingame, the co-founder of 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America, issued a similar statement: “Building a 15-story mosque at Ground Zero is a deliberately provocative act.” These are flat-out lies. The project isn’t a “15-story mosque.” It’s a community center with a library, gym, auditorium, and restaurant. Yes, it will include a mosque. It will also host events to facilitate “multifaith dialogue.” It isn’t at Ground Zero—it’s two blocks away, in what used to be a Burlington Coat Factory.
2. Any mosque near Ground Zero is offensive. Responding yesterday to Obama’s speech, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said, “[I]t’s unwise … to build a mosque at the site where 3,000 Americans lost their lives as a result of a terrorist attack.” I’m sorry, Senator: Did you say it’s unwise to build a mosque near the site of a terrorist attack?
Others have put the equation more subtly. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., says, “It is insensitive and uncaring for the Muslim community to build a mosque in the shadow of ground zero.” Marco Rubio, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Florida, says, “It is divisive and disrespectful to build a mosque next to the site where 3,000 innocent people were murdered at the hands of Islamic extremism.” All these objections rest on the premise that the 9/11 hijackers, by committing mass murder in the name of Islam, made Islam a religion of mass murder. To accept this equation is to give them the power to define the religion of 1 billion people. That—not the rise of pro-American Islamic pluralism—is the conquest the masterminds of 9/11 sought. Don’t let them have it.
3. Ground Zero is sacred. Palin, rebutting Obama, asks why the project’s sponsors are “so set on building a mosque steps from what you have described, in agreement with me, as ‘hallowed ground.’ ” Her question assumes that the presence of a mosque would defile the sanctity of the site. In other words, unlike Obama, she believes in the kind of sanctity that excludes Islam. That’s exactly the kind of sectarian thinking al-Qaida wants to attribute to the United States and cultivate among Muslims.
4. By persisting in the face of opposition, the project’s sponsors prove their hostility. King says the project’s planners are “abusing” their rights by “needlessly offending” the 9/11 families. Burlingame says, “No one who has lived this history and felt the sting of our country’s loss that day can truly believe that putting our families through more wrenching heartache can be an act of peace.” Palin asks: “If those who wish to build this Ground Zero mosque are sincerely interested in encouraging positive ‘cross-cultural engagement’ and dialogue to show a moderate and tolerant face of Islam, then why haven’t they recognized that the decision to build a mosque at this particular location is doing just the opposite?”
Note the sleight of hand. First, opponents stirred up discomfort about the project by claiming that its sponsors were radicals and that any mosque near Ground Zero was inherently inappropriate. These claims, as explained above, are false. But that no longer matters. What matters is that people now feel discomfort about the project, and for that reason alone, it should be relocated. The same argument could be made against anything that upsets a local majority: same-sex marriage, Jews in restricted neighborhoods, Christians in Mecca, blacks sitting in the front of the bus. If you can’t justify your discomfort, it merits no respect.
5. Terrorists will see the mosque as a triumph. This objection [is] a Gingrich favorite. . . .This is another derivative and dangerous argument. On this view, the nature of the Islamic center and the motives of its sponsors don’t matter. Nor do the perceptions of ordinary Muslims around the world. What matters is al-Qaida’s perception. If al-Qaida thinks it’s a statement of conquest, we should oppose it. In this way, we make ourselves al-Qaida’s slaves.
8.16 Michael Gerson in the Washington Post: “By this standard, Obama had no choice but the general path he took. No president, of any party or ideology, could tell millions of Americans that their sacred building desecrates American holy ground. This would understandably be taken as a presidential assault on the deepest beliefs of his fellow citizens. It would be an unprecedented act of sectarianism, alienating an entire faith tradition from the American experiment. If a church or synagogue can be built on a commercial street in Lower Manhattan, declaring a mosque off-limits would officially equate Islam with violence and terrorism. No president would consider making such a statement. And those commentators who urge the president to do so fundamentally misunderstand the presidency itself.”
8.16 The racist James J. Kilpatrick dies. From his obit in the Times: “Mr. Kilpatrick went beyond constitutional arguments. In 1963, he drafted an article for The Saturday Evening Post with the proposed title “The Hell He Is Equal,” in which he wrote that “the Negro race, as a race, is in fact an inferior race.” As recounted in The Race Beat by Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff (Knopf, 2006), the magazine’s senior editor, Thomas B. Congdon Jr., decided not to publish the article after four black girls were killed in the Birmingham, Ala., church bombing. Mr. Congdon viewed Mr. Kilpatrick’s article as in “bad taste” and “inflammatory.” Mr. Kilpatrick ultimately acknowledged that segregation was a lost cause and re-examined his earlier defense of it. “I was brought up a white boy in Oklahoma City in the 1920s and 1930,” he told Time magazine in 1970. “I accepted segregation as a way of life. Very few of us, I suspect, would like to have our passions and profundities at age 28 thrust in our faces at 50.” Is that an apology?
8.15 A very clear Maureen Dowd in the Times: “Obama got elected because of the clarity of his campaign and his speeches. But, surprisingly, he’s in some ways an incoherent president. He’s with the banks, he’s against the banks. He’s leaving Afghanistan, he’s staying in Afghanistan. He strains at being a populist, but his head is in the clouds. He needs to communicate more clearly.”
8.14 James Surowiecki in The New Yorker: “As the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez have documented, people who earn a few hundred thousand dollars a year have done much worse than people at the very top of the ladder. Between 2002 and 2007, for instance, the bottom ninety-nine per cent of incomes grew 1.3 per cent a year in real terms—while the incomes of the top one per cent grew ten per cent a year. That one per cent accounted for two-thirds of all income growth in those years. People in the ninety-fifth to the ninety-ninth percentiles of income have represented a fairly constant share of the national income for twenty-five years now. But in that period the top one per cent has seen its share of national income double; in 2007, it captured twenty-three per cent of the nation’s total income. Even within the top one per cent, income is getting more concentrated: the top 0.1 per cent of earners have seen their share of national income triple over the same period. All by themselves, they now earn as much as the bottom hundred and twenty million people. So at the same time that the rich have been pulling away from the middle class, the very rich have been pulling away from the pretty rich, and the very, very rich have been pulling away from the very rich. The current debate over taxes takes none of this into account. At the moment, we have a system of tax brackets well suited to nineteenth-century New Zealand. Our system sets the top bracket at three hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars, with a tax rate of thirty-five per cent. (People in the second-highest bracket, starting at a hundred and seventy-two thousand dollars for individuals, pay thirty-three per cent.) This means that someone making two hundred thousand dollars a year and someone making two hundred million dollars a year pay at similar tax rates. LeBron James and LeBron James’s dentist: same difference.”
8.13 Paul Krugman in the Times: “Inflation is well below the Fed’s target of around 2 percent, and it is continuing to slide. And Americans face a level of unemployment, and sheer human misery, far worse than anything Japan went through. Yet the Fed is doing almost nothing to confront these troubles. . . .Whatever the reasons, the fact is that the Fed — which is required by statute to promote “maximum employment” — isn’t doing its job. Instead, like the rest of Washington, it’s inventing reasons to dither in the face of mass unemployment. And while the Fed sits there in its self-inflicted paralysis, millions of Americans are losing their jobs, their homes and their hopes for the future. unemployed.” I am fully in favor of the Fed doing something, but it is such an awful comment on the state of our politics that we have to depend on this kind of undemocratic institution to solve our problems.
8.12 Went to Baltimore to visit Rose. We had a terrific time gorging on crabs and visiting Geppi’s Entertainment Museum on Camden Street. Fun!
8.11 In what John Sterling rightly called “the most exciting and best game of the year,” the Yankees defeated the estimable Cliff Lee and the playoff-bound Texas Rangers 7-6, after having fallen behind 6-1. Like many ugly wins (the Yanks stuck out 17 times), it was exciting, and a full team effort, with key hits by Marcus Thames, Lance Berkman and Derek Jeter, sold relief work by Sergio Mitre and Kerry Wood, and an incredible save by Mariano Rivera. The great Rivera, who had lost the night before, have up a lead-off triple, but then got an out off a shin-high catch of a dying quail by Austin Kearns, an anemic comebacker off the bat of the lethal Josh Hamilton, and then a hard-hit grounder by Vladimir Guerrero that Alex Rodriguez had to snatch off a wicked high hop. So exited were the Yanks that “there was music in the clubhouse,” as we learned the next day.
8.10 Robert J. Samuelson in The Washington Post writes about an Agriculture Department Report “that estimates what parents spend on their children. The latest version finds, not surprisingly, that the costs are steep. For a middle-class husband-wife family (average pretax income in 2009: $76,250), spending per child is about $12,000 a year. Assuming modest annual inflation (2.8 percent), the report estimates that the family’s spending on a child born in 2009 would total $286,050 by age 17. A two-child family would cost about $600,000. All these estimates may be understated because they do not include college costs. These dry statistics ought to inform the deficit debate, because a budget is not just a catalogue of programs and taxes. It reflects a society’s priorities and values. Our society does not — despite rhetoric to the contrary — put much value on raising children. Present budget policies punish parents, who are taxed heavily to support the elderly. Meanwhile, tax breaks for children are modest. If deficit reduction aggravates these biases, more Americans may choose not to have children or to have fewer children. Down that path lies economic decline [because] Societies that cannot replace their populations discourage investment and innovation. . . .Any tax system rewards some activities and punishes others. A case in point is the mortgage interest rate deduction that rewards people for buying larger homes with more debt. We might reduce this dubious subsidy and shift some savings toward children. Stein advocates combining pro-child tax breaks (the personal exemption, the child tax credit, the child-care credit and the adoption credit) into one generous credit. Whatever the details, policies should have a pro-family bias because parenting is, as he writes, “one of the most important services any American can perform.”
