hard heads soft hearts

a scratch pad for half-formed thoughts by a liberal political junkie who's nobody special. ''Hard Heads, Soft Hearts'' is the title of a book by Princeton economist Alan Blinder, and tends to be a favorite motto of neoliberals, especially liberal economists.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015




note: mostly postponing this scheduled blog post to 12/22/2015. My thoughts seem to me to divide into 2 streams, big talk (politics) and little talk (personal).

In terms of big talk, my opinions are basically 1. Don't kill people (unless absolutely necessary, etc. etc.) 2) Don't jail people (unless absolutely necessary, etc. etc.) 3) Less fear (fear of homelessness, healthcarelessness, long-term unemployment, bankruptcy, being killed, being jailed, etc. etc.) 4) More freedom (economic, social, etc. etc.)

It seems to me the economics profession is confused about whether more economic freedom is good or bad. On the one hand, more economic freedom seems like it should be the point of the economics profession. On the other hand, more freedom makes people less responsive to incentives. In practice, the economics profession gets around this by dividing humanity into 2 classes, investment and labor. For the investor class, more freedom is an unalloyed good. For the labor class, more economic freedom is at best ambiguous, at worst downright bad.

In terms of little talk, my opinion is basically "Do your best, and let God do the rest". That phrase actually comes from an old Ben Carson interview, note that I think Carson is not actually following his advice when it comes to his political campaign. I think Carson doing his best would involve, among other things: 1) Having a detailed replacement for Obamacare, rather than sketchy HSA hand-waving. Carson in one of his books is quite informative about how low Blue Shield reimbursement rates threatened his practice. It seems to me a complicated problem, which would require complicated regulations. Yet Carson plays to the crowd by mocking Obamacare for its complexity. 2) Willingness to meet and talk with LGBT Christian groups such as SDA Kinship.

The Marco Rubio statement on living paycheck to paycheck and having student loan debt is inspiring, until you realize what it took to solve his financial problems:


To paraphrase the old Zell Miller line, "Not everyone can be rich. Not everyone can be handsome. Not everyone can have a billionaire patron. That's why we have a Democratic party."

next post: 12/22/2015

Friday, November 28, 2014













One thing I learned from reading Gardner's Scrivener which surprised me, but which on reflection makes sense, is that Jesus never debated the existence of God, or criticized atheism or atheists, even when he believed he had been forsaken. One would imagine, instead of having venomous arguments about compatibilism, the anthropic principle, fine-tuning and the multiverse, he would simply say "What is that to thee? Follow thou me."

not much to say except:

I don't like it when people are killed, maimed. tortured or jailed, and it seems to me Marissa Alexander and Chelsea Manning, among others, are being jailed unnecessarily.

I found Dorian Johnson's testimony highly credible, and Darren Wilson's testimony highly incredible. It seems very difficult to find a way forward from here, because if Darren Wilson is not an outlier, then the US police force seems to be filled with people without honor or shame. Michael Brown's family, with their call for a "campaign to ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera", have pointed a path forward. Another possible piece of legislation would be to allow a town super majority to pass a vote of no confidence in a town's police department, in which case the police chief would be fired and the police department possibly disbanded.

I once watched a debate between Dinesh D'Souza and Jesse Jackson on affirmative action, which I believe morphed into a discussion of illegal immigration. The debate was pretty arid, full of abstractions and analogies which seemed to obscure more than clarify, but towards the end Jackson brought some reality therapy into the discussion: "We know who we're talking about. They're the people who cook your food and take out your trash. Do right by these people." Many if not most of life's obligations are acquired in a somewhat haphazard and semi-conscious manner. Those obligations can often be abandoned or sloughed off, but not without hollowing out the soul. My opinion on undocumented immigrants is that America acquired obligations to these people when it used their labor to build its economy and its industry. I don't particularly support punishing any undocumented immigrant without punishing anyone who employed or benefited from undocumented immigrant labor. But of course, it is a very complicated issue.

I have a memory of my sister wanting to audition for Annie in the eighties, and my mother being like "No, no, you don't understand, that's not an audition open to our kind of people." Thirty years on, it's sort of cool that the new Annie does have brown skin. A somewhat related pet peeve is movies like "300" not casting multi racially on grounds that they're being historically realistic and authentic, while not casting only Greeks and only Persians on grounds. . . that they're taking dramatic license.

This is the first time this year I've had four days off in a row, and I find myself a bit disconcerted at how much I've been looking forward to these four days off, and the opportunity for a reset and a fresh start that they offer. My humble thanks to all those working this weekend, whose four day chunk lies sometime in the future.

next post: 8/15/2015

Saturday, June 14, 2014


















The Utah story is good, but an uglier subtext of the story is that Americans, white but also non-white, find it much easier to give homes to the homeless, and find it much easier to disburse funds in general, when the recipients are white.


I link to the Cuba article not because I'm particularly ready for Hillary, but because it was a pleasant surprise.



From the Rajaji Reader
@Vyasa Publications 1980:

"Foreword By Jaya Prakash Narayan:

In his inimitable style Rajaji has summarized his own philosophy of patriotism in the following words:

'Do you love the common folk of our land, the men and women who swarm in town and village? Do you love the languages they speak? Do you love their ways and manners? Do you love the religion they believe in, not looking upon it as ignorance but no better wisdom than your own? All this love sums up to patriotism. . . .I see the defects among our people as well as I see their admirable qualities. Their general apathy I deplore. I would have them show more energy in many matters more than they do now, more tolerance and love towards one another, more capacity to work together for common purposes.'"

"Introduction by Nissim Ezekiel:

. . .What Rajaji's critics want of him is to shut up. And he won't shut up.

Rajaji is of course a traditionalist and this writer is not. It would be presumptuous to discuss the contrast here, as if it matters to Rajaji's readers. . .

. . .All that concerns me, for making selections for this Reader is that Rajaji spoke with the same voice when the tide was against him as he did when it carried him to the heights of power and national status. That surely is a sign of integrity."

"photograph of Rajaji and Sri Navaratna Rama Rao:

'We were each the external life of the other as Valmiki puts it in respect of Sri Lakshmana and Sri Ramachandra. All life is a mystery. But love is the greatest mystery in it. Dear young men and women, prize friendship as we did. Rama Rao and I. We were like one soul in two bodies and two lives in each body. Rama Rao's life and mine ran on different tracks. What if? This kind of friendship will help you from sin, from all kinds of meanness. It will protect you like a guardian angel, against all evil, all unhappiness, all stepping down from the ideals of romantic youth'

Rajaji on Sri Navaratna Rama Rao on his death in 1960"

"Stifling Economic Enterprise:

. . .The role of the Government should be that of a catalyst in stimulating economic development while individual initiative and enterprise are given the fullest play. The Government  can do a great deal by way of providing a network of highways and village roads, in improving waterways and developing small harbours, improving communication and transport facilities, which would all serve to boost the economy. Many important things have been neglected because the Government has forgotten them in its obsession with a `command economy'. Wise planning means Government help to foster private enterprise and self-help among individuals. Otherwise, there can be no real progress."

It seems to me that the number one thing stifling individual initiative and enterprise in America today is the fear of homelessness and healthcarelessness. When fear predominates, you have a lot of pseudo-initiative and pseudo-enterprise, as people endlessly throw out proposals they don't actually care about, but which they hope might catch the eye of some corporate sugar daddy or foundation sugar mommy. But true initiatives or enterprises? I think we're being starved of them at the moment, because fear is predominating. Tesla is an exception, but it's significant that Tesla was only envisioned and created after everyone concerned was already rich.

