Thursday, April 16, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
moving saleHistoriblography started as a group blog, but quickly became a Chris Bray blog, then quickly became a site for unfocused ranting and funny pictures of my daughter. I think the world desperately needs to hear my unfocused ranting, of course, but the world seems to be doing fine without it. So I'm going to put this blog out of its misery.
My next step, however, will be to start a new one, probably sometime in April. My plan is to focus more narrowly on state formation and the boundaries between state and nonstate institutions, so you can already see how millions of readers will be flocking to the new site. There will be a mix of history and current affairs.
And maybe the occasional baby picture.
Friday, February 27, 2009
sure looks like a death spiral to meMy god.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
america's most important journalistBorrowing a headline, I'll borrow the sentiment: You have to read this.
a year and a dayTake one of these:
Add one of these:
And then this:
It is our belief that some may have ended up in the belly.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Monday, February 16, 2009
things i learned while grading history exams, part 6,345"Ho Chi Minh was very inspired by Woodrow Wilson's fourteen points, especially Leninism."
cart, meet horseRecognizing the apparently overblown nature of the the recent stories about Generals Petraeus and Odierno meetin' Obama in the street with their shootin' irons, I still keep seeing stories that make me wonder if we all remember how this show is supposed to be scripted. Here's the beginning of a new story from Politico:
President Barack Obama is refusing to be rushed into his first decision to send troops into combat, an early sign he may be more independent-minded than U.S. military leaders expected.The president of the United States is independent-minded because he's not instantly giving military leaders the things they tell him they want. Why, I tell ya, Clevis, it's almost like that dang-fool president thinks he's the boss o' them military folks!
The new president's methodical decision-making offers an early insight into how the new commander in chief will approach the war in Afghanistan and has surprised some Pentagon officials, who had predicted repeatedly in the past two weeks that Obama would decide within days on additional forces, only to find the White House taking more time.
Rather than sign off quickly on all or part of a long-standing Pentagon request for three Army combat brigades and Marine units, totaling over 10,000 troops, Obama and his aides are questioning the timetable, the mission and even the composition of the new forces, officials familiar with the deliberations said.
The timetable and the mission are political decisions, and don't belong in the hands of generals. (The composition of forces, yeah.) This is ordinary behavior in a functioning government, and it's being greeted with man-bites-dog stories about how the president is "questioning the mission." We can argue over the scope and dimensions of the insanity, but it seems clear enough that we've wandered off into crazyland.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
but the last one was a winnerNew book review.
Friday, February 13, 2009
what in the fucking goddamn fuckIn the February 8 edition of the Washington Post, Thomas Ricks wrote openly -- and approvingly -- about the wonderful spectacle of gross military insubordination. General Ray Odierno, Ricks enthuses, "launched a guerrilla campaign for a change in direction in Iraq, conducting his own strategic review and bypassing his superiors to talk through Keane to White House staff members and key figures in the military." Ricks pronounces this an "audacious" move, and writes that it led to the implementation of "a strategy rejected by the full chain of command above him."
But it gets better: On Meet the Press that same day, Ricks said that he thinks "we may see a confrontation between Obama and the generals by the end of this year." Why? Take a moment and stare at this quote:
No, they feel they have made huge sacrifices, that they have had friends die and sons bleed, and that they don't want to throw that all away on the--you know, because some guy said on the campaign trail, "We're going to get all these guys out.""Some guy on the campaign trail." The president of the United States. The military doesn't feel like listening to him, so they're going to have a confrontation over it.
And it took me a week to notice, because all of these claims were not discussed for most of the week on most of the blogs and news sites that I read.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
because she's just like her dad, is whyChild sees self in mirror, blows fart noises at own mirror image:
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
someone is confusedDuncan Black, February 4:
I know I should never stop being surprised at how stupid Republicans want our political debate to be, but I just can't.Duncan Black, February 10:
There better and worse ways to spend money, both in terms of how sensible projects are and how much of a stimulative effect those expenditures will have, but all spending is stimulus.
Paying people to dig holes and then fill them up again would be stupid spending, but it would still be very effective stimulus.
Aside from the fact that it's all about bailing out Tim's friends, it's pretty clear that they still have no idea what they're doing. It's just throwing good money after bad.
Monday, February 02, 2009
coup d’étatSomeone please tell me that this story doesn't say what I think it says:
Obama's decision to override Petraeus's recommendation has not ended the conflict between the president and senior military officers over troop withdrawal, however. There are indications that Petraeus and his allies in the military and the Pentagon, including Gen. Ray Odierno, now the top commander in Iraq, have already begun to try to pressure Obama to change his withdrawal policy.Now, maybe this is bullshit. But if it's true? Fire. Them. Now.
A network of senior military officers is also reported to be preparing to support Petraeus and Odierno by mobilising public opinion against Obama's decision.
Petraeus was visibly unhappy when he left the Oval Office, according to one of the sources.
