Monday, August 26, 2013

Last Call For Ben's Helicopter

The race to replace outgoing Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke continues to roll on, and while the "Anyone But Larry Summers" crew has strong contenders in Janet Yellen (who would be the first female Fed chief) and Roger Ferguson (who would be the first black Fed chairman) WaPo's Neil Irwin argues that the newest dark horse after this weekend's Jackson Hole conference is Bank of Israel head Stan Fischer.

The short version: He is an outstanding academic economist; he was the No. 2 official at the IMF; and he did a virtuoso job leading the Bank of Israel until earlier this year, making him the central banker to one of the nation’s closest allies. Whether you’re looking for academic brilliance, crisis management or central banking experience, Fischer’s resume is sterling.
He is deeply respected, even beloved, in the community of central bankers, an intellectual leader among the group of men and women who guide the world economy. In fact, he was a mentor to many of them. As it happens, he was thesis adviser to both current Fed chair Ben Bernanke and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi. In the symposium Saturday, Fischer raised a typically thoughtful point about capital flows to emerging markets, posing a question to the panelists who had just presented a paper.

And hey, I'm all for Not Larry Summers.  But Fischer? 

The reason Fischer is not viewed as a front-runner for the Fed chairmanship is that he is viewed as a foreigner. He was born in Zambia and raised overseas before becoming a U.S. citizen in 1976. More politically tricky is that he was a high public official of another country for the last several years while serving as governor of the Bank of Israel.
But Fischer has been an American citizen for a generation and maintained his U.S. citizenship while serving overseas.  And the politics around Israel are unique. Would Republicans really lead a charge against confirmation for Bibi Netanyahu’s top economic adviser?

They should, but not a one would.  And while this guy may not be Larry Summers, "Bibi's economic guy" is not a plus in my book.

Presidential Power Principles In Syria

Jeffrey Goldberg argues that UN Ambassador Samantha Power's award-winning book, A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, is the map for the coming US intervention in Syria.

I pulled the book off the shelf last night, and was reminded that it is brilliant, a carefully written, deeply researched indictment of American indifference in the face of atrocity. And I realized that the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria must be driving Power mad with frustration -- frustration, of course, with Bashar al-Assad's killer regime and frustration with the international community (so-called), in particular the Russians, who will do almost anything to protect the regime from censure, but also frustration with those in the administration who have spent the past two years looking for ways to distance the U.S. from the horror.

One caveat: The 100,000 dead in Syria do not count -- at least not yet -- as victims of genocide, as the word is traditionally understood, although I think a careful analysis of the civil war shows that Assad’s minority Alawite regime has directed its criminal violence almost exclusively against members of Syria’s Sunni Muslim population.

So I have a sense that Power would believe that the following statement, which she made in her book’s concluding chapter, would apply to Syria: “When innocent life is being taken on such a scale and the United States has the power to stop the killing at reasonable risk, it has a duty to act.”

Power is right here.  The problem is that applied to Syria, the United States doesn't have the power to stop the killing at reasonable risk.  We never did.  The Syrian military is substantial.  This would not be another ho-hum air power act like in Libya or even a shock and awe, six-week special like in Iraq in 1990.  It would be an actual war, and an ugly one.  Bush and Cheney put us into a pair of decade-long wars that cost us trillions.  President Obama wisely has kept us out of a third Middle Eastern war by comparison.  There's not going to be a couple of air strikes, and then the game's over, folks.

We're talking a guaranteed quagmire, if not a huge regional conflict, with the UK, France, and us on one side and quite possibly Russia and China on the other.  That's not one of those good things.

In her conclusion, Power asks, “Why does the United States stand so idly by?” in the face of mass killing. And she explains the traditional behavior of Western leaders when confronted with proof of large-scale atrocities: “Western governments have generally tried to contain genocide by appeasing its architects. But the sad record of the last century shows that the walls the United States tries to build around genocidal societies almost inevitably shatter. States that murder and torment their own citizens target citizens elsewhere. Their appetites become insatiable.”

Her argument for intervention in cases of large-scale violence against civilians is not motivated merely by moral interests: “Citizens victimized by genocide or abandoned by the international community do not make good neighbors, as their thirst for vengeance, their irredentism and their acceptance of violence as a means of generating change can turn them into future threats.” Two years of Western inaction in Syria, of course, have helped turn what began as a nonviolent citizens’ rebellion into an al-Qaeda-dominated campaign of anti-regime violence.

And no, Syria is not a good neighbor.  But unless we're willing to remove Assad and the Syrian military from power permanently, which will require a lengthy ground invasion, anything we do will not be enough.

Dear America

"I'm going to talk about race and say that the black reaction to the tragic murders of white people Chris Lane and Delbert Belton not warranting national demonstrations like Trayvon Martin's death proves that those same savage, riot-prone black people who are always talking about race are the real source of America's race problem.  Right, Obama?"

--Kathleen Parker, Washington Post

Bonus Verbatim Stupid:

We do know this much for certain: Had the races been reversed, the usual suspects would have had much to say. White teens beat up an elderly black veteran and leave him for dead? White teens shoot a talented black athlete visiting from another country?


Because all we black folk are?  Barely contained, quasi-human Whitey-seeking time bombs set off by the mere appearance of racism, just waiting to detonate in your neighborhood, your schools, your churches, your workplaces, and your block parties with fruit salad.  That's why we need stand your ground laws, so shooting one of us in self-defense because you're terrified isn't a criminal act.  It's better for everyone that way.

At least in the twisted, awful funhouse that is Kathleen Parker's personal, paranoid hell of a mind.  Jesus, how does the woman walk outside without macing everyone darker than John Boehner and peeing herself in sheer terror?

And just for the record, this is pretty much the most blatantly awful, race-baiting piece of nonsense I think the Washington Post has ever has the misfortune of printing.  It's that bad.


Related Posts with Thumbnails