Sunday, October 30, 2005

Things Get Clearer

On the question I raised earlier as to why jail Miller and Cooper (or threaten in the case of Cooper) to go after Libby for perjury. Firedoglake has some answers to that. See also Billmon.

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Saturday, October 29, 2005

Criminalizing Conservatives

So the latest conservative argument is that because conservatism is inherently criminal, it should get a pass on obeying the law. Doesn't sound like a good argument to me.

Bell and Kristol put forth this question
Why are conservative Republicans, who control the executive and legislative branches of government for the first time in living memory, so vulnerable to the phenomenon of criminalization?

The most straightforward explanation for them being subject to 'criminalization', is that they are criminals.

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Kerry Calls for Pullout

Another voice for pull out, see Eternal Hope at daily Kos.

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Indictment News

Ok, so this post is way out of date to announce the news that it is five counts on Libby and that is the extent of the indictments to date. I would say that the consensus is that these are serious charges and given the tightness of the indictment, Libby is in a lot of trouble.

There is a lot of speculation now as to what else might be in the works. Is the Libby indictment the end of the story or is there more. See Talk Left, Mark Kleiman, Daily Kos, and nearly everybody else for as many opinions on that question that you might want to have.

I'm still reading the indictment and thinking things through and I've only read through some of the opinions on the question of what comes next. However, it seems to me, at this point, that there is a bit of a mystery at this point. What was so essential about Miller's and Cooper's testimony, if the only issue was Libby's perjury? Perhaps I don't understand the law (I'm not a lawyer) and the perjury indictment does depend upon it in a crucial way, but it seems to me that the issue of why they were forced to testify is still an open question.

[Update 2:50 PM Oct 29 2005] Well now that I'm getting into the indictment I see that much of it focuses on false satements regarding conversations with Miller and Cooper. It still seems that the essential charge is present with regard to Russert. Therefore, I was wondering if the contempt charges for Miller and Cooper indicated that more serious charges were still in the works. They might well be, but I see that the indictment doesn't support that, at least not for the reason I gave above.

[Update 8:08 PM Oct 29 2005] Ok, now Billmon is echoing my thoughts regarding the need for Cooper and Miller to testify. Please, will someone with knowledge of the case clear this up.

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Fiduciary Responsibility

Mark Kleiman has a post up on the fiduciary responsibilities of corporate managers. There are those, such as Milton Friedman, who argue that the only duty of a corporate manager is to maximize the return to the investor. Any action which does so, as long as it is not illegal, should be taken by the manager, no matter how immoral. As Mark points out this leads to absurd results, Polish corporate managers in the 1930s would have a duty to supply arms to the Nazi's, if that would maximize profits at the time, and so forth. Indeed, Mark says that this leads to Lenin's observation that "When the time comes to hang all the capitalists, the capitalists will compete to sell us the rope."

The escape from this dilemma, it seems to me, comes from understanding the nature of moral guidance. In my view, the nature of moral guidance is to help understand the correct actions to take today, that will maximize one's well being over the long term. I can fairly well determine what I need to do to make things go well tomorrow, or through next week or next year, but what acts today will make for a good future 20-years down the road and what will lead to a bad one. In saying that, note that I've made no distinction between my personal well being and any general social well being. However, that comes from the fact that I'm dealing with long term concerns decades, or even longer, for I am concerned not just with how well I will be doing, but how well children and grandchildren will be doing. In making long term plans for success, the best I can do is strive for general success of my family, community, country and world rather than try and plan on specific well being for myself. Moral guidance then is aimed at indicating those things we need to do now to maximize our well being far into the future.

Apply that then to the fiduciary responsibility of the corporate manager. Even if his obligation is only to maximize corporate profits, that obligation is not only for the next year or two, but for the, potentially infinite, life of the company. While he is obligated to the investor who hopes to return a profit next year, he is equally obligated to the investor who has set up a trust the college education, or perhaps retirement, of a child born this past month. The point then is that the corporate manager is certainly obligated to follow moral guidance in running the company as this is directed to his fiduciary responsibility to longer term investors. And realize that the moral guidance I'm speaking of here is the same as would apply to all people, corporate manager or no. The same principals or right action apply because the objective is the same in all cases, to have as peaceful and stable a world as possible far into the future.

The error of people like Friedman, and I believe the current conservative movement generally, is that their focus is only on the short term. Even if I start from conservative principals of self interest, if I include in my thinking plans for long term success, I find that I consistently return to liberalism. I get the current conservative views only if I restrict my self interest to the very short term.

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Chris Mooney at JHU

Chris Mooney, the author of The Republican War on Science was at Johns Hopkins University today and gave a brief talk and book signing. I had just finished reading his book, so I was glad for the chance to hear him speak. His book provides a very good overview of the current anti-science stance of the Bush Administration and the conservative movement. He argues that the Bush anti-science stance is systematic and a unique departure from the historical relationship between government and science.

Chris is an excellent speaker, with a great sense of humor, but without loosing sight of the seriousness of the topic. If you haven't had a chance to read the book, I would strongly recommend hearing him speak, if you ever get the chance. The topic is important and anyone interested in our current political climate should be familiar with his work.

His talk echoes the issues in his book naturally, but he also brings the issues up to date with some recent examples of the Republican anti-science stance. He makes no bones about the fact that his position is clearly political. Having said that he does recognize that all political factions have, at one time or another, acted counter to the best scientific evidence. His argument is that the current Administration is systematically antiscientific. In past cases, one political faction would oppose the scientific community on one issue or another, but accept the prevailing scientific opinion on most issues. Chris's argument is that this Administration will oppose good science on any issue where it disagrees politically.

He also makes clear that he takes the position that science acting independent of the political process is a valuable thing and that the current Republican leadership has decided to take the opposite position, that science should always be forced to conform to political desires. Chris clearly feels that this position is bad. This means that his basic position (favoring the independence of science) is apolitical.

He says his central thesis is that the current conservative movement consists of two major constituencies 1) regulated businesses and 2) religious conservatives who both have a fundamental distrust of science. I think that this is very true. Regulated businesses have an opposition to the scientific results that can add costs to operating their business and religious conservatives have a theological opposition to the idea that truths (even if only about the natural world) are determined by observation, evidence, and reason rather than by internal, passionate belief.

Chris did have some hopeful news. He reported that there is some movement in congress to restore the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) which provided invaluable scientific advice to congress. Even many conservatives are starting to realize that disbanding it was a mistake. While the current congressional leadership is not likely to let a bill restoring the OTA through, there is some hope that there is broad support for the agency.

