July 31, 2011, 1:13 pm
Arthur Laffer is back. There he was holding forth on Fox News the other day, replaying his Golden Oldie about how lowering tax rates increases growth, which increases government revenue. According to David J. Lynch in Business Week, even many top Republican economists find Laffer’s notion absurd:
In practice, the 1981 Reagan tax cuts left revenues about 30 percent below where they would have been if rates hadn’t changed, says Lawrence B. Lindsey, director of the National Economic Council in the Bush Administration. The Bush tax cuts cost $1.5 trillion in lost revenue over 10 years, the Congressional Budget Office estimated last year. “The notion that a broad decrease in tax rates raises revenue was never taken seriously by professional economists,” says Alan D. Viard, who worked for the Treasury Dept. on tax issues in the George W. Bush Administration and is now at the…
July 25, 2011, 1:40 am
DRIVING THROUGH COLORADO
Driving through the mountain states during the last couple of days, my wife and I were gripped for many hours by the BBC reports on the massacre in Norway. The initial reports, you will recall, described the gigantic bomb blast in downtown Oslo. It wasn’t till a couple of hours later that the reports starting coming in from the island where the gunman was shooting down teenagers at a labor party camp. During the interim, the first official voice on the BBC—I didn’t catch the name, but it might have been Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg—said something that impressed me especially, elementary and necessary words to the effect that terrorist acts are terrible “wherever they take place.” Then the BBC correspondent referred a couple of times, after brief hesitations, to “Islamic terrorism.” Ample ruminations followed on what might be motivating “I…
July 18, 2011, 1:31 pm
A number of readers have found it unseemly of me in recent days to carry on so about Murdoch’s criminal enterprises, for after all, aren’t they confined to the old Motherland, where some high officials have not yet resigned; and isn’t it true that not all those under suspicion of crimes have yet been convicted and sentenced; and anyway, is the complainant not an honest-to-God left-winger?
I sympathize, seriously, with the task of conservatives trying to defend Murdoch and his enterprises as exemplars of the Live Free or Die, Don’t Tread on Me mentality. After all, he is one of the big-booted treaders of our time. He has corrupted the British press—from the downscale Sun and News of the World to the upscale Times and Sunday Times—on more than an industrial scale: it’s cartel scale. Over here, he has degraded the Wall Street Journal, once known for serious investigations. And…
July 16, 2011, 8:39 pm
In his resignation statement on Friday, Wall Street Journal publisher, Dow Jones CEO, and 52-year (no typo) Rupert Murdoch employee Les Hinton, who before moving to New York was executive chairman of News International (which published the late News of the World), said:
When I left News International in December 2007, I believed that the rotten element at the News of the World had been eliminated; that important lessons had been learned; and that journalistic integrity was restored. My testimonies before the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee were given honestly. When I appeared before the Committee in March 2007, I expressed the belief that Clive Goodman [convicted of hacking into royal voicemail] had acted alone, but made clear our investigation was continuing. In September 2009, I told the Committee there had never been any evidence delivered to me that suggested the conduct…
July 14, 2011, 3:24 pm
British politicians are suddenly sprouting spines and even American legislators (Sens. Jay Rockefeller, Frank Lautenbach, Robert Menendez, Barbara Boxer, and lone Republican Rep. Peter King) are calling for SEC and Justice Department investigations into possible criminal acts performed on native soil. As I write, the AP reports that the FBI is investigating whether News Corp. might have hacked into the phone accounts of 9/11 victims. In the light of Murdoch’s extraordinarily successful attempts to do for salacious depravity what John D. Rockefeller did for oil, it’s an especially nice touch that the latter’s great grandson, West Virginia Senator Rockefeller, was first up among American politicians to seize the investigative day. Meanwhile, Steven Brill has pointed out that “News Corp. has a lot of FCC licenses. There’s still a clause in the federal communications law that requires that …
July 8, 2011, 12:38 pm
Indefatigably pursuing the burning question of why repeatedly law-breaking corporations—in particular, the financial corporations whose self-dealing frauds and criminal negligence brought the global economy crashing down—have not been indicted on criminal charges, the invaluable Gretchen Morgenson and Louise Story have an amazing story on Page 1 of this morning’s New York Times. The headline barely introduces the tale: “As Wall St. Polices Itself, Prosecutors Use Softer Approach.” The online head is: ”Behind the Gentler Approach to Banks by U. S.”
