SocraticGadfly: 3/14/10 - 3/21/10

March 20, 2010

Funny and semi-vicious campaign ads: effective?

I suspect that YouTube type video political campaign ads, like the ones mentioned in this story, deliberately8 designed to "go viral," may get a lot of pass-around on YouTube, but mainly "preach to the masses" in the end and aren't actually that effective.

Talk deeply, be happy!

Hey, fellow history, philosophy or political science geeks! Don't be afraid to talk about what you love; it's probably making you happier than just talking about the weather or sports.

March 19, 2010

HCR: Senate reconciliation details up

Politico has highlights and details.

It's "nice" to see the old "waste, fraud and abuse" provision, and ONLY applied to Medicare and Medicaid, not private insurers. More neoliberalism in action.

Obamacare lacks cost containment

And that's one of the biggest issues I have with this legislation. I think the government's subsidies for lower-income families to buy private health insurance will more than offset any Medicare savings.

And, why is this lacking? Lack of Congressional will and lack of presidential push. Here's more:
It was a bold response to skyrocketing health insurance premiums. President Barack Obama would give federal authorities the power to block unreasonable rate hikes.

Yet when Democrats unveiled the final, incarnation of their health care bill this week, the proposal was nowhere to be found. ...

In the cases of the insurance rate authority, the Republican ideas and the special deals, it came down to Obama making promises that Congress didn't keep. He can propose whatever he wants, but it's up to Congress to enshrine it into law.

Arguably, the president could have foreseen that outcome, and was making a low-risk p.r. move by floating proposals — dismissed by critics as insubstantial anyway — whose demise he couldn't be blamed for.

While the White House worked hard to trumpet Obama's plans for the rate authority, his embrace of bipartisanship and his opposition to special deals, the administration hardly advertised the lack of follow-through. Understandable, certainly, but perhaps not the new way of doing business that Obama promised to bring to Washington.

That's why I have decried: the lack of a federal insurance regulation agency; the lack of cost controls on medications, whether through allowing reimportation from Canada or other means; the backdoor deals with Big Pharma; and more.

That said, if Obama would actually create a new federal agency, maybe it could be included under reconciliation. But he hasn't. Nor has he promised, yet, to address that in the future.

That's why I don't count the CBO's chickens in this area. The eggs are nowhere near hatched.

Unemployment – trust Gallup or feds?

Seems like Gallup uses its own calculations for both unemployment and underemployment, and its numbers track higher than Washington's. This is not Obama-bashing, just a more general observation about how politicians have "tweaked" unemployment numbers over decades.

Vikings SCATter their offense – scatblogging

The Bleacher Report says the Minnesota Vikings, even with the addition of Brett Favre, weren't as successful as they could have been because they didn't properly use their running backs, especially their scatback-type runners.

Can we please blame some of this on Favre, just for the fun of it?

Krugman tries to make healthcare reform case — and doesn't

Paul Krugman argues, primarily from issues of recission, or insurance companies revoking clients' policies, that we need to pass Obamacare.
So what’s the answer? Americans overwhelmingly favor guaranteeing coverage to those with pre-existing conditions — but you can’t do that without pursuing broad-based reform. To make insurance affordable, you have to keep currently healthy people in the risk pool, which means requiring that everyone or almost everyone buy coverage. You can’t do that without financial aid to lower-income Americans so that they can pay the premiums. So you end up with a tripartite policy: elimination of medical discrimination, mandated coverage, and premium subsidies.

So, that's his baseline argument for Obama's program.

That said, is he right that the stool's three legs are interconnected and inseparable? Is he right that these are the three most needed legs?

Krugman offers his answer:
But shouldn’t we be focused on controlling costs rather than extending coverage? Actually, the proposed reform does more to control health care costs than any previous legislation, paying for expanded coverage by reducing the rate at which Medicare costs will grow, substantially improving Medicare’s long-run financing along the way.

And, that's the point at which I disagree with people like him.

Without real, vigorous federal regulation not proposed at all in Obama's bill, while Obamacare may "do more to control health care costs than any previous legislation," that's like saying the House's current climate control bill "may do more to control carbon emissions than any previous legislation."

In other words, it doesn't necessarily say much of anything.

We aren't getting a federal bureau of insurance regulation to regulate rates. The antitrust exemption revocation is not something that is reconcilation passable. So what if we get more people buying insurance, if state insurance agencies are still as weak as tissue paper.

