Friday, October 31, 2008

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Phoenix Rising

Steve Inskeep opens this morning's rewriting of the history of the Vietnam War with this gem: "It is of course hard to understand the present without an occasional look at the past." The report claims that 40 years ago a new, successful strategy was launched in Vietnam by Gen. Creighton Abrams, the brand spanking new war criminal American Commander of Forces there.

Tom Bowman says that unlike his predecessor Gen. Westmoreland, "Abrams saw the fight in Vietnam differently. In a counterinsurgency, the important thing isn't enemy body count; it's protecting the population, training local Vietnamese forces, providing money and programs for a better life....For Abrams, the right strategy was not 'search and destroy.' He saw it as 'clear and hold,' words that echo four decades later..."

Now that's funny. I could have sworn I read that Abrams strategy meant something besides "a better life" for the Vietnamese. I went to the library and found Fire in the Lake where Frances Fitzgerald writes on page 405 "Abrams...diverted the American an all out attempt to destroy enemy base areas...under the Accelerated Pacification Campaign the US Ninth Division almost literally 'cleaned out' the Front-held regions...bombing villages, defoliating crops, and forcing the peasants to leave their lands..."

Clear and hold wasn't pretty, and it definitely wasn't about "protecting the population." Bowman also doesn't mention that one side of the Abram's clear and hold strategy was the bloody Phoenix Program. In Fire in the Lake you can also read how under Abrams in 1969 the United States set a goal for the Phoenix Program to 'neutralize' twenty thousand NLF agents during the year. Of the 19,534 people reported "neutralized" that year torture was systemic and one third were dead (page 412).

But tallying the US atrocities of the Vietnam War are beside the point for NPR. Bowman's story is all about how great Abrams' strategy was - "Abrams was also more successful in his strategy. By the end of 1968 and into 1969, an analysis of Abrams' efforts showed the military situation in Vietnam had significantly improved." And of course this strategy (40 years later) is what has delivered such glorious successes in Iraq: "that clear, hold and build strategy in Iraq came after failed attempts, some akin to Westmoreland's....Iraq was being compared to the quagmire in Vietnam, at a time when Abrams' clear and hold approach was finding its way into a new Army manual created by Gen. David Petraeus."

Finally Bowman wants us to know that Vietnam could have been won with Abrams' strategy: "Creighton Abrams believed the South Vietnamese could have been victorious over the North, if only the U.S. continued to support them." Just like the victory that is at hand in Iraq...see, only the fickle US public's lack of support will deliver defeat from the jaws of victory.

Big Hearted Bomber

In a rather shallow and amusing piece about John McCain, Steve Inskeep gets deep with Jon Meacham of Newsweek. There were some very funny assertions made about singin' John the Bomber (not to be confused with Joe the Plummer!).

According to Meacham, McCain "has a very sophisticated view of the Vietnam War." And that view is...that the military was stabbed in the back and could have won - very sophisticated.

Meacham also notes that "this [the McCains] is a family that understands the price of war, and John McCain is not eager to use force...." Oh yeah, John McCain is soooo reluctant to use force (like in Iraq, Syria, Sudan and Iran). Yep, he was just so patient and careful about suggesting military action after 9/11 that some of us were wondering if he'd become a closet pacifist.

In fact regarding foreign policy Meacham sees McCain as "...ultimately a big hearted man who believes in, he has a far more romantic view of America's role in the world than Senator Obama does...has a more epic sense that America can be the America of 1945..." Gosh, doesn't that just make you feel all warm inside?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

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Monday, October 27, 2008

BS Machine IDs Gaffe Machine

(Click picture for source)

Mara Liasson (a fox in sheep's clothing) was at it again on ATC Monday night. Liasson was doing a piece on McCain's stump speech. After airing former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson's remarks that "You're trying to take advantage of the themes of the moment, the gaffes of the last week, trying to get any traction you can" - Liasson chimes in with this:
"On this day the gaffe McCain uses was from the Democrat's gaffe machine and Vice Presidential candidate, Joe Biden."
I really thought I misheard, and had to replay it from the web. Yes, she really did call Biden the "Democrat's gaffe machine." This struck me as a bit unusual, and shall we say a wee bit unprofessional. I've heard journalists refer to Biden as having a reputation for making gaffes, but to call him a "gaffe machine." Hmmm, where could such a moniker come from?

