Iranian Nobel Prize-Winning Human Rights Activist: ‘You Should Not Think About’ Military Strikes On Iran

November 5, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Responding to recent statements by American conservatives supporting the “military option” against Iran, Iranian human rights activist Dr. Shirin Ebadi stated unequivocally that the use of such an option would be disastrous. “The military option will not benefit the U.S. interest or the Iranian interest,” said Ebadi. “It is the worst option. You should not think about it.” Ebadi said, “The Iranian people — including myself — will resist any military action.”

In an interview with ThinkProgress, Ebadi, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 “for her efforts for democracy and human rights,” said an attack on Iran “would give the government an excuse to kill all of its political opponents, as was done during the Iran-Iraq war.” For this reason, Ebadi suggested that the Iranian government probably “wouldn’t mind the U.S. throwing a missile at them.”

The Wonk Room reports more from the interview with Ebadi.


Nobel laureates speak out against BDS

November 2, 2010 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comment 

38 Nobel prize laureates released this statement (via Daily Alert):

Statement of Nobel Laureates on Academic BDS Actions against Israeli Academics, Israeli Academic Institutions and Academic Centers and Institutes of Research and Training With Affiliations in Israel

Believing that academic and cultural boycotts, divestments and sanctions in the academy are:

* antithetical to principles of academic and scientific freedom,
* antithetical to principles of freedom of expression and inquiry, and
* may well constitute discrimination by virtue of national origin,

We, the undersigned Nobel Laureates, appeal to students, faculty colleagues and university officials to defeat and denounce calls and campaigns for boycotting, divestment and sanctions against Israeli academics, academic institutions and university-based centers and institutes for training and research, affiliated with Israel.

Furthermore, we encourage students, faculty colleagues and university officials to promote and provide opportunities for civil academic discourse where parties can engage in the search for resolution to conflicts and problems rather than serve as incubators for polemics, propaganda, incitement and further misunderstanding and mistrust.

We, and many like us, have dedicated ourselves to improving the human condition by doing the often difficult and elusive work to understand complex and seemingly unsolvable phenomena. We believe that the university should serve as an open, tolerant and respectful, cooperative and collaborative community engaged in practices of resolving complex problems.

The shameful part is that such an exercise is even necessary.

Elder of Ziyon

UN Human Rights Council: No honors for Henri Dunant, human rights pioneer, Nobel Peace Laureate who fought Jew-hatred

October 30, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Comments: David G. Littman – representative of Association for World Education (AWE) and World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) at United Nations-Geneva:

Invited to a special Commemoration in Geneva for Henri Dunant: “honoring his life and humanitarian work” on the 100th Anniversary of his decease (30 October 1910), I felt a need to commemorate his centenary at the Human Rights Council Review session. We had already reminded the Council of the pertinent advice given in 2003 by High Commissioner for Human Rights Sérgio Vieira de Mello, murdered in Baghdad with 20 colleagues four months later.

I was told by the NGO secretariat that a brief ‘In Memoriam’ commemoration to a pioneer of human rights, the founder of the Red Cross and 1st Nobel Peace Laureate would be out of place under item 3, but I could always try to find a way to introduce it the next day under item 4.

I took this advice seriously and – encouraged by a key NGO at the UN whom I shall not name – I prepared a serious text in the firm belief that, in view of the personality involved (‘Henri Dunant’), a way would be found (via the ‘rules of procedure’) to justify our In Memoriam intervention – this time speaking on behalf of the World Union for Progressive Judaism.

On Thursday afternoon I arrived before the meeting had opened and handed my written text to the HRC secretary who promised to give it to the friendly Thai HRC president for eventual approval. An hour later, the president left for another engagement and the Chair was taken by his colleague, the friendly vice-president, Ambassador Ms Bente Angell-Hansen of Norway.