8.8 From The New York Times: “It took almost 50 years, and there was no interest added. But a promise is a promise, and Jim Gentile finally got his $5,000 bonus from the Baltimore Orioles. Gentile had the best season of a nine-year career for the Orioles in 1961, hitting .302 with 46 home runs and 141 runs batted in to finish third in the voting for the American League most valuable player, behind Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. For years, Maris had been credited with 142 R.B.I. that season, narrowly edging Gentile for the league lead. When the Orioles raised Gentile’s salary the next spring, General Manager Lee MacPhail told him he would have paid an extra $5,000 if Gentile had led the league in R.B.I. Last month, when the Elias Sports Bureau officially recognized a scoring change from that season, Gentile gained a share of the crown. Analysis by the Society for American Baseball Research found that Maris had erroneously been credited with an R.B.I. during a game on July 5, 1961; the run, in fact, had scored on an error, as was reported in five published accounts of the game and in the Yankees’ play-by-play sheets. By officially changing the scoring, Maris was deducted a run batted in — giving him only 141, the same as Gentile. The Orioles honored Gentile, now 76, for his achievement before their game at Camden Yards on Friday. Andy MacPhail, the Orioles’ president of baseball operations whose father made that long-ago promise, presented him with a $5,000 check.
8.6 With two out in the ninth inning of a game that the Yankees were losing 6-2, Derek Jeter worked a 12-pitch walk off Red Sox ace reliever Jonathan Papelbon. A dramatic test of wills that had everyone in the Yankee dugout watching from the top step. Jeter’s refusal to yield shows exactly why he is the captain and the undisputed leader of this team. Then Nick Swisher made the last out. Still, an example of what makes baseball so interesting.
8.6 Christopher Hitchens in Vanity Fair: “I suppose, I have been “in denial” for some time, knowingly burning the candle at both ends and finding that it often gives a lovely light. But for precisely that reason, I can’t see myself smiting my brow with shock or hear myself whining about how it’s all so unfair: I have been taunting the Reaper into taking a free scythe in my direction and have now succumbed to something so predictable and banal that it bores even me. Rage would be beside the point for the same reason. Instead, I am badly oppressed by a gnawing sense of waste. I had real plans for my next decade and felt I’d worked hard enough to earn it. Will I really not live to see my children married? To watch the World Trade Center rise again? To read—if not indeed write—the obituaries of elderly villains like Henry Kissinger and Joseph Ratzinger? But I understand this sort of non-thinking for what it is: sentimentality and self-pity. Of course my book hit the best-seller list on the day that I received the grimmest of news bulletins, and for that matter the last flight I took as a healthy-feeling person (to a fine, big audience at the Chicago Book Fair) was the one that made me a million-miler on United Airlines, with a lifetime of free upgrades to look forward to. But irony is my business and I just can’t see any ironies here: would it be less poignant to get cancer on the day that my memoirs were remaindered as a box-office turkey, or that I was bounced from a coach-class flight and left on the tarmac? To the dumb question “Why me?” the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply: Why not?”
8.5 From Entertainment Weekly: “These are dark days for James Bond fans. It will likely be years before 007 returns to the screen, thanks to money troubles at MGM, Bond’s longtime studio, which has been up for sale since November. Even Daniel Craig seems to have moved on, signing up for the lead in a different potential franchise, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The last time the Bond series was put on this sort of “indefinite” hold was back in the early 1990s, after a series of legal battles (and Timothy Dalton) nearly wrecked the series. It took six years to get it up and running again. And in Hollywood today, six years is an eternity. “No franchise can afford to be away from screens for that long anymore,” says a former MGM exec. “You lose too much momentum. Even for Bond, it could be deadly.” Of course, Bond has defied death before — just ask Blofeld — so we’re not counting him out just yet.”
8.5 Craig Whitlock in the Washington Post: “During the summer of 1972, official Washington was dragging Air Force Gen. John D. Lavelle‘s name and reputation through the mud. Multiple investigations by the Pentagon and Congress concluded that the four-star commander had ordered unauthorized bombing missions in North Vietnam and then tried to cover them up. He was demoted to major general and forced to retire, in disgrace. Lavelle maintained his rectitude until his death, saying he was acting on orders. Nearly four decades later, it turns out he was right. On Wednesday, after an exhaustive reexamination of Lavelle’s actions, President Obama asked the Senate to restore his honor and his missing stars. The decision officially sets the record straight about who really lied during the controversial chapter in the Vietnam War, who told the truth and who was left holding the bag. Historical records unearthed by two biographers who came across the material by happenstance show that Lavelle was indeed acting on orders to conduct the bombing missions and that the orders came from the commander in chief himself: President Richard M. Nixon. Not only did Nixon give the secret orders, but transcripts of his recorded Oval Office conversations show that he stood by, albeit uncomfortably, as Lavelle suffered a scapegoat’s fate. “I just don’t want him to be made a goat, goddamnit,” Nixon told his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, on June 14, 1972, a few days after it was disclosed that Lavelle had been demoted for the allegedly unauthorized attacks. “You, you destroy a man’s career. . . . Can we do anything now to stop this damn thing?” On June 26, Nixon’s conscience intervened in another conversation with Kissinger. “Frankly, Henry, I don’t feel right about our pushing him into this thing and then, and then giving him a bad rap,” the president said. “I don’t want to hurt an innocent man.” But Nixon was unwilling to stand up publicly for the general. With many lawmakers and voters already uneasy about the war, he wasn’t about to admit that he had secretly given permission to escalate bombing in North Vietnam. At a June 29 news conference, he was asked about Lavelle’s case and the airstrikes. “It wasn’t authorized,” Nixon told the reporters. “It was proper for him to be relieved and retired.” Question: Why did Kissinger never step forward?
8.5 At the war crimes trial of former Liberia president Charles Taylor, model Naomi Campbell finally admits that Taylor ave her blood diamonds. Reports ABC News: “She reluctantly appeared at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague to give her version of events the night she met Taylor at the home of Nelson Mandela in 1997. She arrived at court under police protection, and said during testimony that appearing was an “inconvenience” for her.”
8.5 Joel Achenbach and Steven Mufson in the Washington Post: “On the 107th day of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the Macondo well became an apparently harmless hole in the seafloor, clogged with 13-pound-per-gallon gunk, and barely more of a threat to spew oil into the Gulf of Mexico than to start gushing lemonade. The “static kill” had worked. The well that tormented the nation has flatlined. Federal officials green-lighted the cementing of the well, already jammed with mud, late Wednesday. Federal waters are reopening gradually to fishing. The oil slick, the once-horrific expanse of red-orange mousse and silver sheen, has largely disappeared, federal scientists said Wednesday, even though the amount of oil left is more than four times that dumped by the Exxon Valdez. The Obama administration breathed a sigh of relief, holding a midday news conference featuring top officials who claimed credit for guiding BP in getting the well under control. . . .About three-quarters of the nearly 5 million barrels of oil that escaped Macondo has evaporated, dissolved or been dispersed by chemicals, skimmed by boats, burned, weathered and, most important, devoured by the Gulf of Mexico’s permanent oil-eating microbial workforce, according to a study released Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Interior Department. “Mother Nature is assisting here considerably,” said NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco.
8.4 Judge Vaughn Walker rules California’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional. “Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same-sex couples,” Walker wrote in his 136-page decision. “Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.”
8.4 From an article on Slate about the bikini: “(A journalist who saw an advance screening of the 1962 Bond film Dr. No reported, “Actress Ursula Andress fills a wet bikini as if she were going downwind behind twin spinnakers.”
8.4 Thomas L. Friedman in the Times: “When we tell the world, “Yes, we are a country that will even tolerate a mosque near the site of 9/11,” we send such a powerful message of inclusion and openness. It is shocking to other nations. But you never know who out there is hearing that message and saying: “What a remarkable country! I want to live in that melting pot, even if I have to build a boat from milk cartons to get there.” As long as that happens, Silicon Valley will be Silicon Valley, Hollywood will be Hollywood, Broadway will be Broadway, and America, if we ever get our politics and schools fixed, will be O.K.”
8.3 As reported in The Washington Post, Republican Senate Candidate Sharron Angle said on Fox News: “We wanted them to ask the questions we want to answer, so that they report the news the way we want it reported.”
8.3 ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos: “The tension between Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and a possible nominee to head the new consumer advocate agency, Elizabeth Warren, has been widely reported. Geithner has said Warren would be a fine choice – but I asked him if she was his choice. “I want to say this very clearly. She I think would be a very effective, very capable leader of that new entity because she, more than almost anybody else in the country, was early and strong in pointing out the need for better consumer protection,” he told me. Okay, but. . .is that a yes?
8.3 Katy Perry makes the cover of Rolling Stone.
8.3 Richard Cohen in the Washington Post: “Gingrich‘s other favorite word is “elites.” In his role as Newt the Lionhearted, he would lead a crusade against “double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission.” Yea, verily, yea. And who would succumb to such pressure? “Sadly,” it is “our elites” — “the willing apologists for those who would destroy them if they could.” Thank God that Gingrich, with his several degrees, multiple marriages, ample fame and commensurate income, is somehow not one of the elites and can, as soon as he mounts up and gets into makeup, save us by, would you believe, possibly running for president.”