"Wanted a movement:

Whatever the nature or the system of government may be, the two essentials - work and compassion - make for prosperity and true happiness."


It was perhaps presumptuous on my part to have begun the task, but it was a joy to re-tell the Raamaayana. Now, when it is over, I feel like one awakening from a dream of joy. When the Prince left the city, he felt no sorrow; it was only when he lost Seeta that he knew grief. So with me too. When I had to step down from high office and heavy responsibility, I did not feel at a loss or wonder what to do next. But now, when I have come to the end of the tale of the Prince of Ayodhya, the void is like that of a shrine without a God.

Let no one look upon work as a burden. Good work is the secret that keeps life going. While one should not hanker after results, life without work would be unendurable."


When intelligence matures and lodges securely in the heart, it becomes wisdom. When that wisdom is integrated with life and issues out in action, it becomes devotion. Knowledge which has become mature is spoken of as devotion. If it does not get transformed into devotion, such knowledge is useless tinsel.

If Sri Adi Sankara himself who drank the ocean of knowledge as easily as one sips water from the palm of one's hand, sang hymns to develop devotion, it is enough to show that knowledge and devotion are one. No other testimony is needed."

Not much to say at the moment, except:

1) On Iraq, recent events have not changed my opinion that the US was wrong to have invaded in 2002-3, that having invaded the US should have left ASAP, by 2005 or possibly even 2004, and that the US was right to leave in 2011, and should have done so sooner. If the events of 2002-2011 have shown the US was not the solution, the events of 2012-2014 have shown the US is not the problem, or at least is not the cause of all problems. And the American I trust most to assess the current situation is Juan Cole: http://www.juancole.com/

On Ukraine, sadly enough, there's no American offhand that I trust, and I rely on a Russian, Grigory Yavlinsky.

2) I don't like it when people are killed, maimed, tortured, or jailed unnecessarily. And in my opinion, Chelsea Manning and Marissa Alexander, among others, are being jailed, or threatened with jail, unnecessarily.

". . .the question I would urge you to think about is not only "Are these people guilty?" It is also, 'Is this prosecution necessary and appropriate?'" 
3) Regarding the 2014 Indian elections,

a) "Modi sweeps into power on wave of majoritarian Isramofascism"  seems wrong to me. The BJP got 31% of the vote. Modi seems to me the result of a passionate minority, and a divided opposition.

b) Modi, like other fascist-leaning leaders like Cheney or Netanyahu, seems  to me to have a thoroughly undeserved reputation for making the trains run on time. (Indeed, in America the hardcore conservatives seem to lack the ability to even build the trains, let alone make them run on time). I'm not the hugest fan of Jayalalithaa, but was glad she was willing to take on the notion of Modi as some kind of economic genius.


c) The main regret I have for Manmohan Singh's time in office is that he did not do more on Kashmir.


d)  "Modigambo Khush Hua". "Hail Modigambo!"

4) I am obviously the last person to criticize content aggregation and aggregators, but surely it becomes at least somewhat problematic when aggregators are paid, and creators are not? The traditional journalist or academic interview seems less exploitative than this type of aggregation, because it's not something created solely by the subject, it's created out of the interaction of two people, interviewer and interviewee. Yes, you may have the right to do it. But there are lots of things you have the right to do, which you should not do, and using someones words when they are not a public figure, and have asked you not to, seems to me to be one of them.

next post: 12/22/2014

Saturday, February 15, 2014
(Via Mikki Kendall) Angel of Justice™ - Ron Davis Holds The LAST Picture Taken of #JordanDavis . PLEASE RETWEET to Show Support for The Davis Family ~ Thanks

(Via Sydettethe inward airbender - "let go"
with broken down cars and renting cars and blah blah blah, i’m two months behind on rent and no longer have a job.
I need help. My paypal is below:
Or if you could just pass this around. ANyway you can help. Send me good vibes, send me love—dear god, sending me love in a kind ask or fan mail—you don’t know how much that would help. I am fairly devastated emotionally and just need a mama kitty to lick my wounds and feed me warm milk.
eternal gratefulness and love.

Arthur Silber - ONCE UPON A TIME...

Susie Madrak (Suburban Guerilla) - Lyn
she was about $500 in the hole every month and didn’t know what she could do about it. . .
Free Marissa Now

Gary Farber - Amygdala















I disagree with the assertion that troops have "died in vain". IMO, no human has the ability to determine who has lived and who has died in vain. The only thing Americans have to determine is whether 16 or 18 or 20 or 25 years of war will accomplish what 14 years of war have not. And I see no reason to believe that to be true.

next post: 6/24/2014

Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Arthur Silber - ONCE UPON A TIME...

Free Marissa Now

Susie Madrak (Suburban Guerilla) - Eviction

Ta-Nehisi Coates (Atlantic) - Eviction

Alice Walker’s letter of support for Chelsea Manning

Peter Van Buren’s letter supporting clemency for Chelsea Manning

David Coombs speaks: Transcript and video from West Coast events

(Democracy Now) Interview conducted by independent journalist Alexa O’Brien with Chelsea Manning’s attorney, David Coombs

Glenn Greenwald (Guardian) - A young Yemeni writer on the impact and morality of drone-bombing his country

Hakim Almasmari (CNN) - Drone strikes must end, Yemen's parliament says

Peter Hart (FAIR) - Drones, the Media and Malala's Message

Jack Mirkinson (Huff Po) - Someone (Norah O'Donnell) Finally Asked Malala About Drones

Heather Linebaugh (Guardian) - "I worked on the US drone program. The public should know what really goes on"

digby (Hullabaloo) - Making an example of them

I start from the premise that Al-Qaeda is not 1/10 as evil or 1/100 as dangerous as the Nazis. So I'm deeply offended by the notion that tactics, techniques and a perpetual state of war not necessary to defeat the Nazis, are somehow deemed necessary to defeat Al-Qaeda. I don't know what premises the American national security establishment is operating under, unless they intend for this war to never end.

I also believe that when a true history of the war on terror is written, kill/capture missions, of which drone strikes are a subset, will have proven themselves to be almost entirely useless and counterproductive. In fact, a reliable heuristic for which American military missions have been the worst failures in the last 30 years is the extent to which kill/capture missions have been carried out. Bin Laden's killing may have been the exception that proves the rule, though even there, in hindsight, it would have served long-term interests better to have the Pakistanis capture Bin Laden, as they did KSM.

Private Manning Support Network

Major General Jeffrey S. Buchanan

Commanding General, US Army Military District of Washington

September 21, 2013

Dear Maj. Gen. Buchanan,

I believe Chelsea Manning has been punished enough for violating military regulations in the course of being true to her conscience. I urge you to use your authority as Convening Authority to reduce Chelsea Manning's sentence to time served.

When Chelsea Manning was sent to Iraq, she was idealistic about using her skills and training to fight terrorism and help the Iraqi people.  Her first assignment in Iraq was to find Shiite terrorists. In the course of her work, she found that 15 men she was investigating were not terrorists, yet were in Iraqi prison for publishing budget analyses critical of the Iraqi government. When she ran to her supervisor with this information, she was dismissed and told that it was not her business. Rightly or wrongly, Chelsea Manning came to believe that if the American people had access to the same information that she had, the results would overwhelmingly serve the public interest.