Well, what do you know, if it isn't one of the talking points of the McCain campaign (including a video the McCain camp put out). It's also interesting to Google "gaffe machine" and notice that it's a favorite smear term against Obama used by the likes of the venomous Malkin.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Big Bad Left

If you are a supposed leftist, and you want to get on NPR, you better be ready to bash the left and say something pro-Zionist. On Saturday morning, Scott Simon talks to France's Bernard-Henri Levy, who Simon describes as "probably his country's best-known public intellectual" (You might be forgiven for wondering when NPR News took an interest in public intellectuals!) One reason Simon is talking to Levy is because - according to Simon - Levy "says the left has too often become apologists for tyrants and bigotry - antisemitism to be blunt about it."

It is kind of funny to hear this critique in the US where one would be happy to have a strong "left" to critique in the first place, and where uber-Zionism is a prerequisite to being heard at all in mainstream political discourse. But the realities of the US empire aren't about to get in the way of distortion. Here are a few excerpts from Levy:

  • "You have more and more liberals who say, 'Come on, wait a minute. Human rights in America, okay. Human rights in Europe, okay. But if you pretend to apply human rights for example to Arab countries, then - wait a minute - it is a colonial attitude, it is a neo-imperialist way of imposing a way of thinking..." [What US leftists decry insisting on human rights for Arab countries?]
  • "You have a lot of liberals today, who before taking the party of the victims, first ask who is the executioner, and more precisely, would by any chance, America been involved in this execution, in this bloodbath. If America is involved, then they take the party of the victims. If America is not involved, if it is not the guiltiness, the fault of America - they care less." [No, what you have are activists who are more disturbed by human rights abuses that their tax dollars are supporting and who rightly question the argument that US military intervention has ever favored human rights improvements.]
  • "...the only way to make antisemitism sayable and hearable...give sort of fake legitimacy is to mold it in the argumentation, the obsessions in the phrases of the liberal left. For example, antiZionism....I criticize Israel more than anybody...but antiZionism is something else. To be antiZionist is like to be anti-Francist or anti-Germanist as if you had the right to conclude from the faults...that France should not exist at all..." [Honestly, it's sad to see this sloppy logic passing as intellectualism. Yes, anyone would be anti-Francist or anti-Germanist if being ethnically French or German were a condition for citizenship and basic rights for anyone residing in France or Germany respectively.]
Don't look for a thoughtful look at Zionism on NPR. The arguments for and against Zionism are quite entangled, while the actual practice of Zionism in Israel is quiet blatantly racist and violent.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Who Needs 527s

With McCain flailing and no 527s coming to his rescue, who better to put in one last super McEffort than NPR? ATC on Wednesday had not one, but two McCain Country campaign ads. One was an "opinion" piece from NPR favorite, Rich Lowry of the National Review (let's see how often NPR turns to The Nation's Katrina vanden Heuvel - I'd say 1 to 41 seems pretty fair and balanced to me...) The other was a McCain background feature from fetid baloney reporter, Ted Robbins, who serves up a big heaping helping of McMaverick b.s. (nothing new here, here, or here.)

In case you missed these fine pieces of radio journalism, here's a few excerpts:

From Lowry's piece:
  • "...he salvaged his reputation after the political hell of the Keating Five scandal."
  • "Even the most hardened Democrat has to appreciate the man's pluck."
  • "But there's another enduring McCain quality — and that's courage. He has been willing to root out corruption in his own party; he has bucked his own party's leadership..."
From Ted Robbins "report":
  • "McCain entered the U.S. Senate and gradually adopted his own Western theme. The persona fits well with Arizona's Old West image — a place for rugged individualists to make a new start. After all, that's what McCain did when he married his second wife, Cindy, and moved to the state."
  • "...political pollster Bruce Merrill says the voters have embraced the brand. 'They admire him as a POW. They admire him as a maverick, a gunslinger kind of a guy,' he said."
  • "The problem is that McCain has taken stances opposite of his own party."
  • "State Republican leaders differ with McCain on campaign finance reform, embryonic stem cell research and, most notably, on immigration."
Well, least cigarette ads now have to have the Surgeon General's warning label affixed to them.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Like Oil for Chocolate

It's not enough that our own rotten economy is hammering folks at home, NPR (like the Miami Herald) is very excited that dropping oil prices might hurt their favorite bogey man, Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez.