I will have more to say on this in another post. In summary, his thesis is an important one to understand and his talk is a good one. I urge everyone to read the book and to hear Chris speak.

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Keeping Track of the Indictments

It's getting hard to keep track of all the Republicans getting indicted. At first it was just Tom DeLay, then most of the White House staff is under the gun, although we're still waiting to hear about those indictments. Now while we were all watching the White House, a leading Ohio fundraiser gets indicted for money laundering. At this doesn't even touch on Larry Franklin, Leandro Aragoncillo, Bill Frist, Safavian or Abramoff. Where does the criminality of the Republican party end?

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Miers Withdraws her Nomination

George Bush has reluctantly accepted it. Well that episode is over. I think it reflects very badly on George Bush and not just because it was a political loss. Being less than qualified to be a Supreme Court justice is no insult. The vast majority of extremely talented and capable people are not qualified to be Supreme Court justices and so saying that Harriet Miers was among those whose qualifications fall under that high limit is no insult to her. It is, however, extremely unfair to anyone, to nominate them for such a post to which they are not qualified, and thus subject them to the public scrutiny that Harriet Miers faces. She has been treated shabbily by this president and in a manner that, I believe, is completely in line with his character.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Again on the Perjury thing

I just had another thought on the whole Republican about face on the seriousness of perjury and obstruction of justice. Now that Rove and Cheney are facing such charges, these crimes have suddenly become "trivial" and "unimportant".

But doesn't that mean that when Ossama bin Laden was growing in strength, building his network and developing his plans to attack the United States in an attack that killed 3,000 American citizens, the Republican party in control of congress was singularly focused on impeaching the sitting President for trivial and unimportant charges?

Just wondering.

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White House Caves

The White House today caved in on the Davis-Bacon act suspension they initiated for the Gulf coast region after Katrina. Davis-Bacon requires that companies that receive Federal contracts pay their workers the local prevailing wage. Bush suspended the act in early September for the are devastated by Katrina. The reason supposedly was to reduce rebuilding costs, but naturally the Republican administration did so by cutting into working people's wages.

A group of centrist Republicans and a once again unified Democratic caucus forced a vote on a proposal to restore the act for the region. Facing certain defeat the White House restored the act on its own. This is an important lesson on the value of fighting back against the current crop of Republicans. Compromise only emboldens them to demand more, hence the steady drift to the right. Fight back and you win.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Perjury, Serious or Trivial?

I don't get it. We on the left during the Clinton years argued that perjury was a serious, but not impeachable offense, and today argue that perjury is a serious, but not impeachable offense. That seems fairly consistent to me. And just to back up that Democrats did see it as serious but not impeachable, I point you to this the resolution to censure Clinton indicating that the Democrats felt that his conduct was 1) serious and 2) not impeachable.

The Republicans, however, argued when Clinton was president, that perjury was a most serious offense easily meeting the "high crimes" standard that the constitution places on impeaching a president. Yet now that the Republican George Bush is in office and it is his aids that are facing trouble the Republican party argues that perjury is trivial. That seems to me to be an enormous distinction and there I see dishonesty.

While the above is quite sufficient to show that the Republican position on the seriousness of perjury is completely free of anything resembling a standard, it should also be noted that not all acts of perjury are equally serious. The degree to which it harms the investigation and the seriousness of the underlying crime are also important. Two comentors over at Kevin Drum's site have recently done a great job of summarizing that distinction between now and then.

conspiracy is nuts wrote:

Well, I would say that "we" argued that perjury was generally a serious offense, that Clinton didn't commit perjury, that if he did testify falsely in some technical sense it was not an impeachable offense because it was in connection with a frivolous, meritless lawsuit and in answer to questions that were beyond the scope of that lawsuit (and therefore should never have been permitted, not to mention that Clinton was invited by the Republican judge hearing the case to "fudge" on his answers) and concerning immaterial, irrelevant, and trivial factual matters unrelated to the case - in other words, it was not in response to an underlying crime or to civil liability, but was solely done for and in response to purely political reasons, not criminal or tortious reasons.

I would further argue that any false testimony that Clinton gave had no relevance to or impact regarding the duties of the president, the United States government, national security, the defamation of government employees or even private citizens, or a decision to go to war.

Finally, I would argue that if Clinton committed an impeachable offense, then so did the judge presiding over the case, the judges that appointed Starr, Starr, at least some of Starr's staff, and Sen. Jesse Helms; that Paula Jones and her attorneys should have been sanctioned for her frivolous suit; that Paula Jones apparently false affidavit should have been investigated and perjury charges pursued against her and suborning perjury charges against her attorneys; and that the woman who reported Whitewater should have been tried for perjury, rather than given a lucrative job in the Bush 43 administration, to name a few instances of "justice" that the conservatives have failed to pursue or pompously opine about with the same vigor.

and cmdicely wrote:
Well, I argued that perjury could be a impeachable if it pertained to a matter of governance for which there was no adequate corrective remedy at law, which was not the case in a matter of lying in a civil sexual harrasment lawsuit. OTOH, I would argue that perjury could be impeachable if, for example, it were conducted by a civil officer of the United States to conceal his own malfeasance in office or that of another public employee, in a matter which involved the misuse of sensitive information access to which was gained as a result of public office, and which was used specifically to retaliate against a US citizen for exercising Constitutional right to dissent and to propagandize the American people and the Congress to continue to support a particular policy course.

Impeachment is necessary to prevent government office from being abused in ways for which the legal process (civil and criminal) provides no appropriate and effective remedy.

All of the points made in these quotes support the Democrats position in both cases, and indicate the criminal hypocrisy of the Republican position.

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One More Voice for Iraq Pullout

Via daily Kos here I've found yet another voice arguing for a pullout from Iraq. The writer is John Nichols arguing for withdraw based on the legacy of Ronald Reagan and by taking extensive quotes from Texas Representative Ron Paul. Worth a read.

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Maryland Races

Well the article describes the situation as a dead heat, but the details are that a Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies poll released today shows that Baltimore mayor Martin O'Malley is leading Gov. Ehrlich by 48% to 42% for the Maryland Governorship. That looks good to me.

Likewise the Maryland Senate race looks good for the Dems with Rep. Ben Cardin leading Lt. Gov. Micaael Steele by 47% to 38%.

For the time being Maryland continues to look safe for the Democratic party.