I do not know whether Manning, if she had been older, or had had more experience or training, might have pursued her concerns through official channels, instead of leaking documents to the American public. But in light of her youth, her idealism, and the difficult situation she was placed in, I believe she has been treated too harshly, and to some extent has been made a scapegoat for the failure of Army IT to use sensible technology safeguards. I believe if Chelsea Manning is treated too harshly, it will harm national security, as young people serving will be too afraid to speak up and suggest improvements, even if they have good ideas, good research, or helpful experience.

I urge you to use your authority as Convening Authority to reduce Chelsea Manning's sentence to less than that of a rapist, less than that of a domestic abuser, less than that of a torturer.

Krishna Rangarajan

(Vice) Barrett Brown in jail

I guess I'm also offended by the American establishment's attempt to equate "cyber-crime" and "cyber-terrorism" with actual crime and actual terrorism.

Free Jeremy Hammond

Honorable Loretta A. Preska
Chief Judge
Southern District of New York
500 Pearl Street
New York, NY 10007

October 10, 2013

Dear Judge Preska:

I am an ordinary citizen, writing to plead mercy for Jeremy Hammond. I am aware that Jeremy has pled guilty to a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. I believe Jeremy should be treated with compassion, and that the public interest would be served by leniency.

Jeremy's co-defendants in Ireland will not be prosecuted and in the United Kingdom, those who are already convicted will not spend more than a few months in prison.

I’m not opposed to corporations like STRATFOR, and I believe in sensible measures to protect corporate data, but I believe the sentences associated with the CFAA are disproportionate, unnecessary to safeguard data, and unjust. To safeguard data, I believe mild sanctions applied reliably and consistently are more effective than harsh sentences which ruin some individual’s lives, without affecting the underlying the culture of a company, which is the only thing that can safeguard data.

Jeremy’s actions were not motivated by financial gain or his personal benefit. I am writing to plead for leniency on Jeremy’s behalf.

Krishna Rangarajan

next post: 3/01/2014

Saturday, June 22, 2013
Susie Madrak - Suburban Guerilla

Mr. Snowden is the seventh person to be accused by the Obama administration of violating the Espionage Act of 1917 by leaking secrets to the news media, compared with three such cases under all previous presidents.
Our nation's prosecutors have become addicted to jailing people for non-violent offenses. Even the initial attempt to focus on terrorism has turned out to mostly jail non-violent offenders, as the words "conspiracy" and "material support" have been stretched to their breaking point.

Michael Hastings (Buzzfeed) - Jacob Appplebaum, Barrett Brown, Thomas Drake, James Rosen, John Kirakou, Bradley Manning

I'm not able to understand the gushing eulogies for Michael Hastings, alongside the apparent belief that Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden are worse than rapists, worse than most murderers, worse than the perpetrators of Abu Graibh, worse than the officers who burned Pat Tillman's uniform and diary, in an attempt to cover up the circumstances of his death.

And I don't believe the treatment of Manning and Snowden can simply be explained by excessive devotion to the rule of law, an administration unable to tell the difference between a good prosecutor and a Javert, though that would be bad enough.  If the Obama administration really was motivated by the rule of law, they would, amongst other things, be prosecuting James Clapper for making false statements to Congress (note: I do not support such a prosecution), and they would be investigating how Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, a 16-year-old boy completely innocent of terrorism, wound up on the kill list (I do support such an investigation).

Marcy Wheeler (emptywheel) - “What “Not Specifically Targeted” Means for Abdulrahman al-Awlaki”
John Brennan, at the time President Obama’s senior adviser on counterterrorism and homeland security, “suspected that the kid had been killed intentionally and ordered a review. I don’t know what happened with the review.

next post: 12/31/2013

Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Susie Madrak - Suburban Guerilla

Arthur Silber - ONCE UPON A TIME...

Gary Farber - Amygdala


My email to TPM, in response to this post:

"I think you're overlooking the main issue re: Manning. It's not outrageous that political elites believe low-level leakers deserve punishment. It is outrageous that they try to portray low-level leaking as a near-capital crime. In particular, I believe that if Manning gets a sentence harsher than Charles Graner's, then America's moral credibility is basically finished. People will still fear American explosions, respect American logistics, but truth and justice will no longer have anything to do with the American way."

I'm a bit ashamed at my vehemence. Nevertheless, I find the prospect of America treating prisoners of conscience more harshly than they treat rapists or most murderers appalling, and it suggests something has gone very wrong with the American state. The analogy that seems appropriate to me is prosecutions in Islamic states for blasphemy and apostasy. And the more obvious it becomes that overly harsh treatment of Manning and Snowden is not appropriate, the deeper into unreason the American state goes, hardening its heart and doubling down on its folly.

I wouldn't like living in a religious theocracy, a state that claimed to know the will of God. But I would like even less living in a military theocracy, a state that claims to know which citizens have aided the enemy, even when those citizens had absolutely no contact with America's enemies, and no intention of helping them. By the logic of the Bradley Manning prosecution, it seems very clear that Winston Churchill could have been prosecuted for aiding the enemy, when he leaked stories of British military weakness to the public, including to the Germans.

Think about this: Until Manning leaked those documents, there had not been one single publicly released estimate or study by the US government of the number of people killed in the Iraq or Afghan wars. If the fundamental task of an American citizen in this time period was to determine whether  the death and destruction in Iraq and Afghanistan was "worth it", the US government was making it impossible for American citizens to carry out their duties, by hiding those numbers, and the reality behind those numbers, from them. If the US government refuses to tell us roughly who it is killing, and why, how are we supposed to evaluate that killing? By pictures of kids getting candy, or schools being painted?

I think if you look at my blog posts from 2002-2005, I was very trusting, and respectful, of the national security establishment. It was only after iteration and iteration of "6 more months, 6 more months", that gradually it dawned on me that these people might not be telling the truth. Partly in honor of the troops who have died and suffered. Partly because they had no idea what the truth was, and were operating on the principle of "fake it till you make it". And partly, it must be said, because of the money and the contracts.

Glenn Greenwald (Guardian) - On whistleblowers and government threats of investigation
There seems to be this mentality in Washington that as soon as they stamp TOP SECRET on something they've done we're all supposed to quiver and allow them to do whatever they want without transparency or accountability under its banner. These endless investigations and prosecutions and threats are designed to bolster that fear-driven dynamic. 
Among the documents Pfc. Manning allegedly leaked are the Afghan War Diaries, the Iraq War Logs, secret diplomatic communications, and a video of US soldiers firing at Iraqi civilians and journalists from the air. . ."This is possibly one of the more significant documents of our time, removing the fog of war and revealing the true nature of 21st century asymmetric warfare,” Pfc. Manning is alleged to have written of the footage.
“When you look at the offense of aiding the enemy and take it out of this case and simply say, ‘If you can possibly aid the enemy by giving information to the press with no intent that that information land in the hands of the enemy, and by that mere action alone you could be found to have aided the enemy,’ that’s a scary proposition,” said Coombs. “Right there that would silence a lot of critics of our government, and that’s what makes our government great, in that we foster that criticism and often times when its deserved, we make changes. “ 

 Irin Carmon (Salon) - Laura Poitras and the NSA story

Chase Madar (Nation) - Bradley Manning aided the American people, not the enemy

Gary Younge (Guardian) - the Bradley Manning trial

Younge's article is a must-read, IMO.

next post: 12/17/2013

Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Arthur Silber - ONCE UPON A TIME...

