Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) has been the leading Senate Republican urging the upper chamber of Congress to ratify the New START arms control treaty with Russia. However, the Republican obstructionism that has become so routine throughout the past two years of President Obama’s tenure is standing in the way. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) has been the face of the GOP hamstringing and despite the fact that this non-controversial treaty — one that closely mirrors the one President Reagan signed with the Soviet Union — has been thoroughly debated in the Senate for nearly a year, Kyl told the New York Times, “If they try to jam us [in the lame-duck session], if they try to bring this up the week before Christmas, it?ll be defeated.”
Lugar has been reluctant to criticize his colleagues’ obstruction. When asked last week if they were just playing politics, Lugar said, “I am not ascribing motivations to anybody.” But other Republicans don’t seem to be holding back. Brent Scowcroft served as national security adviser to two Republican presidents and has been pleading with Congress to ratify New START. Profiling Lugar’s awkward position vis-a-vis other Senate Republicans on this issue, Politico reports today that Scrowcroft isn’t being as diplomatic as Lugar on the GOP’s incentive for holding up START:
In an attempt to rally bipartisan support for the treaty, the White House has enlisted the kind of GOP foreign policy wise men that Lugar exemplifies ? among them former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and James A. Baker. But they have had no success with members of their own party, and it has left them scratching their heads over the source of the GOP opposition.
?It?s not clear to me what it is,? said Brent Scowcroft, a former national security adviser to President George H.W. Bush who noted that this START treaty is not very different from previous ones negotiated and ratified under Republican presidents. ?I?ve got to think that it?s the increasingly partisan nature and the desire for the president not to have a foreign policy victory.?
The GOP opposition to START has become so laughable that even some are invoking Reagan. Indiana state senator Mike Delph, who may challenge Lugar in a primary, criticized Lugar’s support for START, saying last week that Obama and Lugar “need to remember Reagan?s philosophy of Peace through Strength.”
Outside of Scowcroft, the obvious partisanship surrounding the Kyl-led obstruction hasn’t gone unnoticed. The Wonk Room’s Max Bergmann notes that “the nation?s major newspapers, members of the military and even many Republicans have publicly denounced Kyl and Senate Republicans for their START objection.”
In an age when far-right tea party activists have taken over the Republican Party and demanded lockstep allegiance, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) has been one of the few GOP lawmakers to step out of line. In particular, Lugar, the ranking GOP member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has blasted his own party for relentlessly blocking ratification of the New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia, calling on his fellow GOP senators to “do your duty for your country” and complete the pact.
Not surprisingly, this insubordination has earned Lugar significant scorn within the Republican base, which now seems to value blind obedience over principled independent decision-making. In a New York Times profile of Lugar published today, former GOP Sen. John Danforth feared that the backlash against Lugar from his own party signals that the GOP has gone “far overboard” with no hope of turning back:
?If Dick Lugar,? said John C. Danforth, a former Republican senator from Missouri, ?having served five terms in the U.S. Senate and being the most respected person in the Senate and the leading authority on foreign policy, is seriously challenged by anybody in the Republican Party, we have gone so far overboard that we are beyond redemption.?
Mr. Danforth, who was first elected the same year as Mr. Lugar, added, ?I?m glad Lugar?s there and I?m not.?
Danforth’s fears are not unfounded. Lugar, who is up for reelection in 2012, has already been targeted by tea party groups. ?If I was Dick Lugar, I would certainly expect a challenge,? noted veteran political analyst Stuart Rothenberg. As Diane Hubbard, a spokeswoman for the Indianapolis Tea Party, told the Times, removing Lugar ?will be a difficult challenge. But we do believe it?s doable, and we think the climate is right for it and we believe it is a must.?
Indeed, asked about a potential tea party challenge motivated by his breaks with the GOP on START and other issues, Lugar suggested the party has drifted to the right while he has stayed steady, saying, “These are just areas where I?ve had stances for a long time.”
In Mark Harris? classic baseball novel, Bang The Drum Slowly, players and coaches for the mythical New York Mammoths (modeled after the New York Yankees) fill the dead hours spent in hotels while on road trips by adjourning to the hotel lobby where[...]
