I went into my digital New York Times account this morning and found this interesting video on page one. It was produced by a group called The Gregory Brothers. The Wiki on this says that "The Gregory Brothers digitally manipulate recorded voices of politicians, news anchors and political pundits to conform to a melody, making the figures appear to sing."
Yes, that would seem to be what they do. I thought it was fun for a Saturday.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) doesn’t think that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev deserves the protection of the Bill of Rights that are afforded to all criminal suspects; he wants him to be held as an “enemy combatant” and treated as such.
For all the horrific crimes that Mr. Tsarnaev is accused of, he is still an American citizen, he committed his crimes in America, and as far as anyone can tell so far, he and his brother acted of their own free will and were not in the service of another country. In those respects he is no different than Timothy McVeigh, who blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City, or Eric Rudolph, who bombed the Atlanta Olympics. The legal system dealt with them just fine and without invoking the holy mantra of 9/11 and the fetid PATRIOT Act.
Mr. Graham is a lawyer and also served in the JAG Corps, so he should know the law. But he’s also a craven sycophant to the right-wing cowards who think that anyone with a name that sets off Spell Check should be denied their basic civil rights because… just because. That makes him just as much of an anti-American terrorist as the Taliban.
Marc Ambinder wrote a very reasonable article over at The Week, The Insanity of Blaming Islam. In it, he argues that we shouldn't blame Islam if a Muslim commits a crime any more than we should blame Christanity when a Christian commits a crime. This is an excellent point. When Scott Roeder killed George Tiller for explicitly Christian reasons, no one talked about "radical Christianity" being responsible. So I thought there wouldn't be much push back on the article. Man, was I wrong!
I started reading the comments and one after another they were vile. Growup commented, "The writer is insane. So blinded by his own desperate ideology that he's unwilling to acknowledge any form of truth." Vinney commented, "Dumbest article I've ever read. I get tired of leftists trying to humanize these bastards." And Sybilll commented, "Know the difference between a radical Muslim and a moderate Muslim? The radical Muslims want to kill us. The moderate Muslims want the radical Muslims to kill us. You really are stuck on stupid, Marc." Makes you proud to be an American, doesn't it?
The "truth" that Growup thinks Ambinder won't acknowledge is apparently that Islam is an evil religion. The bastards that Vinney talks about are not the people who did the bombing; they are Muslims generally. And Sybilll's comment is so over-the-top offensive, I don't think it needs comment. The point is that Marc Ambinder makes the truly modest suggestion that we don't blame Islam for the vile acts of two young men and the blogosphere shouts back: no way; Muslims did this!
By Capt. Fogg I had MSNBC on most of yesterday. I can't stand the sight of Wolf the Weasel and what other choice is possible? I'm
disappointed. When the evening network news came on I began to learn
facts the cable guys never mentioned, That the FBI had investigated
these boys, for instance and they managed to give us the facts without
the constant theme of "you can see that it's been worth it to give up our privacy."
Cowards! Is this what it means to be a Liberal today? Sacrificing
freedom for some imagined and miniscule increase in safety? Needless
to say, I don't think so. I don't think this gruesome incident is
anywhere near the calamity it's being made out to be. It's no worse than
a good part of the world has to put up with all the time and that it's
being made out to be something on the order of WW III it's only because
giving up our privacy is only a taste of what some would have us give
up. The Right, predictably, is growling about Miranda rights because we
can't go around thinking that this crime is a crime and a US
citizen is entitled to civil rights if he's motivated by some sick
religious doctrine that isn't Christian. Is this pathetic teenage loser
an "enemy combatant" while Tim McVeigh, David Koresh and Jim Jones
(NPR): "Suspects Chechen roots draws eyes in Russia" (CBS News): "FBI interviewed dead Boston bombing suspect years ago" (WLNE): "Report: Three arrested in New Bedford in connection to bombing suspect" (Parade Magazine): "President George W. and Laura Bush reflect on the twins, Bush's Newfound passion for painting, and more" (Reuters): "Al Neuharth, founder of USA Today, longtime Gannett chief has died in Florida at 89"
After a string of clueless attempts to be iconoclastic, Jonathan Chait managed to write something that is both iconoclastic and right,"Senate Democrats Wise to Block Background Checks." His argument is very simple: red-state Democrats have to make some non-liberal votes to maintain credibility with their voters; this bill was almost completely useless, or, as Chait puts it, "a compromise of a compromise"; therefore, this was a good bill to vote against. And as I noted on Monday, the final law could have been much worse than nothing at all.
