hard heads soft hearts
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: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
Saturday, November 10, 2012
Arthur Silber (Once Upon A Time...) - To Honor the Value of a Single Life: The First Murder
Susie Madrak (Suburban Guerrilla) - On the whole
Susie Madrak (Suburban Guerrilla) - My life and welcome to it
Sasha Said - Tax Code Insanity: Couple Living Below Poverty Line Faces Higher Tax Rate Than Romney
Diane (Cab Drollery) - Granny Bird Award: Michael McGough
Violet Socks (Reclusive Leftist) - my vote tomorrow
Digby (Hullabaloo) - Blue America Scorecard
The election euphoria fades quickly, doesn't it? It brings back a flood of memories from 2000, 2004 & 2008.
2000 actually feels like a different election, in a different country. I thought, in 2000, the Jack Welch-led NBC operation, and the Michael Kelly-led center-left establishment, had been extremely biased against Gore. One example: Russert put Perot on MTP the weekend before the election, and Perot endorsed Bush, which arguably was fine, but Perot cited a ton of scurrilous allegations against Gore (including, unbelievably, that he sold his Gulf War vote for 20 minutes of extra TV time), which was not so fine. After Florida was called early, I eagerly turned to Russert for schadenfreude reasons. Obviously, the night didn't turn out how I wanted. That election turned out to be very important for policy reasons, but 12 years later, with Kelly gone, Russert gone, Carnahan gone, Wellstone gone, Holbrooke gone, all taken too soon, the personal grudges feel ridiculous, small, and slightly obscene. 12 years later, the Jeff Immelt-led NBC operation is considerably different. In 2000, Harold Ford was supposed to be what Barack Obama became. Different election, different country. Time to bury the hatchet.
2004, OTOH, feels very similar. I was just as complacent as Republicans this cycle that Kerry would be elected in 2004, especially after Zell Miller's IMO over-the-top "Spitballs" speech. Can't remember why. What I remember policy-wise was that Iraq had a successful election in early 2005, violence was down, and that was an excellent time to get out of the country. For reasons I never understood, we stayed, and the situation got worse and worse, until the surge, the Anbar awakening, and Gen. Petraeus's reaching out to the Sunni community.
The 2008 election felt very different compared to 2012, but the election aftermath feels very similar. In particular, it seems very important to remember what ended the Obama honeymoon the last time around:
1) Operation Cast Lead. I understand the importance of Sandy, jobs & income, and tax & spending arithmetic. But still, I would feel *much* better about Obama's second term if he made an immediate trip to both Israel and Pakistan, and got a much-needed earful from a broad cross-section of the Israeli, Palestinian and Pakistani people.
Nick Pinto (Village Voice) - Devastation and a Sense of Abandonment in the Rockaways
2) Drone Strikes in Pakistan. What was so infuriating about those first Obama-authorized drone strikes in 2009 was not just that they killed many people, but we were told that there were zero civilian casualties, which indicated that the national security establishment was either lying to us or lying to themselves, or both, and that war in Afghanistan under Obama would be similar to war in Iraq under Bush: technologically impressive, inspiringly brave and hard-working troops and officers, strategically clueless, hostile and indifferent to ethical questioning.
Reuters - Obama victory infuriates Pakistani drone victims
Reuters (NBC News) - 'I remember all of the pain again': Obama victory infuriates Pakistani drone victims
The 28-year-old Pakistani accuses the president of robbing him of his father, three brothers and a nephew, all killed in a U.S. drone aircraft attack a month after Obama first took office.Conor Friedersdorf (Atlantic) - 'Every Person Is Afraid of the Drones': The Strikes' Effect on Life in Pakistan
Conor Friedersdorf (Atlantic) - The Targeted-Killing Czar's Powerful Case Against the Drone War
Conor Friedersdorf (Atlantic) - How Team Obama Justifies the Killing of a 16-Year-Old American
Conor Friedersdorf (Atlantic) - Obama Apologists Are Defending a Parallel-Universe Drone War
Conor Friedersdorf (Atlantic) - How a 17-Year-Old Changed the Politics of 'Stop and Frisk'
I have one slightly different perspective on the drone war, which is that terrorism in Kashmir, and terrorism in India more generally, does seem to have declined dramatically in recent years, and it is possible, even probable, that drone strikes are one of the reasons why. But even granting that possibility, I think the drone strikes are horrible policy, and a horrible mistake, both ethically and strategically. They provide some extremely minor tactical successes in the short term, in exchange for long-term strategic defeat and ethical nightmares.
