CK MacLeod's

beautiful ISS timelapse photography with only somewhat annoying soundtrack

http://vimeo.com/michaelkoenig/earth-timelapse-iss

Posted in notes Tagged with: ,

Wal-Mart Torquemadas

Republican Debate South Carolina – S.C. Debate: The Ultimate Waterboarding Championship – Esquire

Oh, my goodness, they do love their waterboarding, all of them except Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman, who is still battling a chronic case of invisibility. Herman Cain thinks it’s okay as long as we call it “an enhanced interrogation technique,” albeit one that results in an enhanced inability to breathe. (Otherwise, on Saturday night, Herman Cain announced his willingness to delegate the entire job of being president to various subordinates, which will be the nicest thing he’s done to a subordinate in a while. It’s going to be like Reagan without the senility.) Rick Santorum, when he’s not out there killing Iranian nuclear scientists, as well as their neighbors’ cats and whomever’s trimming their hedges that day, is fine with it, too, and for many of the same philological reasons that so appeal to Herman. La Bachmann is busy pricing designer thumbscrews and also is busy going completely off her admittedly limited rails and deep, deep into the outer bananasphere.

“If I were president, I would be willing to use waterboarding.”

(And, over at The Hague, pictures inexplicably begin to fall off the wall. Meanwhile, at the Cheney household, what may be a human heartbeat is detected by the sensors, setting off a Stage Four alert in Dick Central.)

“[President Obama] is letting the ACLU run the CIA.”

(Good idea. The ACLU sent me a copy of the Constitution in the mail the other day. The CIA never sends me anything… as far as I know…)

Paul and Huntsman came next, with their rationality and their pestery-pestering about what’s against the law and so forth. However, Bachmann kept yipping away in the background because she hadn’t yet unburdened herself of all of her warm Christian devotion — two millenia ago, she’d have been wearing an “I (Heart) Pilate” button — to the sacred task of drowning people. (This is where Pelley began to give up, I’m thinking.) I swear, she’s still out on the sidewalk right now, buttonholing winos on the topic. The last time I heard a woman talk that enthusiastically about torture, it cost me eight bucks for a Halloween midnight show in a movie theater on the north side of Milwaukee. Jesus Mary, it’s Ilsa, She-Wolf of the Bean Salads.

Even Bachmann fell short of our boy, Goodhair, though. Somehow, as though most of them already hadn’t revealed themselves to be abject moral algae on the subject, it came up again. Again, Ron Paul voiced an objection, which gave Perry an opportunity to leap in with both feet. Alas for him, neither of them was in his mouth this time. He was clear, precise, and totally batshit:

Waterboarding is not torture… and I’ll be for it until the day I die.

This is precisely, and in every respect, the position taken by several Japanese military officers in 1945. They felt exactly the same way, which is why we fucking executed them. 

There were a number of other highlights, two of which deserve special commendation, if only because they were what you would hear on The History Channel if it were run by marmosets. Newt Gingrich blamed the spottiness of our intelligence in Pakistan on the reforms of the intelligence community that emerged from the Senate committee led by Sen. Frank Church in 1975. (Give him another debate or five, and Newtie’s liable to demand the Panama Canal back, or another war with Spain. He is a historian, you know.) Still glowing with her inquisitional fervor, La Bachmann announced that she will be campaigning hereafter against “Lyndon Baines Johnson and his Great Society programs.” I wish her as much luck as Goldwater had with that.

Ah, you may be saying to yourself, I thought this was supposed to be a foreign-policy debate — “the Commander-in-Chief Debate,” as Pelley kept calling it, which made it sound like something you compete in at a Mary Kay weekend seminar — so how in the name of Jerry Jeff Walker did poor old LBJ get dragged into this kennel of mutts? Let La Bachmann explain — and remember, this is a person who believes that she, above all others, should be president of these United States:

“Look at China! They don’t have food stamps! Their workers save for their own retirements! They don’t have AFDC!”

(And, somewhere in a hut in Shandong province, a man comes home from a 16-hour day at the Happy Carcinogens Manufacturing Plant, stirs 27 grains of rice into a pot, garnishes it with what’s left of his sandal, and thinks to himself, “Goddamn glad we don’t have Head Start here. Freedom!.”)

