FireDogLake seems to be having server problems so I had to stop contributing to my book salon over there a bit more than half way through. But assuming things get fixed, I’ll return tomorrow to try to follow up on the questions still outstanding. Check it out — if you haven’t seen an FDL salon before, it’s a pretty cool format.
That LeBron James is a pretty talented player, huh? I think he’s going to go places in the NBA.
Beyond that, I don’t really understand Eddie Jordan’s notion that the Wiz should close games with Agent Zero iso plays. I think the Wizards and the Cavaliers are about equally matched teams. But the Cavs’ best player is much better than our best player. Our advantage is that it’s a game of five-on-five.
… a series of poor harvests in the area led to soaring bread prices, provoking food riots…. A worker’s daily bread took 97% of his income…. With bread prices at record levels, hungry mobs attacked the gates … where customs collected taxes on incoming grain convoys. They raided every possible source of arms, ending up with capturing the Bastille prison.
Oh, sorry, that was 1789. No worries, then. Not like that lead to a violent revolution or anything.
Anyway, the Washington Post has a terrific front-page article, “The New Economics of Hunger: A brutal convergence of events has hit an unprepared global market, and grain prices are sky high. The world’s poor suffer most,” which is the first in a series.
No, national and global mandates for biofuels (= bad energy policy) aren’t the only reason for this emerging catastrophe. Obviously, high oil prices (= bad energy policy) play a role. And then there are those poor harvests in places like Australia due to climate change (= bad energy policy). OK — the last one was kind of a stretch, given that the amount of climate change to date was probably all but inevitable. But my point is that if we don’t drastically reverse our self-destructive energy policies soon, things are going to get much worse….
We have mandates for far more biofuels (see “The Fuel on the Hill — The Corn Supremacy), and we are going to see much higher energy prices (see “Peak Oil? Bring it on!“) and much worse global drought and desertification (see The Century of Drought“).
What they heck are people supposed to eat then — Biofuels? Apparently that’s what politicians in this country and Europe think. Heck, in a Friday article, “IEA warns against retreat on biofuels,” the International Energy Agency, based in Paris, ironically enough, has this to stay:
Robert Frank says the positional nature of school quality helped fuel the housing boom, making it difficult for families to borrow responsibly when purchasing a home:
But what works for any individual family does not work for society as a whole. The problem is that a “good” school is a relative concept: It is one that is better than other schools in the same area. When we all bid for houses in better school districts, we merely bid up the prices of those houses.[...]
The result was a painful dilemma for any family determined not to borrow beyond its means. No one would fault a middle-income family for aspiring to send its children to schools of at least average quality. (How could a family aspire to less?) But if a family stood by while others exploited more liberal credit terms, it would consign its children to below-average schools. Even financially conservative families might have reluctantly concluded that their best option was to borrow up.
I don’t think it makes sense to view the quality of local public schools as a pure positional good (there would be a real difference between a society where the graduates of even the worst high school all had basic reading and math skills and the society we actually live in) but there clearly is some positional component here and I think Frank’s analysis explains at least some of what we’ve seen.
Reuters reports that militants “bombarded Baghdad’s Green Zone with rockets on Sunday, taking advantage of the cover of a blinding dust storm to launch one of the heaviest strikes in weeks on the fortified compound”:
The strikes appeared to defy a renewed call for a ceasefire by Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, which has seen many of his masked gunmen leave the streets of the Sadr City slum where they hold sway in eastern Baghdad. [...]
Iraqi police said eight missiles or mortars had hit the Green Zone and another 14 fell in other parts of the Iraqi capital before nightfall in several quick bursts, killing two people and wounding 20.
“Militiamen have fired 700 missiles and mortars over the past month in Baghdad,” Reuters adds.
Here’s Terry McAuliffe in his book explaining his own personal role in the delegitimation of the Michigan primary that he now decries:
“I’m going outside the primary window,” [Michigan Sen. Carl Levin] told me definitively.
“If I allow you to do that, the whole system collapses,” I said. “We will have chaos. I let you make your case to the DNC, and we voted unanimously and you lost.”