Montagne begins the report by gleefully stating that Venezuela's "oil based economy is highly vulnerable to instability in the oil markets, so the recent drop in oil likely to hit Venezuela [pause] HARD."

Then Juan Forero, sounding positively jazzed at he possibility, jumps in with "...the sharp drop in the price of oil...may whipsaw Venezuela harder than most oil producers." As the piece on the Miami Herald article notes many, many economists have weighed in on Venezuela's generally good economic health. cites Reuters and Bloomberg articles among others, but Forero limits his consultations to...guess who?...enemies of Chavez.

Forero talks to "Robert Bottome [who] runs the VenEconomia newsletter in Caracas...he says low oil prices could end Venezuela's free spending ways..." Then we hear Bottome claim that for the past 5 years "we've had a consumption-led expansion of the economy but no investment." No investment? Really? Even a recent critical CFR report notes significant social investment, while spotlighting a lack of investment back into the state controlled oil company, PDVSA. Facts be damned, Forero just reasserts Bottome's claim and says "that lack of investment also means Venezuela relies almost solely on oil for export earnings." (Of course Forero doesn't mention Bottome's brother who is a big-wig of the pro-coup RCTV in Venezuela.)

Forero has to admit some reality in his piece, noting that "economic analysts agree that the economic crisis will not hit Venezuela soon...but those same analysts say the government has not shown it's about to slow spending." With that sly admission he quickly turns for more critical "analysis" to Chavez critic Ramon Espinasa who "stepped down as PDVSA's chief economist when Chávez took office in 1999."

It's kind of funny to have NPR working away down in South America, keen on a "story" about an administration that has championed a "consumption-led expansion" while woefully ignoring infrastructure and long-term investments. Seems to me that story might just be a little closer to home than anyone there wants to admit.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Q Tips

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Be sure to read some of the great comments on the previous Q Tips - excellent critiques of NPR's coverage (non-coverage) of the economic crisis.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Simon Says

Saturday morning Scott Simon puts on his uber-somber/emotional voice to do a little typical NPR surgery on history. He's interviewing Colonel Timothy J. Geraghty, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired), who was in charge of the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit in Beirut when it was attacked with a massive truck bomb on Oct. 23, 1983.

The gist of the report - based on Geraghty's recent article - is that the truck bombing marked the beginning of a new tactic in terror - the suicide car/truck bombing. However, as Mike Davis has pointed out in part one and part two of his history of car bombings, the Beruit attack simply added the kamikaze dimension to a terror tactic which has a long and storied history (one in which the US and Israel have happily participated when it served their ends).

No surprise that NPR doesn't touch that one, but a Simon also censors a more obvious bit of information on the Beirut bombing. He opens the report by saying "220 US Marines and 21 other US service members died that day, along with 58 French paratroopers; they had been sent to Beirut as peacekeepers." Well, yes, they may have been sent there as peacekeepers, but it's funny that Simon doesn't mention a bit of what happened later. Even Geraghty, in his article writes
"It is noteworthy that the United States provided direct naval gunfire support-which I strongly opposed for a week-to the Lebanese Army at a mountain village called Suq-al-Garb on 19 September and that the French conducted an air strike on 23 September in the Bekaa Valley. American support removed any lingering doubts of our neutrality, and I stated to my staff at the time that we were going to pay in blood for this decision." forum has a similar note of the US political decision to veer from neutrality. The author of the post notes that after an initial positive reception by forces in Beirut,
"the perception of the United States as an impartial peacekeeper changed and, with it, the attitude of the Moslem population toward the marines. General Mead cited the U.S. training of the Lebanese Armed Forces, an essential element in the rebuilding of national authority, as one of the first developments perceived as U.S. bias in favor of the Christians.....The latest, and perhaps the most significant, change was the use of naval gunfire in support of the Lebanese Armed Forces during the September fighting at Suq el-Gharb."
This is no small quibbling with details. That so many men were killed is tragic - but it is hardly a simple act of "pure terrorism" as Geraghty states in the NPR piece with Simon. The Wikipedia article on the Beirut Barracks Bombing rightly notes that
"Under international law, peacekeepers are regarded as non-combatants due to their peacekeeping role, but in Lebanon the U.S. Marines had become allied with the Maronite Christians and were actively engaging in battles, thus waiving their non-combatant status. The U.S. still categorised this attack as an act of terror as it was directed against off-duty servicemen, which the U.S. defines as non-combatants. However, no international law defines sleeping or off-duty servicemen as non-combatants."
Simon, needless to say, doesn't raise this issue at all. Besides, that would also get in the way of the other message of the NPR feature: Iran and Syria were behind the attack and the US should have retaliated (and maybe still should?).