Posted in Miscellany Tagged with: , ,

Adventures in fee-for-service medicine

That'll be $45, cash only. Now go away.

Finally saw a doctor about my chronic inflammation of the tootsies problem:  burning sensations, redness, swelling, extreme sensitivity to any kind of touch, and, eventually, blisters and sores, spreading to both feet but confined to the area of the toes. In recent years the condition had gotten bad enough to make me semi-non-ambulatory for extended periods during the Fall and Winter months when the condition flared up worst.

I found the MD I ended up seeing almost by accident, since the internet listing I had initially settled on was a misprint of some kind, misidentifying a cardiologist as a GP.  One referral later I was, however, in contact with the doctor’s office, and making an appointment.

To my surprise, the condition was diagnosed as the result of circulatory issues, possibly Peripheral Artery Disease or something similar.  I’d be more specific, except the doctor was uncommunicative.  I’m left to wonder, for instance, if some of the collateral damage, the blisters and so on, originated in over-application of pointless athlete’s foot and other non-remedial remedies, or whether it was more directly related to the real problem.  Read more ›

Posted in Meta Tagged with: , ,

About that “media bias,” or Ombudsman Ombud Thyself

Why the WaPo Won’t Fire Jennifer Rubin – Glenn Greenwald – Salon.com

Is there any doubt whatsoever that had Rubin promoted a rant spewing these sorts of ugly caricatures about Jewish children and Israelis with accompanying calls for savage violence — rather than directed at Palestinians — that she would have instantly been fired, then castigated and attacked by all Serious precincts? As Gharib reports today, that was the question posed by a Post reader via email to the Post‘s Ombudsman, Patrick Pexton. To his credit, Pexton had previously condemned Rubin on his Ombudsman blog, writing: “in agreeing with the sentiment, and in spreading it to her 7,000 Twitter followers who know her as a Washington Post blogger, Rubin did damage to The Post and the credibility that keeps it afloat.” After denouncing Abrams’ rant as “reprehensible,” Pexton added: “That a Post employee would retweet it is a huge disappointment to me.”

That’s all fine as far as it goes, but what about the question posed by the reader: wouldn’t Rubin have been fired for promoting this hate-mongering had it been directed at Jews and Israelis rather than Palestinians? Pexton’s email response, published by the reader who emailed him, was this:

Off the record, I think it’s quite possible. But the ombudsman does not hire or fire people here. I only comment.

Leave aside the bizarre belief of establishment journalists that they can unilaterally decree their statements to be “off the record” and then expect that to be honored in the absence of any agreement by the person to whom they’re making the statement. What is most striking here is Pexton’s highly revealing cowardice — probably well-grounded — in wanting his observation about this double standard to be kept private; shouldn’t an Ombudsman who believes this be eager to raise it in public? As the reader noted in reply to Pexton:

If, in your opinion, such a grave double standard exits, why do you comment off the record? Why not publicly state your opinion? Why self censor? Doesn’t that reinforce insidious limitations on free speech?

Think of the absurdity. You must stay cautiously silent about a perfectly reasonable opinion while Rubin and Abrams can let fly with genocidal remarks. With respect, your silence contributes significantly to the poisoning of public debate.

Please speak up.

What’s particularly remarkable is that Pexton is admitting (albeit wanting it kept secret) what any honest observer knows to be true: that there is a very high likelihood — I’d say absolute certainty — that Rubin would have been fired had she promoted a post like this about Jews and Israelis rather than Arabs and Palestinians.

But this is the insidious, pervasive bias that has long been obvious in a profession that relentlessly touts its own “objectivity.” Even the mildest criticism of Israelis and anything even hinting at criticisms of Jews is strictly prohibited — a prohibition enforced by summary, immediate dismissal and enduring stigma. As Nicholas Kristof wrote during a visit to Jerusalem last year: Israel “tolerates a far greater range of opinions [about Israel] than America.”