He kept insisting that they were going to move up Michigan on their own, even though if they did that, they would lose half their delegates. By that point Carl and I were leaning toward each other over a table in the middle of the room, shouting and dropping the occasional expletive.
“You won’t deny us seats at the convention,” he said.
“Carl, take it to the bank,” I said. “They will not get a credential. The closest they’ll get to Boston will be watching it on television. I will not let you break this entire nominating process for one state. The rules are the rules. If you want to call my bluff, Carl, you go ahead and do it.”
This kind of thing is why when you see “Michigan” featuring in a Clinton campaign account of something or other you shouldn’t take it very seriously.
Today on CNN’s Late Edition, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) sounded a note of caution on belligerant action toward Iran. Both said that Iran is trying to extend its influence in Iraq, warned against military action, and advocated diplomatic engagement. Hoekstra said:
I believe that reaching out and engaging with Iran, but doing so with Russia, doing so with our European allies, recognizing that they do have contacts into Iran, and engaging in a full-court diplomatic press with Iran is a good thing to begin the process of doing that.
You know, we’re not going to go into Iran militarily. The senator is absolutely right. Iran is not Iraq. And going in there militarily would be, from my perspective, a huge mistake.
A “stark new assessment” by Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen reports that “the government of Iran continues to supply weapons and other support to extremists in Iraq, despite repeated promises to the contrary, and is increasingly complicit in the death of American soldiers.” Yet Mullen too responded last week by stating, “I have no expectations that we are going to get into a conflict with Iran in the immediate future.”
In recent days, Hoekstra has sharply criticized the Bush administration’s handling of foreign policy. Commenting on the recent news that North Korea had helped Syria build a nuclear reactor — which was destroyed by Israel — Hoekstra blasted the White House for keeping the information from Congress for almost a year.
Transcript: Read more
Tyler Cowen argues that restrictions on trade in and sale of agricultural commodities are contributing to the current food crisis. The result of all these various protections and restrictions is to reduce overall production and to create an inefficient market where it’s relatively difficult to get goods to where they’re needed.
This is all why I find it difficult to get too upset one way or the other about things like CAFTA or the Colombia trade deal. The real gains to be realized from further liberalization of trade at this point have to do with farm stuff that’s been kept off the table in all these negotiations.
On Friday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), referring to Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), told conservative bloggers that “it’s very clear who Hamas wants to be the next president of the United States.” Now one of McCain’s top surrogates, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, has picked up on the line of attack, telling the Reno Gazette-Journal that “the recent endorsement by Hamas” was “revealing”:
ROMNEY: I think Barack Obama was more of a blank sheet. I think the primary revealed more about him than perhaps he would’ve liked. The recent endorsement by Hamas of his candidacy is I think the kind of development which people find revealing.
QUESTION: What do you take that to mean?
ROMNEY: Well, I think he’s said in his first year he would be inclined to visit with [Iranian President] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, [North Korean President] Kim Jong Il, [former Cuban President] Fidel Castro. I think they find that appealing.
McCain and Romney’s scurrilous attacks are reminiscent of the over-the-top rhetoric of hardline right wingers like Rush Limbaugh and John Bolton. Earlier this month, Limbaugh claimed that “Islamofascists are actually campaigning for the election of Democrats” while Bolton contended in January that “the Mullahs in Tehran” want the Democrats to win.
It’s worth noting that Hendrick Hertzberg is absolutely right to say that it’s just not true that Hillary Clinton has already been vetted, she “has not, in fact, survived the worst that the Republican attack machine (and its pilotless drones online and on talk radio) can dish out.” There’s a whole set of potential vulnerabilities dealing with pardons and finances from about 2000 to 2006 or 7 that haven’t been explored in detail during the course of this or any other campaign.
I don’t really want to rehash those incidents because I think it’s sleazy and their existence isn’t the reason I think Clinton would be the worse nominee. But if you’re out there thinking Obama’s got this Ayers and Wrght stuff in the closet and Hillary has no new vulnerabilities for the GOP to explore you’re fooling yourself.