Sunday, July 28. 2013
Some scattered links this week:
Jonathan Cook: Israel's thriving arms trade is a setback to peace
agreement: Actually, more like Israel's arms trade is one big
reason why Israel leaders have no taste for peace.
Last month, defence analysts Jane's put Israel in sixth place [among
the world's largest exporters of armaments], ahead of China and Italy,
both major weapons producers. Surveys that include Israel's growing
covert trade put it even higher, in fourth place, ahead of Britain
and Germany, and beaten only by the United States, Russia and France.
The extent of Israel's success in this market can be gauged by a
simple mathematical calculation. With record sales last year of $7
billion (Dh25.7 billion), Israel earned nearly $1,000 from the arms
trade per capita -- up to 10 times the per capita income the US derives
from its manufacture of weapons.
The Israeli economy's reliance on arms dealing was highlighted this
month when local courts forced officials to reveal data showing that
some 6,800 Israelis are actively engaged in the business of arms exports.
Separately, Ehud Barak, the defence minister in the last government, has
revealed that 150,000 Israeli households -- or about one in 10 of the
population -- depend economically on the weapons industry.
[ . . . ]
Attacks such as Operation Cast Lead of winter 2008-09 or last year's
Operation Pillar of Defence, the film argues, serve as little more than
laboratory-style experiments to evaluate and refine the effectiveness of
new military approaches, both strategies and weaponry. Gaza, in particular,
has become the shop window for Israel's military industries, allowing them
to develop and market systems for long-term surveillance, control and
subjugation of an "enemy" population. [ . . . ]
But the film's convincing thesis offers a disturbing message to those
who hope for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As Israel has
made its arsenal more lethal and its soldiers ever safer, its society
has become increasingly tolerant of war as the background noise of life.
If Israelis pay no price for war, the army and politicians face no pressure
to end it. Rather, the pressure acts in the opposite direction. Regular
attacks on Palestinians to test and showcase its military systems provide
Israel with a business model far more lucrative than one offered by a
Kevin Drum: The Cost of Austerity: 3 Million Jobs: Cites the
Congressional Budget Office's latest estimate of the economic benefit
of eliminating sequestration.
Spending cuts and tax increases since 2011 have cut the deficit by
about $3.9 trillion over the next ten years. The sequester accounts
for $1.2 trillion of that, about a third of the total. So a rough
horseback guess suggests that the total effect of our austerity
binge has been a GDP reduction of 2 percent and an employment
reduction of nearly 3 million.
If the economy were running at full capacity, deficit slashing
wouldn't have this effect. It would be perfectly appropriate policy.
Unfortunately, Republicans don't believe in cutting spending during
good times and increasing it during bad times. They believe in cutting
it during Democratic presidencies and increasing it during Republican
William Greider: No More Second Chances for Larry Summers:
Throughout its history, there's no better example of "regulatory
capture" than the Federal Reserve: the Fed was even designed to
be subservient to the banks. Summers is by all accounts a very
bright economist, but he's also a guy who cultivates access to
the rich and powerful by flattering them, and he's run up a pretty
checkered legacy, including as Treasury Secretary presiding over
the repeal of Glass-Steagall and severely limiting Obama's options
as chairman of his Council of Economic Advisers.
These scandalous matters are relevant once again because the White House
propagandists are pushing hard to make Larry Summers the next Federal
Reserve chairman. If Obama makes that choice, Wall Street wins again.
Summers is their candidate and at home in their money culture. As Fed
chair, he would become their main watchdog.
If so, this will be a sick joke on us hopeful voters who re-elected
the president last fall. Summers worked on Wall Street after he got
bounced as Harvard president and before he joined the Obama administration
in 2009. During the year before, he earned $5.2 million at a leading hedge
fund, D.E. Shaw.
Then he made another $2.8 million for speeches, more than forty of
them, mostly delivered to audiences at mega-banks and leading financial
firms. These included JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Merrill Lynch and
others. Goldman Sachs paid him $135,000 for one speech. When Summers
learned Merrill Lynch was receiving federal bailout money, he gracefully
contributed his $45,000 speaking fee to charity. The point is, this
watchdog will know some of the swindlers personally.
Actually, I would have been pleased had Obama nominated Summers,
as was talked about, in 2009 to replace Ben Bernanke, on the theory
that if Obama is going to be responsible for recovering from the
deep recession he should at least appoint his own guy to the single
most important relevant post, instead of giving Bush's guy another
go. Since then Bernanke has managed to tick off everyone, but most
of the flak he gets is from fellow Republicans furious that he has
continued to do anything at all to aid the recovery. The only good
news there is that no one is talking about giving him a third term.
