Sunday, September 5. 2010
A week's worth of useful links I didn't get around to commenting
Andrew Bacevich: Obama Wants Us to Forget the Lessons of Iraq:
As U.S. forces have withdrawn, they have done so in an orderly
fashion. In their own eyes, they remain unbeaten and unbeatable.
As the troops pull out, the American people are already moving on:
Even now, Afghans have displaced Iraqis as the beneficiaries of
Washington's care and ministrations. Oddly, even disturbingly,
most of us -- our memories short, our innocence intact -- seem
content with the outcome. The United States leaves Iraq having
Taylor Branch: Dr. King's Newest Marcher:
A more sympathetic treatment of Glenn Beck than I can muster; even
if I could see King in Beck, I'd be more tempted to invoke the
FEAR is a hazard of great endeavors to bridge
political differences. In 1963, racial apprehension before Dr. King's
rally drove the federal government to furlough its workers for the
day. The Pentagon deployed 20,000 paratroopers. Hospitals stockpiled
plasma. Washington banned sales of alcohol, and Major League Baseball
canceled not one but two days of Senators baseball, just to be safe.
When the march of benign inspiration embarrassed these measures,
opponents still insisted that the civil rights bill would enslave
Justin Elliott: Obama's Iraq speech: What you need to know:
Written before the speech was given; includes much Obama doesn't
know (or at least didn't bother to mention):
There are still 50,000 U.S. troops, 11,000 armed security contractors,
and lots of other DOD contract employees in Iraq. Those remaining
troops will, incidentally, continue to receive combat pay. The State
Department, whose employees are not included in troop counts, is
taking the unprecedented step of fielding a small army in Iraq,
complete with helicopters, armored vehicles, and other military gear.
As for whether the United States will ever leave Iraq completely,
prepare for the term "Enduring Presence Posts" to enter the lexicon.
(Yes, they are a real thing.)
Lee Fang: Tim Phillips, the man behind the 'Americans for Prosperity'
corporate front group factory: Koch-backed, of course:
managed to escape most of the controversy that eventually embroiled
his partners Reed and Abramoff. Working under the slush fund provided
by oil baron David Koch -- with a salary approaching $300,000 a year
and at least a $7 million annual budget -- Phillips continues to lead
AFP in building front group after front group to advance his radical
right wing agenda.
Glenn Greenwald: The "nobody-could-have-known" excuse and Iraq:
Might have worked this into my Obama war speech post, but lots of
people know lots of people knew better than to go to war with Iraq
(even if they don't know about the Dick Cheney video linked here);
instead, I I took on the same assertion about Afghanistan. Includes
long quotes from Jim Webb and Howard Dean, adding:
I could literally
spend the rest of the day quoting those who were issuing similar or
even more strident warnings. Anyone who claims they didn't realize
that an attack on Iraq could spawn mammoth civilian casualties,
pervasive displacement, endless occupation and intense anti-American
hatred is indicting themselves more powerfully than it's possible
for anyone else to do.
Paul Krugman: Now That's Rich: On the political push for extending
the Bush tax cuts for the megarich:
For months that has been the word
from Republicans and conservative Democrats, who have rejected every
suggestion that we do more to avoid deep cuts in public services and
help the ailing economy. But these same politicians are eager to cut
checks averaging $3 million each to the richest 120,000 people in the
country. [ . . . ]
And there's a real chance that
Republicans will get what they want. That's a demonstration, if anyone
needed one, that our political culture has become not just dysfunctional
but deeply corrupt."
Paul Krugman: It's Witch-Hunt Season: Funded by billionaire heirs,
the same vicious paranoia used to slander the Clintons in the 1990s,
all the more dangerous in a context of desperate economic pain:
The last time a Democrat sat in the White House, he faced a nonstop witch
hunt by his political opponents. Prominent figures on the right accused
Bill and Hillary Clinton of everything from drug smuggling to murder.
And once Republicans took control of Congress, they subjected the
Clinton administration to unrelenting harassment -- at one point
taking 140 hours of sworn testimony over accusations that the White
House had misused its Christmas card list.
Now it's happening again --
except that this time it's even worse. Let's turn the floor over to
Rush Limbaugh: "Imam Hussein Obama," he recently declared, is "probably
the best anti-American president we've ever had." To get a sense of
how much it matters when people like Mr. Limbaugh talk like this, bear
in mind that he's an utterly mainstream figure within the Republican
Party; bear in mind, too, that unless something changes the political
dynamics, Republicans will soon control at least one house of Congress.