As the general debate continued, I was then informed the vice-president had read my text, but considered it ‘off the subject’ and it should not be delivered at the Review session. I asked the Norwegian delegation to check if the ambassador had read our text and it was confirmed; on learning this I expressed my astonishment, adding that I could not stay silent on this matter.

What struck me as ‘revealing’ was that the key NGO who had recommended me to persist in my request to commemorate Henri Dunant’s centenary was surprised when he saw the last paragraph in my statement that I had given in for the secretariat and the president to read:

At the same period when he initiated the Red Cross, he spoke out against what was then called: “Jew-hatred” (Judenhass in German) in all its perverted forms, soon after this obsession become known as Antisemitism [1880] – today as Judeophobia. Dunant was also an active member of the Alliance Israélite Universelle in Paris after its foundation in 1860.

My NGO colleague felt that this conclusion would be considered as a ‘political’ statement and would almost certainly result in very negative reactions and a ‘refusal’. His words rang bells, but did not convince me to remove that hidden truth of Henri Dunant’s lifelong humanitarian struggle – and I decided to add a paragraph on his ‘Christian Zionism’ if I was given the floor.

Finally, I was informed at the very last moment that the vice-president would not censure me, but that I would be requested, if I spoke, to keep to the subject and if I didn’t I would then be gavelled by the Chair. I was the last NGO speaker at 5:45pm, being interrupted twice before I felt obliged to stop – with a Parthian shot. Below is my exact circulated text, indicating where I stopped – and including the crucial passage on Henri Dunant as a lifelong Christian Zionist.

* * * * *


United Nations Human Rights Council Review – Working Group (25-29 October 2010)
Chairperson: Vice-President Ms Bente Angell-Hansen, Ambassador of Norway to the UN
Statement by David G. Littman – Thursday (5:450pm) 28 October 2010
Agenda & framework for Programme of Work, Methods of Work, Rules of Procedure (Item 4)

In Memoriam: Henri Dunant (1828-1910)

Madam, we thank you for allowing us exceptionally – under the rules of procedure of item 4 – to make a public In Memoriam remembrance, on this unique occasion, to Henry Dunant, whose centenary will be commemorated in Geneva on Saturday, 30 October – the date of his death in 1910. It is fitting to recall – in this Alliance of Civilizations Room – that great 19th century visionary, founder of the Committee of Five in 1863, which became the International Committee of the Red Cross and his initiative in 1864 known as the 1st Geneva Convention.

It is 150 years since Henry Dunant saw with his own eyes a bloody military tragedy, where nearly 40,000 wounded, dying and dead remained on the battlefield with little attempt to provide care for them; it motivated him to act promptly.

Later in his book, Un Souvenir de Solférino in 1862, he penned those memorable lines:

L’ennemi, notre véritable ennemi, c’est n’est pas la nation voisine, c’est la faim, le froid, la misère, l’ignorance, la routine, la superstition, les préjugés. [The enemy, our real enemy, is not the neighbouring country, it is hunger, the cold, poverty, ignorance, the routine, the superstition and prejudices.]

* * * * *

[The speaker was here interrupted politely a second time and asked by the chairperson, as warned: “to stick to the subject of the agenda item.” He then ended his statement with the words: “Madam, if the centenary of Henri Dunant cannot be commemorated here, then all we can say is that such a ‘routine’ speaks volumes here.” Thus, the remaining text below was not pronounced.]

Totally engaged by his fervent humanitarian ideas, Dunant then experienced a disastrous personal bankruptcy which obliged him to leave Geneva, never to return. It was only 30 years later that he received public attention from a Swiss journalist, which led to his becoming six years later in 1901 the First Nobel Peace Laureate, with all due recognition by the Nobel Committee, whose moving words are worth recalling on this occasion.

There is no man who more deserves this honor, for it was you, forty years ago,
who set on foot the international organization for the relief of the wounded on the battlefield. Without you, the Red Cross, the supreme humanitarian achievement of
the nineteenth century would probably have never been undertaken.