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Turning Republicnas

This dKos story suggests that Democrats couuld do well to try and turn more Republicans to join the Democratic Party. Are there not a goodly number of actual moderate Republicans who must by now see little chance of success within the right-wing Republican party? There should be a number of good candidates there.

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Monday, October 24, 2005

Meir's papers

The AP is reporting that Bush is refusing to turn over to the Senate papers relating to his conversations with Harriet Miers. Those documents will not be made available to the Senate for their review of her nomination to the Supreme Court. Bush is claiming that the requested papers are covered by attorney client confidentiality. Setting aside the fact that the request was for "non-privileged documents", this should be a deal breaker on her confirmation. If she is that close to the president, then she should not be appointed, much less confirmed, for the Supreme Court. The vital role of the court is as an independent review of the other two branches. Meir's is clearly not independent of the current executive.

For what it is worth, I'm not convinced that she is a jurist with whom I would object on ideological grounds. It is just not clear how conservative, and on what issues, she is. But at this point, on qualification, transparency, independence and experience, it would be a decidedly bad precedent to confirm her to the bench.

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Sunday, October 23, 2005

But what English

Mark Kleiman notes that apparently the official language at Airbus is English, which would seem to be a very strong point in favor of the triumph of the English language. And indeed the growing universality of English is an amazing thing. However, before getting too excited about this success for the English speaking peoples, I have a few observations. I've had the opportunity to live and work in Europe, once in Germany and once in Italy, and seen the vital role that English plays. When folks of different nationalities get together English is the official language, even if no native English speakers are present. When my Italian supervisors spoke with a visiting Ukrainian scientist, they spoke in English. However, it wasn't exactly either the Queen's English or American English.

A couple of examples. English makes a distinction in prepositions used to describe periods of time, a distinction that most other languages do not. Specifically we will say something happened since a point in time, but we say for a period of time. In the English used by non-native speakers, since is used for both cases, as it typical in the native languages. Also, in Italy I had some experience helping edit a few articles where there were several usages that were questionable. As it turned out they were all correct, but some of them were correct in American English but not in the Queen's English and others vice versa. I suspect that over time non-native English will settle into some odd mixture of both countries usages.

What I am getting at is that as there has long been two versions of English, there is now a third version of English. And my final point is that if the US continues on the course George Bush is setting for scientific and technology development in this country, then in another 20-50 years American scientists will need to edit their journal articles to correct their usage from American English to the International English that may well take over.


How to handle error

Democrats and liberals have come under attack to some degree for encouraging and promoting various investigations that may politically damage this administration, on the grounds that doing so will hurt the nation. I've seen complaints to that affect with regards to Abu Ghraib and to the Fitzgerald investigation into Plamegate. Apparently the conservative view is that the actions themselves, torture of prisoners or outing covert agents, are not too important, it is revealing that they happened that does the damage.

Well the liberal position is the opposite. The grave danger to our troops in the field has been done because of the torture itself and because an undercover agent was exposed. The way to minimize and control that damage, and to prevent further such damaging incidences in the future is to expose the culprits and make sure that they face justice for their actions. Covering up the misdeeds does nothing to reduce the damage, but it does make it more likely that such misdeeds will occur again.

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Saturday, October 22, 2005

Democratic Business Model

A common Republican theme over the past few decades has been their superior business sense and their ability to run the government more like a business. George Bush was touted at the start of his first term as the CEO president. But if the Republicans are the business leaders, those who will run the country as a business, what is the business model they have for the US? What is the US in the business of doing and how is it being made profitable? I have not seen this explained by anyone from the right, nor can I fathom from their policies what their business model for the US is. On the other hand I think I could put together a decent business model for the US based on policies of liberalism and the Democrats.

The primary business activity of the US government is to provide security services. These are first and foremost, although not only, in the form of police, courts, and the military. This service is provided to the citizenry to produce an environment in which people can go about their business with relative peace, stability, and security in person and property. Like any good business, these services are not provided for free. The government charges for these services via taxation. I would argue that the deal that is currently offered by this government, and the deal that has been offered for the history of the US, is extremely good for all but perhaps the poorest of citizens. The security provided is vastly greater and less expensive than anyone could hope to provide on his or her own. In particular, for those who own a great deal of property, having it protected by the US is invaluable, and is done at a relatively tiny expense. I argue that the service is proportionately more valuable the more wealth and property you have, because the greater the wealth and property the harder it is to secure it on your own. For this reason I support progressive taxation, charging more for the service from those who 1) need it more, 2) can afford to pay more for it, and 3) use it more extensively to their own advantage.

The income stream for business of the US government is therefore the wealth generated through economic activity. So it is in the interest of our corporate managers to promote economic growth, the employment of the citizenry and business activity at all levels, as this increases the income stream and makes the business profitable. Therefore it is in the interest of government to provide, in addition to police and military security, measures to promote the kind of economic security that encourages people to invest and spend and generate economic activity. I would also argue that in order to provide the extremely effective security that the US provides, that business which is of such great value, it is desirable to have a generally prosperous, well educated and healthy populace. The security provided by the US is so valuable because it is able to tap into such a large selection of educated and healthy candidates for the various positions in our courts, police and military.

A second reason exists for why the government should be interested in investing in general education. The business draws its revenue from the many people who have created property and wealth of great value that needs to be defended. A well educated, stable and healthy populace is in a much better position to generate new, greater, and more diverse economic activity thus increasing the wealth of the nation, the amount of property in need of defense and the success of the government business. For this reasons operation an educational system, even at a loss, would be of great interest to a liberal business model.

Similar to the arguments above on the value of an educational system, there is great value in having a healthy populace and one which can expect some reasonable degree of economic stability. Both states of affairs lead to people making more rational economic decisions and to being more willing to spend and to invest (rather than merely saving in low, or zero, growth activities) and thus doing more to grow the economy and provide a greater revenue stream for the business. Hence the liberal business model would run, even at a loss, a social safety net and social insurance. These certainly include the existing poverty programs, but also Social Security, FDIC, and, in the not too distant future, national health insurance. So in the liberal business model the social safety net and social insurance functions are means by which the main business can increase its customer base. Therefore, they themselves need not be profitable, if they increase the customer base by enough.

Similar arguments can be put forth under the liberal business model for the transportation network, the power grid, securing the airwaves for broadcast media and other such government activities as means of increasing the customer base.

