Links 11/9/11

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Court injunction blocks FDA graphic warnings Incidental Economist (hat tip reader Aquifer)

HK home sales fall over 50% in October Shanghai Daily (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Euro Crisis’s Enabler: The Central Bank John Quiggin, Financial Times

Europe reaches its bogus goal MacroBusiness

Italian Bond Yields Pass Key 7% Level Wall Street Journal. Holy shit. The Journal also has started a “Debt Crisis Live” blog.

Thinking through the unthinkable Martin Wolf, Financial Times

Israel May Lack Means for Iran Military Strike Bloomberg. I think our Richard Kline said this a while ago in comments.

Argentina’s president irks U.S. pundits Salon

West Papua’s cry for help Aljazeera (hat tip reader Paul S)

Why Mitt Romney’s Entitlement-Privatization Plan Is Crazy Matt Taibbi

Election measures against unions, abortion defeated Reuters (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Finding Freedom in Handcuffs Chris Hedges, TruthDig (hat tip reader EmilianoZ)

What Happened When I Tried to Get Some Answers About the Creepy NYPD Watchtower Monitoring OWS Alternet (hat tip reader Jack Parsons)

Occupy Movement Inspires Unions to Embrace Bold Tactics New York Times

Beyond the Limits of Neoliberal Higher Education: Global Youth Resistance and the American/British Divide Truthout (hat tip reader Aquifer)

A Board Complicit in MF Global’s Bets, and Its Demise New York Times

How a Financial Pro Lost His House New York Times

Antidote du jour:

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  1. Richard Kline

    Israel lacks the means to do more than superficial damage to Iran in any conventional military action. Nukes are out. There is every reason to believe that Israel is already using assassination and sabotage, so there is nothing to ‘initiate’ in that regard.

    What Israel really lacks are the gonads. Israel hasn’t attacked anyone who could reasonably fight back in well over 40 years, and they’re not going to now. Any conventional military action is, effectively, an act of war, and Israel isn’t going to go there in my view. Because the whole point is to get the US to go to war with Iran for them, just like they succeeded in inciting in getting the US to invade Iraq. (No, it wasn’t really about the oil; that was just a bribe for the neocons to line their pockets, or so they thought. The US was in Iraq was to make the Near East safe for Israel.)

    And y’know, if Barack Obama is as far down in the polls come the Spring as he is likely to be, he just might ‘take action’ to show how much he is needed. I haven’t given any credence to this point to the idea that the US might actually launch some military action against Iran. The military didn’t want to go there. The US had _no_ military capacity to spare for an ongoing confrontation given two active occupations cum wars. There was the fear of a ripple effect in Syria and Lebanon if Iran was attacked. And above all, there was absolutely no compelling strategic reason to attack, not least since any assets which could be damaged or removed in Iran by a limited strike could readily be replaced. But if you just read the list above, you’ll follow along with me that the alignment of things is sharply different now that it has been at any time in the past eight years. Any US attack on Iran is a gross strategic mistake for the US still, but the other impediments to action are neutralized or gone. The US has shown already that our policy makers are _quite_ willing to severely damage American political interests to make the Near East safe for Israel, so it should surprise no one if we are once again to step on the land mine for the sake of another country.

    Israel isn’t going to attack Iran, they’re going to get the US to do it for them. And the odds on that, in my view, have gone from 10-90 against to 50-50. Really, REALLY B-A-D idea.

    1. Skippy

      thanks for the cheer up Richard. Not much gas in the morale tank, job creation policy?

      Halfassman w/one white shoe.

    2. Dave of Maryland

      Every sane person should know their way around an astrology chart. Right now it’s late in the day to be introducing it.

      The FEMA “emergency” will be at 2:00 pm this afternoon, November 8, 2011. The chart of the Iranian Revolution is set for February 1, 1979, 9:33 am IRT, Tehran. (Data per Nicholas Campion, Book of World Horoscopes, which is the standard.)

      Read the charts yourself. It’s war.

    3. Middle Seaman

      Iran’s nuclear program does have a military solution; never did. This applies to a small country but highly sophisticated in technology such as Israel and the US. The real problem of an Iranian bomb is not to Israel, Europe or the US, but for the small neighbors in the Golf including Saudi. Israel can retaliate a bombing Iran causing huge damage to Iran. Qatar or Saudi are sitting ducks and therefore politically vulnerable.

      The US should have acknowledged Iran’s right to a nuclear program right at the outset and offered its help. The consequences would have been way more benign.

      1. Tim

        We did. Just earlier. Didn’t G.E. build a bunch or reactors, or at least start them when the Shah was there?
        Isn’t that the infrastructure that the Moslem fanatic government is using?

      2. scraping_by

        The US should have acknowledged Iran’s right to a nuclear program right at the outset and offered its help. The consequences would have been way more benign

        For America, Americans, and the world.

        However, it would have ended the right wing as an electoral force. The bargain of ‘let us rob you and we’ll keep you safe’ would have looked too false, instead of just being false. Barry’s volte-face after the election included anti-Iran posturing, letting everyone who cared to know that the Bush administration was continuing.

