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Hamas bans “un-Islamic” books from Gaza bookstores

Posted by admin | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 26-01-2011

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PCHR  reports that Hamas has been engaging in a little book censorship in Gaza.

At approximately 13:30 on Sunday, 23 January 2011, 4 persons, one of whom was wearing military uniform, who introduced themselves as members of the GIB, confiscated copies of two novels – Alaa al-Aswany’s “Chicago” and Haidar Haidar’s “Banquet for Seaweed” – from Ibn Khaldoun bookstore opposite to al-Azhar University in the west of Gaza City. The GIB members presented a decision issued by the Ministry of Interior in the Gaza Strip ordering confiscation of a number of novels, including the aforementioned ones. They also informed the owner of the bookstore to refer to al-Abbas police station to obtain a document proving the confiscation of the two novels. They further claimed that the two novels violate the Islamic Shari’a (Islamic Law).

At the same time, 3 persons wearing civilian clothes, went to al-Shorouq bookstore. They introduced themselves as members of the GIB and presented an order issued by the Ministry of Interior ordering confiscation of 3 novels: “Chicago;” “Banquet for Seaweed;” and “Forbidden Pleasure.” They confiscated copies of the first two novels as the third one was not available in the bookshop. They also informed the owner of the bookstore to refer to al-Abbas police station to obtain a document proving the confiscation of the two novels.

Earlier, two persons wearing civilian clothes, who introduced themselves as members of the Internal Security Service, went to Sameer Mansour bookstore opposite to the Islamic University in Jamal Abdul Nasser Street in the west of Gaza City. They requested an employee to show them the two novels - “Chicago” and “Banquet for Seaweed.” When the employee showed them copies of the two novels, they ordered him not to sell them until necessary measures are taken with regard to them.

Major Ayman al-Batniji, spokesman of the Palestinian police, told a PCHR field worker in a phone call on Monday, 24 January 2011, that he had no information about such measures, but he digressed claiming that these novels violate the Islamic Shari’a.

I’m sure that the media will be all over this outrageous act of banning books, just as they would if Christians or Jews did this. I look forward to the “Comment is Free” piece on this issue.



Elder of Ziyon

Brown Wants to Buy Books with Campaign Funds

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 25-01-2011

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Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) has sent a letter to the Federal Election Commission asking for permission to use campaign funds to buy copies of his forthcoming book, Against All Odds.


Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire

Two Books and One Cheer for Obama

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 24-01-2011

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The world as revealed to me last week:

Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, by Timothy Snyder

Snyder is a Yale historian of the Holocaust and East Europe. Yesterday I saw this C-SPAN2 Book TV taping of his speech on his new book at the Ukrainian Institute of America in New York City. What an admirably organized and passionate historian! If he is as good a writer as he is a speaker-and all the reviews indicate that he is-this is a must-read book for anyone interested in the tragedy of the 20th century.

It’s hard to imagine such a relatively small area of the Earth witnessing the deliberate murder of more than 12 million civilians in a few years (that’s not counting “collateral damage” or soldiers killed in combat). A tidbit that astonished me: Germany deliberately killed more Russian prisoners of war than Jews. It is agonizing to consider the decisions millions of hapless East Europeans faced as the two dictators’ armed forces closed in: whether to flee to the East or the West-what a horrible choice to have to make. This is a book unsparing of both sides. But because Stalin had so many more apologists in the West, that is where the greatest revelations are confirmed. Fortunately for historians, says Synder, the Soviets were even more meticulous in the recording of their crimes than the Nazis. It just required the collapse of the Soviet Empire for historians to have access to those archives.

“When the historian Robert Conquest was asked to provide a subtitle for a new, post-Cold War edition of his book on Stalin’s purges, he suggested, ‘I told you so, you f—ing fools.’ The fools are now looking even more foolish, thanks to the efforts of indefatigable historians like Snyder.” — Reason

———-

Osama Bin Laden
, by Michael Scheuer

From a short interview of Michael Scheuer on Book TV:

Michael Scheuer was head of the CIA’s Osama bin Laden desk for years before his retirement. His biography of bin Laden is due out in February, and it promises to be a most revealing read.

Bin Laden is not a raving maniac, says Scheuer, and we don’t do America any good by pretending that he is. He is unsparingly honest about why he is fighting America, and it has nothing to do with disgust of our freedoms and our “way of life.” Can anyone get the idiot Rudy Giuliani to read this book-and Osama bin Laden’s own explanations?

Scheuer says Clinton had 13 opportunities to kill bin Laden, and failed to do so. Bush had one big opportunity, and failed to do so. Scheuer says it is too late now to accomplish that goal or to “win” in Afghanistan; we are hopelessly undermanned for those tasks, even if they were ever possible. We should pull out immediately-it is not worth another American soldier’s life. But don’t pretend otherwise-it will be a significant failure of American military and foreign policy. Oh, our government will lie to Americans about this (so what’s new, pussycat?), but the entire Muslim and Arab world will understand: The two greatest empires of our time were defeated in Afghanistan.