Gary Farber - Amygdala

Susie Madrak (Suburban Guerilla) - Philadelphia, City of Creepy Crimes
 [re: Gosnell] Ron: . . .I’m old enough to remember when stories like this were in the paper every week. Then laws against abortion were overturned and women stopped dying. . .
SAMIR NAJI al HASAN MOQBEL (NYT) - Gitmo Is Killing Me

LAKHDAR BOUMEDIENE (NYT) - My Guantánamo Nightmare

Ray McGovern (OpEd News) - The Deepening Shame of Guantanamo

Philip Weiss (Mondoweiss) - What you need to know about Bradley Manning

Mike Koozmin (SF Examiner) - Daniel Ellsberg speaks up for Bradley Manning

Michael H. Miller (Observer) - Just a Crook? Pentagon Papers Lawyer Thinks Obama Is Worse Than Nixon
Now, the man who successfully fought Nixon says President Obama has an even more troubling record. He has indicted six leakers to Nixon’s one. . .
Glenn Greenwald (Guardian) - Attacks on Stephen Hawking, transparency for Manning

The assertion that leaking of classified information is a serious problem in Washington DC is dubious, to say the least. We're living in a period where among the worst blunders in American foreign policy history - the Iraq war and the Afghan surge - were made because of too much secrecy and too much worship of classified information, not too little. In particular, The case for Iraqi WMD rested on two Iraqi expats who happened to be liars,  but the American people were not informed of this, because the people capable of accurately analyzing the data did not have access to it. We have become a nation where powerful people can classify the evidence of their mistakes, and then prosecute whistleblowers who leak this information.

If Bradley Manning can be charged with aiding the enemy on grounds he leaked documents to the public, one can only conclude the American elite considers the public their enemy.

I'm going on a blog hiatus for the next 6 months. My main hope for this political period is that Bradley Manning receives some fairness, in consideration to the sentences given to Charles Graner, Lynndie England, and the two officers who burned Pat Tillman's uniform and diary, in an attempt to cover up the circumstances of his death.

A country where whistleblowers who reveal information with intent to expose abuses, are punished more harshly than people who commit abuses, is a country whose judicial system has lost its bearings. I hope it finds them.

a bigger IRS scandal:

Janelle Griffith (NJSL) - Lauryn Hill speaks out for first time since sentencing, thanks supporters

It would have been better if Lauryn Hill had kept on top of her finances and paid her taxes in a timely manner, but I see zero evidence that what she did was anywhere close to deserving a prison sentence. I'm appalled by the practice of the American justice system, of not enforcing a rule or regulation 999 times, but the 1000th time finding some poor sod and subjecting them to the full weight of the law, on grounds that "we believe in the rule of law" and for reasons of "deterrence".

I think the Lauryn Hill jailing is a bigger scandal that the Tea Party targeting, but I think the Tea Party targeting is a real scandal, though a fairly small one. The Tea Party groups had to live in a state of limbo for years, constantly worrying if the IRS was going to drop the hammer on them. That's a real thing to be concerned about. I think the objectively right policy is something like:
1) a group should not have a tax exemption unless its activities are 90% social welfare.
2) there should be an informal understanding that the IRS does not enforce until the social welfare component drops to 75%
3) If the IRS enforces, rules should be enforced consistently, and as leniently as possible.

As for the appropriate punishment for the IRS agents, I think they should be given a chance to explain their actions, and if their actions are defensible (and I think they probably are. The notion that Tea Party groups are social welfare organizations seems preposterous, on its face. They seem, clearly, to be political organizations, and if the political organizations I have given money to - Blue America PAC, the PCCC, DFA and the DNC - don't get a tax-exemption, why should the Tea Party?), they should be let off with a mild warning.

Bill James (Slate) - Life, Liberty, and Breaking the Rules: In defense of Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, jaywalkers, and all the other scofflaws that make America great.
the question I would urge you to think about is not only "Are these people guilty?" It is also, "Is this prosecution necessary and appropriate?"
I think this is one of the most important sentence fragments ever to appear in Slate magazine.

Richard McGregor (FT) - Lunch with the FT: Nancy Pelosi
Pelosi launches into a lengthy explanation of what happened in 2010. Obamacare, the emissions trading bill, the “lies” spread by the Republicans, and then the failure of a bill to force business lobbies to disclose the source of foreign donations. “As soon as that failed, the money just poured in,” she says, into Republican coffers, although she doesn’t say where from.
I find it incredibly telling, and incredibly infuriating, that Nancy Pelosi's answer was not much simpler, and much shorter: "The jobs and income numbers were terrible, and voters held us accountable".

Arturo (Racialicious) - Voices: Roger Ebert (1942-2013)
"To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts." –Roger Ebert, book excerpt posted in Salon, 2011.
next post: 12-17-2013

Thursday, March 21, 2013
Andrew Sullivan (The Dish) - The Passion Of David Kuo

Sarah Kliff (Wonkblog) - Arijit Guha, student who battled Aetna over cancer coverage, dies

Deep Thought, by Melissa McEwan: "Losing the capacity to oppress is not oppression."

Though I think this applies not only to unfashionable oppressors like the Westboro Baptist Church, but also to fashionable oppressors like money-lenders who get debt-collection agencies to do their dirty work, or the people overseeing overzealous government regulation of non-violent offenses. Or a permanent war which entitles us to kill people, without trying to keep an accurate record of who we are killing, and why.

(Via Glenn GreenwaldTBIJ - In Video: Naming the Dead

Monica Potts (American Prospect) - The Weeklies

Monica Potts (American Prospect) - The Runaways

Beth Schwartzapfel (Boston Review) - Who Shot Valerie Finley?

As Beth Schwartzapfel explains, the evidence is very, very, strong that a man named Angel Melendez shot Valerie Finley, not Rodney Stanberry, who was convicted and is still in prison for the crime. Unfortunately, the prosecutor, Buzz Jordan, who prosecuted Stanberry, is not willing to consider the possibility he might have made a mistake.

Liliana Segura (Nation) - Are Memphis Prosecutors Trying to Send an Innocent Man Back to Death Row?

As Liliana Segura explains, the evidence is very strong that a man named Patrick Johnson shot Donald Williams, not Timothy Terrell McKinney, who was jailed and is currently being re-prosecuted for the crime. Unfortunately, the Shelby County prosecutors, who are prosecuting McKinney, are not willing to consider the possibility they might have made a mistake.

Arthur Silber - Bad Times

Susie Madrak - Suburban Guerilla

Gary Farber - Amygdala

Diane (cab drollery) - With Deep Gratitude

Glenn Greenwald (Guardian) - Bradley Manning's personal statement to court martial

Edward Wasserman (Miami Herald) - Commentary: Media throw Bradley Manning to the wolves

I can understand someone believing that Bradley Manning leaking the lowest level of classified documents was problematic, troubling, even wrong. I can not understand, can not begin to wrap my head around, how anyone could believe that what Bradley Manning did was worse than what Charles Graner did. I can not understand how anyone could believe that what Bradley Manning did was worse than what Lynndie England did. I can not undersand how anyone could believe that what Bradley Manning did was worse than what the two officers who burned Pat Tillman's uniform and diary, in an attempt to cover up the circumstances of his death, did.

