Journal 10/01/2012 (a.m.)

  • tags: politics

    • To be blunt: The administration has a lot invested in the public impression that al-Qaeda was vanquished when Osama bin Laden was killed on May 2, 2011. Obama would lose some of that luster if the public examined whether al-Qaeda is adopting a new, Zawahiri-led strategy of interweaving its operations with the unrest sweeping the Arab world. But this discussion is needed, and a responsible president should lead it, even during a presidential campaign.
    • This strategy of avoiding major foreign policy risks or decisions may help get Obama reelected. But he is robbing the country of a debate it needs to have — and denying himself the public understanding and support he will need to be an effective foreign policy president in a second term, if the “rope-a-dope” campaign should prove successful.
  • tags: economics

    • what if the economy is already all grown up?

       

      “There was virtually no economic growth before 1750, suggesting that the rapid progress made over the past 250 years could well be a unique episode in human history,” writes Robert J. Gordon, an economist at Northwestern University. “Economic growth may not be a continuous long-term process that lasts forever.”

    • Gordon asks audiences whether they’d sooner forgo indoor plumbing or iPads. “The audience realizes that it has been trapped into recognition that just one of the many late 19th century inventions is more important than the portable electronic devices of the past decade on which they have become so dependent,” he writes. “Such essential improvements of human life as the conversion from rural to urban life, the speed of travel, the temperature of rooms, and the near-elimination of brute-force manual labor, have already been achieved.”
  • tags: politics

    • As Don Peck pointed out in his 2011 book “Pinched,” an analysis of the Great Recession’s likely consequences, the socioeconomic scars left by a period of mass unemployment get deeper the longer that period persists. Young people put off life decisions, delaying education, marriage, childbearing. Older people drop out of the work force permanently. Families are strained and split apart; people lose crucial years of saving and asset building; dependency on government assistance becomes a way of life. And a culture of fearfulness takes hold, discouraging risk-taking and entrepreneurship even when better times return.
  • tags: politics

    • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is casting Wednesday’s presidential debate as a potential game changer, saying that “come Thursday morning the entire narrative of this race is going to change.”
    • On the same program, White House senior adviser David Plouffe said  Christie had raised expectations for the underdog Romney.

       

      “They’ve set it – they expect to come out of this with the race changed,” Plouffe said. “They’ve set the bar high.”

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Journal 09/30/2012 (p.m.)

      • IN a few days, as you may have heard, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will go head-to-head in their first presidential debate. What I most want from it isn’t fireworks, though I’m as big a fan of political theater as the next hack. It’s a word, one that has gone sadly out of vogue over recent decades and been mostly absent from this campaign.

         

         

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         Sacrifice.

    • But the last president to make a truly robust call for sacrifice was ridiculed for it. That president, Jimmy Carter, suggested only that we turn down our thermostats a tad and guzzle a bit less gas, and in July 1979 observed, “Too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption.”
    • Then came Ronald Reagan, whose many great contributions to America were coupled with less great ones, including the idea, which has dominated our political discourse ever since, that we should speak only of morning in America and that optimism, like virtue, is its own reward.

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Journal 09/30/2012 (a.m.)

  • tags: Greenville nature

  • tags: politics

    • The race sure seems fascinating at times! The primary season had its share of woolly moments, and the various polls have opened and contracted enough to give the whole occasion a sense of competition. But it’s been like watching plate tectonics on a pie crust — wide enough, but a centimeter deep, and not sustaining enough to make one think too deeply about the state of the nation — if the horse race is all you’re consuming. At this point, we miss the Ron Paul campaign’s spirited demonstration of electoral process parkour — his run through the state conventions at least necessitated a fortifying study of the political process at ground level.
    • The point is, this race is effectively a contest between well-heeled political brands, not a grand election that’s rooted in what’s actually going on in America right now. And what is going on in America right now? Well as Chris Lehmann writes in The Baffler, “Data from the IRS shows that the Obama years have achieved almost nothing to remedy the yawning inequalities in the economy”:

        

      The top 1 percent of income earners have taken in fully 93 percent of economic gains since the Great Recession, the numbers show. That share outpaces Bush-era figures by a mile; as the economy emerged from the 2001-2 recession, the top 1 percent claimed a lousy 65 percent of the gains that followed.

        

      Naturally, this is not all Obama’s doing, Congress played a role — often an obstructive one — too. But it’s funny to think about Romney being in competition with this, and — for Pete’s sake! — whining about Obama’s stance on “redistribution.” Everything is being redistributed in the direction Romney prefers! How will he top it?