We would humbly request that the centenary of such a pioneer of peace and human rights – in the true, humanitarian sense of that word – would well merit a sign of commemoration on this occasion, in an appropriate manner to be decided by you, Madam, as President of this Human Rights Council now under its first Review.

In conclusion, Madam vice-president, the World Union for Progressive Judaism wishes to evoke a little-known, aspect of Henri Dunant’s lifelong humanitarian struggles. At the same period when he initiated the Red Cross, he spoke out strongly against what was then called: “Jew-hatred” (Judenhass in German) in all its perverted forms – soon after it become known as Antisemitism [in 1880], today as Judeophobia. He was also an active member of the Alliance Israélite Universelle in Paris.

Sir, a last reminder on Henry Dunant – in 1866 he recommended a detailed project for “le repeuplement de la Palestine par le people juif.” [the repopulation of Palestine by the Jewish people], which was to become, eighty years later, the basis of Israel’s ‘Law of Return’. Four years before becoming the 1st Nobel Peace Laureate in 1901, he attended the First Zionist Congress in Basle (1897), where Theodor Herzl publicly honoured him as a “Christian Zionist”.

These Remembrances of Things Past deserve full recognition here at this Council.

Jihad Watch

Nobel Struggle in China

October 15, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 
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This week, Chinese government censors tried their best to stop the spread of the news jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Liu is serving 11 years in a Chinese prison for signing a document called “Charter 08,” a declaration of human rights that any American can take for granted. Dr. Lee Edwards speaks in this week’s Heritage in Focus podcast on the meaning of this significant Peace Prize award, and the state of human rights in China in the historical context of totalitarian communist regimes.

Listen in to Heritage in Focus: Lee Edwards on Liu Xiaobo and Human Rights in China href=””>here. To get regular updates on Heritage in Focus podcasts, visit href=””>our RSS feed or href=”″>subscribe to us on iTunes.

The Foundry: Conservative Policy News.

Chinese Dissident Dedicates Nobel Peace Prize To Tianamen Square Victims

October 12, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

The Chinese government was already upset over the fact that jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and Liu’s response to the award is unlikely to please them at all:

Chinese Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo has tearfully dedicated his award to victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, activists said, as his wife was held under house arrest on Monday.

“This award is for the lost souls of June Fourth,” the US-based group Human Rights in China quoted Liu Xiaobo as telling his wife Liu Xia, referring to the bloody June 4, 1989 crackdown on democracy protests at the vast Beijing square.

Meanwhile, news of the award has led to the Chinese government cracking down on Liu’s wife:

Via her Twitter account, Liu Xia said she had been placed under house arrest at her Beijing home both before and after travelling to the prison in northeastern China where her husband is being held to inform him of his prize.

“Brothers, I have returned home. On the eighth (of October) they placed me under house arrest. I don’t know when I will be able to see anyone,” said the Sunday night Twitter posting.

“My mobile phone has been broken and I cannot call or receive calls. I saw Xiaobo and told him on the ninth at the prison that he won the prize. I will let you know more later. Everyone, please help me (re)tweet. Thanks,” she said.

Liu Xiaobo’s wife was taken to the prison under police guard, his lawyers said at the weekend.

At least two dozen police, plain-clothes officers and other security personnel were seen deployed Monday at the compound where Liu Xia lives, interrogating returning residents and preventing journalists from entering.

Calls to her mobile phone were met with a recording saying it was out of service.

As I noted on Friday, it’s unlikely that Liu will be allowed to leave China to receive his award, at least not under circumstances that would allow him to return there after the Nobel ceremonies were over. Nonetheless, it’s fairly clear from the reaction in Beijing, and Liu’s reference to events that took place 29 years ago, that there still remains a strong desire for freedom in some parts of China. Let’s hope that this prize will bring them closer to achieving their dreams.

