Monday, November 30, 2009

Paul Krugman Belching His Usual Sunshine

Krugman's latest column focuses on (surprise surprise) the need for a jobs bill. (See Drezner's Krugman Crib Sheet here.) Food stamp quote:

[T]he damage from sustained high unemployment will last much longer. The long-term unemployed can lose their skills, and even when the economy recovers they tend to have difficulty finding a job, because they’re regarded as poor risks by potential employers. Meanwhile, students who graduate into a poor labor market start their careers at a huge disadvantage — and pay a price in lower earnings for their whole working lives. Failure to act on unemployment isn’t just cruel, it’s short-sighted.

So it’s time for an emergency jobs program.


That student part especially makes me feel really good.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Perhaps if Hasan had been gay...

From a letter to the editor in WaPo:
Take the scarce resources now being wasted on drumming out of the military competent, patriotic Americans who happen to be gay and instead focus them on people posing actual threats.
Not much to add to that.

(HT: Ricks)

Ditch the public option

Seriously. The liberal "sacred cow" will only cover a tiny percentage of Americans, and isn't necessary to get the rest of the reforms through and arrest the skyrocketing costs of health care that threaten to bankrupt the country. There's a lot of good in this bill. Ditch the public option (maybe strengthening other things in the process, like the subsidies for low-income people and the excise tax on "cadillac" plans), tell Lieberman, Lincoln, et al to shut up and vote for cloture, and let's move on to climate change.

Don't Fear the Reaper

DiA thinks we should collectively grow up and have a mature discussion about end-of-life care. He's right, but considering the emotions involved and America's innate immaturity about some things, I wouldn't hold my breath. It's hard to get people to look big-picture and long-term, when short-term is grandma's life. Perhaps we just need more cowbell?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Governmental Dysfuction...

...is not unique to America. Charlemagne points out the paranoia of European governments when it comes to EU policy.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

"Victory" in Afghanistan II

John McCain thinks that with enough troops, the insurgency will be gone within a year and a half.

As I noted earlier, I think the process will take far longer. It does not help that Afghanistan is currently ranked the 2nd most corrupt government in the world, trailing only Somalia. Without a credible government, the US could send 100,000 more troops and still fail in Afghanistan. COIN folks from Gen. McChrystal to David Kilcullen have said that more troops will help, but there's no guarantee that they can bring victory.

Senator McCain may be relying on memory of the Iraq surge, and its success. Several factors make that a faulty comparison.
  1. As flawed as the Iraqi government was, it still had a far more organized and effective military and police force.
  2. The "Accidental Guerrilla" phenomenon that Kilcullen wrote about was actually backfiring in Iraq. The "Sunni Awakening" and backlash against AQI*, as well as Muqtada al-Sadr's decision to ask his militia to at least temporarily stand down were both almost the opposite of what is happening in Afghanistan.
  3. Contentious parts of Iraq like Baghdad had been almost entirely ethnically cleansed by the time the surge took effect. Sunnis and Shi'ites were no longer living in the same areas, and violence went down as a result.
  4. Iraq had neighbors that, not to put too fine a point on it, were not Pakistan. It is news to nobody that insurgents cross between Afghanistan and Pakistan at will. This makes it incredibly hard to defeat the insurgency in Afghanistan.
  5. Iraq and Afghanistan are very different places, culturally. Iraq, for all the faults of the Hussein regime, was a secular and modern state in the Middle East. Afghanistan is far less modern, far more tribal, and certainly not as secular (a Taliban government saw to that).
The president doesn't really have any good options. I think that has probably played into his unwillingness to jump to a decision. Most media reports indicate that he is asking tough questions of his commanders, and ensuring that any plan has a clear exit strategy. I still don't know what I want to see happen, but as each day goes by with another headline about corruption in the Karzai regime, the more pessimistic I become.

*Al Qaeda in Iraq

The Cardinal in... Foggy Bottom?

Laura Rozen reports on a Tom Clancy-esque story of espionage in America. Sounds like a couple of modern-day Rosenburgs. Those reds still know how to spy!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ezra Klein is my homeboy

He riffs a bit on my favorite subject: Congress!

I propose term limits for Senators and Congressmen. If they can't run for reelection, maybe they'll actually try to solve some of the problems the nation is facing.

Monday, November 16, 2009

This warms the cockles of my heart...

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) predicted during an interview that the Democrats were ready to fight Republican delaying tactics on health care reform, even if it means spending nights and weekends on the Senate floor. I hope they force any filibuster to actually stand up there and talk for hours on end, while Democrats call for a vote any time they stop. Make it dramatic!