Finally, I think part of the business model is to have the government place reasonable restrictions on the use of national resources such as the atmosphere, the ground water, rivers and streams as places for dumping waste. There is no reason to provide these resources for free. Also, in the liberal business model we are trying to keep the business running profitably far into the future, so we do not wish to allow these general resources to be consumed in the short term, leaving the business with an impoverished customer base in the longer term.

In short, it seems to me, that if one actually tries to put together a reasonable business model, one comes up with the liberal agenda, at least on economic issues. My point is not to say that we need to try and sound more like Republicans in order to win. I suspect that to a large portion of the liberal readers, the language that I used is troubling. I do not want those folks to think that I am calling for this kind of language to be used all the time to describe the liberal agenda. We do need to call on people to support liberalism because it is generous and good and right. However, I do believe that at this point in time, although our agenda is far better for the country, many people are turned off by the language we typically use. Too many folks that would approve of our policies if they understood the substance, get turned of by language that sounds to them like socialism and they never come to understand the substance. I put forth the above description of a business model to provide a set of tools for talking to people of that mind set.

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Thursday, October 20, 2005

Latest on FEMA

Others have been following the FEMA story more thoroughly than I have lately, but the linked AP story, based on information from the ongoing congressional hearings into the Katrina response, is an eye opener. Testimony from Marty Bahamonde, the FEMA official who first arrived in New Orleans, including many emails from him to Mike Brown, highlight vividly the ineptitude of Brown's leadership. Indeed, not so much ineptitude as a total lack of leadership and uncaring attitude on the part of Brown. Read the entire article.

One part stood out for comment.
In an Aug. 29 phone call to Brown informing him that the first levee had failed, Bahamonde said he asked for guidance but did not get a response.

"He just said, 'Thank you,' and that he was going to call the White House," Bahamonde said.

Mike Brown gets a call from his man on the spot informing Brown that the worst case scenario is developing and asking for guidance. The only response from Brown is that he is going to call the White House. It just struck me that this response fit in well with what I've said before about this Administrations management style. Brown was not going to act, no matter what the situation, without instructions from the White House. Of course, this was the Monday on which the levees were breaking and Bush did not become engaged until Thursday, I believe. This country deserves far better leadership that it is getting.

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This is the way for Dems to talk

See the linked article at daily Kos. This is an excellent piece by one of the "Fighting Dems", Bryan Lentz a candidate in Pennsylvania's Seventh congressional district. More on the Fighting Dems can be found in an earlier post.

He presents an excellent plan for dealing with the situation in Iraq, a plan that I think most Democrats could support. He also presents it in a manner that, I think, is exactly the kind of direct, forceful and straight forward manner that Democrats need to adopt. Read his post on Kos and keep what he says in mind when Republicans ask what Democrats propose we do in Iraq.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Latest Plame Absurdities

Read the link for Jacob Weisberg's absurd argument on the Plame case. He joins Richard Cohen and others in the growing right-wing push back against the Plame investigation. It is curious to note that only now, as indictments are apparently in the works, do these folks discover that there is something wrong with the Fitzgerald investigation of the Plame affair. And what is the reasoning they give. Weisberg argues that it is ridiculous to believe that Rove and company could have done the deed because
anyone who worked for Bush and talked to reporters about Plame namely Rove or Scooter Libby, the vice president's chief of staff knew she was undercover. And as nasty as they might be, it's not really thinkable that they would have known. You need a pretty low opinion of people in the White House to imagine they would knowingly foster the possible assassination of CIA assets in other countries for the sake of retaliation against someone who wrote an op-ed they didn't like in the New York Times.
So according to Weisberg reasoning it is unreasonable to believe that any of these people would have knowingly revealed Valerie Plame's name because of the horrible damage that it could do to US national security. But at the same time he argues that the only law that could have been broken was "a flawed piece of legislation called the Intelligence Identities Protection Act." which "As Jack Shafer has written, this 1982 law is almost impossible to break ...". Excuse me, but isn't it just a tad odd that these acts which would be so damaging to US national security are illegal only under a law which is impossible to break. That prior to 1982 there was nothing on the books to make it illegal, for anyone, to reveal the name of a covert CIA agent.

Let me offer a slightly different perspective. When Robert Novak published his July 2003 editorial revealing that Valerie Plame worked undercover for the CIA we immediately had substantial evidence that someone had committed a crime. While it might be possible to reveal the name of an undercover CIA agent without committing a crime, in general doing so involves someone acting illegally. Patrick Fitzgerald was then empowered to investigate the matter and to determine what crimes were committed and by whom. He is doing that job.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Fighting Dems

This is great, it's something I've been wondering about for a while now, but I haven't' had the time to do the research. Majority Report producer John Orton, at Air America Radio, has put together a site called Fighting Dems which lists current Iraq war vets running for office as Democrats.

I've heard of several of these men and women who have come back after tours of duty to run for office, and it seems always as Democrats. Paul Hackett being the most famous so far, but several names have come up. Two points strike me. It is very good to see improved relations between the Democratic party and our military. The decades long impression that the Democrats don't care about our military and military personnel is a slander on the Democratic party and a gross disservice to the military. But it is also noteworthy that given the supposed stark Republican bias in the military that the folks coming back seem disproportionately to be running as Democrats. I think the reason is that the supposed Republican bias has been somewhat overstated and that the effects of service in Iraq, and the actual performance of this Administration on military matters, has caused some serious rethinking of the idea that Republicans are better for the military. We shall see and the linked web site will be a great resource for monitoring this.

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Paul Waldman over at the American Prospect has a great article up on the status of Liberalism in America today. I think it is a very important piece, it captures several very important truths.

For example
But when Republicans began to go after liberalism, Democrats cowered in fear, not only trying to distance themselves from the term but embracing the idea that a "conservative" is a great thing to be. Few Republicans would claim to be "social liberals" -- even if they are -- but Democrats are always claiming to be "fiscal conservatives," saying they have "conservative values" or chiding Republicans for not holding to the principles of conservatism on issues like the deficit. The message this sends to Americans who don't know much about politics is that, regardless of the details of policy, it's good to be conservative and bad to be liberal.
This is very true of the liberal response to conservative attacks and is very damaging to our position. Democrats are regularly seen as less attractive on national security, it was, by many accounts the deciding factor in the last election. Indeed Kerry, the war hero, got trounced on this measure by Bush, who at the very best avoided hazard to himself. Kerry was damaged for opposing weapons systems which Cheney also called for cutting, yet Cheney kept his status of being strong on national defense. But if what Paul Waldman is saying is true, and I believe that it is, then this is hardly surprising. If liberals will at the first sign of attack on the political playing field abandon their positions and concede ground to conservatives, is it any surprise that conservatives are seen as stronger on security? Liberals need to stand on their positions in the national debate and not give ground. As I've written elsewhere conceding points like we do is fine in an academic debate, but a political debate is more like a trial, where we are convinced that our client, liberalism, is in the right. Any criticism of a liberal position needs to come only from conservatives, and liberals need to be determined only to disagree with that criticism. Such a position, I'm convinced, will go a long way to improving our stature on issues of national defense.