    • We really needn’t get in the weeds and try to evaluate which argument has the greatest merit. The fact is, there is a video of Romney playing right to the role that Team Obama Re-Elect cast him in, and so Obama now has the advantage. If Romney is losing, it’s only because he’s mired in the very stereotype that he should have set out — at all cost — to avoid.
    • Given what happened yesterday during the live segment of a car chase, Faux News will be putting Romney’s appearances on a 5 second delay.

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Journal 09/29/2012 (p.m.)

    • Some economists see another recession looming — even without the approaching U.S. budget crisis. Automatic tax increases and spending cuts could quickly drain hundreds of billions from the American economy, pushing us back into recession and the world into a tailspin that may make 2008 look tame.
    • One part, the Budget Control Act of 2011, is a piece of chainsaw legislation that now requires $500 billion in cuts to defense spending and another $500 billion in cuts to non-defense programs, other than entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare, over the next 10 years. The other part is the expiration of the Bush-era (and Obama-era) tax cuts, as well as the expiration of other tax-cut provisions.
    • If those two things happen at the same time, as they are scheduled to do at the beginning of January, the results would be, to use Ross Perot’s term, a “giant sucking sound” — in this case of stimulus being removed from the American economy all at once. That, in turn, could put a catastrophic damper on prospects of growth in the U.S. and the world.
    • Ornstein, co-author of a gloomy bestseller on Congress called “It’s Worse Than it Looks,” gave me three scenarios for the lame duck session and what follows. (Ornstein always has scenarios.)

        

      They punt: “Congress extents the Bush-Obama tax cuts for six months and pushes the effective date of the Budget Control Act back six months. That would put the whole thing into the new Congress,” he said.

        

      They fail: Democrats hold out for better numbers in the new Congress. Recalcitrant Tea Party types decide that they were insufficiently obstructionist. Some Democrats are quite happy to see the tax cuts expire, and take their chances of amending the Budget Control Act later. In other words, we go over the fiscal cliff with no hang glider.

        

      They deal: Either in the lame duck session or early in the new Congress, the “dealmakers” prevail. The Democrats’ leverage is that they can let the tax cuts expire, and then immediately offer a new bill that would restore all of the tax cuts except those for millionaires — and dare the GOP to vote against that new measure. At the same time, the president would offer some entitlement cuts — not everything the Tea Party might want, but enough to get the business community (read the U.S. Chamber of Commerce) to lean on the renegades. In Ornstein’s view, the GOP leaders in the Senate and House may be willing to deal, but it will be up to the business community to close the sale with the rejectionists.

    • ADVOCATES of airstrikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities have long held that the attacks would delay an atom bomb for years and perhaps even buy Israel enough time to topple the Iranian government. In public statements, the Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, has said that an attack would leave Iran’s nuclear program reeling, if not destroyed. The blow, he declared recently, would set back the Iranian effort “for a long time.”

       Quite the opposite, say a surprising number of scholars and military and arms-control experts. In reports, talks, articles and interviews, they argue that a strike could actually lead to Iran’s speeding up its efforts, ensuring the realization of a bomb and hastening its arrival.

       “An attack would increase the likelihood,” Scott D. Sagan, a political scientist at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, said of an Iranian weapon.

       The George W. Bush administration, it turns out, reached an even stronger conclusion in secret and rejected bombing as counterproductive.

    • Those who warn against attacking Iran say that such a move would free officials in Tehran of many constraints. An attack, for instance, would all but certainly lead to the expulsion of international inspectors, which, in turn, would allow the government to undo hundreds of monitoring devices and safeguards, including seals on underground storage units. Further, an Iran permitted to present itself to the world as the victim of an attack would receive sympathy and perhaps vital imports from nations that once backed trade bans. The thinking also goes that a strike would allow Iran to further direct its economy to military ends.

       Perhaps most notably, an attack could unite what is now a fractious state, these analysts say, and build an atmosphere of mobilizing rage. As the foreign ministers of Sweden and Finland wrote earlier this year, “It’s difficult to see a single action more likely to drive Iran into taking the final decision.”

    • These analysts maintain that the history of nuclear proliferation shows that attempting to thwart a nuclear program through an attack can have consequences opposite of those intended. Mr. Lewis of the Monterey Institute and other experts often cite Iraq. Israel’s attack on the Iraqi Osirak reactor in 1981, they argue, hardened the resolve of Saddam Hussein and gave his nuclear ambitions new life.
    • Scholars have long debated the social factors that keep countries from crossing the line.

       Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told his colleagues before they won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 that the bomb decision often turned on nothing more complex than a “sense of security or insecurity.”

    • What is the Republican response? That there must be some magical, maniacal skew in the numbers, and the skew must be a conscious effort by a scheming, elite media to dampen Republican enthusiasm.

