November 5, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 7:24 PM

FROM SOFT-HEADED TO ROUNDHEADED:

Labour 'repositioning' itself on Europe - David Miliband  (BBC, 11/02/12)

Labour's support for a cut in the European Union budget shows the party is "repositioning" itself over Europe, David Miliband has said.

The former foreign secretary said his party had not become "anti-Europe" but was no longer "soft-headed"...

Posted by orrinj at 6:48 PM

WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH PEOPLE WHO HATE KANSAS?:

To the Precinct Station: How theory met practice ...and drove it absolutely crazy (Thomas Frank, The Baffler No. 21)

A while later I happened to watch an online video of an Occupy panel discussion held at a bookstore in New York; at some point in the recording, a panelist objected to the way protesters had of saying they were "speaking for themselves" rather than acknowledging that they were part of a group. Another one of the panelists was moved to utter this riposte:

What I would note, is that people can only speak for themselves, that the self would be under erasure there, in that the self is then held into question, as any poststructuralist thought leading through anarchism would push you towards. . . . I would agree, an individualism that our society has definitely had inscribed upon it and continues to inscribe upon itself, "I can only speak for myself," the "only" is operative there, and of course these spaces are being opened up . . .

My heart dropped like a broken elevator. As soon as I heard this long, desperate stream of pseudointellectual gibberish, I knew instantly that this thing was doomed.


"There is a danger," the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek warned the Occupy Wall Street encampment in Zuccotti Park last year, and he wasn't referring to the New York Police Department. "Don't fall in love with yourselves." [...]


Nearly all of these books wander more or less directly into the "danger" Žižek warned against. They are deeply, hopelessly in love with this protest. Each one takes for granted that the Occupy campaign was world-shaking and awe-inspiring--indeed, this attitude is often asserted in the books' very titles: This Changes Everything: Occupy Wall Street and the 99% Movement (Berrett-Koehler, $9.95), for example. The authors heap up the superlatives without restraint or caution. "The 99% has awakened," writes the editor of Voices From the 99 Percent: An Oral History of the Occupy Wall Street Movement (Red and Black, $15.99). "The American political landscape will never again be the same." What happened in Zuccotti Park was "unprecedented," declares Noam Chomsky. "There's never been anything like it that I can think of." But that is nothing when compared to the enthusiasm of former New York Times reporter Chris Hedges. In Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt (Nation Books, $28) he compares Occupy to the 1989 revolutions in East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Romania. The protesters in New York, he writes,

were disorganized at first, unsure of what to do, not even convinced they had achieved anything worthwhile, but they had unwittingly triggered a global movement of resistance that would reverberate across the country and in the capitals of Europe. The uneasy status quo, effectively imposed for decades by the elites, was shattered. Another narrative of power took shape. The revolution began.

Or had it begun twelve years previously? In 1999, you might recall, lefties nationwide swooned to hear about the WTO protests in Seattle; surely the tide was beginning to turn. Then, in 2008, liberal commentators swooned again for Senator Barack Obama: he was the leader we had been waiting for all these years. Then, in 2012, they swooned in precisely the same way for Occupy: it was totally unprecedented, it was the revolution, et cetera. I don't object to any of these causes, as it happens--I supported Occupy; I voted for Obama; I was excited about the 1999 protests--but I can't stand the swooning. These books were written by educated people, certain of them experts on social movements. Why must they plunge so ecstatically into uncritical groupthink? [...]


Measured in terms of words published per political results, on the other hand, OWS may be the most over-described historical event of all time. Nearly every one of these books makes sweeping claims for the movement's significance, its unprecedented and earth-shattering innovations. Just about everything it does is brilliantly, inventively, mind-blowingly people-empowering.

And what do we have to show for it today in our "normal lives"? Not much. President Obama may talk about the "top 1 percent" now, but he is apparently as committed as ever to austerity, to striking a "grand bargain" with the Republicans.

Occupy itself is pretty much gone. It was evicted from Zuccotti Park about two months after it began--an utterly predictable outcome for which the group seems to have made inadequate preparation. OWS couldn't bring itself to come up with a real set of demands until after it got busted, when it finally agreed on a single item. With the exception of some residual groups here and there populated by the usual activist types, OWS has today pretty much fizzled out. The media storm that once surrounded it has blown off to other quarters.

