FM newswire for 11 February, articles for your morning reading

Today’s links to interesting news and analysis.  If you find this useful, pass it to a friend or colleague. 

  1. At last the bare bones of a political platform for the Tea Party:  “Convention Is Trying to Harness Tea Party Spirit“, New York Times, 6 February 2010 — TP’s want smaller government.  But do they have small expecations of what they want government to do for them?  That’s the test of their seriousness.
  2. The future has arrived early:  “Rash of retirements pushes Social Security to brink“, USA Today, 7 February 2010
  3. The news media’s suicide, which Clay Shirkey refuses to see:  “Why the Media Ignored a Scandal, Byron York, TownHall, 8 February 2010
  4. The sisyphean task of rebuttals to war propaganda:  “AP Article Fuels Iran War Hysteria“, AnitWar, 8 February 2010
  5. Rolling the stone back up yet again:  “Repeating Pentagon Lies on Gitmo Recidivism“, Andy Worthington, The Future of Freedom Foundation, 8 February 2010
  6. How Popular is the Tea Party Movement?”, Matthew Yglesias, ThinkProgress, 9 February 2010
  7. Green-Washing – Reports of the Iranian regime’s imminent demise are greatly exaggerated“, Jason Rezaian, Slate, 9 February 2010
  8. Stimulus programs are only first aid; they only buy time to fix the problems.  We’ve not instituted any banking reforms.  This tells the sorry story:  “OTC Derivatives: Is the DTCC Too Big To Fail?“, Richard C. Whalen (cofounder of co-founder of Institutional Risk Analytics), Zero Hedge, 9 February 2010
  9. NOAA acts to ensure that policymakers will continue to receive an inappropriately narrow view of our actual knowledge with respect to climate science:  “The New National Climate Service“, Roger Pielke Sr, 9 February 2010
  10. China feels its strength:  “China PLA officers urge economic punch against U.S.“, Reuters, 9 February 2010
  11. Has the New York Times become a blog:  “All the News That Fit the Foreign Press Last Month“, Mark Steyn, National Review Online, 9 February 2010 — The NYT’s death wish, visible to everyone except professional journalists.

Today’s features (great excerpts with mild titles):

(A)  Conservatives and civil rights, a sad divorce
(B)  A great article about the new American populism
(C)  Today’s must-read article:  “How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America”

(A)  Conservatives and civil rights, a sad divorce

The Ontology of Miranda Rights“, Matthew Yglesias, ThinkProgress, 5 February 2010 — Excerpt:

The underlying issue here, as I’ve been saying, is that conservatives think that any constraint on the state security apparatus is too much. They believe, contrary to all of the evidence, that the rule-bound criminal justice system can’t or doesn’t function and that things would be better if we scrapped all the rules. And, indeed, in the civilian context they’ve worked steadily and systematically over a period of decades to weaken the constitutional protections as much as possible, and bring us as close as possible to their dream scenario of limitless state-sponsored violence. The desire to push certain categories of people (non-citizens) or certain categories of suspects (terrorists) out of the constitutionally protected realm is just part-and-parcel of that broad-based assault on the idea of a rule-bound justice system.

Couldn’t Happen To Me“, Adam Serwer, blog of The American Prospect, 5 February 2010 — Excerpt:

I don’t really think this part about “certain categories” is peripheral to this argument. Conservatives didn’t merely support “state violence,” William F. Buckley‘s 1957 declaration that the South was “entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas where [they do] not predominate numerically.” This was an endorsement of vigilante violence against black people, so that white people might still clutch the reins of power. As long as the violence of the state is being used against a defined other who lacks the defined cultural “birthright,” whether it be an illegal immigrant, a suspected terrorist, or a black kid walking home from school, such state-sponsored violence is inherently legitimate. The mere possibility that the state might use its resources against groups conservatives identify with provokes massive hysteria, and even when such concerns are legitimate, they don’t extend to anyone outside a narrowly defined group. The point is that conservatives don’t so much endorse “limitless” state violence — it’s limited in the sense that it should only be applied to “those people.” This also may help to explain some of the paranoia about Obama’s “re-education camps” and such — for the first time, the head of state is one of “those people.”

