Tuesday Reads

good morning!!!

Well, the top story is still the Wikileak’s data drop of all those diplomatic cables.  Here’s an interesting take on all the information that was released about the Arab states and their feelings about Iran by The Atlantic.

Sure, we knew that Middle East governments were concerned about Iran. But we didn’t know to what degree. The cumulative impact of these cables is profound.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, the largest, wealthiest, and among the most conservative Middle East nations, made “frequent exhortations to the US to attack Iran and so put an end to its nuclear weapons program,” the American embassy in Riyadh reported in April 2008. “He told you to cut off the head of the snake,” one of the King’s aides reminded the American ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and Gen. David Petraeus when they were in the kingdom for a two day visit.

From tiny Bahrain, King Hamid, in a meeting with Gen. Petraeus seven months later, said that Iran was the source for much of the trouble in Iraq and Afghanistan. “He argued forcefully for taking action to terminate their nuclear program, by whatever means necessary,” according to a leaked cable from the American embassy there. “That program must be stopped,” the King told Gen. Petraeus. “The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it.”

This the same chilling language, which the American public is accustomed to hearing from hardline Israeli officials. Hearing it expressed by Muslim leaders in the Middle East might now have a profound effect on American public opinion.

Robert Mackey at the Lede Blog of the NYT has a group of things up that you may want to explore including videos and reactions from around the world.  This one from Iran and its president takes the cake.

Asked about the leaked American cables — some of which frankly reveal the enmity of Arab leaders for Iran — Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, told reporters in Tehran, “let me first correct you. The material was not leaked, but rather released in an organized way,” Iran’s state-run Press TV reported.

As my colleagues William Yong and Alan Cowell add:

Mr. Ahmadinejad said at a news conference on Monday that Iran’s relations with its neighbors would not be damaged by the reports.

“Regional countries are all friends with each other. Such mischief will have no impact on the relations of countries,” he said, according to Reuters.

“Some part of the American government produced these documents,” he said. “We don’t think this information was leaked. We think it was organized to be released on a regular basis and they are pursuing political goals.”

According to Press TV, Mr. Ahmadinejad also said the cables, “have no legal value and will not have the political effect they seek. He also called the documents released by WikiLeaks a “game,” adding that they are “not worth commenting upon and that no one would waste their time reviewing them.”

That seems to provide an answer to how Tehran would react to the disclosure of information that the leaders of several Arab countries had encouraged the United States to take action to stop its nuclear program. Speaking of Iran, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, for instance, is quoted in the documents urging Washington to “cut off the head of the snake” while there was still time.

What’s that old joke about de Nile and it not being just a river in Egypt?

Progrowth liberal has a post up about Obama’s proposed two year salary freezes for federal workers.  The title sounds oddly familiar.  I bet if you do a search of this blog, you’ll find an old post or two with that same title.  Hmmm.  The title is ‘Barack Hoover?

This strikes me as short-term fiscal restraint but not a really serious attempt to getting the long-term fiscal house in order. In other words precisely the opposite of what we should be doing while in a very depressed economy. So why would this President make such a recommendation?

Okay, so my thought was it’s really an 11th dimensional chess move by the President to make sure he gets credit for Republican policies that pass before the Republicans can do it so he can move towards reelection when he’ll REALLY start work on those FDR initiatives   Yes? (No, I didn’t write that with a straight face.)   Or, we can follow PGL’s suggestion to Lawrence (Larry)  Mishell over at Economic Policy Institute and a post called ‘Federal pay cuts:  A bad idea for what gain?’  Go check the table out–not nifty but still useful–and then you’ll see why Mishell’s bottom line is what it is.

This is another example of the administration’s tendency to bargain with itself rather than Republicans, and in the process reinforces conservative myths, in this case the myth that federal workers are overpaid. Such a policy also ignores the fact that deficit reduction and loss of pay at a time when the unemployment rate remains above 9% will only weaken a too-weak recovery

So, what I want to know is who is he listening to because it certainly doesn’t seem like it’s any economists that I can find or read.  Not even the monetarists and the conservatives are supporting these things.

The House will be voting on a bill to extend tax cuts to the middle class.  You may want to check out the process on CSPAN.  Here’s the coverage of that from The Hill. Frankly, I don’t need no stinking tax cuts.  I need a damned job! I also would like Wall Street to stop looting my retirement savings.

Lawmakers said there was only a limited discussion of the tax cut issue at a caucus meeting Monday night. No final decisions on the timing or procedure for votes are expected until after congressional leaders meet with Obama at the White House on Tuesday, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), said.

Van Hollen told reporters that the House vote would likely be held under a traditional rule, meaning Republicans would have at least one chance to offer an amendment to expand the tax cuts beyond the $250,000 level. If Democratic leaders hold the vote under suspension rules, the GOP would have no such opportunity but a two-thirds majority would be required for approval.

GOP leaders have argued against any tax hikes during a fragile economic recovery, saying that an increase for the top brackets could stifle small businesses.

Okay, so let me get this straight.  The GOP calls it “a fragile economic recovery’ for folks making more than $250k a year, but thinks that extending unemployment benefits for the nation’s long term unemployed is just about enabling whining, lazy people so it’s just a bad idea.  Right, ideology over economics and people.  Check.