———-

It has been many decades since I have expected anything to be proud of from our presidents and politicians. I have minimal standards today: just don’t give me hives from listening to you. George W. Bush gave me hives. I had to shut off my TV or change channels whenever he appeared on the tube. What a sad commentary on the conservative movement that I was once part of, that they would celebrate stupidity and total inarticulateness-just because he wasn’t a Democrat.

I have made a gallant effort to shove Bush down the memory hole, but I was reminded of him by the visit of China’s President Hu this past week. It was such a relief to see President Obama rather than Dubya interacting with Hu. I don’t expect much from these state visits-and certainly the important work is done behind the scenes-but at least I did not have to be ashamed as an American of my country’s representative. I don’t think President Hu could help but notice that his American counterpart today is probably the smartest and most coherent politician they’ve had to deal with since Richard Nixon. I didn’t say smart-just smartest politician.

Granting that Obama is a front for the Establishment, like all of his predecessors since World War II, at least he has a grasp of the intricacies involved between the world’s two superpowers. He seemed to be studying Hu’s answers and Hu’s face at the press conference, searching for clues rather than looking vapidly into the camera. (Suggestion to Obama: the Chinese are not called “inscrutable” for nothing.) He didn’t try to pin everything on currency manipulation on the one hand or human rights on the other. He understood, unlike Sen. Harry Reid or Rep. John Boehner, that you don’t gain anything at a diplomatic event by being rude and undiplomatic. All of this is a pretty minimal accomplishment, but so much more than I expect from “my” political leaders today.

The American Conservative

Speaking of anonymous campaign books

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 21-01-2011

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The hype around "O" sent me back to an unhyped, self-published anonymous campaign novel whose author — an advance staffer from what sure reads like the McCain campaign — sent over a few weeks ago.

"The Choreographers" is, mostly, about how much fun, and how intense, it is to be a young advance staffer, and actual politics are secondary to the very recognizable logistics that consume much of a campaign’s energy. I wouldn’t show the book to Michiko Kakutani quite yet, but it does capture the stagecraft of notable campaign events — panic about the lighting before the Palin rollout, for instance, and this passage describing perhaps the most memorable of McCan’s rallies, at the biker rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. "Senator Bell" is the McCain character:

Secret Service was finishing bringing in sections of metal gate called bike rack to create the hard perimeter around the stage area. Inserted at thirty foot intervals, between the sections of bike rack, were eight walk-through metal detectors. It left about half a football field’s area of land inside the perimeter.

Kelsie already organized the few local press on the press riser and was putting all her energy into getting as many motorcycles inside the secure perimeter as possible. Brian was out at the entrance of the campground directing traffic towards Kelsie. Both were surprised by the high numbers bringing their bikes in. By the time noon came around, over 500 motorcycles were lined in front of the stage. Lawn chairs, ATV’s, and towels marked off remaining territory as thousands of people were anxious to reserve their spots for the speech.

“Kels, did you see all the bikes in there?” Brian asked, meeting Kelsie by one of the security checkpoints outside the perimeter. Agent Pike and four other Service agents cleared everyone out and was beginning their two hour security sweep, which involved bringing in the K-9 units to go through each motorcycle.

“I don’t think anyone’s ever done an event where there was a motorcycle that had fake plastic breasts covering the windshield.”

“What? Where?”

“Right up in front of the stage. And the one next to it has a sign reading, ‘Show Your Tits For Bell.’”

“HQ has no idea what they’ve gotten themselves into with this thing. What’s he going to talk about? ‘I would like to address the rising cost of healthcare’”

“He’ll stage dive and sign breasts.”

 

If you’re curious — or if you’re a McCain advance staffer interested in figuring out which of your cohort wrote the book under the pen name "Stephen Oakwood" — it’s available here.

 





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Ben Smith’s Blog

Speaking of anonymous campaign books

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 21-01-2011

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The hype around "O" sent me back to an unhyped, self-published anonymous campaign novel whose author — an advance staffer from what sure reads like the McCain campaign — sent over a few weeks ago.

"The Choreographers" is, mostly, about how much fun, and how intense, it is to be a young advance staffer, and actual politics are secondary to the very recognizable logistics that consume much of a campaign’s energy. I wouldn’t show the book to Michiko Kakutani quite yet, but it does capture the stagecraft of notable campaign events — panic about the lighting before the Palin rollout, for instance, and this passage describing perhaps the most memorable of McCan’s rallies, at the biker rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. "Senator Bell" is the McCain character:

Secret Service was finishing bringing in sections of metal gate called bike rack to create the hard perimeter around the stage area. Inserted at thirty foot intervals, between the sections of bike rack, were eight walk-through metal detectors. It left about half a football field’s area of land inside the perimeter.