IPT News - Senior Terrorist Ilyas Kashmiri Killed
Reuters (NBC News) - Pakistan's poor to be paid to send kids to school, officials announce on 'Malala Day'
Wikipedia - Attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi
Gretawire (Fox News) - SOS HRC - REMARKS AT THE SEARCH FOR COMMON GROUND AWARDS IN HONOR OF AMBASSADOR CHRIS STEVENS
3) The insane and over-the-top vetting of Obama appointees, resulting in the unnecessary and unjustified loss of Daschle, and many other good people, as well as immense amount of wasted time and effort, and delay in filling needed jobs. I remember someone saying what was going on was not so much *vetting* of appointees as an *audit* of every aspect of every appointee's life. This is good for snoops and busybodies, and the type of golfer who makes the book of rules his best club, not so good for anyone who wants to get, quickly & efficiently and with minimum fuss, the right people in the right jobs, focused on their jobs, and doing good work for the American people.
An excellent Evan Thomas article on this topic:
Evan Thomas (Newsweek) - The Enemy Of the Good
One of the best things the Bush administration did in early 2001 was that they refused to be mau-maued into replacing Christine Todd Whitman, even though she had had SS tax problems for her nanny. Such minor tax violations are not ideal, but they are not criminal or malicious, and they should be treated like speeding tickets. Pay the back taxes, perhaps pay a fine, and move on. The Bushies did, however, remove Linda Chavez, and IMO they should not have done so. We need to focus more on what our leaders are actually doing in their actual jobs, and have a sense of perspective, not get sidetracked by these minor, often unintentional, infractions and pseudo-scandals.
The Petraeus resignation brings back those 2008 memories. I strongly believe that Petraeus should not have had to resign, and am angrier at the FBI for snooping into Petraeus's emails than I am at Petraeus. Their justification for doing so ("possible leaks of classified information and possible security breaches") seems to me flimsy and insubstantial, using big and scary words to cover up a lack of substance. My belief is that alleged concern over leaks of classified information (and the concern is very selective) has just become an excuse for power-hungry people to scare and exert control over others. Abuse of government secrecy, and not just patriotism, has become the last refuge of a scoundrel.
The Obama administration's war on whistle blowers is a consequence of this unnecessary and unjustified reverence for classified information, it is a travesty and a disgrace, and it should end.
Kevin Gosztola (Firedoglake) - Bradley Manning Indicates He Would Accept Responsibility for Transferring Information to WikiLeaks
4) Steadfast and stubborn Republican opposition, combined with lack of policy success, possibly due to lack of policy boldness.
I think it's fair to say Democrats were obsessed in 2008-2009 with getting Republican validation and cover for their policies, so that they couldn't be held solely responsible by voters. They didn't get it. But obviously that setback was also an opportunity, because if their policies succeeded, they would get more credit. The Democrats, however, were not thinking in terms of doing whatever it took to get policy success. At every stage, they did as little as possible. The stimulus was big enough to prevent depression, but not big enough to produce prosperity. The health care bill expanded coverage, but only starting in 2014. Democratic timidity produced a weak recovery, with Obama getting a grudging re-election by the American people, despite both they and he knowing he didn't deserve it, at least on economic issues.
Economic growth can come from conservative sources (corporate tax cuts, military spending) or liberal ones (green energy, universal pre-K and early childhood education). The point is not that to succeed, you must support liberal policies. The point is that your policies, whether liberal, conservative, or moderate, must succeed. You must work out what policies you think will really work, and then you must act with with the courage of your convictions, no matter how far outside the bounds of conventional wisdom your best judgements may take you.
One possible deal: pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, in exchange for greater ability of US investors to buy Mexican & South/Central American real estate?
JILLIAN RAYFIELD (Salon) - Harry Reid: Senate will pursue filibuster reform
Paul Krugman (NYT) - Falling Into the Chasm (Oct. 2010)
This is what happens when you need to leap over an economic chasm — but either can’t or won’t jump far enough, so that you only get part of the way across.Matt Stoller (Salon) - The progressive case against Obama
The key numbers mistake the Romney team seems to have made is actually quite non-ideological and understandable, and even intellectually interesting: namely, that if a conservative Republican becomes a conservative Independent, nothing important changes in terms of voter behavior, but *if* you weight your poll on the basis of party ID, your poll results will change dramatically. Hopefully, the quite subtle and fascinating intellectual error that the Romney team made will be motivation for Republicans to rediscover the delights - and, occasionally, the importance - of playful, rigorous, academic-style thinking. And perhaps, rediscover a little more affection for the academics who keep such thinking alive.
