Friday, January 30, 2009

An idea....

Opponents of fiscal stimulus in the form of government spending regularly point out that the U.S. wasn't pulled out of the Great Depression until the enormous ramp-up that was the U.S.'s involvement in World War II.

Leaving aside the point that during the war the U.S. Government laid out enormous sums of money and funded a massive expansion in manufacturing, agriculture, transportation and scientific research.

The much lauded post-war prosperity was possible because of the enormous growth in capacity and know-how driven by government funding. Add to that the return of millions of trained workers to the labor market and the-mistakenly but consistently-overlooked fact that the U.S. retained the only fully-functional industrial base for at least a decade.

Critics say the government shouldn't be pouring money into the economy, that it will only leave us burdened with debt in the future. Yet right now the U.S. is one of the few that has the ability to do so. While should be directing funds into the hands of consumers to spend, but perhaps more importantly, we should be directing the funds into rebuilding the U.S. infrastructure and subsidizing a boom in industrial and technological growth. 

Financial services have gotten all the glory when it comes to wealth creation, but they were also directly responsible for the bubble that has blown the global economy. Perhaps we should focus on areas where self-sustaining growth can be developed and once again return the U.S. to its leadership position in the world economy. 

- Murphy

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Limbaugh: "I hope [Obama] fails."

 Rush Limbaugh wasted no time in reigniting the rancor that has distinguished conservative commentary since the mid 1990’s.

Rush said he doesn’t need a long statement to say what he means, merely four words. “I. Hope. He. Fails.”

The American people, however, may quibble with Rush’ hunger for the failure of the newly minted Obama administration. Pollster’s aggregate poll shows that Obama maintains a growing favorability rating, currently 71%.

Since the election, Obama’s favorability has gone nowhere but up; potentially related to the deepening crisis and the close of the Bush administration.

Rush's jumping off point was his insistence that the government should not control things; not the banks, not the auto industry and not health care. 

I am sure somewhere in his mind there's a little asterisk noting that all of the efforts to extend government into these areas were initiated by his favorite President, G. W. Bush.

- Murphy

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Jonah Golberg, editor of the National Review, was just on NPR's Talk of the Nation discussing the new role of conservative commentators during the Obama administration.

Goldberg started out saying that being "out in the wilderness" is actually "fun" and is the natural home of the Goldwater Conserervatives; that opposition is in their DNA.

After lauding the conservatives for their principled opposition, he then immediately went on to decry liberal critics of the Bush administration, referring to some of them as "warewolves" who "need to feed".

He contrasted that with his view of conservatives as the constructive critics-that none harbor any personal animus toward the new President; unlike his liberal opponents who apoplecticly decry anything Bush has done merely because they were done by Bush.

He apparently hasn't received notice from his friends in the Republican National Committee, who-in their principled opposition-giggle away at "Barack the Majic Negro" and pledge to become Obama's "worst nightmare".

- Murphy

Sunday, January 11, 2009

U.S. Refused to Back Israeli Strike on Iran

In a piece in today's New York Times, David Sanger reports on some of the details behind the complicated balancing act between the United States and Israel, which teeters on attempts to disrupt the Iranian nuclear program.

Some of the efforts have been circulating around for some time on different foreign policy blogs, but this piece-which comes ahead of a more detailed book by Sanger to be released this week-ties them together.

The bold-faced point, however, is that the U.S. not only refused to aid an Israeli attack, but took a number of steps to deter their action.

White House officials never conclusively determined whether Israel had decided to go ahead with the strike before the United States protested, or whether Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel was trying to goad the White House into more decisive action before Mr. Bush left office. But the Bush administration was particularly alarmed by an Israeli request to fly over Iraq to reach Iran’s major nuclear complex at Natanz, where the country’s only known uranium enrichment plant is located.

The White House denied that request outright, American officials said, and the Israelis backed off their plans, at least temporarily. But the tense exchanges also prompted the White House to step up intelligence-sharing with Israel and brief Israeli officials on new American efforts to subtly sabotage Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, a major covert program that Mr. Bush is about to hand off to President-elect Barack Obama.

In essence, the release of a 2007 intelligence report stating that Iran was further behind in it's efforts to build and deploy a nuclear warhead than previously believed, prompted to different reactions by the U.S. and Israel.