The next few paragraphs also deserve some comment:
Which brings us to what may be the most important feature of ideological competition in America today: Unlike liberals, conservatives don't simply criticize specific candidates or pieces of legislation, they attack their opponents' entire ideological world view. Tune into Rush Limbaugh or any of his imitators, and what you'll hear is little more than an extended discourse on the evils of liberalism, in which specific events are merely evidence that the real problem is liberal ideology. Liberals may write best-selling books about why George W. Bush is a terrible president, but conservatives write best-selling books about why liberalism is a pox on our nation (talk radio hate-monger Michael Savage, for instance, titled his latest book Liberalism Is a Mental Disorder).

Indeed, large portions of the conservative movement can be understood as an effort to crush liberalism in all its manifestations. Conservatives understand that their main enemy is not a law, government program, or social condition they don't like. Their main enemy is a competing ideology, and that is what they spend their time fighting.

In contrast, liberals spend very little time talking about conservatism. They talk about their opposition to President Bush or the policies proposed by the Republican Congress, but they don't offer a critique of conservatism itself. When was the last time you saw a book-length polemic against conservatism? Liberals have failed to understand that a sustained critique of the other side's ideology not only defines your opponents, it helps to define you by what you are against.
Following this advice does not mean, however, that we need to become like the Republican attack machine of Karl Rove and abandon civility and fair play. Rather it is a matter of first using reason and critical review to develop a set of policies that we as liberals believe in. Then we need to present those ideas with complete conviction and an unwillingness to compromise except as a kind of last and extreme resort. Part of the nature of liberalism is the scientists recognition of the tentativeness of all conclusions. However, when we present our policies to the electorate we need to forget that tentativeness and present them with complete confidence. This is not a form of deceit. The electorate is aware of the tentativeness of conclusions, they just don't want to hear it from the advocates of those conclusions. Again, the analogy is to a trial lawyer. Don't indicate to the jury any doubts about your clients case, that is the job of opposing council.

Kevin Drum has some further comment on this same article along the same lines. Check him out.

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Monday, October 17, 2005

No Matt, No

This article by Matt Yglesias is the sort of thing that will drive me crazy. The bit that got me is this, in response to the possibility that Joseph and Valerie Wilson might sue George Bush.
If this happens, I think it would behoove liberals to recall that we were right the first time on this issue and that if it comes to it, the Supreme Court ought to reverse their obviously mistaken ruling in the Jones case. It would be emotionally satisfying, of course, to see the GOP taste some of its own medicine on this point, but the Court's contention that the lawsuit wouldn't interfere with the president's official responsibilities was clearly wrong and the judicial system shouldn't be encouraged to compound the error for the sake of consistency. Generally speaking, if complicity in illegal Plame-related conduct extends all the way up to Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, that's a matter properly left to Congress or else until 2009 when they're out of office.

The strictest sense I agree that the Supreme Court decision that Clinton vs Jones would go forward was a bad decision. However, it seems sometimes that liberals insist on going into a street brawl and then trying to fight by Marquis of Queensbury rules. The SC decision was a 9-0, rather overwhelming and leaving very little room for it being overturned. Which three justices would join Meirs and Roberts to change the outcome? This gives we on the left rather a lot of room to just accept defeat in the court and let Joe Wilson go ahead, with our blessing. It would be absurd for us now to support a reversal just to let Bush and Cheney off the hook. For God's sake, if we put up with that, the SC would just reverse itself again the next time a Democrat was in office. No, that cannot be tolerated.

Now if Matt wanted to get the Republican Congress to pass legislation or start a constitutional amendment process to reverse the decision, I might be more sympathetic. But, please, if the country does change course on letting civil suits against sitting presidents go forward then we Democrats need to force the Republicans to admit, public ally, that they were wrong when Clinton was in office.

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Democratic message control

Ok, the article which generated this idea is almost a month old, but nonetheless I want to get it down and it kind of links with the last post.

Consider this post by Josh Marshall.
He points out that the staff members answer phones for a given congressman or woman won't be in any position to answer questions as to where the congress person stands on new, breaking issues. In this example the He writes about how individual congressmen and women often don't have position on new and breaking issues, in this case the president's Gulf Coast Wage Cut, until the higher ups on the staff put together a press release. This is expected, but is frustrating for constituents who call up to get the congress persons position and looks bad for the representative. Now what I'm thinking is this, why doesn't the leadership of the Democratic Party prepare such statements and distribute them around to their members. That is, have a single office run by the leadership that will put out statements consistent with the leadership position. Members would be free to use these position papers or not. However, there would be many advantages, as seen by ones constituents, speed of response for example, which would make using the statements desirable. This would also help with message control and party discipline which the Democrats could use.

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I have an ulterior motive in putting together the previous list titled Republican Leadership. I wanted some place to try and keep track of the various failures and scandals that have been plaguing this nation the past five years. But I also think that it would be very beneficial for Democrats if they would try and link these scandals together whenever possible. It has been frustrating to watch each of these scandals come and go, and sometimes reappear, but without reaching the kind of critical mass that it seems they should. I believe that a problem the Democrats have had, has been treating these as separate events. The Republicans have been able, so far, to deal with each issue individually. The Democrats would do well to keep the pressure on, on as many fronts as possible.

So, for example, any mention of the Plame investigation should also mention Katrina Leung or Larry Franklin or Leandro Aragoncillo. As various scandals have fallen in the memory hole, Democrats can include them as asides in talking up other issues. So, a brief mention of Nick Smith in the midst of a discussion of Delay or Frist or Abramoff would be helpful.

This linking technique could be very valuable for the Sunday talking heads. A lot can be gained by a brief mention of one of the other scandals while discussing the main issue. So on a discussion of Karl Rove, mention Katrina Leung or Nick Smith is some appropriate way. A number of things are gained.
  • Otherwise forgotten scandals are brought back to the forefront, even if only briefly

  • The opposition is put in a tough place. They must either let the reference to the side scandal go unchallenged, or they must take time away from addressing the main point.