Kelsie already organized the few local press on the press riser and was putting all her energy into getting as many motorcycles inside the secure perimeter as possible. Brian was out at the entrance of the campground directing traffic towards Kelsie. Both were surprised by the high numbers bringing their bikes in. By the time noon came around, over 500 motorcycles were lined in front of the stage. Lawn chairs, ATV’s, and towels marked off remaining territory as thousands of people were anxious to reserve their spots for the speech.

“Kels, did you see all the bikes in there?” Brian asked, meeting Kelsie by one of the security checkpoints outside the perimeter. Agent Pike and four other Service agents cleared everyone out and was beginning their two hour security sweep, which involved bringing in the K-9 units to go through each motorcycle.

“I don’t think anyone’s ever done an event where there was a motorcycle that had fake plastic breasts covering the windshield.”

“What? Where?”

“Right up in front of the stage. And the one next to it has a sign reading, ‘Show Your Tits For Bell.’”

“HQ has no idea what they’ve gotten themselves into with this thing. What’s he going to talk about? ‘I would like to address the rising cost of healthcare’”

“He’ll stage dive and sign breasts.”

 

If you’re curious — or if you’re a McCain advance staffer interested in figuring out which of your cohort wrote the book under the pen name "Stephen Oakwood" — it’s available here.

 





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Ben Smith’s Blog

Borders Books, RIP

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 21-01-2011

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They’re not technically out of business yet, but it’s a matter of time. Borders has quit paying for the books got on consignment — publishers like to call this “theft” — and otherwise has no strategy for becoming relevant again. Michael Rosenwald for WaPo:

How Borders arrived at this once-unthinkable moment is, like many stories of troubled companies, a tale of strategic errors, missed opportunities and revolving-door management (the chain is now in the hands of a former tobacco executive). But the company’s collapse, though perhaps hastened by missteps, seems to many industry insiders to have been inevitable, brought on by cultural changes too swift and sweeping to fend off, even for a huge player in the nation’s cultural life.

Borders was a major force in redefining Americans’ reading habits, selling millions of books in places where they had once been scarce and helping scores of novels to become movies and subjects of national conversation. Now, Borders faces a pool of potential customers who quickly spread culture themselves, one viral video or status update at a time.

Once, Borders was, with rival Barnes & Noble, the long tail of reading, with supermarket-size stores offering thousands of obscure titles alongside bestsellers. Now, Borders confronts the limitless, more efficient supply chain of Amazon’s online emporium. Borders, which helped a generation of readers learn the pleasure of diving into a book for hours at a stretch, now competes for the attention of readers who dip into a few pages on an iPad, open Facebook, read some more, then tweet random thoughts. Printed books don’t need a power outlet or a data plan, yet for some people, their utility seems to be fading.

Despite the mythology that the mass retailers killed off a massive number of mom and pops, the fact of the matter was that, outside huge cities and college towns, there really weren’t bookstores in most of America until Borders.

Before Riggio and the Borders brothers, Louis and Tom, started their chains in the late 1960s and early 1970s, respectively, bookselling in much of the United States was largely confined to quaint independent shops offering personally selected, mostly highbrow books. Chains such as B. Dalton and Waldenbooks, offering mostly bestsellers, emerged in the shopping malls that opened as middle-class families moved to the suburbs.

[...]

“They elevated book-buying to the same status as any core retail experience,” said John B. Thompson, a University of Cambridge professor and author of “Merchants of Culture,” a history of the publishing industry. “They were reaching parts of America that had simply never been reached before with books - not just New York and Los Angeles, but small towns, other urban centers, a whole untapped market of people who wanted to buy lots of books.”

Alas, the business they built through innovation and technology was beaten out the same way:

It started with Amazon. Launched in 1995 by Jeffrey Bezos, the company aimed to be the biggest bookstore on the planet, and it shipped books anywhere at prices so cheap that it lost money on many sales. The jokes came fast: Amazon dot bomb, some people called it. Amazon dot gone, others said.

But it turned out that Amazon knew what it was doing, building an infrastructure that eventually displaced Borders - then known as the more bookish of the chains - as the preferred way to get the right book into the hands of the right customer. Amazon built software that suggested other books to customers, based on their orders. As Amazon got better at such tactics, “Borders lost that patina they had, that special place of a bookstore, and they became just another discount retailer,” said Albert Greco, senior researcher at the Institute for Publishing Research.

Increasingly, they’re a retailer selling a product with few customers.  While an “e-book” is just as hard to write, it’s a very different product.  And, presumably, not one that will be experienced communally.




Outside the Beltway

Books for the Winter Cold

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 20-01-2011

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The other day, I received a call from a very agreeable lady at C-SPAN, asking me to do a show with them called "In Depth." It will take a lot of time, as they want to interview me on all the books I have written. Also, it will last three hours! That is a marathon. I can hardly listen for three hours, much less talk. Yet I have been a fan of C-SPAN for years, so I could hardly say no. Also, I am an advocate of the printed word. I want it to survive. It seems to me the printed word has been under assault for decades. The Internet is the latest threat against it. First there was the camera. Then came TV. Now there is the Internet, on which everyone writes and no one reads. In a world where everyone is a writer and no one a reader, how long can the printed word last? We live in a blizzard of words, but no one is reading seriously.

