Tuesday Reads: A Mashup of Recent Stories I LikedPosted: March 12, 2013 Filed under: Crime, morning reads, U.S. Economy, U.S. Politics | Tags: "grand bargain", Alex Pareene, Auschwitz, budget deficits, Jeffrey Sachs, Joe Scarborough the stimulus, Josef Mengele, Keynesian Economics, Mark Thoma, media hacks, Menachem Bodner, Millennium Villiages, Milton Friedman, Paul Krugman, Ryan Cooper, shock therapy 35 Comments
Over the weekend, I came across this amazing story in The Daily Beast, and I just had to share it: An Auschwitz Survivor Searches for His Twin on Facebook. It’s the story of Menachem Bodner who was just four years old when the Nazi prison camp was liberated. He is now 72 and is now trying to find his twin brother whom he last saw when they were being used as experimental subjects by the infamous Josef Mengele.
It’s most likely that Menachem Bodner last saw his identical twin in 1945, in Dr. Josef Mengele’s gruesome Auschwitz laboratory. He was 4 then and doesn’t remember his time in the notorious death camp. But in the 68 years that have followed, Bodner says he’s “always” been certain he was one of a pair. He just didn’t have any proof until this past year. Now, he’s searching for Jeno, a man who probably looks just like him, and who has a distinctive “A-7734” tattoo on his forearm. And 1 million Facebook users are helping him look.
Mengele, known among prisoners as “the Angel of Death,” was deeply fascinated with twins and used them for research experiments in his macabre Auschwitz lab. Thankfully, Bodner, now 72, has no recollection of the cruelty he most certainly endured while undergoing experiments, though he can remember a sense of paralyzing fear. Unfortunately he also has few impressions of his family’s prewar life in a small town east of Munkacs, Hungary, which is now in the Ukraine. But despite the lack of memories from a war-marred childhood, Bodner says that throughout his life he’s felt a deep connection with his twin—and is positive he’s still alive and out there. But where?
Until last May, Bodner didn’t even know that his own name was once Elias Gottesmann. Now he knows that. And he knows for certain that he has a twin—thanks to the Nazis’ dogged, pathological documentation of their crimes. Ayana KimRon, a professional genealogist in Israel, found the evidence, clearly written in a record put together by the organization Candles, of twins who were “identified as having been liberated at Auschwitz or from a subcamp”:
A-7733, Gottesmann, Elias, 4
A-7734, Gottesmann, Jeno, 4
Incredible! As a result of his search, Bodner has already found family members that he never knew were looking for him, but his dream is to find his brother. What a story it would be if they could be reunited!
I don’t know if you have been following the latest episode in the ongoing battle between Joe Scarborough and Paul Krugman. Scarborough somehow got together with Jeffrey Sachs of The Earth Institute at Columbia University to publish an op-ed in the Washington Post last Friday: Deficits Do Matter. In the op-ed, they attacked Paul Krugman by setting up a series of straw men and then knocking them down–mainly the false claim that Krugman thinks deficits are never a problem for governments. Here’s the introductory paragraph:
Dick Cheney and Paul Krugman have declared from opposite sides of the ideological divide that deficits don’t matter, but they simply have it wrong. Reasonable liberals and conservatives can disagree on what role the federal government should play yet still believe that government should resume paying its way.
It has become part of Keynesian lore in recent years that public debt is essentially free, that we needn’t worry about its buildup and that we should devote all of our attention to short-term concerns since, as John Maynard Keynes wrote, “in the long run, we are all dead.” But that crude interpretation of Keynesian economics is deeply misguided; Keynes himself disagreed with it.
However, if you read Krugman piece that Sachs and Scarborough link to, you’ll see that it doesn’t say what they pretend it does. It says that deficits don’t matter in the short term, but it’s not true that they never matter. Krugman in the quoted column from March 2011:
Right now, deficits don’t matter — a point borne out by all the evidence. But there’s a school of thought — the modern monetary theory people — who say that deficits never matter, as long as you have your own currency.
I wish I could agree with that view — and it’s not a fight I especially want, since the clear and present policy danger is from the deficit peacocks of the right. But for the record, it’s just not right.
The key thing to remember is that current conditions — lots of excess capacity in the economy, and a liquidity trap in which short-term government debt carries a roughly zero interest rate — won’t always prevail. As long as those conditions DO prevail, it doesn’t matter how much the Fed increases the monetary base, and it therefore doesn’t matter how much of the deficit is monetized. But this too shall pass, and when it does, things will be very different.
