Daily Trawl

Bunch of things going past, of which I’m only including a few.

1. Run, run, run
The ECB have apparently decided that Cyprus needs a bank run. I don’t understand this, and neither, as far as I can tell, does anyone else. WonkBlog has a nice round-up.

2. Wars and Rumours of Wars
As we went past the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq a few people have been talking about it. Peter Beinart has a good piece putting a context to that war, but one which needs some examination. He recognises that Clinton first established regime change as a doctrine of US foreign policy without mentioning that it was the Project for a New American Century who wrote the language and applied the pressure when Clinton (this is ’98) had limited political capital to fight it. Signatories to the PNAC document include Wolfowitz and Rumsfeldt. Beinart correctly identifies US military hubris in the post-Soviet era, but does not cover the reason so many interventions worked well for the US in the ’90s; broad international support and UN legal cover, which the Iraq War did not have. And while he references 9/11, he doesn’t talk about what it really meant.

No-one had landed a punch on America since the war of 1812. For the first time in over a hundred and fifty years foreign warriors had killed a bunch of people in the lower forty-eight. Compare the reaction of the UK after the July bombings in London. There was a bit of authoritarian hysteria from Labour and some duff laws got through, but nothing like the Patriot Act. That difference is about experience. Living people in the UK remember the Blitz. Even people my age remember the IRA bombing mainland Britain. The US had for far too long suffered its only losses in far-away places, affecting mostly the children of the poor. America reacted to its real and unaccustomed pain by going berserk.

3. Meanwhile, back in the Sahara…
Bridges from Bamako has an excellent post on what the country needs, beyond the suppression of AQIM and a return to the generally strong political climate Mali has taken justified pride in for a long time.

4. Droning on.
Two interesting pieces about the shadow war. CiF has Glen Greenwald calling out Charles Krauthammer for talking total rubbish about the Constitution. And Princess Smartypants has a good piece about the actuality versus the rhetoric of the drone wars. I’m not entirely convinced by the argument that President Obama is being that subtle, but the underlying account seems to be solid and makes interesting reading.

5. Truth to Power.
Prospect have a very good (very long!) Sam Tanenhaus review of the works of Garry Wills. He’s a very interesting character in the US political drama, and stands out as a principled conservative writer in an era of culture warriors and snake-oil salesmen. He’s a Catholic who has taken on the Vatican and a US conservative who was very rude to George W. Bush. He’s one of those advocating that the GOP needs to recover its intellectual honesty and its sense of proportion: well worth a read.

Seth Masket is also talking about party re-alignments. I’m not as confident as he is that out-party effects will moderate the modern GOP. Three problems I see: firstly, they’re not out enough (they still control one house of Congress and can effectively hobble the other, as they proved while the 112th was in session). Secondly, they have an insulating narrative, false for a long time, which says that they hold the majority view in the country even if most of the actual people vote against them. This myth of silent conservative majorities, which has measurable legislative consequences, is pernicious and hard to shift when you operate in the Fox News echo-chamber.

Thirdly, the modern GOP has stopped operating as a normal political party. Jonathan Bernstein has written on it several times, but the short form is that informal party actors (e.g. talk radio) have incentives that conflict with GOP electoral success. Basically, talk radio and Fox affiliates make more money when the religious right and TEA-Party types have something to get really mad about. Nothing agitates that base like watching Democrats govern. Equally, John Stewart and his ilk have a financial incentive to see the GOP in power, serving up easy softballs to the satirists as the Bush regime did so reliably. But John Stewart’s incentives have zero effect on Democratic party operations, whereas Fox and friends could drive the GOP into oblivion if they’re not careful.


March 2013
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Per Argument Ad Astra

Politics, history, economics and rampant speculation from a victim of the Great Recession, currently at large in the West Midlands.

"When the regulation, therefore, is in favour of the workmen, it is always just and equitable; but it is sometimes otherwise when in favour of the masters."
                -- Adam Smith


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