The first question I have been asked before appearing on C-SPAN's "Book TV" Feb. 6 is what my favorite books might be. They have changed over the years, but I think today there are at least a score of books that I return to every few years. Let me share them with you.


About anything by Evelyn Waugh pleases me, though he was a ghastly man. For that matter, a lot of writers strike me as insufferable, but I run the risk of committing the genetic fallacy here, so let me just say I like his books. I am glad he never signed any for me. Also, anything written by V.S. Naipaul fetches my interest, beginning with "A Bend in the River." For me, Naipaul gives us an inkling of the international terrorist who was to come.

H.L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan always have charmed me, Nathan being underpraised, Mencken overpraised. I reread regularly Malcolm Muggeridge, whom I knew, and Luigi Barzini Jr., also a great friend; both were stupendous journalists and stylists. Tom Wolfe's short pieces — for instance, "Radical Chic" and "Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers" — are perceptive and elegant glimpses into lives that have affected our era. They are alive with wicked wit and joviality. Tom is also a very good novelist, as can be seen from "The Bonfire of the Vanities" and "A Man in Full." Of all the writers writing today, Wolfe has influenced me the most.

As for the past, I am a 1920s gent, socially and literarily. The 1920s were abundant with good writing, journalistically and literarily. I already have mentioned Mencken and Nathan. As for the more timeless work, I read Ernest Hemingway, particularly "A Farewell to Arms," "The Sun Also Rises" and "For Whom the Bell Tolls." I would not spend 15 minutes with him, if he were alive today, but he could write. (His short stories are also very fine.) So could F. Scott Fitzgerald, and I reread "The Great Gatsby" and "Tender Is the Night" from time to time. William Faulkner is sublime; "The Bear," "As I Lay Dying," "Intruder in the Dust," "Absalom, Absalom!" and "The Sound and the Fury" are all masterworks. Also, Sinclair Lewis was an amazingly good novelist if a deficient thinker. I read him from time to time.

Among the Europeans, I favor "The Brothers Karamazov," by Feodor Dostoyevsky, and anything by Joseph Conrad. I especially like "Under Western Eyes." "The Charterhouse of Parma," by Stendhal, is superb, especially the opening scene on horseback at Waterloo. I have read William Shakespeare with relish, especially the comedies and the histories, and I reread Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales" every decade at least and Miguel de Cervantes' "Don Quixote," too. It would be very lax of me not to include the poetry of W.B. Yeats, though I shall leave his stuff about spiritualism and the monkey glands out of consideration. Mencken thought poetry to be mostly nonsense, but he was up to his old tricks. Yeats is always worth reading, and let me heave in T.S. Eliot.

I read Edward Gibbon, Thomas Babington Macaulay and Winston Churchill, and an especially illuminating book about Churchill and the postwar period is "In Command of History: Churchill Fighting and Writing the Second World War," by David Reynolds. Martin Gilbert's biography of the great man is marvelous; I dipped into it frequently during The American Spectator's jolly war with the Clintons. Martin has actually improved over the years. Paul Johnson's "Modern Times," "The Birth of the Modern" and "A History of the American People" are splendid efforts at revisionist history, but if one wants the conventional reading, I urge Arthur Schlesinger on almost anything. He is a conventional liberal but an elegant writer.

For social science, I have found Edward Banfield, particularly "The Unheavenly City," extremely useful. His analysis is a bracing antidote to our statist friends. Milton Friedman is the final word on the subject. A collection of his journalism would be useful, but a handy guide to his thought is "Capitalism and Freedom." Let me finish with a philosophical work, the works of Aristotle, particularly "Politics."

The lady from C-SPAN also wanted to know what I am reading now. That would be Ron Chernow's "Washington: A Life." It is a great book about a great man. And before I go, let me recommend "Solar," by Ian McEwan. It is a sendup of the environmental movement almost as effective as this frigid winter.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is the founder and editor-in-chief of The American Spectator and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. His new book is "After the Hangover: The Conservatives' Road to Recovery." To find out more about R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

NewsBusters.org blogs

Books on the Global Financial Crisis: An Annotated Field Guide

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 13-01-2011

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Here is our second article from The Political Economist, this one by Professor Mark Copelovitch of the University of Wisconsin.