Reducing the rate at which Medicare rates will grow? What if that, in the long term, is more than offset by federal subsidy payments to buy insurance, less "Cadillac taxes" or other fees? That may not at all be likely. But, absent the regulatory environment I just mentioned, with an even more rigged market due to compulsory buying, contra both Krugman and the Congressional Budget Office, there's no guarantee that WON'T be the case, either.

So, let's call this "not proven." Obama's bill, as it now stands, is an existential leap of faith at bottom line.

On the other hand, at least Krugman has the decency, and the brains, NOT to argue for "Obama's legacy." Or, rather, "Obama's political capital."

Anonymous sourcing means 'tweaked' quotes

Ed Cohen raises another valid concern about the rise of anonymous comments in BOTH old and new media. And that is that anonymous comments usually have the commenter "tweaking" the quote before it sees the light of day.
In real life people don’t adjust their quotes. It’s therefore natural that manufactured utterance does not resonate. But everything I’ve experienced in Washington, and heard from journalists there, suggests control over the message has reached obsessive proportions. Even background (anonymous) interviews morph into “background with authorization,” so that a quote from “an official” must pass the review process lest “an official,” should misspeak.

The Obama administration is particularly active in this regard. I’d say one of its chief difficulties in its first year has been shifting from the relentlessly controlling, on-message, no-drama, one-star-in-the-firmament message of a campaign to the different demands of the presidency, where the humanity of America’s leader, his flesh-and-blood fallibility and impulses, assumes central importance.

In other words, BOTH old AND new media that use anonymous sources are becoming ever more propaganda by the day.

Cohen's advice? Obama needs to dial back the anonymous messaging.

Actually, that message really needs to go to Rahm, Bam, Thank You Emanuel. Of course, Obama IS Rahm's boss.

David Brooks goes communitarian

And comes up with one of his better columns.

Are such changes likely here? No, not as long as a market-focused neoliberalism "informs" a large portion of Democratic leadership.

March 18, 2010

Prius accident fake claim in Japan

This is another reason to suspect Mr. Sikes' claims from Los Angeles a week ago. In Japan, a person who claimed Prius braking problems could face criminal charges over the Japanese equivalent of making a false accident report.

Abortion: It happens in the animal world too

And, "deliberately," to the degree you can attribute will to the pipefish, a relative of the sea horse. And, not for deformations, but purely for attractiveness reasons.
The researchers showed that a male pipefish will absorb some of his developing offspring — effectively eating some of his unborn young. This highlights a conflict of interest between the two sexes: the females surrender their eggs to the males in the hope that they will all be supported, but the males instead may support only a fraction of the brood. ...

The fact that male pipefish are selectively judging the fitness of their mate both before and after copulation is surprising because, in general, most animals judge the quality of their mates before sex or, in some species, after sex.

Verrrry interesting. Read the full article.

That said, per someone asking me on Facebook about the "tarted-up" headline, let me provide a lot more backstory to the issue.

Really, the headline isn't "tarted up."

First, as for the facts, and their relevance to humans? Much more often than most people know, and many might like to admit, a woman will, in the same way, absorb a fetus early in pregnancy. Or in the case of twins, especially identical ones, one fetus will actually absorb the other. This is how people can have multiple blood types and such. The technical term for the "absorbed fetus" in the adult survivor is a "teratoma." Fof a non-Wiki, real-world description of a teratoma, go here.

That said, in a more narrow scientific point of view, I believe "abortion," not miscarriage is the correct term.

And, using abortion but excluding "reabsorption," in humans, 25-35 percent of pregnancies are spontaneously aborted, usually 6-8 weeks in.

Reproduction is a lot more fallible of a process than many people know. Or might like to accept, if they did know.

Is it callous to use the word "abortion" in the header when "redistributing" this information to a general audience? That's not my intent, I can say that, at least. Is it meant to be "shocking" in the sense of "eye opening"? Yes.

It's meant to get people to realize that reproductive "oddities" and "fallibilities" are relatively "normal" throughout the animal world, just as homosexuality is. And that, then, for some people who don't want to look at that, ties directly to claims of "intelligent design."

For more on this issue, namely teratomas and other reproductive fallibilities vs. intelligent design, go here.

That said, on the issue of abortion myself, I am not at the left-hand edge of abortion rights. I believe the trimester system should be junked for a bimester one, with Medicaid funding required in the first bimester, but states' rights to regulate abortion as open in the second bimester as they are now in the third trimester, or maybe even a bit more so.