(B)  A great article about the new American populism

The Populism Problem“, James Surowiecki, The New Yorker, 15 February 2010 — Brilliant summary of our situation. Please read in full.  Here provides clear and compelling examples to support his theory.

It’s been the political equivalent of an intervention: in recent weeks, Democrats have been bombarded with advice about how they should reinvent their economic agenda. The electorate, we hear, wants Barack Obama to be more of an economic populist but less of an ambitious reformer. He has to aggressively create jobs but also be less spendthrift. This advice may be contradictory, but then so are the economic opinions of the many angry voters who are animating what’s being called the new populism. Whereas the economic populism of the eighteen-nineties and the right-wing cultural populism of recent years represented reasonably coherent ideologies, this new populism has stitched together incompatible concerns and goals into one “I’m mad as hell” quilt. The people may have spoken. It’s just not clear that they’re making any sense. …

(C)  Today’s must-read article

How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America“, Don Peck, The Atlantic, March 2010 — Summary:

The Great Recession may be over, but this era of high joblessness is probably just beginning. Before it ends, it will likely change the life course and character of a generation of young adults. It will leave an indelible imprint on many blue-collar men. It could cripple marriage as an institution in many communities. It may already be plunging many inner cities into a despair not seen for decades. Ultimately, it is likely to warp our politics, our culture, and the character of our society for years to come.


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11 thoughts on “FM newswire for 11 February, articles for your morning reading”

  1. The incredible thing about the media’s Edwards coverage is that, while they ignored the sex scandal, they went on endlessly about the $400 haircut. The media comes across like a high school clique. To be part of the in crowd, you cover certain stories but ignore others.

    I could tell you stories about Kenya that would curdle your blood. From publicly available sources And Kenya’s right next to Somalia. . But all we hear about Kenya is Obama’s birth certificate. And, BTW, did you know that Obama is a Luo and not a Kikuyu? When it comes to things Kenyan, that matters. A lot.

    Is any of this covered. Of course not. It’s not fashionable.
    FM reply: Fashionable or not, it is financial suicide. A newspaper that does not cover hot stories is dead. The corpse might take a while to cool, but it’s dead. All Clay Shirkely’s talk of technology only indicates journalists’ delusional disconnect from their business.

  2. That Peck piece is one of the most depressing things I’ve read recently. I’m only 29, but it seems that the poor choices of generations prior have, for their own gratification, condemned me to a working life of sacrifice and hardship. I’ll be honest – I don’t feel much personal duty to accept a life of slavery, and if it is forced upon me against my will, I would be willing to see the whole damn thing collapse, even if I go down with it.

    I know, this is irrational and possibly hyperbolic. And I try, really, to remain optimistic. But when I am honest with myself, I have to admit I don’t think any solution is politically possible that will avoid the fiscal ruin of the republic. What crisis this precipitates and what hell lies beyond is a singularity – a “veil” of tears past which I cannot even speculate, but I am oddly resigned to this fate. I guess there’s always nostalgia.

    Sorry to ramble, I just wanted to get these thoughts and fears off my chest.
    FM reply: Unfortunately that looks like a logical analysis. Fortunately there are grounds for hope.

    First, America has successfully more difficult problems. That provides a strong basis for faith.

    Second, some of these are easy. The largest component of the government’s libabilities is health care. Many other nations have systems far superior to our, any of which would solve this problem. We can mix and match, ending with a better system. We lack only the will. The onset of the crisis will, I hope, provide that.

    Third, none of these are existentially difficult problems. As was slavery. WWII. The Cold War, with the risk of atomic war. These are poltiical and economic problems, which are inherently solvable with strong social cohesion, determination to work through to a good conclusion, and confidence in our political regime.

  3. Re: How popular is the tea party movement by Matthew Yglesias –

    Apparently, amongst the commentariat it is very popular.

  4. Of course, we must ensure that legistlators will not be abused in violation of their labor laws. Assuming, of course, they actually HAVE any labor laws.