John Dickerson (Slate) - Campaign Numbers
Matthew Yglesias (Slate) - The trouble with being rich
The problem with being rich is that everyone stops telling you what they think and starts trying to get your money. You necessarily end up living your life in a fog of flattery and misinformation. And worse, because Americans genuinely admire rich people even people who aren't flattering you tend to give undue deference to your bad ideas.My main disappointment with the Romney campaign is that they did not commission a scathing anti-Democrat reggae anthem, "Gimme Hope Obama". It seems to me that with lyrics like "For every bad move that this Obama makes he got a good explanation", and "maybe pressure can make Obama see how everybody could a live as one", Romney would've been a shoo-in.
At the very least, Romney could have commisioned a Toby Keith song with lyrics like "it's the Republican way" and "Stays in Mexico".
I also agree with the commenter who said future candidates should seriously consider changing their name to Bronco Bama, a name good for at least 20 electoral votes.
Not much schadenfreude here, except it is sort of grimly amusing to see so many Republicans suddenly discovering Chris Christie is fat.
There actually is one very nice lesson from the 2012 election: Every single person who convinced themselves they could just go on stage in front of tens of millions of people and wing it, no matter how talented and accomplished they were, had their ass handed to them. This includes Obama & Eastwood, of course, but it also includes James Sinegal, a man I greatly admire, but who didn't prepare for his convention speech, and it showed. Clinton did ad-lib during his speech, but he ad-libbed only after having spent weeks and weeks in preparation. There is a big difference in ad-libbing after having done full preparation, and ad-libbing as a substitute for full-preparation.
Ezra Klein (Bloomberg) - What Mitt Romney Doesn’t Get About Responsibility
Josh Barro (Bloomberg) - Six Things We’ll Never Know About Mitt Romney
Drew Westen (NYT) - America’s Leftward Tilt?
“The only way to cut the deficit is to put Americans back to work.” That message beat the toughest austerity message by over 30 points.Dean Baker (CEPR) - the Interest Burden of the Debt Is Near a Post-War Low
Dean Baker (Guardian) - Saving the Planet or 'Fixing' the Debt
I think it's fair to say there's an overwhelming mandate in this election for policies that lower unemployment, and increase take-home pay. Advocates of austerity should state how much their austerity would cost in terms of jobs and take-home pay, and state why it is an acceptable cost for a very minor, nebulous benefit. The only economic reason to cut deficits are to 1) lower interest rates 2) make people feel better, and 1) interest rates are already historically low 2) As a pick-me-up, I prefer a walk to cutting Social Security.
Paul Krugman (NYT) - Floating Exchange Rates Protective Against Financial Attacks
It seems to me pretty clear that people who set up the Eurozone & the ECB were guilty of economic malpractice. My belief is that Spain, Greece, Portugal, Italy should get out already, take the big financial hit, then watch their economies recover like magic in the ensuing years, but I accept that the right thing to do might be to muddle along.
The importance of floating exchange rates is also why I was somewhat appalled by Yglesias's musing that Romney's military/corporate Keynesianism might be better for the economy short-term than Obama's austerity. Maybe true, but a Romney/Ryan victory would also legitimize Austrian/gold-standard/fixed-exchange-rate ideas, increasing the chance of policy disasters like the Euro or the Argentine Currency Board.
Paul Krugman (NYT) - Soup Kitchens Caused the Great Depression
Paul Krugman (NYT) - Disasters and Politics
let me just take a moment to flag an issue others have been writing about: the weird Republican obsession with killing FEMA. . .It’s really hard to think of a public service less likely to be suitable for privatization, and given the massive inequality of impacts by state, it really really isn’t block-grantable.AP (Herald-Tribune) - Florida election status: still counting
Ted Barlow (LIGHTBULB JOKE WAREHOUSE) - Obstructing the Voter
NOTICE: PLEASE DO NOT FORGET TO VOTE NEXT WEDNESDAY.Kevin Drum (Mother Jones) - A Case Study of Republicans vs. Democrats on FEMA
At a deep ideological level, Republicans believe that federal bureaucracies are inherently inept, so when Republicans occupy the White House they have no interest in making the federal bureaucracy work. And it doesn't.I find myself less interested in issues of money, especially Wall Street issues, and more interested in issues of time, space & energy. I feel if we make good use if our time, space and energy, money matters will take care of themselves, while if we don't make good use of our real resources, no amount of budget balancing, fiscal responsibility or neatly filled out spreadsheets will be able to mask the reality on the ground.