****

Three years on from the start of the global economic crisis, hardly a day passes without the arrival of yet another highly touted book on what has come to be labeled the “Great Recession.” Indeed, bookshops’ shelves now buckle under the weight of a towering pile of bestsellers (and not-so-bestsellers) on the causes, consequences, and lessons of the crisis. Broadly, these books fall into three genres. First, there are the “current histories” - fast-moving, journalistic accounts detailing the exploits (or treachery) of Wall Street banks, government officials, and other relevant actors prior to and during the crisis. The best of these accounts include: Fool’s Gold by Gillian Tett; The Big Short, by Michael Lewis; In Fed We Trust, by David Wessel; and Too Big to Fail, by Andrew Ross Sorkin. Second, there are the “crisis handbooks” - general interest volumes by prominent economists, all of whom claim to know precisely what caused the crisis and precisely what the solutions are to prevent a reoccurrence. The most prominent of these are: Thirteen Bankers, by Simon Johnson and James Kwak; Crisis Economics, by Nouriel Roubini and Stephen Mihm; and the updated version of Return of Depression Economics, by Paul Krugman. Political economy scholars are likely to be familiar with the main arguments of these volumes, since they are mostly pithier versions of previously published academic work or media articles by the authors. Finally, we have the “efficient markets” critiques (e.g., The Myth of the Rational Market, by Justin Fox; How Markets Fail, by John Cassidy) - books that blame investors’ and policymakers’ blind faith over the last decade in free market ideology and the efficient markets hypothesis as the primary cause of the crisis. An important subset of this last genre is the “Keynes was right after all” volume, epitomized by Robert Skidelsky’s book, Keynes: The Return of the Master (but see also Richard Posner’s fascinating article in the New Republic, “How I Became a Keynesian,” September 23, 2009).

To be sure, there is much to learn from each of these genres, and the titles cited above are certainly worth the reader’s time and effort. From the standpoint of research on the political economy of financial crises, however, these books are substantially less rewarding. In their attempts to sell copies and highlight colorful characters, the “current histories” spin neat and tight stories about the causes of our financial turmoil, most of which focus on the actions of a handful of villains (usually Wall Street bankers) or a few broad factors (deregulation, securitization, etc.) related to the complexities of modern financial markets. Consequently, books in this genre heavily discount or overlook entirely many of the longer-term trends and structural economic and political factors that have contributed to the onset and severity of the Great Recession. Similarly, while the “crisis handbooks” do emphasize many of these deeper political economy factors, their authors generally spend far too much time advancing grandiose proposals to reform both domestic policies and global financial governance - proposals that political scientists will readily identify as infeasible due to a wide variety of political factors that the authors (like most economists) fail to adequately take into account. In this regard, the current crisis is no different than previous ones (most notably the Asian financial crisis), in which global financial turmoil is followed by grand yet soon-to-be-discarded plans to reform the “international financial architecture.” Finally, while the “efficient market” critiques are not without merit, they, too, tend to reduce the cause of the crisis to a single “magic bullet” - in this case, ideas and ideology - when in reality the truth is much more nuanced and complex.

That said, those in search of richer alternatives need dig only a bit further into the pile to be rewarded. What follows is a brief annotated bibliography of books - both new volumes and older ones worthy of review - that rigorously tackle the complexities of the global financial crisis and, in my opinion, provide a solid foundation for further thinking and research on the topic. While this list is certainly not exhaustive, I believe it is a useful starting point for scholars of political economy interested in developing a richer understanding of the causes, consequences, and policy implications of the Great Recession.

Charles P. Kindleberger, Manias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises (Wiley, Fifth Edition, 2005; first edition, 1978).

This is the canonical volume on financial crises from one of the foremost economic historians of the twentieth century. Building on his renowned history of the Great Depression (The World in Depression, 1929-1939), Kindleberger leads the reader through discussions of the “big ten” financial bubbles in global economic history, from the Dutch tulip bubble in the 1600s, through the US stock market bubble of 1995-2000. The book is rich in entertaining anecdotes, even as it clearly delineates the common features of all financial crises and rigorously analyzes possible policy responses at both the domestic and international levels. Although much from this volume has subsequently been reiterated elsewhere in more recent books and articles, the original remains very much worth reading. Indeed, this is the logical starting point for any serious scholar interested in understanding the current global financial turmoil.

Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth S. Rogoff, This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly (Princeton University Press, 2009)

Perhaps the most widely lauded book to emerge from the current crisis, this volume is, in many ways, the quantitative companion to Kindleberger’s elegant narrative history of financial crises. In fact, I would argue that Reinhart and Rogoff’s true contribution is not this book (which, to be frank, is rather tedious to read) but rather the massive, rich database that they have constructed and made available to researchers. With impressive care and exhaustive detail, Reinhart and Rogoff have collected and measured the economic characteristics of countries and crises back to twelfth-century China and medieval Europe. Thus, This Time is Different documents the “remarkable similarities” of financial crises over time and across cases - most notably, the presence of “excessive debt accumulation” by governments, banks, corporations, or consumers. In separate chapters, the authors also analyze multiple types of crises (including sovereign defaults, banking crises, and exchange rate crises) in an effort to make clear precisely how and why “this time” is rarely (if ever) truly “different.” As David Singer notes in his piece in this newsletter, this treasure trove of data is merely a starting point for political scientists: documenting similarities across crises (even in the rigorously detailed way that Reinhart and Rogoff have done) explains neither variation in the timing, frequency, and severity of crises nor the reasons why policymakers across countries and over time repeatedly adopt the types of policies that lead to crises. Nevertheless, This Time is Different is a magisterial contribution to the field that is required reading for political economists interested in the determinants, consequences, and responses to financial crises.

