“What the lobbyists want, what Wall Street wants, is they want Etch A Sketch Senators. They want the ones who will clear the screen and change their minds to do whatever big money tells them to do. That’s what they want. But let me tell you — I’ve been fighting for middle class families for years and nothing — nothing — will shake that commitment.”—Elizabeth Warren (via manicchill)
I don’t know what’s going to happen—but I think that knocking over the entire Affordable Care Act is too sweeping an act for a Supreme Court that doesn’t want to be viewed as overly political. This is a case that demands a clear and principled ruling and should delineate the bounds of federal power for decades. It’s a case that law students will read for a century. The court needs to draw a clear line for what is and is not acceptable.
The mandate could stay or go. But I think that knocking over the entire act is too much of an overreach for a court that doesn’t want to look like it’s overreaching. And drawing a principled line where the mandate is impermissible but other ways of using the tax code are permissible is very difficult. Ultimately, I don’t see a terribly sweeping ruling from the court. My guess is that, at most, the court will say, “The mandate is unconstitutional. This is why. Here’s how to fix it.” Or, just as likely, “We’re very worried about he constitutionality of the mandate, so don’t do it again. Or if you do, don’t go any further.”
Anti-Government Extremist and some other libertarians has provided an excellent case study in why endorsements matter. They have provided a list of bullet points where Obama has, allegedly, done great harm to civil liberties. They claim that Obama’s presidency has been “a third Bush term.” They argue that people who really care about civil liberties should vote for Ron Paul.
The problem, of course, is that Obama’s stances and actions on every single one of these policies has differ significantly from Bush’s. Of course, determining whether these details are significant is a tricky thing to do. Obama tried and failed to shut down Guantanamo. Did he try hard enough? Would trying harder have accomplished anything? Forming an informed opinion on a question like that is difficult. It is both unreasonable and unrealistic to expect every voter to do it.
Fortunately, not everybody has to. If I’m concerned about civil liberties, I can simply follow the endorsements of other people who are concerned about civil liberties. If, for example, the ACLU were to endorse Ron Paul, I might comfortably believe that Ron Paul is the candidate for civil libertarians. If you’re uncertain about who to vote for, find somebody you trust and vote the way they vote. That’s what most people do. It might be an organization. It might be a parent, child, or coworker. It could be a union.
When people accuse Obama’s supporters (or Paul’s supporters) of voting for “a brand” rather than “a set of policies,” they generally imply that this is a bad thing. I disagree. Brands contain a huge amount of information. It’s a sensible and well-trod shortcut. This is how society conveys information.
$540Mthe amount the Mega Millions jackpot is going for this weekend, which is a record by the way
$176Mthe amount it would cost to theoretically buy every single ticket combination possible in the lottery
$117Mthe amount, after federal (not state) taxes, you’d gain if you bought…
Still, it’s one of few lotteries that actually offers a really good Expected Value (EV) on a risk-adjusted basis. You should buy a few tickets if you believe in gambling at all.
Fun aside - this expected value thing used to create teams of slot machine players. With the old mechanical tumbler-based slot machines with displayed group jackpots, it was possible to mathematically generate a positive EV. At that point, a team would occupy all the slot machines and play until the jackpot ran out. This is why modern machine odds are computer-determined - to keep flocks from descending when it’s profitable (on an infinite horizon) to play until you hit the big one.
When gambling for odds that long and a payout that high, it is important to consider the potential payout in terms of how useful the money is rather than how much money is expected. For most of us, the utility of the first million dollars is a lot higher than the utility of the second million.
Here’s an example:
Suppose I offer you a choice between $10 million or a fifty-fifty shot at $100 million.1 With ten million, you’re comfortably set for life. And it’s a sure bet. With the $30 million, there’s a fifty-fifty chance you get nothing.
Your expected payout for the fifty-fifty chance is $15 million. Nevertheless, most people will go with the sure bet at the $10 million. This is not because they are risk averse. The same people would happily take a 50-50 shot at $30 over $10. It is because at very large (and very small) numbers the utility of a dollar goes down.
With $10 million, you’re comfortably set for life. The calculation most of us make would be “comfortably set for life” vs. “comfortably set for life with some really expensive toys.” The second one is not worth twice as much as the first.
Use your five bucks to buy a nice sandwich instead of that lottery ticket2. You’ll enjoy the sandwich. You would probably enjoy the money a million times more than the sandwich. Maybe even ten million times more. But not a hundred million times more.
Or you enjoy the feeling that there’s a small chance that you might have a $500 million dollar ticket in your pocket, maybe that’s worth more than the sandwich. Maybe buying a ticket will facilitate a dream about what you could do with that kind of money. Perhaps that’s worth a few bucks.
But unless you already have a few hundred million to your name, it’s not a good decision on purely economic grounds.
Some restrictions apply. Specifically, your 50-50 shot is not transferable, so you can’t just go sell it to a bank for $14 million. Also, you have to spend it all yourself. This should prevent some altruistic jerk from screwing up my hypo by pointing our that you should give away the money to the Red Cross or some organization that would benefit in a reasonably linear manner from the bigger payout. ↩
I don’t even know how much that ticket costs. Is it a $1 ticket? Whatever. ↩
From the least to the greatest,
all are greedy for gain;
prophets and priests alike,
all practice deceit.
They dress the wound of my people
as though it were not serious.
‘Peace, peace,’ they say,
when there is no peace.
At the time, there were a whole lot of people insisting that the status quo was just fine when, in reality, Jerusalem was about to be sacked. They were pretty upset with Jeremiah for pointing this out—as if this was his fault. For those who would prefer a more secular comparison, I’m reminded of Grima Wormtongue blaming “Gandalf Stormcrow” for bringing tidings that Rohan was about to be sacked as if the person bringing bad news is the cause of that bad news. Do not be false prophets, Wormtongues, or Newttongues.
Things are not okay. The conservative line is that the only problem we have with racial inequality is the people who keep pointing out how we have a problem with racial inequality. It would be a joke if so many people didn’t believe it.
Look at numbers. Look at trends. Look at data. Willful ignorance does not solve the problem. If you claim that a problem as glaring and obvious as our racial inequality problem doesn’t exist, I can only assume that you just don’t think inequality is a problem. And when you go a step further and criticize those who are trying to solve the problem, I can only assume that you’re trying to preserve racial inequality for some reason.
This is not new. Nothing I’m writing here is particularly insightful or original. It’s been better said a thousand times. But it’s on my mind. We have a problem. And when you refuse to acknowledge what’s plain as day in order to prevent others from trying to solve the problem, you perpetuate and continue our ugly history of racial inequality.
I accidentally watched a Fox News clip discussing Obama's comments on Trayvon Martin
I’m about to go Catbawse1 over this one. Seriously. They had a guy on who claimed that Obama’s eminently reasonable comments on this “controversy” stemmed from his apparent desire to divide and destroy America.
