Archive for July, 2008

Last Lecture

Can’t believe I missed this when it came out; if you haven’t seen it yet, check it out:

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Curiously, this is being trotted out as a positive sign:

I am not surprised there are morons in SF and NY and Santa Monica and Berkeley who don’t understand that rent-control is not “pro-tenant” or “anti-landlord”; it is “pro-tenants who arrived a long time ago” and “anti-people who recently arrived or cannot afford to arrive given the artificially reduced supply of housing”.  It is certainly not progressive or defending some mythic little guy – I benefit from it despite probably have a better financial position than most San Francisco landlords, and capping my rent reduces the taxes my landlords pay, taxes that would fund social programs all over the state for people who actually need the help.

I would have hoped, however, that Barry would know better.  Chicago miraculously has much lower rental property costs than, say, any place with rent control, and it is precisely the absence of rent control that makes such a situation possible (it is one of the ironies of NY’s rent control law that it lapses if vacancy rates rise above a threshold – rent control is the reason there are no vacancies).

Funny thing about this election is that the rest of the pool is so loony – Hillz with the gas tax holiday, McLovin with the whole war thing – that a pretty classical big government guy is the best candidate we have seen in a decade.

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Worldwide Taxation

Carl Levin is all worked up about UBS’ role in letting Americans park money in Switzerland without telling anyone:

I would turn it around – why does the US still have worldwide taxation in the first place?  We are pretty much the only country that taxes its citizens’ activities outside its borders.  In this case, accounts owned by Americans are sitting in Switzerland and invested in non-US securities.  How is that any worse than an account of a Swiss citizen invested in non-US securities?  There is no income in the US, no use of US resources, why should the IRS be involved in the first place?

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At least this view is starting to trickle out:

If the Bushies were actual Goldwater conservatives, we would have a screwed-up society, but at least we would have the means to fix it if we ever so chose.  But the real model of Dubya/Cheney is more Suharto – just loot absolutely everything by nationalizing risk and privatizing reward.  It is to Bernake’s shame that he has not stepped in, either by refusing to bail out failed organizations or by just doing his job and defending the dollar.  George and Dick are dumb (Dick disguises his dumbness by being a jerk, but I don’t think he wanted to screw up Iraq or New Orleans, he just couldn’t help himself); Ben should know better.

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Good to see the Republicans state their case so directly.  Because we know we never want the party that let our country be attacked to sit in the White House…


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Lucky Cindy said this; if Michelle Obama said this it would prove she doesn’t understand America:

Weird thing is, Arizona actually has roads, and very nice roads at that.  It is dry, never freezes, was recently developed, virtually the entire population lives in two metro areas that have just about sprawled into each other, and oh, yeah, they get $1.19 for every dollar they send to the Treasury, courtesy of the good people of Connecticut and New Jersey.

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Glad to see the right-wing media finally catch up, ever so slowly, to what has been obvious throughout the Afghan Adventure: our military has done a terrible job.  And the incompetence begins with the commander in chief.


How does someone become a pundit without (a) having accomplished anything; or (b) being a broadcaster?

Following message originally January 15, 2002:

On at least two occasions Franks had Mullah Omar in his sights and failed to engage.  That alone ought to be grounds for getting cashiered.

McClellan was run out of the Army (with Lincoln saying “if you’re not going to use your army, would you mind if I borrowed it”) not because of any catastrophic losses (this was an era when one could lose men with impunity) but because he failed to accomplish any objectives.  He did not seem to gather that the Union was supposed to be on offense, and that if both parties refused to fight it would go in the books as a Confederate victory.

On Day 1, so the story goes, a Predator operator spotted a convoy with Mullah Omar in it.  By the time he got permission to fire from Franks’ chain of command and lawyers, conveniently located in Tampa, Omar had stopped playing along and was out of sight. A blunder of war, I suppose; you can forgive that sort of mistake.  But you cannot ever, ever forgive making that mistake again.  If you are even remotely serious about being at war you make it abundantly clear to everyone between Tampa and Kandahar that if someone has a shot at something that looks vaguely like Mullah Omar, he shoots everything he has, whether or not Omar is in the process of feeding lepers or healing the lame.  And you would make damn sure the authority to fire was in the hands of people in a position to do so immediately.

We are bogged down right now.  The American public might not have caught on yet, but we’re stuck.  We’re working on five months here, five months to deal with a bunch of jokers who should have been dancing with virgins long ago.  And we have caught no one of consequence.

The Taliban was a sideshow.  Afghanistan was a sideshow.  Who gives a shit who killed whom there? The people, the culture, its very existence is, like the story of Dr. Evil’s upbringing, quite inconsequential.  The only problem was that the Taliban was unwilling to confine its violence to its own people; it decided to bring NY into the mix.  And the US military exists to protect the people of NY, to ensure that any force that would hurt the people of NY is completely eliminated.

We didn’t hit Afghanistan with everything we have.  We didn’t even hit them with a small fraction of what we have.  As I have said before, if the Soviets had come across the German countryside I hope our plan wasn’t to annoy them with a few laser-guided bombs.  If we aren’t going to go nuclear, we damn well better lay the slap down conventionally.

Maybe it wouldn’t have worked.  Maybe we would have gone in day 1 and turned Kandahar into mini-Dresden, and somehow Omar would have gotten away anyhow.  Maybe Osama was already in Chechnya watching on CNN.  Maybe.

But if we had landed the Mountain Division after 48 hours of bombing with the full weight of our conventional arsenal, I think we would have caught a hell of a lot of al Qaeda guys with their pants down, and quite possibly stopped some of them from escaping.

General Franks leads the Central Command.  Most guys don’t get that chance once.  You should not be able to keep the job after screwing up.  We may be in a more civilized age, where we don’t hang admirals for losing their ships, but we ought to bust guys who can’t deliver.

So let’s look at the scoreboard:

We do not have Osama bin Laden.
We do not have Mullah Omar.
We do not have any senior Al Qaeda leaders.
We have captured a few nutters.
We have spent a ton of money, with no end in sight.
We have spent five months bombing slowly.
We have changed the government of Afghanistan.
We have agreed to provide aid to the Afghans.

This is a victory?  Do you not think Osama will hail his escape as a victory?  He’s Robin Hood at this point.  Do you not think Saddam is laughing?  We can’t go after him with Osama on the loose (what if Osama hit us while we were aiming at Saddam – the public would go nuts).  We have demonstrated our complete lack of will.  We use proxy armies, because the Somalis scared us.  Where is the deterrent threat we spend billions on?

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I have been a bit lukewarm about Wes Clark – not only was he a Hillary supporter, he had the painful “Mary, help” moment (http://dir.salon.com/story/opinion/feature/2003/09/19/clark/index.html) – but he is making a decent argument for the VP slot.  It will take someone with an impressive military resume (Silver Star for combat in Vietnam, went on to full general command of NATO forces) to point out that being a walking jinx (Forrestal disaster just getting to Vietnam, then shot down on his 23rd flight) shows phenomenal bravery but not a whole lot of strategic thought.

And it’s good to see Robert Card standing up for the guy, even if Barry has been rather wobbly on this issue:

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