Outside the Beltway

Wonkbook: WH infrastructure report; Diamond’s Nobel (and Shelby’s response); admin opposes foreclosure moratorium mortgage

October 12, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 


President Obama renewed his call for increased infrastructure spending yesterday, making the case both in public remarks and in a report (pdf) released by the Council of Economic Advisers. The report’s argument, by this time, will be familiar to readers of Wonkbook: America needs trillions in infrastructure repairs and upgrades. Right now, construction sector unemployment is 17 percent, slack global demand means raw materials are cheap, federal borrowing costs are at their lowest point since the 1950s, and the economy desperately needs jobs. Given the choice between paying for infrastructure repairs today and paying for them tomorrow — and that is our choice — we will get more for our dollar, and do more for our economy, if we pay for them today.

The administration’s proposal, however, is not a program to meet our infrastructure needs. it is a one-time, $ 50 billion bump to the surface transportation budget. That would certainly help, but it’s too small, and limited to roads, rails, and runways, even though our drinking-water systems and schools also need help. Ask the administration about this, and you’ll hear about Congress. And to be fair, Congress is not a hotbed of sound economic thinking lately. Republicans are still blocking the nomination of newly minted Nobel-prize winner Peter Diamond to the Federal Reserve Board. “The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences does not determine who is qualified to serve on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System,” Shelby said.

Happy back-to-not-caring-about-Columbus-Day. And welcome to Wonkbook.

Top Stories

Obama renewed his call for $ 50 billion in new infrastructure spending, reports Lori Montgomery: “Also present: former transportation secretaries Sam Skinner and Norman Mineta, who last week released a separate report saying that the nation needs to spend $ 134 billion to $ 194 billion just on basic repairs. With concern rising about the nation’s growing debt, that figure is more than the federal government can provide, administration officials said. Instead, they are pressing for the $ 50 billion infrastructure bank as the first portion of a six-year plan for transportation funding that has been under discussion for months in Congress.”

Read the administration’s infrastructure report (pdf):

My take — including three helpful graphs:

The White House doesn’t want a foreclosure moratorium, reports Binyamin Appelbaum: “The administration’s basic logic has not changed since it took office in the depths of the financial crisis: Hitting the financial industry, officials argue in private and in public, hurts the broader economy. A moratorium on foreclosures may provide short-term political satisfaction in an overheated election climate, but the administration fears it will only delay the inevitable and necessary process of forcing many Americans out of homes they cannot afford.”

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Fed nominee Peter Diamond shared the economics Nobel with Dale Mortensen and Christopher Pissarides, but that doesn’t mean Republicans will let him onto the Federal Reserve’s Board, reports Neil Irwin: “Diamond was among three academics awarded the Nobel Prize in economics Monday for pioneering research on unemployment that has helped better explain the factors that can keep people out of work…Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) has argued that Diamond may not be qualified to serve at the Fed given that his background is not in monetary policy…Shelby, in a statement, said that ‘while the Nobel Prize for Economics is a significant recognition, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences does not determine who is qualified to serve on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.’”

Harvard economist Ed Glaeser explains the work that won the Nobel Prize:

Barney Frank will lead the effort to pass a mortgage industry overhaul next year, reports Zachary Goldfarb: “Senior Obama officials are scheduled to release a proposal in January that would replace the two mortgage giants and rethink federal programs that help make housing affordable… Frank has abandoned hope for Fannie and Freddie, saying they should be abolished. His new goals are to devise a housing finance system to replace Fannie and Freddie, preserve existing affordable housing and set up a trust fund to help pay for more. For all his efforts, Frank readily acknowledges that there are more people needing decent housing than there were when he started in Congress.”

Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail me.

Acoustic session interlude: Warpaint plays “Undertow”.

Still to come: The foreclosure jam could lead Fannie and Freddie to lose billions; David Brooks argues that public employee compensation is “the Democratic Party’s epic failure”; US ethanol subsidies are due to expire; Obama is amping up his criticism of foreign campaign spending; and Grover is the Monster Your Monster Could Smell Like.