        Corporate control has been searching for a good foreign boogeyman since the end of the Cold War. While Iran isn’t much, with Al Queda turning out to be an arm of the house of Saud, it’s the best they have.

    4. Susan the other

      I’m always more inclined to believe that we use the Israelis. We have been confounded geopolitcally by Iran since 1979. It is open knowledge that Iran doesn’t like Israel, but it also doesn’t like Saudi Arabia, or any Arabs. When the Arabs try to be diplomatic and say “We are all Arabs now,” Iran reminds them that Iranians are Persian, not Arab. I went to one workshop organized for peace where they spent almost 3 hours insulting each other. That it would take 1000 sorties of conventional bombs to eliminate Iran’s nuclear capacity tells me that either we will not do it, or we will use nukes. And then it wont be over for another 20 years. When you go after a country with a trained standing army of 3 million troops which is backed by Russia still…. bad idea. It could be especially bad for Israel.

      1. scraping_by

        Well, right now tens of thousands of Israelis are in the street protesting wealth inequality and a DOA economy. Right now, tens of thousands of Americans are in the streets protesting wealth inequality and a DOA economy.

        The question isn’t whose nation will be more damaged by attacking an annoying, but relatively harmless Muslim nation on the pretext of nuclear weapons the CIA has already said doesn’t exist. The question is congruent interest by a couple of right-wing leaders facing down demands from more commonsense populations.

        In other words, sharing a smokescreen. Making the Big Lie a lot Bigger by agreement. Mutually arranged deception.

      2. Richard Kline

        So Susan the other, each side, the US and Israel, uses the situation of the other as an excuse for things they want to do anyway. Each uses the other, I’d agree to that. There are layers of intention, and things constantly shift in subtle ways. In some respects—relations with Egypt—Israel surely predominates. In others—relations with Saudi Arabia—the US does. But to me, the preponderance of the initiative in driving policy in the Near East lies with Israel’s leadership.

      3. skippy

        Someone is afraid to use the Z’ed word in order to clarify.

        Criticism of US foreign policy

        In a 1997 revised edition of his book Covering Islam, Said criticized what he viewed as the biased reporting of the Western press and, in particular, media “speculations about the latest conspiracy to blow up buildings, sabotage commercial airliners, and poison water supplies.”[108] Said opposed many US foreign policy endeavors in the Middle East and elsewhere. He critiqued US involvement in Kosovo and Iraq under President Clinton,[8] and US support for Israel was a constant topic that he addressed in his activism. Although growing increasingly weak from his battle with leukemia, Said spent many of his last months speaking out against the then recent invasion of Iraq.[109] In an April 2003 interview with Al-Ahram Weekly, Said argued that the Iraq War was ill-conceived:

        My strong opinion, though I don’t have any proof in the classical sense of the word, is that they want to change the entire Middle East and the Arab world, perhaps terminate some countries, destroy the so-called terrorist groups they dislike and install regimes friendly to the United States. I think this is a dream that has very little basis in reality. The knowledge they have of the Middle East, to judge from the people who advise them, is to say the least out of date and widely speculative….

        I don’t think the planning for the post-Saddam, post-war period in Iraq is very sophisticated, and there’s very little of it. US Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman and US Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith testified in Congress about a month ago and seemed to have no figures and no ideas what structures they were going to deploy; they had no idea about the use of institutions that exist, although they want to de-Ba’thise the higher echelons and keep the rest.
        The same is true about their views of the army. They certainly have no use for the Iraqi opposition that they’ve been spending many millions of dollars on. And to the best of my ability to judge, they are going to improvise. Of course the model is Afghanistan. I think they hope that the UN will come in and do something, but given the recent French and Russian positions I doubt that that will happen with such simplicity.[110]

        halfassed man w/one white shoe

    5. Jackrabbit

      The US was in Iraq was to make the Near East safe for Israel.

      What about Saudi Arabia and Gulf States with whom the US also has a special relationship? What about Saddam’s threats to the Bush family? What about the huge benefit to various contractors?

      And one could question if it was really in Israel’s best interest to take down Saddam. Saddam’s Iraq was a counterweight to the much more anti-Israeli regime in Iran (Saddam’s anti-Israel stance, it seems to me, consisted mostly of using the Palestinian issue for political purposes). And, in the aftermath of the war more fervently anti-Israel interests (Iran and extremists) have tried to gain influence in an unstable Iraq.

    6. Hugh

      Back when Cheney was militating for a strike against Iran, we used to lay out what the logistics of such an Israeli attack would look like, its timing, and its effects. Basically, Israel would be operating at the edge of its operational envelope and would be unable to do the kinds of damage that would justify a raid. There would be diplomatic damage: Israel would have to violate the airspace of various countries. And if for example the reactors at Arak and Bushehr were hit, Israel could be responsible for a couple of Chernobyls. Iran appears to be pursuing at most a dual use approach in its nuclear program. But an attack would create the grounds for an overt fast tracked weapons program. One change that would make an Israeli attack easier is that Iraq now controls its airspace, not the US, and that control is likely pretty minimal.