8.2 Paul Krugman in The New York Times: “The Federal Reserve, after all, is supposed to pursue two goals: full employment and price stability, usually defined in practice as an inflation rate of about 2 percent. Since unemployment is very high and inflation well below target, you might expect the Fed to be taking aggressive action to boost the economy. But it isn’t. It’s true that the Fed has already pushed one pedal to the metal: short-term interest rates, its usual policy tool, are near zero. Still, Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman, has assured us that he has other options, like holding more mortgage-backed securities and promising to keep short-term rates low. And a large body of research suggests that the Fed could boost the economy by committing to an inflation target higher than 2 percent. But the Fed hasn’t done any of these things. Instead, some officials are defining success down. For example, last week Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, argued that the Fed bears no responsibility for the economy’s weakness, which he attributed to business uncertainty about future regulations — a view that’s popular in conservative circles, but completely at odds with all the actual evidence. In effect, he responded to the Fed’s failure to achieve one of its two main goals by taking down the goalpost. He then moved the other goalpost, defining the Fed’s aim not as roughly 2 percent inflation, but rather as that of “keeping inflation extremely low and stable.” In short, it’s all good. And I predict — having seen this movie before, in Japan — that if and when prices start falling, when below-target inflation becomes deflation, some Fed officials will explain that that’s O.K., too. What lies down this path? Here’s what I consider all too likely: Two years from now unemployment will still be extremely high, quite possibly higher than it is now. But instead of taking responsibility for fixing the situation, politicians and Fed officials alike will declare that high unemployment is structural, beyond their control. And as I said, over time these excuses may turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the long-term unemployed lose their skills and their connections with the work force, and become unemployable.”
8.2 Fareed Zakaria in The Washington Post: “The “Bush tax cuts,” passed in 2001 and 2003, remain the single largest cause of America’s structural deficit — that is, the deficit not caused by the collapse in tax revenue when the economy goes into recession. The Bush administration inherited budget surpluses from the Clinton administration. What turned these into deficits, even before the recession? There were three fundamental new costs: the tax cuts, the Medicare prescription-drug bill and post-9/11 security spending (including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan). Of these the tax cuts were by far the largest, adding up to $2.3 trillion over 10 years. According to the Congressional Budget Office, nearly half the cost of all legislation enacted from 2001 to 2007 can be attributed to the tax cuts. Those cuts are set to expire this year. Republicans say they want to keep them all, even for those making more than $250,000 a year (less than 3 percent of Americans), because higher taxes will hurt the recovery. But for months Republicans have also been arguing that the chief threat to the economy is our gargantuan debt and deficit. That’s what’s scaring consumers, creditors and businesses. Yet given a chance to address those fears by getting serious about deficit reduction, they run away. . . .The idea that the average American is overtaxed is a nice piece of populist pandering. In fact, federal taxes as a percentage of the economy are at their lowest level since the Truman administration. . . .The simple facts are these: All of the Bush tax cuts were unaffordable. They were an irresponsible act of hubris enacted during an economic boom. Conservatives thought they would force us to shrink the government. But with Republicans controlling the White House and both houses of Congress, did reduced taxes cause reduced spending? No. They led to ever-increasing borrowing and a ballooning deficit. We have one of the smallest governments among all the world’s rich countries. Yet we refuse to pay for it. . . .I understand the fear that this is not a good time to raise taxes. But the impact of marginal shifts in tax rates on growth is pretty unclear. Bill Clinton raised taxes in 1992 and ushered in a period of extraordinarily robust growth. George W. Bush cut taxes massively in 2001 and got meager growth in return. Three tax cuts enacted since the financial crisis have done little to spur growth.”
7.29 The Gherkin, from the top of the Willis Building
7.29 Bruce Anderson in the Financial Times: “When the Tory party feels agitated, it always turns to the most traditional Tory form of protest: passive resistance. It forms dining clubs. There are plans for a number of these, to be launched in the autumn. The Tory party staunchly believes that between the revolution and the firing squad, there is always time for a good dinner. Of itself, that should not alarm the authorities. The Tory party is never dangerous when it is dining well. Julius Caesar worried about the lean and hungry men. Dining clubs would cure them. By the end of the evening no one can remember what, if anything, was decided.”
7.29 Fiona Harvey in the Financial Times: “International scientists have injected fresh evidence into the debate over global warming, saying that climate change is “undeniable” and shows clear signs of “human fingerprints” in the first major piece of research since the “Climategate” controversy. The research, headed by the US National Oceans and Atmospheric Administration, is based on new data not available for the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report of 2007, the target of attacks by sceptics in recent years. The NOAA study drew on up to 11 different indicators of climate, and found that each one pointed to a world that was warming owing to the influence of greenhouse gases, said Peter Stott, head of climate monitoring at the UK’s Met Office, one of the agencies participating. Seven indicators were rising, he said. These were: air temperature over land, sea-surface temperature, marine air temperature, sea level, ocean heat, humidity, and tropospheric temperature in the “active-weather” layer of the atmosphere closest to the earth’s surface. Four indicators were declining: Arctic sea ice, glaciers, spring snow cover in the northern hemisphere, and stratospheric temperatures. Mr Stott said: “The whole of the climate system is acting in a way consistent with the effects of greenhouse gases.” “The fingerprints are clear,” he said. “The glaringly obvious explanation for this is warming from greenhouse gases.””
7.26 Happy 67th, Mick!
7.26 Robert J. Samuelson in the Post: “The contrast between revived profits and stunted job growth is stunning. From late 2007 to late 2009, payroll employment dropped nearly 8.4 million. Since then, the economy has recovered a scant 11 percent of those lost jobs. Companies are doing much better than workers; that defines today’s economy.The most obvious explanation is that the relationship between labor and capital (to borrow Marxist vocabulary) has changed. Capital has gotten stronger; labor has weakened. Economist Robert J. Gordon of Northwestern University argues that the “shift of executive compensation towards much greater use of stock options” has made corporate managers more zealous cost-cutters in recessions and more reluctant hirers early in recoveries. Lowering the head count is the quickest way to restore profits and, from there, a company’s stock price. In a new study, Gordon dates the economy’s changed behavior to the 1980s. Until then, companies tended to protect career workers, and unemployment followed a path predicted by economist Arthur Okun in a famous 1962 paper. But now, unemployment exceeds Okun’s formula, and “jobless recoveries” have become standard. After the 1990-91 recession, consistent employment growth did not resume for about a year; the lag was nearly two years after the 2001 recession. (The National Bureau of Economic Research, an economists group, determines the end of recessions, usually when economic output begins expanding. Job growth does not automatically coincide with output expansion. The difference is accounted for by productivity gains — greater efficiency, or more output per worker. The bureau has not yet declared an end to the last recession, though the economy began expanding in the summer of 2009.) Aside from executives’ stock options, Gordon cites weaker unions and more competition from both imports and immigrants as subverting workers’ bargaining power. History also mattered. The harsh 1981-82 recession threatened the survival of many firms. The near-death experience made managers more open to bigger layoffs. What started as last resorts slowly became routine. There was a generational change, too. Depression-era CEOs, highly sensitive to job insecurity, retired. Younger executives worried more about competitive challenges and corporate takeovers.”
7.26 E.J. Dionne in The Washington Post: “The smearing of Shirley Sherrod ought to be a turning point in American politics. This is not, as the now-trivialized phrase has it, a “teachable moment.” It is a time for action. The mainstream media and the Obama administration must stop cowering before a right wing that has persistently forced its propaganda to be accepted as news by convincing traditional journalists that “fairness” requires treating extremist rants as “one side of the story.” And there can be no more shilly-shallying about the fact that racial backlash politics is becoming an important component of the campaign against President Obama and against progressives in this year’s election. The administration’s response to the doctored video pushed by right-wing hit man Andrew Breitbart was shameful. . . .The Obama team did not question, let alone challenge, the video. Instead, it assumed that whatever narrative Fox News might create mattered more than anything else, including the possible innocence of a human being outside the president’s inner circle. . . .The Obama team was reacting to a reality: the bludgeoning of mainstream journalism into looking timorously over its right shoulder and believing that “balance” demands taking seriously whatever sludge the far right is pumping into the political waters. This goes way back. Al Gore never actually said he “invented the Internet,” but you could be forgiven for not knowing this because the mainstream media kept reporting he had. There were no “death panels” in the Democratic health-care bills. But this false charge got so much coverage that an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll last August found that 45 percent of Americans thought the reform proposals would likely allow “the government to make decisions about when to stop providing medical care to the elderly.” That was the summer when support for reform was dropping precipitously. A straight-out lie influenced the course of one of our most important debates. The traditional media are so petrified of being called “liberal” that they are prepared to allow the Breitbarts of the world to become their assignment editors.”
7.26 Paul Krugman in the Times: “If you want to understand opposition to climate action, follow the money. The economy as a whole wouldn’t be significantly hurt if we put a price on carbon, but certain industries — above all, the coal and oil industries — would. And those industries have mounted a huge disinformation campaign to protect their bottom lines. Look at the scientists who question the consensus on climate change; look at the organizations pushing fake scandals; look at the think tanks claiming that any effort to limit emissions would cripple the economy. Again and again, you’ll find that they’re on the receiving end of a pipeline of funding that starts with big energy companies, like Exxon Mobil, which has spent tens of millions of dollars promoting climate-change denial, or Koch Industries, which has been sponsoring anti-environmental organizations for two decades. Or look at the politicians who have been most vociferously opposed to climate action. Where do they get much of their campaign money? You already know the answer. By itself, however, greed wouldn’t have triumphed. It needed the aid of cowardice — above all, the cowardice of politicians who know how big a threat global warming poses, who supported action in the past, but who deserted their posts at the crucial moment.”
7.24 Bunnies–sweeter than sweet
7.23 Peter Applebome in the Times: “If “Mad Men” came with a decoder ring it would surely spell out: Read John Cheever.“The main theme that intersects with Cheever is the idea that amid the sort of compulsory happiness and prosperity of the Westchester suburbs is a lot of unhappiness and desperation,” said Blake Bailey, author of the 2009 biography “Cheever: A Life.” “One of Cheever’s most prominent themes is that things are not what they seem,” Mr. Bailey added. “Things tend to be the opposite of what they seem, the way we see that in Don Draper, this yawning gap between the seeming contentment of life and the desperation that exists beneath the illusion.” That Cheever, before moving to Ossining, lived in a house in nearby Scarborough previously occupied by Richard Yates, author of the even more harrowing “Revolutionary Road,” (which runs through town) perhaps cinched the area’s status in the Dystopian Literary Hall of Fame.”
