What I Think Tank

Posts Tagged ‘New York Times

Putin Speaks to the American People

with one comment

Because of Putin’s mastermind, all sides get what they want out of this situation – all except Al Qaeda, and that is a very good thing.

Russian president, Vladimir Putin, spoke directly to the American people in a recent op-ed in The New York Times. It is quite an interesting read, and a very rare spectacle to behold, as you do not see world leaders appeal to the people of another nation through media like this. With the long and cold history of Russian-American relations, it is indeed something new, and in some ways, it is also a fascinating moment of honesty and sincerity from the Russian president, even if it is covered in political rhetoric and diplomatic semantics.

The Washington Post did an analysis of Putin’s op-ed, where they added commentary and did some half-assed fact-checking. In the same way Putin’s article was interesting, the commentary is actually quite fascinating too, simply because of its “oppositional” interpretation over the same issues.

While the commentary certainly makes some good and critical points to Putin’s not-so-unbiased op-ed, I find myself disagreeing more with the one-sided interpretation of what Putin is saying, than Putin’s own take on the issues. Indeed, the commentary interpreted it from an American perspective that is being critical of the Russian perspective. What I find remarkable about the commentary is that it – just like the Obama administration’s policies over Syria – ignores the objective reality of the matters. Objectivity that actually seems more closely related to Putin’s view point. It simply seems a lot more natural to interpret Putin’s argument as clearly seeking to fight terrorism and making sure to keep terrorists at bay when they are getting too close for comfort, and that he offers a proposal for the American people to understand this, in opposition to Obama’s suggestion – to bomb Assad, which would actually be in support of the very terrorists that have been terrorizing both America and Russia for decades. Let me make that perfectly clear: Bombing Assad would be an act of aggression in support of the very people that America declared a war on terrorism against. Putin suggests that it would be in America’s best interest to leave the Syrian civil war alone. Sounds pretty damn reasonable to me.

The commentary goes on to criticize Putin for hypocrisy over saying that the U.S. should stay out of Syria, when Russia and Putin himself have been involved in it all along, dealing arms and resources to the Syrian Army. The predictable Russo-skeptic view of the WP commentary thus ignores the anti-terrorist motives for Putin to arm the Syrian Army. Assad’s regime, while certainly terrible, does at least not promote terrorism that targets America and Russia, unlike Al-Qaeda and Saudi Arabia. Could the irony possibly get any worse? Russia’s policy on this matter is for that reason an objectively more understandable and rational one, and it serves to protect the people of Russia. Is Obama’s policy doing the same for the people of America?

Herein lies is the naked truth of Putin and Russia’s side in this, that Obama has been remarkably ignoring all along. Obama has been caught in a corner, where his saber-rattling has in reality been all about saving face – and awkwardly at that; not about upholding international law or defending the American people. Indeed, bombing Syria may actually be against the international laws that Obama has been arguing to uphold. How ironic that Putin is the one who is actually upholding international law by having diplomatically ensured that Assad will offer up his chemical weapons. How ironic that Putin is the one saving face for Obama. Of course, he does not do so without saving his own face in case Assad is guilty, which could absolutely be the case, but Obama has been humiliated and schooled by Putin in international affairs, and Putin rubs it in by showing empathy and speaking directly to the American people through an op-ed in The New York Times. Imagine Obama doing something similar in Russia! Never. Indeed, what does this say about the Obama administration when the Russian president is the one offering to hammer down the wall and give the American government a way out of the corner they have backed themselves into? The irony tastes worse than American produced Smirnoff vodka.

One can of course question the Russian honesty in these matters. They have been strongly defending the Assad regime against accusations of chemical weapons use, and still do, even after in-directly admitting to Assad’s guilt by forcing him to give up his chemical weapons. I myself argued that it was far more likely for this to be an attack by the Al Nusra Front to frame the Assad regime, especially with Obama’s red line policy towards Assad, than some kinda fool hardy and idiotic attack by the Assad regime. In the beginning, it did not seem likely that Assad was behind the attacks, simply because of physical evidence and motives pointing towards the rebels (Al Nusra Front members were, after all, caught with sarin by Turkish authorities). Now, with more physical and circumstantial evidence pointing more in the direction of Assad, the tables have turned – maybe not completely, but at least enough to scowl at the Assad regime. But I would still argue that Russia’s policy has proven to be far more sensible and complete than the neurotic, hard line of the Obama administration.

The true irony of the whole situation, however, if there was not enough irony to go around already, which even further supports Putin’s overarching argument, is that no matter who launched the weapons, absolutely nothing changes. Nothing. That has been the “beauty” of Russia’s policy in this all along. America has diplomatically tied itself to attacking Assad and supporting the rebels – rebels, who are predominantly Al Nusra Front; Al-Qaeda allies. Now, however, because of Putin’s mastermind, all sides get what they want out of this situation – all except Al Qaeda, and that is a very good thing.

Can we now finally go back to discussing the insane American policy of arming Al-Qaeda allies in Syria?

Written by Morten Rolland

September 13, 2013 at 12:32 am

Robert Murphy vs Paul Krugman

with 6 comments

I wanted to use Robert Murphy of the Austrian School of Economic vs Paul Krugman the Nobel Laureate King of Keynesianism as the title for this post, but I was afraid that it might be a little bit too long, although it does give you a better idea of what the essence of this is.

