From April, 2014

More Critiques of Piketty

Ryan Decker points out that Piketty’s “criticisms of mathematical economics (32, 574) are not surprising given that he relies so heavily on assumptions and mechanisms that would be highly vulnerable to criticism if they were forced into the transparency of a formal model.” And the following from Garrett Jones is certainly worth reading: Market-oriented economies that learn to live with inequality will reap the rewards: More domestic capital for workers to use on their jobs, more foreign capital flowing in to a country perceived as a safe investment, and a political and cultural system that can spend its time on topics other than…

Credibility Gap

Why, oh why do we make threats that we cannot and will not back up? VLADIMIR PUTIN’S assault on Ukraine has been relentless and increasingly reckless: Forces working with Russian personnel in eastern Ukraine are torturing and murdering opponents and holding international observers hostage. In contrast, President Obama’s response has been slow and excruciatingly measured. New U.S. sanctions announced Monday fall well short of the steps that senior officials threatened when the Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine began three weeks ago. No wonder that, even as he announced them, Mr. Obama expressed skepticism that they would work. “We don’t expect there to…

So, Shall We Call Him “John the Enhanced Interrogator” Now?

Apparently, Sarah Palin was concerned that she was losing her touch when it came to grabbing headlines by making comments that . . . oh, how shall I put this nicely? . . . ought to be held in minimal high regard.1 In order to remedy this doubtless serious problem, John McCain’s choice for “heartbeat away from the presidency” decided to inform us that “waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists.” Baptism is, of course, the way in which people are admitted into particular Christian churches. It is a meaningful and beautiful ceremony for Christians, one that represents a major life…

Torture in Iranian Prisons

Needless to say, this is both entirely obscene, and entirely unsurprising, given the nature of the current regime in Tehran: Political prisoners in Tehran’s Evin prison have allegedly been subjected to humiliating physical abuse, including being forced to run a gauntlet of guards armed with batons, it has emerged. Iran‘s president, Hassan Rouhani, has been silent despite chilling details being revealed by prisoners and their families about how Thursday’s disturbances marked a dark episode in one of the country’s most notorious prisons. Dozens of inmates held in Evin’s ward 350, including journalists, lawyers and opposition members, were injured, with some suffering skull fractures,…

Paul Krugman Remains as Arrogant and Epistemically Closed as Ever

Don’t believe me? Read this, in which he reviews Thomas Piketty’s new book and says the following: So what’s a conservative, fearing that this diagnosis might be used to justify higher taxes on the wealthy, to do? He could try to refute Mr. Piketty in a substantive way, but, so far, I’ve seen no sign of that happening. Instead, as I said, it has been all about name-calling. (Emphasis mine.) Krugman really thinks that there have been no substantive refutations of Piketty? Has he read none of the refutations linked here or here? I recognize that Krugman has not heard of…

Quote of the Day

Recently, Barack Obama — a Demosthenes determined to elevate our politics from coarseness to elegance; a Pericles sent to ameliorate our rhetorical impoverishment — spoke at the University of Michigan. He came to that very friendly venue — in 2012, he received 67 percent of the vote in Ann Arbor’s county — after visiting a local sandwich shop, where a muse must have whispered in the presidential ear. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) had recently released his budget, so Obama expressed his disapproval by calling it, for the benefit of his academic audience, a “meanwich” and a “stinkburger.” Try to imagine Franklin Roosevelt or Dwight Eisenhower…

The Koch Brothers Have a Lot to Learn if They Want to Be Genuine Villains

Maybe Tom Steyer can teach them a thing or two: The psychiatric world defines “projection” as the act of denying unpleasant qualities in yourself, while attributing them to others. Consider liberal billionaire Tom Steyer’s riff this week about the libertarian billionaire Koch brothers. Mr. Steyer took exception in a C-SPAN interview to comparisons between his big-dollar funding of Democrats with the Koch brothers’ big-dollar funding of Republicans. The Kochs’ priorities “line up perfectly with their pocketbooks—and that’s not true for us,” said Mr. Steyer, who is fighting against the Keystone XL pipeline. Moreover, he insisted, his politicking is “completely open,” whereas…

Quote of the Day

In 1943, Jan Karski, a Polish diplomat and courier for the Polish resistance, met with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter and relayed to him in detail the horrors of the Holocaust. Karski had personally witnessed Nazi atrocities in the Warsaw ghetto and a Nazi transit camp in Poland. He told Frankfurter of his experience, but his appeal fell on deaf ears. “I do not believe you,” the judge responded. “Felix! What are you talking about?” interrupted Jan Ciechanowski, Poland’s ambassador to the United States, who was present at the meeting. “He is not lying!” Frankfurter, a Jew himself, said:…

Let’s All Please Stop Allying with Crazy People

I am going to give the microphone to Jonathan Tobin so that he can preach some righteous truth at all of us: You may have noticed that among the many and varied topics touched upon by COMMENTARY writers in recent weeks, none of us chose to weigh in on the Bundy Ranch controversy that attracted so much notice on cable news, talk radio, and the blogosphere. The reason was that none of us considered the standoff between a Nevada tax scofflaw and the federal government over grazing rights fees to rise to the level of an issue of national interest.…

Chaos Has Come to American Foreign Policy

We were assured in 2008 and 2012 that if we were wise enough to vote for Barack Obama as our president, we would see vast and significant benefits in the conduct and management of American foreign policy. We the voting populace fulfilled our end of the bargain–well, at least enough of us did to make Barack Obama the 44th president of the United States–and while no one surely expected the conduct and management of American foreign policy to be all sunshine and unicorns, one certainly expected (and should have expected) better than this: AFTER AN agreement to “de-escalate tensions and…