  • It helps build in the public mind that there exists a general climate of scandal around this administration

In this strategy I would like to see Democrats all over making reference to these many scandals as often as can be done. Perhaps there could be some coordination, so that the same four or five ancillary scandals are being mentioned by many people each week. At any rate, I encourage all who wish to see actual honor and actual integrity in the White House, to make as much use of these issues as can be done.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Republican Leadership

I am accumulating a list of the criminal misconduct, ineptitude, failure and embarrassments that have characterize Republican leadership for the past several years.

In addition to the above list with links to specific articles on each topic, I want to recommend the following sites for overall coverage of the listed topics. As new information comes up on each issue, these folks will have useful commentary.

PERRspectives Repository Great source of documents on many issues.
Mark Kleiman on Plame.
Josh Marshall on Plame, Abramoff, Safavian, as well as others.
Kevin Drum Plame.
Talk Left lots. Look on the right side bar for the "Category Archive". Follow the links.
Daily Kos for all kinds of info and discussion.

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Monday, October 10, 2005

Unequal Polarization

Mark Schmitt at TPM cafe has commented A new Council on Foreign Relations report that shows that "the current climate of partisan politics is weakening American leadership."

In particular I was struck by this graph
As Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson write in their fabulous new book, Off-Center: The Republican Revolution & The Erosion of American Democracy, "the problem is not just polarization. It is unequal polarization -- unequal between Democrats and Republicans, unequal in its effects on the governing aims of liberals and conservatives, and unequal in its effects on American society."

I agree on the unequal polarization claim. At least in the sense that the Republican/conservative party is being clearly absolutely rigid in their positions while the Democrats have given, to a far greater extent, the impression of taking no clear and firm position. I have been maintaining in these posts that the source of this distinction is the Republicans grasp of the need to present their case like attorneys at trial while the Democrats continue to argue more in the mode of scientists at a conference. It is not that Democrats have no firm opinions. However, they are aware of the uncertainties we face and, much to their detriment, have continued to express those uncertainties when trying to persuade the electorate. Should the Democrats get over that habit, or even reduce it substantially, I believe that their electoral chances will improve greatly.

This issue is also being discussed over at Kevin Drum's. See this post of his. And this post by Hacker and Pierson, and this post too.

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Sunday, October 09, 2005

Change needed in Iraq

The linked article in the LA Times details the growing official, military questioning of the administrations policy in Iraq.

As the article says:
The expectation that political progress would bring stability has been fundamental to the Bush administration's approach to rebuilding Iraq, as well as a central theme of White House rhetoric to convince the American public that its policy in Iraq remains on course.

But within the last two months, U.S. analysts with access to classified intelligence have started to challenge this precept, noting a "significant and disturbing disconnect" between apparent advances on the political front and efforts to reduce insurgent attacks.

and further noting that after two and a half years of war the insurgency has been growing
Despite what Bush on Thursday called "incredible political progress" in Iraq since
Saddam Hussein's fall 2 1/2 years ago, the Iraqi insurgency has grown in strength and sophistication. From about 5,000 Hussein loyalists using leftover Iraqi army equipment, it has mushroomed into a disparate yet potent force of up to 20,000 equipped with explosives capable of knocking out even heavily armored military vehicles.

"The surface political process has stumbled forward, but the insurgency came up and kind of stayed that way," said a U.S. government analyst with access to classified intelligence. Several analysts, who spoke on condition of anonymity while discussing intelligence, indicated that initial evidence of the disconnect began to surface in the spring — after Iraq's first national elections on Jan. 30 — and it has gradually become clearer since.

The analysts and officials stating these views are still not stating their position on the record, hardly surprising considering the sensitivity to the claims and this administrations record of retaliation against whistle blowers.

Read the article, but it indicates a growing trend (see, for example this)among those who know what is going on that support for the administration's policy is weakening rapidly.

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Saturday, October 08, 2005

How not to do ScIence

Ok, after the last post I could not resist. The link to the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute, the home of "research" into Intelligent Design. There is much there to read, but very little science and very little in the way of recognizing the uncertainty of their basic conclusions.

I've also got a link to the Discover Institute's Wedge document that outlines a very non-scientific approach to the issues of biology and Earth's history. Check out the rest of the Antievolution web site while your there. And if you are going to look through the information from the Discovery Institute, please, in the spirit of science, check out the links to the right for Talk Origins, Talk Design, and Talk Reason, or other sources of mainstream scientific thinking for contrary opinions before making up your mind.

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How to do Science

Ok, that's rather an ambitious title. I will, in fact, only cover a bit of how science is done. But one of my main themes here is how science is done, what the thinking is like, what the language is like and why. I would like to convey a better understanding of what scientists do and how to understand what they have to say.

For today's discussion, I want to start with a really excellent essay Richard Feynman wrote, based on a commencement address he gave in 1974. Feynman was one of the nation's leading physicists from the end of WWII until his death in 1988. He was a Nobel prize winner and was perhaps most famous for uncovering the problems with the o-rings that were responsible for the Challenger disaster.

Read the whole essay, but there is one part in particular that I want to discuss here. At this point Feynman is talking about one central requirement for doing good science.

That is the idea that we all hope you have learned in studying science in school -- we never say explicitly what this is, but just hope that you catch on by all the examples of scientific investigation. It is interesting, therefore, to bring it out now and speak of it explicitly. It's a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty -- a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you're doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid -- not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you've eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked -- to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.

Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can -- if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong -- to explain it. If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it. There is also a more subtle problem. When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else come out right, in addition.

In summary, the idea is to give all of the information to help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgment in one particular direction or another.

It is certainly true that scientists do not always live up to this ideal of presenting all critical evidence. Scientists are human too and sometimes fail to live up to the highest ideals. However, doing good science and gaining the greatest reputation in science requires following this ideal as closely as at all possible. Generally speaking science follows the above ideals pretty well.

This requirement of presenting contradictory evidence, however, is not typical in most other activities. Neither a lawyer not an advertiser nor a salesman would do too well if he or she spent too much time pointing out the possible flaws in his clients case. Because of this characteristic the way that scientists talk about their work often seems a bit strange to non-scientists.

