“I have enormous sympathy for the foreign policy of George H. W. Bush.” — Senator Barack Obama, May 2008
Omissions of Grandeur
The New York Times reports on a U.N. report that criticizes Israel for killing several protestors who attempted to cross the border fence from Lebanon in May. The article includes this little comment:
Up to 10,000 demonstrators arrived at the border area on May 15, which Palestinians have come to refer to as Nakba Day, marking the founding of Israel in 1948. Nakba means catastrophe.
That should read:
Up to 10,000 demonstrators arrived at the border area on May 15, which Palestinians have always referred to as Nakba Day, marking the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Arabs from Palestine in 1948. Nakba means catastrophe.
But, then, telling the whole truth wouldn’t have any propaganda value.
Paul Krugman writes:
One striking example of this rightward shift came in last weekend’s presidential address, in which Mr. Obama had this to say about the economics of the budget: “Government has to start living within its means, just like families do. We have to cut the spending we can’t afford so we can put the economy on sounder footing, and give our businesses the confidence they need to grow and create jobs.”
That’s three of the right’s favorite economic fallacies in just two sentences. No, the government shouldn’t budget the way families do; on the contrary, trying to balance the budget in times of economic distress is a recipe for deepening the slump. Spending cuts right now wouldn’t “put the economy on sounder footing.” They would reduce growth and raise unemployment. And last but not least, businesses aren’t holding back because they lack confidence in government policies; they’re holding back because they don’t have enough customers — a problem that would be made worse, not better, by short-term spending cuts.
So let’s translate that into meaningful terms: 1) The government must not balance its budget, because deficit spending and sending the nation even deeper into debt is the key to improving its economy. 2) Cutting spending is bad for the economy, so, logically, the government should just borrow even more money to spend, and, hey, the Federal Reserve should do QE3, too, so that we can go even deeper into debt and further depreciate the value of the dollar, because that’s good for the economy and gives other nations confidence in the dollar. 3) If the government just continues spending and going deeper into debt, it will encourage Americans to also spend more money they don’t have to buy more shit they don’t need, which is the sign of a healthy economy.
Now, doesn’t that all make sense? Is it any wonder this brilliant man won the Nobel Prize in Economics?
Diagnosing the American Decline
Over at Foreign Policy, Clyde Prestowitz diagnoses the problems with the U.S. economy. Some good and not so good points. Paraphrased:
1) The U.S. industrial infrastructure has been destroyed and “industries cannot find enough well-trained young people.” (Outsourcing is oddly not mentioned here, but does get noted further down).
2) As a result, the U.S. has become a “service” economy that creates unneeded “services” that drive up costs, such as in so-called “health care” industry.
3) Outsourcing. And our universities are filled with Chinese students who then take their technological expertise back to China.
4) Not only manufacturing, but also research and development is moving to China.
5) China subsidizes its utilities and industries and pegs its currency (RMB) to the dollar, so the U.S. can’t compete.
6) We must rebuild our industrial infrastructure, lead in R&D, or we will be back to an agrarian economy. This is well recognized, which is why hedge funds are buying up farmland, the cost off which has skyrocketed.
7) What happens to our national security and the military-industrial complex when all manufacturing gets outsourced to China? (Like I said, some points are better than others).
Hypocrisy is a Good Thing
Fareed Zakaria argues that the U.S. double standard on the so-called “Arab Spring” is a good thing, because “There are vast differences between the circumstances in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Saudi Arabia” — other countries where uprisings have occurred/are occurring get no mention, most notably Bahrain, where the U.S. Fifth Fleet is harbored and where the U.S. has supported the regime against the popular uprisings, to the extent of giving the green light to Saudi Arabia to send in its military to help crush the protestors. He argues:
Take the case where American interests and values most starkly collide, Saudi Arabia. Were the administration to start clamoring for regime change in Riyadh, and were that to encourage large-scale protests (and thus instability) in the kingdom, the price of oil would skyrocket. The United States and much of the developed world would almost certainly drop into a second recession. Meanwhile, the Saudi regime, which has legitimacy, power and lots of cash that it is spending, would likely endure — only now it would be enraged at Washington.
So the people of Saudi Arabia must suffer under a brutal and oppressive regime because Americans and others in the West don’t want to pay more to fill up their cars, and we shouldn’t try to help the Saudi people achieve democracy because the regime will just use all the military hardware the U.S. sells it to recycle those petrodollars to brutally crush any popular uprising, so you know, it just wouldn’t be moral to support democracy in that country.
Then there is Libya, where “the administration confronted a potential humanitarian crisis” by intervening military to escalate and prolong the violence, thus ensuring that a humanitarian crisis would occur. Yay Western “humanitarian” interventions. Go USA.
Hypocrisy is a Good Thing (II)
“Even as the Obama administration talks about a world free of nuclear weapons, it has proposed a major campaign to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Despite what critics say, this effort is vital, since maintaining a credible deterrent requires possessing weapons that a president might actually use.” — Keir A. Lieber and Daryl G. Press, Foreign Affairs, July 6, 2011
Building Democracy in Afghanistan, U.S.-Style
The New York Times reports that in May, Afghan President Hamid Karzai yet again told the U.S.-NATO occupying forces to stop bombing Afghan homes and killing Afghan civilians, to which the U.S. replied, “You’re not the boss of me! Fuck you!” and continued to bomb, hitting more Afghan homes and killing more Afghan civilians, pissing more Afghans off and giving support to the anti-occupation armed resistance, which the occupying forces then point to as the reason they have to keep bombing, even though that means more Afghan homes will be hit and more Afghan civilians killed. But, hey, you know, that’s just war. Shit happens. Aren’t U.S. efforts to build democracy wonderful? Go USA.
One Conspiracy, Two Conspiracies, Good Conspiracy, Bad Conspiracy
The New York Times reports on the killing of journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, pointing the finger at Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which, it reports, evidence also indicates was harboring Osama bin Ladin in his compound in Abbotabad, among other conspiracies. It’s an important story, but as a tangent, I find it interesting how ready–eager, even–Americans are to believe that foreign governments engage in criminal conspiracies. But when it comes to their own government, if you dare suggest it might engage in any conspiracies, you are some kind of nut job. An interesting psychological phenomenon.
Then again, sometimes even foreign government conspiracies need to be covered up. Like the reports that then ISI-chief Mahmud Ahmed had authorized the transfer of $100,000 to 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta in Florida. Until that moment, the “money trail” was the big story. Suddenly it died, and the 9/11 Commission report concluded that the question of who financed the attacks was “of no practical significance”…