Fox News, go away already. A kid was killed. That’s not a controversy. You’re embarrassing us.
Seriously, this is an entire vat full of unacceptable. Maybe later I’ll manage to condense that vat down into something more digestible. But now I just can’t handle it.
For those unfamiliar, “going Catbawse” is when you have important and intelligent things to say getting gradually frustrated with the world, posting pictures of cat butts, deleting your Tumblr, and emerging a while later to post more cat butts because you just can’t handle it all. ↩
Ignoring the Constitutional argument, I do not think that forcing people to purchase health insurance from private corporations is as bad a thing as most of you seem to.
I mean, I’m sympathetic to the reasoning. But I have a hard time seeing it as exploitative. The ACA…
I don’t really understand the back-end stuff enough to argue with this. But I do think you’re now talking about something very substantively different from “this forced consumer behavior is exploitative.” Maybe private insurance companies are financially unstable? But if so I’m not sure how providing them with low-risk assets makes that worse per se.
What I really had issue with was this:
The pyramid of exploitation and extraction created by provider / insurance company dynamics is at the heart of the American health care system’s problems, in which a few people in the middle pay for the extravagances of the high end and the irresponsibility of the low end.
I do not see that happening. Providers hate insurers and vice versa, generally speaking. Not to get out of my depth but are you sure you’re not talking about banking?
Also I do want to point out that you’re conflating actuarial unfairness with economic unfairness. You and I are young dudes in good health. Health insurance is probably going to be a losing lottery for us over our lifetimes, actuarially speaking, i.e., we will probably pay in more money (especially discounted for time) than we take out in claims. I can’t speak for you, but I still want to buy health insurance! Because I am risk averse. A lot of people who will be “forced” to buy health insurance under the mandate would really like to have health insurance, only they couldn’t afford it until the ACA allowed them to remain on their parents plan or use COBRA later or receive a subsidy to purchase it through an exchange. A lot of those people in the middle you’re talking about might be losing money long-term vs being uninsured, but they’re getting the benefit of being insured, which, to use the parlance, is a BFD.
Let’s also take a step back and realize how close we are to that single-payer system that the three of us want. Medicare recipients, medicaid recipients, and public employees covered by an employer plan all receive health insurance solely from public funding. Those below 400% of the Federal poverty level are eligible for subsidies—which is not a full-out single payer, but certainly a step toward it. Once the ACA is fully up and running, what percentage of people will have healthcare paid for purely by private funds? (This is before we start talking tax credits.)
The smart money seems to be betting that the individual mandate will be struck down. Fine. Great. I never liked that mandate to begin with. I’ll be glad to see it gone. I don’t think it accomplishes much of use anyway.
That said, I’m concerned at what else the decision would unsettle. Because we use tax incentives for all sorts of thing. Can I credibly argue that the government is “mandating” that I have a home mortgage? After all, my current lack of home mortgage means I’m paying substantially more in taxes than I otherwise would.
The issue with the individual mandate is that it compels the individual to participate in the insurance system, whereas a consumer otherwise has a choice to mortgage / not mortgage property. I agree that there’s some interesting debate to be had around that point - after all, most people without houses aren’t in them because of an inability to acquire them. Is it really a choice? That seems to me to be the most credible argument for health care: the idea that it’s insurance that everyone implicitly participates in, a utility product with nearly perfectly-inelastic demand.
That’s more of a functional view than a legal view, though. Conservative courts are notoriously poor at distinguishing between choice and “choice”. Plessy v. Ferguson, right?
But I think you can safely kill the individual mandate without endangering the mortgage interest deduction. Which isn’t to say I love either policy; you’re just comparing pineapples to hand grenades. Yeah, if you squint. But.
Going from owning and paying a mortgage to renting will result in a tax increase for me. It could be something like $700, depending on how itemization comes out. Yes, I have the option of opting out—but it’s costing me in the form of increased taxes. And there isn’t even a hardship exemption. If the mandate remains in place and I decide I don’t want health insurance, it will cost me $695.
Granted, I think the interest rate deduction is stupid. But aside from the way the language is structured, what’s the legal distinction?
I'm concerned about the upcoming healthcare law ruling
The smart money seems to be betting that the individual mandate will be struck down. Fine. Great. I never liked that mandate to begin with. I’ll be glad to see it gone. I don’t think it accomplishes much of use anyway.
That said, I’m concerned at what else the decision would unsettle. Because we use tax incentives for all sorts of thing. Can I credibly argue that the government is “mandating” that I have a home mortgage? After all, my current lack of home mortgage means I’m paying substantially more in taxes than I otherwise would.
Mitt Romney is like the scrawny kid in elementary school ...
… who just can’t quite manage to get his chin over the pull-up bar, no matter how long he struggles. Eventually the gym teacher gets tired of him hanging there depressing everybody and tells him he got close enough to count and everybody can finally go to their next class.
That’s what’s happening as the Republican Party Elders line up to endorse Romney. He won some primaries. He lost a lot of primaries. He can’t credibly claim a majority support. But everybody is getting despondent. So good job, Romney! You won the primaries!
hey! so my representative, the colossal phallus scott garrett, is in charge of the subcommittee that oversees fannie and freddie. he's from the district where NJ gerrymanders all its republicans. anyways, as he runs these magnificent institutions, what should i say to him about the 'must evict' policy? (to give you some insight into who i'm dealing with, he voted against katrina aid b/c we weren't paying for it. This was in 2005 before people did this.)
Fortunately, frustration with Freddie Mac is a bipartisan frustration—so this is something Scott Garrett might be willing to listen to. The conservative position on Freddie Mac is likely to be that we should wind Freddie down in a rapid but reasonably orderly manner. Here are a few things you might emphasize to Mr. Garrett.
A private organization, Boston Community Capital, has made an offer for the property.
Freddie has accepted the price—and there is no other offer. Rejecting the offer costs taxpayers money and means we have to pay to maintain a house we don’t want. This is the height of bureaucratic incompetence.
This is really about getting distressed assets off the public balance sheets in a way that protects taxpayers.
Freddie Mac lost its right to engage in broad sociological experiments when it went into receivership.
An innovative, private organization that is pioneering a solution to the housing crisis. Freddie Mac’s policy is, in effect, a government obstacle to private solutions.
The private sector doesn’t have a policy like this. Why isn’t Freddie following its example?
Have u seen a proton or a neutron? a photon? a glacier? How about Idaho in person? Ive seen none of the above. I hate sarcasm, its useless, too easy and manipulative. Just say what you have to say. There will always be people who take advantage of every system. Policies should anticipate this and allow, say 1-5% error and move on. Success is gauged by unsuccessful people, so for our system to keep working, u need people in the gutter, happy enough to not riot. Enter welfare, stage left.
Fair enough. I’ll try the less sarcastic version.