Yet the US Government, under a hip, stylish, liberal president, with a hip, stylish, liberal, spouse, with the approval of the entire respectable American liberal establishment, appears to believe that what Bradley Manning did was not only worse than what the perpetrators of Abu Graibh did, but 40 or 50 times worse. It seems to me deeply obscene.

I can't help liking all of the respectable liberals who have stayed pointedly silent on the outrage of the Bradley Manning prosecution. But I no longer trust them. And the more I think about it, the angrier I get, and the more I no longer want anything to do with them.

Glenn Greenwald (Guardian) - The persecution of Barrett Brown - and how to fight it

Create Our Own Light - Steubenville’s Jane Doe asked people to do something…

Adria Richards - Endlessly Enthusiastic Technology Evangelist

Andrew Sullivan (Dish) - Sexism In Silicon Valley, Ctd
Steve Marx: "It's very unfortunate that the guy lost his job, but I feel that the blame for that lies with his employer, not @adriarichards."  Adria Richards: "@smarx @x3rames clearly. I made comment on HN I didn't agree with his employer firing him."
Dylan Matthews (Wonkblog) - Mark Kleiman on why we need to solve our alcohol problem to solve our crime problem

Matt Campbell (Kansas City Star) - Iraq War veteran, who wrote letter to Bush and Cheney, is ready to die on his own terms

Tomas Young (Truthdig) - The Last Letter

Teju Cole (New Yorker) - A Reader's War

MARK MAZZETTI and SCOTT SHANE (NYT) - Influential Ex-Aide to Obama Voices Concern on Drone Strikes

Juan Cole (Informed Comment) - What we Did to Iraq

digby (Hullabaloo) - Truth's Consequences

Andrew J. Bacevich (Harper's) - A Letter to Paul Wolfowitz - Occasioned by the tenth anniversary of the Iraq war

Looking back on March 2003, what I remember is that I did not know my own mind until the first bombs fell. I never believed in the national security case for war, and I don't think anyone else did either. The reason the national security establishment, as a whole, was so eager for war was that everybody knew Saddam was weak, and had no significant ability to hit back. It was clearly a war fought for money, glory and revenge, rather than a war fought to address a national security threat. Merrill McPeak, when coming out against the war, expressed this sentiment well: "Everybody's getting a medal. Everybody's coming home. It's hard to oppose this thing."

But I was not so sure about the humanitarian case for war, the argument that the Iraqi people would want us to declare war on their country in order to remove Saddam. I didn't realize Daniel Davies's lesson, "Good ideas do not need lots of lies told about them to gain acceptance". If the only justification for this war was humanitarian, then every troop, every person with a role in dropping those bombs, should have been told that this was not a war fought for national security, this was a war fought in order to benefit the Iraqi people. The national security establishment wanted it both ways: They wanted the tactical freedom to fight a war of national security, while at the same time they wanted the moral kudos for fighting a humanitarian war.

But still I didn't oppose the war, maybe because I had in my mind the image of Saddam being toppled, and of Iraqis, on the whole, being happy that it was done. It was only when Bush, in order to placate Tommy Franks, announced a 48 hour grace period for Saddam, and I realized that I didn't want the grace period to end, I didn't want those bombs to start dropping, did I realize the war was a mistake, killing and injuring people when you didn't have to was a mistake, that this war was an act of evil, and not an act of good.

I guess in part because of the Iraq war, I now believe that a fundamental part of being a good hat is waiting for the bad hat to shoot first. The fact that the Coalition was the aggressor in the Iraq war made them the bad hats, no matter how good their intentions may have been. And if a Judeo-Christian alliance initiates a war of aggression against Iran, then that makes them the bad hats, no matter how evil, or even dangerous, the Iranian regime may be. The murder of Iranian scientists was an act of great evil, as was the murder of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria and India, and the plotters responsible for those murders deserve to be punished for their actions. "My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven go".

I'm not sure it's relevant to this discussion, but if you can imagine what an English drone war against material supporters of the IRA, conducted in Ireland and Massachusetts, would look like, then I think you are in the proper frame of mind to understand what the hell has been going on in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen these past 14 years. Of course, you might say that the IRA was never responsible for anything as bad as 9/11, and you would be right. On the other hand, 99.9999% of the people we've killed in the past 14 years have had nothing to do with 9/11, either.

C.S. Lewis - On Living in an Atomic Age
. . .it is part of our spiritual law never to put survival first: not even the survival of our species. We must resolutely train ourselves to feel that the survival of humans on this Earth, much more of our own nation or culture or class, is not worth having unless it can be had by honourable and merciful means.
    The sacrifice is not so great as it seems. Nothing is more likely to destroy a species or a nation than a determination to survive at all costs. . .

(Via Shengbo Wang) Mary Westmacott - A Daughter's A Daughter
'Listen, Ann, there are just two things that I've no use for whatever - someone telling me how noble they are and what moral reasons they have for the things they do, and the other is someone going on moaning about how wickedly they have behaved. Both statements may be true - recognise the truth of your actions, by all means, but having done so, pass on. You can't put the clock back and you can't usually undo what you've done. Continue living.'

Charles Pierce (Esquire) - Iraq War Anniversary
There were people who got it right. Anthony Zinni. Eric Shinseki. Hans Blix. Mohamed ElBaradei. The McClatchy Washington bureau guys. Dozens of liberal academics who got called fifth-columnists and worse. Professional military men whose careers suffered as a result. Hundreds of thousands of people in the streets around the world. The governments of Canada and France. Those people, I will listen to this week


TIM WU (New Yorker) - How the Legal System Failed Aaron Swartz—And Us


Justin Peters (Slate) - The Idealist Aaron Swartz wanted to save the world. Why couldn’t he save himself?

Justin Peters (Slate) - Eric Holder to Senate Judiciary Committee: Aaron Swartz Case Was “A Good Use of Prosecutorial Discretion"

Justin Peters (Slate) - Yes, Your NCAA Office Pool is Probably Illegal.

If you believe in the rule of law, as people sometimes idiotically claim to do, you should turn yourself in.

Dean Baker (CEPR) - Ezra Klein Gives Real Coverage to the Progressive Caucus Budget

Drug Policy Alliance - Women and Gender in the Drug War

David Dayen (Pacific Standard) - Signed, Sealed, Deposited

Falguni A. Sheth - Translation Exercises

Echidne of the Snakes

Freddie - L'Hote

Matthew Yglesias (Slate) - The Rent Is Too Damn High

Duncan Black (USA Today) - The Incomes Are Too Damn Low

Mike Konczal (American Prospect) - Automatic Stabilizers: There When Congress Isn't

Alyssa Rosenberg (Think Progress) - ‘Enlightened,’ Aaron Swartz And The Consequences Of Activism

(Via MJ Rosenberg) BEN EHRENREICH (NYT) - The occupation is a terrible thing that should not continue, and should be resisted nonviolently

MJ Rosenberg - My Position On A Fair Solution To The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

MJ Rosenberg (Washington Spectator) - Obama in Jerusalem: No Big Surprises But Mission Accomplished

An interesting post by Steve Randy Waldman, on the fairly shaky grounds for believing the fight-song economist* argument for privileging capital over labor:

*That is, the collection of economists who have jobs at institutions that have fight-songs

Steve Randy Waldman (interfludity) - K is not capital, L is not labor
. . .let’s assume that the economy is characterized by permanent two-factor, constant-returns-to-scale production function. . .What distinguishes these factors and leaves one optimally taxed, the other optimally untaxed? Fundamentally, the difference is that capital accumulates, while labor does not. . .eliminating conventional capital taxes shifts the cost of government to wages, which include returns to human capital. If human capital accumulation is as or more important than other forms of capital accumulation, and if the quality of effort that people devote to building human capital is wage-sensitive, then taxing wages in preference to financial capital may be quite perverse. . .One final point: The force that drives the Chamley-Judd conclusion is the long-term elasticity of capital provision to interest rates. . .this sort of calculation does not seem to describe economy-wide savings behavior very well. Aggregate purchases of financial assets seem to be insensitive to returns. . .
Just this once, I'm going with the lawyer, and not with the econ PhDs:
. . .Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights. . .
I would add this: any theory, whose implication is that thrifty, risk-averse billionaires who live on 5K a year and salt away the rest in T-Bills, should pay a tax rate of near-zero, while someone making and consuming 5K a year should pay a rate many multiples of that, is to me obviously false: a theory that has been falsified by reality.