      US action against Iran was more conceivable back when we had a large presence in Iraq and Iraq’s government was weak but operationally we are already out of the country. It would be difficult to get client states in the Gulf to allow us to run military strikes against Iran from bases in their countries. We could run some from Afghanistan, Diego Garcia, Europe, and the US but most would have to come from aircraft carriers. Even if we had say three to do so, we wouldn’t have the assets to do the task. To attack Iran’s nuclear facilities in a sustained fashion would require destroying much of Iran’s military, communications, and physical infrastructure. You see hitting the nuclear sites would put at risk the shipping lanes in the Gulf. And this is only one of the sequelae. Underwriting for tankers would go through the roof. Oil would spike kicking an already tottering world economy into depression. Attacking Iran, even if we had the assets in place to pull it off, would be at too high a price because of what it would do to the price of oil. Do you think the Europeans, the Chinese, or anyone else would thank us for tanking the world economy to fulfill some neocon/Israeli fantasy? Do you think American voters would?

      1. Richard Kline

        So Hugh, I broadly agree with the operational issues you raise as you raise them; these haven’t much changed. This is much of why the mid-term impacts and effects of military action against Iran are a large net _loss_ for the US, now as before.

        However, these operational issues are only of marginal relevance in assessing strategy and hence a strategic decision. Could Iran strike back meaningfully? No, not really outside of the oil shipping lanes, which are a very meaningful but separate issue I’ll come back to below. Would any other nation step in to materially aid Iran or materially hinder the US. Not substantively. Turkey and Lebanon would be highly unhappy, but they have their hands full to the point of burning fingers (part of the point of my initial comment above). The US could act with broad operational discretion if a decision was made to do so; messy, yess; doable, oh yes very much so.

        Hugh: “[To] attack Iran’s nuclear facilities in a sustained fashion would require destroying much of Iran’s military, communications, and physical infrastructure.” This is the real point, Hugh: Iran’s _nuclear_ assets are trivial and in fact irrelevant. The entire ‘nuclear’ issue is a colossal and deliberate red herring. The sole point, really, is how to pressure the leadership in Iran to stay within the tiny politico-strategic box that the US and Israel have decided is all the Iranian’s will be allowed. Destroying the country’s _infrastructure_, military and civilian, IS the the goal of any military strike. What Israel would like, and some in the US too, is an Iraq 1992 context.

        Could the Israel achieve that acting alone. No, absolutely not, short of using nukes. And NO one is going to use nukes because the strategic destabilization and gross social revulsion that would follow is simply too hard to handicap, and strategic planners do everything to avoid ‘leaps in the dark.’ Could the US acting alone achieve a broken-back Iran? Yes. True, we don’t really have the assets to do this _fast_. But then Iran is a minimal strategic threat, with a limited range of strike back capabilities. Could they sink a couple of US aircraft carriers? Yes—and that would be a major strategic coup for the US, following this line of strategic thinking. The public may not like any offensive, but a couple thousand dead swabbies—“Remember the Nimitz!”—are so valuable a political gain as to outweight the operational cost. Hugh, any long term air campaign against Iran would be done from bases in Saudi Arabia, and much less likely Gulfie territories. That’s the reality. And American military air would LOVVVVVVE such a career booster. As you may have noticed, it’s the Navy which has been negative on ‘doing Iran’ while the Black Ops and Air are pretty gung ho. Ground didn’t have the men, but they aren’t going to be asked to do anything but defend Arabia, and they are in fact _better_ positioned to do that after withdrawing, unwillingly, from Iraq.

        Europe hates the idea of ‘doing Iran.’ Europe, as you many have noticed, has a financial crisis presently in process so grave that simply keeping their own political coherence is taking more time than their political class has to spend. They don’t have the time or space to care. They won’t be consulted if the US decides to ‘do’ the Persians. China is in no position to interfere. They wouldn’t like it, but they are sensibly too cautious to risk any major intiative for what is an attack on a non-core strategic concern. The main utility of Iran for China, quite frankly, is to keep the Us tied town there rather than funking around in SE Asia. For the Chinese, better that we don’t ‘do’ it, but second best is that we jump in that peat bog and set fire to it. Russian response strategically is almost identical.

        The one major impediment to an airwar on Iran is the impact on oil shipments through the Gulf. The negative impact on the world economy would be severe—but the world economy is sliding into another down leg on the financial crisis anyway. If that is already underway, or about to go, there’s no better time to act—because ‘those dastardly Iranians bombardidn FREE TRADE!’ can be squarely blamed. This is part of the problem. I don’t credit US strategic planers with being that Machiavellian, but one can’t ignore how the pieces lie on the board. If we are about to have another major economic convulsion, hanging the blame, quite fallaciously, on ‘Iran’s aggression’ starts to look m-ig-h-t-y attractive. That worries me.

