Culling the Interwebs Since 2009

Permanent Webstand VII.

The Webstand in the right sidebar is a list of articles that I recommend to read. You can get a complete listing of all news quote posts on the original Permanent Webstand post.

Return of the Great Triangulator, Robert Scheer, Truthdig.com, December 15, 2010.
The sight of Bill Clinton back on the White House podium defending tax cuts for the super-rich was more a sick joke than a serious amplification of economic policy. How desperate is the current president that he would turn to the great triangulator, who opened the floodgates to banking greed, for validation of the sorry opportunistic hodgepodge that passes for this administration’s economic policy? A policy designed and implemented by the same Clinton-era holdovers whose radical deregulation of the financial industry created this mess in the first place.
3 more after the jump.

CBS News Joins the Attack on Public Employees, Dean Baker, Beat the Press blog at CEPR, December 21, 2010.
Way back in the last decade the United States had a huge housing bubble. The Wall Street banks made money hand over fist making and selling the loans that fueled this bubble. The economic policymakers and regulators who were supposed to prevent the growth of such dangerous bubbles, people with names like Greenspan, Bernanke, Paulson, and Geithner, assured the public that everything was just fine. When they were proved horribly wrong, they then congratulated themselves for avoiding a second Great Depression.

This background is important to any story on the financial problems facing state and local governments, since it is 90 percent of the picture. It also would be good if the public remembered this history, since many of the people who either profited from the bubble or failed to take measures to counter its growth are now at the forefront in demanding that state and local governments sharply reduce their budgets and that public sector employees take big cuts in pay and benefits.
The Captive Arab Mind, Roger Cohen, New York Times, December 20, 2010.
n the cui bono universe there can be no closure because events stream on endlessly, opening up boundless possibilities for ex post facto theorizing.

Of course, the saga of WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange and the leak of a quarter million secret U.S. diplomatic cables are also viewed as part of some grand conspiracy. They reflect the decline of America and the revolt of its vast federal bureaucracy! No, they demonstrate America’s enduring power, recruiting female Swedish agents to accuse Assange of sex crimes!

The truth is more banal. The WikiLeaks cables reveal autocratic but powerless Sunni Arab governments calling on the United States to do everything they are unable to do themselves — from decapitating Iran to coordinating a Sunni attack on an ascendant Hezbollah in Lebanon. Such fecklessness, and the endless conspiracy theories that go with it, suggest an Arab world still gripped by illusion.

Milosz wrote powerfully of the “solace of reverie” in worlds of oppression. I found much solace in Lebanon but little evidence that the Middle East is ready to exchange conspiratorial victimhood for self-empowerment — and so move forward.
Getting Darnell Off the Corners: Why America Should Ride the Anti-Drug-War Wave, John McWhorter, The New Republic, December 31, 2010.
Of the countless reasons why this revival of this Prohibition that looks so quaint in Boardwalk Empire should be erased with all deliberate speed, one is that with no War on Drugs there would be, within one generation, no “black problem” in the United States. Poverty in general, yes. An education problem in general—probably. But the idea that black America had a particular crisis would rapidly become history, requiring explanation to young people. The end of the War on Drugs is, in fact, what all people genuinely concerned with black uplift should be focused on, which is why I am devoting my last TNR post of 2010 to the issue. The black malaise in the U.S. is currently like a card house; the Drug War is a single card which, if pulled out, would collapse the whole thing.

That is neither an exaggeration nor an oversimplification. It comes down to this: If there were no way to sell drugs on the street at a markup, then young black men who drift into this route would instead have to get legal work. They would. Those insisting that they would not have about as much faith in human persistence and ingenuity as those who thought women past their five-year welfare cap would wind up freezing on sidewalk grates.

There would be a new black community in which all able-bodied men had legal work even in less well-off communities—i.e. what even poor black America was like before the '70s; this is no fantasy. Those who say that this could only happen with low-skill factory jobs available a bus ride away from all black neighborhoods would be, again, wrong. That explanation for black poverty is full of holes. Too many people of all colors of modest education manage to get by without taking a time machine to the 1940s, and after the War on Drugs black men would be no exception.

And in this new black community, young black men, much less likely to wind up in prison cells or caskets, would be a constant presence—and thus stay in the lives of their children. The black male community would no longer include a massive segment of underskilled, drug-addicted ex-cons churning in and out by the thousands year after year, and thus black boys growing up in these communities would not see this life as a norm. They would grow up to get jobs, period.

And something else these boys would not grow up with is a bone-deep sense of the police—and thus whites—as an enemy. Because there would be no reason for the police to prowl through his neighborhood.

Before long, the sense of blacks as America's eternal poster children—generated from within the black community as well as from without—would fade away. Think about it.

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