  5. Re: death of newspapers. I submit the following (alleged) headlines:

    Man Kills Self Before Shooting Wife and Daughter
    Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says
    Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers
    Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over
    Miners Refuse to Work after Death
    Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant
    War Dims Hope for Peace
    If Strike Isn’t Settled Quickly, It May Last Awhile
    Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures
    Enfield ( London ) Couple Slain; Police Suspect Homicide
    Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges
    Man Struck By Lightning: Faces Battery charge
    New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group
    Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Spacecraft
    Kids Make Nutritious Snacks
    Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half
    Hospitals are Sued by 7 Foot Doctors
    And the winner is…. Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead

  6. In reference to the Surowiecki article the following quote from a USA TODAY editorial offers a nice summation:
    “Adding to the president’s problems is that the impatient national audience seems almost impossible to please. People want cheaper, more affordable medical insurance coverage, but not the tradeoffs that would make that possible. They want jobs, but they’re wildly critical of government spending and big deficits.”
    (Source, accessed on 02/11/2010, 11:39 EST)
    I am 62 years old and have believed in the Republic and the Constitution all of my life since coming of age and really understanding what the social contract can mean in terms of safety and prosperity for the community. During the Reagan administration I was very disappointed in the body politic worship of a philosophy which sought to destroy the Civil Service system and begin the dissolution of the social contract. “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” (, accessed on 02/11/2010, 12:35 EST) I was even more disappointed by the way the Clinton/Gore administration attacked Civil Service with their “right sizing” nonsense. And so it continued through Bush II and now into the Obama administration.
    We live in a large complex system and it cannot be administered on the cheap by a mob of entrepreneurs. The marketplace nurtures the entrepreneurial spirit and it should. IMO government requires a literate, highly motivated public service corp. There is a certain amount of chaos necessary for the marketplace to perform efficiently. Conversely, good governance requires structure. Both are vital to a liberal democracy but they are orthogonal to another.
    The contract also requires that the civil service system be well regulated by independent auditors and investigators such as Inspectors General. Public officials must be held accountable when they betray the public trust. Otherwise we have our current system where we only hear rhetoric admonishing us to move forward and not dwell on past mistakes. Mistakes are one thing but lying about the reasons for which this country must make war is to my mind a crime.

  7. The real truth about the tea parties? An astroturf scam run by billionaires — specifically, by the Scaife and Koch families to crush health care reform and other initiatives that threaten those sweet sweet profits from their subsidiaries.

    * “Loose Network of Activists Drives Reform Opposition“, Washington Post, 16 August 2009
    * “Washington Post Links FreedomWorks, Tea Party, Koch Family, Only 5 Months After Ames & Levine“, Mark Ames, The Exiled, 16 August 2009

  8. A quote from the Peck article:

    “Perhaps it will leave us humbler, and gentler toward one another, too—at least in the long run. A recent paper by the economists Paola Giuliano and Antonio Spilimbergo shows that generations that endured a recession in early adulthood became more concerned about inequality and more cognizant of the role luck plays in life. And in his book, Children of the Great Depression, Glen Elder wrote that adolescents who experienced hardship in the 1930s became especially adaptable, family-oriented adults; perhaps, as a result of this recession, today’s adolescents will be pampered less and counted on for more, and will grow into adults who feel less entitled than recent generations.”

    Perhaps. I fear, however, that this shift will be an isolated one, kept away from the elites in power. When I read articles like “What’s really driving skyrocketing prices {Tuitition}“, how I can think anything else?

    This brings up a question that I have had for some time, and would love to have answered by someone on this blog (FM- feel free to post in your next question thread, if you don’t want to take a stab at it here). To what extent are we in a “poor man’s recession”? Have the effects of this recession been felt more or less equally across class divides, or have the elites managed to shelter themselves while the rest of the country must suffer through the storm? I suspect the latter, but have seen no evidence either way.
    FM reply: The key benefit of wealth is that it isolates the bearer from the shocks of the economy. Income comes and goes, but a portfolio of high grade bonds provides cash like water from the tap. At some level of economic destruction even the wealthy suffer (nor all fortunes are equally well founded), but in general the answer to your question is “no”.

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