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Republicans in Congress are not preventing Obama from devising a coherent foreign policy

Somebody suggested to me recently that if not for Republicans in Congress, President Obama would have a coherent and consistent foreign policy, one that would perhaps have included a long-term plan for post-Gaddafi Libya. Never mind, apparently, that the President has two quite large institutions and several smaller but still substantial ones, all headed by persons of his own choosing, to help him out on that front.

The occasion was a post by the always vivid Charlie Pierce at Esquire, reacting to a somewhat disjointed critique of the President by New Hampshire senator and Lindsey Graham mini-me, Kelly Ayotte. Ayotte is concerned that the President may have taken up the cudgel against ISIS for electoral purposes, and that once those are achieved (or not), he’ll back off from the fight and leave the other players to their own devices. By way of precedent, she mentioned the chaos in Libya, where the President participated in the destruction of the previous order without giving a lot of apparent thought to the following one. Pierce thought Ayotte was presumptuous to criticize the President. I thought Ayotte was beside the point, the point being that she may well be right. In any event this would seem a good opportunity to review the hot-spot foreign policy of this President.
Continue reading Republicans in Congress are not preventing Obama from devising a coherent foreign policy

Paul Krugman is wrong about Medicaid

Paul Krugman suggests in his New York Times column today that continuing the expansion of Medicaid is the answer to the outlandish cost of health care in the United States. He’s wrong. Medicaid is a lifeline for the impoverished, but the program would have to be reformed to the point that it would no longer be recognizable as Medicaid to be satisfactory for most Americans.

The reason Krugman likes Medicaid is the program’s success at controlling costs. He says that of all the health care delivery systems in the country, Medicaid is the one most like those in Europe, which have much lower costs than ours. If that’s true, it’s only because most of the rest of our fragmented system is completely fucked up.

Among the primary aims of European systems is health care equity — providing everybody with the same access to high-quality health care regardless of income or station. Medicaid does not come close to doing that. Krugman says that care from Medicaid providers is good and that lack of access is greatly exaggerated. In my experience the former is sometimes true and the latter, never.
Continue reading Paul Krugman is wrong about Medicaid

Routine carnage in Boston

I was browsing through my news feed yesterday morning when I ran across a story about the US bombing a wedding in Afghanistan. I thought something like “Jeez, again?”* and didn’t click through for the full story because it was so familiar. Now I can’t find it, but I think it said 30 dead. . . . → Read More: Routine carnage in Boston

In which we use prison labor to make body armor to sell overseas

I like to read the contract notices issued by the Pentagon. On a good day you can watch billions and billions of dollars go out the door in support of blowing various things and people up. Among the beneficiaries of today’s contracts is UNICOR, the government corporation that contracts prison labor to make stuff . . . → Read More: In which we use prison labor to make body armor to sell overseas

Soon, my petition will be a real boy, plus: Canadians don’t want Canadians to know what they know about Tommy Douglas

My petition requesting the Obama administration to commission a National Intelligence Estimate on climate change is 19 signatures shy of achieving visibility on the White House petitions system, meaning that it’ll start showing up when people search for climate change-related petitions. It is also a mere 24,869 signatures shy of mandating an administration response. . . . → Read More: Soon, my petition will be a real boy, plus: Canadians don’t want Canadians to know what they know about Tommy Douglas

Free trade, terracotta candidates and cardboard bicycles

The giant sucking sound Ross Perot wants you to hear these days is him endorsing Mitt Romney on the basis of Romney’s presumed fiscally responsible policies. Perot, who wasn’t born yesterday, posits that history began in 2009 and says experts support Romney’s contention that the mome raths outgrabe.