But the most extreme forms of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry and hatred flourish often with no condemnation and virtually always with no sanction…

Posted in Miscellany Tagged with: , ,

Why They Fight

Naomi Klein:  Capitalism vs. the Climate

The deniers did not decide that climate change is a left-wing conspiracy by uncovering some covert socialist plot. They arrived at this analysis by taking a hard look at what it would take to lower global emissions as drastically and as rapidly as climate science demands. They have concluded that this can be done only by radically reordering our economic and political systems in ways antithetical to their “free market” belief system. As British blogger and Heartland regular James Delingpole has pointed out, “Modern environmentalism successfully advances many of the causes dear to the left: redistribution of wealth, higher taxes, greater government intervention, regulation.” Heartland’s Bast puts it even more bluntly: For the left, “Climate change is the perfect thing…. It’s the reason why we should do everything [the left] wanted to do anyway.”

Here’s my inconvenient truth: they aren’t wrong. Before I go any further, let me be absolutely clear: as 97 percent of the world’s climate scientists attest, the Heartlanders are completely wrong about the science. The heat-trapping gases released into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels are already causing temperatures to increase. If we are not on a radically different energy path by the end of this decade, we are in for a world of pain.

But when it comes to the real-world consequences of those scientific findings, specifically the kind of deep changes required not just to our energy consumption but to the underlying logic of our economic system, the crowd gathered at the Marriott Hotel may be in considerably less denial than a lot of professional environmentalists, the ones who paint a picture of global warming Armageddon, then assure us that we can avert catastrophe by buying “green” products and creating clever markets in pollution.

***

When powerful ideologies are challenged by hard evidence from the real world, they rarely die off completely. Rather, they become cultlike and marginal. A few true believers always remain to tell one another that the problem wasn’t with the ideology; it was the weakness of leaders who did not apply the rules with sufficient rigor. We have these types on the Stalinist left, and they exist as well on the neo-Nazi right. By this point in history, free-market fundamentalists should be exiled to a similarly marginal status, left to fondle their copies of Free to Choose and Atlas Shrugged in obscurity. They are saved from this fate only because their ideas about minimal government, no matter how demonstrably at war with reality, remain so profitable to the world’s billionaires that they are kept fed and clothed in think tanks by the likes of Charles and David Koch, and ExxonMobil.

This points to the limits of theories like “cultural cognition.” The deniers are doing more than protecting their cultural worldview—they are protecting powerful interests that stand to gain from muddying the waters of the climate debate. The ties between the deniers and those interests are well known and well documented. Heartland has received more than $1 million from ExxonMobil together with foundations linked to the Koch brothers and Richard Mellon Scaife (possibly much more, but the think tank has stopped publishing its donors’ names, claiming the information was distracting from the “merits of our positions”).

And scientists who present at Heartland climate conferences are almost all so steeped in fossil fuel dollars that you can practically smell the fumes. To cite just two examples, the Cato Institute’s Patrick Michaels, who gave the conference keynote, once told CNN that 40 percent of his consulting company’s income comes from oil companies, and who knows how much of the rest comes from coal. A Greenpeace investigation into another one of the conference speakers, astrophysicist Willie Soon, found that since 2002, 100 percent of his new research grants had come from fossil fuel interests. And fossil fuel companies are not the only economic interests strongly motivated to undermine climate science. If solving this crisis requires the kinds of profound changes to the economic order that I have outlined, then every major corporation benefiting from loose regulation, free trade and low taxes has reason to fear.

With so much at stake, it should come as little surprise that climate deniers are, on the whole, those most invested in our highly unequal and dysfunctional economic status quo. One of the most interesting findings of the studies on climate perceptions is the clear connection between a refusal to accept the science of climate change and social and economic privilege. Overwhelmingly, climate deniers are not only conservative but also white and male, a group with higher than average incomes. And they are more likely than other adults to be highly confident in their views, no matter how demonstrably false. A much-discussed paper on this topic by Aaron McCright and Riley Dunlap (memorably titled “Cool Dudes”) found that confident conservative white men, as a group, were almost six times as likely to believe climate change “will never happen” than the rest of the adults surveyed. McCright and Dunlap offer a simple explanation for this discrepancy: “Conservative white males have disproportionately occupied positions of power within our economic system. Given the expansive challenge that climate change poses to the industrial capitalist economic system, it should not be surprising that conservative white males’ strong system-justifying attitudes would be triggered to deny climate change.”