One thing that Chait doesn't mention is that as much as these red state Democrats may annoy us from time to time, they are very strong members of the team. In fact, currently the Democratic Party has more discipline in the Senate than the Republican Party. So the calls I'm hearing from certain corners that we could to primary these red-state Democrats are just crazy.
There is a related issue that I think is really important. Democratic politicians from blue states are often quite conservative, especially on economic issues. Dianne Feinstein, from my own great state of California, comes to mind. When it comes to red-state Democrats, a primary challenge might end with a Republican winning the general election. But why aren't we primarying Democrats in blue states?
One of our biggest political problems is that the Republican Party is too extreme and the Democratic Party not extreme enough. One way to fix this would be to enforce a little ideological purity on our representatives from liberal areas. After all, what makes the Republican Party unacceptable is not that Orrin Hatch of Utah is an extremist. He's from an extremist state; he should be extremist. But why do the people of the very liberal state of New York have an economic conservative as governor?
So we need to stop this nonsense about primarying red-state Democrats and start talking about primarying their blue-state counterparts who have no good reason for being as conservative as they are.
Behind the Ad: Mitch McConnell plays an unconvincing victim
By Richard K. Barry (Another installment in our extensive "Behind the Ad" series.) Who: The Mitch McConnell Senate campaign. Where: Kentucky. What's going on: I didn't pay much attention to the recent story of Progress Kentucky, a liberal super PAC, secretly taping a Sen. Mitch McConnell campaign strategy session, but I thought it was a pretty damned stupid thing to do. A lot of things are said in private "blue sky"-type strategy discussions, and I'm certainly glad no jackass stood in the hallway taping things that I might have said in one of them back in the day.
Did members of McConnell's team say creepy things? Yeah. Did they have an expectation of privacy? I certainly hope so.
It's not typically the way I swing, but I'm with Senator Mitch on this one. Leave it up to McConnell, however, to squander that goodwill as he did in an ad attempting to tie President Obama to the taping. In part, the ad says:
Mitch McConnell is Obama's No. 1 target because Mitch protects Kentucky from bad ideas. Liberals will do anything to beat McConnell.
Yes, well, liberals might, but Obama didn't.
I'm also having a hard time seeing McConnell as a victim in this little drama, given his people's discussions (however obtained or serious) of using a potential opponent's mental health history against her.
A crazy day: The Boston bombing, the police state, and the media orgy
By Michael J.W. Stickings Well, what is there to say? It's been a crazy day, at least if you've been following the ongoing story in Boston, with one suspect dead and one on the run. And of course it's crazier if you're actually there -- the whole city is locked down, people being told to stay in their homes, and the police presence on the streets, particularly in Watertown, makes the whole thing look like a military zone. (I went to college in the Boston area, at Tufts, and so I know the locations fairly well. It all seems very immediate to me.) I've spent the morning watching TV (mostly CNN and CBS), alternately soaking up the reporting and getting more and more annoyed with the media's recklessness, irresponsibility, and narcissism. I've also been in twitter, tweeting and re-tweeting a lot -- you can find me here. And here are a few of my tweets and re-tweets:
Even after second guy is caught/dead, everyone needs to take a step back and pause. We don't need to rush to conclusions about why. #boston — Michael Stickings (@mjwstickings) April 19, 2013
Things we'll do to keep people safe: Lock down an entire city for hoursThings we won't do: A 5 min background check before you buy a gun — Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) April 19, 2013
Sad we can't summon this level of alarm, intensity and energy for other existential crises. If we did, we'd save many lives. #boston — Peter Daou (@peterdaou) April 19, 2013
Stupidest tweet of the day: "@howardfineman: There is no 'there' anymore. All the world and all history are here, on the streets of Boston." — Michael Stickings (@mjwstickings) April 19, 2013
And my pick for tweet of the day (so far), and perhaps even for tweet of the whole damn thing:
Who: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Where: Special election in South Carolina's 1st Congressional District. What's going on: The DCCC goes after Mark Sanford for alleged ethics violations when he was governor, just a day after the RNCC abandoned his campaign after charges that he trespassed on his ex-wife's property.