The companies get to investigate themselves. Nice work for criminal defendants. Here’s how Morgenson and Story put it:
Government lawyers now go to companies earlier in an inquiry, and often tell companies to figure out whether improper activities occurred. Then those companies hire law firms to investigate and report back to the…
July 6, 2011, 11:31 pm
NBC News led tonight with a S-C-A-R-Y story by Pete Williams, boomingly introduced by an alarmed Brian Williams, warning that “al-Qaeda operatives have talked” about finding doctors who might “surgically implant explosives or explosive components in passengers to carry out suicide attacks.” Yemeni terrorists “are figuring out how to bring down an aircraft.” Brian Williams intoned in a state of alarm that the TSA was talking not about body cavities but about explosives “surgically placed within the body of a living human being.”
No government leaker, no terrorism expert, purports to have found any evidence of an impending plot.
Now, I’ve no doubt that al-Qaeda operatives talk about lots of things. I’ve no doubt that they would love to bring down planes on their way into the U.S. I’ve no doubt either that the TSA wants to alert passengers that they may expect more intensive…
July 4, 2011, 1:26 am
My wife and I are driving across the country to Southern California. Many are the splendors of this land, which is your land, my land, and a lot of other people’s land. Some own too damn much of it and some don’t own enough to get by. But that’s not my story today. It’s the eve of July 4, 235 years to the day after some wild and crazy Englishmen (they were all men, then) decided to subscribe their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to some propositions they were not yet prepared to deliver on, but they ushered something brilliantly new into the world, where it remains, an idea still unfolding, still warped, still transgressed, still most imperfectly delivered—still tantalizing.
In this little town near the Grand Canyon, there’s a nightly festivity performed by a local amateurs’ (lovers’) group, billed as a shoot-out. At 7 p.m., a town crier type strolls around in…
June 27, 2011, 9:27 pm
I’m proud to say that Kate Coleman is a friend of mine. She is also a fearless, indefatigable Berkeley-based journalist who resisted fashions for more than 30 years while writing penetrating and courageous reports on the Black Panther Party, both when it was lionized (well, pantherized) and when it was demonized. Now she’s done it again, for The New Republic, on Elmer (“Geronimo”) Pratt, who died earlier this month in Tanzania, where he went after serving 27 years in prison for the Santa Monica murder of a woman named Caroline Olsen, the first eight of those years in solitary. He was, she writes, “denied parole 16 times before his sentence was vacated and he was freed.” Some of this was reported in obits, but the worst of it was missing.
Here’s her nut graf about how it happened that Pratt was denied the alibi he had earned because of the vileness of the sometimes still lionized …
June 22, 2011, 10:47 pm
My co-blogger Laurie Essig writes:
…whatever strange bedfellows come together to end this war, it will not be in the way that Vietnam ended: as a result of pressure from the Left end of a very different political spectrum, from the students, from the media, from the “leading voices,” and from many of the soldiers themselves. When the war in Afghanistan does finally end, it may very well be the result of economic collapse (as it was for the Soviets) more than political vision or mass movement. In other words, wouldn’t it be nice if Afghanistan were another quagmire like Vietnam instead of the black hole that it is.