Raghuram Rajan, Fault Lines: How Hidden Fractures Still Threaten the World Economy (Princeton University Press, 2009)

Though firmly in the “crisis handbook” genre, Rajan’s volume stands out for two reasons. First, Rajan is one of the few economists who can credibly claim to have predicted the crisis, as evidenced by his well-known contrarian paper presented at the Jackson Hole conference in 2005. Consequently, Rajan’s volume is a more credible handbook than many others’ and therefore more worthy of detailed attention. Second, and more importantly, Rajan moves quickly past the “most proximate suspects” (the heroes and villains of the “current history” and “crisis handbook” genres) to emphasize deeper, underlying macroeconomic trends - the “fault lines” of the book’s title - that led to the crisis. These include: 1) rising income inequality and wage stagnation in the US, which fueled policymakers’ incentive to provide cheap credit (in the form of subsidized mortgages and lax monetary policy) to maintain middle class living standards; 2) macroeconomic imbalances between surplus and deficit countries in the world economy (on this, see more below from Martin Wolf); and 3) tensions between the different financial system models across countries (in particular, between the US/UK on the one hand and China/Japan on the other). Thus, Rajan eschews the neat, “magic bullet” explanations advanced by many other writers, concluding instead that there is plenty of blame to go around, with bankers, regulators, governments, households, and economists all sharing some responsibility for bringing about the current crisis. While this is less satisfying in one sense (to blame all is to blame none), it is much more in line with a political economy perspective of the world, in which variables interact, causal effects are conditional, and outcomes in the international economy are frequently the result of a complex web of interests, policies, and trends over many years.

Martin Wolf, Fixing Global Finance (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008)

Wolf, the Financial Times’ chief economics commentator, is widely acknowledged to be the preeminent newspaper columnist writing on global finance today. Wolf’s knowledge, insight, and expertise are so valuable that one could arguably remain well briefed on developments in the global economy simply by reading his FT column on a regular basis. In fact, I would highly recommend an afternoon reading Wolf’s columns from 2007 through 2010, in sequence, as an excellent way to get up to speed on the developments and policy debates surrounding the crisis, from the collapse of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers through the negotiation of Basel III and the recent IMF voting and lending reforms. In addition, Wolf’s book, published in 2008, is also well worth the time. In contrast to the “genre” books mentioned earlier, Wolf focuses on how the macroeconomic policies of key countries (particularly the U.S. and China) have resulted in the “global imbalances” that lie at the heart of current tensions about exchange rates and “currency wars” in the global economy. In Wolf’s view, these macroeconomic imbalances are both a precondition for financial crises and an ongoing impediment to exiting the Great Recession. From a political economy perspective, this argument is important, as it shifts our focus away from the microeconomics of finance (e.g., mortgage-backed securities, credit default swaps) toward deeper problems (exchange rate regimes, persistent payments imbalances) that must be addressed in order to rebuild the global economy. Not surprisingly, this leads Wolf to focus more than others on politics; indeed, in both his columns and in his book, Wolf exercises a well-trained eye for identifying how domestic politics and international relations shape economic policy and have constrained governments’ ability and willingness to cooperate at the global level in addressing the causes and consequences of the crisis. Finally, Fixing Global Finance also contains an extremely useful introductory chapter on the “Blessings and Perils of Global Finance,” which highlights the critical tradeoffs facing countries in a world of financial globalization. This reminder of the purposes of financial markets, the costs and benefits of international capital flows, and the various government policy options available to address the core problems of financial markets (incomplete/asymmetric information, moral hazard) are an extremely useful starting point for shaping discussions about the politics and policies of international finance.

Jeffry A. Frieden, Global Capitalism: Its Rise and Fall in the Twentieth Century (W.W. Norton, 2006).

Global Capitalism was published before the current crisis engulfed the world economy, and it is not, strictly, a book about financial crises. Nevertheless, it is required reading for those interested in understanding the political economy of financial crises, for two reasons. First, it is the best single-volume history of the modern world economy over the last 150 years. Given the rampant and often selective use of various past crises (the Great Depression, Japan in the 1990s, etc.) as analogies for explaining the current situation, it is clear that most observers lack the solid foundation of historical knowledge about the world economy that Global Capitalism provides. Second, Global Capitalism provides a rich, comprehensive discussion of how domestic and international political factors have systematically and repeatedly shaped national economic policy choices and global economic governance over the last two centuries. Frieden’s conclusion - that the evolution of economic globalization ultimately depends upon domestic and international political factors as much (if not more) than economic variables - reminds us that scholars of international political economy are perhaps best positioned to analyze the complex questions and issues arising from the Great Recession. Frieden’s actual book on the current crisis, The Lost Decades: The Making of America’s Debt Crisis and the Long Recovery (co-authored with my colleague at Wisconsin, Menzie Chinn), will be published this coming September. Based on the brief preview already circulating, it looks to be another worthy addition to this reading list. In the meantime, a thorough reading (or re-reading) of Global Capitalism is certainly in order.