It's a clever little ad that makes no mention of Sanford's admitted extramarital affairs, though it shows a man walking through the woods, a reference to the alibi his gave to cover up his trip to Argentina to meet his mistress. Sanford told his aides he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail.
The DCCC is spending about $205,000 on the ad, which will run on broadcast television stations in the Charleston and Savannah, Ga., markets April 19-28, according to a committee source.
Sanford goes up against Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, sister of Stephen Colbert, in a May 7 special House election to fill the seat vacated when former Rep. Tim Scott (R) was appointed to the Senate.
There is no doubt Sanford could still win in this very red district, but it will likely be close either way.
By Capt. Fogg The only sure thing early this morning is that gun sales are going to escalate further. Car chases, explosions and gunfire -- it needs only a collision with a fruit cart to be eligible for a Clint Eastwood movie. Despite the media effort, most of us, or at least a great many of us are not staying home, mourning and healing and simpering in baby-talk about not hurting people -- they're looking for a gun shop that still has AR-15 and AK47 clones and ammunition. CNN is busy as of 9 am Eastern assuring us that we can't just assume these two brothers are Muslim or that if they are it's irrelevant. If you're a Muslim, it's relevant to you and you have my sympathy. This isn't going to make your life easier. No, I don't think America is mourning. America is arming, once again, and just like 2001, it isn't going to be pretty. Did everything change on 9/11? Hell no, we were just finally dragged out of our sheltered nursery and into life on Earth where people get hurt, safety is relative and ephemeral, and life just isn't fair.
Even Joe Scarborough is making sense on gun control
By Michael J.W. Stickings Look, he's an irrational blowhard who basks in the supremacy of his gut, and his claim to represent the center with his generally center-right views is ridiculous (if also Broderian Beltway orthodoxy), but he's hardly an ideological extremist of the sort that currently dominates his Republican Party, and his response to the Senate's failure to pass the compromise expanded background checks bill, including a strong critique of the GOP, was nothing if not admirable:
You don't ignore 90 percent of what the voting population wants when you're talking about the safety of Americans, of our families, of our communities, of our schools. The safety that we feel when we send our kids to malls, to churches, to college... I just want to be clear. I said this party is heading towards extinction. Talking about the 2013 version of the Republican Party. A new Republican Party, though, is going to come in its place. This sort of extremism is going to be called out by the 90%. We're the 90% and we are going to win. This is just the first battle.
Well, I hope he's right, though I would note that the Manchin-Toomey proposal wasn't exactly a great bill. Maybe it would have been a start, but a lot more is needed, including reforms that don't have 90% popular support and so require even more "courage" from legislators. (And more than just Obama's proposed executive actions.)