This is going to be very, very ugly.
Andrew Leonard: Wall Street's ridiculous Obama problem:
Carping about being treated as villains, even while most of us think
Obama's treasury team, if not necessarily Obama himself, are in Wall
Just two weeks ago, one of Wall Street's richest
private equity moguls, Steven Schwarzman, compared a plan to raise
taxes on the wealthiest Americans to Hitler's invasion of Poland.
And now, today, the New York Times is prominently featuring a piece
by Wall Street's most avid stenographer, Andrew Ross Sorkin, that
purports to explain "Why Wall St. Is Deserting Obama." Once again,
the problem is that Obama is trying to "regulate and redistribute
our way back to prosperity" and this clearly, in the view of Wall
Street's elite, is pure evil.
Wall Street, writes Sorkin, "did not
realize was that they were going to be painted as villains."
Paul Krugman's title based on the same Andrew Ross Sorkin column is
The Unbearable Pettiness of Being Rich:
I talked to some
financial-industry backers of Obama back during primary season;
they really didn't know or care much about policy issues, but were
in love with Obama over his style -- and also over the prospect
of being in his inner circle, something they knew wouldn't happen
with Hillary. Now they're mad because they don't feel that they're
getting enough stroking.
And you have to bear in mind that this
comes after Obama has made immense efforts to placate the financial
industry. There were no bank nationalizations; there were hardly
any strings attached to bailouts; the financial reform bill was by
no means draconian given the scale of the disaster. But Wall Street
is furious that Obama might even hint that they caused the crisis --
which he does, now and then, because, well, they did.
Andrew Leonard: The right-wing cure for human misery: More pain:
But if Barro had his way, Obama's economic advisors would have been
Chicago schoolers who responded to the worst economic crisis in 80
years by doing nothing. (Except, possibly, lowering taxes even
further.) He seems to think that this would have improved Obama's
political standing with the electorate.
How Barro can possibly imagine this to be true gives us a pretty
good glimpse at the utter disconnect between conservative economists
and the real world. The consensus of private forecasters is that
the Obama stimulus raised GDP significantly and kept unemployment
from rising as high as it might otherwise have. No stimulus, plus
no extensions of unemployment benefits, would have equaled a deeper
recession, with more people out of work, even more homes going into
foreclosure, and a general increase in human misery all around.
Frank Rich: Freedom's Just Another Word:
On Obama's Iraq milestone:
Americans are less forgiving. In recent polls, 60 percent of those
surveyed thought the war in Iraq was a mistake, 70 percent thought it
wasn't worth American lives, and only a quarter believed it made us
safer from terrorism. This sour judgment is entirely reality-based.
The war failed in all its stated missions except the toppling of
Maxine Udall: Some Thoughts on Pharmaceutical Prices: Lots of econ
jargon, which knocks lots of other econ jargon for a loop. Two charts,
one on the consistency of high industry profits, which shows a high
degree of monopoly pricing power, the other on product development,
which shows there isn't much. Udall throws up her hands at the end,
probably because if she denied the incentive of patents she'd have to
turn her econ Ph.D. in, but there are few issues in politics that I'm
more certain of: getting rid of the drug patent system would be a huge
improvement both in cost of existing drug treatments and in developing
useful future treatments.
Manufacturers' profits have been in the double digits for over 10 years
with little sign of the volatility that would explain the need for
persistently higher margins. In the US, they spend more on marketing
than they do on R&D and the US pays more for prescription drugs
than any other developed country. Instead of innovation and increased
output of new molecular entities, the profit motive has tended to
produce "copycat" blockbuster drugs, many of which represent very
small or no improvement over already existing drugs. The profit motive
also has tended to produce new drugs that fill remaining smaller voids
at very high prices. Some of these buy only a few extra months of life
for desperate and dying individuals. It is difficult for patients to
assess the value of new treatments and they often don't face the full
price of those treatments. [ . . . ] But I will
argue that inentives matter and, in the case of pharmaceuticals, the
US would benefit from pricing that is similar to that in other developed
countries and from less "patient-centered" demand for still-under-patent,
marginally beneficial, copycat drug. Unfortunately, the incentives in
the current system work against this and price does not properly function
as a signal of resource costs or value.
I don't have a solution, but I would feel better if we were all on
the same page about this. Drug prices are high for reasons that have
little to do with value even when they cure cancer.