But deniers’ relative economic and social privilege doesn’t just give them more to lose from a new economic order; it gives them reason to be more sanguine about the risks of climate change in the first place. This occurred to me as I listened to yet another speaker at the Heartland conference display what can only be described as an utter absence of empathy for the victims of climate change. Larry Bell, whose bio describes him as a “space architect,” drew plenty of laughs when he told the crowd that a little heat isn’t so bad: “I moved to Houston intentionally!” (Houston was, at that time, in the midst of what would turn out to be the state’s worst single-year drought on record.) Australian geologist Bob Carter offered that “the world actually does better from our human perspective in warmer times.” And Patrick Michaels said people worried about climate change should do what the French did after a devastating 2003 heat wave killed 14,000 of their people: “they discovered Walmart and air-conditioning.”

Listening to these zingers as an estimated 13 million people in the Horn of Africa face starvation on parched land was deeply unsettling. What makes this callousness possible is the firm belief that if the deniers are wrong about climate change, a few degrees of warming isn’t something wealthy people in industrialized countries have to worry about. (“When it rains, we find shelter. When it’s hot, we find shade,” Texas Congressman Joe Barton explained at an energy and environment subcommittee hearing.)

As for everyone else, well, they should stop looking for handouts and busy themselves getting unpoor. When I asked Michaels whether rich countries have a responsibility to help poor ones pay for costly adaptations to a warmer climate, he scoffed that there is no reason to give money to countries “because, for some reason, their political system is incapable of adapting.” The real solution, he claimed, was more free trade.

* * *

This is where the intersection between hard-right ideology and climate denial gets truly dangerous. It’s not simply that these “cool dudes” deny climate science because it threatens to upend their dominance-based worldview. It is that their dominance-based worldview provides them with the intellectual tools to write off huge swaths of humanity in the developing world. Recognizing the threat posed by this empathy-exterminating mindset is a matter of great urgency, because climate change will test our moral character like little before. The US Chamber of Commerce, in its bid to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon emissions, argued in a petition that in the event of global warming, “populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological, and technological adaptations.” These adaptations are what I worry about most.

How will we adapt to the people made homeless and jobless by increasingly intense and frequent natural disasters? How will we treat the climate refugees who arrive on our shores in leaky boats? Will we open our borders, recognizing that we created the crisis from which they are fleeing? Or will we build ever more high-tech fortresses and adopt ever more draconian antiimmigration laws? How will we deal with resource scarcity?

We know the answers already. The corporate quest for scarce resources will become more rapacious, more violent. Arable land in Africa will continue to be grabbed to provide food and fuel to wealthier nations. Drought and famine will continue to be used as a pretext to push genetically modified seeds, driving farmers further into debt. We will attempt to transcend peak oil and gas by using increasingly risky technologies to extract the last drops, turning ever larger swaths of our globe into sacrifice zones. We will fortress our borders and intervene in foreign conflicts over resources, or start those conflicts ourselves. “Free-market climate solutions,” as they are called, will be a magnet for speculation, fraud and crony capitalism, as we are already seeing with carbon trading and the use of forests as carbon offsets. And as climate change begins to affect not just the poor but the wealthy as well, we will increasingly look for techno-fixes to turn down the temperature, with massive and unknowable risks.

As the world warms, the reigning ideology that tells us it’s everyone for themselves, that victims deserve their fate, that we can master nature, will take us to a very cold place indeed. And it will only get colder, as theories of racial superiority, barely under the surface in parts of the denial movement, make a raging comeback. These theories are not optional: they are necessary to justify the hardening of hearts to the largely blameless victims of climate change in the global South, and in predominately African-American cities like New Orleans.

In The Shock Doctrine, I explore how the right has systematically used crises—real and trumped up—to push through a brutal ideological agenda designed not to solve the problems that created the crises but rather to enrich elites. As the climate crisis begins to bite, it will be no exception. This is entirely predictable. Finding new ways to privatize the commons and to profit from disaster are what our current system is built to do. The process is already well under way.

The only wild card is whether some countervailing popular movement will step up to provide a viable alternative to this grim future. That means not just an alternative set of policy proposals but an alternative worldview to rival the one at the heart of the ecological crisis—this time, embedded in interdependence rather than hyper-individualism, reciprocity rather than dominance and cooperation rather than hierarchy.