(Washington Post): "Police kill one suspect in Marathon bombing, manhunt underway for second" (Boston Globe): "One suspect in custody, another remains on the loose" (New York Times): "Region on lockdown as police hunt for second suspect" (The Atlantic Wire): "An officer's been killed and there's a shooter on the loose at MIT" (Politico): "Gun control: President Obama's biggest loss"
By Michael J.W. Stickings As the Timesreports, "[i]n a direct appeal for help from the public, the F.B.I. on Thursday released pictures and video of two young men who officials believe may be responsible for the explosions that killed three people and wounded more than 170 during the Boston Marathon." I hope the FBI is right and that these are in fact credible suspects. Not becasue of who they are -- we don't know who they are -- but because, well, enough with the reckless and irresponsible "reporting" of "suspects" who turn out to be nothing of the sort. CNN blew it with some bad reporting the other day, but at least John King et al. didn't identify specific people. (And I've noticed that CNN has been very careful since then, actually doing some responsible work.) For that, for the very worst "reporting" of all, just turn to the New York Post, which reported on "photos being distributed by law-enforcement officials among themselves," even putting a photo of two "potential suspects" on its front page under the typically outlandish heading "BAG MEN," no doubt thinking it had a coup in the whole rush to be first nonsense that plagues the media generally, then later pulled back after the two men were cleared, but not with any sort of mea culpa retraction and while still running wild with what its "sources" were saying, clearly having learned nothing at all, or perhaps just not giving a shit. By the way, one of the two young men, the guy in the blue track outfit, turns out to be a local high school kid who, yes, runs track. But of course as a Moroccan-American he looks the terrorist part to the right-wing idiots/bigots at the Post. Anyway, enough of all that. Here's the FBI video of the two real suspects:
SENATORS say they fear the N.R.A. and the gun lobby. But I think that fear must be nothing compared to the fear the first graders in Sandy Hook Elementary School felt as their lives ended in a hail of bullets. The fear that those children who survived the massacre must feel every time they remember their teachers stacking them into closets and bathrooms, whispering that they loved them, so that love would be the last thing the students heard if the gunman found them.
On Wednesday, a minority of senators gave into fear and blocked common-sense legislation that would have made it harder for criminals and people with dangerous mental illnesses to get hold of deadly firearms — a bill that could prevent future tragedies like those in Newtown, Conn., Aurora, Colo., Blacksburg, Va., and too many communities to count.
Some of the senators who voted against the background-check amendments have met with grieving parents whose children were murdered at Sandy Hook, in Newtown. Some of the senators who voted no have also looked into my eyes as I talked about my experience being shot in the head at point-blank range in suburban Tucson two years ago, and expressed sympathy for the 18 other people shot besides me, 6 of whom died. These senators have heard from their constituents — who polls show overwhelmingly favored expanding background checks. And still these senators decided to do nothing. Shame on them.
The former congresswoman is far more eloquent than I could be in reaction to the cowardly, blood-thirsty vote that took place in the Senate yesterday, as 45 traitors voted to block a yes or no vote on... and here Congresswoman Giffords and I differ in what she defines as "common-sense"... on a bill that amounted to the Democrats throwing up their hands and saying, "Fine! YOU write a gun control bill!"
President Obama was rightly angry at the 45 senators, saying, "unfortunately, this pattern of spreading untruths about this legislation served a purpose, because those lies upset an intense minority of gun owners, and that in turn intimidated a lot of senators."
There it is: he called them "cowards" to their faces.
I am often reminded that I'm not a very nice person. Most recently, this came to mind because Jonathan Bernstein wrote at PostPartisan, "How Do We Keep from Torturing Again?" This is coming off the Constitution Project report stating unequivocally that after 9/11, the United States, as a matter of government policy, tortured people in our custody. As I reported in an update to that story, Andrew Sullivan has called for a truth commission or something similar to address this unacceptable behavior.
Bernstein said much the same thing, but with a political scientist's eye: the only way we can prevent future episodes of government torture is to admit what we did. We can't be a nation where one party is against torture and the other is for it. In fact, that is exactly what we now have for reasons that should be clear to readers of this site. But this gets to the point about my not being a nice person. Bernstein wrote:
I've argued -- against many torture opponents -- that a Truth Commission, combined with blanket pardons and generous expressions of understanding for those who were responsible, as odious as what they did was, is actually the best way to proceed.
I think he is right, and yet I have trouble offering those generous expressions of understanding. But it isn't because I'm not forgiving -- I am very forgiving. It is just that I remain resentful as long as the wrongdoer does not admit his error. I think most people are like this.