I guess Sachs and Scarborough assumed their WaPo readers wouldn’t bother to click on the link. Anyway, Mark Thoma wrote an epic takedown of the Sachs-Scarborough op-ed at his Economist’s View blog: Crude Sachsism.
Frankly, I doubt that Scarborough had anything to do with writing the op-ed, and I think it would be really hilarious if someone would ask him to explain it on his show. Why is Scarborough so obsessed with proving Krugman wrong? As for Jeffrey Sachs, he is a follower of Milton Friedman and The Chicago School of Economics who is famous for his failed “Millennium Villages” project and his so-called “shock therapy” in Latin America, Russia, and Eastern Europe. Judge for yourself whether you want to buy into his neoliberal, modified supply-side arguments.
I know I’m kind of a weirdo, but I had a blast reading all this stuff over the weekend, including this post by Ryan Coooper (filling in for Ed Kilgore at The Washington Monthly) questioning why Sachs doesn’t even know what was in the stimulus.
Jeff Sachs has long been known as the celebrity-hobnobbing economist with the seriously flawed “shock therapy” plan for economic development. Lately he’s taken a weird turn in the public debate, coauthoring an op-ed piece with Joe Scarborough of all people, attacking Paul Krugman.
Today he’s back with one of the most bizarre pieces of economic analysis I’ve seen, arguing among other things that 1) the stimulus was too focused on short-term stuff like tax cuts which 2) aren’t effective stimulus anyway (huh?) and 3) should have had much more long-term investment.
Wrong again! Read all about it at the link.
The back and forth quieted down yesterday, but today Cooper–who is filling in for Ed Kilgore at The Washington Monthly–brought it up again with this post: How Does Jeffrey Sachs Explain The Great Recession?
I need to read it carefully and follow the links and responses to today–my idea of fun! I guess it’s partly the psychologist in me–I’m fascinated by these human interactions and the verbal battles over important issues of the day.
Continuing the economics theme, Alex Pareene has a great piece at Salon on The competitive advantage of deficit hacks. It’s all about how the media helps the false Village memes and tries to marginalize people like Paul Krugman who actually know something about economics. The gist:
I think a lot about contemporary political debates makes a great deal more sense when you realize that hacks, especially hacks shilling for awful ideas, have a competitive advantage over non-hacks: They do not care if they constantly repeat themselves, even if what they are constantly repeating is wrong.
For a writer or pundit who actually feels some sort of responsibility to inform and/or entertain his or her readers, writing the same damn thing over and over again seems wrong (it is also boring). But bad ideas are constantly being repeated by people who feel absolutely no shame about saying the same things over and over and over again. Indeed, “shamelessness” is in general a defining characteristic of hacks. Also, frequently, people are being paid to repeat the same awful ideas over and over again, and unfortunately usually there’s more money to be made repeating bad ideas than good ones. (Hence: Lanny Davis.)
Arguably, American conservatives are better at sticking to their pet causes in general, as liberals move from fight to fight. Look at how contraception “suddenly” became a matter of national public debate last year, years after liberals thought it a well-settled question. Or look at how long the movement spent trying to roll back the majority of the New Deal, a project that continues to this day!
And on the question of the deficit and the “grand bargain,” Pete Peterson and a few others have spent hundreds of millions of dollars and decades of their lives making the exact same argument, and setting up organizations that pay others to make the exact same argument, until a majority of Beltway centrists internalized the argument and began making it themselves, over and over again. When it comes to centrist pundits, the unsophisticated brainwashing technique that has utterly failed to move the public at large over the last 25 years has worked perfectly. (Because centrist pundits are simple, credulous people, by and large, and also because they will not rely on “entitlements” to survive, when they retire from their very well-compensated jobs.)
Plus— another must read from Alex Pareene: The undead, unnecessary, unhelpful Grand Bargain.
Washington has Grand Bargain fever, again. Thanks to the sequestration, Republican government-shrinking mania and Barack Obama’s apparently sincere desire to get some sort of huge long-term debt deal done, the Grand Bargain is looking more possible than at any point since the heady days of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility.
For some reason, the options for dealing with sequestration — a self-inflicted made-up austerity crisis — are being purposefully and pointlessly limited to a) spending cuts, either those in sequestration or different ones, or b) spending cuts and tax increases. “Let’s just not do this, everyone” is rarely presented as a viable option. Instead, the single best end result, according to lots of pundits, Democrats and even Republicans, is tthe Mythical Grand Bargain.
This is awful news, for most people. A “grand bargain” is not going to be good. But after Barack Obama had fancy dinners with some Republicans last week, everyone is again hopeful. The president is hopeful. John Boehner is hopeful. David Gergen is probably hopeful. They can all taste the Bargain. Ooh, it’ll be so great when we get that Bargain!