7.20 Not until today did I see this March 1996 image of Jennifer Anniston from Rolling Stone
7.20 Lindsay Lohan goes to jail
7.19 Good meeting with George Kalogerakis at the Times
7.19 Stifling, obnoxious heat–utterly draining
7.18 In a tweet, Sarah Palin said that “peaceful Muslims” should “refudiate” the mosque being built in New York City near where the Twin Towers once stood. What’s outrageous, of course, is that people got more excited about the opportunity to make fun of her invention of a word–refudiate–than her clumsy attempt to interfere with the free exercise of religion. As my wife, the font of common sense, has said, “We should ask thes Muslims who wish to build the mosque if they had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks. If yes, we should deny the permit. If no, let them continue.”
7.16 After 86 days, BP plugs the well
7.16 Charles Krauthammer in the Post: “The net effect of 18 months of Obamaism will be to undo much of Reaganism. Both presidencies were highly ideological, grandly ambitious and often underappreciated by their own side. In his early years, Reagan was bitterly attacked from his right. (Typical Washington Post headline: “For Reagan and the New Right, the Honeymoon Is Over” — and that was six months into his presidency!) Obama is attacked from his left for insufficient zeal on gay rights, immigration reform, closing Guantanamo — the list is long. The critics don’t understand the big picture. Obama’s transformational agenda is a play in two acts. Act One is over. The stimulus, Obamacare, financial reform have exhausted his first-term mandate. It will bear no more heavy lifting. And the Democrats will pay the price for ideological overreaching by losing one or both houses, whether de facto or de jure. The rest of the first term will be spent consolidating these gains (writing the regulations, for example) and preparing for Act Two. The next burst of ideological energy — massive regulation of the energy economy, federalizing higher education and “comprehensive” immigration reform (i.e., amnesty) — will require a second mandate, meaning reelection in 2012. That’s why there’s so much tension between Obama and congressional Democrats. For Obama, 2010 matters little. If Democrats lose control of one or both houses, Obama will probably have an easier time in 2012, just as Bill Clinton used Newt Gingrich and the Republicans as the foil for his 1996 reelection campaign. Obama is down, but it’s very early in the play. Like Reagan, he came here to do things. And he’s done much in his first 500 days. What he has left to do he knows must await his next 500 days — those that come after reelection.”
7.16 Paul Krugman in the Times makes an inspiring use of facts: “For a while, leading Republicans posed as stern foes of federal red ink. Two weeks ago, in the official G.O.P. response to President Obama’s weekly radio address, Senator Saxby Chambliss devoted his entire time to the evils of government debt, “one of the most dangerous threats confronting America today.” . . . .But this past Monday Jon Kyl of Arizona, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, was asked the obvious question: if deficits are so worrisome, what about the budgetary cost of extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, which the Obama administration wants to let expire but Republicans want to make permanent? . . . .His answer was breathtaking: “You do need to offset the cost of increased spending. And that’s what Republicans object to. But you should never have to offset the cost of a deliberate decision to reduce tax rates on Americans.” So $30 billion in aid to the unemployed is unaffordable, but 20 times that much in tax cuts for the rich doesn’t count. The next day, Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, confirmed that Mr. Kyl was giving the official party line: “There’s no evidence whatsoever that the Bush tax cuts actually diminished revenue. They increased revenue, because of the vibrancy of these tax cuts in the economy.” Now there are many things one could call the Bush economy, an economy that, even before recession struck, was characterized by sluggish job growth and stagnant family incomes; “vibrant” isn’t one of them. But the real news here is the confirmation that Republicans remain committed to deep voodoo, the claim that cutting taxes actually increases revenues. It’s not true, of course. Ronald Reagan said that his tax cuts would reduce deficits, then presided over a near-tripling of federal debt. When Bill Clinton raised taxes on top incomes, conservatives predicted economic disaster; what actually followed was an economic boom and a remarkable swing from budget deficit to surplus. Then the Bush tax cuts came along, helping turn that surplus into a persistent deficit, even before the crash. But we’re talking about voodoo economics here, so perhaps it’s not surprising that belief in the magical powers of tax cuts is a zombie doctrine: no matter how many times you kill it with facts, it just keeps coming back.”
7.15 Don’t like hearing this: In Baseline Scenario, Simon Johnson says “it now appears that Secretary Geithner will oppose Elizabeth Warren becoming the new chief regulator responsible for protecting consumers from defective financial products – despite the fact that she has led the way for this issue, on both intellectual and political fronts, over the past decade. The financial sector has abused many of its customers badly over the past decades. This simply needs to stop.”
7.15 1491, a fascinating article in The Atlantic by Charles Mann, surveys the literature about the population of America in pre-Columbian days, and finds that it may well have been $18 million or so, most of whom were subsequently wiped out by a series of epidemics generated by Europeans and their livestock. Of course, the literature also shows that the population might not have been anywhere near that high.
7.15 Hilarious Gail Collins in the Times today: “Let me go out on a limb and say that Sarah Palin was probably not happy to learn about her oldest daughter’s re-engagement to her baby-daddy via an eight-page cover spread in Us Weekly. “It is intimidating and scary just to think about what her reaction is going to be,” Bristol confided. “Hopefully, she will jump on board.” Not right this very moment. Continuing the family tradition of communicating via press release, Sarah and Todd icily noted that at 19, Bristol is an adult. And, in this case, an adult who “believes in redemption and forgiveness to a degree most of us struggle to put in practice in our daily lives.” The story of how Bristol went from suing Levi Johnston for child support to accepting a new engagement ring is, like everything about this couple, stupendously unremarkable. They met to discuss custody arrangements. They took baby Tripp out for a walk. Bristol made fun of Levi’s hair. “It was nice,” he recalled. Levi went home. And texted words of love. “The next day we started hanging out and, literally, we have hung out every day since,” Bristol concluded. Not exactly “Wuthering Heights” or “Jane Eyre.” (“Reader, I hung out with him.”) Not even “Twilight,” although, like Levi, the perpetually teenaged Edward Cullen never managed to get through 12th grade. Johnston has proved to be the only person in the world who can make me feel sympathy for Sarah Palin. He told Us Weekly that he broached the subject of marrying Bristol at the same family meeting where he apologized to Sarah for telling the national news media that she was money-hungry, insensitive, a bad housekeeper, an indifferent mother and a bad shot. Astonishingly, the Palins didn’t immediately welcome him back into the clan. “They want me to get a career and an education and prove I can take care of Bristol before we can even think about getting back together,” he recounted. Finally, an issue on which the entire nation can unite. We can’t agree on how to fix the economy, but we are as one when it comes to fixing Levi. Get thee to a G.E.D. tutor. Bristol, who followed up her Us Weekly appearance with a People interview, agreed that before her mother will come around Levi would “have to get his education and a job and be willing to support Tripp the right way.” The wrong way was presumably Levi’s previous attempts to earn a living by posing for Playgirl. This cannot be a welcome change of subject for the former Republican vice presidential nominee. She’s been on a political roll — raising money, making some prescient picks in the Republican primaries. She’s got a hot “mama grizzlies” video out, in which she touts a new wave of conservative women, rising up to protest … the bad thing. Palin is really, really vague about exactly what the threat is. (The closest she gets is “the fundamental transformation of America.”) But there’s really no need to be specific because, as she says in the video, “Moms kinda just know when something’s wrong.” The Bristol-Levi debacle, which might be a minor sideshow for another politician, looms larger for a Mama Grizzly. Inquiring minds might want to know why she didn’t sniff trouble, rise up on her hind legs and eviscerate that hockey-playing thug the first time he followed her daughter through the kitchen door.”
7.14 Went to Joanthan Tropper‘s reading at Borders in Scarsdale.
7.11 In a boring, thuggish contest settled by an Andres Iniesta goal in the waning minutes of overtime, Spain defeats the Netherlands, 1-0, to win the World Cup. Diego Forlan of Uruguay wins the Golden Ball for being the best player, and I think with his fierce, focused play, he might well have been.
7.11 The brilliant spy novelist Charles McGarry, in the Times, on the Russian spy flap: “The Russian spymasters who conceived and ran this particular operation, which seems to have been modeled on an Andy Hardy movie (Why, X can be the radio operator and Y can be the code clerk, and we can put on our own show right here in Montclair, N.J.!) certainly have reason to smile and wink at one another when they meet in the corridors of Moscow Center, the headquarters of the Russian spy agency, S.V.K. The unsophisticated observer might see embarrassment. Professionals, on the other hand, could very well perceive it as a useful bit of work. For one thing, the F.B.I., in rounding up these unusual subjects, expended many man-hours and (just guessing here) a staggering amount of taxpayers’ dollars. This gave the Russians, who might well have sensed that their assets were being watched, an opportunity to study the bureau’s methods to see if it was up to any new tricks. Secondly, the operation was ridiculed from the start as a farce rather than as a serious affront to United States national security. These Russian spies were so inept that they weren’t even charged with spying. Instead, they were given a good talking-to and, in effect, released into the custody of their guardians. Being forbidden to go on pretending that they were Americans was punishment enough. But. . . how do we know that? And how do we know that there aren’t others just like them right here on Primrose Circle? How will we ever find out the truth when we’re too darned nice to ask exactly where that sweet young American mother with the great smile and the terrific legs got that funny accent? Anyway, it turned out pretty well. The Russian spies have gone back home, and four people accused of spying on Russia for the United States have been released from Russian prisons. Nobody’s mad at anybody else.”