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Apparently someone let the interns loose at Fox News with what they posted over the holiday weekend, or their "news" network just doesn't care that they're looked at as a joke more than they already are. From Mediaite -- FoxNation.com Reposts Anti-Obama Article From The Onion, Doesn?t Mention It?s A Joke:
Most people recognize The Onion as the Peabody Award-winning satire machine that it is. Some people, however, don?t. Which is why we get a story like this every few months. Of course, it?s sometimes easy to mistake an Onion article for the real thing since the writers make sure to skew as close to their targets as possible. It also doesn?t hurt when real news outlets reprint the satirists? work and decide not to let their readers know it?s a joke, as Fox Nation did today.
Yes, the Fox Nation editors were apparently so enamored with an Onion piece from today entitled ?Frustrated Obama Sends Nation Rambling 75,000-Word E-Mail? that they reposted the first two paragraphs in their culture section with nary a sign as to its fictional nature. The only clue that this wasn?t real (besides a quick peek at your inbox to confirm that Barack Obama hasn?t been emailing you) was a link at the bottom instructing readers to go to TheOnion.com for the real story. This tiny link was, unfortunately, not enough for the vast majority of FN readers. At least, that?s the way it seems from the comments section. [...]
Whether Fox Nation reposted this story without a disclaimer accidentally, as a prank, or because of something more sinister, we?ll leave up to you decide. However, Fox Nation should be aware that, sad as it may be, not everyone is familiar with the brilliance that is The Onion. And for every one of my aunts who forwards me this article today, I?m going to be very, very angry at them.
I included an Onion video linked above which apparently one of the commenters here might not have realized was satire as well. If they did they forgot to put the words satire or snark into their response.
I'll just leave one last note on Fox and this story. If they were actually just incompetent or lazy instead of intentionally misleading their readers, it means their network is even worse than I thought. They're not only feeding their listeners and viewers a line of B.S. when they mean to, but by accident as well. Bravo Rupert and Roger. You've managed to take your propaganda network to a new low.
Thanksgiving always is an emotionally complicated time for me. It was just days before Thanksgiving in 1991 that I was diagnosed with cancer, and someone very important to someone close to me just recently was diagnosed with cancer. And then I heard about Kris.
The blogger known as exmearden was among the first I came to know, when I really started spending time at Daily Kos. What first struck me about her were her sense of humor and her astonishing wisdom; and as a writer, I appreciated the pure artistry of her writing. Few here were in her league.
We soon discovered that we had gone to neighboring and rival high schools in the exurban Portland of the 1970s, and it later amused us that we both ended up being invited to be Featured Writers at Daily Kos. It must have been the water. And it felt right that I followed in her footsteps. She was a few years older than me, and so grand in spirit and unassuming in demeanor, one couldn't know her without hoping to learn from her. One couldn't know her without learning from her.
When she was diagnosed with cancer, I shared some of my own experiences, having endured chemo and radiation nearly twenty years earlier, but she already had surpassed me in the wisdom one gleans from the cancer experience. She was fearless even in facing her fears. One needs but read her writings here at Daily Kos to understand that she faced death with an honesty and openness that few do. She embraced it as fully as she embraced life. She loved and cherished her every remaining moment, squeezing more out of her final year than most do out of entire lifetimes.
When I had cancer, a close friend asked if I ever wondered: Why me? I told her that I didn't. I told her that given that one in three Americans will, at some point, be diagnosed with cancer, I felt: Why not me? Cancer happens. It's sometimes random. It happened to me. There was neither rhyme nor reason. It just did. Kris felt the same about her own diagnosis.
A year and a half ago, a different friend asked the same about a close friend of mine, who had just been killed in an auto accident. A speeding semi veered into his car, in a national park in Uganda, killing him and leaving his wife twice widowed and seriously injured. My friend wondered: Why? Why him? Why her?
Another friend asked how I took the news. He wondered if I tried to think my way through it. If I tried to look for cosmic explanations, or if I was angry at the Universe, or if I was trying to look for silver linings. I wasn't. My friend wanted to make sure that I wasn't trying to think my way through the emotional trauma, because he wanted to make sure I was allowing myself to feel my way through it. To allow the pain to wash over me, and through me. Which is the only real way to respond to emotional trauma. Did I allow myself to cry? I certainly did. And I did, off and on, for days.