The term “welfare queen” is frequently used to claim that there are a broad group of people whose sole source of income is welfare, who are uninterested or unwilling to work, and who live reasonably comfortable lives. In addition to invoking all sorts of race, gender, and class-based nastiness, this language is used to advance some truly terrible policy positions.
In reality, our social-safety net puts a strong incentive to work for those who can work. Cash assistance welfare is both very small and generally time limited. In other words, has all the restriction conservatives want it to have, if not more. Proposals like adding and humiliating drug testing for welfare recipients shows that the conservatives have already gotten all their reasonable restrictions in place and now want to use the humiliation of the poor as a wedge issue.
There are other types of public benefits than cash assistance welfare that are less restricted. For example, Suplemental Security Income (SSI Disability). This one is tied to people who can’t work—or can only work a few hours a week. We also have food stamps, medicaid, and varieties of public housing—which are limited to use on food, medical care, and housing respectively. None of this is going to buy luxuries. Even if you wrap all this together, you’re looking at extreme poverty.
Then there are the big entitlements of Medicare and Social Security. Those are really deferred earnings programs and ought to be discussed separately.
Welfare fraud, like every other kind of fraud, is a limited problem. We’ll call that the 1-5% error rate. Like all the other sorts of fraud, it’s criminal. You can go to jail for it. The laws there are adequate.
When somebody tosses out the word “welfare queen,” I hear, “I don’t know anything about public benefits programs but I have very strong feelings about people who are different than I am. I get pretty upset at the thought that some poor people might not be suffering enough. Also, I’m worried that my weird envy of people subsisting at the poverty line suggests that I need to rethink my life, but I can’t because I have too much anger.”
I’m slipping on the “less sarcasm” front. Seriously, though. I don’t mind calls to reform any element of our public benefits system. There are problems. But people who talk about “welfare queens” clearly don’t know enough about public benefits to have informed decisions.
I’m on something of a quest to track down some of the world’s more elusive fictions.
If I can find a unicorn, I can cut off its horn and use it for, um, male enhancement. Or something like that.
If I can find Santa Claus I can kick his ass for that one time he brought me deodorant instead of a bicycle.
And if I can actually locate a real-live welfare queen, I can shame her to reaffirm my prejudices and advance my abhorrent policy goals.
I hear enough about all of these that they must exist somewhere. As we learned from Fox News, if you repeat it enough, it must be true. That’s where I need your help, Tumblr. I’m having trouble finding any evidence that any of them are actually real.
I read a book that spoke pretty persuasively about unicorns. I thought I was getting close, then I learned that Harry Potter wasn’t true.
At one point, I thought I found Santa … but I’d barely gotten in a dozen punches before his beard fell off. He was a fake. And now I’m not allowed in South Carolina.
The closest thing I’ve found to a real, live “welfare queen” is a family living in extreme poverty who I kind of thought didn’t do the best job of budgeting. (I also found some racist YouTube videos.)
Can you do better? Can you find one of these? Can you find evidence that any of these actually exist? Can you find a credible news article from, say, the past decade about any of these? I mean, the real things—no shoddy imitations. If it doesn’t appear to virgins under a full moon, it’s not a unicorn. If the list isn’t checked twice, it’s not Santa. And if you can’t find somebody living comfortably and stably on public benefits, you haven’t found a “welfare queen.”
Can you find me a shred of evidence that any of these actually exist?
If you’re going to make a massive and embarrassing blunder, don’t involve a beloved childhood toy that every opponent and reporter secretly wants an excuse to play with. Gingrich has probably directed his campaign to keep this blunder in the news because he’s still trying to get his picture just right.
If you are inverviewing candidates for a job, don’t do this. As a preliminary matter, it is wildly inappropriate to pry into non-publicly available, personal information that isn’t directly relevant to job performance, unless that job requires some kind of heightened security clearance. If it’s behind a password or a locked door, it’s a personal space.
Just as importantly, there could be serious legal repercussions, depending on the state.1 In many states, hiring discrimination on grounds such as religion, marital status, political affiliation, sexual orientation and so on is illegal. Even asking a question like, “Are you involved in a church” could get you in trouble on that front. If you snoop a Facebook profile that has all that information and then don’t hire somebody, there could be serious questions about what you saw and why you made that decision. You don’t know what you will find behind that login—and you’re implicitly conditioning employment in being permitted into a space where somewhere somebody has a reasonable expectation of privacy. When somebody needs to choose between being denied employment or turning over access to whatever intimacies lie behind that wall, the person forcing that decision should worry about serious sexual harassment liability. You wouldn’t ask somebody to undress for your pleasure in a job interview. In a few cases,
Finally, remember that stuff about never telling anybody your password? You probably have a policy like that. So does Facebook. Specifically,
You will not solicit login information or access an account belonging to someone else.
You will not share your password, (or in the case of developers, your secret key), let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account.
In legal terms, we’re looking at breach of contract and potentially tortious interference with contract. If you have a particularly zealous prosecutor, you might even worry about the hacking-related criminal laws regarding unauthorized access to a computer system.
It shouldn’t take the fear of legal liability to take discourage employers from breaching that personal/professional barrier. In most cases, it doesn’t. But the job market is tight—and a few employers have realized that they hold more cards than they used to. This is a problem that should have a straight up market solution, if the job market wasn’t totally broken. Candidates should be comfortable walking out of interviews with employers who ask inappropriate questions, knowing that there are other jobs available.
Please don’t consider anything written by anybody on the internet, including myself, as legal advice. The laws vary from country to country, state to state, and sometimes city to city. Similarly, specific facts about your circumstances may affect what you should do. If you’re looking for a proper legal opinion, you need to contact an attorney in your jurisdiction. ↩
We can slash the U.S. military budget. Dramatically.
Our dual goals in Afghanistan are to reach something resembling lasting peace and withdraw. The speed and manner of withdrawal hinge on whether we beleive we have a chance of accomplishing something like lasting peace.
Where possible, we have a responsibility to clean up our messes, but we should not use this responsibility to advance imperialist ends.
Non-intervention is neither synonymous with pacifism nor inherently concerned about the welfare of others. There is, of course, room for overlap.
To the extent that private non-profits can accomplish humanitarian ends, the government should not get in the way.
To the extent that private non-profits cannot currently accomplish humanitarian goals, we should not scale back critical government, humanitarian programs.
When forced to choose between evils, we want to choose the lesser evil. Even then, we can be upset with how evil the lesser evil is.
When evaluating any proposed intervention (military or otherwise), we should consider probability of success is a critical metric (and probably assume that the actual probability of success is lower than we anticipate and way lower than the general on Fox News says it is).
We should be very suspicious about the motives of those who call for military intervention on humanitarian grounds.
Humanitarian efforts to save lives and alleviate suffering are important.
Randians are sort of jerks.
Drone strikes are creepy.
