What Free Market?

Do you think it’s hard to get your child into Harvard? Try getting a new product onto the shelf of a big chain of stores in the United States.

— Barry Lynn, Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism
and the Economics of Destruction 


This week everybody was talking about the Olympics

but you knew that.

… and Chick-fil-A and Mitt Romney’s foreign tour

I covered Chick-fil-A in Is That Sandwich Political?, but let’s deal with Romney’s trip here.

Romney’s tour of Britain, Israel, and Poland was designed to add foreign-policy heft to his image, but the British leg didn’t work out.

That pretty well covers it. Prime Minister David Cameron is a British conservative, but Romney exasperated him to the point where he stuck this knife in:

Of course it’s easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere.

Some anonymous Romney adviser really did talk about the “Anglo-Saxon heritage” Obama can’t appreciate, which is even a step beyond calling him “foreign“. Why not just say, “White people shouldn’t vote for Obama because he’s black” and get it over with?

These stumbles happen abroad for the same reason they happen at home: Romney’s lack of empathy gives him a tin ear. Slate’s Fred Kaplan points out that Romney’s business experience differs greatly from previous generations of businessmen-turned-statesmen, who actually built things and sold them, and so had to learn to deal with workers and customers. But Bain’s brand of financial manipulation

is not the sort of enterprise that requires even the most elementary understanding of diplomacy, courtesy, or sensitivity to other people’s values, lives, or perceptions.

Instead, it

breed[s] an insularity, a sense of entitlement, a disposition to view all the world’s entities through a single prism and to appraise them along a single scale.

Growing up as the rich son of the governor probably didn’t help either.

I agree with Kevin Drum’s analysis the foreign-policy speech that kicked Romney’s tour off: He’s trying to cast a striking image without saying anything. What little remains beyond the I-will-be-strong-where-Obama-is-weak rhetoric is either vague, outside the president’s power, or exactly what Obama is already doing.

… but I also wrote about monopolies

  • Monopoly’s role in inequality. In my previous discussions of rising inequality, I’ve always felt like a piece of the puzzle was missing. I think I found it.

and you might also be interested in …

The death of first-female-astronaut Sally Ride put a face on the injustice of the Defense of Marriage Act. Most of us learned that Ride was a lesbian only when her obituary named Tam O’Shaughnessy as her 27-year domestic partner. Under DOMA, O’Shaughnessy will not receive the federal survivor benefits that a male husband would get.

The guy who all but invented the too-big-to-fail bank has changed his mind. Former Citicorp honcho Sandy Weill now says

What we should probably do is go and split up investment banking from banking, have banks be deposit takers, have banks make commercial loans and real estate loans, have banks do something that’s not going to risk the taxpayer dollars, that’s not too big to fail.

In short, let’s just pretend the last two decades never happened.

How does a bill become law? Not the way it used to.

The NYT op-ed Israel’s Settlers Are Here to Stay by settler Dani Dayan underlines just how intractable the Israel/Palestine conflict is. Dayan presents a we’re-right-they’re-wrong history of the conflict and says a two-state solution is unworkable because

Our presence in all of Judea and Samaria — not just in the so-called settlement blocs — is an irreversible fact. Trying to stop settlement expansion is futile

If a two-state solution is out, then what happens to the Palestinians? I can only see three options:

  • ethnic cleansing: Perhaps Israel could use the Spanish Expulsion of 1492 as a model.
  • democratic annexation: Palestinians become citizens of a democratic Greater Israel, which might not have a Jewish majority. (This is sometimes called the one-state solution.)
  • status quo: Palestinians remain a subject population ruled by Israel.

Dayan opts for the status quo, which he thinks is “immeasurably better than any other feasible alternative”. It could be improved, but only if Palestinians would accept the irreversibility of their subjugation and stop resisting.

Checkpoints are a necessity only if terror exists; otherwise, there should be full freedom of movement.

If Dayan speaks for some sizable and committed bloc of Israelis — and the NYT apparently thinks he does — then I can’t see this conflict resolving for at least another generation.

He may or may not be a reliable witness, but a Florida Republican is blowing the whistle on voter-ID laws, or, as he puts it “keeping blacks from voting”. And Harold Meyerson asks: What if it works? If Romney wins, and his margin in key states is clearly the result of voter suppression, are we all just going to go along?

Pastor Rick Warren appeared to blame the Aurora shooting on evolutionists, tweeting:

When students are taught they are no different from animals, they act like it.

It’s weird how people demonize animals, who aren’t nearly as nasty as humans. How do you think this young mountain gorilla (being comforted by a park ranger in the Congo after his parents were killed by poachers) feels about human morality?

The next installment of the Nuns vs. the Inquisition saga is about to start. In our last episode, board members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious went to Rome, where Grand Inquisitor Levada said they should regard Rome appointing a man to watch over them as “an invitation to obedience”. (I think I would have issued a counter-invitation for Levada to do something impossible with his anatomy, but I guess that’s why I’m not a nun.)

This week the LCWR will meet in St. Louis to discuss

at least six options that range from submitting graciously to the takeover to forming a new organization independent of Vatican control, as well other possible courses of action that lie between those poles.

When Republicans liked the Arab Spring rebellions, they gave the credit to Bush’s freedom agenda. Now that they’ve decided they don’t like the Arab Spring, they claim it was caused by Obama abandoning Bush’s freedom agenda.

I don’t understand why everyone isn’t saying the obvious things Elizabeth Warren says: Our infrastructure is crumbling, people need jobs, and the government can borrow money at rates lower than inflation. What’s the downside?

It might even save money in the long run: If, say, we buried our power lines, we wouldn’t lose all that productivity every time the weather turned bad.

The WaPo debunks Five myths about why the South seceded. The truth is pretty simple: The southern states seceded to defend slavery; they said so themselves in their secession statements. And then Lincoln went to war to preserve the Union, not to free the slaves.

To understand why articles like this are necessary, read the comments.

President Obama isn’t saying the kind of outrageous things the Romney campaign wants to run against, so they’re editing tape to create gaffes. Ezra Klein covers this issue seriously,

And Lewis Black approaches it humorously, but Mike Luckovich captures what’s going on in one image:

Finally, ABC’s Jake Tapper has solved the mystery of the Churchill bust. Will the Romney campaign stop telling the story now that we know there’s nothing going on, or is that too much to ask?

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  • SamChevre  On August 10, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    I would note that although it’s not usually called an “ethnic cleansing”, the post-1945 expulsion of ethnic Germans from historically-German areas of Poland and Czechoslovakia does seem to have reduced the tensions between Germany and its neighbors.

    The key feature is that the German states counted the Sudetendeutsch and the Pomeranians as citizens, rather than penning them up in camps on the border with Poland and agitating for “Pommern ist unser”. (My college German professor had a “Pommern ist unser” bumper sticker, but I don’t think he had support from the German government.)

    • weeklysift  On August 11, 2012 at 7:15 am

      I was not familiar with this example, but it does seem different in a number of ways. Most notably, both Poland and East Germany were occupied by the Soviet Union at the time. So Pomerania seems like a good example of how an ethnic-cleansing solution might have worked in the Middle East if it had been imposed by either the British or the Ottomans when they controlled the whole area.

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