The overwhelmingly effective forces that ended the war were the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong. Absent their military prowess—which meant also their political prowess—all the righteous demonstrations, the lobbies, the political swings, all of them would…
June 19, 2011, 11:30 am
Not so long ago, neoconservatives were splenetic about an academic left which presumed that ethnic or gender identity was the ultimate, immovable premise of knowledge and the foundation for all values, and that denial of this premise was nothing more or less than a mask for privilege, generally of the straight white male variety. Surely, argued the opponents of identity politics, enlightened moderns had to understand that there were universal values; that they trumped all time-bound, space-bound values, whether national, tribal, racial, sexual, or what have you; that serious thought must free itself of parochial attachments. Some who took this position called themselves liberals, most called themselves conservatives, but all agreed that a person thinks with an individual mind, and that it was presumptuous—also philosophically untenable—to think as a representative of a group. I was…
June 15, 2011, 2:03 pm
Now comes the revelation that Amina Abdallah Arraf, the widely cited blogger “Gay Girl in Damascus,” recently said to have been detained by the regime, is (or, I suppose, was) in actuality a 40-year-old American male graduate student (in history!) named Tom MacMaster, currently residing in Scotland. Evidently it comes as a belated surprise to a graduate student in history that falsification of authorship confounds the search for that elusive quiddity that historians are pleased to call truth, even if with a lower-case and not a capital T. Someday, however, a cultural historian will be interested in MacMaster’s rationale as a tidbit toward understanding the mentality of his time.
MacMaster told the NYT’s Robert Mackey that when he started contributing blog comments under Amina’s name, he aimed to put forth
a perspective that doesn’t often get heard on the Middle East and that was a…
June 13, 2011, 9:52 pm
I’m late to the Weinerfest, but perhaps for the reason that I’ve been distracted by Egypt, Germany, and Serbia in recent months, there’s an element to the story that I think deserves a bit more attention. Anthony Weiner is a Congressman. A member (sorry) of Congress. One of 435 of the people’s representatives, 535 if you count the more powerful ones, and what has he been doing with himself? How does he spend his most precious and scarce resource, his time? Well, by now you know.
Yes, there’s a point to private life. Yes, even a Member of Congress is entitled to one. But even a citizen is entitled to come to a judgment about such a person. And people, the world’s in an uproar. The unemployed need attention—not just a vote, not just a speech. There’s a mad party in control of Congress. Glaciers are melting and they think that’s, well, cool. There are nations near bankruptcy and…
June 8, 2011, 7:41 pm
Yes, it exists. In Belgrade, and elsewhere in Serbia. It claims affiliations with colleges and universities in China, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the United Kingdom, and Ukraine. On ubiquitous billboards, it also claims Japan and the U. S. It has funding from an EU foundation for business education. John Naisbitt, who wrote the bestseller that gave the university its name, cut the ribbon in 1989. To my knowledge, this is the first university named for a bestseller. “Welcome to the real world of education!” reads their Web site (in Google translation).
And by the way, Megatrend U. gives not only masters and doctoral degrees, but honorary ones. One of the latter went to (drum-roll) Muammar el-Gaddafi, in 2007. Earlier this year, after the onset of the Libyan revolt, the university’s rector declared that the degree would not be revoked—because it was granted for “scientific,” no…
June 6, 2011, 10:36 am
I just returned to New York after visiting Belgrade, where I interviewed (among others) Srdja Popovic, a leader of the nonviolent Otpor movement that overthrew Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, and now a lively, witty, imaginative advocate for nonviolent struggle against dictatorships everywhere. There’s a fine narrative of Otpor’s progress, and Srdja’s approach to spunky nonviolence, in Tina Rosenberg’s new book, Join the Club: How Peer Pressure Can Transform the World. Excerpts from my interview will be up soon on a soon-to-be-launched global upstart news site that I’m thrilled to be connected to, Newsmotion.org.