In almost all areas of science there exists some contradictory evidence, or at least evidence which doesn't fit the current theories as well as we would like. So there is almost always some contradictory evidence to recognize and therefore some uncertainty in our conclusions. But also realize that in some cases there is very little that doesn't match up just right, and even then the mismatch is small, and in other cases there are large puzzling problems and other cases that fall in every degree of uncertainty between these extremes. Therefore one of the striking characteristics of scientific speech is an effort to express the degree of uncertainty. Hence the frequent use of qualifiers and so called "weasel" words.

See, in most non-scientific venues people want to come to some conclusion, even if they are not absolutely certain it is correct, and yet act upon it with some action in spite of any uncertainty. In those circumstances "weasel" wording is undesirable. In the scientific arena, they are an essential part of communicating the degree of uncertainty and are necessary for reaching the best, most likely to be correct, conclusions that we can reach.

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Friday, October 07, 2005

Katrina update

I've kind of let the FEMA failure issue be taken by others as I've gone off to write on other topics. But just to keep everyone up to date on some of the things going on, check the link. The first half of the article is about the Bennett issue, but the second half continues more stories on FEMA, or more accurately Federal Government, failures in Louisiana.

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Thursday, October 06, 2005


The title is from an article by Josh Marshall. I just want to archive a link to it. The story is fascinating and sad. Josh is writing about the state of the FBI and about the only actual Chinese spy that we've caught in the past ten years turned out to be a major Republican (yes you read that right) fundraiser. The story is great, go read it.

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The Washington Post has a short piece describing how congress has been abandoning its oversight role. As I discussed in an earlier post, the role of oversight, or critical review, of what the other branches are doing, is an essential role that is absolutely necessary for government to work properly. We will only get good policy if the branches of government seriously check each others work. The trend described in the article is something we should be very concerned about. The trend has certainly accelerated with the current congress and current administration. Congressional oversight of the administration is a shadow of what it once was, typified by the congressional Katrina investigation which is shaping up to be a whitewash.

This trend is now not only affecting congress, but the executive has abandoned its oversight role as well. Bush has vetoed exactly zero pieces of legislation. It the branches of government do not check each others work we can only expect poor results. And we are seeing that in the aftermath of the Iraq war, the aftermath of Katrina, the bloated highway bill, and the rest of this current government's efforts.

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Valerie Plame

This is just a referal post. Everything you need to know about the Valerie Plame issue can be found at Kos. Check the link or go here.


Wednesday, October 05, 2005


The link is to today's George Will Washington Post editorial. The post is getting a lot of attention ( kos Kleiman) because it is such a harsh critique of George Bush's choice of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court. Others have covered the political and Supreme Court implications, but one thing that Will wrote struck me. He says
Under the rubric of "diversity" -- nowadays, the first refuge of intellectually disreputable impulses -- the president announced, surely without fathoming the implications, his belief in identity politics and its tawdry corollary, the idea of categorical representation.
This is a point where conservatism is so deeply wrong, and not just on the social grounds, but intellectually as well.

I know from personal experience that one essential element needed to make scientific research and technological development successful is what I refer to as "critical review". This is a recurring process in which ideas or plans are subject to what it says, review aimed at finding flaws. The objective being to test the ideas, look for where and how they might fail. This is essentially what the experiment is all about in science. In technology development there are formal review and test procedures. I have argued that this element of critical review is identical to the competition that makes market economics such a success. It is found in the checks and balances of our constitution and in the adversarial nature of our legal system. Critical review is a central part of making any large complex system work.

But what then are the elements needed for this critical review. The are to have a diverse group of independent reviewers. The reviewers must be independent so that they can, in fact, be critical. The diversity is needed so that the ideas being tested will face as wide a range of tests and critiques as possible. Diversity is needed because that maximizes the chances that each error will be caught. Depending upon ones background, area of expertise and training, some errors will be more readily caught and others will me more likely to get missed. By increasing the diversity the likelihood of each error getting caught goes up.

The upshot is that Will is completely wrong in the passage quoted. Diversity is an essential component of any system whose objective is critical review.

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Unauthorized Reproduction

Apparently, Republican lawmakers in Indiana are drafting legislation to apply criminal penalties for "unauthorized reproduction". Check the link, and also this post at Kos. This is amazing, but hardly a surprising outcome given the Republican party's current positions. I've been amazed over the years how little attention is paid to one of the implications of the Roe v Wade decision and opposition to the decision. Given the reasoning of the opponents to Roe the State constitutionally has the power to forbid abortions. True. But if the State has the power to forbid abortions, then it also has the constitutional power to require them, or inject itself into decisions regarding reproduction however the state might feel. Given the reasoning behind Roe, however, there could be no justification for the state requiring abortions, or injecting itself into reproductive decisions as is the Indiana legislature.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Commander in Chief

I want to talk about the role of President as commander in chief. This is a Presidential role which has expanded greatly in the past half century or so, and then now under George Bush the right wing has been arguing that the President's role is nearly absolute. This interpretation of the President's role as commander in chief is odd coming from the so-called strict constructionists. First, what does the constitution actually say.
Article II, section 2

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States;

emphasis added. The phrase "when called into the actual Service of the United States;" suggests that when we are not at war the President does not, constitutionally, have power as Commander in Chief. This suspicion is bolstered by reference to The Federalist Papers Number 69 where Hamilton writes
The President will have only the occasional command
of such part of the militia of the nation as by legislative provision may be called into the actual service of the Union.

Now I'm not a strict constructionist and I do not call for a return to constitutional interpretation that would prevent the President from taking any military action without a congressional declaration of war. But it is clear that the current trend in thinking that the President's power to act with the military is absolute, is itself absurd.

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William Bennett

The link takes you to Bill Bennett's October 2000 Wall Street Journal editorial which he started with the line "Albert Arnold Gore Jr. is a habitual liar." I bring this up in reference to the recent controversy around Bennett.

I've been following the debate over Bennett's recent remarks about abortion and black children, and was appalled at the poor judgment he showed in trying to make his point in the way he did. And yes, to my mind, his presentation was racist. I am struck by the fact that Matt Yglesias and Brad DeLong came forth to defend Bennett. In a strictly technical sense, if one ignores the horror in the suggestion that an entire race be aborted, and it's ignoring this horror that is the center of Bennett's racism, Yglesias and DeLong are not completely incorrect. Look Germany in the 1930's had some legitimate complaints about the Versailles treaty and Saddam Husein had a valid beef with Kuwait in 1990, but the respective reactions to those complaints was so horrendous as to make mention of those complaints unreasonable. Likewise, some of the accusations aimed at Bennett may be unreasonably harsh, but compared to his comment, even mentioning these things, as have Yglasias and DeLong, is to give them too much weight.

