30 May, 2012

Why they call it a fiscal cliff

The end of this year looks like the proverbial "perfect storm" for government finances: tax cuts expire, the budget deal isn't made, the debt limit is hit, the sequestration hits.  So what does it look like?  Here's the scenarios on GDP growth, courtesy of Goldman-Sach's Alec Phillips:

People are still assuming everything will work out.  Congress can't be THAT stupid, can it?

Isn't that what they said about the earlier debt limit fight?
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25 May, 2012

A small step

So far, so good.  Egyptians are voting, and it still takes place in the shadow of the military and the Mubarak constitution, yet it seems that irregularities are at a minimum. Nightwatch puts it in perspective:
The bottom line is that for the first time in 7,000 years, Egyptians voted for their head of state and will not know who it is until the votes are counted. This was a genuine choice and the first time that the identity of the country's leader will have been determined by a popular vote, hopefully, and not by not heredity, accidental death,military coup d'etat or military manipulation.
It ain't a liberal democracy.  It may even be an end to the overinflated hopes of the "revolution".   But for Egypt it's a step to something new.
Update (29 May):  It looks like it's less rosy than it first appeared.  The runoff will be between the former prime minister and the official candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood.  I suspect Prime Minist Shafiq is there, in part, due to voter fraud, coupled with fratricide among the other candidates.  Seven protests have been filed, but four have been rejected for technical reasons and the others are from the fringe candidates.  More important, perhaps, more than half of the potential voters in Egypt don't seem to have voted at all.  Compare that to the first real election after the fall of Saddam, where people stood in line for hours and 62 percent of registered voters participated in selecting the Council of Representatives.  When a "revolution for democracy" is followed by a first presidential election in which half the voters don't bother to show up, that's an indication that the revolution has a pretty narrow base of support.

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So why bother?

Brian Michael Jenkins has been thinking and writing about terrorism since the 1970s, back before anyone else gave the phenomenon the attention it deserves.  He has a better sense of perspective on the "war on terror" and the homeland security state than anyone I know.  So when he takes on Senator Carl Levin on the anti-liberty provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act, he not only deserves to be taken seriously, he should be applauded for the calm and reasoned way he mops the floor with the Senator and his claims.  Foreign Affairs (subscription required) has been printing their ongoing debate.  If you can get to it (students, check the library), it's worth a look, or you can get a sense of where it has gone through the selections available to the public.  My favorite quote, from Jenkins:
Senator Carl Levin argued in these pages that the NDAA changes nothing. If that were true, there would have been no reason to pass the bill.
The Senator, on the other hand, comes off looking like something of a cross between a fool and a cynic.  I don't suppose there's any surprise there.

A Final Word on the NDAA | Foreign Affairs