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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sunday Potpourri

I thought that it was about time that I started a regular feature that I would abandon in a few weeks, so here comes Sunday Potpourri. It's for when I'm too lazy to write a full post on something, so instead I'll just highlight a half dozen or so interesting things from this week that you may have missed. Of course you'll only have missed them if you don't read many blogs, but this blog is targeted at Drexel students who may not read many political blogs. I believe that blog reading is so essential being an informed voter, and I think that if more Americans were informed voters, we'd all be better off.

So here is the first in what will no doubt be a short series of Sunday Potpourri blogging. Click "There's More..." and follow me below the jump.

  • Kevin Drum describes an interesting piece of work done by Michael Greenstone of MIT (available here). Briefly, Greenstone analyzes the market prices of Iragi bonds, backed by the central government of Iraq. Without going into the finer details, the less confidence that the market has in the Iraqi government, the more risky the bonds, and the higher the yield that the market demands. The graph depicts pretty unequivically that faith in Iraqi government has fallen during the surge, provoked by its inability to reconcil warring factions this summer. This work dovetails nicely with my interest in Intrade, and whether markets are efficient aggregators of information. Justin Wolfers at our neighbor, UPenn, has done some very interesting work regarding predictive markets that I highly recommend reading.

  • Wes Clark, late presidential candidate from 2004 and former supreme allied commander of NATO, has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. I don't know enough (read: any) inside politics to know the full significance of this, but I've always been impressed with Clark. He's virtually the only liberal that I've ever seen on Fox News that I like. He has the bona fides to tell BillO to stfu, and Bill can't do anything except whine about George Soros. This seems to me like a nice catch for Clinton, as Clark has a pretty big following among progressives online, which is where Sen. Clinton is weakest. I'm still an Obama guy, but this does make a difference to me. If nothing else, it signals that Sen. Clinton is smart enough to listen to better people than the ones who counseled here to vote for the Iraq authorization.

  • This week Fox News and right-wingers did what they always do when faced with a difficult reality: they attack This time they were worried about the fact that the surge has produced mixed and dissappointing military progress, and no steps towards political reconciliation, which was the whole point of the surge. So instead of acknowledging that they were full of shit in January when they said that September was an important deadline, they attack for its ad about Gen. Petraeus. It's exactly like in 2006 when Kerry made a joke about Bush right before the midterm election, and Fox News went apeshit and said he was making fun of the troops in Iraq. Most Americans are smarter than that (but 26% apparently aren't).

  • Speaking of Petraeus and the surge, the National Security Network, which is a part of the Council on Foreign Relations (and Wes Clark is on their advisory board), has released a breakdown of each of the 18 political benchmarks set by the Whitehouse for the surge. It's not pretty, and even the ones where the Whitehouse claims progress are not promising. For instance, benchmark (ii) called for "Enacting and implementing legislation on de-Baathification." The Whitehouse calls the progress satisfactorybecause legislation has been drafted, it just needs to make it through the Parliment. Except that this has happened before, and Parliment has "thwarted" it in the past. There is no indication that this time will be any different.

  • Alan Greenspan, that former God among men, has released his book that contains a few interesting nuggets. From the Telegraph:
    "Denouncing the tax cuts brought in by Bush, Greenspan says in his memoirs, which we serialise in The Daily Telegraph this week, that the Republicans deserved to lose the last Congressional elections in November because they abandoned fiscal discipline and hugely swelled the US budget deficit."
    Of course, compare that to this piece from 2005, when Greenspan was still defending the Bush tax cuts:
    "Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan yesterday defended his support of tax cuts in 2001 after Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) suggested that he bears some blame for helping create the federal budget deficits that followed those cuts."
    I'm still waiting for him to apologize to Sen. Clinton. This looks like more legacy polishing from Bush era characters.

  • Greenspan also said
    “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows. The Iraq war is largely about oil.”
    At least he's right about that.

How did everyone like the potpourri? Worth trying to continue? On an unrelated note, I hate actual potpourri. It seems to me that it was a good idea in an era before running water, when people defecated in a bowl under their beds during the night. In modern times, not so much.