Furthermore, it is appalling to me that we are even considering the possibility that the man who penned the abovementioned editorial is being even remotely ill-treated over his comments about aborting black babies. Given the mendacity he showed in this editorial, see Bob Somerby for a take down, Bennett has no legitimate basis for complaint. There are really only two possibilities, either the editorial is such a monstrous violation of decency that Bennett should long ago have been shunned from polite society, or else the most vicious accusations against him now are only an acceptable part of political discourse.

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Sunday, October 02, 2005

End Times?

Atrios points out the absurd regularity with which people view various problems as being apocalyptic. From gay marriage will ruin society, to environmentalist claims that we will destroy life on earth, to right-wing fears that Islamic terrorists will destroy the US, we do frequently see the dangers we face as absolute. There is an odd tendency to view problems as either fatal or non-existent. Or in terms of terrorism, for example, that there are two possible states, the terrorists are about to wipe us out or there is nothing to worry about. I tend to believe that reality falls between these two extremes.

For an historical example, I would say that the current management of the US government would be like that of GM during the late '70s and early '80s. They made lousy cars for many years. This was bad for the company. Not fatal, GM still exists, but it was bad. GM would be better off, even today, if they had spent those years making good cars. Likewise, for all my harsh words for this administration, it will not destroy this country. It is bad for the country, but it won't destroy it.


Rational economic choice in the face of risk

Kevin Drum has a post that's a few days old regarding what is known as the equity premium. Brad DeLong discussed it too. Over the past century or so stocks have consistently returned higher yields than do bonds. This does not mesh with standard economic theory because if stocks are in fact a better deal that should drive up their price with respect to bonds until the two instruments are equal. The idea being beaten around lately is that the difference is because of a higher perceived risk in stocks. In short people are not making the rational choice because they perceive stocks to be relatively riskier than bonds.

This suggests to me that people overcompensate for risk. This in turn implies that it is very valuable for a nation, for an economy to minimize risk and to maximize stability. That is the benefit for minimizing risk is greater than can be expected based on the theory that people are making strictly rational choices.

This conclusion supports one of my strong reasons for supporting the federal programs that constitute our social safety net. I'm talking here about Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, FDIC, unemployment insurance and the like. It is my opinion that maximizing economic stability and minimizing risk is primarily what the social safety net does.

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Saturday, October 01, 2005

More on Withdraw from Iraq

Over at the Emerging Democratic Majority, Ruy Teixeira has an interesting post discussing polling data on Iraq and Katrina. Popular opinion has been shifting away from earlier support for the war toward a greater interest in withdraw based on the events in Iraq. But the Katrina aftermath is also leading people to feel that the resources being expend in Iraq might better be spent on needs here at home. As I've written elsewhere, I believe that one hallmark of this administration has been to direct resources away from where they are needed and into enterprises that are of very little value. Apparently, this sentiment is becoming more common.

This national desire to redirect resources to more local threats could also be used to help the nation view reductions in force in Iraq not as "cutting and running" but as a reallocation of resources and thus make the decision less demoralizing and therefore more politically acceptable.

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Those Already Wealthy?

An earlier post ends on the point that the current conservative movement is all about helping out the already wealthy. This is done, it is often argued, because the wealthy are responsible for industry and such economic development that they should be aided in this great task. However, the policies proposed seem aimed at aiding those already wealthy. But are they the source of great economic growth? I think rather economic vitality is driven by those who whish to become wealthy, not by those who have already achieved that state.


Iraq withdraw

The ranks of those calling for the United States to withdraw from Iraq are growing in important circles, military leadership. The LA Times reports that
The U.S. generals running the war in Iraq presented a new assessment of the military situation in public comments and sworn testimony this week: The 149,000 U.S. troops currently in Iraq are increasingly part of the problem.

During a trip to Washington, the generals said the presence of U.S. forces was fueling the insurgency, fostering an undesirable dependency on American troops among the nascent Iraqi armed forces and energizing terrorists across the Middle East.

For all these reasons, they said, a gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops was imperative.

This has long been the view of numerous people on the political left, including both civilian and military voices. It has been primarily the civilian right wing in this country that have made the great mistake of calling for this war. It is becoming increasing clear that those who are calling for some sort of plan for gradual withdraw are correct. Those voices need to be listened to.

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Longstreet at Gettysburg

I believe that a Civil War example could help a lot in getting across the Democrats view on the military, the Iraq war and protesting against it. On the third day at Gettysburg, while Lee was planning what would become known as Pickett's charge, he asked Longstreet for his opinion on the plan. Longstreet's response is a classic
I have been a soldier all my life. I have commanded companies, I have commanded regiments. I have commanded divisions. And I have commanded even more. But there are no fifteen thousand men in the world that can go across that ground.

-- Gen James Longstreet, arguing with Gen Robert E. Lee against what became known as Pickett's Charge, July 1863

Longstreet objected to the action not because he hated the military, or was a pacifist, or because he wanted to be friends with the Union forces, or just "talk it out", but because he believed that if the ultimate objective of the Army of Northern Virginia was to maintain the existence of the Confederate States of America then the action proposed by Lee (Pickett's charge) would make that outcome less likely. It is for exactly this same reason that we on the left protest against the Iraq war. If the objective of the President of the United States is to maintain the safety and security of this nation, then the operation in Iraq makes that goal profoundly less likely

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Well blogger has been going insane for the past few days with posts vanishing and reappearing at odd locations. I believe that I've rebuilt my page to what it was before blogger went all HAL on us.


Army recruiting

The Army has fallen some 7,000 recruits short of their goals this year. This is the worst recruiting year, both absolutely and as a percentage, since 1979. But consider that in 1979 there was no active military operations ongoing, certainly nothing on the scale of the operation in Iraq. To have such a huge shortfall during wartime is striking. Given the Republican party's unwillingness to show leadership in calling for greater enlistment, this shortfall can hardly be considered surprising. Apparently, the political cost to anyone who would call for greater enlistment and make a national issue of it is considered more important by the Republican party than any harm that would come to the country due to these shortfalls.

This is yet another example of the Servile Society I have referred to before. The military needs some 7,000 more men and women to enlist than have done so, and the brave war supporters continue to avoid recruitment in droves. This segment of society, conservative, well-to-do, Republican will demand protection and aid, but feel that someone else is obligated to provide that aid be it manpower or money.

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