        Do I think the American voters would thank our leadership for the costs of an airwar on Iran? Hugh, buddy, American political leadership doesn’t give a shit what the voters think, to put it in the vernacular. And they won’t until they start losing elections over it. Which they haven’t and they aren’t likely too. American voters don’t much like these wars, but they hold still for them, and can’t do anything about the 1% of the oligarchs printing all the money they need and sending our volunteer cannon fodder off to do the nasty. I’m not being alarmist when I say the American public has no control whatsover on the military policy and grand strategy of USA at this juncture; these are _solely_ under the control and discretion of a very smal part of the political class, and they don’t care about bad press. So a few people get voted out? So what?? They are simply replaced by people who promise to effect the same policies only ‘cleaner.’ Hugh, find me a single instance in the last ten years (twenty really) where American public opinion has _demonstrably_ changed a preferred strategic policy option for the acme of the American state. I can’t think of one. We need to change that, yes, but the reality is that this is out of our hands at the present. The political class would have every reason to think that they could ‘do’ Iran and the public would squirm but hold still. The only calculations are the strategic ones, in my view, the public is factored out of the policy equaton.

        I’m simply offereing this as an assessment rather than a statement of probability. It’s nuts for the US to begin such a caper as an airwar on Iran, but it could be managed now whereas strategically it couldn’t even a few years ago. That’s the risk. The real bars to action are no longer in effect so only the insanity of the idea is in the way. And people do stupid things and go nuts. More often than not, be it said . . . .

      2. Richard Kline

        So Hugh, I’m going to expand upon one remark I made in the above comment, for you or anyone else who may still be following this thread. I said that nuclear capability in Iran is a red herring. I strongly believe that, and suggest a perspective on the fundamental strategic issues behind this ongoing confrontation.

        States don’t acquire nuclear arms for aggressive reasons; they acquire nuclear arms as a poison pill defense against other state actors who outclass them in conventional terms. I really don’t think this view can be argued against. One could make the case that this was even true of the first nuclear armed state, the US, and it is surely true of every state since; it is especially true of the states who have acquired nuclear arms from Israel on. I believe that this is the situation with Iran just as the others. Should Iran possess nuclear weapons, it would be very unlikely to change the present realpolitickal calculus at all, but it does take the option of conventionally attacking Iran to subjugate it off the table, permanently. That matters to the present political leadership of Iran whom many dislike, including most Iranians. A nuclear Iran removes one level of threat _by_ the US or Israel, but it doesn’t acquire any level of threat _against_ either beyond what it presently possesses. So the issue of ‘they want nukes’ is a propaganda cover for other purposes since nuclear arms change nothing of the present situation.

        What are the strategic potentials which Iran poses apart from nuclear arms then? Well, they kicked the US out, and that defiance cost the US something. Revenge matters for some in US policy circles, and making ‘an example’ of Iran also matters somewhat in a larger sense. But at the issue of “see what happens if you mess with us” has already been demonstrated on Iraq. Doing Iran yields diminishing returns in that regard. Wounding but being unable to finish off Iran actually undermines that point. This is part of what militates against attacking Iran: the ‘exemplary’ payoff at this point would be little or nothing. Secondarily, during the 1980s Iran definitely sponsored hostile covert actions against the US overseas and against third parties. Of course, the US was heavily involved in an _undeclared war against IRAN_ at the time in support of Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War, something virtually no commentator seems to take adequately into account in assessing the strategic situation there. We blew up their navy, shot down their planes, and crippled their oil export capability; the US did that, not Iraq. In that light, Iran’s desire for nuclear weapons is eminently rational. But Iran lost that war, and furthermore ceased such harassing attacks after the Gulf War. From this perspective, Iran simply poses no threat to the US sans nukes, period, and none with nukes unless we invade them and are winning. Hence, they aren’t a threat to the US or Americans.

        Who is troubled by Iran? Well, Iran’s alliance with Syria and arming and alliance of Lebanon’s Shia community was a huge strategic problem _for Israel_. This is the real ‘threat to Israel,’ not nukes but a strategic alliance and military support. This ‘threat’ is more real now in some ways than in the past, for while Syria is at least crippled (and likely headed for civil war and regime change), an Iranian alliance with, say, Turkey and or Egypt would be an insurmountable strategic difficulty for Israel to the point of taking policy actions off the table for the Israelis at least. This is what Israel fears, not nukes but effective conventional counterweights to Israel’s egregious misconduct. And that threat is very substantive without nukes, and something which cannot be expunged once nukes are in place in Iran, regardless of regime. Getting the US to break all of the military and economic bones in the state of Iran’s body for Israel would be a highly desirable outcome. But moreover, keeping 100,000 US troops and lots of arms in the Near East as ‘back up’ for Israel against any other political-military alliance is as desirable or more, a larger purpose in Israeli stovepiping ‘intelligence’ and ‘missions to do’ to the US for the last thirty years, still ongoing: Israel wants us there, to protect them by our presence ir not our actions. That is my view.