Israel-which believed the report to be inaccurate-saw the it as a sign the U.S. would not take its own military action, and thus stepped up its efforts to plan an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. The plans reached the point of attack exercises over the Mediteranian and requesting bunker-buster bombs and permission to fly over Iraq from the U.S. None of the Israeli efforts to prod the U.S. into aiding their efforts panned out.

In the U.S., efforts turned towards non-military options. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and others believed the military effort would bear little fruit: it was unlikely to deal a decisive blow, drive the Iranian further underground, and could spark even greater destabilization in the region. Instead they continue to pursue covert efforts to disrupt the Iranians ability to keep their program running: including disrupting the electrical infrastructure, computer network attacks, and the sabotage of key parts.

Despite the bellicose nature of the Bush administration in the first administration, it appears that they have taken a more nuanced and deliberate approach in recent years; combining international diplomatic efforts and strong-arm sanctions, as well as low-level covert actions that may delay functional capability.

The Obama administration will have a number of major issues on its plate beginning on day one, but at least a third war isn't one of them.

- Murphy

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Burris' Path

While Roland Burris' granite mausoleum (complete with footnoted resume) may point to a playful intellect, one must admit that he could have taken a slightly different tack when approaching his appointment. 

Perhaps he could have backed off claims that Blagojevich's decision was touched by the hand of God, or that the Democrats were barring the door to racial progress by denying him a seat in the Senate

Citing divine providence while surrogates accuse your own party of reclaiming the mantle of Bull Connor-a party which just months prior nominated and then elected the first African-American President-Likely inspires anger amongst your potential colleagues. Beyond that, the fact that your benefactor faces a long stint in prison for attempting to sell the seat you now hold, a seat just vacated by the now first African-American President-elect, tempts the fates in a way only Bill Murray could make funny.

Perhaps a more effective path could have been to take the turn of the statesman.

In a single stroke, Burris could have: satiated his ambition, cemented a sterling reputation, and maybe even earned the gratitude of a Democratic Party that sits on pins a needles.

To land this trifecta Burris could have begun by accepting the seat. Following his acceptance, Burris would announce that he has taken the seat despite the Governor's leaden touch, and he was accepting it as a place-holder and would not run for election in two years. 

In doing so, and assuming he found some way to cement people's trust that he would follow through on is promise, he could have reached his pinnacle position and perhaps even had the chance to leave his mark. And by bowing out in two years he would earn a measure of respect rare in this modern age.

Now, it's unlikely someone thinking along these lines would have landed on the Governor's radar. While Burris is roundly respected, his glaring ambition is unlikely to have lain quietly under a basket lo these many years. 

Yet, as a politician nearing the end of his career, what a coup he could have struck. Instead, Burris looks more a card-carrying member of a cynical, pay-for-play world of politics, the one Blagojevich typifies more than any other modern actor.

[This, of course, ignores the question of whether the appointment is legal or not. That will be left for the lawyers.]

- Murphy

Monday, January 05, 2009

Sen. Cornyn: We'll Filibuster Franken

Despite the numerous court rulings that have gone against incumbent Minnesota Republican Senator Norm Coleman, Republican Sen. John Cornyn (TX) pledged on CNN this morning that Republicans would block the seating of challenger Al Franken's because it "ignores Minnesota law."

During the long effort to resolve the narrow election, matters such as the type and manner of ballot counting have appeared regularly before the Minnesota courts, which have ruled regularly against the Coleman efforts. The result is that the Minnesota Secretary of State is ready to certify the election in favor of Franken.

The Coleman campaign, which in November encouraged the Franken campaign to concede defeat in the face of a vote difference measures in the dozens in order to begin the "healing process" has now pledged to tie the matter up in court. Coleman's Republican colleagues in the Senate have pledged to reinforce his efforts in the Senate.

- Murphy

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Gaza and the Wider Picture

Lara Rozen posted some thoughts from an analyst who notes that destabilizing Egypt may be the real target of the coalition of militants that include Hamas in Gaza.

There are two domestic agendas here. The Israeli one is very familiar... But what people are not asking and is at least as important: what are the f**** rocket firers hoping to do? ... If you look at what people are saying, there is a disconnect between what Haniyah and people in Gaza are saying, and what Nasrallah and Meshal and regional actors say. ... The Hamas leadership in Gaza is saying, we want a ceasefire on our terms. What Nasrallah and Meshal and Iran are saying: Egyptians, rise up ... What’s missing in every analysis I see is that Egypt is the prize, the low hanging fruit ...

Read on...

- Murphy