BTW, I'm also looking forward to see how NPR covers another act of "pure terrorism": the sneak attack on a little country which resulted in about a hundred deaths and was conveniently launched just two days after the Beirut bombings, thereby helping to erase that failure from the public's awareness (those Reagan years were such golden times!).

Our Side or Their Side

You might think the brutally stupid 2001 Bush declarations of "Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists" or the slightly refined "You are either with us or against us" has been thoroughly discredited--but not on NPR.

On Friday's ATC, Jackie Northam, wrapping up NPR's series on the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan, turns to three main sources for her report. First is Anthony Cordesman whose bio notes "formerly served as national security assistant to Senator John McCain of the Senate Armed Services Committee, as director of intelligence assessment in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and as civilian assistant to the deputy secretary of defense....Cordesman has been awarded the Department of Defense Distinguished Service Medal." Her second expert is Quite an Adventure Bob Grenier who we are told was "the CIA station chief in Pakistan from 1999 to 2002." Her third source is...another CIA spokesperson, Bruce Riedel who Northam - in all seriousness - describes as having "spent nearly three decades in counter-terrorism at the CIA" (and I guess Putin worked for decades on East German democracy for the KGB!).

From this wide range of ideological opinion you can be sure that you won't hear any questioning of the US right to dictate policy in Pakistan/Afghanistan or the history of the US' role in creating the violence of the region. All you hear are differences of tactics.
  • Cordesman states that "we have never put significant resources into this war...we have let the Taliban grow in power without providing anything like the resources we provided in Iraq."
  • Bob Grenier "says the US may have to abandon the idea of creating one [a strong central Afghan government] and start dealing with the tribal leaders...says it's important to build up local forces in the Pashtun area along the border with Pakistan."
  • Lastly, "Riedel says the next President needs to make it clear to Pakistan's new government that those days are over." We then hear Riedel stating that "one of the things he needs to convey to Islamabad is that the time for double dealing is over. You need to be on one side of the war on terror -- our side or their side."
You might wonder where Northam goes with that one. She drones: "for its part the US has stepped up attacks on suspected Taliban hideouts using unmanned predator aircraft..." Yep, we are doing our part...

For better information on the US created horror (and likely continuing nightmare) of Afghanistan without the mind and soul killing "our side, their side" nonsense be sure to read Anand Gopal's recent piece and Nir Rosen's Rolling Stone article. You might hear from people like these on DemocracyNow! but I doubt we'll be hearing from them on NPR anytime soon.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

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All's Quiet in the Henhouse

Tonight on ATC, Michelle Norris and Mara Fox News Liasson pretend that all is about equally negative between the two candidates for President, and Norris asks, " Is there a more negative tone than we've been hearing in previous campaigns?"

To which Liasson answers, "I dont' think so. That 'too risky for America,' I bet you and I have heard that every single election, we haven't seen a Willie Horton ad, we haven't seen John McCain accused of fathering an illegitimate black child. I think this is rather tame if you look at the history of campaigns. I do think it is getting tougher. I think the difference is that you see Barack Obama basically saying that McCain is mentally unstable, that he's erratic...what McCain has been doing is using a kind of guilt by association charge, raising the question of whether Obama has been completely truthful about his relationship with William Ayers..."

