Saturday Catchup: 2010-07-17

Shticks and Stones

It's jobs, stupid: Nearly the entire deficit for this year and those projected into the near and medium terms are the result of three things: the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Bush tax cuts and the recession. The solution to our fiscal situation is: end the wars, allow the tax cuts to expire and restore robust growth. Our long-term structural deficits will require us to control healthcare inflation the way countries with single-payer systems do. So lets talk about balancing the budget. -- Deficits of Mass Destruction by Christopher Hayes (The Nation 2010-07-15).

Where is the guillotine when you need it?: In modern American life, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner stands out as latter-day Talleyrand, amazingly resilient and remarkably lucky -- despite presiding over or being deeply involved in a series of political debacles, he has gone from strength to strength. After at least eight improbably bounce backs, he might seem unassailable. But his latest mistake -- blocking Elizabeth Warren from heading the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -- may well prove politically fatal. -- Tim Geithner’s Ninth Political Life by Simon Johnson (The Baseline Scenario 2010-07-15). Also, Elizabeth Warren Should be a Role Model in the Obama Administration Instead of a Pariah by Mark Karlin (BuzzFlash 2010-07-17).

There's plenty of good money to be made/Supplyin' the army with tools of the trade*: "Why is nobody talking about the Afghanistan adventure as a cause of our plunging recession? Or at least citing the 30-year-old endless war as a major contributory factor in wasting our money to 'nation-build' in the Hindu Kush while our own country falls to pieces on food stamps, foreclosures and child poverty -- one in five kids -- that would put the world's poorest nations to shame?" -- America: hooked on war and getting poorer by Clancy Sigal (Guardian UK 2010-07-13). (*Country Joe and the Fish)

Lucky for us, it can't happen here: From Mexico to Peru to the Philippines, armies have learned to portray themselves to beleaguered civilian leaders as the only chance to defeat the security challenges -- so long as the government agrees to the military’s demands for greater funding, more autonomy, and a larger role in politics. -- Military Rule 2.0: Why bother with a coup when there are better ways to take control? by Joshua Kurlantzick and Shelby Leighton ( 2010-07-11).

Hey, Wait a Minute!: We have a "fairness instinct," thinks Lixing Sun, a professor of biology at Central Washington University. And he may be right. He maintains that high on the roster of human propensities is a "Robin Hood mentality" that characterizes our species and qualifies as one of those "mental modules" that evolutionary psychologists consider part of our likely biological inheritance. If so, our fairness instinct goes far beyond the pleasure we take in romantic tales of medieval Merry Men adventuring in Sherwood Forest. Sun believes that despite the fact of our specieswide social and economic disparities -- perhaps in part because of them -- human beings are endowed (or burdened) with an acute sensitivity to "who is getting how much," in particular a deft attunement to whether anyone else is getting more or less than one's self. -- Biological roots of today's anger by David P. Barash (The Chronicle of Higher Education 2010-07-11).

Megagrammar: "The jumper colon is a paragraphical Red Bull, a rocket-launch of a punctuator, the Usain Bolt of literature. It’s punchy as hell. To believers of short first sentences -- Hemingway? -- it couldn’t get any better. To believers of long-winded sentences that leave you gasping and slightly confused -- Faulkner? -- it also couldn’t get any better. By itself this colon is neither a period nor a non-period… or rather it is a period and it is also a non-period. You choose." -- Colonoscopy: It’s Time to Check Your Colons by Conor J. Dillon (The Millions 2010-07-13).

No room for argument; very little for vermouth: If the news is driving you to drink, at least the libation in question can be the perfect martini: "First a note about substituting ingredients or tools. Don't. This method has been exhaustively tested and retested for excellence and the smallest variation can result in catastrophic and unintended consequences. See the 'butterfly flaps its wings and causes hurricane' metaphor from Chaos Theory. There is room for personal preference and improvisation in many things. This is not one of them. 'Oh, I love Bach's Fourth Brandenburg Concerto, but perhaps it should be just a touch slower.' 'I cropped Caravaggio's Crucifixion of Saint Peter along the top a bit to get rid of some of that icky dark area.' Begin by assembling the following materials and a clean, white towel at your work space. Turn off the television and eliminate other distractions. John Coltrane's First Meditations is appropriate music to work by. I cannot vouch for anything else." -- Perfect by Jim Coudal (Coudal Partners).

The first cut is the deepest: In attempt to reframe the debate over budget priorities, Reps. Barney Frank and Ron Paul have been tag-teaming across the country calling for dramatic cuts in military spending. Basing their critique on “Debt, Deficits and Defense: A Way Forward” (pdf), a study by the bipartisan congressional Sustainable Defense Task Force, they call for cutting the Pentagon’s annual “base”budget by $960 billion over ten years, an average annual reduction of roughly 17 percent below current spending levels. Defense spending accounts for more than half of the federal government’s entire discretionary budget. At a time when virtually every community in the country is facing critical budget shortfalls, defense spending has continued to grow. The Task Force’s report proposes cuts such as reducing the number of deployed nuclear weapons to 1,000 and cutting the number of submarines and missiles which carry them; cutting the total number of active duty members of the Army and Marine Corps to 50,000 below their levels before the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; cutting certain weapons programs including the Joint Strike Fighter, the V-22 “Osprey” tilt-rotor aircraft, and the total number of Navy aircraft carriers; and reforming the Pentagon’s health care and compensation systems. Regardless of the impact this or any other letter has on the deficit debate in Congress, the Task Force report insures one important thing: supporters of reduced military spending now have an answer to the question, “how do you cut Pentagon spending without undermining our nation’s security?” At a time when all areas of federal spending should be subject to the budget cutter’s knife, it can no longer be said, even within the mainstream debate, that it’s impossible to identify significant savings in the Pentagon budget. -- Pentagon Spending on the Chopping Block by Christopher Hellman (Yes! Magazine 2010-0715).

Maybe Asian tourists can be enticed to spend money in Billings on cow-tipping expeditions: According to both Montana Sen. Max Baucus and Texas Rep. Kevin Brady, ratifying the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement in Congress will be the most important thing our national legislature accomplishes in the next year. In the avenue of international commerce, our political leadership has no goals. They have empty ideals and failed methodology. They ingratiate themselves with organizations like Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in order to forward their own positions, but they provide nothing substantive and lasting to the people they represent.  -- APEC and America's Dangerous Free Trade Deception by Craig Harrington (Economy in Crisis 2010-07-16).

Long live rock and roll:

Wanna be friends?: If these supernets continue to thrive and grow, they could fundamentally change the way we share information about the world and transform our notions of friendship and acquaintance. If so, the likes of Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace might just turn out to be the harbingers of a sea change in our social evolution, in the same way that the arrival of language transformed our ancestors. -- Why Facebook friends are worth keeping by Richard Fisher (New Scientist 2010-07-15).

Finally, a stupid (but very cold) party trick for a hot summer barbecue:

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