Policywise, Bonnie and I might agree on a lot of this—which makes me wonder why she considers herself a libertarian and I consider myself something of a leftist. Is one of us just wrong?
Let me offer a couple other things where we might disagree.
When faced with an important humanitarian goal, if there is no private solution in sight, it is more important to make sure the right thing is done than to fret about the proper role of government.
If we forgot that we left unexploded bombs all over Cambodia during the Vietnam War that children are now salvaging for scrap metal, we really ought to go back and clean up our litter—even where that means taxpayer money.
If we’re faced with a situation like the Rwandan genocide where the timely and efficient deployment of peacekeeping troops could realistically prevent around a million deaths, we should not rule out peacekeepers.
When somebody is indiscriminately firing heavy weapons into a civilian population and we have the ability to efficiently destroy those weapons, we should not categorically rule out airstrikes.
When U.S. made weapons are causing an increase in violence in a foreign war, some minimal arms control efforts are reasonable.
If an effort to provide food, shelter, medical care, basic security, and so on is doomed to cause more harm than good, of course we should avoid it. But when we have a solveable problem, a viable public solution, and no viable private solution, are we really going to throw up our hands and pretend we can’t do anything? And if we aren’t going to, are we really libertarians?
One of my recent posts criticizing libertarians has made the rounds of some libertarian bloggers. The initial responses were less insightful—but earlier today I got some thoughtful responses from EvilTeaBagger and TheHipsterLibertarian. I think these merit some discussion. Let’s kick the discourse up a notch.
As a preliminary issue, I should mention that my initial post criticized a strain of libertarian thinking that unreflectively conflated anti-interventionist views with anti-war views. This isn’t to say that the two are incompatible—just that they are not the same thing and there frequently is tension between the two. If, for example, deploying symbolic military presence might avert a larger civil war, the anti-interventionist view may not be the anti-war view. When a war could be averted through humanitarian intervention or infrastructure building, or other foreign aid, the peacemaker and the anti-interventionist may part ways again. Those who care deeply about international peace may, at times, align with the anti-interventionists. The motivations for peacemaking and mere non-intervention are very different.
This frustrates me on a couple of levels. First, I find false piety grating. If you think we should immediately withdraw from Afghanistan because you think the cost of the war is to high or that war in Afghanistan is not a legitimate exercise of government power, say it. But don’t tell me you care about the people of Afghanistan unless you actually care enough to, at a minimum, read up on some of the internal tensions in Afghanistan. Second, I worry that the whole “Ron Paul is against the war” thing is misleading a lot of people who consider peace an important end in itself. Ron Paul is against U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. But if the U.S. isn’t involved in a War, Ron Paul is also against doing anything to try to stop that war.
The next hangup I’m going to have with both Mr. Bagger and Ms. Libertarian is that they will want to talk about individual action and motivation. For example, they both listed some impressive and generous actions they have taken that could constitute peacemaking if we construe it broadly enough. This is all great stuff.1 But when we talk politics, we need to look beyond individual actions and beliefs and look at trends, systemic pressures, and so on. How do groups of people behave? Individual actions are not a cogent foreign policy unless we believe that those actions are so sufficient that no collective effort is necessary.
Thus far, about four libertarians have demanded that I provide evidence that libertarians are less generous than others or are otherwise bad people. I’m not going to do it. I’m not even going to do the Google search to see if anybody else has done the study because that’s a red herring.2 How generous are libertarians? Not generous enough that their personal giving can take the place of a cogent foreign policy. When you espouse a foreign policy that says that we should not use tax money to stop war, relieve famine, or stop disease, or otherwise engage in humanitarian efforts, you have taken what I will generously call a controversial stance. Your personal generosity, while laudable, does not make this stance less problematic.
Ms. Libertarian raises an important argument:
Involving governments in humanitarian efforts politicizes and complicates things, often making the situation worse and creating mistrust among the actors involved.
We can’t neatly compartmentalize public and private humanitarian efforts, particularly when many of the private efforts receive direct or indirect public support. You take the informed (albeit extreme) stance that any government support for NGOs will do more harm than good. This could be a stance motivated solely by a genuine concern about those the NGOs seek to serve. But … I don’t think that’s a libertarian stance. The pure libertarian stance suggests no government involvement would be appropriate, even when those who could be helped want the help and we’re confident that the help will outweigh any incidental harm.
So let’s put this one to the test. The Iraq war is over—but we have a lot of contractors there rebuilding. Are you willing to keep spending money to finish rebuilding the country in cooperation and consultation with the Iraqi government, the people of Iraq, and anybody else you want to include? If you think we’re doing something the wrong way, we can change it and do it differently. The important question is whether you’re willing to spend the public money to do it right. If not, surely you can understand why I would question your commitment to global peace and stability?
Ms. Libertarian asks, “Can you make similar attestations to your personal giving habits?” I can, but I won’t. In the interest of avoiding unseemly posturing, I’m going to pass on the invitation to list my own volunteer hours and charitable donations. I might talk about fostering and rehoming dogs, though. Because I really like my dog. I fostered him for like a day. Then I was like, screw this. He’s mine now. Nobody is taking him away from me. Carolyn suggested we ask to “adopt” him and that saying things like “I’ll fight you for this dog” wouldn’t help. Anyway, I just taught him to walk along a beam and he’s going to compete in agility with the fancy dogs. And when he wins, he’ll be all, “I grew up on the mean streets of Detroit. You can’t handle my level of authenticity.” ↩
I will, however, note that if we’re counting all charitable gifts, I would expect to see higher rates of charitable donation in places with higher church membership. That will, of course, correlate with the more conservative parts of the country. Gifts to churches are a bit difficult to weigh because they are a hybrid of a charitable gift and a membership fee to a civic institution. On the other hand, I would expect participation in overseas NGOs to be overwhelmingly dominated by the political left. But this is all stuff we do individually—and if we’re talking politics, we’re talking about what we do together. ↩
In principle, I don’t have any problem at all with people who write anonymously or pseudonymously. But in practice I find it incredibly troubling.
It’s clear that, for some, this is really the only way to express oneself or to publish critical points of view. There are bloggers who have a credible fear of persecution based on identity, religious belief, or political opinion. For them, the ability to publish anonymously is incredibly important. And it’s important for us too, as we wouldn’t be able to hear their voices otherwise. That’s why I allow anonymous comments and questions on my blog.
But when people write anonymously or pseudonymously online, they must recognize that they face a real challenge.
Despite a number of compelling arguments against anonymity and pseudonymity, I continue to write pseudonymously. While writing under my real name might help me be taken more seriously, the problem is probably less that I’ve chosen a pseudonym and more that I’ve chosen a stupid pseudonym. People would take me a lot more easily if I chose a name that invoked power, dignity, and intelligence rather than one that invoked vegetables, compression, and falling pianos. But changing things after all these years would take, what, five minutes? That could seriously cut into my coffee drinking time.
