Negative Interest

Archive for November 2011

Nonsensical sentence of the day

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Martin Peretz:

Herman Cain is also a rich man, but in dimensions so much lower than Perot that he comes across as a middle class man.

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November 9, 2011 at 7:23 am

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Laura Ingraham on “racial overtones”

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The conservative radio host Laura Ingraham took to Twitter today to decry Gloria Allred’s description of Herman Cain’s unwanted advances towards her client, Sharon Bialek: “Gloria Allred “stimulus pkg” ref 2 Cain is rife w/ racial overtone.”

The English translation: When Allred described Cain as offering her client “his idea of a stimulus package,” this was an obvious reference to America’s long, terrible history of powerful black men offering the country unwanted stimulus packages. Ingraham is of course familiar with “racial overtones,” as the author of the 2010 book The Obama Diaries, a “fictional account” of Obama’s presidency described by Stephen Colbert as a collection of “hideous, hackneyed racial stereotypes.”

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November 7, 2011 at 10:52 pm

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James Carville’s least favorite person in Washington

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From an otherwise substance-free Politico interview, this is good:

Think of one of your least favorite people in Washington, and without naming him or her, describe what makes that person so unappealing.

There is nothing appealing about him at all. The rule prohibits me to disclose names, but his initials are Dick Morris.

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November 7, 2011 at 7:18 pm

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More on Greenwald, Chomsky, and Yglesias

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I recently wrote about a joint appearance by Glenn Greenwald and Noam Chomsky at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge (it wasn’t so much a “debate” or a “conversation” as it was a series of alternating monologues). This isn’t a highly read blog by any means, but I have earned a decent (for me) amount of traffic off of that post – people continue to run Google searches for “Chomsky Greenwald” or “Greenwald Yglesias” or “Greenwald Chomsky” or alterations on those, and it continue to receive a steady number of views.

I mentioned that both Chomsky and Greenwald took what I thought were dishonest and unfair shots at Matthew Yglesias. Yglesias has now caught wind of comments made by Chomsky in a different venue – in his acceptance speech for the 2011 Sydney Peace Prize – that closely echo the complaints made by Chomsky and Greenwald in Cambridge:

There were a few criticisms of Operation Geronimo – the name, the manner of its execution, and the implications. These elicited the usual furious condemnations, most unworthy of comment, though some were instructive. The most interesting was by the respected left-liberal commentator Matthew Yglesias. He patiently explained that “one of the main functions of the international institutional order is precisely to legitimate the use of deadly military force by western powers,” so it is “amazingly naïve” to suggest that the US should obey international law or other conditions that we impose on the powerless. The words are not criticism, but applause; hence one can raise only tactical objections if the US invades other countries, murders and destroys with abandon, assassinates suspects at will, and otherwise fulfills its obligations in the service of mankind. If the traditional victims see matters somewhat differently, that merely reveals their moral and intellectual backwardness.

And Yglesias responds:

I think my initial claim was very clear, but I’ll state it again: International law, as it exists, was not written by pacifists, political radicals, or grassroots communities in small or weak states. It was, rather, written by political elites who are not committed to pacifism or radical politics via a process in which militarily strong states have disproportionate weight. Therefore, people who are committed to pacifism or radical politics shouldn’t be surprised to find that the existing body of international law often fails to support their policy ideas. The founding purpose of the United Nations Security Council is to create a mechanism to legitimize great powers’ desire to use violent force abroad over the objections of smaller states. Simply because something is legal doesn’t make it right. It’s totally illogical and immoral, for example, for the governments of Russia and France to have more weight in the U.N. than the government of India and Japan. But it’s not “illegal.” The existing legal framework is a compromise between the victors of World War II, not a vindication of abstract justice.

I have little faith that this explanation will lead Chomsky (or Greenwald) to change his mind, but for more, here is Jonathan Schwarz.

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November 7, 2011 at 7:09 pm

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The only part of the economy with negative growth

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Via Joe Weisenthal, a revealing chart from Goldman Sachs:

government growth

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November 7, 2011 at 6:16 pm

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Link roundup

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November 7, 2011 at 1:41 am

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Romney’s Mondale moment

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Dave Weigel has a nice catch today, comparing Mitt Romney’s framing of entitlement cuts to Walter Mondale’s framing of tax increases back in 1984. Here’s Romney yesterday at the Americans for Prosperity summit:

My dad used to say that “the pursuit of the difficult makes men strong.” Our next president is going to face difficult choices.  Among these will be the future of Social Security and Medicare. In their current form, these programs will go bankrupt. I know that, you know that, and even our friends in the other party know that. The difference is that I will be honest about strengthening and preserving them, and they won’t.
Now compare that to Mondale at the 1984 Democratic National Convention:
Let’s tell the truth. It must be done, it must be done. Mr. Reagan will raise taxes, and so will I. He won’t tell you. I just did.
Weigel is, for some reason, impressed with Romney’s speech, calling it “Mondaleism done right” and “Romney’s bid to become the credible entitlement reformer who won’t waste a Republican mandate in 2012.” But Weigel acknowledges that Romney’s proposal on Medicare is similar to the Paul Ryan plan, and that Romney actually goes further than Ryan by raising the Social Security retirement age and introducing means testing. The Ryan plan was, of course, an enormous blunder for the Republican Party. I can’t tell if Weigel is buying into the media perception of Paul Ryan as a brave truth teller – as opposed to the pusher of a flawed fraud of a plan – but regardless, it should be obvious that the Ryan plan is deeply unpopular with voters of both parties.
Romney’s speech wasn’t “Mondaleism done right.” It was the presentation of a very unpopular idea – entitlement cuts. Mondale’s speech didn’t backfire on him because he did it wrong. It backfired because voters were resistant to tax increases, and because it reflected long-standing concerns about the Democratic Party as tax-friendly. Ryan’s budget plan didn’t backfire on the Republican Party because he did it wrong. It backfired because people hated it. People do not like it when you propose taking their money away in the form of taxes, and people don’t like it when you propose taking their benefits away in the form of raising the retirement age, means testing, and altering Medicare. The difference between Mondale and Romney? When Mondale promised that he was telling the truth about raising taxes, it was easy to believe him. When Romney promises he is telling the truth about “strengthening and preserving” Medicare and Social Security, it isn’t.

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November 5, 2011 at 5:43 pm

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