The Monkey Cage

Bio & Favorite Books of Man in Custody, Jared Lee Loughner, Alleged to Have Shot and Killed People at Congresswoman Giffords’ Street Corner Congress is named

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 08-01-2011

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These lists below come from Mr. Loughner’s myspace site which has suddenly been shut down, and from his youtube channel which at the moment is still up and lists 4 films uploaded by Mr. Loughner.

“Schools: I attended school: Thornydale elementary, Tortolita Middle School, Mountain View Highschool, Northwest Aztec Middle College, and Pima Community College.

Interests: My favorite interest was reading, and I studied grammar.

Conscience dreams were a great study in college!

Movies:(*My idiom: I could coin the moment!*)

Music:Pass me the strings!

Books: I had favorite books:
Animal Farm, Brave New World,
The Wizard Of OZ, Aesop Fables,
The Odyssey, Alice Adventures Into Wonderland,

Fahrenheit 451, Peter Pan,
To Kill A Mockingbird,
We The Living,
Phantom Toll Booth,
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,
Pulp,
Through The Looking Glass,

The Communist Manifesto, Siddhartha,
The Old Man And The Sea,
Gulliver’s Travels,

Mein Kampf,
The Republic, and Meno.”

There are some photos of a gun superimposed the flag entitled History of the United States, that are floating around the internet, saying these were take downs from Loughner’s MySpace site, but cant verify these photos are from his site.


The Moderate Voice

Books For Men Who Don’t Read

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 07-01-2011

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Andrew O’Hagan takes to the London Review of Books to offer an unflattering take on some modern war novels:

The problem with having no problem is that caution isn’t seen as anything other than cowardice, a rude philosophy that may have reached its zenith in the novels of Andy McNab. To say that this former SAS man’s view of the world is unhinged is only to observe that it constitutes an entirely accurate representation of the world as seen by many decorated soldiers. That is the reason men who don’t ordinarily read have come in great numbers to love the insiderish bravado of McNab and Chris Ryan. Their books are driven by stereotype and cartoon violence, by idiocy, prejudice and unreality, which is why they are inadvertent masterpieces of social realism, for in their garish video-game manners they enclose their subject. McNab and Ryan fully meet the present culture’s demand for the seemingly real, though it’s a reality centred on complete fantasy. Like Method actors, they have done their stint in the realm of the actual, have tasted the fare of which they speak, being former soldiers, decorated men who write under aliases. Who knows how many of the sentences in their books were actually generated by them, but that is not the kind of authenticity that matters in this kind of authorship. Each writer has been embedded with the fantastical elements of modern war - they have lived the virtual lives they write about - and that makes them the right kind of war novelist for this kind of generation. The only thing that could kill their books - reduce their relevance, vanish their massive audience - would be to make them better written. Their lousiness is their genius.

People have always liked a soldier who dreams of his typewriter. Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon are a staple of the National Curriculum, and Evelyn Waugh saw the possibility of comedy in the matter before anybody else, his William Boot a writer keen to make the rat-tat-tat of his typewriter fall into sync with the sound of gunfire over the hill. In America, a season in France or a period in the foothills of Spain was once thought to be a rite of passage for a first-rate writer of prose, and after the Second World War, every male contender - William Styron, Norman Mailer, Gore Vidal, James Jones, Joseph Heller - had done some service and wanted to write literary masterpieces filled with the perfumes of combat. It is only in more recent times that the task of writing novels about battle has fallen chiefly to bad writers. It might describe changes in our habits, our needs, or in the nature of war itself, but writing about combat is now the province of people who adore the violence they capture.

If you’re in a novel by Andy McNab, you don’t have hair you have a barnet. You don’t eat dinner you stuff your face. You don’t visit the loo you take a slash. You don’t go to bed you get your head down. You don’t speak rot you talk bollocks. Things are not broken they are knackered, and into every life a rain of bullets must fall. The authorly persona lives in a world where everybody who isn’t his main protagonist is a tosser - especially writers, one imagines - and his warrior is always battleworn and often down on his luck at the start of the book. He knows things that nobody else can guess at and soon finds himself involved in a mission impossible.

The review is three years old but just bubbled to my awareness by the gang at The Browser, possibly by accident (it’s in their RSS feed by not the linked page).  I actually bought a few McNab novels a while back, seeing them recommended somewhere, but never got around to reading them.  O’Hagan has piqued my curiosity.

His central thesis is that these are books for people who like video games.   But I’m not sure that everything has to be “literature.”   These seem a natural evolution of the genre popularized by Frederick Forsyth and Tom Clancy, if perhaps a bit less cerebral.




Outside the Beltway

Is the Administration Cooking the Books on Govt’s Share of Health Spending?

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 05-01-2011

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By Michael F. Cannon

Something smells fishy here.