In seriousness, I think Ari overstates the harms of anonymity and understates its advantages. He is right, of course, that a lot of horrible stuff is written anonymously. But anybody who has read what their highschool acquaintances are writing on Facebook knows that people are perfectly willing to write horrible and stupid things under their own names. I suspect the most-vicious of the drive-by carping is anonymous because of its drive-by fashion. Somebody who sends an anonymous comment to the effect of, “ur soooo stoopid i threw up in my mouth” is likely somebody who followed a link in, read part of one article, and has no intention of returning to see if there is a response. If your only reaction is “u r prolly a losermouth basementbreather” you’re unlikely to take the time required to register. The internet makes the human connection that dampens viciousness difficult. More importantly, it makes it less likely that empathy will snag somebody who isn’t looking for it. We know from waiting in line at a Bureau of Motor Vehicles behind the guy who screams at the poor clerk that people can still be atrocious even if they’ve just handed somebody two or three forms of government-issued identification.
I also think Ari overlooks an advantage of pseudonymity. Specifically, compartmentalization. Most of the bloggers who have criticized anonymity or pseudonymity are those who have a professional interest in a widely read blog connected with their name. Journalists. Technology personalities (or whatever you call people who write tech blogs). Academics, to a lesser extent. For those of us whose work rarely overlaps with the blog, there are fewer advantages to having the first google hit for your name be a blog. I try not to write anything I won’t stand behind in other contexts—but the internet has a lot of information on me. I like to keep the books on a shelf, the dishes in a cabinet, and the dirty laundry in the hamper.
It makes it much harder, perhaps impossible, for Romney to begin to tack back to the center to appeal to the centrist voters, an absolute necessity for the fall campaign after the free-range extremism of the Republican primary. Every time Romney makes a move, or even a head-fake, it becomes an Etch-a-Sketch moment.
Now, because it’s been said out loud, everyone will be expecting the inevitable flip-flop, and will call it out the second it happens. By calling attention to it, Mitt can’t do it anymore without looking like an idiot. Bro will have to bite the bullet to go moderate. He should fire that adviser, stat.
I think Etch-a-Sketch Romney is a bit different than other candidates. Sure, candidates will shift the rhetoric and emphasis of their campaigns after the primaries. We present ourselves in different ways to different audiences. In other cases facts change and people adjust policy proposals to account for them. Sometimes we learn that some of our ideas just weren’t as practical as we thought they were and we need to revise them. There is nothing duplicitous about this.
In the world of politics, of course, we should expect some duplicity. A post-primary shift to the center is likely to be more than a mere rhetorical shift. But in most cases, the actual policy shift isn’t that much. John McCain, for example, moved far right in the primary. He stayed pretty far right in the general election. (Also, he decided to run with Palin as “a team of mavericks,” perhaps because he thought that a country in economic free fall wanted somebody impulsive and unpredictable at the helm. It didn’t work.) Politicians waffle.
But in most cases the policy positions remain more or less constant. Romney, on the other hand, has shown a willingness to adjust his stance on anything in hopes of getting elected. If Santorum were to win the primary,1 he would still run as a “family values” Catholic. The sweater vest stays on. Voters have the impression that Romney will say or do anything for votes because Romney would say or do anything for votes.
Any politician is going to see if there’s a way to tweak the picture drawn in the primary. Adjust the lighting. Maybe add a few more details to distract or contextualize some of the rougher edges. But Romney seems unusually willing to just flip the Etch-a-Sketch and start over.
Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch-A-Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.
The correct answer, of course, is “Mitt Romney is a man of principle. He’s going to stand up for the same principles in the primary as in the general election. The American people will vote for a strong, principled voice rather than a tax and waste liberal.” Yes, in Romney’s case, that’s a laugh line. But if you’re Romney’s spokesman, your job is to practice it in front of a mirror a hundred times a day until you can say it with a straight face.
Instead, the spokesman made the Etch-A-Sketch comment. The day after the Illinois victory should have been an easy press day for Romney. Santorum was starting to look irrelevant. Now the Romney campaign is in damage control after a spokesman as much as admitted that Romney will say anything to get votes. It was a phenomenally dumb comment.
But … I wonder if it was the worst possible answer to the question. Could he have done worse?
"The political spectrum is more of a loop. Romney figures that if he runs as far right as possible now he can flip around and run as a radical leftist in the fall."
Mr. Romney doesn’t believe that will be a problem because he doesn’t believe in anything.
I’ll get you a response on that as soon as we focus test my possible answers.
Previously, Freddie Mac returned my phone call. Freddie suggested that I contact the FHFA. While it’s probably not fair of Freddie to blame FHFA for this policy, Freddie is right that FHFA might be more receptive to public pressure and could make them change the policy. So I called FHFA (and asked a few thousand of my closest friends to call FHFA and ask all their closest friends to do the same thing.) The Freddie Mac rep seemed to know the situation pretty well and wondered whether there had been some additional bad press. That can probably be arranged. (Or avoided—if they just change their policy.)
So FHFA just returned my call. They suggest that I write out my concerns and send them to ConsumerHelp@fhfa.gov. If you’re willing to do the same thing so they know I’m not the only crazy person who cares about this, I have a sample of what you might write here.). I will put a slightly-redacted version of the (more exhaustive) version I’m sending. Because why not. You’re helping me out with this. And I might as well offer a peek with what I deal with on a daily basis.1
Earlier today I asked you all to contact Freddie Mac’s PR director Brad German at (703)903-2437 to discuss Freddie’s policy requiring a punitive eviction before it would sell a property at market value to somebody interested in buying it. First, for those who helped, thank you for the help. Second, if you’re still willing to making a call I would really appreciate if you could keep up the pressure. I’ve asked a few thousand of my closest friends to make the call. And if you all ask a few thousand of your closest friends to do the same we can remind a few people that “No expensive policies for the sole purpose of sadism” voting block is reasonably large.
Much to my surprise, I just received a call from Freddie Mac. If you’re willing to help out again, could you send an email to ConsumerHelp@fhfa.gov. Perhaps something like this:
My name is ___. As a U.S. taxpayer I am a majority shareholder of Freddie Mac.
I am calling to ask Freddie Mac to reconsider its sadistic “must evict” policy. Freddie Mac has taken the position that it will not sell the residence of John and Linda DeCaro at 152 Lucerne Rd in Springfield, MA to Boston Community Capital, if BCC agrees to evict the family, is a ridiculous position. BCC and Freddie have agreed on a price for a shortsale—and the only limiting factor is Freddie’s insistence that BCC promise to evict the DeCaro’s after the sale.
I am calling to ask you to require Freddie Mac to jettison this policy in favor of a policy that protects my interests as a taxpayer by accepting the highest offer, regardless of who it comes from. I also ask that you encourage Freddie Mac to explore policies to promote neighborhood stability by keeping residents in their homes whenever it is financially feasible.