As I wrote, some time ago, when first I was hospitalized to be tested for what turned out to be cancer, I was alone; but a human saint came to my room, just to check in, and to let me know that although her shift was ending, she wanted to introduce herself because she would be my nurse the next day. And she asked what I knew, how I felt, and if I was frightened. And then she asked if I'd cried. Don't be afraid to cry, she told me. At that point, it had been literally years since I'd cried. I've gotten better at it, since.
In some schools of Buddhism, there is a concept of conscious suffering. That suffering is a fundamental part of life, and that we shouldn't fear it or hide from it. That we should, in fact, nakedly embrace it, no matter how painful. We're all suffering, all the time. The most basic reason for it is our mortality, and our consciousness of our mortality; but we all have plenty of other sorrows, many of them profound. And while it's not good to wallow in conscious suffering, unconscious suffering-- running from it, or trying to numb it-- which is how most people deal with it, even though it doesn't work-- at best creates only a sort of emotionally displaced equilibrium. It leads to psychological and emotional stasis. To really learn and grow and evolve and heal and work things through means facing suffering head on, however complicated or intense.
If we don't consciously come to terms with our suffering, we don't consciously come to terms with life itself. If we don't consciously come to terms with our suffering, it comes back at us in unforeseen and even more damaging ways. Conscious suffering shouldn't be the focus of our lives, but neither should we ignore it. To fully experience life's joys and wonders necessitates our also fully experiencing its pains and sorrows.
There is so much beauty and love in the world, but there also is so much horror and alienation and hatred. They are all part of the matrix of existence. We have to look deeply into all of them. We have to keep our eyes open. We have to try to understand them, but we also have to understand that some things are beyond understanding. We have to experience them for what they are, as they are. We have to feel them. When they arise, as they arise. Without fear.
Upton Sinclair famously wrote about another economic crisis: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it."
For today's economic crisis, I'll update that to: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something he has been mis-educated to not understand."
I think there is a third factor that has hampered and will continue to thwart the formulation and implementation of any progressive economic agenda: the economic illiteracy of the American people. Without some means to educate the public, the media, and our elected leaders about progressive economic alternatives to our current economic crisis, conservative politicians with their message discipline will continue to sway an electorate that is woefully ignorant on economic matters with simplistic and illogical soundbites passing as policy solutions.
Now, I define economic literacy, for the sake of this blog, as understanding SOME of the tenants of basic economics. In other words, stuff you should have learned in at least high school or maybe even college. This does not mean that you or I should be able to hold forth on the complexities of economic theory with the likes of Paul Krugman, but I do think that a basic knowledge of economics should involve understanding the definition of economics - the study of scarcity and how people deal with scarcity of resources - and a few key concepts. NOTE: I am not an economist, but I did take micro and macroeconomics in college many years ago.
Sadly - no, tragically - most Americans don't know a damn thing about economics. . . .
Everything I know about economics I learned from reading Paul Krugman, but apparently even that terrific writer's clear prose is not enough to overcome what Krugman himself called "invincible ignorance."
This isn't a debate between Keynes and Friedman, or even a discussion about what Adam Smith meant by the "invisible hand."
This is an existential fight against ignorance. For half a century, rethuglicans have fought to undermine and destroy public education. Now they have finally achieved their goal: an electorate unable to distinguish facts from lies, much less make informed decisions about policy.
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John Bellinger has been publicly suggesting the Obama Administration had exceeded the terms of the AUMF for some time. So it is unsurprising that he took the opportunity of a Republican House, the incoming Armed Services Chair's explicit support for a[...]
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Paul Krugman and Brad DeLong have reflective posts about the state of economics and the U.S. economy. Both pieces are thoughtful and attempt the long view. Here I'll highlight the Krugman post.
In a piece entitled "The Instability of Moderation", Krugman tries to determine why the economic-political consensus, which has ruled the policy world for the last 75 years, has failed. (I'm counting roughly since 1935.)
In the same way that our modern "managed markets" were not supposed to fail, and hadn't since the New Deal era, modern market management policy, enacted by political and economic elites working together, was not supposed to fail.