Read it, and you’ll laugh and cry at the same time!
Now a few more reads that tickled my fancy–in link dump fashion:
LA Times: Harvard faculty outraged after administration spies on emails
WBZ Boston: Harvard University Issues Explanation Of Resident Deans Email Search
The Guardian: World’s top 100 universities 2013: their reputations ranked by Times Higher Education
The Daily Mail: Meet the former Harvard University admin assistant who built up a multimillion-dollar empire… selling sex toys
Cleveland Plain Dealer: Steubenville rape trial will center on issue of consent
New York Daily News: Mike Bloomberg’s supersized ego does in planned soda ban
Now it’s your turn. What’s on your reading list today? Please share your links in the comments.
Have a fabulous Tuesday!!
Rainy Saturday Reads: Why Romney Is LosingPosted: September 29, 2012 Filed under: 2012 presidential campaign, Mitt Romney, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: 47 percent, Alex Pareene, backstabbing aides, Joan Walsh, Nate Silver, Politico 53 Comments
It’s a rainy Saturday in Boston, and I’ve got a nasty cold. I overslept and I don’t have much energy, but do have a few links to get you started today. There’s lots of talk right now about how Romney’s “47 percent” comments have hurt him. A number of pundits didn’t think it was a big deal at first, but are now changing their tunes.
Nate Silver sees signs that Romney’s callous words are taking a toll.
After a secretly recorded videotape was released on Sept. 17 showing Mitt Romney making unflattering comments about the “47 percent” of Americans who he said had become dependent on government benefits, I suggested on Twitter that the political impact of the comments could easily be overstated.
“Ninety percent of ‘game-changing’ gaffes are less important in retrospect than they seem in the moment,” I wrote.
But was this one of the exceptional cases? A week and a half has passed since Mr. Romney’s remarks became known to the public — meaning that there’s been enough time to evaluate their effect on the polls.There’s a case to be made that they did damage Mr. Romney’s standing some.
Read Silver’s take at the link (if you haven’t already).
Jonathan Chait comes right out and admits he was wrong:
I’ve been wrong before, and I’ll be wrong again, but I may never have been as wrong as I was when I initially predicted that Mitt Romney’s heinous diatribe against 47 percent of America would have little direct impact on the election. It’s an absolutely crushing blow. Obviously it doesn’t guarantee his defeat — if a secret video surfaces depicting Obama promising to impose Sharia law in his second term, Romney will stand a good chance of coming back — but it destroys his public standing in ways that make a comeback nearly impossible.
The damage of the remarks is twofold. Obviously, it deeply reinforces the worst stereotypes voters have of Romney. Indeed, the fact that he is currently running ads trying to make the case that he does care about all of America testifies to the grim position in which Romney finds himself. If you’re trying to clear the threshold of “does this candidate hate me” six weeks before the election, you’re probably not on the verge of closing the sale.
Worse still, the comments destroy Romney’s fundamental credibility. Here America sees what he says behind closed doors. Nothing he can say in public can possibly overcome the damage of these comments, because voters will quite correctly assume that he is telling them what they want to hear. George W. Bush’s campaign figured out how to do this to both Al Gore and John Kerry — by painting them as liars, Bush destroyed them as a message delivery platform. Romney has, essentially, done it to himself.
At Salon, Alex Pareene responds to Jonathan Chait by arguing that what is really hurting Romney is Ryan’s plan to kill Medicare: Why Ryan is worse for Romney than “47 percent.” It’s short, but sweet. Read it at the link.
TPM has a piece on How Democratic Ads Are Exploiting Romney’s ‘47 Percent’ Moment
The usual sports metaphors barely do justice to how easy it is, in theory, to build an attack ad around your opponent demanding half the country “take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” Softball pitch down the plate? Kickball, maybe? Tee ball?
Evidence is mounting that Mitt Romney’s leaked remarks about how 47 percent of Americans see themselves as “victims” are doing significant damage to his campaign both nationally and in key swing states around the country. While the hidden camera video has gotten plenty of play on its own in the press, Democrats are piling on as much as possible with a growing number of attack ads.
The degree of difficulty may be low, but the current body of ads connect Romney’s quotes to an impressive array of themes in a very short amount of time. Here’s how Democrats are using the hidden camera footage as a Swiss Army knife of messaging.
Ad videos and commentary at the link.
As Romney stumbles, the knives are coming out. Politico is the usual place for Romney campaign leaks, and sure enough, yesterday there was another backstabbing story putting all the blame on the lousy candidate: In the End, It’s Mitt.