Additionally, for those comfortable with phone calls, you can reach the FHFA consumer office at (202)649.3811. We can fix this. Keep spreading the word!
This one is important. I’d like to spread the word on this particular issue as widely and as quickly as possible. Reblogs are hugely appreciated. This is something where we can change something with a bit of advocacy.
The Short Version
As a U.S. citizen you are now a majority shareholder of Freddie Mac. Congratulations. Freddie Mac is one of a number of entities that bears substantial blame for both the recession and the foreclosure crisis. This crisis has caused a lot of blighted, empty houses in some extremely vulnerable neighborhoods. In many cases, the only person who wants to live in that house is the former owner. Because the house isn’t worth a whole lot, people with modest income can afford to buy back the house, provided somebody is willing to provide financing.
In other words, Freddie Mac wants you, the tax payer, to take a financial loss so it can make the DeCaro family suffer. The DeCaro family isn’t the only victim of this state-sponsored sadism. This is Freddie Mac’s policy. Considering that Freddie Mac is in recievership after accepting a massive government bailout, Freddie Mac is in no position to lecture anybody about moral hazard on debt. Even Fannie Mae and the megabanks have rejected this policy.
What you can do
Please call Freddie Mac’s PR director Brad German at (703)903-2437. You will likely have to leave a message.
Say something like this:
My name is ___. As a U.S. taxpayer I am a majority shareholder of Freddie Mac.
I am calling to ask Freddie Mac to reconsider its sadistic “must evict” policy. Freddie Mac has taken the position that it will not sell the residence of John and Linda DeCaro at 152 Lucerne Rd in Springfield, MA to Boston Community Capital, if BCC agrees to evict the family, is a ridiculous position.
I am calling to demand that you accept BCC’s offer without conditions and institute a new policy permitting families who can afford it to buy back their homes at market value after foreclosure. This will protect both my financial interest as a tax payer and ensure that my tax dollars are not supporting such abhorrent policies.
Second, it might help to contact your U.S. Senator or Representatative to let them know that you are extremely concerned about Freddie Mac’s cavalier attitude toward blighted neighborhoods, suffering families, and tax payer interests.
Third, help spread the word on this one. This is a ridiculous and harmful policy—and if people know what Freddie is doing with taxpayer money, the policy will change. I know the Tumblr community can do wonders with this sort of thing. Getting policies like this removed can create the sort of tangible and systemic change that turns around lives and communities.
I’ve criticized a few others for what I consider particularly obtuse or dishonest stances toward U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. It’s only fair that I offer some thoughts of my own. The bottom line is that I trust the President on this one—but that’s not a trust I walk into blindly.
There are three persuasive sets of arguments for withdrawal from Afghanistan.
"Mission Accomplished! Bin Laden’s dead. We’ve functionally broken the back of al Qaeda. Let’s bring the troops home."
"This war is a catastrophe. Let’s cut our losses and get whatever remains of our empire the hell out of Dodge while we still can."
"Continued U.S. is causing more harm than good for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the people who live there. On humanitarian grounds alone, withdrawal is desirable."
Arguments 1 and 2 are really opposite spins on the same strategic interests coin. I find both unpersuasive. With a history like we’ve had in Afghanistan, let’s let U.S. strategic interests take the back seat for once. We owe it to the people of Afghanistan to do the right thing.
The third set of arguments are much more concerning. Is the right thing for Afghanistan is an immediate withdrawal? That’s where we see tricky factual issues. Removing U.S. troops won’t bring peace. We’ve propped up Karzai’s government—but at this point it’s far from a house of cards. The Afghan National Army might not be able to commit the overwhelmingly superior force that we can commit—but its a sufficiently credible force to not disband the moment the U.S. leaves. With that said, the Taliban have managed to persist with the U.S. there—and U.S. withdrawal certainly won’t weaken them. Withdrawing now virtually guarantees a long and bloody civil war.
Of course, if long and bloody civil war is unavoidable, we might not have much to contribute. But is it? That’s what I can’t sort out. Fortunately, there are people whose job it is to figure this sort of thing out. They have access to better information than I do. What else can I do? It’s all a grey muddle from where I stand. There’s no choice but to trust somebody with a better view.
"When you believe in peace for the sake of peace, we’ll talk. Until then, let’s not bullshit each other." Please offer proof that Libertarians do not care about peace. Please recognize that isolationism and non-interventionism are not the same thing. Please offer proof that when/if we ever get out of this war Libertarians will stop caring about peace. If you cannot do these things, then I suggest you revise your blanket statement against Libertarians. Thank you.
If you would prefer a more qualified statement, let me offer the following:
Having interracted extensively with a broad swath of libertarians I have observed a haste to condemn U.S. actions and involvement coupled by a lack of knowledge or interest in anybody else involved in the conflict. This leads to statements like “We need to leave Afghanistan so its people can live in peace.” The libertarian making this suggestion seemed wholly unaware of both the prolonged internal struggle that won’t end the moment the U.S. leaves and serious controversy within Afghanistan regarding whether, when, and how the U.S. should leave.
Most tellingly, my post criticizing libertarians for appropriating the banner of pacifism drew outraged responses from libertarians who 1) accused me of hypocrisy, and 2) demanded that I “prove” that there weren’t any libertarians who cared about peace beyond the narrow scope of isolationism. Critically, neither of these moves suggests that I’m wrong in my point—and this is one where it would be extremely easy to prove me wrong … if I’m actually wrong. You could show me the fruits of libertarian peacemaking efforts. You could point to the generous libertarians willing to make sacrifices to pave the way for peace. Really, you could point out anything libertarians do besides call for immediate and unilateral withdrawal, consequences to others be damned. Show me the libertarians working to heal rifts between warring factions or to rebuild war ravaged countries. If it’s happening on any scale, this should be easy to find, shouldn’t it?
What are you going to do for peace? Yes, withdraw from Afghanistan, slash military spending, etc.. But then what? Are libertarians willing to affirmatively promote peace? Or are they just tired of seeing tax money spent on things they don’t like?
This is one of those encouraging details that doesn’t illuminate as much as I wish it would. It leaves two possible stories open.
The Seminole County police department and district attorney investigated the case as a homicide from the beginning and acted reasonably professionally in the face of public outrage by deflecting questions about an ongoing investigation.
Alternatively, when a federal investigation into the death was announced this morning Seminole County officials panicked, realized that they were going to come off looking really bad in this case, and hastily threw together an announcement about a grand jury.
It’s over. Seriously. In this case “over” means over. Not just “end of major combat operations over.” We have embassy employees. We have some guys guarding the embassy. But if that exceptionally limited presence constitutes a “war,” we’ve got wars in Germany, South Korea, Kuwait, Japan, Italy, and however
If, for whatever reason, you think we still have a full-scale war in Iraq, make the case for that position—or at least acknowledge that it’s an unusual position. If you just write about Obama’s continuation of the War in Iraq, it makes me think you didn’t notice that the war ended. It makes it hard to take you seriously.
