Thursday, May 05, 2011

Releasing bin Laden Death Photos

I believe the photos will be released sooner rather than later, for the simple reason that they were taken by government agents on government time using government equipment. They belong to the US tax payers. There are two reasons that would justify withholding them in the near term: incitement to violence and compromising sources and methods. I'd guess that those liable to be incited to violence on the release of the photos, would be incited to violence by the killing of bin Laden itself and I haven't heard anyone argue that their release would compromise sources and methods.

Besides, a freedom of information request will eventually force their release.

I've no desire to see the photos myself. I've seen my share and hopefully my fill of gruesome photographs of the results of government action. In a previous life a played a role in releasing and distributing my share of gruesome photographs  of victims of government atrocities. Obviously, in this case Osama bin Laden isn't a victim and his killing isn't an atrocity (although some civil libertarians would beg to differ).

Political Courage

Political courage is sending a team of SEALs and CIA agents into a sovereign nation to eliminate a sworn enemy. Political courage is risking the lives of the operatives in a mission with no assurance of success. Political courage is ordering a risky mission whose failure will expose you as a bungling idiot. Political courage is risking ruptured diplomatic relations with said foreign nation to further your national interests.

Throwing the poor, the old and the disabled to the wolves while extending further tax cuts to the rich and the powerful is not political courage.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

President Obama: He's Who He Said He Was

On August 1, 2007, then Senator Obama delivered a speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center on the US response to 911. He clearly articulated his vision for the use of force. It's one that I wasn't entirely comfortable with, but I wasn't under any illusions when I voted for him. I didn't agree with the escalation of the war in Afghanistan, but that's exactly what he said he intended to do.

"The first step must be getting off the wrong battlefield in Iraq, and taking the fight to the terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan."

He's in the process of withdrawing US forces from Iraq. He demonstrated a ruthlessness with regards to US interests that I found chilling.

"If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will."

His Democratic rivals assailed his supposed naiveté. Shortly thereafter when President Musharraf suspended the Pakistani constitution, he was revealed as prescient. His Republican opponent went further:

In July 2008, Larry King asked Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), “If you were president and knew that bin Laden was in Pakistan, you know where, would you have U.S. forces go in after him?”
McCain said he would not.
“Larry, I’m not going to go there and here’s why: because Pakistan is a sovereign nation.”

I'm uncomfortable with the notion that the US can swoop in anywhere and conduct military operations without the knowledge and consent of the host nation, but that is the world in which we live and President Obama broadcast his view on the matter well in advance of his election.

Agree or disagree with him, but he clearly telegraphed the policies he intended to pursue.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Long Form Birth Certificate

This morning President Obama released a copy of his long form birth certificate in a futile attempt to discredit the silly theory that he is a Kenyan-Indonesian Socialist Muslim bent on destroying America.

Does this change anything? No.

Why not? He's still black.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

George Will Is An Idiot

I just heard George Will say on "This Week" that the current turmoil in the Arab world started in Tunisia then migrated next door to Egypt.

Tunisia is next door to Egypt just like Idaho is next door to Minnesota. In other words, quite a distance away.

Friday, January 28, 2011

America Global Leadership

Last December when British college students were protesting (rioting) against plans to hike tuition fees I don't remember a lot of people asking what President Obama was going to do about it.

The United States doesn't govern the world (US micromanagement shouldn't be demanded just when black and brown people are involved).

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lottery Winnings & The Estate Tax

What's a fair rate of taxation for lottery winnings? Should society be entitled to any share of manna that falls into our laps because we had the good fortune (or foresight) to be standing in the right place at the right time? 35% on anything over $5 million sounds a bit low to me.

There's the concept of "noblesse oblige" in a moral economy where privilege needs to be balanced with a duty towards the less fortunate. Progressive taxation (including the taxation of estates) is the method of seeking such balance in civilized societies.

Those who are born into great wealth and privilege didn't do anything to earn the same. To paraphrase the late great Molly Ivins, if you're born on third base don't go around claiming to have hit a triple.