Today, the federal agency that runs Medicare and Medicaid released its estimates of national health expenditures in 2009.  Interestingly, the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services re-categorized about 6 percent of national health expenditures — well over $ 100 billion — from “government” to “private,” at the very moment that the government share of NHE appeared set to hit 50 percent.

Last year, CMS projected that government health spending would “account for more than half of all U.S. health care spending by 2012.”  But it looks like we were set to reach (have reached?) that milestone much sooner.  See the below table, which I made using CMS’s estimates from 2008 and Exhibit 5 (p. 16) from today’s report.

Turns out, it was the private sector spending that $ 100 billion each year.  Not the government.  Who knew?

This 6-percentage-point drop in government’s share of health spending was apparently due to “the renaming of some service and payer categories.”  A footnote leads to a page on the CMS site that isn’t active yet, so we can’t see what was recategorized from government to private spending.

Exhibit 5 of today’s report also reveals that total health care spending grew by 4 percent in 2009, while government health spending grew by 9.9 percent and private spending shrank by 0.2 percent.  Indeed, today’s report contains this money quote:

Federal health spending increased 17.9 percent between 2008 and 2009 …. In contrast, the shares of spending of households… private businesses… and state and local governments… fell by roughly one percentage point each between 2008 and 2009.
And the feds are the guys who say they’re going to control health care costs!

I can’t say for sure that there’s something fishy going on here.  But this re-categorization comes at an awfully convenient time for an administration struggling with public dissatisfaction over its, ahem, government takeover of health care.  My spidey sense is tingling.

Is the Administration Cooking the Books on Govt’s Share of Health Spending? is a post from Cato @ Liberty - Cato Institute Blog


Cato @ Liberty

CBS Books ‘Hawaii Five-0′ for Post-AFC Slot

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 04-01-2011

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Original episode to air Jan….
B&C - Breaking News

New Year, New Books to Read

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 01-01-2011

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(Jonathan H. Adler)

It’s a new year, and a new pile of books has found its way to my nightstand. There are still books left over from last year (as there always are), and I’m sure many new books will catch my eye. Here are the books that I’m currently reading (or about to start):

What books are VC readers reading or planning to read?




The Volokh Conspiracy

The Four C’s Tie for Number Two Worst Nonfiction Books of 2010

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 31-12-2010

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The four C’s are Karl Rove’s Courage and Consequence, and John Yoo’s Crisis and Command. The winner of the number one spot on that list does not have to share the spotlight: It’s George W. Bush, for Decision Points.

The lists are at Steve Donoghue’s book blog, Open Letters Monthly.

Here is the review of the Rove and Yoo books:

It’s almost the very depth of cynicism, you’re almost there, to parade your own evil under the banner of doing what you thought was right – to know you were doing evil and gamble that ‘I was doing what I thought was right’ will fool most of the people most of the time. It wouldn’t be cynicism if you really believed it, but neither Rove nor Yoo has had a real belief unconnected with personal avarice in many decades. Only a step less loathsome than tyranny are those careful intellectual men who seek to justify tyranny, to itself and the world, as these two filthy books so brashly attempt. Rove is the architect of all that is rotten in 21st century American politics – the proud re-creator of a type of Tammany political viciousness that annihilates all nuance and debate and wants to. And Yoo is the Grima Wormtongue who squirts delusions of godhood into authority’s ear merely so that he himself gets to be authority’s footstool. These books share the same black heartbeat: that doing anything at all to your enemies – even the things that made them your enemies, especially those things – is somehow now the cost of doing business, that lies are honorable and might makes right and that all of this is a sign of real-world adulthood, of seeing things like they are. The fact that both Rove and Yoo are writing these books as free men only shows that they are the beneficiaries of far more legal lenience than they ever recommended for others. Both books are nonetheless criminal testimonies.

And Decision Points:

This is it, then, the cold bottom of cynicism, a presidential memnoir. This is a petty, stupid man who never wanted the presidency for anything more than bragging rights spinning the most cruel work of fauxstalgia imaginable. The alternate reality is a great American story: an ordinary man, a screw-up in life, hits rock bottom, turns his life around through the love of a good woman and the light of a renewed spiritual faith, and arrives at his Presidential destiny just at the dark moment when his country needs him most. There isn’t a single person in the world who doesn’t wish they’d lived in that alternate reality for eight years, who doesn’t dream of how different the world would be if that alternate reality had somehow happened. And the thing that makes this book not only the worst work of nonfiction in 2010 but also hands-down the worst book of any kind so far written in the 21st century is heartbreakingly simple: it’s spoken in the voice of that alternate history and wants us to believe it really happened. This is a final insult of such an exquisite devastation that only an imbecile could wreak it.


The Moderate Voice

Best Selling Political Books of 2010

Posted by admin | Posted in The Capitol | Posted on 30-12-2010

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The New York Times notes that The Big Short by Michael Lewis has been a mainstay on its political bestseller “since its debut at No.1 back in April, appearing here more frequently than any other book published in 2010.”

Laura Bush’s Spoken From The Heart has been on the list second most often.
Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire