From May, 2014

Quote of the Day

Valerie Plame doesn’t deny that blowing the cover of the CIA station chief in Afghanistan is a serious matter. It’s just that, discussing the issue at a Wednesday evening forum sponsored by The Atlantic, Plame seemed to view the outing of the CIA’s top spy on the front lines in the Afghan war as more of an embarrassment than an outrage. “My understanding is … it was a military aide who compiled this list of those that were greeting the president when he came,” Plame said. “Colossally stupid, but I think it was inadvertent. It was an error … really stupid. The White House apparently has said that…

Exeunt Shinseki

I don’t have much to say in response to the resignation of Eric Shinseki, except (a) the resignation was long overdue; (b) the resignation is not nearly enough to make up for the disgraceful treatment of veterans at VA hospitals (hospitals which were once praised as models for healthcare reform before the current scandal forced those who praised VA hospitals as models for healthcare reform to change their story and say that all of the problems at VA hospitals are the fault of the Bush administration); and (c) the resignation does nothing to allay concerns over the Obama administration’s–and the president’s–lackadaisical response to…

“Moderate” Governments Don’t Jail People Over Facebook Postings

Just thought I’d throw that opinion out there: An Iranian court has sentenced eight people to jail terms ranging from seven to 20 years for crimes including anti-regime propaganda posted on Facebook, an opposition website has said. Kaleme, which did not cite a source for its report, said the sentences were delivered last week giving the eight Facebook users a combined 123 years in jail. They were charged with “insulting the supreme leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) and the authorities, anti-regime activities, sacrilege and spreading lies,” Kaleme said. There was no official confirmation of the court ruling and AFP could not…

The Piketty Wars Continue

Piketty has now come out with a substantive response to the criticisms in the Financial Times found by Giles and Giugliano. I am glad that he has done so, and I suspect that there is much to chew over in the response, so I will look forward to reading the response of others to Piketty’s defense. For the time being, let me offer the following somewhat random observations (I am not going to comment on every paragraph or sentence in the letter, though I have read it all. I certainly encourage readers to read it all as well): Piketty tells us…

When Even the New York Times Editorial Board Pans an Obama Speech . . .

Boy, I guess that foreign policy address given yesterday really didn’t go over well: President Obama and his aides heralded his commencement speech at the United States Military Academy at West Point on Wednesday as a big moment, when he would lay out his foreign policy vision for the remainder of his term and refute his critics. The address did not match the hype, was largely uninspiring, lacked strategic sweep and is unlikely to quiet his detractors, on the right or the left. [. . .] In his speech, Mr. Obama tried to push back against critics who say he has…

Quote of the Day

In 1982, horrified by the meanness, tedium and depravity of my existence as I toured the American South playing rock and roll music and going crazy in public, I purchased an abridged copy of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Dero Saunders, Penguin). The grandeur of the subject appealed to me, as did the cameo illustration of Edward Gibbon, the author, on the front cover. He looked like a heavy dude. Being in a political business, I had long made a habit of reading biographies of wilful characters – Hitler, Churchill, MacArthur, Brando – with large profiles, and…

Let Me Repeat what I Have Said Before about the Anti-GMO Crowd

They are out to kill people. Or, at the very least, they do a very good impression of people out to kill other people: It’s easy to scare people about what’s in their food, but the danger is almost never real. And the fear itself kills. Take the panic over genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Ninety percent of all corn grown in America is genetically modified now. That means it grew from a seed that scientists altered by playing with its genes. The new genes may make corn grow faster, or they may make it less appetizing to bugs so…

The Economy Takes Yet Another Hit

Behold: A contraction in the nation’s economic output in the first quarter again deferred hopes for a sustained pickup in growth, another stumble for a lackluster recovery approaching the end of its fifth year. Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services produced across the economy, shrank at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1% in the first three months of the year, the Commerce Department said Thursday. The agency last month initially estimated GDP grew at a 0.1% rate in the first quarter. The drop marked the economy’s first contraction in three years, though economists say the downturn…

Thanks, Anti-Vaccine Lunatics

Thanks an awful lot, with an emphasis on the word “awful”: The number of measles cases in the United States this year has risen to 288, the highest number for one year since the disease was eliminated from the country in 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday. This also is the largest number of measles cases that the country reported in the first five months of a year since 1994, according to the CDC. Health officials say there were 764 cases of measles at this time in May 20 years ago, and 963 by the end…

The Obama Doctrine and How It Is Lacking

President Obama offered his foreign policy vision at West Point today. David Rothkopf finds a great deal to dislike about it (the critique is long and thorough, so I wouldn’t do justice to it by excerpting; you should just read the whole thing). Additionally Admiral James Stavridis points out that for all of the talk about cooperation and partnership in the crafting and implementation of foreign policy, the president’s speech left out two vital components of how we can best create security: the power of interagency cooperation, and — above all — private-public partnerships. As we approach deeply challenging situations in Afghanistan,…