But for now, I want to ring a bell (thank you, ex-governor Palin!) and call some domestic attention to the remarkable site that Srdja and four other activists run out of Belgrade, CANVASopedia.org. CANVAS stands for Centre for Applied NonViolent Action and Strategies. Srdja a…
May 31, 2011, 6:43 pm
I arrived yesterday in Serbia’s capital halfway expecting to see abundant signs of a fascist uprising. After all, the fugitive genocidaire Gen. Ratko Mladic was captured just last Thursday, and I’d read Steven Erlanger’s report in The New York Times, among others, about some 10,000 Serbs who rallied for Mladic in Belgrade Saturday night, some throwing stones and bottles, breaking shop windows, calling President Boris Tadic a “traitor,” chanting that Tadic should “save Serbia and kill himself.” Erlanger cautioned that “the protest was not large by Belgrade standards, and the [sponsoring Radical] party is on the margins, having split into two,” but still, the impression I got was that when I arrived here to give some university lectures, I’d find the city obsessed and deeply, conspicuously divided.
Well, there are pro-Mladic graffiti on the downtown walls (MLADIC HERO, reads …
May 26, 2011, 6:02 pm
I owe the headline to a veteran NPR correspondent who is sick and tired of the way NPR goes wobbly when critics come criticizing. He offered me the acronym earlier this week. And that was before NPR ombudsman (sic) Alicia Shepard chastised America’s only grown-up radio news network for taking money from George Soros’ Open Society Foundation (without advertising his name) “to have two public radio reporters in every state keeping tabs on state government issues that are woefully under-reported by the media.”
Soros’ foundation also announced last October a $1 million grant to Media Matters, a liberal activist group with a goal to hold Fox News (no fan of NPR) accountable. Soros has also given millions of dollars to other liberal groups, including MoveOn.org and the Center for American Progress.
Horrors! For more than two decades, Soros has also given more money than…
May 20, 2011, 9:03 am
I spent yesterday morning visiting the villa where the Wannsee Conference took place, then spent the afternoon brooding, smoldering, thinking—and trying to change my own subject—about Nazi monsters drinking cognac and planning the logistics for the Final Solution in 1942. Later in the day I read about Lars von Trier’s appalling remarks at Cannes.
So my mind was on fire, even burnt over. Even on an ordinary day in Berlin, however pleasant and stimulating the city, it’s hard to stop thinking about the Final Solution. Try not to think about an elephant graveyard. Having begun this day Berlin-style, I could be enraged at von Trier, revolted by what he said, and at the same time pity him.
What did he say? It’s both worse and “better” than the initial reports. It began, according to Dennis Lim in The New York Times, with “a question … from a British journalist about…
May 17, 2011, 10:09 am
The uproar about FSU’s twisted bargains with an ideologically minded foundation and a bank holding company, resulting in professors hired to suit the foundation and a course that requires the reading of Atlas Shrugged (who could make this stuff up?), revolves around the question of who decides the curriculum. But regardless of which precise lines were crossed in this case, there’s a deeper question about the university’s curricular commitment, namely: What does economics teach?
Economics, like other social studies, does not just teach “how the world works,” it counsels how people ought to think and behave. It is not value-free. And it has effects on how they do think and behave.
There’s a literature, both theoretical and empirical, on the impact of economics on conduct. Just as the cooperativeness may be said to evolve as people learn from experience (cf. the political scientist…
May 12, 2011, 12:40 pm
CUNY trustee Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld’s embarrassing display of censoriousness, compounded by the board’s equally embarrassing willingness to drop Tony Kushner from its honorable degree list when Wiesenfeld denounced a straw version of Kushner’s politics and set it aflame, cast a sudden and unusual light upon the role of trustees. Now comes more news of extracurricular intervention in the world of higher learning. This time what’s at issue is the buying of an economics department.
Kris Hundley of The St. Petersburg Times (that’s Florida, not Russia) reports:
A foundation bankrolled by Libertarian businessman Charles G. Koch has pledged $1.5-million for positions in Florida State University’s economics department. In return, his representatives get to screen and sign off on any hires for a new program promoting “political economy and free enterprise.”