       There may be an oversampling of Democrats in some polls, but this is by no means universally true. And the fact that Obama has a growing lead when the polls are taken in aggregate is undeniable.

       This is just an extension of the Republican war on facts. If you find a truth disagreeable, simply deny it. Call it corrupt. Suggest that it is little more than one side of a story — an opinionated, biased one — and insist that there is another explanation. The base will buy it.

    • the most devastating of which was the secretly recorded tape of him dismissing 47 percent of the population: “I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

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Journal 09/25/2012 (a.m.)

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Journal 09/24/2012 (p.m.)

  • tags: Windows Server 2008 System Administration PowerShell

    • Tuesday is the deadline for Akin to get a court order to drop his challenge of  Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. But Akin says he won’t do so. Instead, Akin  plans to ramp up his campaign. He’s holding a fundraiser Monday with former  Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.
    • “There are a lot of donors who have sat on the sidelines and are waiting” for  Tuesday’s drop-out deadline to pass, said Rick Tyler, a former Gingrich aide who  joined Akin’s campaign as part of the re-building effort. “
    • Since then, Akin has raised nearly $600,000 through a small-dollar, online  appeal that has cast his candidacy as an anti-establishment crusade against both  Republican Party bosses and President Barack Obama’s administration. Former  Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has aided the Internet  fundraising drive. But Gingrich’s event Monday — at $500 a person or $750 per  couple — will be Akin’s first prominent headliner for a traditional fundraiser  in at least five weeks.

       

      “This is an act of conscience on my part — I didn’t like seeking a guy  getting beaten up by the power structure,” Gingrich said.

       

      But Gingrich also is pragmatic.

       

      “If the Republicans are going to win control of the Senate, they need  Missouri,” said Gingrich, who led the Republican takeover of the U.S. House in  1994.

    • The right-wing contention is simple: Romney was a lousy candidate, a closet  moderate who didn’t offer the detailed conservative program in all its splendor  and who “muzzled” Paul Ryan, an idea some Ryan partisans are leaking. If this  side wins, the GOP will stick with obstruction and wait for the next  election.

    • But Romney’s 47 percent remarks finally unshackled the more moderate  conservatives who know how destructive the Ayn Rand/tea party approach to  politics has been. Some are talking about a Republican organization, similar to  the old Democratic Leadership Council, to pull the party closer to the center.
    • An Obama adviser calls the Romney campaign “a study in mismanagement,” while the  conservative columnist Peggy Noonan deems it “a rolling calamity.” Yet after  Tampa, Romney gave promised bonuses totaling $192,440 to at least nine senior  campaign staff members working under Stevens.
    • He finally released a tax return from 2011, showing he paid a higher tax rate  than required. The press immediately unearthed a Romney quote from July: “If I  had paid more than are legally due, I don’t think I’d be qualified to become  president.” Case closed.
    • Aside from Mitt’s penchant for being a piñata, the campaign is a moveable feast  of missteps: spending money at the wrong time; putting on biographical ads too  late; letting the Obama camp define Romney before he defined himself; staging a  disastrous foreign trip; fumbling the convention; and somehow neglecting to tell  the candidate that there is no longer any such thing as off the record, if there  ever was.
    • Romney said he liked to fire people. But his downfall may be that he does not.
    • The notion that too few Americans are paying income taxes has gained currency on  the right in recent years. An influential 2002 Wall Street Journal editorial  called the millions of American households that do not pay income tax “lucky  duckies.” Last year, Erick Erickson, the conservative firebrand, started a Web  site called “We Are the 53 Percent,” mocking the 99-percent theme of Occupy Wall  Street and chiding Americans for failing to pull themselves up by their  bootstraps.
    • For a long time, cutting taxes for the poor was a major emphasis of the  Republican Party. One reason that many poor people no longer pay federal income  taxes is that they qualify for credits such as the earned-income tax credit,  which has its roots in conservative thinking and has long been supported by  members of both parties as a way to help the poor without increasing welfare  payments or raising the minimum wage. The credit was added to the tax code when  Gerald Ford was president, and was expanded by Republicans and Democrats,  including President Ronald Reagan, who called it “one of the best anti-poverty  programs this country has ever seen” in 1986.

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Journal 09/22/2012 (p.m.)

    • The majority leader, Harry Reid, pointed out  repeatedly that he has had to struggle with 382 filibusters during his six years  at the helm. “That’s 381 more filibusters than Lyndon Johnson faced,” he  complained. Obviously, Robert Caro is never going to write a series of grand  biographies about the life of Harry Reid.

       

      It’s a wonder anything ever gets done. Although,  actually, it generally doesn’t.

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