Democrats, meanwhile, are shocked, shocked! that the company Romney once owned and still profits from is outsourcing jobs to China in a particularly callous fashion — requiring American workers at Sensata, an auto parts maker, to conclude their own employment by training their Chinese replacements. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin (who recently declined to sign a letter pledging to block Social Security cuts) is joining Sensata workers today in a show of solidarity.
Continue reading Free trade, terracotta candidates and cardboard bicycles

US Secretary of War Leon Panetta ponders the human cost of the Greek financial crisis

He’s concerned that the Greeks won’t have as much money to spend on killing humans in other countries as the US would like.

“Today Secretary Panetta met with Greek Defense Minister Dimitris Avramopolous at the Pentagon to discuss a variety of mutual defense interests including the upcoming NATO Summit, the missions in Afghanistan and . . . → Read More: US Secretary of War Leon Panetta ponders the human cost of the Greek financial crisis

An epitaph for Obama: “I think we’ve all learned a valuable lesson.”

Not long after the big Republican win in the 2010 elections, the Obama administration’s best and brightest gave up on explaining that putting people to work is really good for both the economy and for people who need work. The concept was too complicated for voters, they thought, so instead the president went off to negotiate with a crew of irresolute drunks and psychotic killer termites over how best to tighten the belt of government around the necks of the poor, the sick, the old and the unemployed.

This is according to David Corn’s new book, Showdown, which is apparently meant as a generous portrait of the administration.

Continue reading An epitaph for Obama: “I think we’ve all learned a valuable lesson.”

“The Kipling is strong with this one …”

It’s like an epidemic. First there was David Atkins, representing from the mean streets of Santa Barbara for the liberal fans of violent empire, and now Max Boot, Dean of the Kipling School for Foreign Policy in the 21st Century, has popped his head up to chitter angrily at opponents of US military intervention in Syria.

Max Boot … I love Max Boot. He’s got the perfect imperialist name and, unlike Atkins, has both self-awareness and balls enough to proudly quote from “The White Man’s Burden” in one of his essays—America’s Destiny Is to Police the World, published in the Financial Times a few weeks before the invasion of Iraq. But more than that, he penned the single best line ever written in support of American imperialism in a piece, The Case for American Empire, that appeared in the Weekly Standard a few weeks post-911. Stand back and let it shine, o my brothers …

Afghanistan and other troubled lands today cry out for the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided by self-confident Englishmen in jodhpurs and pith helmets.

You could make a career out of deconstructing that. It’s glorious.

Continue reading “The Kipling is strong with this one …”

“Take up the white man’s burden …” Plus, your world record moment of Zen

Writing at the widely-read liberal blog Hullabaloo, David Atkins says the most recent US atrocity in Afghanistan means it’s time to pull the plug on what should, and in his estimation could, have been The Good War. He weeps for the Buddhas of Bamiyam (destroyed by order of Taliban leaders in 2001); he accuses his fellow liberals of parochialism and closing their eyes to the plight of Afghan women; he quotes both the penultimate stanza of Rudyard Kipling’s iconic poem, The White Man’s Burden, and the exhortation scribbled on the final page of Kurz’s monograph in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

Possibly I made that last bit up. But “Ye dare not stoop to less” and “Exterminate all the brutes!” are clearly visible just beneath the surface. He doesn’t despair that we invaded and occupied Afghanistan; he despairs that we didn’t do it better.

Oh, he cites the “enormous peril of foreign intervention in largely intractable situations,” and he says that “prolonged occupations anywhere are a terrible idea” because “[t]hese sorts of incidents are almost inevitable.” He says that “continuing this awful, endless occupation replete with civilian massacre after civilian massacre is no answer at all. It’s long past time to go.” But then he closes with this:

Still, weep for the people we will be leaving behind. Weep for the Shi’ite ethnic hazara who will likely be doomed upon our departure … And mourn the fate of a people who once had hope for a better future, and now have none because America ended up doing more harm than good when all was said and done. It didn’t have to be thus [emphasis mine].

Well, David: it did have to be thus. Because thus is what wars and invasions and occupations are.

Continue reading “Take up the white man’s burden …” Plus, your world record moment of Zen