        The greatest threat from Iran lies in fact not with any action of the Persians but in Arabia. Most of that country’s oil lies under the territory of a large Shia minority living in apartheid-like disenfranchisement. There is no evidence of Iranian political intervention with this minority, though obviously there is great sympathy between the two communities. The Saudi monarchy fears, not Iran, but an internal revolt. The situation in Kuwait is the same: kleptocratic Sunni rulers and a large subjected Shia community. This is the problem for the US, not Iran, but an internal revolt in ‘Saudi’ Arabia against social injustice. A shut-down of Saudi oil exports for any length of time, even a temporary interruption, has severe economic implications for the grossly imbalanced global capitalist economy.

        It is in the strategic interest of the US to avoid such a disruption in Arabia, simple fact. Iran has shown no evidence of moving to make such a disruption there. The potential for a retaliatory incitement there should some attack begin upon Iran from the US, Israel, or someone else is a material concern to American strategic planners. This is the worry, not nukes. Though if Iran had a poison pill defense, the potentiality for Iran to incite in Arabia likely goes up. Under present circumstances, this would likely only occur if Iran was itself attacked, but circumstances can change, too.

        What has happened is that the Israelis have managed to successfully conflate their strategic threat in the Levant with American strategic concern in the Gulf. Israel’s strategic conundrum of an alliance of their neighbors against them is a zero strategic concern for the US, but an Israeli action promoting disruption of oil supply from Arabia would hit the capitalist oligarchy where it hurts them most, in their wallet. So here we are . . . .

        And y’know, folks, what a really smart strategic planner would do would be _to overthrow the Saudi monarchy and replace them with a weak neoliberal ally including the Shia_. That would end the strategic concern, effectively eliminating the real weak link, the kleptocratic House of Saud. And y’know . . . we’ve done that before, to others. Think Panama. I’m not, mind you, advocating that the US ‘overthrow a government’ or ‘promote democracy [what, for the first time ever?],’ or all that. But it is a testament to the strategic neebishness of American policy planners that we act against our own interests time and again in begin lead by the nose by Israel and bodyguarding Saudi despots when eliminating the latter would save absolutely everybody a lot of money and bother. We’re stupid, what can I say . . . ?

    7. Paul Tioxon

      Richard, do you have any idea much less facts at your disposal for your claims about Israel and the US national interests? For example, in June of 1981, only thirty years ago, the Israel Air Force invaded and bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor 18 miles south of Baghdad. This was the first military attack in history against a nuclear power plant. Perhaps you need to be reminded of the havoc ongoing in Japan with their nuclear power plants that were not bombed but damaged due to pump failure. As you know, Baghdad is a city of some 7 million plus people today, the 2nd largest city in Western Asia, after, oh look, Tehran. HMMM?? And cementing this rich and friendly relationship, US Naval Intelligence employee, Jay Pollard stole and sold secrets to the Israeli government during the rest of the 1980’s, but was convicted of espionage and sentence to life in jail. So much for friendship. Considering these examples of Israel not being a engine of foreign policy, other than with Israel directly, why are we going to war again, if not for the universal consensus of foreign policy analysis worldwide, oil, which runs the global economy?

      But not only is there this small question about Israel not doing for itself what America can do for it out of friendship. Perhaps the other invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 by the Red Army of the then Soviet Union was another token of love and friendship for Israel, as is our invasion of Iraq? Perhaps, it was never oil, never the containment first of the communist world and now the economic containment of China from ascending too quickly without the appropriate structural issues of territorial control firmly resolved in the favor of US national security and economic interests. No we, the US government, sends out its troops and trillions of dollars for war simply because Israel and the USA are BFF 4evr (:

      Here is the statement of policy and doctrines from the Project of the New American Century. It is US centered, as in no permanent allies, just permanent interests, ours and ours alone. It was implemented by President George W Bush to disastrous consequences that were driven by US business, military and ideological concerns, not friendship for other countries.

      1. Richard Kline

        So Paul, my analysis is my own. Yes, I do use facts, but explaining how is more time than I have to put into this here. You are welcome to call my views an informed opinion, but they are that.

        Paul, no one goes to war ‘for oil.’ No state political actors make any major decision on a basis that crude. [Sorry, I _had_ to say it. : ) ] State political decision makers act to force other sets of state political actors into a response that the first group wants. Yes, that might be ‘sell your oil to our preferred providors.’ But these two goals are not the same thing. To get sets of policy actors to do something is not a matter of pulling a lever or blowing someone’s head off. Look, there is a huge literature on how decisions are made at the state level, I recommend that you dig into that; I have, and it informs my views on assessments.

        And btw, Israel’s single air raid on Iraq, or on Syria if you like, were far different operational and strategic contexts than any action of any kind against Iran. You can’t deduce how Israel would act in relation to Iran by comparing to the former alone, and I’m sure the Israelis don’t. Pollard’s action had zero long-term policy impact on American-Israeli relations. It _should_ have, and the fact that it did not is telling if you stop and think about it.

