A Summers day. Here's Robert Reich on reports that Obama will choose either Larry Summers or Janet Yellen to be the new Federal Reserve Chairman.
So who would be best -- Yellen or Summers? I know both fairly well. Janet Yellen has impeccable credentials. She's now vice-chairman of the Fed, after having been head of the San Francisco branch of the Fed, and before that, an economics professor at Berkeley. In 2007 she was one of the very few voices sounding the alarm about the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Not incidentally, she's also a delightful person. Those who have worked with her tell me she listens carefully to all views, and is respectful of her employees. If selected, she'd be the first woman to head the Fed.
I worked with Larry Summers in the Clinton administration, where he eventually became Treasury Secretary. Under Obama, he ran the National Economic Council. Personally, I like Larry. He's very bright, and able to see the nub of most policy problems very quickly. But he has the tact and personality of a bull in a China shop, and he's been notoriously wrong about a few big things. In the late 1990s, he urged Clinton to sign off on legislation killing off Glass-Steagall, and was also part of the Rubin-Greenspan cabal that rejected the arguments of Brooksley Born, then chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, for why the CFTC should regulate financial derivatives. Summers' subsequent tenure as president of Harvard came to an end after he suggested one reason women were not well-represented in the sciences is they don't have the mind for it. As chair of the National Economic Council under Obama, he and Tim Geithner, then Treasury Secretary, bailed out Wall Street while refusing to impose tough conditions on the banks.
My question: Why is Reich even asking? Yellen is obviously the better choice. Thus, you can bet the rent money that Obama will pick Summers.
2. Holder and Snowden.
AG Eric Holder has written a letter to Russian Minister of Justice Alexander Konovalov, assuring the Russians that the United States will happily issue a passport allowing Ed Snowden to go home. Moreover,
Mr. Snowden will not be tortured. Torture is unlawful in the United States.
My questions: Doesn't the fact that Holder feels obligated to offer this assurance say a lot about how low this country has fallen? Holder's letter reminds me of that old Monty Python routine: "And I can assure you that there is no
cannibalism in the modern British Navy!" Or maybe I'm thinking of that old movie (I forget the title) in which John Candy, proffering his services as babysitter, assures the anxious parents that there will be no
Satanism "or anything like that"...
Would Bradley Manning agree with Holder's "no torture" assessment?
Will Holder's creepy we-promise-not-to-hurt-him
letter -- a letter best read aloud while doing an imitation of Wednesday Addams -- finally make the "Snowden's secretly working for Obama" conspiracy theorists shut the eff up?
3. NSA's big oops.
The NSA gave a cybersecurity award to for the Best Scientific Cybersecurity Paper of 2012 to Dr. Joseph Bonneau of the University of Cambridge. Bonneau's response
In accepting the award I don’t condone the NSA’s surveillance. Simply put, I don’t think a free society is compatible with an organisation like the NSA in its current form.
In an interview
, Bonneau took the gloves off. Question:
"You’ve been pretty vocal in your criticism of the NSA after winning the award. On Twitter you said you “want it abolished.” Is that true?"
I’d rather have it abolished than persist in its current form. I think there’s a question about whether it’s possible to reform the NSA into something that’s more reasonable.
I don’t really do politics for my day job. I don’t feel like I follow the situation as closely as a lot of people who are writing about what kinds of reforms are needed, or how things might need to change. But my feeling based on what I’ve read is that I don’t want to live in a country with an organization like the NSA is right now.
My question: Is this how the NSA's cyber-totalitarianism will end -- with the refusal of the wonks to participate in the system?
Another question: The average citizens and the congressfolk who defend the NSA's practices -- do they really think that they know more about the situation than Bonneau does?
Yet another question: It's all well and good to propose dismantling the NSA, but how do we bell that cat?
Still another question: Isn't this Eric Holder's cue to write Bonneau a letter reminding him that the U.S. does not practice torture and therefore he has nothing to worry about? Nothing at all. Sleep tight, Professor...
I just thought of another movie that Holder's letter brings to mind: Mars Attacks
. Remember that one? The Martian armies -- even as they were laying waste to cities -- would broadcast this message: "Don't run! We are your friends!"
4. Man of Steel
. As I recall, the old Superman comics presented Krypton as a planet with technology not much more advanced than that of Earth in the 1950s. We saw scenes of suburban Kryptonians mowing the lawns and so forth. But the new movie depicts a Krypton filled with incredibly advanced technology -- plus some really cool flying monsters.
My question: If Krypton has all of this groovy ultra-advanced tech, why don't Jor-El, Lara and the kid all
hop into a spaceship? Or why don't they send themselves into the Phantom Zone and leave the kid instructions on how to de-Phantomize them?