Paul Krugman, for anyone who has ever read his pieces in the New York Times or has seen the attempts of Austrians to argue against his positions, will know that he at times has taken some swings after Austrians, for instance calling Austrian Theory “a theory that I regard as being about as worthy of serious study as the phlogiston theory of fire“. While he may very well be right to think so, one could question why he won’t debate anyone of the Austrian School. Peter Schiff has repeatedly challenged Paul Krugman straight out, saying for instance that he should return his Nobel Prize, because he doesn’t understand economics, and Andrew Schiff, Peter’s brother, has even tried to come in contact with Krugman to make arrangements for such a debate. All Krugman would have to do was to meet up and slaughter Peter Schiff in front of everyone, with the world as his witness. Instead, Paul Krugman tries to take easy jabs now and then, with pompous comments like “I do know that I keep being told that Peter Schiff has been right about everything; so, how’s that hyperinflation thing going?

The latest attempt at luring Paul Krugman out of his cave comes from Robert Murphy, a fairly ‘recent addition’ to the long line of scholars in the Austrian School of Economics, one who at several occasions has taken on Paul Krugman’s arguments in his articles and seems to be well acquainted with the content of a possible debate.  What is unique with his attempt is its appeal to emotions and moral conscience. Currently, only 5 days after the challenge has been made, almost 29,000$ has been put into the pot to see a debate between Robert Murphy and Paul Krugman happening.

“Why is there money involved?” I hear you ask. The idea is to raise as much money as possible that will be donated to the Fresh Food Program of FoodBankNYC.org.

Food Bank For New York City works to end hunger and increase access to affordable, nutritious food for low-income New Yorkers through a comprehensive group of programs that combat hunger and its causes.

There is a hunch, however: The money will only be donated if and when Paul Krugman accepts to debate Robert Murphy for one hour. These are the terms:

See Paul Krugman debate Robert Murphy on Keynesian versus Austrian business cycle theory! Moderated by Ezra Klein, or another moderator of mutual choosing.

If this objective is met, then the money (after 5% to The Point) will go to the Fresh Food Program at FoodBankNYC.org.

Why the Food Bank For New York City? Well, why not? It’s as good a cause as anything else, and since Krugman just happens to write in the opinion pages for The New York Times it probably just fits the occasion, not to mention that this would be a very nice present in the upcoming holiday season for the hungry men, women and children of New York. If 100,000$ were to be raised, that means 95,000$ cash in food for the hungry, and all Paul Krugman would have to do is meet up at the Mises Institute in Alabama, skewer Robert Murphy like a sow at the buffet, cash the money for FoodBankNYC and get back on his plane home. Even his supporters and academic equals would hound on him to accept.

That is why it will be quite hard to see how Paul Krugman could ignore this offer if it becomes big enough. Think about it, how could anyone ever say “No, I will not be ‘tricked’ into doing something I have regarded as too easy for all these years, because I do not care enough to do something that could feed the hungry of New York”? Unless, of course, it is an awful (or even evil) person, or at the very least wishes to be regarded as one by everyone else.

What do I think? It’s quite unique and it could get huge. I urge everyone to put down some money, even if it’s just a small amount. Everyone can afford 10$, and for Americans it’ll even be tax deductible. Remember, you will not lose the money unless Paul Krugman accepts the challenge. But will he? While it might be hard to see how he can ignore this, I’m quite certain the odds for you keeping your money is high. No matter how big it gets, he’ll act like this doesn’t exist, that he hasn’t had the time to read all the comments and mails he receives that urges him to accept, because he’s such an important person and hasn’t had time for that, or he’ll disregard it as some kind of hoax/set-up/scam if he ever actually gets faced with it. Let’s be frank, he’s somewhat of a coward when it comes to debating Austrians.

So I do not keep my hopes up high, but I’m as hopeful as ever. Let me make it clear that I’m not necessarily thinking this is gonna be some kinda “blood-fest” where “my Austrian guy” will shred the “Keynesian fool” to pieces. While I may think Paul Krugman is a fool, he’s also a smart one, even if he doesn’t know economics – like his “Princeton brother” over at the Federal Reserve. I’m actually hoping for an informative, educational and interesting debate where you would truly see two different ways of understanding the world try to make their cases and reveal weaknesses in each others sides, and perhaps give the audience something to think about. I for one enjoy listening to a spoken debate much more than seeing two sides battle each other over blog posts in a chaotic fashion. It’s much more dynamic and real, even if it might be viewed as unfair to some, since a lack of charisma will shine through a lot easier and will appear to weaken the power of the argument. I do have to admit my opinion that I do not find Robert Murphy to necessarily be the most charismatic of speakers, at least not compared to a person like Peter Schiff, who with his many comedic metaphors and stories would render Paul Krugman a dull zombie, but he is a genius, and while he may not have the speechcraft of a politician, it should be noted that Paul Krugman really isn’t the most eloquent speaker around either, at least not from what I’ve seen of him, so I think it’s much more fair and honest this way (not to mention more likely to happen). They’re not embarking on any political campaigns after all. Sadly, though, it will not gather the same publicity as it would with Peter Schiff, but you give some and take some.

I nonetheless think Robert Murphy is more than well up for the task, and he has at the very least found a very interesting and powerful way of making this happen. Time will tell if it will ever become a reality.