        Contexts, Paul, single instances in isolation cannot be used to draw meaningful conclusions. If only it were that simple . . . .

    8. Francois T

      At this point in time, looking at where our society and our economy stands, there is no chance in hell the President would even think of attacking Iran. People are already so fed up with war that the thought of another one would irremediably sink his chances of re-election.

      1. Richard Kline

        Francois, to be polite that is bunk. No American President has ‘lost and election’ because of being at war since Truman. (One could argue Johnson; choose him if you wish.) The American president who lost because of a military action was Carter, and that was because of an _inaction_, something very closely noted by the American political class. Bush pere lost because of the economy; people _loved_ his war. I refer you to my comment above to Hugh, to the effect that in my view American public opinion has no impact upon strategic decisions.

        Francois, what happens is that the political class builds a box where the only way for a President to maintain standing with _them_, the political class, is to act. It is a fantasy that ‘the President decides.’ Yes, there is latitude to act, and some acts are idiosyncratic and personal. But not at the level of an airwar on Iran.

        Would it be personally, politically wise for a popular American President to launch an airway in Iran? No, that’s not a good personal choice. Would it be conceivable that a marginally popular President teetering on electoral defeat would give the ‘do them’ order if he felt he’d critical or major portions of the _political class_ if he didn’t? Yes, this happens regularly. Would it be conceivable that a marginally popular President sliding toward probable electoral defeat might grasp at the straws of a ‘sound and light show’ to win an election at the post. This kind of thing happens very regularly indeed, and is no small part of what got Ron Regan a second term and Bush pere thought he’d pull off as well, just to mention recent relevant examples.

        Francois, to me you are confusing your personal revulsion against these imperialist wars (which I completely share, believe me) with an assessment of ‘what the public would do.’ The public is tired of these wars, but sure likes winning them; the political class understands this very well. The public cares about the economy and would prefer not to pay attention to military actions; the political class understands this very well. The public just isn’t going to make ‘doing Iran’ their decisive electoral issue on any review of recent comparable instances. That’s my view.

    9. Procopius

      I’ve been thinking for over a year that Obama is going to find himself next year facing 9% or better unemployment and a stagnant economy, with gridlock in the Senate and insanity in the House. I believe he’s going to realize that Americans will always reelect the incumbent President when we are in a war. Why else would they be pushing such ridiculous stories as the one about the failed used car salesman (from Texas, at that) and the Mexican drug cartel? It’s so obviously a fiction created by the FBI that even the wing-nutters can’t get worked up about it, but I’m sure it will be a great reason why we absolutely must invade Iran, say about March next year. I really hope I’m delusional.

  2. christofay

    Regarding the kossacks, Chicago under Earl Rahmbo and New York City under Sir Progressive Bloomberg, are just practicing what has been enabled by the American Stasi Act, erh, the Patriotic Stasi Act, domestic spying

  3. MDBill

    The “current target” link is malformed and following it results in a “404 not found” error.

  4. anon48

    Re: A Board Complicit in MF Global’s Bets

    The Times article describes an engaged board, fully aware of the risks Corzine was taking -but- still chose to do nothing. If so, the reporter’s conclusion of the need for setting up a system whereby Board members’ compensation be subject to forfeiture becomes even more compelling.

  5. ambrit

    As a denizen of the Last Best State, I’m here to testify that the politicking around the personhood amendment was more intense than usual. Driving down the main drag of Hattiesburg one saw groups of youmg women at major intersections, (three I personally observed,) waving quite definite signs advocating rejection of the Personhood Initiative. (‘Take your hands out of my womb,’ was my favourite.) These women were not uniformly young college types either. A group of older ‘well dressed’ women occupied one street corner out near the heart clinic.
    This is a wake up call to the Southern Paternalists. Women as a class can be politically active when the issue is important to them. Interesting times ahead for all.

  6. Wendy

    Just donated to the blog that has become my favorite over the past year – the first I read each day, and the last if that’s all i have time for.

    Keep it up Yves. BTW is your nom de plume a reference at all to Adam Smith, plus an Adam and Eve thing but with a twist to Yves?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Adam Smith, plus the fact that all the Yves that are well know (at least to English speakers) were top of their fields (Yves Saint Laurent, Yves Montand).

      1. Wendy

        Love it. You prove a right to that confidence every day here. I only wish some of your troops were ladies also, as we need our impressive women to be more visible.

        Thanks a ton for the reply!

  7. Susan the other

    The FDA injunction re cigarette labels: It sounds more like the tobacco industry is pleading the fifth in a pre-trial motion (a pre-emptive maneuver) than pleading free speech. If it’s about the intersection of free speech and harmful speech, how can tobacco complain that graphic labels unlawfully compel speech? Is it unlawful to compel truth in advertising? Or to curtail deceptive uttering, i.e. fraud?