That leaves Fed vice-chair Janet Yellen as the obvious choice, and
I've also seen Christina Romer mentioned, so there are alternatives
to Summers -- ones without his taint of corruption and arrogance.
Also see Greider's earlier piece,
Stop Larry Summers Before He Messes Up Again. But also note that
Brad DeLong says Summers would be "a very very good choice," which
is one more "very" than he gives Alan Blinder, and two more than Janet
Yellen (although he also included Yellen and Summers as "two of the four
best people in the world to be Fed Chair," so I'm not sure how rigorous
he's being). On the other hand,
Mike Konczal compares Yellen and Summers and finds Summers MIA or
worse on every issue he can think of, while Yellen was engaged and
consistently worked toward expanding the economy.
One thought I have here is that the Fed chair is a very powerful
post, so one thing you should ask is how a given candidate will
react to holding such power. Past chairs, with Alan Greenspan the
most obvious case (although I'd add Paul Volcker here, and I'm not
sure that any are really exempt) responded by becoming imperious.
One thing that Summers does have is a track record of how he acts
when given the reins of power, and most of that record reflects
poorly on him: as Treasury Secretary, as President of Harvard, as
Chair of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers (where, at least
according to Ron Suskind's Confidence Men, his main act
was to keep Obama from hearing from any other advisers, especially
Christina Romer). In these roles he has been spectacularly inept,
arrogant, abrasive, and tainted with corruption. Given all these
negatives, the fact that anyone has anything good to say about
him at all, and is saying it, suggests to me that he's campaigning
hard for the job. That strikes me as yet another red flag.
And -- the supply seems boundless -- here's a personal anecdote
Paul Krugman, recalling how in 1998 he "had a long, very unpleasant
phone conversation with a Senior Administration Official who berated
me for my anti-market ideas. Today, that wild and crazy idea is so
orthodox it's part of standard IMF policy."
Paul Krugman: To the Brink, Again:
If John Boehner is to be believed -- which, admittedly, is a real
question -- Republicans are once again willing to push America into
default and/or shut down the government if they don't get their way.
[ . . . ]
What adds to the awesomeness of the whole phenomenon is the absence
of any halfway plausible rationale. To the extent that there ever was
an economic justification for this brinksmanship -- the claim that we
were on the verge of a debt crisis, the claim that slashing spending
would boost the economy -- that justification has collapsed in the
face of declining debt projections and overwhelming evidence that
austerity has large negative impacts in a slump.
[ . . . ]
Well, my guess is that despite being drenched in reality-repellent,
Republicans are beginning to suspect an inconvenient truth: Obamacare
is not going to be a self-destroying train wreck. Instead, it's going
to work -- not perfectly, not as well as it should, but well enough to
help far more people than it hurts. And if that's how it turns out, it
will be irreversible. So here comes a last-ditch effort to stop it, at
But think about that for a moment: the cause for which the GOP is
willing to go to the brink, breaking all political norms, threatening
the US and world economies with incalculable damage, is the cause of
preventing people with preexisting conditions and/or low incomes
from getting health insurance. Apparently, the prospect that their
fellow citizens might receive this help is so horrifying that nothing
Alex Pareene: Weiner's repellent personality: Not his worst quality!:
Not that deeply damaged people don't sometimes make fine politicians.
[ . . . ] When Clinton ran for president, or when
he campaigned for Hillary Clinton, he could articulate reasons to
support him. Eliot Spitzer's comeback is predicated on his history
of battling Wall Street, not on nostalgia for the long-ago period
when everyone loved him. But Weiner has never run on anything besides
his own personality, and his personality is repellent.
[ . . . ]
The primary reason Anthony Weiner shouldn't be mayor, or anything
else, is still that he's an unaccomplished opportunist with few
principles and malleable views on every public policy issue besides
the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, a subject on which he has indefensible
and insane views. But if people decide to not vote for him because of
the dick pics I'm fine with that too.
MJ Rosenberg: No Peace Process Til U.S. Becomes "Honest Broker" Not
"Israel's Lawyer": Reports of John Kerry's efforts to "restart" some
sort of negotiation process between Israel and the currently unelected
former Palestinian leadership have been too pathetic to bother with,
largely because even if the US leaders think they want peace, they're
unprepared to see it through. Rosenberg is absolutely right here:
The Palestinians understand the role of the Israel lobby in keeping
Congress in line behind Israel, with Congress doing the job of making
sure the administration doesn't stray. As recently as 2012, the United
States led the opposition to a resolution granting Palestine observer
status at the United Nations (only seven countries voted with us).