7.11 In the New York Post, Gail Dines discusses porn as a public health issue: “When I talk to men about their experiences with porn, it is clear that not all are affected in the same way, but affected they are. . . .Many of the men I talk to believe that porn sex is what women want, and they become upset and angry when their sex partner, perhaps their wife, girlfriend or a one night hook-up, refuses to look or behave like their favorite porn star. The women often refuse to perform the sex acts the men have routinely enjoyed watching, and next to the screaming orgasms and sexual gymnastics of porn sex, real sex with real women starts to feel boring and bland. . . . These men have become so accustomed to porn sex that some are disappointed by their own sexual performance. When they compare themselves to Viagra-fortified actors, the guys I talk to often admit to feeling like sexual losers and worry that something is wrong with them. . . .What troubles many of these men most is that they need to pull up the porn images in their head in order to be satisfied with their partner. They replay porn scenes in their minds, or think about having sex with their favorite porn star when they are with their partners. . . .Porn has become so violent and degrading that we ignore it at our peril. We are now bringing up a generation of boys on cruel, violent porn and given that images shape the way people think and behave, this is going to have a profound effect on their sexuality and on the culture as a whole. Porn use is one of the major public health issues of our time and one that needs to be tackled now before we bring up a new generation of boys on even harder images.”
7.10 In the Times, Bob Herbert has some interesting quotes from Bob King, the new president if the UAW: “My view of the labor movement today is that we got too focused on our contracts and our own membership and forgot that the only way, ultimately, that we protect our members and workers in general is by fighting for justice for everybody. The fundamental issue is that every human being deserves dignity and a decent standard of living, and the whole point of the labor movement is to help make that happen. The UAW is going to start marching and campaigning and organizing — for jobs, for a moratorium on home foreclosures, for civil and human rights and against the mistreatment of immigrants, and for peace. The Tea Party has been more vocal than we’ve been. There is something wrong with that picture. We’re going to show that there is a different day in America — that working people are sick and tired of the bosses getting million-dollar bonuses and the workers getting the short end of the stick.”
7.9 Interesting discussion on the Barnes & Noble Review website with Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody and Cognitive Surplus.
James Mustich: You also had an interesting piece at edge.org recently, about how publishing is the new literacy. You said, “It is our misfortune to live through the largest increase in expressive capability in the history of the human race—a misfortune because surplus always breaks more things than scarcity.” This idea of publishing as “the new literacy” sounds like a sexy, kind of Twitter remark, but what actually does that mean?
CS: We have this whole complex of words, “publish,” “publisher,” “publicity,” “publicist,” that all refer to either jobs or the work of making things public. Because it used to be incredibly difficult, complicated, and expensive to simply put material into the public sphere, and now it’s not. So I’m comparing it to literacy—literacy used to be reserved for a specialist class prior to the printing press, and, much more importantly, prior to the spread of publishers and the rise of a real publishing industry. . . .Literacy went through this curious transition where it became more critical to society, and you could no longer make a living just by the ability to read and write. . . .So what happened to literacy in the 1600, 1700 and 1800s is that it went from being reserved for a specialist class to being a general feature of the middle class. The same thing is happening to publishing—the ability to put something out in public is becoming more important to society, but the delta between “I can put something out in public” and “I can’t put something out in public” is no longer so great that you can automatically make money simply by having access to the means of publication.
7.9 Charles Krauthammer in the Post writes about Obama‘s “modesty” about America: “There was no finer expression of belief in American exceptionalism than Kennedy’s. Obama has a different take. As he said last year in France, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” Which of course means: If we’re all exceptional, no one is. Take human rights. After Obama’s April meeting with the president of Kazakhstan, Mike McFaul of the National Security Council reported that Obama actually explained to the leader of that thuggish kleptocracy that we, too, are working on perfecting our own democracy. . . . Nothing new here. In his major addresses, Obama’s modesty about his own country has been repeatedly on display as, in one venue after another, he has gratuitously confessed America’s alleged failing — from disrespecting foreigners to having lost its way morally after 9/11. It’s fine to recognize the achievements of others and be non-chauvinistic about one’s country. But Obama’s modesty is curiously selective. When it comes to himself, modesty is in short supply.” Krauthammer goes on the find a strain in narcissism in Obama: “Obama’s modesty about America would be more understandable if he treated himself with the same reserve.”
7.9 In the Post, a comment from 2005 by Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, Obama’s new head of CentCom: “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years, because they didn’t wear a veil…You know guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot ‘em.” I think the Marine Corps is the perfect place for guys who think like that.
7.9 It’s only like 85, and we’re elated
7.9 Mark Reiter tells me the Plumeri deal has come through, and this time he seems to mean it.
7.8 According to ABC News, Sarah Palin has coined the term “mama grizzly” for the female Republican candidates that she has endorsed. “This year will be remembered as a year common-sense conservative women get things done for our country,” Palin says in an ad. “It seems like it’s kind of a mom awakening in the last year and a half, where women are rising up and saying, ‘No, we’ve had enough already,’ because moms kind of just know when something’s wrong. There in Alaska I always think of the mama grizzly bears that rise up on their hind legs when somebody’s coming to attack their cubs, to do something adverse toward their cubs. You thought pitbulls were tough, you don’t want to mess with the mama grizzlies.”
7.8 Lebron James abandons Cleveland for Miami. Cleveland, ask yourself why.
7.8 Have lost count of the number of days in this heat wave. But it continues
7.6 It’s Return to Woodlands, as Ginny lands a job, thank goodness.
7.6 103 degrees sets a record.
7.5 Barbecue at the Schmidts. Lady Gaga has bunnies.
7.2 According to the AP: “The company Terrafugia, based in Woburn, Mass., says it plans to deliver its car-plane, the Transition, to customers by the end of 2011. It recently cleared a major hurdle when the Federal Aviation Administration granted a special weight limit exemption to the Transition. . . .The car-plane has wings that unfold for flying – a process the company says takes one minute – and fold back up for driving. A runway is still required to takeoff and land. The Transition is being marketed more as a plane that drives than a car that flies, although it is both. ”
6.30 In The National Enquirer: “The masseuse who accused Al Gore of getting touchy-feely during a rubdown in an Oregon hotel room four years ago slammed the former vice president as “a pervert and sexual predator,” as Portland police announced yesterday they are re-opening their investigation of the case. “He’s not what people think he is. He’s a sick man,” Molly Hagerty, 54, said. “I did not want him to get away with it and do this to another woman. I felt lucky that I didn’t get raped . . . He turned from Mr. New Age into a pervert.”
6.29 President Clinton on the oil spill: “Let’s just fix the problem. Unless we send the Navy down deep to blow up the well and cover the leak with piles and piles and piles of debris, which may become necessary–and you don’t have a Nuclear weapon, by the way, I’ve seen all that stuff. Just blow it up.”
6.29 When Sen. Lindsay Graham asks Supreme Court justice nominee Elena Kagan where she was on Christmas when the attempted bombing on the airliner near Detroit took place, she replies “Like most Jews, I was probably in a Chinese restaurant.”
6.29 Feds bust Russian spy ring that features an actual sexy spy, Anna Chapman
6.28 House Minority Leader John Boehner likened the pending financial legislation to “killing an ant with a nuclear weapon.” What I want to know is, why didn’t I think of that?
6.27 Excellent article by Andrew Bacevich in The Washington Post: “To be an American soldier today is to serve a people who find nothing amiss in the prospect of armed conflict without end. Once begun, wars continue, persisting regardless of whether they receive public support. President Obama’s insistence to the contrary notwithstanding, this nation is not even remotely “at” war. In explaining his decision to change commanders without changing course in Afghanistan, the president offered this rhetorical flourish: “Americans don’t flinch in the face of difficult truths.” In fact, when it comes to war, the American people avert their eyes from difficult truths. Largely unaffected by events in Afghanistan and Iraq and preoccupied with problems much closer to home, they have demonstrated a fine ability to tune out war. Soldiers (and their families) are left holding the bag. Throughout history, circumstances such as these have bred praetorianism, warriors becoming enamored with their moral superiority and impatient with the failings of those they are charged to defend. The smug disdain for high-ranking civilians casually expressed by McChrystal and his chief lieutenants — along with the conviction that “Team America,” as these officers style themselves, was bravely holding out against a sea of stupidity and corruption — suggests that the officer corps of the United States is not immune to this affliction.”
6.27 Thomas Ricks in The Washington Post: “[T]he sniping and backbiting between U.S. military and civilian officials in the Afghan war. . . .might end only when one person is put in charge of the overall American presence in Afghanistan, with the power to hire and fire. Obama has not taken that step, so it is likely that the same nettlesome quarrels that exasperated McChrystal also will fatigue his successor. For the second time in three years, Petraeus has come to the rescue of a president beleaguered by a faraway war. President George W. Bush came to rely enormously on Petraeus in 2007, when the general’s credibility on Iraq far exceeded that of the White House. It will be interesting to witness how the relationship between the new president and his new general evolves. Petraeus is much more like Obama than he was like Bush. The Dutch American general and the African American commander in chief are oddly similar. Both are the sons of immigrant fathers; both are intelligent and ambitious; both are more cool, cerebral and distant than most of their peers. But in Bush, Petraeus had a president willing to take huge risks, such as putting Iraq’s Sunni insurgency on the American payroll and taking far heavier casualties as U.S. troops moved off big bases. Obama has not shown a willingness to gamble that much in Afghanistan. Perhaps not even Petraeus could talk this president into rolling the dice.”
6.26 Stodgy in attack for most of the game, the US falls to Ghana and is eliminated from the World Cup. More free time for me!
6.26 Charles Blow in the Times: “When conditions improve, Republicans will still have to face an underlying reality: that this is the twilight of their rigid, empty ideology, particularly as it relates to social issues. They must change or wither. A new paper entitled “Demographic Change and the Future of the Parties,” by Ruy Teixeira of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a progressive think tank, lays bare the long-term problems facing the Republican Party. In short, the country is becoming more diverse, more educated and less religious — all bad news for Republicans. And at a time when they should be moving closer to the middle, the Tea Party is dragging them farther right and over a cliff. Regardless of the current disenchantment and the venting we’re likely to see in November, the larger trends look ominous for the right, not the left. The right knows it, too. In fact, if you listen closely, between the “hell no’s” and “you lie’s,” you can hear the pall of despair falling over them.” Uh, maybe. But Obama has to get better.