Libertarians, stop trying to play the pacifist card. You are not pacifists.
libertarians-and-stoya responded to my support for Obama on the grounds that he’s competently kept the ship afloat and pointed it in the right direction by writing:
Forgot “mass murder of Muslim men, women and children”. Seems pretty boring to me.
The Cheeky Libertarian has been doing the same thing. There’s a war. The U.S. is part of it. Therefore, they argue, everything that happens in the war is directly attributable to Obama.
I have a profound respect for a principled pacifism and for anybody whose desire to avoid war at all costs is coupled with a robust peace-making agenda. There are valid and important criticisms of U.S. actions and motivations abroad from people who loathe war and are willing to work to stop it.
But that’s not what the libertarians are doing. They’re not pacifists. They’re non-interventionists. They offer a stomach-turning false pacifism that only pretends to care about “Muslim men, women and children” for long enough to advance isolationist policy goals.
Their willingness so stand against any particular war ends the moment the U.S. disentangles itself. Their mantra isn’t “Peace now.” It’s “We can’t be fucked to care about other countries.”
When you believe in peace for the sake of peace, we’ll talk. Until then, let’s not bullshit each other.
I will, of course, be voting for Barack Obama in 2012.
I guess I’m not young anymore, by Tumblr standards. But as political demographics go, thirty is still young.
My reasons for voting for Obama are pretty simple. At heart, I’m a boring guy who wants boring things. Predictability. Fairness. Stability. Family. My dog. We’ve got things pretty good—and I don’t see any need to radically reinvision the American Dream. It’s running fine. Just give it fuel, keep an eye on the tire pressure, and don’t neglect the periodic maintenance.
I also believe that everybody should be permitted a life as boring as mine. Going for a stroll with your spouse is a lot harder will get a lot harder for many people if we elect some of the conservaties who believe that for some people marrying the person you love is a radical and unacceptable political statement. Or if we elect people who are willing to permit basic healthcare to be a luxury few can afford. Or if we elect people who don’t seem to be bothered that three million or more families are still at risk of imminently losing their homes to foreclosure.
Getting the country back on the right track after the recession will not be an easy task. But it’s an important job. A job Obama is willing to do. Romney seems intent on keeping the country on a track that will encourage further stratification of wealth and the gradual erosion of the middle class. Santorum seems want to put the country on a track that encourages homogenization for some and exclusion and alienation for others. Gingrich seems to want to build a zoo on the moon. That would be cool, but we’ve got more pressing stuff to do. And Paul wants to turn the clock back a century or two.
I’m not a revolutionary. I like my dull life and my simple American values like fairness, equality, and opportunity. I’m voting for Obama to extend and preserve these values for everybody—not just the privileged, the fortunate, and the rich.
But what I didn’t notice until yesterday is that Newt Gingrich seems to be pretty insightful when he’s around animals. Take this quote from yesterday’s trip to the zoo about Mitt Romney’s electoral chances.
Well it depends, if we are successful and he doesn’t have an absolute – if he doesn’t have 1,000 delegates, I mean you know, if he’s close, attrition will get him the last 100. But if he’s under 1,000 delegates, I don’t think he’s going to get the nomination.”
That’s spot on, isn’t it? If Romney can get a majority of the delegates, he’ll win. If he can get close, then he’ll pick up the last hundred without too much problem. But if he can’t break 1,000 it looks like once all the votes were counted the answer was “somebody other than Romney.” And at that point a guy like Gingrich has a slim (but real) chance. If Romney can’t seal the deal and Santorum is still Santorum … why not Newt?
There’s only one responsible conclusion to draw from this. Newt Gingrich draws strength from animals. If he ever were elected to President we would want to surround him with a menagerie for the good of the country. If he can’t do a weekly meditation in a monkey house, we’d probably end up with a moon colony.
On one hand, there are plenty of reasons not to vote for Newt. On the other hand, who doesn’t want the President of the United States to show up at the State of the Union escorted by tigers and riding an elephant?
shortformblog lists three things we have learned about Afghanistan shooting suspect Robert Bales:
one Bales, who joined the Army two months after 9/11, was reportedly suffering from a series of financial troubles. He and his wife tried to put their home on the market days before the incident.
two He also suffered from a series of legal problems, including past domestic violence allegations against an old girlfriend and a hit-and-run incident which took place while he wore military clothing.
three Bales, who had been hoping for a promotion or transfer, had been turned down for a promotion in the past year, which led to his current deployment in Afghanistan. source
four He was a decorated sergeant in the U.S. Army. He was deployed to Iraq three times.
five He played football in high school.
six His wife kept a family blog.
seven He was the director of a inactive Florida investment company.
Can you connect the dots? Of course you can connect the dots. However you want. If you squint at it just right, perhaps you can find a way to feel that this story confirms something you already knew. Perhaps that’s why this happened.
This could be reassuring. Maybe it explains why this happened. This guy had financial trouble, we might tell ourselves. That’s what separates him from the tens of thousands of other soldiers we’ve kept away from home for far too long. That’s why we’re pretty sure this won’t happen again.
Except … we’d be deluding ourselves. These family details paint a pretty normal guy confronted with some pretty common stresses. At least, the stresses ShortFormBlog listed were common enough. The war itself is a nightmare we created.
“Vetoing state laws governing voting procedures shows a dangerous pattern of abuse by these officials, and could dramatically increase fraud and undermine the integrity and legitimacy of elected officials. It leads to a feeling amongst voters that these same officials want fraudulent votes to re-elect their very unpopular boss, Barack Obama.”—
We all know that this whole “voter fraud” thing is a phantom, right? In person impersonation fraud rarely if ever happens. The chances and consequences of detection is extremely high—and even if you pulled it off, the chances that your vote is going to make a difference is negligible. Any effort to organize a large-scale fraud (in addition to virtually guaranteeing a long prison sentence) would be substantially more difficult than just persuading people who would have stayed at home to show up and vote.
The real reason to place extra barriers between people and voting is to dampen voter turnout. The GOP has figured out that if you can pass a strict voter ID law, it will disproportionately hurt minority voters—particularly elderly minority voters.
Changing your election laws to hurt minority voters is, of course, illegal, which is why the justice department has blocked some of these efforts. The Republicans, of course, are going to accuse the Democrats of trying to rig elections. Nobody believes this—but that’s not the point. The point is to distract from the Republicans’ failed attempt to tamper with the electoral process.
DADT was put in place as an executive order and could have been repealed with an executive order. He could have also excused those soldiers who were affected by DADT of their ‘crimes’.
Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was a bipartisan compromise put in place under Clinton to prevent gay service members from being discharged over sexual orientation (“don’t ask”) unless they made some reference to it (“don’t tell”). The “don’t ask” part was an improvement, though a “don’t discharge” policy would have been better. “Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would leave us with existing law of, “Ask. Discharge.” Or, more precisely:
The presence in the armed forces of persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.