John C. Bogle - Don't Count On It! The Perils Of Numeracy (2002)
In terms of making good use of my time, space and energy, I feel the best thing I can do is spend less time (but not quite no time) on the Internet, so I'm planning for the next post to be a ways away. My contact info is up top, for anyone who wants to reach me before then. Let's hope things turn out as well as they can, for all of us.
next post: 2/8/2013
Monday, November 05, 2012
Susie Madrak (Suburban Guerilla) - Occupy Sandy
Arthur Silber (Once Upon A Time...) - Against Voting: "As long as we live, we shall have to live together with ourselves"
My opinion is, I believe in voting, even in non-swing states, and even though voting makes me complicit in a system which contains great evils, because I believe there is a greater chance of a good things happening, if me and people like me vote, than if we don't. Who can deny that the Indian state is an institution of great evil, or at very least an institution with great evils? Yet Gandhi did not think it a waste of time to create such an institution. Who can deny that the Jim Crow south was a system of great evil, or at least a system with great evils? Yet MLK did not think it a waste of time to try to join the system, and fight for the right to vote in such a system.
It seems to me worth pointing out that the election is very close, and could easily turn out either way. Nate Silver has an instructive analogy:
Mr. Obama is not a sure thing, by any means. It is a close race. His chances of holding onto his Electoral College lead and converting it into another term are equivalent to the chances of an N.F.L. team winning when it leads by a field goal with three minutes left to play in the fourth quarter. . ."Leading by a field goal with 3 minutes to play" does not seem to me either a cause for celebration among Democrats, or for despair among Republicans. It's a close game, and anything could happen, depending on the free choices of free individuals.
I feel a bit guilty for my somewhat gloaty, sneering "teach rich people a badly needed lesson" line in the previous post, so let me apologize for it. The urge to gloat also caused me to abandon one of my beliefs, Roublen's Iron Law of Political Mulishness, which is that any time you set out to "teach people a lesson", the lesson they learn will not be the lesson you intended to teach. "Send a message to rich people" would have been a better phrase than "Teach a lesson to rich people".
One thought on the moderate desire for an end to bitterness and polarization: There can only be an end to polarization when there is a broad agreement on the ends, and principled disagreement on the means. For example, when both sides agree all Americans should have health care (and not just emergency room care), but Democrats want government health care, and Republicans want insurance company health care, there is room for compromise, and no need for polarization. But when you are arguing whether people deserve health care at all, you can't really compromise: you have to fight it out.
Once you have accepted the right of people to have a seat at the table, and are arguing about the quality of the chairs, you can have an end to bitterness and polarization. When people are fighting for their very right to have a seat, however, the fight must go on, though we must try to to make it a clean fight, without malice, bitterness, hatred and evil.
next post: 12/14/2012
Saturday, November 03, 2012
Susie Madrak (Suburban Guerrilla) - Horrible
Arthur Silber (The Sacred Moment) - The Endless Wounds of War, and a Remarkable Story of Hope (2004)
TERRY KREPEL (Media Matters) - Fox's Own Experts Reject Fox Narrative That Obama Deliberately Abandoned Americans In Libya
Eric Boehlert (Huffington Post) - Benghazi
Kevin Drum (Mother Jones) - Frum endorsement of Romney
"If Obama wins, congressional Republicans will go completely ape and destroy the country. They will deliberately tank the economy and then impeach the president. Therefore, we have to give into them and turf Obama out of office."
It's appalling that people are seriously making this argument. . .No country can survive with this attitude. If congressional Republicans are truly a destructive and irrational force in American politics. . .the answer is to fight them, not to surrender to them.If Frum is obliged to vote for Romney in order for strong Republicans to not be angry, is he also obliged to buy into their beliefs about Obama's treasonous behavior in Benghazi?
There are many reasons to vote for Obama, but surely among the more satisfying reasons (though not the best, or most persuasive) is to teach the rich and powerful people of America and the world a badly needed lesson, that there are things money can't buy and power can't seize, and the American Presidency is one of them.
next post: 12/14/2012