6.26 Gail Collins sings the praises of Nancy Pelosi in the Times: “Of all the good deeds for which people get punished in Washington, pushing ethics has to be at the top of the list. Your own members resent it, and the public doesn’t really give you any credit. It’s not likely that people will go to the polls in November and vote Democratic because the House, although still deeply, deeply imperfect, is run with a higher ethical standard than it was before Pelosi got control. She has been around a long time and must have known that from the start. But she pushed anyway. Pelosi is an idealist working in the practical now. She genuinely sees her party as a vehicle for good and her pragmatism is not the least bit cynical. She is the most powerful woman in the country, the most fearless person on Capitol Hill and on track to be one of the most productive speakers in history. I don’t know about you, but that kind of knocks me out.”
6.25 Settling a score with batter-hitter Vincente Padilla, C.C. Sabathia plunks the Dodger hurler on the calf and then glares at him. Good old country baseball! A half inning later, A-Rod goes yard, and the Yanks win a tight one, 2-1.
6.24 6’9” John Isner beats France’s Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon in the longest tennis match in history. The first-round match took 11 hours and 5 minutes over three days, lasting so long it was suspended because of darkness–two nights in a row. Isner won the epic marathon 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 70-68.
6.24 Hilarious quote from Rep. Paul Kanjorski, Democrat of Pennsylvania, during a financial reform legislation conference meeting: “We’re giving relief to people that I deal with in my office every day now, unfortunately, that because of the longevity of this recession–these are people, and not minorities and they’re not defective.”
6.24 Spent a broiling day in the city at screenings (Tamara Drewe and Nowhere Boy.) Nice work if you can get it. Cara got a job at Tazza.
6.23 In the 91st minute of a 0-0 game that the US needed to win, goalie Tim Howard blocked an header by an open Algerian, and then fired the ball halfway down the field to a charging Landon Donovan. At the top of the box he hit a speeding Josy Altadore, who crossed to onrushing Clint Dempsey. The Algerian goalie stoned Dempsey, who like all the Americans had been thwarted all game, but left the rebound laying open and available in front of the goal. Donovan covered the last ten yards like lightning, and put the winner in the back of the net. From imminent elimination to top of the bracket, and onto the round of 16. Brilliant!
6.23 President Obama relieves Gen. Stanley McChrystal of his Afghanistan command. Might well be that he had no choice. Still, Fred Kaplan makes a great point in Slate: “Nnowhere in the article is McChrystal or any of his aides quoted as disagreeing with Obama’s policy on Afghanistan. It would be a big surprise if they were, as Obama’s strategic decision in December 2009—to send 30,000 more troops and to pursue a counterinsurgency strategy—was essentially an endorsement of McChrystal’s recommendation. (It should be noted that the article’s subheadline—which says that McChrystal “has seized control of the war” because he sees “the real enemy” as “the wimps in the White House”—is grossly distorting and may be responsible for some of the early misreporting before the actual article went online. Hastings said in an interview with NPR that he did not write the headline.)” Also, Max Boot made a great point in the Times that the negative feelings about the progress of the war may be premature: “Only about 21,000 of the reinforcements have arrived; the rest won’t be in place until the end of August. Any suggestion that the war is lost is ludicrously premature, and it could prove just as wrong as the naysaying in early 2007 that the Iraq surge had failed at a time when it had barely begun.” Whether or not firing McChrystal was a good move, Obama clearly made the right move in replacing him with Gen. Petraeus. Let’s see if he can walk on water again.
6.23 Simon Johnson on The Baseline Scenario: “The president should nominate Paul Krugman to replace Peter Orszag as director of the Office of Management and Budget. . . .Krugman also stands for responsible medium-term fiscal policy – he wrote the original definitive work, after all, on balance of payments crises. But the point is not to engage in precipitate and panicky fiscal austerity (as announced in the UK today), but rather to put the overall debt onto a sustainable path. It is very hard to do that when the people claiming the represent “fiscal prudence” are actually the ones who created this massive mess in the first place. Krugman can set the public record straight on this – it would be great television and very good economics. . . .The Obama administration lost the narrative on this point also (as well as on banking and much more). Paul Krugman can get them back on track.” Yeah, but fat chance.
6.20 Father’s Day. Dinner at a decidedly mediocre Sunset Cove in Tarrytown, but I was happy to be with my family when we were all on our best behavior. I received a new griddle and a surprise from Cara–a Belmont Stakes shirt.
6.20 In an interview with a journalist, former senator Alan Simpson, a member of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, was asked, broadly enough, if the committee, was working on Social Security. Simpson said that they were focusing on solvency. The interviewer then asked if they were “focusing on adequacy as well.” Replied Simpson: “Sure. We have to take care of the lesser in society. I don’t know where you get all the crap you come up with. … We’re trying to take care of the lesser people in society, like we always have in this country, and do that in a way without getting into all the flash words that you love to dig up, like cutting Social Security, which is bullshit. We’re not cutting anything. We’re not cutting anything, we’re trying to make it solvent. It will go broke in the year 2037.”
6.17 “We care about the small people,” said BP Chairman Carl Henric Svanberg after a meeting with President Obama. “I hear comments sometimes that large oil companies are greedy companies or don’t care. But that is not the case indeed. We care about the small people.”
6.17 Astonishing. BP Chairman Tony Hayward appears before a House Committee to dutifully subjugate himself to political flagellation, when suddenly Republican Rep. Joe Barton of Texas pipes up and apologizes for the $20 billion reparations fund the White House demanded BP set up . Here’s Slate: “As the top Republican on the committee, Barton told Hayward that he was “ashamed” that the White House had pushed the company into creating a $20 billion fund to cover claims associated with the spill. It was a “shakedown” said Barton, a “tragedy of the first proportion”—which is something, considering how grim the tragedies are that get a first-proportion ranking. . . .There were audible gasps in the room. They may have been from Republicans. With public disapproval of BP at 80 percent, and nearly daily disclosures of its mishandling of the Deepwater operation, the company is a pariah. . . .So this was not a time to be apologizing. GOP staffers talked about the blunder in historic terms. Twice in e-mail exchanges I had with veterans, they cited their years of service before noting they’d never heard something so stupid. “He put his Republican colleagues in a difficult position, he put Republican senators in a difficult position and he put every Republican candidate in a difficult position who has to answer for him,” said one aide. “And he’s thrown the White House a lifeline.” Barton was instructed by GOP leaders to reverse course—apologize and retract or face losing his rank on the committee. He apologized grudgingly, saying, “[I]f anything I said this morning has been misconstrued to the opposite effect I want to apologize for that misconstrued misconstruction.” That wasn’t good enough. Later, in a second apology, he apologized for using term “shakedown” and retracted his apology to BP. To drive the point home, House Republican leaders put out their own statement calling Barton “wrong,” and saying the $20 billion fund was a proper way to hold the company accountable. “BP itself has acknowledged that responsibility for the economic damages lies with them and has offered an initial pledge of $20 billion for that purpose.” That misconstrued misconstruction–priceless!
6.17 Continuing Rat Week in the Times, Nick Kristof writes: “For a really nifty Father’s Day gift, how about sponsoring a rat? Specifically, an African giant pouched rat, about 30 inches long including tail. These are he-man rats, the kind that send cats fleeing. What’s more, we’re not talking about just any giant rat, but an educated one with the rodent equivalent of a Ph.D. A Dutch company, Apopo, has trained these giant rats, which have poor sight but excellent noses, to detect landmines in Africa. The rats are too light to set off the mines, but they can explore a suspected minefield and point with their noses to buried mines. After many months of training, a rat can clear as much land in 20 minutes as a human can in two days. In addition to earning their stripes as mine detectors, the giant rats are also trained in health work: detecting cases of tuberculosis. Possible TB sufferers provide samples of sputum, which are then handed over to the rats to sniff out. This detection process turns out to be much faster than your typical microscope examination. A technician with a microscope in Tanzania can screen about 40 samples a day, while one giant rat can screen the same amount in seven minutes.”
6.16 Headline in today’s Times: Study Scours the Subway, Finding Rats Remain Wily. Rats Remain Wily? Now there’s a scoop!
6.14 Mark Reiter informs me that the Plumeri deal has come through. Hurray!
6.12 US-England play 1-1 tie, thanks to blunder by goalie Robert Green–“The Hand of Clod”
6.11 World Cup competition begins
6.9 Upstart Flyers succumb to Chicago Blackhawks, who win their first Stanley Cup since 1961, 4 games to 2.
6.7 On today’s primaries, female candidates, particularly female Republican candidates do very well. In California, GOP nominates Meg Whitman for Governor and Carly Fiorina for Senator; in SC, GOP nominates Nikki Haley for Gov.; in Nevada, GOP nominated Sharron Angle for Senator; and in Arkansas, Sen. Blanche Lincoln wins Dem run-off. Writes Anne E. Kornblut in the Washington Post, “With victories by several prominent women in Tuesday’s primary elections came the familiar declarations that a “year of the woman” is underway. But in at least five races, something even more remarkable occurred: The candidates’ gender never became much of an issue. . . .”It could be a bit of an indication of something resembling progress,” said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. “I wouldn’t want to go completely out on a limb.”
6.5 Found a big turtle at the end of the Aherns’ driveway. Cara identifies it as a snapping turtle. OK, but it didn’t snap at me.
6.5 John Wooden, the Wizard of Westwood, dies at 99.
6.3 Artist Marilyn Minter, quoted today in the Times: “I’ve been around long enough to understand the role of artists in our culture, who we are and what job we perform. We’re the elite of the servant class. I know my place.”