Bob Perry was the money behind the insidious "Swift Boat" ad campaign attacking John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, in 2004. Perry, a homebuilder, started as one of the largest campaign donors in Texas before branching out nationally.
He died at the age of 80 at his home in Nassau Bay, Texas, near Houston.
In 2004, he gave $4.4 million to a group called "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth." They used the money to launch a baseless ad campaign accusing John Kerry of embellishing his military accomplishments and discrediting others who served with him.
The New York Times gently suggests that the ads were "widely criticized as misleading." In truth they were simply a pack of lies, but they did their job. They made some voters doubt the facts behind Kerry's war record, a record for which he was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts.
Though one cannot say for sure that he would have won a close race against George W. Bush in 2004 had Perry kept his checkbook in his pocket, there is a decent chance he would have.
Whatever good Mr. Perry may have done in his life, he will be best remembered as the man who bankrolled one of the biggest lies in American electoral history. Quite a legacy.
As I wrote yesterday, a Republican should have no trouble winning an election, special or otherwise, in South Carolina's First Congressional District (even against Elizabeth Colbert Busch, who, famous brother or not, is a political neophyte running in a red district). Well, unless that Republican is Mark Sanford, the former governor and former holder of this very seat, who has finally, it would seem, crossed the line:
National Republicans are pulling the plug on Mark Sanford's suddenly besieged congressional campaign, POLITICO has learned — a potentially fatal blow to the former South Carolina governor's dramatic comeback bid.
Blindsided by news that Sanford's ex-wife has accused him of trespassing and concluding he has no plausible path to victory, the National Republican Congressional Committee has decided not to spend more money on Sanford's behalf ahead of the May 7 special election.
"Mark Sanford has proven he knows what it takes to win elections. At this time, the NRCC will not be engaged in this special election," said Andrea Bozek, an NRCC spokeswoman.
"A pretty shameful day for Washington": Republicans block highly popular gun control measure to expand background checks
By Michael J.W. Stickings Well, it was a bad bill (Manchin-Toomey, a bipartisan "compromise" that only a few Republicans supported), but it was something (expanded background checks mixed with various gun-"rights" provisions approved by the gun lobby (not the NRA, though, which is opposed to any and all gun control), and I suppose it was better than nothing (or maybe not), but it failed yesterday because of the Republican filibuster and the ongoing Republican demand that anything Republicans don't like requires a 60-vote supermajority in the Senate (to hell with democracy):
It failed by a vote of 54 to 46, with five Democrats voting against it. Only four Republicans supported it.
Democratic Sens. Mark Pryor (Ark.), Max Baucus (Mont.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Mark Begich (Alaska) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) voted against it. Reid supported the measure but voted against it to preserve his ability to bring the measure up again.
GOP Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), Susan Collins (Maine), Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Mark Kirk (Ill.) voted "yes."
Some are saying it's a major blow for President Obama, who of course, post-Sandy Hook, has made gun control a central policy commitment of his second term. I'm not so sure. Expanded background checks have overwhelming public support (even most Republicans support them), even if the country remains divided on more comprehensive reform.
Even this limited measure only failed because the extremist, NRA-indebted Republican Party used the filibuster and benefitted from the disproportionate representation of small, rural states in the Senate to block it. And, really, that's the story here -- so much so that the president can continue to take his case directly to the people while further isolating the Republican Party way out on the far right. Obama called yesterday "a pretty shameful day for Washington," and that, too, is part of the story. The president's approval ratings aren't great, but they're way higher than Congress's, and he can now make the case that a Congress no one likes won't even pass a hugely popular measure that is pretty much the least that ought to be done in the wake of the Newtown massacre (not to mention every other instance, day after day, of the appalling gun violence that plagues the country).
