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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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

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