6.3 The most shocking and amazing news: series scientists have actually considered the solution to the Gulf Oil Spill that I, a scientific ignoramus, propose for all disasters, real and imagined: nuking the thing. From an article by William J. Broad in the New York Times: “What about nuking the well? Decades ago, the Soviet Union reportedly used nuclear blasts to successfully seal off runaway gas wells, inserting a bomb deep underground and letting its fiery heat melt the surrounding rock to shut off the flow. Why not try it here? The idea has gained fans with each failed attempt to stem the leak and each new setback — on Wednesday, the latest rescue effort stalled when a wire saw being used to slice through the riser pipe got stuck. “Probably the only thing we can do is create a weapon system and send it down 18,000 feet and detonate it, hopefully encasing the oil,” Matt Simmons, a Houston energy expert and investment banker, told Bloomberg News on Friday, attributing the nuclear idea to “all the best scientists.” . . . .This week, with the failure of the “top kill” attempt, the buzz had grown loud enough that federal officials felt compelled to respond. Stephanie Mueller, a spokeswoman for the Energy Department, said that neither Energy Secretary Steven Chu nor anyone else was thinking about a nuclear blast under the gulf. The nuclear option was not — and never had been — on the table, federal officials said. . . .Not everyone on the Internet is calling for nuking the well. Some are making jokes. “What’s worse than an oil spill?” asked a blogger on Full Comment, a blog of The National Post in Toronto. “A radioactive oil spill.”
6.3 Marymount Manhattan Writers Conference
6.2 Armando Galarraga‘s perfect game, vandalized by umpire Jim Joyce. An existential baseball game! Sartre couldn’t have written it up better!
6.2 Jim Greer arrested in Florida.
6.1 Al and Tipper Gore separate.
5.31 Interviewed Jake Tapper, who professed to be a fan.
5.30 Dennis Hopper dies.
5.30 Cocoa Beach.
5.24 Flyers eliminate upstart Montreal, move on the face the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Finals.
5.17 Molly passes her courses at WCC.
5.14 The Philadelphia Flyers, who gave joy to my youth, make sports history to become only the fourth team to fall behind in a playoff series three games to none and to recover and win. They beat the Boston Bruins in a thriller, 4-3; even more amazing, they trailed Boston by a score of 3-o midway through the first period. They now face the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Finals.
5.11 From the Times: “Britain’s Conservatives returned to power on Tuesday after 13 years in opposition when David Cameron, who has built his future on a claim to have recast the party of Margaret Thatcher for a new century as more compassionate and less class-bound, took over as prime minister from Labour’s Gordon Brown.”
5.6 Hung parliament
5.3 From my blog on True/Slant: “On Thursday, Britain will vote for a new Parliament. Three parties are contending–Labor, Conservative, and Liberal Democrat. The leader of the party that gets the most seats will become Prime Minister, and if there is no clear majority, two of the parties will have form a coalition and govern together. Until Prime Minister Gordon Brown self-destructed last week, the three parties were neck-and-neck. Now the Conservatives, led by David Cameron, have pulled ahead. One of the interesting effects of this campaign has been to spotlight how by modern standards the British parliament is so undemocratic. For one thing, all this electoral activity has been focused on the House of Commons, but there is also the House of Lords. The vast majority of its 733 members (87 more than the House of Commons) are appointed, except for those whose title in inherited, meaning they themselves have not necessarily done anything meritorious, but were just luckily descended from useful ancestors. The House of Lords is home to a number of dedicated people who make useful contributions to public life, but isn’t it odd that it the worlds oldest democracy, a house of parliament that controls legislation is never answerable to the public? Even more weird is winner-take-all system that prevails in parliamentary districts. Called there `first past the post,’ it means very simply that the candidate with the most votes wins. That seems simple enough and reasonably fair, until one realizes that in Britain, this fair-seeming system is actually quit unfair. According to the BBC, if each of the major parties gained 30% of the vote, under the UK’s grossly-distorted system, the Labor party would get 315 MPs, the Conservatives 206 and the Liberal Democrats only 100. Writing in The Guardian last week, elections expert Edward McMillan-Scott referred to the UN guidelines for fair elections, which holds that “The will of the people of a country is the basis for the authority of government, and that will must be determined through genuine periodic elections, which guarantee the right and opportunity to vote freely and to be elected fairly through universal and equal suffrage.” On that basis, says McMillan-Scott,“I would contend that no stretch of the rules could find our electoral system “fair”.” Pretty embarrassing thing to say about a country that boasts the Magna Carta and the mother of all Parliaments. But when you throw in the fact that there is no written Constitution and no written Bill of Rights and a party system that insists on discipline, and you realize that Britain has an antiquated structure that is wildly out of step with 21st century notions of democratic government. Pretty bizarre. Thank goodness Coldplay, Daniel Craig and Hugh Laurie are still upholding their part of the bargain.
COMMENT from GUY HERBERT: Yes – unfortunately. Insofar as we control our own affairs, subject to the pure bureaucratic governance of the European Union, we have what the late Lord Hailsham, a constitutional expert, called ‘an elective dictatorship’, constrained only by convention – the representatives of the majority have supreme power. The Blair regime, with its contempt … See Morefor history and opposition, tested this almost to destruction. The US is accustomed to call itself a democracy, but it isn’t because of constitutional limitations on government and all the countervailing constraints built into the system. The British system shows why the US and most Western European countries chose not to be democracies but constitutional republics. Do note that Congress, too, is elected by first-past-the-post. But the House does not have absolute power, and the Speaker of the House does not determine the business of the House, how his/her party votes in it, and much of the composition of the Senate. In practice, the *best* bit of our system is the undemocratic House of Lords and especially the (sadly, cut-down) hereditary element. That’s because membership of their lordships house is for life, and so they are answerable to their consciences not their party. Hereditaries, law lords, and bishops, and those honoured for great prominence in specialist fields do a good deal to counterbalance party loyalists appointed by prime ministers.
5.1 From the Times: “A crude car bomb made from gasoline, propane, firecrackers and alarm clocks was discovered in a smoking Nissan Pathfinder in the heart of Times Square on May 1, 2010. But the device failed to explode, leaving clear clues, and law enforcement teams tracked down a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan, Faisal Shahzad, who was pulled from a Dubai-bound airliner at John F. Kennedy International Airport.”
4.20 Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explodes in the Gulf of Mexico, resulting in huge oil leak.
4.9 Ginny’s position was not renewed.
4.9 Good talk today with Howard Samuel.
4.9 Busy week ebaying
4.4 Yanks lose opener.
4.2 Mike Cuellar dies.
3.28 Went to DC
3.26 Not so sure about the song, but I live the video of 70 Million by the band Hold Your Horses.
3,25 From the New York Post: “Saints coach Sean Payton blasted the NFL owners were waiting until the league’s head coaches were playing golf Tuesday to hold a surprise vote to change overtime. . . .`It was like a little coup or something.”’
3.25 Earth Institute Conference at Columbia
3.25 Max Boot in the Wall Street Journal, on the cost of health care reform: “When Europeans after World War II chose to skimp on defense and spend lavishly on social welfare, they abdicated their claims to great power status. That worked out for them because their security was subsidized by the US. But what happens if the US switches spending from defense to social welfare? Who will protect what used to be known as the Free World? Who will police the sea lanes, stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, combat terrorism, respond to genocide and other unconscionable human rights violations, and deter rogue states from aggression? Those are all responsibilities currently performed by America. But it will be increasingly hard to be globocop and nanny state at the same time.” I just wish we got some actual financial support for being the cop.
3.21 From an article by Roger Lowenstein in the Times Magazine called “Who Needs Wall Street?”: “Because some people have savings and others need capital, some unifying force must bring the two together. Royalty once taxed its citizens and chartered corporations. Wall Street privatized this function, aggregating the savings of disparate individuals through the sale of stocks and bonds. Industry thus gained access to capital; what’s more, public markets performed a miracle of equivalence. Quotations on the stock exchange effectively calibrated, down to the penny, how many hours’ worth of wages would afford a share of General Motors. Since the street stood at the intersection of capital and savings — or, if you will, of insiders and Main Street — the potential for conflict was rife. No firm better resisted the temptations than Goldman, which, from its founding in 1869 through recent decades, epitomized, with only rare slip-ups, the best of American finance. Serving the client was its lodestar, and its bankers were pillars of society, more conversant in literature than in the vagaries of, say, mortgage securities. Wall Street’s emphasis began to change in the ’90s, as financiers devised new securities — the more incomprehensible, or so it seemed, the better. These instruments, in the main, did not involve selling bonds so that a DuPont could build new factories; they were rearrangements — new permutations, new alignments of risk — on flows of cash that already existed. . . .[I]t was, for the street, a gold mine. Greater emphasis on trading affected a subtle change in the culture, in particular at Goldman. In 1999, it sold shares to the public, diluting its long-term ethos. Its traders, formerly restrained by bankers, clamored for more of the firm’s capital. In 2006, when Lloyd Blankfein, a onetime gold salesman, assumed command, the coup was complete. But it did not become so stingingly clear until this year, when Blankfein was induced to bare his soul before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. Asked about mortgage securities that Goldman both sold to clients and bet against, Blankfein, while expressing regret for what he admitted was improper behavior, added: “In our market-making function, we are a principal. We represent the other side of what people want to do.” He went on to say that when Goldman sells a security that subsequently goes up (i.e., on which the other party makes money), “we wish we hadn’t sold it.” So much for putting the customer first. For much of Wall Street, capital-raising is now a sideshow. At Goldman, trading and investing for the firm’s account produced 76 percent of revenue last year. Investment banking, which raises capital for productive enterprise, accounted for a mere 11 percent. Other than that, it could have been a hedge fund.”