Sunday, February 01, 2009
but a lot of people painted rocks!Specious counterarguments to specious arguments, and here we go:
Responding to a column from Amity Shlaes arguing that the New Deal prolonged the Great Depression, Dean Baker writes that, nuh-uh, the New Deal made there be jobs, so there:
...the discussion is contradicted by the known facts of the era. Roosevelt's New Deal Agenda lowered the unemployment rate from 25 percent in 1933 to 10 percent in 1937. None of us would be happy with 10 percent unemployment, but it is difficult to complain about policies that reduced the unemployment rate by an average of almost 4 percentage points a year. The annual growth rate over these four years averaged 13.0 percent.This is called "changing the subject," and it is, again, exactly what dead-ender Bushies did with the Holy Mythical Surge. The notional point of government intervention in the economy is the restoration of markets. Government gives away massive assloads of cash, and commercial vitality switches back on. If government solves the problem of ten million unemployed by paying five million people to dig holes and five million people to fill in holes, then, yes, government created ten million new jobs. But do those jobs work as advertised? If the government gives away massive assloads of free cash, does GM unmake shitty cars and suddenly produce good ones? Does Circuit City somehow un-die?
I challenge any takers to read Baker's post and find the part where he breaks down how many jobs came from straight from the New Deal, and how many came from the stimulation of the private market by the New Deal. Because otherwise, we can have full employment right now, and no need for further discussion: Everyone should just work for the government, problem solved. ("President Chris Bray reduced unemployment by one hundred percent with America's glorious new make-believe government-run 'tractor factories'!!!!!")
The question is not, "can government spending create jobs and personal spending?" -- because duh, if you give people massive assloads of free cash to dig holes and fill them in, more jobs and spending will result. But is free government money a path to a real and sustainable private economy, or does it just create its own kind of bubble? And what happens if the nation's creditors say that, no thanks, we decline to help the United States take on a few trillion dollars of extra debt?
And, above all, can government really fix the collapse of a form of notional prosperity built on credit cards by pulling out the national credit card?
Lots of spending equals lots of spending, nothing more. Maybe it leads to strong commercial markets. But it's not a given, and not all jobs are jobs; work created for the sake of creating work is welfare, and leads only to more welfare. I'm not opposed to welfare spending, if we're headed into a depression. But if that's what it is, call it that. Let's not pretend that free cash creates real jobs.
hitler hitler hooverThe gang of ignorant dumbfucks who gave us the morally deranged war in Iraq famously thought that every tinpot with a little gunboat navy was Adolf Hitler himself. Anyone who questioned the premise of the war in Iraq -- bomb the fuck out of the ragheads until they embrace secular democratic pluralism, go team! -- was Neville Chamberlain come back to haunt Team America's awesomeness with their whining and questioning. Don't sit around and fucking think about it -- take action! Intervene! Do something! The Podhoretzian chant of "Hitler Hitler Hitler" wasn't intended to be a contribution to a debate over the war; it was intended to prevent debate over the war.
Welcome back. Ladies and gentlemen, for this evening's performance, the role of Victor Davis Podhoretz Kagan will be played by an understudy, Mr. Frank Rich. And curtain:
Didi: Well, I don't know, it seems like we could create significant moral haz-
Gogo: HOOVER HOOVER HOOVER!!!!!!!
Didi: No, no, I just think we need to think this through. Banks made bad loans, then packaged them into bad bonds, then sold bad credit default swaps to cover the bad bonds that contained the bad loans, so government should give the banks money to cut them free from their losses? How does that restore commercial vitali-
Gogo: HOOVER HOOVER HOOVER OMFG YOU'RE LIKE HOOVER YOU WANT THERE TO BE A DEPRESSION AND STARVING BABIES!!!!!
Didi: I don't, I really don't. But can you explain where the money comes from for a bailout, and why tons more debt helps us to dig out of the collapse of a badly overleveraged econ-
Gogo: HOOVER HOOVER HOOVER, HOOVER HOOVER HOOVER, HOOVER HOOVER HOOVER.
Didi: (sighs heavily)
This rhetorical path leads straight to failure.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
metastasizingThrow a couple trillion more to the bank shareholders.
A trillion here, a trillion there -- pretty soon you're talking about unreal money.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
we're calling it a miracleShocking events in West Hollywood tonight, as an airplane took off at LaGuardia -- and was soon forced to crash land into the bathtub. The first rescue boat arrived less than four minutes later!
...followed shortly afterward by the first giant rescue duck!
And then they all, you know, floated over to the riverbank.
Observers scanned the sky nervously for more falling planes!!!
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
if we don't paint these rocks, a pony will die
The neocon theory of war always had big doses of Magik Faerie Duste:
1.) Drop lots of bombsThe argument is back, but the arena has shifted. Bailouts and stimulus packages will be Barack Obama's Iraq. And everyone else's, too -- congressional opponents will be as useless as Jane Harman et al were during the Bush years, and pundits will make the same quacking noises to the same absence of effect.
3.) Democratic pluralism in the Middle East!!!