Democracy in America (and Europe)

DiA has the following to say.

A longstanding meme says that America is unitary and decisive, while Europe is divided and ineffectual. How many more issues need to go the way of cap-and-trade before that meme gets reversed? And, while we're talking about the Senate's function as a vital stray monkey-wrench to prevent the gears of democracy from functioning too smoothly, we might as well link to Grist's David Roberts: "How 7.4% of Americans can block humanity’s efforts to save itself".

Interesting point. Thoughts?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

With apologies to Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers

(I came across this while reading Tom Ricks' Fiasco.)

"Containment was a very costly strategy," [Paul] Wolfowitz said years later. "It cost us billions of dollars--estimates are around $30 billion."
REALLY?!

Current estimated cost of the Iraq war: $699bn

I mean REALLY!

"It cost us American lives. We lost American lives in the Khobar Towers"--a huge 1996 bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 service members and wounded 372 others.

REALLY?!

Since the war with Iraq began, we've lost 4,362 service members.

I mean REALLY!

"In some ways the price is much higher than that. The real price was giving Osama bin Laden his principle talking point. If you go back and read his notorious fatwa from 1998, where he called for the first time for killing Americans, his big complaint is that we have American troops on the holy soil of Saudi Arabia and that we're bombing Iraq. That was his big recruiting device, his big claim against us."

REALLY?!

So clearly, the answer is to increase troop numbers exponentially and actually invade Iraq. Surely that won't give bin Laden any recruiting material. How many new terrorists did we create out of the family members of the untold hundreds of thousands of Iraqis that have died in the violence since our invasion?

Ugh.

That whole thing could have been read as a damning indictment of further involvement in the Middle East. Unfortunately, it was written by one of the foremost (if not THE foremost) advocate for regime change in the Bush administration. I don't know what to say. Except...

REALLY?!

(For those of you who don't know who Amy Poeller and Seth Myers are: here.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hammer. Nail. Head.

Doug Elmendorf, Director of the Congressional Budget Office, fired a shot across the bow regarding fiscal policy in this country. Money quote:
The country faces a fundamental disconnect between the services the people expect the government to provide, particularly in the form of benefits for older Americans, and the tax revenues that people are willing to send to the government to finance those services.

That's about as accurate and succinct as it gets.

(HT: EK)

Congress sucks (redux)

Pearlstein is frustrated with congress. He sees a structural problem. While I agree, I still think congress' incentives and priorities are a huge issue. Politico has a piece on how Speaker Pelosi had to round up votes for HCR. Some needed their ego stroked, some needed pork.... who just thought they should vote for the damn bill? Democracy in America has a nice post on the sudden obsession with CBO scores over the actual goals of reform.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

...and there it is

Bryan Fischer, of the American Family Association, has exactly the reaction I've been dreading regarding the tragedy at Fort Hood.

Of course, most U.S. Muslims don't shoot up their fellow soldiers. Fine. As soon as Muslims give us a foolproof way to identify their jihadis from their moderates, we'll go back to allowing them to serve. You tell us who the ones are that we have to worry about, prove you're right, and Muslims can once again serve. Until that day comes, we simply cannot afford the risk. You invent a jihadi-detector that works every time it's used, and we'll welcome you back with open arms.

This is not Islamophobia, it is Islamo-realism....

That right there was why I had this sudden feeling of dread as soon as I saw the name of the Major who committed this massacre.

(HT: AS)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Gibbs v Todd, Round 392

Obama Press Secretary Robert Gibbs spars with NBC's Chuck Todd on a regular basis, but this was pretty entertaining. And you can email Chuck now, if you want to.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Simple Solution to the Gay Marriage Question

In the light of the referendum results in Maine and Washington, as well as the discussion on Andrew Sullivan's blog, I decided to post my long-held belief of how to deal with the question of same-sex marriage. I think it's pretty simple, which is probably why it will never happen.

First, eliminate the word "marriage" from all federal, state and local laws. Marriage is a religious concept, and should stay away from government. If you want to be "married", you can go to a church, whether you are a homosexual or heterosexual couple. (There are a few churches out there that will marry gay couples, and hopefully that number will grow as time goes on.) Second, allow civil unions for all couples, gay or straight, that convey the same rights, tax breaks, and whatever else that marriage gives currently.

I have a hard time accepting a religious argument in regards to federal laws. The establishment clause of the First Amendment is there for a reason. If you remove the religious argument from same-sex marriage, pretty much the only arguments left are those based in bigotry.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

With apologies to Jack Handey and Josh Marshall

Deep Thought:

Should the DNC just give up on the 2010 midterms now?