3.21 Health care reform passes.
3.18 Meeting with George Kalogerakis at the Times
2.25 Massive snowstorm arrives
2.23 From The Washington Post: “In 1800, there was just one city with more than a million people — Beijing. Now there are 381 urban areas with at least 1 million inhabitants. Urbanization crossed a threshold last year when, for the first time, more people lived in city settings than rural ones. About 403 million people live in cities that face significant seismic hazard, according to a recent study by seismologist Roger Bilham of the University of Colorado. The next Big One could strike Tokyo, Istanbul, Tehran, Mexico City, New Delhi, Kathmandu or the two metropolises near California’s San Andreas Fault, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Or it could devastate Dhaka, Jakarta, Karachi, Manila, Cairo, Osaka, Lima or Bogota. “You can name about 25 cities that are like Port-au-Prince. They’re not going to shake but every 250 years [on average]. But if you can name 25 of them, you’re going to have an event like this every 10 years,” said David Wald, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.” Cheap construction okayed by corrupt inspectors is going to be tremendously deadly. “Earthquakes might be viewed as acts of God, but their lethality is often a function of masonry.”
2.17 Ezra Klein in The Washington Post: “The day-to-day stories on the stimulus are mostly very small and very political. Republicans hypocritically attacking the bill while taking credit for the spending. Conservatives charging that some mayor in some town spent an infinitesimal fraction of the money on a project that sounds funny if you say it in an arch tone. But the correct story is the big story. The macroeconomic story. According to private forecasters — we’re not talking Obama administration folks, but private firms that are paid by other private companies to accurately analyze the market — the stimulus worked. “Perhaps the best-known economic research firms are IHS Global Insight, Macroeconomic Advisers and Moody’s Economy.com,” reports David Leonhardt. “They all estimate that the bill has added 1.6 million to 1.8 million jobs so far and that its ultimate impact will be roughly 2.5 million jobs. The Congressional Budget Office, an independent agency, considers these estimates to be conservative. You have to sympathize with the Obama administration: It has done more to save and create jobs than any White House in recent memory. It stabilized a financial system that was teetering on the edge of collapse, and that would have sent unemployment skyrocketing if it had fallen. The administration passed an $800 billion stimulus bill that has already created more than 1.6 million jobs and is likely to create 2.5 million by the time it ends. And still it’s hammered, on the one hand, for not doing enough to create jobs, and on the other hand, for high deficits, which are a direct product of how much the administration’s doing to create jobs. . . .But people still need help, and the pity is that the Republicans can’t see a way forward to helping them because doing so might help the other party in the midterm elections. Republicans opposed the stimulus — which was one-third tax cuts — as part of a gambit to leave Democrats holding the bag for an economy that was sure to be weak in 2010, even if their policies had made it stronger than it otherwise would have been. They can’t abandon that strategy now.”
2.10 Big snowstorm. Everybody had the day off. Rose reports that Maryland was wallopped–the Baltimore airport has received 55 inches of snow in the last week alone. Incredible. Good news: Cliff Etheridge has hired me. Some relief there.
2.7 A good but confusing Super Bowl. Did Indianapolis go to sleep? Leading 10-0 after the first quarter, and a dropped ball by Pierre Garcon away from a romping 17-0 lead, Indy nods off, lose their aggressiveness, go into a hole at the end of the half which costs them 3, and then falls form an onside kick to open the third. After that, the Saints dink and dunk all day long, take the lead, and intercept Manning as he drives for the tie. The interception is the only big play. If it weren’t for the joy of seeing the long-suffering Saints win one, if it weren’t for the spectacle of Perfect Peyton falling short, if this were, oh, the Giants and the Jets producing these performances, the game would have been considered a great snooze.
2.2 Oscar nominations announced today. I’m very happy about some of the writing nominations. In the Loop, by Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche, adapted, I guess, from their TV series The Thick of It; An Education, by Nick Hornby, adapted from Lynn Barber’s memoir; and Up in the Air, by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, adapted from the novel by Walter Kirn, were all nominated for Best Screenplay Adapted from Another Source. The Hurt Locker, by Mark Boal, was nominated for Best Original Screenplay, although it was certainly adapted from his article “The Man in the Bomb Suit,” which was edited by my pal Bob Love, and appeared in the September 2005 issue of Playboy.
1.31 My painful week as an employee of AIG Nielsen came to an ignominious close today when I was informed by the chilly Annette Richmond that I wasn’t being brought back for a second week. Was I set up for failure? Possibly; I really doubt it, but possibly. The training session was pretty nearly impossible. They threw everything at me in five days, and when I fell behind, they reather remorsely pressed on. It was an interesting emotional week–painful, bizarrely exhilarating. Maybe this will get me going.
1.30 Promising talk with Cliff Etheridge
1.22 From The New York Post: “Big Brother didn’t know what he was watching. A British man repeatedly got speeding tickets in the mail because he parked his car in the line of sight of a ticket camera that apparently couldn’t tell his car wasn’t moving. Jeff Buck contested the fines, which have all been thrown out. “I am amused, but angry I have to go to all this trouble,” he said.
1.20 From The New York Times:“ The average young American now spends practically every waking minute — except for the time in school — using a smart phone, computer, television or other electronic device, according to a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Those ages 8 to 18 spend more than seven and a half hours a day with such devices, compared with less than six and a half hours five years ago, when the study was last conducted. And that does not count the hour and a half that youths spend texting, or the half-hour they talk on their cellphones. And because so many of them are multitasking — say, surfing the Internet while listening to music — they pack on average nearly 11 hours of media content into that seven and a half hours. “I feel like my days would be boring without it,” said Francisco Sepulveda, a 14-year-old Bronx eighth grader who uses his smart phone to surf the Web, watch videos, listen to music — and send or receive about 500 texts a day. The study’s findings shocked its authors, who had concluded in 2005 that use could not possibly grow further,
1.20 What Americans call the `flash bang’ of a nuclear explosion, the Japanese call pika-don.
1.20 “Late in A Room and a Half, a rich, heady, fictionalized biography of the exiled Russian poet Joseph Brodsky, the middle-aged Brodsky ruefully reflexts in a voice-over about how children are in a desperate hurry to elave the nest. `And one day a man realizes that the nest is gone,’ muses the poet. “The people who gave him life are dead. He realizes that that the only real thing in his life was that nest.”–from Stephen Holden’s review of the film A Room and a Half
1.20 Met with Bernie Ferrari.
1.18 Met with Mark Reiter
1.17 A week after Green Bay and Arizona engage in a high-flying shoot out that, as it turned out, wasn’t all that entertaining–astonishing, yes, but not actually entertaining–the New York Jets beat the San Diego Chargers this afternoon 17-14, in a tight, truly entertaining game that featured a stellar defensive performance by Gang Green. San Diego should have been favored because they have an excellent quarterback in Philip Rivers, and the Jets have a QB who might become the MVP of 2016 but who is still struggling with coplex defenses. But just like last week, Mark Sanchez played mostly mistake-free (only one interception), and the Jets took advantage of San Diego’s many turnovers and penalties. In the end, the Jets played fundamentally sound football, ran the bal well and most of all played defense–and produced a glorious football game. J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS!
1.17 Excellent op-ed by Thomas Friedman in the Times today: “Dick Cheney says President Obama is “trying to pretend that we are not at war” with terrorists. There is only one thing I have to say about that: I sure hope so. Frankly, if I had my wish, we would be on our way out of Afghanistan not in, we would be letting Pakistan figure out which Taliban they want to conspire with and which ones they want to fight, we would be letting Israelis and Palestinians figure out on their own how to make peace, we would be taking $100 billion out of the Pentagon budget to make us independent of imported oil — nothing would make us more secure — and we would be reducing the reward for killing or capturing Osama bin Laden to exactly what he’s worth: 10 cents and an autographed picture of Dick Cheney. Am I going isolationist? No, but visiting the greater China region always leaves me envious of the leaders of Hong Kong, Taiwan and China, who surely get to spend more of their time focusing on how to build their nations than my president, whose agenda can be derailed at any moment by a jihadist death cult using exploding underpants.”
1.16 Cleaning out the attic, I found an issue of Newsweek dated July 27, 1970, with a cover story that asked “Is Privacy Dead?” The story, written by Richard Boeth, concludes with this paragraph: “It may be that rivacy will turn out to be an irresistibly clean political issue. “A civil libertarian is just as intereted as a state’-rights man like Strom Thurmond,” says attorney Arthur Miller hopefully. Whatever the politics, the essential nobility of the cause shines clearly enough. A man needs to know, as the late legal philosopher Edmond Cahn wrote, that there is a private place where he “can resume his antive stature. . . away form the ahughty state, the frown, the putting forth of the finger, and the oppressive policings of the social order. He can open his collar there and give vent to his own particular daydreams, his mutterings and snatches of crazy song, his bursts of obscenity and afflatus of glory.”
1.8 From the Big Brother Watch Newsletter: “As reported in the Daily Telegraph this morning, figures obtained through FOI requests show that …there has been a 71 per cent fall in the number of crimes “in which CCTV was involved” in the Metropolitan Police area, from 416,000 in 2003/4 to 121,770 in 2008/9. The number of these crimes which resulted in a charge, summons or caution fell from 47,000 to 23,000 over the same period. The proportion of all crimes solved using CCTV in London also fell from half in 2003/4 to one in seven in 2008/9. . . .It has been right for some time to ask whether CCTV is no longer working as a crime fighting tool. There are now simply too many cameras in this country. Law enforcement personnel spend many fruitless hours going through reel after reel of footage and millions of pounds that might have been spent in other ways is wasted on cameras and monitoring. Crimes that might have been solved by conventional methods go unsolved as a result and we have engendered a police force reliant on a deeply flawed method of law enforcement.”
1.3 Dominating win by Jets over Bengals to blast into playoffs. Don’t expect too much more.