Pause for a moment and compare this record of accomplishment to that of Occupy's evil twin, the Tea Party movement, and the larger right-wing revival of which it is a part. Well, under the urging of this trumped-up protest movement, the Republican Party proceeded to win a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives; in the state legislatures of the nation it took some six hundred seats from the Democrats; as of this writing it is still purging Republican senators and congressmen deemed insufficiently conservative and has even succeeded in having one of its own named as the GOP's vice-presidential candidate.

The question that the books under consideration here seek to answer is: What is the magic formula that made OWS so successful? But it's exactly the wrong question. What we need to be asking about Occupy Wall Street is: Why did this effort fail? How did OWS blow all the promise of its early days? Why do even the most popular efforts of the Left come to be mired in a gluey swamp of academic talk and pointless antihierarchical posturing?

It's not about empowering people, just stroking the self.
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Posted by orrinj at 6:44 PM

ALSO KNOWN AS THE FIFTH TERM OF CLINTON/GINGRICH:

Bush's Third Term (JEREMY LOTT, 11.5.12, American Spectator)

Candidate Barack Obama presented himself as an agent of hope and change, a dramatic break with the failed policies and cynical politics of a tired, retiring president. That is not, to put it mildly, how things have panned out. Once electoral fervor dies down, scholars will surely notice something rather awkward: from a distance, the first term of the Obama administration looks a whole lot like a third term for George W. Bush.

And whoever wins tomorrow will govern just like Clinton and W and Blair and Cameron and Harper and Key and Howard...
Posted by orrinj at 6:39 PM

COMIC GOLD!:

The Coming Post-Election GOP Freak Out : If Romney loses on Tuesday, watch for the right's outrage machine to kick into high gear. (Michael Tomasky Nov 4, 2012, Daily Beast)

What's the state of mind this weekend of the conservative outrage machine? With regard to liberals, I think it's fair to say as of Saturday that most of us (excepting your allowed-for percentage of nervous nellies) expect Barack Obama to win. If he somehow doesn't, we'll be surprised and deeply depressed. But provided the outcome doesn't involve some kind of Florida-style shenanigans, in a couple days' time, we'll come to terms with it.

When parody is done right it's sublime and, given the premise of the rest of the essay, tossing in that bit about how he and his ilk still aren't over 2000 can only be parodistic...right?


Posted by orrinj at 6:22 PM

ONLY INSTAJEL:

CMJ Gem: Tallahassee (Young Mary's Record, 11/02/12))

If you want something honest, you've come to the right place.  In the tiny, dark back room of "whatever that bar was" (my new name for the many places I can't remember during my NYC trip.) for their early afternoon CMJ slot, Young Mary's Record was lucky enough to discover the four painfully charismatic dudes that form up-and-coming musical gem, Tallahassee - doing just that - telling it like it is. 

Sometimes funny, sometimes serious, always poignant lyrics backed by an Americana-infused, still quite rock-n-roll to me- backing band?   Not a hard sell there.  Oh - and did I mention they just seem honest?  Like when the truth was cool.  Before musicians had so much hair gel and so many of their checks came from Twitter plugs and product endorsements.   Tallahassee kinda has a little of the same spark that brought the wild success of Alabama Shakes -- they believably and dually come from another time and they come from right now.   It's nostalgia before anything has even happened, without the hokey.

Posted by orrinj at 5:26 PM

THE ELECTION MATTERS ONLY BECAUSE THE GOP COULD GET ALL THE CREDIT:

Economy Set for Better Times Whether Obama or Romney Wins (Rich Miller and Steve Matthews - Nov 4, 2012, Bloomberg)

No matter who wins the election tomorrow, the economy is on course to enjoy faster growth in the next four years as the headwinds that have held it back turn into tailwinds. Consumers are spending more and saving less after reducing household debt to the lowest since 2003. Home prices are rebounding after falling more than 30 percent from their 2006 highs. And banks are increasing lending after boosting equity capital by more than $300 billion since 2009.

"The die is cast for a much stronger recovery," said Mark Zandi, chief economist in West Chester, Pennsylvania, for Moody's Analytics Inc. He sees growth this year and next at about 2 percent before doubling to around 4 percent in both 2014 and 2015 as consumption, construction and hiring all pick up.

The big proviso, according to Zandi and Yale University professor Ray Fair, is how the president-elect tackles the task of shrinking the $1.1 trillion federal-budget deficit. The Congressional Budget Office has warned that the U.S. will suffer a recession if more than $600 billion in scheduled government- spending reductions and tax increases -- the so-called fiscal cliff -- take effect next year.