(FBI): "No arrest made in Boston investigation" New York Times): "A Senate in the gun lobby's grip" (U.S. News): "FBI arrests suspect in ricin-positive letters sent to Obama, senator" (KMTX-TV): "EMS director says 60 to 70 dead in West explosion" (New York Times): "North Korea sets conditions to return to talks"
Reckless reporting: CNN, the Boston Marathon bombing, and the relentless rush to be first
By Michael J.W. Stickings So were you following what was happening today -- not just in real life, but in the media's (atrocious) reporting of real life? Whether you were on Twitter or surfing through the 24/7 cable news channels, or whatever, it was impossible to miss. There were were all manner of rumors flying around, and all manner of speculative reporting masquerading as "breaking news," but basically, the thing to know is that CNN got it pretty much entirely wrong, reporting that an arrest had been made when, of course, there was no arrest at all. (John King was the one who got it wrong on TV. On its website, the now-changed headline was "Authorities arrest suspect in Boston bombings, source says.") This is not to say that CNN should take the fall for what is a much broader problem in the media (the rabid quest to be first, for example, to "win," which leads to what happened today). It's just that today of all days, with so much attention on the aftermath of the Boston Marathon attack, and with everyone desperately searching for clues and even more so for answers, for some sort of resolution, if not also for justice, for some explanation, for the who, what, and why, for the responsible, yes, with all that, it was CNN blew it. As I tweeted:
See, it's not that there's a liberal bias in the media, it's that there's a reckless, irresponsible, stupid bias. Thanks @cnn! #bostonattack — Michael Stickings (@mjwstickings) April 17, 2013
And it was TPM that did us all a great service with this mash-up of CNN's reckless irresponsibility:
Look, I don't want to go too hard on this. You're a reporter, or an editor, or whatever, you hear things, you have to make what seems like a split-second decision, and, well, mistakes are often made. A lot of the time, news outlets do admirable work and get it right, and it's rather unfair for any one outlet to be brought down by a single mistake, or even for its various mistakes to define it entirely.
But this was bad. And unnecessary. And, alas, not so much the rare exception -- not just at CNN but everywhere in the media -- but yet another example of what's wrong with the media. (Fox News and that sort of hyper-partisan media outlet are a separate problem. I'm talking about news reporting here, about getting the story out, not spinning it for political purposes.)
Investigators have pinpointed two men as "possible suspects" who were seen in images near the finish line of this week's Boston Marathon -- moments before twin bombs there exploded, killing three and injuring about 180 others -- a law enforcement official said.
A circular sent out Wednesday to federal and state agencies features the photos "in an attempt to identify the individuals," who were described as being of "high interest" to investigators.
Okay, that's all we know. For now.
We rely on the media, including CNN, to tell us what's going on, but what we don't need, particularly at a time of mass confusion following a major tragedy, is for them to lead us into ever deeper levels of uncertainty in their rush to be first.
We all want to know more, but let's make sure what we know, and what we are told, is right.
(CNN): "Justice Department says no arrests in Boston investigation" (Boston Globe): "Image shows suspect carrying, perhaps dropping, black bag" (New York Times): "Senate blocks drive for gun control" (BuzzFeed): "Bloomberg's group prepared for the long game on guns" (ABC News): "Ricin letters intended to scare, not kill"
The Spartanburg Herald Journal reports that U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) will have at least one challenger in the 2014 Republican primary. Richard Cash, a businessman who owns a fleet of ice cream trucks and a used car business, has said he will run against Graham because the incumbent "does not reflect the core values of South Carolina voters." He says Christian faith, free market capitalism, and a strict interpretation of the Constitution are a cornerstone of American society.On his website, Cash says other things about Graham being out of touch with South Carolina values owing to his 20 years in Washington.
Cash is a social conservative activist who barely lost a run-off election to now-Rep Jeff Duncan (R-SC) In 2010.
Graham probably isn't in much trouble, though he does annoy some on the right with his occasional flirtatious with bipartisanship, and foreign policy views that rankle libertarians.
To be on the safe side, we should say that we can't yet know how much influence the radical right is likely to have in 2014 and how vulnerable that might make relatively moderate (in this climate) Republicans.