The foreclosure mess could threaten Fannie and Freddie’s solvency, report Zachary Goldfarb, Dina ElBoghdady, and Ariana Eunjung Cha: “To protect themselves from those losses, Fannie and Freddie have threatened to penalize thousands of lenders if they fail to rapidly fix the way they seize the homes of borrowers who missed their payments, according to letters sent by the firms to lenders. Fannie and Freddie, the recipients of a $ 160 billion federal rescue, have been virtually the only companies willing to buy mortgages from lenders since the financial crisis broke out.”

New Fed governor Janet Yellen concedes there are risk to low interest rates:

40 state attorneys general are launching an investigation into the foreclosure mess:

Newly powerful developing countries are thwarting attempts to pressure China on its currency, reports Sewell Chan: “The crisis has shifted influence from the richest powers toward Asia and Latin America, whose economies have weathered the recession much better than those of the United States, Europe and Japan… The shifting dynamics have most noticeably affected the United States, which pushed more forcefully than its counterparts for stronger pressure on China but has been unable to persuade them to stand with it at the forefront of the debate.”

Outsourcing creates more jobs in the US than abroad, writes William Cohen:

Obama has, if anything, spent too little, writes Paul Krugman: “the big government expansion everyone talks about never happened…Furthermore, it wasn’t mainly focused on increasing government spending. Of the roughly $ 600 billion cost of the Recovery Act in 2009 and 2010, more than 40 percent came from tax cuts, while another large chunk consisted of aid to state and local governments. Only the remainder involved direct federal spending.”

Compensation for public employees keeps states from more productive spending-like infrastructure investment, writes David Brooks:

Both bankers and borrowers must do the right thing to get out of the mortgage mess, writes Steve Pearlstein: “Those who are cheerleading for a moratorium should realize they can only push things so far. It would not help the recovery of the economy, or the real estate market, if the foreclosure process became so hopelessly tangled that banks and investors effectively lose the ability to recoup the remaining value of their collateral. That would provide some immediate financial relief to households facing foreclosure, but it would encourage many more homeowners to begin shirking their mortgage payments in the belief that they would also be able to avoid the consequences.”

Sesame Street interlude: Grover parodies Old Spice’s ads.


Forthcoming global climate deal talks don’t look promising, reports Juliet Eilperin: “Environmentalists issued a slew of dire pronouncements over the last 24 hours, suggesting international negotiators will have to work harder if they want a meaningful outcome when representatives from more than 190 countries gather in Cancun in late November and early December…Kyle Ash, Greenpeace U.S. energy policy analyst, laid the blame at the feet of American diplomats, questioning why they won’t embrace the idea that global emissions must peak by 2015 and why they haven’t finalized legislation cutting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions even if they have taken some steps to cut America’s carbon footprint.”

US ethanol subsidies are expiring soon, reports Louise Loftus: ” framework of tariffs and subsidies introduced by the U.S. Energy Tax Act of 1978 has long bolstered the American ethanol industry, helping to increase demand while keeping foreign competitors out. But these tariffs are due to expire Dec. 31 and other countries are lobbying hard to get into the U.S. market — particularly Brazil, the world’s largest producer of sugar cane ethanol, which stands to be the biggest beneficiary if the tariffs are allowed to end.”

California is speeding up its carbon regulation process:

The weak recovery is hurting efforts to build nuclear reactors, reports Matthew Wald: “One major factor driving the cautious stance of both the industry and the government is the fall in electricity demand, which peaked in 2007. In 2009, demand dropped by more than 4 percent from 2007. So far, it seems that demand in 2010 will be higher than last year, but not as high as 2007. These are big changes for an industry that is accustomed to growth on the order of 1 to 3 percent a year. With slack demand, there is less urgency to build new plants.”

The World Bank is giving more and more to fossil fuel projects:

Long-form interlude: Jon Ronson of The Guardian profiles Insane Clown Posse.