Obama, HCR, legacies, self-inflicted wounds

I am so tired of moderately-left-of-center columnists and commentators like Joan Walsh saying Democrats "Must" pass health care reform because Obama's legacy depends on it.

Dear Joan:

(And, I've always wanted to write a "Dear Joan" letter!)

I am "delighted" to see you are so concerned about President Obama's legacy. Quite possibly, you're more worried now than he was six months ago, when he was more concerned about "bipartisanship" than "legacies."

That said, talking about words that end in "-ship," there are political legacies and there are statesmanship legacies. Given the way healthcare reform has been handled to this date by The One himself and Rahm, Bam, Thank You Emanuel, the only legacy Obama will get out of a "win" here is political.

You yourself halfway seem to recognize this:
I've written extensively about my disappointment with Obama and the Democrats, particularly around the healthcare reform plan. He gave Republicans and conservative Democrats too much power for too long, and he sold out early to the insurance and pharmaceutical industry. I don't like the deals Obama made, but he did what he thought he had to do.

I thought Dennis Kucinich was smarter than that and did recognize that. I guess I was wrong. I'll still credit him with being principled enough to not have been bought off in a Ben Nelson sort of way, so I'm not sure why he did change his mind, other than support of the wrong "legacy."

It sounds like Kucinich is sincere in his belief that he's going to get a voice about what all gets put in the reconciliation bill. It also sounds like he believes Obama will try to come back with something more in the future.

Both are delusions. Obama's campaign-trail talk about a public option was never more than lip service and never will be. And, House leadership will smile and nod their heads when Kucinich presents his request list, then move on.

Anyway, back to you, Joan.

This bill will NOT restrain insurers' costs. It will do less, IMO, to bring down overall healthcare costs than a single-payer system, let alone a system with some elements of Ron Wyden's vouchers, like Germany has. Any sops to the GOP on malpractice reform will NOT get insurers to lower rates, especially since the antitrust exemption's junking will likely itself be junked, and we don't have Federal Bureau of Insurance Regulation anyway.

It likely won't even rein in costs on private insurance in the long term. And, while Big Pharma might jump in Dems' pockets' over this bill, especially if the Medicare Part D doughnut hole is closed, Dems will now be hostage to the drug makers. And, forbidding reimportation, etc? Additional strains on Medicare.

Since I'm not a registered Democrat, and didn't vote for The One, I don't give a fig about his political legacy.

But, if we want to talk about that "legacy," would that include deliberately negotiating away the public option in secret talks with Big Pharma? Would it include folks like Kos, aka Markos the Boy Wonder, aka Der Kossenfuehrer, after all his time berating Democratic sellouts, supporting the very idea of selling out?

Greenwald has a great wrap on all this and more. Although I think he, sadly, supports the current measure himself, at least he's not hypocritical or contortionist.

Meanwhile, doorknob bless Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch. He gets it.

Sorry, Joan. And Dennis. Go legacy yourself.


Meanwhile, per comments to my summary of my thoughts, and my link here, on Talking Points Memo, I will respond to criticism, namely, that Obama's political legacy tracks relatively closely with the country's needs and similar items.

"The country" can do better. And, if this is really about Obama's statesmanship legacy, he should have been ready to junk bipartisanship earlier, and not approached HCR from a neolib angle in the first place. We need a "New New Deal" approach instead.

This issue's being "about the country" is exactly why the current health reform bill may likely be the enemy of the better, IMO, let alone the enemy of the best.

It won't corral Medicare costs; it won't corral private insurers' costs; it won't corral Big Pharma costs. So, if it is about long-term cost containment, as well as health insurance coverage, I don't see it.

And one can be a social democrat as well as part of a "reality based community" on fiscal matters. And, I believe I am.

March 17, 2010

Bloggers, start carnivaling - 3-17-10 version

Liberals, you can submit to Carnival of the Liberals with instructions and information here.

You can find information on Skeptics' Circle here.

And, if you dare presumed nonexistent divine wrath but real human incitement, Carnival of the Godless guidelines are here.

Obama denies 'crisis' with Israel

So, does he really believe there is no crisis right now? That's either naive, scary, or ostrich-like. Or, is this word fudging? Of course, the two aren't exclusive.

How much is white flight behind exurban growth?

Find out if you read "The Search for Utopia." Get details about it among my latest Amazon book reviews.

Damn, Dennis, on healthcare

Well, as exemplified by his flip-flop on national health care, maybe Dennis Kucinich is "just another politician," too. Wonder how much arm-twisting Obama/Emanuel/Axelrod did? And, since when did Kucinich think Obama's "legacy" was so important, let alone the legacy he's developed so far as a true neolib?

