Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Thinking about the GWOT - why government accountability matters

Glenn Greenwald is at it again - expecting politicians to own up to their own self serving double standards. Why else (insert heavy snark here) would he bother to blather on about GWOT, and the lack of government accountability. Why else, in the guise of an analysis of the GWOT and its relation to the renewed Patriot Act, would he insist that the loss of civil rights entrained in Patriot is NOT the direct result of our need to keep hunting terrorists, inspite of Osama Bin Laden's purported demise at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs?

Of course, long time readers will know that I jest here - the Patriot Act, its deconstruction of our civil liberties, and the GWOT are not in anyway hampered, declined, lessoned or marginalized by the end of our global manhunt of Mr. Bin Laden. Rather, our government continued to without accountability, because once you are in office its never in your best interest to give up power you have, no matter how pernicious.

Read more here:
Establishment thought and the War on Terror

Thursday, May 26, 2011

As usual, Ezra Klein nails the current state of U.S. governance on its head:

Here’s what we should’ve learned from the events of the past decade: Murphy was right. What can go wrong, will go wrong — and we need to plan accordingly. Because terrorist attacks? They happen. Credit bubbles? They burst. Underregulated Wall Street banks? They fail. Poorly designed offshore drilling platforms? They explode. Overleveraged European economies? They can’t pay their debts. Broken-down levees in hurricane country? They breach.
The problem - the folks who should listen (i.e. the voters) won't read this, and won't then do what needs to be done to arrest the situation before it implodes again.

Why? Simply this - we Americans don't want to deal with these realities. We prefer to deal with the "reality" of Snooki and Grenades on the Jersey Shore; we want to have a reality where we can find a husband in far flung places; we wish reality were just a dance away. We don't want to look behind the wizard's curtain on our politicians and see if they are really doing our work for us, or just doing the work of some large donors. We especially don't want to make changes in our lifestyle to accommodate reality - we won't adhere to strict building codes; we refuse to regulate the segments of business that actually endanger our economy.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Convergence Blog at Wired

Sheril has finally gone out on her own:

Convergence is a forum to explore all sorts of topics, but the primary focus will be the interdisciplinary nature of understanding our world. For example, if we aspire to protect biodiversity, we must address social issues. Boosting fisheries requires economics. Tackling our tremendous energy problem involves a great deal of policy. That’s what this blog is all about: people, science, decision-making, and more. It’s where seemingly unrelated fields overlap, boundaries blur, and practical solutions are sought.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Why taxation (even with representation) matters

From a Facebook link, comes this fundamental question that SHOULD be front and center in our national debate about the economy, government size, and government debt, but is not:

I’m tired of the insane arguments. So I’m genuinely asking: What’s the solution? We can’t live without clean water, without sanitary sewage treatment. We need roads and transportation and oversight on power and communications. We need somebody to make sure the people running nuclear plants keep them safe – and to help protect us if something goes wrong. This always seems to be the government’s job. I personally am glad for that.

But if it’s not with tax money, then I want to know: How do we pay for all this? We need the money; we can’t do without the systems. If not from taxes, where does it come from?

I’m begging: somebody give me an answer.

Read more here: The Ugly Truth About Infrastructure (and Taxes)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Torture is bad - but we're Exceptional so let's not prosecute it

John McCain is one of the few prominent Republicans who knows that torture is not in our best interest (emphasis mine):
Much of this debate is a definitional one: whether any or all of these methods constitute torture. I believe some of them do, especially waterboarding, which is a mock execution and thus an exquisite form of torture. As such, they are prohibited by American laws and values, and I oppose them.
And yet, like so many on both sides of the aisle, he just can't get that belief in law and order reconciled with his political ambitions and his stake in American politics:
I don’t believe anyone should be prosecuted for having used these techniques, and I agree that the administration should state definitively that they won’t be. I am one of the authors of the Military Commissions Act, and we wrote into the legislation that no one who used or approved the use of these interrogation techniques before its enactment should be prosecuted. I don’t think it is helpful or wise to revisit that policy.
Yes sir, nothing screams American exceptionalism like not prosecuting those who violate the highest laws of the land, simply because those who broke these high laws "were dedicated to protecting Americans." Oh, and this of course makes so much sense coming from the last Presidential candidate from the Party that cast itself as both the sole bastion of law and order, and the only Party that can do homeland security, defense and foreign policy. Seriously, how much more hypocritical on the subject of torture can our nation's purported leaders be?

And as a post-script, if we shouldn't revisit this policy because that would be unwise, what other policies does Mr. McCain propose we not revisit? The tax code? The Draft?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The REAL Budget battle is not over money

As usual Simon gets it right - the budget debate is not about money, its a mask for social policy and worldview:

The real issue is how much relatively rich people are willing to pay and on what basis in the form of transfers to relatively poor people – and how rising healthcare costs should affect those transfers.

The consensus for Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison and their contemporaries was simple: No significant social spending was administered by the federal government. Lindert estimates social spending (including on “poor relief” and public education) in the United States even by 1850 was less than 0.5 percent of GDP.

We’ve come a long way since 1792, but the question is: How far exactly? And are we willing now to debate the real issues: taxes, healthcare costs, and what kind of redistribution we think is fair and sustainable?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

So if Mr. Bin Laden's death is "major action" by the U.S. then did someone do NEPA?
So if Osama Bin Laden is really dead, how much will it really change things? I am pretty sure the answer will be - Not Much. There will be a new enemy,