Determining exactly why theories are false is difficult ( "Why questions are difficult!" Though if I had to guess, I'd bet they're using the wrong production function, and the wrong utility function). But no one should feel bad about preferring the evidence of their own lying eyes, rather than the assertions of Garret Jones, or George Osborne, or Barack Obama*, or Jean-Claude Trichet, or even Paul Krugman. (I've always, for example, believed that Krugman's use of Okun's law is pretty dodgy, though unfortunately, nobody seems to have a better way of determining potential output)

*Obama is included in this list because 1) He seems to think he's done a wonderful job on the economy, despite the fact that a lot of people don't seem to have very much money 2) His highest priority on economic policy at the moment seems to be cutting Social Security.

One final point: I'm fairly sure Martin Feldstein wrote an article in 1993, about why the deadweight loss of the Clinton tax increases would be so large, they would not bring in any new revenue. I have no idea why Feldstein was wrong, but he was. Especially on a politically charged issue like taxes, very strong results greatly privileging your home team are likely to be wrong. IMO, that applies to the Picketty-Saez 70% number, as well as to the Garret Jones 0% number.

"I though these methodologies and techniques were supposed to be impartial!"
"Oh, Minister. Railway trains are impartial too, but if you lay down the lines for them that's the way they go."

I was interested in the discussions of writers and reporters and money. The question that occurs to me, is what portion of their income do writers and reporters spend on other people's writing and reporting, and how do they allocate those dollars?

I said in my previous post I would have my opinions on policy platforms in this post: I don't have too many opinions at the moment, just 2 opinions in the form of questions, organized around the words "war" and "work".

1) How many people is our government killing and injuring? What are the tactical, strategic, legal, ethical reasons for these actions, and do these reasons make sufficient, or any, sense?

2) How many of our people are being killed and injured? And how can we prevent,  and where appropriate, avenge these deaths and injuries?

1) If your preferred policies are in place, what is your best estimate for when the economy will return to full employment?

I would like to evaluate American officials and pundits, in part, according to their answers to these questions.

I guess if the events of the last few days re: mr-hankAdria Richards and Tim Noah prove anything, it's that rich people do, indeed, like firing people. Krugman: "it is an open secret that the chief payoff from being really rich is, as Tom Wolfe once put it, the pleasure of "seeing 'em jump.""

I see some weird liberal sneering at Ben Carson, so let me say I strongly disagree with the comparisons of Carson to Hermain Cain. Carson is, indeed, worthy of the greatest respect. Anyone who wonders why should read his books. His first book, "Gifted Hands", is the best, IMO, or at least the least controversial. The later books have large portions I agree with, or learned from, but also patches I either strongly disagreed with, or felt were just not well thought out. (Specifically, I'm thinking of the passage on Fallujah, and the passage on a "Saudi Arabian" solution to health-care overbilling)

I knew Carson is fairly conservative in some respects, but I also believed he supported universal health care and full-employment policies, so am somewhat surprised to hear him talked about as a GOP politician, instead of as an independent. I also never believed he had the love of the political game you probably need to be a good politician. If he did run, and he did have a plan for universal health care and full-employment, it's possible he might have a sort of interesting Salaam/Douthat-type platform, though he seems to be trending toward a libertarian Rand Paul direction.

One quote from Carson's 2008 book, "Take the Risk", which I think shows he is worth reading, even if you don't always agree with him:
I took them. . .to meet Mr. Jaek, the dapper young science teacher who . . .invited me to start coming by his room after school to help with the laboratory chores. He further sparked my interest in science by allowing me to feed and take care of the school's lab animals: a red squirrel, a tarantula, a Jack Dempsey fish, some crawfish, and more. . .I showed up with an ABC camera crew in my wake to find a bald and somewhat rumpled Mr. Jaek still teaching. He and I enjoyed a short reunion and reminisced for a while; then I wanted the video crew to see the wonderful collection of creatures in his lab. He shook his head sadly and said, "We don't have animals in our science lab anymore because of the risk that one of the students might get bitten or scratched. The school system can't afford the liability." I couldn't believe it! Well I could believe it. I just didn't want to believe it because I hated to think of generations of young students missing out on the very thing that sparked my interest in biology and kept feeding the dream that led to my becoming a medical scientist today. . .[page 119-120] 
UPDATE: Obviously disagree with Carson's recent comments implicitly equating homosexuality between consenting equals with bestiality and pedophilia. But the comments were fairly offhand, and unless he doubles down on those comments, don't fundamentally alter my respect for him. Liberals pouncing on those comments remind me of this Homer Simpson quote:
Yeah, yeah, that's his problem, he's a nut! It's not about me being lazy, it's about him being a crazy nut.
So I see Odub mocking Somerby, yet when I go to the Daily Howler site, it's still good: For example, Somerby links to a great piece by the one and only Gene Lyons. OTOH, this is pretty great.

UPDATE: Actually, it wasn't Oliver Willis, it was what's his name. Though reading the 2007-era Yglesias, I feel like Nat X screaming at Michael Jackson: "What happened to this boy, Michael? Where is he?" (should note I don't like the transphobia in the clip).

(Via Glenn Greenwald) Fred Branfman (Salon) - When Chomsky wept

Reading about the greatness of Chomsky makes me appreciate even more this blurb that appears on many of Martin Gardner's books: "Martin Gardner's contribution to contemporary intellectual culture is unique - in its range, its insight, and its understanding of hard questions that matter." - Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, author of Barriers.