It sounds like Kucinich is sincere in his belief that he's going to get a voice about what all gets put in the reconciliation bill. It also sounds like he believes Obama will try to come back with something more in the future.

Both are delusions. Obama's campaign-trail talk about a public option was never more than lip service and never will be. And, House leadership will smile and nod their heads when Kucinich presents his request list, then move on.

The Left needs to find its voice - and it ain't Obama!

Tony Judt has some excellent insights on this issue. (They include noting that Obama is not really a Keynesian, and will show more and more of his neolib clothes as time goes on, and that we need some social democracy here in America.)

Strong argument for civilian trials of terrorists

David Frakt, an Air Force Reserve lawyer, says Bush could have taken the wind out of the sails of al-Qaeda's claim to be military fighters by announcing their trials would all be in civilian court. At the same time, he blasts current AG Eric Holder (and this is really an indictment of Holder's boss, President Obama) for perpetuating a two-tier trials system, a military/civilian hybrid.

Apple-Google: Ego feud? BS feud?

An in-depth NY Times story on the Apple-Google battle over mobile phones (and other items) portrays it in part as an Eric Schmidt-Steve Jobs showdown over who has the biggest ego, penis, etc.

But, I say it's more than that. It's also over who has the biggest corporate bullshit, whether Google's "Do No Evil," vs. Apple's more generic "we're the anti-corporation" shtick.

Bah... Apple's BS is deeper than Google's, but just because it's older.

March 16, 2010

How Census could benefit Texas Dems

Yes, I'm commenting on a Faux News story about Texas and how it could get as many as four new congressional seats.

This helps the GOP in red-state Texas, right?

Not necessarily.

Texas is becoming more and more urbanized, and that means the Democrats are more likely to benefit. One seat for DFW is likely Democratic; ditto in Houston. One somewhere in the Austin-San Antonio area is at least a good Democratic possibility. Only the fourth, if Texas does get four, would be likely Republican.

But, it's not just U.S. House seats.

The same urbanization could benefit Texas Dems in both halves of the Lege. Given how close the state House is right now, this is especially important.

Faux counters that rural areas could benefit from urban prisoners at state prisons in their areas. That's not news, though, that's always been the case.

Wrong, Tiger, on Masters return

Tiger Woods says he'll return to golf at The Masters. I think Steve Stricker had this right in an ESPN interview. He should have come back earlier, at the Arnold Palmer or something, rather than inflict the media zoo on one of the four majors as his first tournament back.

And, that said, Bill Simmons also had it right; this shows that Tiger is still playing by his own rules. Not necessarily inside the confines of Augusta National, but on the streets, say, I hope Tiger gets a few boos.

Dan Wetzel has a take on that, and more, at Yahoo. First, he notes booing inside the galleries is VERY unlikely, due to Augusta's sense of decorum, the fact that passes are for the full event, not just one day, and have been passed down for years. Nobody will want to get a pass revoked, not just banned from the remainder of this year's event.
The scene outside the gates on the strip malls of Washington Road will be another thing, of course. That will be opportunist central. Television executives are predicting record viewership. And the throng of people following him will be enormous, even by Tiger standards.

That said, I still hope he does get booed outside the gates.

More interestingly, and insightfully, though, Wetzel compares Tiger to Kobe Bryant and the Colorado rape allegations for which he was tried. He notes Kobe never missed a Lakers game the whole time, and wonders if Tiger will have a more fragile psyche.

One gene, two mutations, two different disorders

The headline? That fact has been documented for the first time. The different disorders aren't THAT different; they're both nerve-related.

Will Google leave China?

An AP story says that's a "lose-lose proposition." First, I don't totally think it is. Inside China, at least, it would be much more a lose for Google, followed by a mild loss for the Chinese people, but, a win, overall, probably for the Chinese government.

That's why, Google's motto aside, it won't leave. Some compromise, in which the give-and-take runs at least 3-1 in favor of Beijing, not Google, will be patched together. As for any "hit" some other Chinese businesses might take from loss of various Google services, Chinese national businesses will probably try to pirate stuff of Google's.

'New media' can write misleading headlines, get journalism wrong

Bora Zivkovic, or Coturnix, is a very good science writer. And, he's an activist touter of the wonders of "new media." But, a Facebook note of his shows part of why I take "new media" with a grain of salt.