In March of this year, President Obama visited Israel to deliver,
both in words and symbolic actions,the message that the United States
and Israel were essentially one, a vivid demonstration of Vice President
Biden's oft-repeated pledge that there must be "no daylight, no daylight"
between U.S. and Israeli policies.
Exactly why would the Palestinians trust the United States? The
answer is that they don't and they shouldn't because, during two
presidencies in a row, we have made not the slightest attempt to
play "honest broker," remaining even more "Israel's lawyer" than
we were when Clinton-era negotiator, Aaron Miller first used the
term to describe our modus operandi.
This is significant. The only successful U.S. mediation between
Israelis and Arabs was conducted by President Jimmy Carter at Camp
David in 1978. Carter managed to bridge the gaps that had led Israel
and Egypt to go to war three times previously by being the ultimate
In his book about Camp David, Gen. Moshe Dayan, who was then
Israel's foreign minister, described how Carter would keep the
pressure on both sides equally, telling President Sadat and Prime
Minister Begin, in turn, that if the talks failed, he would publicly
name who was responsible. All during the long arduous process that
produced a peace treaty that has survived 34 years, Carter refused
to act as either side's advocate. His only client was peace and that
is how he achieved an agreement.
Rashid Khalidi's recent book, Brokers of Deceit: How the US
Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East, reviews four post-Carter
US-backed peace initiatives, and shows how in each and every case
the US feigned then forgot about neutrality, allowing Israel to get
away without making any concessions or achieving any semblance of
peace. The closest Israel ever came was when Rabin jumped off the
reservation and negotiated a separate deal, kept secret from the
US, with Arafat, offering little and promising nothing. Perhaps
Rabin intended to turn his deal into two states, but he was killed
by a right-wing Israeli before he could do anything about it, and
no subsequent Israeli leader went nearly that far.
The fact is, Israel's Labor and/or Likud coalitions have never
been willing to finalize borders -- except for the 1979 treaty
Carter brokered with Egypt over the inessential desert in Sinai --
with a neighboring state or with the Palestinians, despite the fact
that international law (UN Security Council resolutions) demands it,
and that from 1967 US policy has supported those resolutions (at
least up until 2000 when Clinton started to muddy the issue). See
Avi Raz, The Bride and the Dowry: Israel, Jordan, and the
Palestinians in the Aftermath of the June 1967 War, for a
detailed accounting of Israel's subterfuges to keep the US and
the UN off their case while they made their first steps to clear
and colonize the West Bank. See Patrick Tyler, Fortress Israel:
The Inside Story of the Military Elite Who Run the Country,
for a broad overview of how Israel came to embrace militarism and
adopted a permanent war culture: Tyler mostly dates this from
Ben Gurion's split with his successor as Prime Minister, Moshe
Sharrett, but you can find evidence of it earlier -- even as early
as the period documented by Amy Dockser Marcus, Jerusalem 1913:
The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. And for a general
overview, see the single best book yet written on how Israel has
become addicted to war, Richard Ben Cramer's How Israel Lost: The
Alex Seitz-Wald: Secrets of the right: Selling garbage to your fans:
For instance, is Glenn Beck a political commentator or just a gold
Glenn Beck is the most egregious, with his partnership with Goldline
International, which also enjoys endorsements from Mark Levin and,
until recently, Sean Hannity and others. Beck cut tearful promotional
videos for the company, hawks them passionately on his radio and TV
programs, and even designed a coin for the company this year (it
reads "mind your business" on the front).
As it turns out, the company's business model is built on
systematically swindling its mostly elderly clientele by talking or
tricking them into buying overpriced coins or just sending them
different products than they bought, prosecutors in California
alleged, leading the company to settle for $4.5 million in refunds
to its customers. A judge instructed the company to foot the bill
for a court-appointed monitor, who was supposed to ensure the
company stopped its alleged "bait and switch" scam.
Not long after that, the company's former chief compliance
officer came forward to say the company was back to its old tricks.
"Goldline specifically targets vulnerable consumers with sales
tactics designed to pressure those consumers into buying products
that would often result in the consumer losing over one-third of
his or her investment the instant the purchase is made," she said
in a legal complaint filed late last year.