I haven't read too much Jhumpa Lahiri, but did hear her read `Sexy' on NPR, and the ending is just about my favorite of any short story ever:
. . .She would see him one more Sunday, she decided, perhaps two. Then she would tell him the things she had known all along: that it wasn't fair to his wife, or to her, that they both deserved better, that there was no point in it dragging on. 
But the next Sunday it snowed, so much so that Dev couldn't tell his wife he was going running along the Charles. The Sunday after that, the snow had melted, but Miranda made plans to go to the movies with Laxmi, and when she told Dev this over the phone he didn't ask her to cancel them. The third Sunday she got up early and went out for a walk. It was cold, but sunny, and so she walked all the way down Commonwealth Avenue, past the restaurants where Dev had kissed her, and then she walked all the way to the Christian Science center. The Mapparium was closed, but she bought a cup of coffee nearby and sat on one of the benches in the plaza outside the church, gazing at its giant pillars and its massive dome, and at the clear-blue sky spread over the city. 
I guess I'm realizing the truth of this:
We may be content to remain what we call `ordinary people': but God is determined to carry out a quite different plan. To shrink back from that plan is not humility: it is laziness and cowardice. Not one of us is safe from some gross sin. On the other hand, no possible degree of holiness or heroism which has ever been recorded by the greatest saints is beyond us.
George MacDonald. An Anthology (edited by C.S.Lewis)
 [ 63 ] Be Ye Perfect
"I cannot be perfect; it is hopeless; and God does not expect it." - It would be more honest if he said, "I do not want to be perfect: I am content to be saved." Such as care for being what they call saved.
 next post: 6/18/2013

Friday, January 25, 2013



























My primary emotion on Aaron Swartz's suicide is regret I didn't speak out against the treatment of him. In his brief life Aaron Swartz was a man who, to an incredible extent, never cold-shouldered, turned away or withheld his hand from anyone, and I wish we had done the same for him.  My primary memory is of Vince Foster's suicide, and John Brummett's chapter on Foster:


My primary thought is that we need better metrics for prosecutors. 2 suggestions: 1) the proportion of charges that a prosecutor brings that consist of BS crimes: wire fraud, mail fraud, computer fraud, perjury, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, etc. versus real crimes: murder, rape, assault. 2) the spread between the threatened charges and the plea-bargain. A lower spread means a better prosecutor.

We need less and better prosecutors, in my opinion. One person's opinion I would really welcome on this subject is Vincent Bugliosi, one of the greatest prosecutors of all time.


This Radley Balko article is good for the most part, but the attempt to equate George Zimmerman's prosecution with Aaron Swartz's is wrong, IMO. Aaron Swartz did not kill anyone, George Zimmerman killed an unarmed teenager who he pursued, chased down, and initiated an altercation with.


I think the Obama/Biden proposals on gun control are sensible and worth doing. However, I think gun control supporters should have some humility, because the worst shooting of this kind took place in Norway, a country with strong gun-control laws. There is a also a full-employment component to these shootings, it seems to me: After he dropped out of school, if Adam Lanza could have had a make-work guaranteed job, it seems to me it would have helped the situation. And I don't know whether failing school with the added burden of student loan debt increased James Holmes's bitterness.


I thought I would have nothing to say about politics, but I do have one thing: Somewhat to my surprise, perhaps regret, I find that if you want candidates to vote for in 2014, you have to start in 2013. A schedule that seems to me to make sense is November 2012-Easter 2013: campaign off-season; Easter 2013 - 4th of July 2013: platform discussions (What & Why); 4th of July 2013 - Labor Day 2013: Evaluation and/or recruitment of candidates, including current elected officials (Who); Labor Day 2013 - 2014 primary: primary campaign (How); 2014 primary dates (When). I'll have my opinions on platforms and litmus tests in my next blog post, in mid-April.

One opinion I have on a policy platform is that I don't want to vote for anyone who has not 1) constructed and/or endorsed a plan to achieve full-employment by the end of Obama's 2nd term, and having achieved it, keep it there more or less indefinitely 2) retroactively endorsed a plan that would have kept the economy at full-employment from 2007-2009, even given the strong demand shocks of that time period.








I've mentioned before that I'm a fan of the 1974 BBC adaptation of David Copperfield. I haven't mentioned my 2 favorite lines, from the first episode: "Hold your tongue, Traddles!" & "Be a man, Master Traddles!" I was so taken by Peter Bourke's performance as the (adult) Traddles, I googled him, and the first result was this heart-breaking story of rape:



"The commitments we make to each other — through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security — these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great."

Filibuster reform:
"Bender: I can't see what's happening! Are we boned?
Leela: Yeah, we're boned."





". . .It is, for example, almost two years since Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles declared that we should expect a fiscal crisis within, um, two years. . ."

Two questions I wish could be asked of anyone who warned about the fiscal cliff:
1) Would the fiscal cliff have increased the deficit, or reduced the deficit?
2) Would the fiscal cliff have increased the debt, or reduced the debt?

I don't disagree with "the left" on much, but I do disagree on the call to prosecute Wall Street folk. In a way, such calls seem to me a bad symptom of our age. We don't believe in government's ability to make anybody's life better, but we still retain a touching faith in its ability to make some peoples' lives worse.





Sergey Dovgal

"No matter how cool we try and be, no matter how much we try and separate ourselves from the world with mirror shades and attitude, we all know that inside we're very soft people who yearn to love and to be loved and art reminds us that it is a possibility, and music connects us with that important fact about ourselves - that we love love, and that anything else is incidental, irrelevant, cynical and not interesting to us fundamentally." - Stephen Fry


"SamFry presents The Dongle of Donald Trefusis.
Episode Three: Birds Of A Feather
I lead a pretty busy life, just this side frantic some times. I rise early to attend to emails and administrative duties. The night will usually have brought in requests for assistance from most countries of the world. At eight AM sharp I walk twenty-nine miles to a gym. This achieves several things: it helps keep me trim, it allows me to listen to audio-books, podcasts, and music that help with my learning Russian, refreshing my understanding of epistemology, and the latest developments in fluid dynamics, as well as perfecting my knowledge of the back-catalogues of the Black-Eyed Peas, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Smashing Pumpkins, and other pulse, vegetable or legume-related Rock combos. There's much to be said for this morning ambulation. The gym itself usually takes up forty-five minutes or an hour of squatting, lunging, crunching, curling, pressing, pushing, lifting, swinging, grunting and stretching, which ends with two hours in the steam room and a long, luxurious shower. This whole regime, from walk to emerging from the gym, which is one I manage eleven or so mornings a week, takes no more than twenty minutes. Time-management is crucial here."


"A grave injustice is often done to the reputation of Jeeves's employer, Bertram Wilberforce Wooster. Bertie is all too frequently described as a 'silly ass', a 'gaping idiot', a 'boobie', a 'vacuous imbecile.' In fact, this is distinctly unfair. Wooster may not have the giant intellect of Jeeves, but he does have one great quality, worth all the brain in the world - his good nature, his kindness, his absolute determination at all times to help his friends. Bertie is far too considerate ever to put the blame on someone else when things go awry, too chivalrous ever to repel the advances of an unwanted female, too kind to refuse a request for help."

Oscar Wilde, Stories for Children:

The Young King

"Is not He who made misery wiser than thou art?. . .

. . .and as for thy dreams, think no more of them. The burden of this world is too great for one man to bear, and the world's sorrow too heavy for one heart to suffer". . .

"Sayest thou that in this house?", said the young King, and he strode past the Bishop, and climbed up the steps of the altar, and stood before the image of Christ. . .


George Orwell: "I cannot say with certainty which of my motives are the strongest, but I know which of them deserve to be followed."



next post: 2013-04-16

Wednesday, November 14, 2012
I guess there's only a few things that could have happened at this time to push my political buttons and piss me off, but one of them did: I saw some left-leaning people sneer at Gen. Wes Clark, and enforce the mysterious conventional wisdom that he's not worth taking seriously, a fit object for fun & ridicule. This reminded me of Spencer Ackerman's August piece, which as far as I know he has not recanted. The piece is not entirely a hatchet job, but does seem to be infused with a curious belief that Clark is not only wrong on certain specific issues, but ridiculous, a "Punchline". Ackerman's piece inspired this defense by Clark's son, a piece that seems to me sensible and right, while Ackerman's piece feels to me like it's written from deep within the DC bubble.