Domestic Policy

Obama is increasing his criticism of Citizens United-enabled foreign spending on campaigns, report Dan Eggen and Scott Wilson: “David Axelrod, a top Obama adviser, said on CBS’s ‘Face the Nation’ that secret political donations to the chamber and other groups pose ‘a threat to our democracy.’ Axelrod also took the unusual step of calling on the chamber to release internal documents backing up its contention that foreign money is not being used to pay for U.S. political activities. Democrats have seized on a report by a liberal blog alleging that dues from chamber-affiliated business councils could be used in that way.”

The first human trial of stem cell therapy is underway:

High costs are leading patients to abandon prescription drugs, reports Jonathan Rockoff: “A review of insurance-claims data shows that so-called abandonment-when a patient refuses to purchase or pick up a prescription that was filled and packaged by a pharmacist-was up 55% in the second quarter of this year, compared with four years earlier. The phenomenon coincides with rising co-payments for many drugs and increasing enrollment in high-deductible insurance plans that require patients to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars out of pocket before insurance kicks in.”

If you want more Facebooks, invest in the intellectual commons that made Facebook possible, not in Mark Zuckerberg’s continuing payout, writes Ezra Klein: “Human beings are more comfortable thinking in terms of people than in terms of technology. And a movie about a socially inept genius is certainly more interesting than a film about conferences where programmers present advances in social network software. But the focus on people leads us to overinvest in the rewards for individual innovation and underinvest in the intellectual commons that make those innovations possible. We’re investing, in other words, in the difference between Zuckerberg and Goldberg rather than the advances that brought them into competition.”

A new push is underway for a ban on Hill staffers trading stocks of companies they regulate:

Obama is applying accountability measures to early childhood ed, write Ron Haskins and W. Steven Barnett: “What happens if, based on the evaluation and the classroom rating, the Head Start program does not measure up? The program would then be required to compete with other programs to keep its funding. The solution, in other words: Use the market to get rid of underperforming Head Start programs and fund new programs that hold more promise. If the new program did not perform, it would also lose the Head Start money.”

Compensation for public employees keeps states from important spending-like infrastructure investment, writes David Brooks:

The Supreme Court will not allow reasonable restrictions on foreign spending in elections, writes Richard Hansen: “There are of course good reasons to limit foreign money in the electoral process-it’s just that none of them are compatible with the Supreme Court’s First Amendment absolutism. Unlike American citizens, foreign individuals, governments, and associations are unlikely to have allegiance to the United States. A foreign entity may even have military or economic interests adverse to the United States. Foreign individuals or groups could support candidates to curry favor, or at the least, to secure preferential access to elected officials.”

Closing credits: Wonkbook is compiled and produced with help from Dylan Matthews, Mike Shepard, and Michelle Williams. Photo credit: White House.

Ezra Klein

Fed Nominee Whom Sen. Shelby Deemed Too Unqualified To Confirm Wins Nobel Prize

October 11, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 
Richard Shelby thinks this Nobel laureate is unqualified to set monetary policy.

Richard Shelby thinks this Nobel laureate is unqualified to set monetary policy.

Earlier today, Federal Reserve Board nominee Peter Diamond won the Nobel Prize in Economics along with two of his colleagues. Yet, despite the fact that President Obama nominated this Nobel laureate to the Fed nearly six months ago, his nomination is currently being blocked by just one senator. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) believes that this year’s winner of the highest honor in the economics profession is unqualified to actually set economic policy:

[U]nder an arcane procedural rule, the Senate sent Mr. Diamond’s nomination back to the White House on Thursday night before starting its summer recess. A leading Republican senator, Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, said that Mr. Diamond did not have sufficiently broad macroeconomic experience to help run the central bank. […]

As Mr. Shelby noted, Mr. Diamond is not a specialist in monetary economics — the control of the supply of credit and the setting of interest rates — which is the Fed’s traditional purview. But of the five current governors of the Fed, only two, Mr. Bernanke and the vice chairman, Donald L. Kohn, are academic economists who specialize in monetary economics. The other three include a former community banker, a former Wall Street executive and a legal scholar.