Shifting cultural values is, admittedly, a tall order. It calls for the kind of ambitious vision that movements used to fight for a century ago, before everything was broken into single “issues” to be tackled by the appropriate sector of business-minded NGOs. Climate change is, in the words of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, “the greatest example of market failure we have ever seen.” By all rights, this reality should be filling progressive sails with conviction, breathing new life and urgency into longstanding fights against everything from free trade to financial speculation to industrial agriculture to third-world debt, while elegantly weaving all these struggles into a coherent narrative about how to protect life on earth.

But that isn’t happening, at least not so far. It is a painful irony that while the Heartlanders are busily calling climate change a left-wing plot, most leftists have yet to realize that climate science has handed them the most powerful argument against capitalism since William Blake’s “dark Satanic Mills” (and, of course, those mills were the beginning of climate change). When demonstrators are cursing out the corruption of their governments and corporate elites in Athens, Madrid, Cairo, Madison and New York, climate change is often little more than a footnote, when it should be the coup de grâce.

Half of the problem is that progressives—their hands full with soaring unemployment and multiple wars—tend to assume that the big green groups have the climate issue covered. The other half is that many of those big green groups have avoided, with phobic precision, any serious debate on the blindingly obvious roots of the climate crisis: globalization, deregulation and contemporary capitalism’s quest for perpetual growth (the same forces that are responsible for the destruction of the rest of the economy). The result is that those taking on the failures of capitalism and those fighting for climate action remain two solitudes, with the small but valiant climate justice movement—drawing the connections between racism, inequality and environmental vulnerability—stringing up a few swaying bridges between them.

The right, meanwhile, has had a free hand to exploit the global economic crisis to cast climate action as a recipe for economic Armageddon, a surefire way to spike household costs and to block new, much-needed jobs drilling for oil and laying new pipelines. With virtually no loud voices offering a competing vision of how a new economic paradigm could provide a way out of both the economic and ecological crises, this fearmongering has had a ready audience.

Posted in Miscellany Tagged with: , ,

9 Foreign Policy Questions for the GOP Candidates

My Questions for the Next GOP Debate | FrumForum

Had I been on the panel for Wednesday’s economics debate, I’d have opened with the question: “Are taxes lower or higher today than on the day President Obama was sworn into office?” Just for fun.

CBS and National Journal asked me among others to suggest some questions to ask the candidates at tomorrow’s foreign policy debate. My suggested list follows. Note that it was written in advance of the Keystone XL pipeline decision, which adds urgency to the energy security questions.

1. Mexico is being torn apart by a civil war to control the drug routes to the United States. Many Mexican leaders urge drug legalization in the US in order to move the drug trade away from violent criminals to legitimate business. If a Mexican president asked you to consider such a step, what would you answer and why?

2. Canada is our largest trading partner and most important energy supplier. What do you see as the major issues between the US and Canada and what would you do to strengthen this supremely important relationship?

3. If asked, would you support a US contribution to the fund to stabilize the Euro currency? Why or why not?

4. Taiwan is China’s largest foreign investor. Taiwan and China have an intensifying economic relationship. Taiwan has refused to make the military investments that our military considers necessary to Taiwan’s security. Is the US security guarantee to Taiwan obsolete?

5. If you had been president in 2010, would Hosni Mubarak still be in power today?

6. Do you believe there is a peaceful way to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons?

7. It’s often said that our present energy policy leaves us dependent on oil suppliers who do not like us. Our top 10 suppliers are:

Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Venezuela, Russia, Algeria, Iraq, Angola and Colombia. The anti-US feeling of the Chavez regime is notorious. Which of the other 9 would you describe as a supplier who “does not like us”?

8. Afghanistan: At the end of your first term do you think we’ll have more or less than 20,000 troops in that country?

9. Iraq: Knowing everything you know now, if you had been in Congress in 2002, would you have voted to authorize force against Saddam Hussein, yes or no?