Well, I guess if you draw some of your pay from the sleaze machine called Fox News, then it all looks "pretty tame." And it's ironic that Liasson mentions the 2000 "whisper campaign" against McCain, when the vile anti-Muslim/Arab whisper campaign against Obama is the heart and soul of the McPalin mob strategy.

In addition to taking her morals from the Fox News den, I guess Liasson is not Arab or could care less how they are trashed by the Hate Talk Express. The racist overtones of the McCain camp seem to elude her too, although the report tonight opened with Norris noting that this past weekend Masa McCain promised to "quote, whip his you know what." I guess that means the "you know what" on "that one."

Saturday, October 11, 2008

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The Hate that Never Dies

Yesterday I made the "mistake" of watching the video posted here on Crooks and Liars: depressing and repulsive stuff. In just a few short minutes I noted the following from these McPalin supporters:
  • "you're stupid"
  • "hangs around with terrorists"
  • "he's a terrorist"
  • "Obama's a Muslim; he's a terrorist himself"
  • "here it is" [giving the finger]
  • "commie faggots"
  • "get a job"
  • "go to Russia"
  • "socialist swine"
  • "screw Obama"
  • "die"
  • "European socialist"
  • "he is a Muslim"
  • "I don't know what he is"
  • "sleazy scum of the earth" [of ACORN & Obama]
Watching it I had a weird déjà vu experience. I had seen this crowd before, but where? Then it hit me, during the POV special about the Chilean judge investigating Pinochet there is a scene during Pinochet's funeral where his supporters taunt victims and opponents of Pinochet with nearly identical epithets: faggot, terrorist, etc. You can get a feel for these Pinochet fans by checking out this clip on YouTube.

One of the readers of this blog noted below that the issue of McPalin mob hatred and vitriol is "not being properly addressed by the major media." So when ATC on Friday covered just this topic I wondered how they would cover it. The title of the web post gives a clue: "Anxiety Rules at McCain Campaign Stops." Anxiety?

Melissa Block opens the piece with "Republican John McCain held a series of rallies and town hall meetings with increasingly anxious supporters. It's not just the slumping economy that has them worried..." Anxious? Worried? That's interesting because I've been around a lot of anxious and worried people in my time, and they don't usually scream at people, calling them liars, terrorists, faggots, etc.

Scott Horsley takes over and tells us the following about the McMob: They are "outspoken in their dismay" and "there's more defiance than celebration" in them. Outspoken? Defiance? And then after not really addressing the fundamental - and dangerous - issue of McCain and Palin cultivating this viciousness, Horsley wraps it up with a plug for McCain: "McCain and NPR has been embracing his underdog status."

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Extreme Makeover

Introducing Lourdes Garcia-Navarro's piece on some Iraqi families returning to the divided neighborhood of Ghazaliyah in Baghdad, Melissa Block chirps:
"Millions of Iraqis fled their homes over the past few years; now with violence receding, some families are coming back - especially in Baghdad...but while many neighborhoods are relatively calm, sectarian tensions remain."
Yep, violence has really receded and things are relatively calm in Iraq. After the Extreme Makeover of their country - compliments of Uncle Sam - joyful Iraqis are streaming home.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Private Shapiro and Sutherland

(Lt General William Caldwell speaking through JJ Sutherland)

The US Army releases its Stability Operation Field Manual and Alabama Moon points out that there's nothing "new" about its goal ("conflict against enemies intent on limiting American access and influence throughout the world") and its author's implied threat against "homeland" instability!

But from the news organization that revels in counterinsurgency and gets all goosesteppybumpy over Army Strong you can expect nothing but an upbeat commercial for this latest product of US militarism.

Here's the meat of the report:

(Ari Shapiro opens with): "When the US army fought its way into Baghdad in 2003 soldiers there found they were not prepared to establish peace, security and the rule of law in Iraq. It's taken the military years to show some progress on those fronts..."

(Sutherland follows): "That lack of coherent planning for what happens after the shooting stops was intrinsic to the army...that process bore terrible fruit in the days, then months, then years after the invasion of Iraq: chaos in the streets, no basic services, a growing insurgency, thousands of dead Americans. Security in Iraq has improved dramatically - from a civil war to at least a modicum of peace. Fragile certainly, but an improvement, an improvement driven by fundamentally changing the army's approach.