Oh, speaking of ideology and bunnies over economics and people, here’s another take on that stupid video about the QE2 and the Ben Bernank.  It comes from Richard Alford–a retired economist for the NY FED–who guestposts on Naked Capitalism. (Oh, and any bunnies that talk like that down here get put into gumbo pots, just a warning.)

The video is popular and effective because it is not a detailed-footnoted-rigorous academic exercise. It humorously plays on what a substantial fraction of the audience already perceive to be true. It takes swipes at what many viewers see as an institution that is charged with promoting economic welfare yet they see it both detrimentally affecting their lives as well being arrogant and well insulated from accountability.

The Fed dismissed its critics while the housing bubble grew. It did so to its own detriment as well as to the detriment of the real economy and the financial sector. Those who defend of the Fed against the criticisms in this video may win every definitional battle, but they will lose the war for the hearts, minds and confidence of the American people.

Alford lists some things that the FED can do to counter the perceptions in the video that are at the heart of its effectiveness and viral status.  It is more about how people feel rather than what they don’t know.

A liberal response was released to the Cat Food Commission. Matt Yglesias overviews it and links to the entire document. You may want to check it out. It doesn’t recommend devastating Social Security which is nice. If my kids were to support ruining  Social Security, my assumption would be that they’re planning a house with a room for me some time soon. You might try that tactic with any mouthy young’n wanting privatization near you. Tell them that their moms will be moving back in with them or ask your kids which sofa is yours and when is it okay to move in?   (Actually, I have to h/t Susie Madrak for that one. It’s a good suggestion.) This blueprint balances the budget by 2018.

Liberals didn’t like the Simpson-Bowles deficit plan largely because neither Simpson nor Bowles is a liberal so their proposal doesn’t encapsulate liberal thinking. Today the Our Fiscal Security coalition, comprised of Demos, the Economic Policy Institute, and the Century Foundation have released their fiscal blueprint which shows you would that liberal take would look like.

If you go to the site, you’ll find more details on Our Fiscal Security. It also has a lot of interesting links to facts on the budget, the deficit, taxes, jobs, and the recovery.

Putting our nation on a path of broad prosperity will require generating new jobs, investing in key areas, modernizing and restoring our revenue base, and greatly increasing the cost efficiency of the health care system. Achieving these goals, however, will require an informed and engaged public to help set national priorities.

The following report puts forth a blueprint that invests in America and creates jobs now, while putting the federal budget on a long-term sustainable path. We document the hard choices that need to be made and suggest specific policies that will yield lower deficits and a sustainable debt while preserving essential initiatives and investments.

Not that’s a refreshing change to the statements of glee about gridlocking the federal government and all its services coming from Simpson McScrooge doesn’t it?

Oh, and in keep in line with all of this spending stuff, did you read this at HuffPo?

The Obama administration will spend less than a quarter of the $50 billion it promised to homeowners facing foreclosure, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said in a report Monday.

The CBO projection raises fresh questions about the success of the administration’s foreclosure-prevention efforts and its commitment to helping homeowners, even as unemployment hovers near 10 percent. Corporations and large banks appear to be in full-fledged recovery — last quarter, corporate profits reached an all-time high of $1.66 trillion on an annual basis — but households and small businesses seem to have been left out.

Washington policymakers talk constantly about helping “Main Street” recover from the steepest downturn since the Great Depression. Spending less than a quarter of the money promised to help residents of “Main Street” keep their homes may not seem in line with that goal

Okay, so, that’s about it from me this morning.  I’m not sure how much  of this FDR-style policy I can handle.  I might become a socialist and you’ll have to search under your beds for me daily.

[MABlue’s spooky pick]
Because BostonBoomer did a great job spooking us early this morning, I decided to stick with the program by sharing a story I read a couple of days ago.
CIA successfully inherited KGB’s psychoactive drugs technology

“The most important evidence to prove the use of psychotropic substances in “the land of the free” is the “KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation” manual, which was declassified in 1997. The manual was used by CIA counterintelligence from 1963 to 1985. According to the document, US special services used such methods as disrupting human biorhythms, threats, physical violence, hypnosis and narcotics.

“The USA used such methods in all armed conflicts in which the country was involved. Now look at what they do to Guantanamo prisoners. To crown it all, The Washington Times wrote in 2001 that US federal courts could approve the use of the serum of truth in the search for Bin Laden.

“Therefore, it does not seem appropriate for Americans or British to stir hysteria about “brutal Russians using inhuman methods for obtaining confessionary statements”

Oh! While you’re there you can also read this:
C.I.A.: Cocaine Import Agency

The increase of drugs in the U.S. and the EU, and the global drug trade, go hand in hand with imperial military expansion around the world. The “fight against drugs is a farce … ”

The Mercury News of San Jose, California, revealed that CIA agents sold hundreds of tons of cocaine in the U.S. during the years of the conflict in Nicaragua, in order to obtain funds for the Contras (US-created paramilitaries to prevent the Sandinista revolution). The report explains that Contra leaders met with a CIA agent to plan the operation. The drugs were transported in military aircraft to airports in Texas.

The drugs were first distributed in the black ghettos of Los Angeles, California, from there it spread throughout the country. In the early 80’s, crack and cocaine ravaged neighborhoods in the U.S., destroying the brains and the will to fight and protest.


What’s on your reading and blogging list today?