Posted in Miscellany Tagged with: ,

Nuke programs end with a lot of whimpering, not a bang

What Ends Nuke Programs | Paul Pillar | The National Interest

A recurring canard, which neoconservatives are especially fond of perpetuating, is that the late Libyan ruler Muammar Qadhafi gave up his unconventional weapons programs (and his involvement in international terrorism) because the war in Iraq scared him into thinking he would also be a target of regime-changing U.S. military force. This notion serves the dual neocon purposes of suggesting that military force is the fail-safe solution to nuclear proliferation problems and salvaging some supposed value from the blunder known as the Iraq War. Joshua Muravchik repeats the notion in a piece this week (although Muravchik, unlike most other neocons, has in the past acknowledged that the Iraq War may have been a bad idea to begin with). The trouble with this notion is that Qadhafi had made his decision about ending his weapons programs and getting out of international terrorism years earlier, when the Iraq War was still only an out-of-reach dream in the fevered minds of out-of-power neocons. Following the Libyan dictator’s decision, secret talks with the United States began in 1999 (which I know first-hand, because I participated in the initial rounds of the talks). At most, later events in Iraq might have helped to give the later rounds of negotiations a final nudge; they certainly were not a cause of Qadhafi’s drastic redirection of policy, which he had decided on previously.

The lesson of the Libya experience, as far as ending nuclear weapons programs or other undesirable behaviors is concerned, is clear. The experience was a success thanks first to several years of multilateral sanctions, which Qadhafi found both economically and politically wearying, and second to the willingness of the United States (and Britain) to engage with Qadhafi’s regime and to strike a deal with it that involved, among other things, a normalization of relations. The Clinton and Bush administrations both deserve credit for providing that critical second ingredient, notwithstanding the distaste of dealing with a loathsome regime with American blood on its hands.

The treatment of the Libyan case is perhaps the most egregious but not the only mischaracterization of historical cases by Muravchik, who contends that only military force and regime change have ended nuclear weapons programs, and that sanctions and diplomacy have failed to do so. He invokes World War II as one of his examples because “Allied armies stopped Hitler from getting the bomb.” I always thought that World War II in Europe had to do with a few other things as well. He counts Ukraine and Kazakhstan as instances of regime change turning a state away from nuclear weapons, which is a bit of a stretch given that they were new states carved out of a stripped-down empire and that the legacy state of that empire—i.e., Russia—continues to have a large arsenal of nuclear weapons today. He also states that “apartheid’s fall ended South Africa’s nuclear quest,” while failing to note that it was the white apartheid government that ended South Africa’s nuclear program in the late 1980s, before apartheid was dismantled in the 1990s.

Muravchik’s examples of sanctions and diplomacy supposedly failing are curious because in most of those examples sanctions and diplomacy were not tried or given a chance. He cites, for example, Israel. When was Israel ever sanctioned for its nuclear weapons program? After the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty was negotiated in the late 1960s there was a brief period when the United States urged Israel to sign it, but as with most of the rest of U.S.-Israeli history, the Johnson administration caved to Israeli desires and shipped Israel the advanced fighter aircraft and other weapons it was seeking at the time even though Israeli never signed the NPT. Then the Nixon administration reached a secret deal with Israel promising never to make an issue of the Israeli nuclear arsenal as long as the Israelis did not openly declare it.

Another example mentioned is India, which also was never subjected to significant persuasion or pressure on its nuclear program. The French were practically cheering on the Indians as India prepared its series of nuclear tests in 1998, and the United States later reached its own deal with New Delhi that bestowed a U.S. seal of approval on the Indian nuclear program, weapons and all. Then there is North Korea, whose first nuclear weapons test in 2006 was preceded by several years in which the Bush administration eschewed diplomacy as a means of dealing with the issue. The administration did so by refusing any bilateral talks with Pyongyang and also vacating terms of the Framework Agreement that was a basis for the alternative diplomatic forum of the six-party talks.

Muravchik invokes the Israeli strike on an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 as a supposed example of successful use of military force, but it instead was a distinct failure and clearly not an instance of getting a regime, in Muravchik’s words, to “turn away from nuclear weapons.” The Iraqis instead responded by redoubling their nuclear efforts using an alternative route to the production of fissile material; a decade later they were far closer to having a nuclear weapon than they were in 1981.

A further lesson in all this is that it is possible to stretch history however one wants to try to prove whatever one wants, no matter how much an objective rendering of events points in the opposite direction.

Posted in International Relations, War Tagged with: , , , ,

What Europe’s Problems Do NOT Tell Us

Legends of the Fail – NYTimes.com

Now that the euro project is on the rocks, what lessons should we draw?

I’ve been hearing two claims, both false: that Europe’s woes reflect the failure of welfare states in general, and that Europe’s crisis makes the case for immediate fiscal austerity in the United States.