Shelby, of course, has a history of this kind of abuse of the Senate Rules to prevent eminently qualified nominees from being confirmed. Earlier this year, Shelby briefly took over 70 nominees hostage in an attempt to strongarm the administration into awarding a $ 35 billion defense contract to his state — although he later lifted these holds once they became politically embarrassing.

But Shelby, of course, is only able to get away with these kinds of shenanigans because the Senate’s rules are shockingly easy to abuse. Indeed, while it is common wisdom that 60 senators are required to get virtually anything done, the reality is much bleaker — most Senate business now requires all 100 senators to consent.

The reason for this is because dissenting senators can force the Senate to waste hours or even days effectively doing nothing in order to pass a single bill or confirm a single nominee. Indeed, as a recent Center for American Progress white paper explains, there isn’t enough time in two entire presidential terms to confirm all of a new president’s nominees by the time that president leaves office:


In other words, the entire government can be hollowed out by a tiny group of senators with a vendetta. Today, Sen. Shelby thinks that a Nobel laureate doesn’t know enough about economics, so that nominee must languish without an up or down vote.  Tomorrow, another senator could disapprove of a nominee’s haircut, and that alone may be sufficient to spike the nomination.

Think Progress

Peter Diamond Wins Nobel Prize

October 11, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Here I go spending the day walking around Jaffa and Tel Aviv and only now do I get back to my hotel to find out that the Sveriges Riksbank decided to pole a finger in the eye of Richard Shelby and the US Senate and give the Nobel Prize in economics to a troika of economists, including Barack Obama’s stalled Federal Reserve nominee Peter Diamond.

That narrow political context aside, the larger political context is that the three are cited for the work in trying to understand stick wages, job search, and unemployment which is certainly a timely topic. Meanwhile, I’m sure there are lots of bloggers out there with a more informed take on this work than I have.

Matthew Yglesias

Why China Sees the Nobel Prize as a Threat

October 11, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

The problem for the regime is not that the Nobel Prize violates its principles by going to a dissident, but that it confirms those principles which are a threat to the ruling Communist dictatorship.
American Thinker Blog

Larry Diamond wins the Nobel Prize, continues being blocked by the Senate

October 11, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

For months now, Sen. Richard Shelby has been blocking the nomination of economist Peter Diamond to join the board of the Federal Reserve. “I do not believe he’s ready to be a member of the Federal Reserve Board,” Shelby said, “I do not believe that the current environment of uncertainty would benefit from monetary policy decisions made by board members who are learning on the job.”

Today, Diamond won the Nobel Prize in economics. Of course, Shelby never said he wasn’t a “skilled economist.” He said he didn’t know monetary economics. But that’s also self-evidently foolish: Before serving on the Federal Reserve Board, Elizabeth Duke worked at a bank. Kevin Warsh worked for George W. Bush. Sarah Bloom Raskin was a financial regulator in Maryland. Ben Bernanke was an economist, and before that, one of Diamond’s students.

No one prepares for the Federal Reserve Board by serving on the Federal Reserve Board. Shelby’s argument against Diamond is simply cover for his actual objections against Diamond. One of those objections is simple partisan politics. But another, I’ve heard, is odder: Diamond has done a fair amount of work in behavioral economics (for instance, here). That’s been true for a number of the administration’s recruits, including Peter Orszag, Jeff Liebman and Cass Sunstein. As such, behavioral economics itself has become polarized among Republicans, and Shelby now considers it a red flag for potential nominees.

Here’s a post from Tyler Cowen on Diamond’s academic work and influence. Diamond has published in many areas, but two particular points of expertise are labor markets and entitlement programs, both of which the Federal Reserve will need considerable knowledge of over the next few years. Without Diamond — or someone like him — on the Board, it’s not exaggeration to say they’ll be learning on the job.

Ezra Klein

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