    1. Maximilien

      Kurt Vonnegut (4 pack a day smoker) used to joke that he was going to sue the tobacco companies because their product hadn’t killed him as advertised.

      He died at the age of 84 from injuries sustained in a fall.

  8. MontanaMaven

    Did anybody else get through that whole article “How a Financial Pro Lost His House”? He writes for the NY Times? He has a book? The writing is mundane and at the same time indicative of what passes for insight in main stream publications. It’s why I read “Naked Capitalism”. But why was it linked? Curious.

    1. Anon

      The funniest bit is at the end, where he says – after five pages of discussing how people get into colossal debt because 1) they fail to educate themselves about the risks, and 2) are encouraged to buy things they can’t afford by unscrupulous lenders – that the one thing he’s taken from the crisis is… to be judgment-free in respect of others’ choices.

      This means, accordingly, that it’s still okay to go on a skiing holiday, whether or not you can afford it, or to engage in the costly pastime of “therapy”, because of course such things can always be justified, post hoc ergo propter hoc, as “life savers”.

      The delusion is strong in this one…

      1. BondsOfSteel

        Actually, what I took away was that he was able to finance his lifestyle for a number of years with no money down, default on the debt, and recover pretty quickly.

        In this context, it would seem that it’s pretty easy to encourage/enable others to take expensive ski vacations they can’t afford.

        1. David

          While reading this cautionary tale I kept thinking the title should have been:

          “Wannabe Security Guard Gets in Way Over His Head”

    2. Maximilien

      “He writes for the NY Times?….The writing is mundane….”

      You’ve answered your own question. The writing is mundane BECAUSE it’s the NYT. I think it’s editorial policy to drain all life (read: controversy and frankness) out of its articles and opinion pieces.

      I’ve pretty well given up on it too. Same goes for the the New Yorker mag and to a lesser extent the NYRB. For one thing, they all refuse to give up the pretense that Obama and the Dems are working for meaningful change.

      Perceptive readers are very good at sensing phoniness in all forms of writing. Yet writers continue to think they can get away with it.

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      Because I am sure it is going to be talked about aplenty. It fits the “greedy borrower” meme. If you read it, it much more clearly a bubble mania meme, that a supposed pro wouldn’t apply financial discipline to his most important investment.

      But there is a lot of stuff that is sus in the piece (not in terms of what the guy wrote per se, but the implicit framing). First, guys like him are stock jockeys. He might have some bond funds or foreign funds he puts people in, but he’s a retail broker with a fancier title. So the article title is meant to imply he’d be conservative, when the whole stock game is based on people not understanding the risks of markets and taking on too much (see Mandelbrot, the Misbehavior of Markets, or my summary of that sort of thinking in Ch. 3 of ECONNED). So his business is based on risk assumption and on a bad methodology that leads people to take on too much. He’s not the sort that would sit with people at a kitchen table to do a budget, so it is not surprising that he didn’t for himself (by contrast, when I bought my first apt. I did a monthly spreadsheet by hand, since that was even how staff at Goldman did client work in those days, to see if I could really afford it).

      1. MontanaMaven

        Thanks. I will reread Chapter 3. I thought financial planners were the kind of people that look at your assets in terms of creating a will, planning for retirement with diverse portfolio, tax planning etc? Are there such a thing as “good” financial planners? I’d like to find one. But this guy? Obviously this guy was probably not even suited to be a security guard let alone helping people “plan” for retirement. Just a hustler.

      2. Bill

        @Yves Smith:

        Nothing quite illustrates your class and
        integrity quite like this statement:

        “…(see Mandelbrot, the Misbehavior of Markets, or my summary of that sort of thinking in Ch. 3 of ECONNED)

        i.e., listing your own book second even on your
        own blog………

        It’s a small touch, but classy !

  9. George Balanchine


    Yet another anti-Israel link, and nothing about why Israel might be worried about Iran having nuclear weapons, such as Iran’s President calling for Israel to be wiped off the map.
    And of course, no links about other client states of the US with far worse human rights records than Israel.

    George Balanchine

    1. Hugh

      Another hasbara whine? Juan Cole debunked the Ahmadinejad wipe Israel off from the face of the earth statement years ago. This in no way changes the fact that Ahmadinejad is a thug, just not the one you suppose. And you know too I suppose that Israel has at minimum 100 nukes, right? And the last time Iran initiated a war with one of its neighbors was what? in 1826?

      1. liberal

        Actually, the domestic political situation, and how it interacts with foreign policy, sounds complicated in Iran.

        Ahmadinajad sounds pretty anti-Israel. But this advisor of his, who the clerics really hate (some theological dispute or something) views Israel much more warmly than the clerics do.

    2. René

      “A future scenario for The Place of Judgment, the Middle East. Are we on course to a doom scenario? What are the scenarios for the Near East in the foreseeable future? Tension in the Middle East is mounting again, as political decisions in both the United States and Iran are now being taken by neoconservatives.