The assertion that Europe’s crisis proves that the welfare state doesn’t work comes from many Republicans. For example, Mitt Romney has accused President Obama of taking his inspiration from European “socialist democrats” and asserted that “Europe isn’t working in Europe.” The idea, presumably, is that the crisis countries are in trouble because they’re groaning under the burden of high government spending. But the facts say otherwise.

It’s true that all European countries have more generous social benefits — including universal health care — and higher government spending than America does. But the nations now in crisis don’t have bigger welfare states than the nations doing well — if anything, the correlation runs the other way. Sweden, with its famously high benefits, is a star performer, one of the few countries whose G.D.P. is now higher than it was before the crisis. Meanwhile, before the crisis, “social expenditure” — spending on welfare-state programs — was lower, as a percentage of national income, in all of the nations now in trouble than in Germany, let alone Sweden.

Oh, and Canada, which has universal health care and much more generous aid to the poor than the United States, has weathered the crisis better than we have.

The euro crisis, then, says nothing about the sustainability of the welfare state. But does it make the case for belt-tightening in a depressed economy?

You hear that claim all the time. America, we’re told, had better slash spending right away or we’ll end up like Greece or Italy. Again, however, the facts tell a different story.

First, if you look around the world you see that the big determining factor for interest rates isn’t the level of government debt but whether a government borrows in its own currency. Japan is much more deeply in debt than Italy, but the interest rate on long-term Japanese bonds is only about 1 percent to Italy’s 7 percent. Britain’s fiscal prospects look worse than Spain’s, but Britain can borrow at just a bit over 2 percent, while Spain is paying almost 6 percent.

What has happened, it turns out, is that by going on the euro, Spain and Italy in effect reduced themselves to the status of third-world countries that have to borrow in someone else’s currency, with all the loss of flexibility that implies. In particular, since euro-area countries can’t print money even in an emergency, they’re subject to funding disruptions in a way that nations that kept their own currencies aren’t — and the result is what you see right now. America, which borrows in dollars, doesn’t have that problem.

The other thing you need to know is that in the face of the current crisis, austerity has been a failure everywhere it has been tried: no country with significant debts has managed to slash its way back into the good graces of the financial markets. For example, Ireland is the good boy of Europe, having responded to its debt problems with savage austerity that has driven its unemployment rate to 14 percent. Yet the interest rate on Irish bonds is still above 8 percent — worse than Italy.

The moral of the story, then, is to beware of ideologues who are trying to hijack the European crisis on behalf of their agendas.

Posted in Miscellany Tagged with: , ,

summing up

Ultimately, Rick Perry is going to be remembered as the man too stupid to win this Republican nomination. That is a remarkable feat.

OR

In the end, all press is good press. Perry’s campaign has been on a downward spiral for months, and the debate brain melt at least puts the candidate back in the news. Perry’s media blitz will boost his name recognition, which could easily translate to a bump in the polls, at least temporarily. But a little push may be all Perry needs to regain momentum as his campaign heads into the home stretch before the real voting begins.

Posted in notes Tagged with: ,

Rick Is Dead, Long Live Rick

(snipped from Zero Hedge, link to YouTube)

Almost everyone sez Perry lost the R debate last night with a gaffe so humungous as to convert the name “Rick” into a synonym for “gaffe.”  The world’s other Ricks will have to hope that the very nature of the gaffe – blackout forgetfulness on stage – will result in those who might invoke the new term forgetting to do so.

Political scientist and pundit Jonathan Bernstein thinks that even a world-historical Rick didn’t make Perry the worst debater of the night.  Bernstein gives the award instead to “Prince Herman,” and unloads like a Malacca-class superfreighter on him: Read more ›

Posted in Politics Tagged with: , , ,

State of the Discussion

+ BTW, I recently upgraded some this and that on the back end of the blog, and it does seem to make comments post much faster [. . .]
Gutenberg: The Invention of the Printing Press, the Destruction of WordPress

For WordPress self-hosted people, there is already a "restore legacy editor" plugin, even though Gutenberg hasn't been installed yet as the default.

