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.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?
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


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
Imagine that we listen to our Campaign to Fix the Debt friends and find a way to pay down the debt while neglecting any steps to curb global warming. 
We’ll be able to tell our children and grandchildren that they don’t have to pay interest on government bonds (they also won’t be receiving interest on government bonds, but let’s not complicate matters with logic) as they evacuate their homes ahead of flood waters. Undoubtedly they will be very thankful for this great benefit that we will have bestowed on them
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

If you believe that you are qualified to vote, your polling station is the OLD ABANDONED RAILROAD STATION on 115th Street. 


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

Comments: Post a Comment