The manual lays out a series of steps on how to stabilize a country after a war - from providing security, establishing the rule of law, to things like social well-being, stable governance and a working economy.... army needed to win the wars we're in, an army this manual will help to build. "
As always, not a mention of the terrible "fruit" of 4.5 million Iraqi refugees and over a million dead. Makes me want to scream. And this passes for journalism...ugghh.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

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Killing Husbands and History

In the Q Tip section below, a reader of this blog noted that Lourdes Garcia-Navarro had a troubling section in her feature on widows in Iraq. In her report she states the following:
"Some estimates put the number of widows in Iraq at 1 million - women who've lost their husbands to Iraq's endless succession of wars: Iran-Iraq, the invasion of Kuwait, the recent civil war..."
I don't know if the omission of any mention of US responsibility for the widow tragedy of Iraq is the work of Garcia-Navarro or of an editor - but it is outrageous (and typical for NPR).

One could argue that at least NPR is reporting on the human cost of the war, but if that illegal, aggressive war of invasion isn't even mentioned as one of the causes of the problems, then how much value can such a report have?

For a contrast, it's interesting to consider how other reports have covered the plight of Iraqi widows.

IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reporting in April 2006:
"Thousands of Iraqi women lost their husbands during the ten-year war with Iran in the 1980s. This number rose further during the 1991 US-led war with Iraq following the latter’s invasion of Kuwait.

Local NGOs say the situation has become even more critical since the 2003 US-led invasion of the country, which has given rise to increasing violence and sectarian killing."
IPS in December of 2006:
"Widows are the flip side of violence that has meant more than a million men dead, detained or disabled, Iraqi NGOs estimate. These men's wives or mothers now carry the burden of running the families."

"The violence since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 is not the first to have taken its toll. Hundreds of thousands of men were killed, taken prisoner or disabled during the 1980-1988 war between Iran and Iraq."
Reuters in January 2008:
"No-one can give an exact figure for the number of widows left by the brutal reign of Saddam Hussein, the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, the 1991 Gulf War and in sectarian bloodshed since the 2003 invasion."

"Whatever their number, both parliamentarians say the women who have lost male family members since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq are increasingly lacking the means to provide for themselves."
As you can see, it takes a conscious effort to leave out a mention of US culpability when talking about the massive numbers of widows in Iraq.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Very Sober, Middle-of-the-Road

For a study in contrasts after Monday's rejection of the bailout plan by the House of Representative's, consider Chris Arnold's Tuesday morning talk with Steve Inskeep and then look at Glenn Greenwald's Wednesday post on problems with the bailout.

Arnold opens his piece with condescension "People shouldn't panic. Don't pull your money out of the bank or anything..."
Then Arnold essentially acts like the only possible options are do nothing or pass the bailout plan and uses these vague references to boost his case:
  • "this is not just a Wall Street bailout and many economists are lining up now to say that they're very worried and they say that if the government doesn't do something soon, like within days or a week..."
  • "...some very smart people you know think we're at a tipping point moment, basically, that is what Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has been talking about..."
  • "I talk to lots of very sober, middle-of-the-road, you know feet-on-the-ground sort of economists all the time and a lot of them are more concerned here than I've ever heard them before. There are a lot of very respected economists who think something has to happen here very quickly."
Interestingly, Arnold doesn't name a single one of these "very smart," "very sober," "very respected" economists - we're just supposed to accept his editorialized judgment. In contrast Greenwald offers lots of names (e.g. Nouriel Roubini, Johnathon G.S. Koppell, Duncan Black, Dean Baker, etc) so you can look them up and decide what you think. Arnold's message on the other hand is pretty obvious: your anger and skepticism about the Paulson plan is ill thought out and uninformed since every self respecting (unnamed) economist knows better.

Update: Arnold did have a better report by Friday morning (by which time passage of the plan was pretty well assured) - one in which he does name three ideological different critics of the plan - George Soros, Glenn Hubbard and Chris Mayr.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

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