Funnily enough, Ackerman's 2003 TNR piece on Clark  seems to me *much* more sensible and accurate than his 2012 piece.

Watch these three Wes Clark videos:

Wesley K. Clark: Abandoning Values Only Brings Defeat (Aug. 2008)

Wes Clark - 192 Steps to Disaster Preparedness (2006) (transcribed by Plant)

Gen. Wes Clark on why we fought an unnecessary war in Iraq (2007)

and tell me why exactly Clark is not worth taking seriously?

You do see some hints of why Clark might have become unpopular among the DC elites: he was skeptical about the Iraq surge, but his skepticism was justified, IMO. He might have been wrong, but he was not wrong in an outlandish way.

Of all the military figures of the last 15-20 years, Clark is the one I trust the most. He is our era's closest heir to George Marshall. The fact that he's been attacked so bitterly seems to me to reflect a degeneration and a decadence in our DC ruling class, compared to the Marshall era.

Though now that I think about it, Marshall was not a popular figure, at all, during the 40's and the 50's. His fan club basically consisted of FDR, Truman, and the 40's-era Eisenhower.

Two people I saw defending Clark this summer were Susie Madrak and digby (can't find her post to link to it), good company at least.

Digby - Hullabaloo

Susie Madrak - (Suburban Guerrilla)

Asia Society - Current Realities and Future Possibilities in Burma/Myanmar

Amy Goodman interviewing Juan Cole on Petraeus in Iraq and Afghanistan
JUAN COLE: Well, you know, I think General Petraeus, in his heart, was opposed to the Iraq War and a little bit puzzled as to what in the world the Bush administration thought it was doing, because there’s that famous interview he gave early on, and when he was in Mosul, he said, "How does this end?" He couldn’t even conceive of it. And I think—you know, I saw him on television interacting with Arab families. It was set in Mosul. He went to them and said, you know, "What do you need? What can I get you?" So, I think among the generals who served in Iraq, he was one of the ones who tried to reach out to people and tried to accomplish something. 
But I think he learned the wrong lessons from Iraq. . . the Shiites ethnically cleansed the Sunnis. And it happened around the same time as the Petraeus troop escalation or surge in Iraq. And I think he took the wrong lesson from what happened in Baghdad. He kind of allied with the majority community, and so had a fairly soft landing, and then took it off and tried to replicate it in Afghanistan. That was the big error.
I'm thinking a little bit about investment income versus wage income, and I'm somewhat reluctantly coming to the conclusion that it's a more difficult and nuanced issue than I thought. I'm thinking of scenarios, and I find that there are scenarios where it's clear the tax rate on investment income should be 0, and there are other scenarios where it's clear it should be equal to the rate on normal income.

scenario 1: Somone decides to sell their WaPo stock (goodbye, Donald) to buy NYT stock (hello, Pinch). It seems preposterous and harmful that switching their stock between companies should result in any significant tax (I do support a transactions tax, but a small one).

scenario 2: someone is deciding whether to spend their time researching & investing in real estate or stocks versus getting and using an income-increasing certification, or doing non-financial R&D which might or might not pay off in increased income, or writing a book or essay. In this case, it seems preposterous and harmful that income from flipping real estate should be taxed at a lower rate than income from acquiring and utilizing a new skill.

Somewhat related to this issue, an honest question: How do you tell the difference between consumption and investment? What would prevent me from accounting for my consumption of dinner & bed today as an investment in my ability to produce output tomorrow? Yes, yes, "Because the IRS says you can't." But on what grounds does the IRS say so?

Ezra Klein (Wonkblog) - The case for raising taxes on capital gains

Matt Yglesias (Slate) - Why poor people should pay a higher tax rate than Mitt Romney

David Dayen (Firedoglake) - Mitt Romney’s Low Tax Rate a Function of How US Treats Capital Gains and Dividends

Doug Henwood (LBO News) - primary & secondary investment

Jazzbumpa (Angry Bear) - The Effect of Capital Gains Tax on Investment

Kevin Drum (Mother Jones) - My Baroque Argument for Higher Capital Gains Taxes

UPDATE: Since I usually praise George Marshall, it seems worth mentioning at least one issue (there were others, as well) where he was on the wrong side of history: the recognition  of Israel in 1948. His intentions were honorable - he was trying to prevent a war - but he was wrong,  IMO. In commemoration of Israel’s 60th anniversary in 2008, JCPA published an excerpt from Clark Clifford's 1991 memoir (which he wrote with Richard Holbrooke), and it makes absolutely riveting reading, especially towards the end:
Because President Truman was often annoyed by the tone and fierce­ness of the pressure exerted on him by American Zionists, he left some people with the impression he was ambivalent about the events of May 1948. This was not true: he never wavered in his belief that he had taken the right action. He felt particularly warmly toward Chaim Weizmann, Israel’s first President, and David Ben-Gurion, its first Prime Minister. In 1961, years after he left the White House, former President Truman met with Ben-Gurion in New York. Ben-Gurion’s memory of that meeting is revealing:
At our last meeting, after a very interesting talk, just before [the President] left me – it was in a New York hotel suite – I told him that as a foreigner I could not judge what would be his place in American history; but his helpfulness to us, his constant sympathy with our aims in Israel, his courageous decision to recognize our new state so quickly and his steadfast support since then had given him an immor­tal place in Jewish history. As I said that, tears suddenly sprang to his eyes. And his eyes were still wet when he bade me goodbye. I had rarely seen anyone so moved. I tried to hold him for a few minutes until he had become more composed, for I recalled that the hotel corridors were full of waiting journalists and photographers. He left. A little while later, I too had to go out, and a correspondent came to me to ask, “Why was President Truman in tears when he left you?”
I believe that I know. These were the tears of a man who had been subjected to calumny and vilification, who had persisted against powerful forces within his own Administration determined to defeat him. These were the tears of a man who had fought ably and honorably for a humani­tarian goal to which he was deeply committed. These were tears of thanksgiving that his God had seen fit to bless his labors with success.
I agree with Kevin Drum  that Obama's defense of Susan Rice is good news. Rice did nothing wrong, McCain & Graham's attacks on her are not valid, and they do not become more valid by either McCain or Graham becoming more vehement or angry (that said, I do respect both McCain and Graham). There can be endless compromises with Republicans on policy issues, but Democrats should not let themselves be gaslighted into apologizing for mistakes they did not make, admitting to flaws they do not have, confessing to crimes for which they're not guilty.

Question for Senator McCain: Have you ever relayed to the American people in good faith an intelligence analysis which later proved inaccurate?

MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT, SCOTT SHANE and ALAIN DELAQUÉRIÈRE (NYT) - FBI agent passionate, hard-charging bulldog

Being a hard-charging bulldog is good when you're investigating real crimes like murder, rape, grand theft. It's not so good when you are investigating non-crimes, or the endless pseudo-crimes ("wire fraud", "mail fraud", etc) which the FBI seems to have invented in order to distract itself from the harder work of investigating real crimes.

Michal Vasser (Haaretz) - A message to Israel's leaders

Nir Hasson (Haaretz) - Israeli peace activist: Hamas leader Jabari killed amid talks on long-term truce

Netanyahu did not have to initiate this escalation. It was an escalation of choice, not of necessity.

Karam Nachar's twitter feed

Arthur Silber - Once Upon a Time...

next post: 2/8/2013