      Both places have idiots in charge, states colonel Lawrence Wilkerson. And the weapon of mass destruction scenario has been dug up again, this time for Iran. Plans of attack are being made and pre-emptive strikes are being considered. Backlight presents an ominous future view on the Middle East, the Place of Judgment. For Endgame, director Marije Meerman has gathered opinions and attitudes from the US, Israel and Iran concerning Israel’s near future.”

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      The US does not have a habit of getting into wars that benefit those other client states (ex the Saudis, but they are part of the same general equation. And I don’t consider the Saudi abuses to be as bad as the genocidal policies toward Palestine, which have also proved to be singularly counterproductive. They’ve radicalized the populace. Ten years ago, only a small portion of the population, IIRC 20%, supported suicide bombings. The last survey I saw was two years ago, and it was then 70%). The ramifications of our support of Israel have much bigger repercussions than our alliances with other nations with bad records. You can’t pretend not to know that.

      1. George Balanchine

        Genocide against the Palestinians?
        Last I checked the original refugee population in 1948 was, what, 500,000? Today there are how many millions of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza strip?
        Using the word ‘genocide’ to describe Israeli policies towards the Palestinians is, how can I say this, not supported by the facts. Also, this has the sub-text of comparing the Israelis to Nazis, a view entirely unsupported by anything in the world. In my opinion it’s just anit-Israel bias, to say the least.
        So the massive(as in billions of dollars) US support of various governments in Colombia that kill thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, that’s not a “war”? What about Mexico and this atrocious war on drugs? Why aren’t you criticizing those wars? In terms of US foreign policy, and I’ve been reading NC for awhile, NC only talks about the Middle East and how the Jews are to blame, nothing else.
        But even if Israel didn’t exist, we(the US) would be just as involved in the Middle East as we are now, so then what would people on the “Left” blame that US involvement on?
        I do like a lot of what I read on NC, but this lamentable bias against the Israelis(shared by many others) ruins any hope of influencing people in a broader way.

  10. Susan the other

    I certainly do hope that Taibbi stays all over Mitt Romney. Mitt and the party line. The atrocities committed by the finance industry are being denied like the holocaust by the politicians, the media, and FIRE. For an otherwise sometimes surprisingly thoughtful man, David Brooks betrays himself. So does Mike Bloomberg. What no one wants to say, except the likes of Matt Taibbi et al who are so rightfully outraged, is that trust has been totally destroyed. It is so gone. This fact just re-emphasizes the brain-dead attitude of Mitt Romney. No matter how many adjectives like “adult” or “serious” get smeared on him, he’s still a greedy twit.

    1. PQS


      That one single person with a media outlet could even utter the words “privatize SS” without choking just shows how shallow is their connection to the Rest of America.

  11. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Finding Freedom in Handcuffs.

    The wesetrn notion of freedom is that one can do what one wants, within certain limits.

    I am wrestling with another notion of freedom – to be able to do what one doesn’t normally want to do.

    I think if you can do that gladly or at least without revulsion, you are truly free, inside or spiritually.

  12. aet

    I see OWS Denver has responded to their Mayor’s demands that they elect a “leader”:–video-meet-occupy-denver-s-newest-leader-a-dog?bn=1

    …and if it doesn’t think that the most important thing for the USA to do is to immediately go to war with any country which has never done anything to harm the USA, then it could turn out to be a better leader ( in toto ) than some leaders America has had recently – and may still yet have, judging from the “let’s go to war” talk echoing around.

  13. aletheia33

    i have hope for the denver occupy, as border collies (even part ones) are very good at herding.

  14. SR6719

    Off topic, nevertheless someone might find this quote as amusing as I did:

    “Most people find Comte “(Auguste Comte, 1798 – 1857) “unreadable because he repeats himself to the point of madness. And medically speaking, he certainly wasn’t far from insanity. As far as I know, he is the only philosopher who tried to commit suicide. He threw himself into the Seine because of a broken heart. They pulled him out and he spent six months in a sanitorium. And this was the father of Positivism, which is considered to be the height of rationalism.”

    (found in an interview with “Michel Houellebecq”, The Art of Fiction, in Paris Review)

  15. skippy

    Above… The Mideast is about WATER, ARABLE LAND and SPICE. Today the spice is the worlds reserve currency, and central banks are running massive SIV/SPVs no different than the fraudsters not long ago and on going.

    Skippy..until someones alien spaceship land on Jerusalem, I guess well never know?

  16. molten_tofu

    I’m no saint – it took me 3 months after getting my first credit card to realize I needed to not use it on day to day purchases because I regularly over spent, and 3 more months to stop making those purchases.

    But that “financial pro” is shockingly bad at his chosen profession. I mean, I was just thinking this morning about how being “underwater” does not mean you can’t afford to pay your mortgage – a very important distinction – and then I read this:

    “We have a friend who is under water on his mortgage even though he has lived within his means and done everything right. He’s sticking with his mortgage for as long as he can.”

    Srsly? And did he srsly refinance into a negative rate? It doesn’t matter how much you plan on making next year – that’s just a charity donation to your bank.

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