Start with the header "journalism" when he's just talking about academic journalism. Especially online, where there's no headline length limit, why the header didn't say "science journalism" or "academic journalism," I don't know.

The post is about whether or not public information officers do journalism. In academia, arguably, maybe they do. It's still iffy. Did the University of Utah's PIO do "journalism" after the Fleischmann/Pons "oops" of 1989? I doubt it.

But, in the second half of his post, Bora, through a couple of analogies, talks about general-purpose journalism, and is totally wrong there. Plus, his idea that an energy company should sponsor science pages in a newspaper? What idiocy in general. And that they should do it because newspapers are losing ad money?

Rather, Bora, and friends of yours such as Jay Rosen, that's argument for MY shibboleth — paywalls for online newspapers. Or, at a minimum alternative, delayed publishing of online content, at least that which is locally generated.

March 15, 2010

Give the government my DNA?

If allowing the government to develop a national DNA database as a crime-fighting tool is the brilliance that Yale Law School is supposed to produce in its students, then an Ivy League education is REALLY overrated, except for post-graduation job bucks.

Beyond that ignoring of civil liberties issues, Michael Seringhaus undercuts his own argument:
Several states, including California and Colorado, have embraced a controversial new technique called familial DNA search, which exploits the fact that close relatives share substantial fractions of their DNA. If efforts to find a DNA match come up empty — that is, if the perpetrator is not yet profiled in the database — the police in these states can search for partial matches between crime-scene samples and offenders in their record base. If they find a partial match, they can zero in on relatives of the profiled person as possible suspects.

This sounds elegant, and it occasionally works: in Britain, a handful of high-profile cases have been solved using familial search. But this approach is crippled by a very high false positive rate — many partial matches turn up people unrelated to the actual perpetrator. And it raises serious legal questions: how can we justify the de facto inclusion in DNA databases of criminals’ family members who have been neither arrested nor convicted?

So, if a partial noncriminal DNA database, and at just a state level, has such problems, why wouldn't a national one, of everybody, be even worse?

But, Seringhouse plods on right into another mistake:
A much fairer system would be to store DNA profiles for each and every one of us. This would eliminate any racial bias, negate the need for the questionable technique of familial search, and of course be a far stronger tool for law enforcement than even an arrestee database.

Ahh, to the degree we can accurately talk about races, there are genetic differences. If an FBI agent, say, who has been trained in DNA analysis, wants to do that, he or she can still engage in some sort of racial profiling.

After that partial ignorance of DNA issues, he then falls short on criminology:
A universal record would be a strong deterrent to first-time offenders — after all, any DNA sample left behind would be a smoking gun for the police — and would enable the police to more quickly apprehend repeat criminals. It would also help prevent wrongful convictions.

We have plenty of deterrents today, or deterrents to the logical mind.

Criminals don't act logically.

And, Mr. Selinghouse needs more lessons in that too.

Chris Dodd contines to sell out consumers

I don't know what Dodd continues to vainly chase Senate GOP votes by watering down his consumer protection bill again and again.

To me, if a bill creates a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, even if it's housed inside the Fed, it needs to provide funding for that agency, right? Well, isn't that the angle to use Senate reconciliation procedures?

And, if not, is The One ready to go crusading for this bill after health care? Make Republicans defend not wanting to protect consumers?

That said, even a bill that has a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, if it's inside the Fed, is too weak. The Fed's charge is, above all, monetary policy. To the degree it's a regulatory agency, it's supposed to focus on larger banks and related financial institutions. It's not designed to focus on mortgage brokers who peddled many of the subprime loans in the first place.

Anyway, read the whole analysis piece; it looks at several main areas, including derivatives, consumer abuses, executive compensation, legal authority and the "too big to fail" issue.

On most of these issues, not just what I mentioned above, it's too weak.

Is alleged Prius problems 'lawsuit fishing'?

Not only Toyota, but federal investigators also cannot reduplicate the alleged sudden acceleration James Sikes allegedly experienced last week.

Add to this the fact that Toyota's already been sued over alleged sudden acceleration on non-Prius models, that Sikes' lawyer is now doing most of the talking, and the length of time for which the sudden acceleration lasted, and it's possible we have a case of lawsuit fishing. It happens.

As I noted last week, even before a Washington Post column came out with the same train of thought, we went through some of the same things 20 years ago with Audi. And, a lot of the sudden acceleration allegations then didn't pan out, either.