Gutenberg: The Invention of the Printing Press, the Destruction of WordPress
+ I thought you were on WordPress.com, not self-hosted WordPress. I can't find any info on WordPress.com and Gutenberg or Gutenbergerish editing, so I don't know [. . .]
Gutenberg: The Invention of the Printing Press, the Destruction of WordPress

Extraordinary Comments

CK's WP Plugins

From the Featured Archives

Categories

In Progress

Recent Posts

Theodicy of Trump - a Tweet-Drizzle (OAG #11)

...the one thing Trump & his voters had right was the political class - as continually re-confirmed in their pusillanimous responses to him.[...]

The Honorable 47 Rogues of the Palpatine Era

Rogue One's fish-eyed admirals running the space battles were far more credible figures than the Fisher's sex dollish image clone - hallelujah![...]

Exterminating the Non-Breaking Space Bug

O layout mutilator! O blogger humiliator![...]

American Idealism, American Identity - Thread by @dhnexon, with Brief Comments

"In fact, Trump is the most anti-exceptionalist POUTS since 1945."[...]

The Deep State vs the Derp State (OAG #10)

Can a responsible citizen refuse to take a side?[...]

Yearning for President Blog - OAG #9

The Tweet-storm, in the new era of President Tweet, remains a nostalgia-inducing afterimage of the blog and of the era of President Blog, but it may also portend a return or attempted return to coherent, accountable, and consequential civic discussion in a mass society, back from the Great Flood of clicks.[...]

Nested Comments Unbound 1.0 Now Available from the WordPress Repo

Enable open-ended maximum depth for nested comments, preserve comment-reply-links for all comments, keep the results readable.[...]

Tweets toward an Inquiry into Inquiry, in relation to Ideologies

There are progressive and liberal ideologies or ideological constructs, but the desirability of progress and its attainment via rational and open ("liberal") inquiry remain pre-conditions of any authentic (authentically "discursive") discussion.[...]

All the News that's Fit to Kill (OAG #8)

The Post appears to be promising to narrate the death of democracy - or, if unconsciously, to be revealing an intention to embody it.[...]

On Emulating the TP vs Trump's GOP

"Remember when everyone lectured Tea Party they should speak sweetly to woo liberals & so they toned down & then they won 2010? / Me neither."[...]

King of the World

[...]

Commenter Ignore Button Plug-In Now Available from the WordPress Repo

Commenter Ignore Button (CIB) lets a user to put one or more commenters "on ignore." To have such an option enabled is a frequent request at blogs and other sites where comment threads are plagued by trolls or other problematic commenters, but where site operators prefer to err on the side of open discussion - or don't want to get involved unless they really have to. Once users become generally aware of the option, people just seeking attention may either be more polite or move somewhere else, while regular commenters - and lurkers - may become more willing to engage.[...]

Ignoring in "Illdy": A CIB Adaptation to a "Bootstrapped" Theme (Case Study)

If you're not able to perfect your theme yourself, or not willing to hire a designer, then being a perfectionist is unrealistic. Yet just getting good enough on first glance results when adding CIB to customized comment templates, even before fine-tuning, may require some more complicated work. For those intimidated by the prospect, here is an example of curing the output on one typically atypical theme.[...]

Oops...

[...]

Adding wp.media Multiple Image Selection to WordPress Plug-Ins

WordPress Multiple Image Selection in jQuery[...]

Friend Dog Studios: 2016: The Movie (Trailer) - YouTube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z04M6NhkIKk[...]

Postscript to future historians from Xmas 2016 (OAG #8)

We would be compelled to conclude that something must have been (and very likely remains) profoundly wrong with a political culture or political media - of which Matthew Yglesias and Vox are, of course, typical parts - that could be dominated by an issue to be judged intrinsically trivial, and dominated to the point of determining eventual collective decisions of undoubted significance.[...]

Commenter Ignore Button 0.99

Now in "Late Beta" - and, for a limited time, I'll offer free styling, installation, and configuration to anyone who wants to try it out![...]

Si Vis Bellum, Part 3: Always Again

If members of the present younger generation in particular seem unable to articulate or comprehend the basis of a still operative policy consensus, they can hardly be faulted if their elders, even those running for the highest office in the land, can no longer do so either. We seem to be preparing and in effect demanding - perhaps cannot help but to require - a repetition, or at least a reinforcement, of the very old lesson.[...]