We probably could have gone back to that by executive order.
Obama plays the constitutionality card when it’s convenient, but the claim that he respects the balance of powers becomes increasingly ludicrous, as he puts the US’ military intervention into over-drive.
"Over-drive" might be a bit of an overstatement, considering the our overseas military presence is significantly lighter than it was when Obama took office, that the largest new intervention, Libya, was done with limited U.S. involvement. There is, of course, a more nuanced criticism that the Obama administration circumvented Congress on the Libya intervention—but, as you may recall, Congress was significantly more hawkish than the Obama administration.
Obama had the political capital to move mountains when it comes to healthcare reform;
What? How? That fight cost him roughly 20% approval rating, lasted around a year, and still netted only a fraction of what the administration wanted.
if Guantanamo were an important issue to him, it’s difficult for me to believe he couldn’t lobby Congress enough to get it closed. He only brought the issue up once in his first two years in office. When he took office, there was bipartisan support for closing Guantanamo and the . The initial executive order was ambiguous about the treatment of detainees and didn’t rule out military commissions; the administrations subsequent treatment of the issue was ambivalent and after halting everything over a single congressman’s objection to transfers to Virgina, did very little to help establish any sort of specific action plan, besides ‘reevaluation’ of the cases and a five-pronged approach, which included indefinite detention.
I’m not sure if anything in that paragraph is true—except that the Obama administration did not rule out military comissions. Count senators. Find 60 who would back him. Heck, find 50. Find 40. Closing Guantanamo is a political non-starter. The Obama administration tried. It failed. It’s a tragedy—but unless Obama either ignores explicit congressional requirements or does something magical, Congress is keeping it open.
He has also prevented the transfer of detainees to other prisons, which only makes the situation worse.
That was Congress too. It’s written into statute.
When told by the AG that they’d be returning Khalid Sheik Mohammed’s case to the Department of Defense, rather than trying him in federal court, Obama not only failed to object, but he also called it a ‘pragmatic decision’. Obama was told no more than 36 of the detainees could be tried, because “in many cases, the intelligence gathered on the men was not court-worthy evidence.” Why was there no pardon?
You want to pardon Khalid Sheik Mohammed? He’s … not a nice guy. The Bush administration tortured him—which puts us in a terrible spot. But a pardon?
Sure, Congress voted overwhelmingly against funding $80 million to close Guantanamo, but the administration should have mentioned that keeping Guantanamo open easily outpaces that figure (which, frankly seems ridiculous in the first place): each prisoner costs them approximately $800,000 per year.
You think Congress voted against funding Guantanamo because the Obama administration forgot to mention how expensive it was? No. You don’t think that. Because that’s obviously not true. Congress knew exactly what it was doing.
Last year, Obama signed an executive order creating a formal system of indefinite detention for Guantanamo detainees. There’s nothing to indicate that he’s done anything but embrace the Bush Administration’s unconstitutional policies (which completely violate the 5th Amendment).
… except for the string of executive orders reversing Bush policies, the political efforts to unravel some of Bush’s methods, the willingness to follow existing law, a respect for Congressional action, an end to torture, and so on.
The fifth amendment requires the due process of law. A well-constructed, legislatively-authorized military commission provides due process of law. Under Bush, the first problem was that there weren’t even military comissions. There was just detention. The second problem was that there was no Congressional authorization for any of this. The third problem was that even after the commissions were put in place, they were shams. All of that has changed. There are still 5th Amendment concerns—but the changes have been significant and important.
We’re still there, we’re still armed, we’re still not welcome, and we probably won’t ever leave (see: US occupation in Germany, over 50 years after WWII ended)
Okay. First, we’re not occupying Germany. Yes, we have bases there. But Germany is not “occupied” in any meaningful sense of the word.
Second, yes, we still have a presence in Iraq inside our big-ass embassy. We’ve got 157 troops guarding this embasy and a few hundred military trainers. There are also a large number of contractors and civilians. Compared to what we had when Obama took office, this is essentially nothing. It’s like the spaghetti sauce dripped on the shirt after the meal. You can’t say the meal wasn’t eaten when there’s a tiny smidge left in a radically different capacity.
The NDAA codifies it into law, which has institutionalized these human rights abuses. Obama has also exercised the rights the Bush administration reserved, but didn’t actually implement, by ordering the assassinations of two American citizens, one of which was 16; if that isn’t an abuse of power, I don’t know what is.
The Obama Administration did not order the assassination of a 16-year-old. A 16-year-old was killed when he was close to the guy who was actually targetted. This doesn’t mean it’s not concerning—but this is a morally relevant distinction.
The killing of al-Awlaki is certainly concerning—though the previous attempt to take him into custody resulted in a pitched battle in Yemen that he ultimately escaped. Surely when making life-life tradeoffs we can acknowledge that a targetted drone strike is (at least arguably) as defensible as inciting mass causalties in an effort to take one guy alive? Particularly when we know that this is still almost certainly going to kill the guy?
I meant he’s amped up the number of troops [in Afghanistan]. We’ve been in Afghanistan for over a decade and with the overwhelming majority of casualties being civilians, it’s clear that our presence there is accomplishing nothing positive and Obama’s expansion of our military presence in the area, aside from being immoral, makes absolutely no tactical sense.
Afghanistan is tough. But talking about it comprehensively requires acknowleging the good things we are doing in Afghanistan. Women have rights. Girls can be educated. The bulk of those civilian casualties are caused by the Taliban—who are substantially less friendly than we are. I think there is tons of room to critique or oppose our presence in Afghanistan—but let’s pay attention to all the facts.
You said it yourself; [Bradley Manning] exposed illegal activity. Whistleblowers are not whistleblowers unless the information has been illegitimately concealed, which is precisely what the military did. Legality does not equate to morality; the crimes Private Manning exposed were wrong, were not appropriately punished, and were in complete violation with this administration’s claims to ‘transparency’.
Manning dumped a metric ton of documents to WikiLeaks. A few of them incidentally doubtlessly contained some illegal activity. A lot of them contained arguably immoral activity—because they were military documents reflecting military things. You’re not blowing a whistle when you figure out that our military kills people. That’s the whole point of it. We already know that. If Manning had uncovered the military systemically and secretly doing something we didn’t already know it did, maybe he’s a whistle-blower. That didn’t happen.
He did blow the lid off a lot of moderately secret things. To the extent that he’s a guy who hates other people’s secrets, fine. He made some choices. I don’t think they were his to make—but he took a stand on it. And now he’s being charged for breaking the laws that were clearly broken.
Transparency is important. The Obama administration has been more transparent than any past administration. But a relative improvement in transparency doesn’t mean that everybody gets to know all the secrets or that nothing can or should be classified.