John Wiley Price's 'boy' won't talk

Clay Jenkins, the hand-picked candidate of controversial Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price to be the Democratic nominee for Dallas County Judge, instead of incumbent JimFoster, who is definitely persona non grata to JWP, apparently doesn't like to talk a lot. So, the Dallas Observer profiled him, before his Democratic runoff against Larry Duncan, without his cooperation. They would have liked to hear from him about:
Where did he live before his current residence in Highland Park? Why didn't he vote in Dallas County until 2006? Why did he vote in Ellis County in 2007? None of which, obviously, were deemed worthy of a response from Jenkins or his campaign.
All good questions. I'm not claiming Larry Duncan is the bees' knees, but he's not a JWP hack. Or a Royce West hack. (Royce, put more daylight between yourself and JWP, eh?)

Anyway, Clay is JWP's boy. Has been ever since JWP tapped him just because "Foster Gump" AND folks like Hutchins mMayor Artis Johnson wouldn't dance when JWP snapped his fingers. Johnson wouldn't employ JWP-connected subcontractors to build a new bridge, and didn't like JWP's standing up of Dallas inland port progress.

And, since Hutchins Mayor Johnson is also African-American, this isn't a racial issue. Rather, it's JWP wanting to take care of his best buds.

Let's remember that, even before Foster opposed JWP on this, as the Dallas Observer first reported, JWP reportedly tried to "shake down" The Allen Group and CEO Richard Allen over the inland port and contractors and subcontractors.

For people who want more information on that, just click the "Price" tag (heh, heh) in the tags below. You'll learn more about the history of JWP with the Dallas Inland Port, etc.

Kucinich: What it would take to get my Yes on HCR

Dennis Kucinich is quite unlikely to change his No vote on healthcare reform, but he's honest enough to say why, and what would get a change. And, I agree more and more with his reasons, the more and more corporatized (that's YOU, Mr. Neoliberal in Chief) HCR gets.

Hitchens takes Benedict XVI to the woodshed

Cardinal Herr Ratzinger, now the current 'His Holiness,' has plenty to apologize for on the German sex abuse scandal. A Vatican-imposed statute of limitations on abused people filing claims?

And, yes, per my previous post on John Paul II and his stalled sainthood, "Herr Ratzinger" is exactly the epithet he deserves, with all it implies.

Camel targeted teen girls

Big Tobacco gets exposed again, first as a voracious drug predator, then as a liar for claiming it never did this.

Don't fly US Airways!

Not if this treatment will go by without apology.

DoD goes rogue in A-stan and Pakistan

Sounds like Michael Furlong combined a desire to run CIA-type hits on Taliban, etc., in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, with an Ollie North-type diversionary financial scheme, both of which are surely illegal. And, like Ollie North, thoroughly nutbar, as this story makes clear.

It's also, in the case of illegal covert ops in Pakistan, incendiary.

China abuses WTO, ignores IMF

As the No. 1 filer of complaints with the World Trade Organization, it's clear Beijing is monkey-wrenching the trade system. Combine that with ignoring unenforceable comments from the International Monetary Fund about its undervalued currency, and that's how you get the Chinese "behemoth," especially vis-a-vis the U.S.

Ultimately, the "two-track" system isn't that viable in today's era of not only "free" trade, but internationally interconnected finances, money supplies, etc., and many economists know it:
“Many of us would like to see the W.T.O.-style commitments — with people’s feet being held to the fire — at other international agencies, like the I.M.F.,” said Jagdish Bhagwati, a Columbia University economist.

The story notes that currency devaluations, as well as trade walls, were part of what exacerbated the Depression. That's part of why the Obama Administration would like China to do more. But ...
China is the biggest buyer of Treasury bonds at a time when the United States has record budget deficits and needs China to keep buying those bonds to finance American debt. But the Treasury also faces an April 15 deadline for whether or not to list China as a country that manipulates the value of its currency.

Well, well, we will see how this plays out. If Team Obama had any balls, and to jump-start domestic legislation in the Senate on greenhouse gases, it would slap carbon tariffs on China.

March 14, 2010

No, Sean Wilentz, Grant was NOT all that

I get tired of professional historians, who should know better, who claim President Grant was such a stalwart defender of Reconstruction. Only in terms of the soft bigotry of low expectations of comparison with Andrew Johnson was he so.

Simply not true in general. The bits of truth that are there were largely from Grant's first term. By a year or so into his second term, he was already largely abandoning Southern blacks to their fate.

CIA drone pilots also 'unlawful combatants'

An excellent Op-Ed. How the hell did it ever make it on the pages of the Washington Post?