According to The Hill, other Republicans considering a challenge are state Sen. Lee Bright (R) and Rand Paul supporter Nancy Mace.
In the wake of the national focus on the Boston bombings, you may have missed the other act of terror that was committed this week:
WASHINGTON - Police have a suspect in mind as they investigate a letter mailed to Sen. Roger Wicker that tested positive for poisonous ricin, a Senate colleague said.
"The person that is a suspect writes a lot of letters to members," Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said Tuesday as she emerged from a classified briefing.
Authorities declined to comment on a suspect or any other aspect of the investigation being led by Capitol Police and the FBI after tests indicated that a letter mailed to the Mississippi Republican's Washington office contained the potentially deadly toxin. The letter was intercepted at a Senate mail facility in Prince George's County, Md., just outside Washington, said Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, a member of the Senate's Democratic leadership.
First, let’s note that no one was in danger from this attack – except for the union men and women who deliver your mail. Once again, union members are on the front lines.
There was a bit of economic news yesterday that was wonderfully fun and I dare
say it would be a shame for you all to miss out on it just because you
don't follow the economics blogs. What's more, in terms of truth, it
really matters, even if, in terms of politics, it probably won't. In 2010, Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, two economists at Harvard, published a hugely influential paper,"Growth in a Time of Debt" (pdf). In it, they purported to show that if the total government debt
equaled more than 90% of the country's GDP, then there would be a big
slowdown in economic growth. This paper was used more than any other to
justify economic austerity all over the world, but especially in Europe
and the United States. In fact, Paul Ryan, in his The Path to Prosperity
(pdf) budget, claimed, "The study found conclusive empirical evidence
that gross debt exceeding 90 percent of the economy has a signiﬁcant
negative eﬀect on economic growth." That sounds bad, right? In fact, if you look at the paper, it is even
worse. Countries with a debt-to-GDP ratio of less than 30% see a growth
of 4.1% whereas those with a ratio of more than 90% see a contraction
of 0.1%. Of course, long ago, I had dismissed the paper for two
reasons. (But the fact that I even knew about the paper should give you
some idea of just how important it has been.) First, correlation is not
cause. And in this case, the cause is probably the opposite of what
Reinhart and Rogoff (R&R) suggest. When economies are bad,
governments have to borrow money. The case is much stronger that bad
economies lead to large debts rather than the other way around. Read more »
I realize this is for the most part a private matter that probably shouldn't have been made public, but I still find something delicious about it:
Jenny Sanford, the ex-wife of South Carolina congressional candidate and former Gov. Mark Sanford, has filed a lawsuit alleging that her husband trespassed at her home earlier this year, the Associated Press reported Tuesday evening. According to the AP, Jenny Sanford's attorney filed a lawsuit on Feb. 4 alleging that she confronted Mark Sanford at her home the previous day, where he had been using his cellphone as a light. Trespassing would violate the terms of their divorce settlement, which said that neither would be able to be at the other's home without explicit permission. A court hearing is slated for May 9, according to the report – two days after Sanford competes in a closely watched special election.
Ah yes, the special election, where he faces the formidable (and not just because of her brother) Elizabeth Colbert Busch. South Carolina's First is a solidly Republican district -- in fact, it's been Republican since 1981 (with Democrats holding it before that going all the way back to 1897). Sanford himself held it for three terms, first winning in the Republican wave of 1994. The previous incumbent, Tim Scott, is now in the Senate, and of course the state itself is solidly Republican as well. Read more »
I highly recommend reading the report, or at least as much of it as you can, particularly the "Statement of the Task Force" and "Findings and Recommendations" -- that will take you just to page 25. Much of the rest is an extraordinarily detailed account of detainee treatment. The statement includes this:
The events examined in this report are unprecedented in U.S. history. In the course of the nation's many previous conflicts, there is little doubt that some U.S. personnel committed brutal acts against captives, as have armies and governments throughout history.
But there is no evidence there had ever before been the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after September 11, directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.