Witness Warren Buffett's astounding PBS interview, much discussed over the last few days, and try to read this without cringing:
SG: But there is debate about whether there should be fiscal stimulus, whether tax cuts work or not. There is all of this academic debate among economists. What do you think? Is that the right way to go with stimulus and tax cuts?We have no fucking clue what we're doing, so let's do a whole lot of it. Or, switching on the English-to-Magik Faerie Duste translatatory machine-gizmo device:
WB: The answer is nobody knows. The economists don’t know. All you know is you throw everything at it and whether it’s more effective if you’re fighting a fire to be concentrating the water flow on this part or that part. You’re going to use every weapon you have in fighting it. And people, they do not know exactly what the effects are. Economists like to talk about it, but in the end they’ve been very, very wrong and most of them in recent years on this. We don’t know the perfect answers on it. What we do know is to stand by and do nothing is a terrible mistake or to follow Hoover-like policies would be a mistake and we don’t know how effective in the short run we don’t know how effective this will be and how quickly things will right themselves. We do know over time the American machine works wonderfully and it will work wonderfully again.
1.) Give away massive assloads of government cashWhen you don't know how to get from Point A to Point B, stop running around in circles. Taking action because it would be a "terrible mistake" to take no action, but it beats the shit out of everybody what action to take, leads to -- well, to 130,000 troops still on the ground six years later. The impossible-to-defeat bias toward intervention leads downhill; we do something merely so we're not doing nothing, and we're as likely to make the crisis worse as we are to make it better.
3.) Commercial vitality!!!
During the Bush years, I constantly wished we had a smart and effective opposition party to Bush's left. Instead, we got, you know, those fucking assholes. During the Obama years, I'm pretty sure I'll constantly wish for a smart and effective opposition party to Obama's right, a feeling I began to get about three minutes into the High Imperial Inauguration Rally. Instead, we'll get...
Meanwhile, the pro-intervention punditry makes Kristolian leaps to show that the pony is in heaven, waiting to be born. Paul Krugman couldn't be a smarter guy, but look WTF he's writing, these days. Yesterday:
First, there’s the bogus talking point that the Obama plan will cost $275,000 per job created...A mere $100,000 per ten dollar an hour retail job -- cheap!
The true cost per job of the Obama plan will probably be closer to $100,000 than $275,000 — and the net cost will be as little as $60,000 once you take into account the fact that a stronger economy means higher tax receipts.
At the risk of repeating myself, condominium prices in my neighborhood quadrupled between 2000 and 2007. Condominium values most certainly did not quadruple during those years; the price differential was created in Enronland, where money is grown in our collective ass. Fake wealth has vanished; free government cash is not going to make it reappear. The pony is dead. The $150 billion stimulus didn't work, and the Fed's lower interest rates didn't work, so we got a $700 billion stimulus and $2 trillion in so-cheap-it-makes-your-teeth-hurt commercial loans that followed a little-discussed expansion of the Fed's role in the economy. And that hasn't worked, so we'll get an $850 billion stimulus package full of social programs that are somehow supposed to make Circuit City not be dead (or something). And when that doesn't work?
I make my usual bet of one shiny notional silver dollar: We'll see a "financial surge" in 2011. And Obama's argument for reelection will be that "the surge worked."
The surge, ladies and gentlemen, will not have worked.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
let's all swap spit with leviathanGovernment officials, lacking the gift divine perfection, make mistakes. They misidentify, misconstrue, and generally trip over the limits of their knowledge, as any of us would if we were in their positions. And so, for example, the German car salesman Khaled al-Masri was kidnapped by government agents and subjected to extraordinary rendition because his name sounded like the name of another person who was suspected of terrorist activity. Catherine Stevens, the wife of former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens, was repeatedly hassled at airports because her nickname was "Cat." And Daniel Brown, a uniformed U.S. Marine flying home on leave from Iraq, was held at an airport as a suspected terrorist after T.S.A. screeners found gunpowder residue on his, yes, combat boots.
When Janet Reno was the attorney general, conservatives understood that government could fuck up. People on the political right expressed deep and generally appropriate concern about the handling of the Ruby Ridge standoff, the storming of the Branch Davidian compound, and the armed and aggressive removal of Elian Gonzalez to Cuba.
With Janet Reno long gone, and Arabs and Muslims in the government's crosshairs, Sarah Palin spews bullshit about Barack Obama wanting to "read terrorists their rights." Gone is the idea that suspects are suspects; suddenly, the people who occupy the party and ideology of limited government -- notionally, people, notionally -- want the government to have unlimited power against anyone that government feels vaguely to be a little terroristy.
All of this is familiar to anyone who's been awake for the last eight years. But the poison remains in the body politic, and it contaminates us all. And so we get this stunningly dumb headline from some stupid fuck at the Associated Press:
"Issue of terrorists' rights to test Obama's pledge."
Amazing how much specious bullshit can be packed into eight short words.
We can dispense with due process altogether -- Gitmo residents, the AP finds you guilty as charged. Sentencing to be determined by the next dimwitted headline.