And yet, Beck's support is undiminished. The company's banner ad
still graces the top of TheBlaze.com and Beck still touts them on
air. "Before I started turning you on to Goldline, I wanted to look
them in the eye. This is a top notch organization that's been in
business since 1960," Beck says in an endorsement on the company's
The article has more examples. The prevalence of such fraud on
the right shouldn't surprise. For one thing, their ideology starts
with the assumption that everyone is out for themselves in the
struggle to get rich, and that anyone who succeeds should be
celebrated pretty much no matter how they got there. And there's
a thick streak of sadism to it, so why not masochism too?
Matt Vasilogambros: Americans Increasingly Wonder: Was Afghanistan
Even Worth It?
Now, only 28 percent of Americans think the war in Afghanistan has been
worth fighting, according to an ABC News/Washinton Post poll released on
Friday. Following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Americans, by
and large, were united in wanting to track down the people responsible
(as high as 90 percent in 2002). But after 2,000 deaths in America's
longest war, 67 percent of Americans don't think it was worth it.
This poll, conducted July 18-21, represents an 11-point drop since
March. During that time, countless headlines about Afghanistan have
been marked with the unmistakable tension between the U.S. and Afghan
The ten percent of Americans who opposed the mad rush to war in
September 2001 deserve more respect. It was, at the time, entirely
predictable that the war would be disastrous. (If anything, given
how poorly the British, the Russians, and the Americans had faired
in past and recent Afghan wars, such a prediction was if anything
too easy.) While the mess in Afghanistan is readily apparent, what
is harder for people here to grasp is how much damage the Bush Wars
have done to the US: driving deficits and bankruptcy, accumulating
a huge burden of obligations to Veterans, building an insatiable
worldwide security complex, and just turning us into a meaner,
more trigger-happy society. All of that could have been avoided
if only the people who stampeded public opinion had stopped to
consider what they were biting off.
Also, a few links for further study:
Brad DeLong: Mobility, Equality, Geography: Not DeLong's work, but
you can dive in here. The big map shows the odds of a bottom-quintile
child growing up to belong to a higher income quintile, which aren't
good odds anywhere -- the range is from 4.0% in Atlanta (Detroit: 5.1%)
to 11.5% in Salt Lake City (San Diego: 11.2%), so don't buy the notion
that poor national totals just mask local variations. The low-opportunity
areas are overwhelmingly concentrated in the southeast plus parts of
the rust belt and isolated counties with Native American concentrations.
Those are all depressed areas, but they also seem to be areas offering
limited escape options. On the other hand, I can assure you that the
only thing that makes western Kansas and Nebraska high-opportunity areas
is that most young people can't wait to get the hell out of there. The
Dakotas probably have some of that too, but North Dakota is likely helped
by its oil boom, and Utah is indeed growing.
Glenn Greenwald: Democratic establishment unmasked: prime defenders of
NSA bulk spying: The House rejected, 205-217, a bipartisan amendment
to defund the NSA's domestic surveillance program. The program only
became public knowledge when whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed it,
an act for which he has been charged with crimes under the hideous WWI
Espionage Act. The amendment was supported by 94 Republicans and 111
Democrats (vs. no votes by 134 Republicans and 83 Democrats), so it
took the combined party leadership of both parties to prevent it.
Greenwald is especially furious about Nancy Pelosi, but in this she
is mostly a pawn of the White House. Meanwhile, the DOJ conceded that
if the Russians would extradite Snowden, they wouldn't execute or
torture him (noting only that torture is illegal in the US, as if
that is assurance enough that it never happens). Given that nearly
half of the House of Representatives, which isn't exactly the most
representative body in the world, have voted against a policy they
were unaware of before Snowden revealed it, it's really hard to see
that what he did was anything other than a public service.
Tom Engelhardt: Luck Was a Lady Last Week, which compares the
US's relentless international manhunt for Snowden with the search
for CIA honcho Robert Seldon Lady, who was arrested in Panama on
an Interpol warrant from Italy, where he had been convicted of
kidnapping and torturing a Egyptian cleric who had been granted
asylum in Italy. The next day Lady disappeared again, evidently
swept up by the CIA.
I don't have any particularly useful links for the turmoil in Egypt.
The military coup continues to avoid US sanction, probably because
they've moved hard to shut down the border with Gaza, returning Egypt
to its pre-Morsi status as an outpost of Israeli occupation policy.
Increased violence against Morsi's party is also very disturbing: it
is very likely to push Islamists away from democracy and toward armed
resistance, possibly leading to something like the Algerian civil war --
another case where the US backed a military junta against democracy.
We're also starting to see problems in Tunisia, as
Juan Cole explains.