In other words, what happened was historically awful. Which makes it even more unacceptable, and unjust, that the enablers, architects, and practitioners of America's massive post-9/11 torture regime have yet to be held to account for their crimes. ********** FM:
I understand that a group with a name like "The Constitution Project" sounds like it's filled with a bunch of libertarian and pacifists who are outside the political mainstream. But that isn't really the case. It is a think tank that tries to bring the left and right of the political spectrum together to agree on constitutional matters. And the eleven members of panel were well represented by the two major parties. What's more, as Scott Shane of The New York Timesexplained, "[i]t is the most ambitious independent attempt to date to assess the detention and interrogation programs."
What is most significant about the report is that it is so unequivocal. When Dianne Feinstein et al, wrote their letter criticizing the film Zero Dark Thirty, they were careful never to use the word "torture." This is because, according the United States government, we never tortured anyone. Of course, this is just a semantic game: you say "torture," I say "enhanced interrogation techniques"; let's call the whole thing off?
The weeping and wailing industry is almost as quick to react to certain events as the paramedics are, and this morning's paper has a local runner's group holding a silent run in the attempt to feel relevant or perhaps to express ire that anyone would interfere with one of America's sacred sports. Yes, I'm sounding cynical here, but it's not because I'm callous with regard to the loss of life and all the injuries, it's just that in recent decades, the public reaction to high profile death has been so orchestrated and so formulaic that it cheapens the moment and distracts us from seeing such things in context. I'm not interested in crying, I don't subscribe to self-pity and I don't need closure or healing. I'm interested in being able to keep the kind of things that have plagued us all at least since Guy Fawkes tried to blow up Parliament from happening, as much as is possible in a free country.
Judging from other events, we'll soon be seeing piles of Teddy Bears on Boston streets and other silent runnings slowly turning our anger and willingness to learn from this event into a declining series of maudlin and sentimental exhibitions of self-pity and the lachrymose quest for 'healing.' One might forget just how rare such occurrences are in our country. One will forget what must be done to keep things that way. Our record, at least since the Oklahoma City bombing and the events of 2001, to thwart bombing attempts has been pretty good and the mawkish mourning and stuffed animal social club hasn't played much of a part.
By Mustang Bobby So once again we are plunged into it. Another news flash, another
banner of "BREAKING NEWS" across the TV screens, another series of jumpy
videos from the scene, another ceaseless round of eyewitness reports,
rumors, speculation, and instant deep analysis of the psyche of America:
who would do such a thing at such a time and place? You would think that by now we would be used to it, but we never
are. We can anticipate the reactions on a general scale, but there is
always something jarring about the realization that once again one or
more among us has done something deliberately horrible to other people. There will be vapid attempts by good people to explain the why, but
it's never the real answer, and when we don't know who, we reach for the
simple one: it must be this other group that hates us, or it must have
been a loner with a tormented soul who could never explain why and
didn't survive to give us an answer. We can never accept that it is
someone among us, someone who stood behind us to buy a donut or passed
on the street while we walked the dog, not ever noticing them because
neither of us is particularly noticeable. The realization can make us paranoid; we can't trust each other any
more, we can't feel safe. So we dump our soda bottles at the airport,
we wonder about the guy with the beard and the hat, we try to come up
with some way to rationalize our fear and shake our heads and remember
when it was okay to run down the airport concourse to meet a passenger
or ride the bus and not feel queasy about the person muttering to
himself as he reads a book written in a script we can't read. But it's
only the weakest among us who have the strength to carry that
hopelessness. Most of us have the will and the determination not to let
that terror overwhelm us. Read more »
(NBC News): "Boston Marathon blasts: Investigators eye 'range of suspects and motives" (Voice of America): "Deadly poison found in letter sent to US senator" (New York Times): "Seeking gun or selling one, web is the land of few rules" (The Hill): "Obama dismisses North Korea nuclear missile threats in interview" (CBS News): "Britain bids farewell to Margaret Thatcher"