"There are a lot of things that are positive going forward for the economy," Fair said. "Hopefully, we can get a handle on the deficit" without dragging down growth too much.

A Republican Congress along with a President Romney would reap decades long political benefit from the reforms they could fund out of the peace dividend.
Posted by orrinj at 5:14 AM

FORTUNATELY, BOTH CANDIDATES WILL CUT SPENDING NOT RAISE TAXES:

The Kindest Cuts : Shrinking spending reduces deficits without harming the economy--unlike tax hikes. (ALBERTO ALESINA, Autumn 2012, City Journal)

In 2011, the International Monetary Fund identified episodes from 1980 to 2005 in which 17 developed countries had aggressively reduced deficits. The IMF classified each episode as either "expenditure-based" or "tax-based," depending on whether the government had mainly cut spending or hiked taxes. When Carlo Favero, Francesco Giavazzi, and I studied the results, it turned out that the two kinds of deficit reduction had starkly different effects: cutting spending resulted in very small, short-lived--if any--recessions, and raising taxes resulted in prolonged recessions.

We weren't the first people to distinguish between the two kinds of deficit-cutting, of course. In the past, such critics as Paul Krugman, Christina Romer, and some economists at the IMF have responded that the two approaches don't have different results. When an economy performs well after government spending cuts, they say, it's actually because the business cycle has picked up, or else because the government's monetary policy happened to be more expansionary at the time. But my colleagues and I took both factors into account in our research, carefully analyzing the business cycle and monetary policy in relation to each fiscal episode, and concluded that the difference between expenditure-based and tax-based actions remained.

The obvious economic challenge to our contention is: What keeps an economy from slumping when government spending, a major component of aggregate demand, goes down? That is, if the economy doesn't enter recession, some other component of aggregate demand must necessarily be rising to make up for the reduced government spending--and what is it? The answer: private investment. Our research found that private-sector capital accumulation rose after the spending-cut deficit reductions, with firms investing more in productive activities--for example, buying machinery and opening new plants. After the tax-hike deficit reductions, capital accumulation dropped.

The reason may involve business confidence, which, we found, plummeted during the tax-based adjustments and rose (or at least didn't fall) during the expenditure-based ones. When governments cut spending, they may signal that tax rates won't have to rise in the future, thus spurring investors (and possibly consumers) to be more active. Our findings on business confidence are consistent with the broader argument that American firms, though profitable, aren't investing or hiring as much as they might right now because they're uncertain about future fiscal policy, taxation, and regulation.

But there's a second reason that private investment rises when governments cut spending: the cuts are often just part of a larger reform package that includes other pro-growth measures. In another study, Silvia Ardagna and I showed that the deficit reductions that successfully lower debt-to-GDP ratios without sparking recessions are those that combine spending reductions with such measures as deregulation, the liberalization of labor markets (including, in some cases, explicit agreement with unions for more moderate wages), and tax reforms that increase labor participation.

Let's be clear: this body of evidence doesn't mean that cutting government spending always leads to economic booms. Rather, it shows that spending cuts are much less costly for the economy than tax hikes and that a carefully designed deficit-reduction plan, based on spending cuts and pro-growth policies, may completely eliminate the output loss that you'd expect from such cuts. Tax-based deficit reduction, by contrast, is always recessionary.

Posted by orrinj at 5:06 AM

AS INTERESTING AS THE UR TURNING SO SURLY...:

Mud on his hands : Obama had one strategy this campaign: character assassination. But thanks to a voter backlash, Romney's optimism may well win the day (Kyle Smith, 11/04/12, NY Post)

Watch the campaign news segment with the sound turned down. You can see what's happening in their faces: Mitt Romney is earnest, optimistic and forward-looking. Barack Obama is sour with sarcasm, peevish, defensive and even downright angry. Nineteen-sixty John Kennedy has turned into 1974 Richard Nixon.

Whatever could be bothering this former apostle of light?

By downgrading its adulation, the country has let President Obama down, and the president, whose bizarre dislike for people was compared by one of his own aides to Bill Gates somehow achieving supremacy in the world of software without liking computers, can barely conceal his fury.


...is that Mitt has become downright inspirational as he's finally bought into his own campaign now that he's running as himself.