Yet both did fail. In 2008 the market itself came close to completely apart. Krugman notes that the cause was that the policy consensus, the tool by which markets were corrected, had already come apart. He wonders why that occurred.
But watching the failure of policy over the past three years, I find myself believing, more and more, that this failure has deep roots ? that we were in some sense doomed to go through this. Specifically, I now suspect that the kind of moderate economic policy regime Brad and I both support ? a regime that by and large lets markets work, but in which the government is ready both to rein in excesses and fight slumps ? is inherently unstable. It?s something that can last for a generation or so, but not much longer.The Professor then goes on to detail the reasons for the intellectual instability and the political instability. The "intellectual instability" he refers to is the inability of the economics profession (by which he means, without saying it, actual humans, the "professionals") to hold the differing assumptions of macroeconomics and microeconomics in their heads at the same time over a period of two generations. The result:
By ?unstable? I don?t just mean Minsky-type financial instability, although that?s part of it. Equally crucial are the regime?s intellectual and political instability.
The result was what I?ve called the Dark Age of macroeconomics, in which large numbers of economists literally knew nothing of the hard-won insights of the 30s and 40s ? and, of course, went into spasms of rage when their ignorance was pointed out.I think he's too kind (see below). About the political instability, he discusses the moderating effect, through this intellectual Dark Age, of the independent central bank:
If we?re living in a Dark Age of macroeconomics, central banks have been its monasteries, hoarding and studying the ancient texts [i.e., macroeconomic wisdom] lost to the rest of the world. Even as the real business cycle people took over the professional journals, to the point where it became very hard to publish models in which monetary policy, let alone fiscal policy, matters, the research departments of the Fed system continued to study counter-cyclical policy in a relatively realistic way. [But] sooner or later the barbarians were going to go after the monasteries too; and as the current furor over quantitative easing shows, the invading hordes have arrived.The whole thing came apart when a "too big to fail" crisis, a Minsky Moment, required that policy ignorance cooperate with central-bank wisdom. Oops; policy ignorance prevailed:
In the end, then, the era of the Samuelsonian synthesis was, I fear, doomed to come to a nasty end. And the result is the wreckage we see all around us.Why am I presenting this? First, because it really represents an attempt at a clear-eyed, intellectually honest looking back, something others are starting to do as well. That discussion is worth following.
The New Yorker features a thought-provoking article called "What Good is Wall Street?" Reading it made me think of this song from Mary Poppins, "Fidelity Fiduciary Bank." Amazing, how timely this song is!
Today is Small Business Saturday. American Express will give a $25 credit to your account for shopping small box this weekend. The stores you shop at don't even need to accept AmEx, which is a good thing since most small businesses can't afford to honor their cards. The 3/50 org has more good reasons for you to shop local.
Of course, I recommend you shop at a bookstore. You can find your local bookstore at indybound, or for those of you in the Northwest, we now have Northwest Booklover'sthanks to the PNBA for this site. PNBA also brings us the Holiday Catalog (simple pdf), and here are a few of my favorites:
Something Fishy This Way Comes by Ray Troll (Sasquatch Boooks, $19.95) This best of Ray Troll's art will be sure to get chuckles from fishermen or lovers of bad puns.
Hiking Washington's History by Judy Bentley (University of Washington Press, $18.95) will give you more background than you'll get from the historical marker at trailshead or highway pull-outs. UW Press has sample chapters to peruse.
One of my favorite novels this year is now in paperback, The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter (HarperCollins, $14.99)
A Secret Gift: How One Man's Kindness--and a Trove of Letters--Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression by Ted Gup (Penguin Press, $25.95) This one really tugs at the heart, Ted Gup found a cache of letters in his grandfather's possessions that told the story of an anonymous donor who offered $5 to 150 people during the height of the depression. Check out this dedicated issue of Shelf Awareness, for pictures and an author interview.
And finally we come to the time of November you've all been looking forward to: this year's shortlist of titles nominated to The Bad Sex Award are covered in the Guardian. The winner will be announced November 29th at the In and Out Lounge in London.
These books are available at Jackson Street Books and other fine Independent bookstores. We're on FaceBook now.As always, books ordered here will have a freebie publishers Advance Reading Copy included as a thank you to our blogosphere friends.