It isn’t the chair or the ho-hum convention. Or the leaked video. Or Stuart Stevens. Or the improving economy. Or media bias. Or distorted polls. Or the message. Or Mormonism.
With Republicans everywhere wondering what has happened to the Mitt Romney campaign, people who know the candidate personally and professionally offer a simple explanation: It’s the candidate himself.
Slowly and reluctantly, Republicans who love and work for Romney are concluding that for all his gifts as a leader, businessman and role model, he’s just not a good political candidate in this era.
It kills his admirers to say it because they know him to be a far more generous and approachable man than people realize — far from the caricature of him being awkward or distant — and they feel certain he would be a very good president.
“Lousy candidate; highly qualified to be president,” said a top Romney official. “The candidate suit fits him unnaturally. He is naturally an executive.”
That makes no sense. If Romney can’t run his own campaign then how on earth would he run the White House and lead the country? It’s only September, and these guys are trying to save their own asses.
Joan Walsh points out that it’s the candidate’s message that people can’t stand: When the Dogs Won’t Eat the Dog Food.
In the end I think Romney killed his own campaign, not because he’s a bad person – he may be – but because, in addition to his ineptness, he came to symbolize what’s wrong with our economy, in every way. The tax rate he pays is a scandal. Shoveling millions of tax-free dollars to his sons is, too. Bain Capital was no job creator (unless you count Bain execs); the firm borrowed money to buy companies, saddled the companies with their debt and made huge fees, whether or not the firm survived.
I said long ago that Romney “is the poster boy for the top 1 percent,” and that it would hurt him with struggling voters. But I didn’t know how much it would hurt him. In the end, maybe he’d have survived coming off like a cross between Thurston Howell III and Montgomery Burns, if we hadn’t heard his remarks about “the 47 percent.” Together, his sheltered wealth, high finance career and plutocrat’s sneer are making it nearly impossible for him to be elected.
But not completely impossible.
Nearly impossible. Not impossible. The other side has so much money and so few scruples these last six weeks could get uglier. We don’t know the toll voter suppression laws will take. And forget about those newfangled laws, there’s old-fashioned GOP voter suppression – robocalls and fliers giving voters the wrong day as Election Day or changing their polling place, voter intimidation, or a shortage of ballots or voting machine in dense Democratic districts.
That should be enough to get you started. I’ll add more links in the comments, and I look forward to clicking on yours. Have a great weekend!
Late Night DriftsPosted: January 27, 2011 Filed under: Barack Obama, Team Obama, the villagers, U.S. Politics, Wikileaks | Tags: Alex Pareene, Barack Obama, Claire Shipman, David Dayen, FBI Raids, Jay Carney, Jay Rosen, John McCain, Mark Salter, Operation Payback, Rick Perlstein, Robert Gibbs, snow, Wikileaks 12 Comments
I thought I put up a little news for your late night reading pleasure.
I hope all you East Coast folks have finished shoveling your driveways and sidewalks. The drifts in my driveway are almost as high as my car roof, and my sidewalk is just a narrow strip cutting through waist-high snow. When will it end?
You’ve probably heard by now that President Obama has announced his choice for Press Secretary. Jay Carney, formerly of Time Magazine and for the past two years Joe Biden’s communications director, got the nod to replace Robert Gibbs. Frankly, I always thought Carney was a Republican. Oh wait–that makes him perfect for Obama. Also, Carney is married to ABC news correspondent Claire Shipman–isn’t that a bit of a conflict?
Anyway, a few bloggers have been dishing about Carney’s past history.
At FDL, David Dayen reminisced about a Yearly Kos panel that Carney was on in 2007, and also linked to this anecdote by Jay Rosen
Jay Carney is Time magazine’s Washington bureau chief. Andrew Golis interviewed him too, on the sidewalk outside the party that Time threw on Friday night to promote its political blog, Swampland. (I read Swampland and I was there: good party.) “The blogosphere’s critique of the mainstream media has been overwhelmingly healthy and it’s made the mainstream media pay a lot of attention to details it should have been paying attention to,” he said, echoing Scherer and Fournier.
He then added something unintentionally revealing of how political journalists got themselves into the very trouble that’s forcing at least some of them to look inward. “Karen Tumulty and I— we’re not advocates, we’re not columnists.” (Tumulty, a contributor to Swampland, is Time’s national political correspondent.) “It’s our responsibility not to be labeled left or right.”
Is it now?
“That is just so wrong,” said a commenter (Lee) at Swampland, who had watched the interview. “Your job is to tell the truth.” (Regardless of how it gets you categorized.)
He sounds perfect for our post-partisan POTUS.