… Across the spectrum, experts are imploring political leaders not to be myopic and unyielding: delay the budget cuts until the economic recovery really takes hold, but be ready with a more considered course of deficit reduction when that moment arrives.
Yet Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, and their surrogates on Capitol Hill, are locked in a fight over which candidate and which party will more quickly and effectively reduce the deficit — the opposite of what economists say we need …
Erik Kain at Mother Jones, defending MSNBC host Chris Hayes, who was bombarded with insults after questioning the wisdom of automatically referring to Americans soldiers who fall in battle as heroes:
In transforming our soldiers or police automatically into “heroes” we ignore the atrocities our own side commits. In doing so we also ignore the real moments of heroism. We give a free pass to anyone with a uniform and a gun regardless of their individual merit, and lend unwitting support to every war, from Iraq and Afghanistan to the War on Drugs, in the process.
I’m with Kain. What we need these days are more anti-heroes — people who rebel against the “my country right or wrong mentality” that allows us to be manipulated by lying politicians who all too often take the country into unnecessary wars to enrich “defense” contractors while dodging serious domestic problems.
We need more people like Yossarian, in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. More here.
How will members of Congress who are owned by Big Oil respond to calls for a “greener” military? This one’s a no-brainer, as they say on sports-talk radio:
… The House GOP included a measure in the defense authorization bill this month prohibiting the Defense Department from buying alternative fuels if they cost more than “traditional fossil fuel.” And the Senate Armed Services Committee last week followed suit with an “even tougher” provision mirroring the House version but also exempts DOD from clean energy standards…
The whole idea seems like a pipe dream sometimes, doesn’t it? A geographically close group of countries with distinct national identities coming together in the hope of ensuring mutual economic prosperity, on the assumption that they will bond in an ineradicable way by using the same currency. Except that thousand-year-old enmities and prejudices aren’t good bonding agents. Britain didn’t even adopt the euro. This news item was a reminder of fundamental divisions:
The Brussels-based French-language press corps reacted with fury Wednesday to the release in English of the [European Union’s] annual report cards on the bloc’s 27 economies.
In an angry open e-mail to the European Commission, the correspondent for the daily Liberation newspaper Jean Quatremer said — in French: “Once again, all the documents published today are available only in English. This is unacceptable.”
The Commission released 1,500 pages of hotly-awaited reports on the state of the bloc’s economies along with proposals to redress public finances as Europe fights the debt crisis threatening some of its biggest economies.
“I can’t see why the Anglo-Saxon media should benefit from such an unbelievable competitive edge on the remainder of the other media and I can’t see any practical reason for the Commission’s incapacity to do this work.”
“The right to be informed in one’s own language about the social and budgetary sacrifices demanded by the EU executive is a minimum right,” he added.
His protest was backed by most of his French colleagues.
A spokesperson for the Commission told [Agence France-Presse] that “the translations are coming.”
One of the most vexing elements of the Social Security debate, for both sides, is that so much of it comes down to basic math that it seems like it ought to be an easy thing to solve. We’re not talking about the cost of an MIR here. Yet the two sides can’t agree on much of anything. (Now, HuffPost Hill thinks that’s because the private-equity-funded side is just lying, but whatever.) So Daniel Marans, a young whippersnapper with the liberal Social Security Works, challenged Simpson to debate the program. We called up Simpson, and he quickly agreed. “All they have to do is read the [Bowles-Simpson] report and it tells you exactly what we plan to do with Social Security. It’s very clear. If they’ll read the report, then I’ll talk to them. I want them to read the 67 page report, especially what it says about Social Security and making it solvent for people their age,” he said. “But if they want to know how to save the system so that when they’re 65 they won’t get a check for 25 percent less, yes, I can try to help them.” (Under Simpson’s plan, which would raise the retirement age, they’d actually get zero at 65, but whatever.) Simpson said he worried the debate was “just gonna be a bunch of emotional claptrap,” but he said he was up for it nonetheless. HuffPost is happy to host, but we need a venue. Maybe the American Legion on Capitol Hill? We’re still working out the details, but we’re looking forward to this one.
According to a new report from the Office of Research at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the U.S. has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the developed world. Of the 35 wealthy countries studied by UNICEF, only Romania has a child poverty rate higher than the 23 percent rate in the U.S.:
[The rate is] based on the definition of relative poverty used by the OECD. Under this definition,a child is deemed to be living in relative poverty if he or she is growing up in a household where disposable income, when adjusted for family size and composition, is less than 50% of the median disposable household income for the country concerned. By this standard, more than 15% of the 200 million children in the 35 countries listed in Figure 1b are seen to be living in relative poverty.
The top five positions in the league table are occupied by Iceland, Finland, Cyprus, the Netherlands and Norway (with Slovenia and Denmark close behind). All of these countries have relative child poverty rates below 7%. Another eight countries including two of the largest — Germany and France– have rates between 7% and 10%. A third group, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, post rates of between 10% and 15%. A further six, including populous Italy and Spain, show rates of between 15% and 20%. In only two countries are more than 20% of children living in relative poverty — Romania and the United States.
Bob Dylan received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor, at a ceremony at the White House [Tuesday] afternoon.
At the ceremony, President Obama said of Dylan, “There is not a bigger giant in the history of American music,” adding that the “unique gravel-y power” of his voice helped redefine “not just what music sounded like, but the message it carried and how it made people feel.”
When the White House announced that Dylan would be one of this year’s recipients, they wrote in a statement that the rock & roll pioneer had “considerable influence on the civil rights movement of the 1960s and has had significant impact on American culture over the past five decades.”
Dylan also had considerable influence on the anti-war movement — you know, protests against the undeclared Vietnam war, the war that made it so easy for future presidents to send young Americans into equally unnecessary conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to keep them there long after it was obvious there was nothing to be gained.
Too bad Dylan didn’t get to sing a few verses of “Masters of War,” although I don’t think Obama would have been amused by the irony.