"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Death warrants: part II

I'm honestly not feeling as morbid as the title suggests, but there's a segue (kind of), I promise.

Just got back from a great vacation with the various bits and pieces of the family. It wasn't exactly restful, with many late nights and early risings (thank you Aaron), but it's always good to assemble the troops and enjoy each other's company. My middle brother's wedding was the event that occasioned this, and we gladly welcomed another member into our ever-expanding family tree. MaryAnne is a fun, charming, and intelligent woman, and I know the two of them will be very happy in the years to come. I look forward to seeing them both again in October for the Marine Corps Marathon, where I will vainly try to beat her standing marathon finish time. The g-rents got to spend lots of quality time with their grandson, who likewise enjoyed the attention and spoiling spree. In the space of a week, Aaron was the beneficiary of enough Brio railway to create a wooden transcontinental railroad for the new battery-powered Thomas engines he received in the bargain. And, creative child that he is, he managed to incorporate a PlayMobil medieval castle and dinosaurs into the rail design as well. He also picked up many new words and phrases, including "get up Daddy", which he practiced on me every morning at the toll of six.

Indeed, it was delightful to escape the doleful news of the outside world for awhile while celebrating family triumphs. And, apart from the wedding, there was much to celebrate. My dear cousin Sarah, one month my senior, can now add "doctor" to her emails, as she successfully defended her dissertation on patriotism in modern America this past weekend. As I've said elsewhere, there'll be no living with her now. Furthermore, my newly wedded brother is now also my newly published op-ed brother, with this piece on nuclear energy in the Toronto Star. Thanks to his line of work he's very knowledgeable on energy issues on both sides of the border; and should I dare to enter the fray on energy policy again, I might just eliminate the middle man and direct T.A.B. straight to him.

Yet the doleful news is still there. Oh, my friends, we have dark days ahead:
  • Senator Edward Kennedy passed away earlier today. I'm not specifically including this in my dark days litany, but it's certainly the end of an era in D.C. Others will write more intelligently than I about his legacy, his accomplishments, and his failures, both personal and professional. But I will say that he knew how to push for causes he wanted, and was quite capable of reaching across the aisle to accomplish his goals. I disagreed with most of those goals, but appreciated his ability to stretch out his hand. It's a lesson others in his party have yet to learn. R.I.P.
  • So, about signing our own death warrants: turns out the office of the attorney general will, in fact, re-investigate a 2004 CIA investigation on alleged abuses on the part of some its interrogators. Curious, as past special prosecutors had already examined the cases and declined to pursue them for lack of strong evidence, and the 2004 investigation undertaken by the CIA, on its own initiative, resulted in the dismissal and/or disciplining of many of the accused. The 2004 report also reveals a CIA that, far from being a rogue agency, was quite reluctant to assume the alien role of interrogator, only did it because we were at war with a shadowy enemy and no other department would take the job, constantly sought guidance from the Bush administration on what they could and couldn't do and punished those who crossed the boundaries. Now, we'll get to experience more rancor and venom in the pursuit of people who were caught and punished years ago. I sure hope Eric Holder is as single-minded in bringing to justice the men who cut off heads and blow up buildings as he is those who tried to stop them.
  • In an interesting and related story, the White House has taken the responsibility for interrogations away from the CIA and given it to the FBI, under the auspices of an inter-agency panel that is responsible directly to the president. I anxiously await the outcry of civil libertarians everywhere, who would surely have stormed Washington with torches and pitchforks had the Bush administration taken the same authority unto itself. Waiting, waiting . . .
  • More economic numbers were released yesterday, and they're not good. Our deficit will grow by trillions in the years to come, our economy is still shrinking, we're measuring recovery not in jobs created but in how many fewer jobs were lost this month than last month, and rumors of hyperinflation and the destruction of the dollar abound. I can't think of a better time to enact massive government outlays in health care and cap-and-trade legislation. We can only hope that Stimulus: Part II makes up for all of it, and that the Chinese are beneficent and magnanimous rulers.
I was going to end with a book review of The Generals' War by Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor, but I think that's enough for now. Time to enjoy some beautiful California weather before I'm taxed on the air I breathe.


Meghan said...

I love PlayMobil.

I also loved EMK.

The Accidental Blogger said...

"Rumors of hyperinflation"? Outside of Arthur Laffer, Steven Moore and the rest of the supply-siders, most economists remain more worried about deflation than inflation. The folks creating said rumors also were behind such classic claims as "Bush's tax cuts won't cause a deficit", "The Iraq War will pay for itself" and, my personal favorite, "The economic growth of the Bush year's was amazing!" Sorry but there's absolutely no evidence we're facing any significant inflationary risks in the near term. Here's a fun article detailing how world bond markets took to our last sale...


Most of the deficit growth you cite isn't due to new spending, but instead caused by projections of a slower recovery (the L-shaped recovery of modern downturns). In the short term, deficits are slightly lower because of good returns on financial assistance done during the last year.

Also, all of the various iterations of the health care bill will be deficit neutral. Meanwhile cap & trade, per the CBO, would reduce deficits in a ten year window by $24 billion. There are some reasons to potentially put off either of these, but the deficit really isn't one of them. Almost all of the projected growth in the national debt in the future is caused by rising health care costs, meaning starting to find ways to bend that curve is pretty important. I do agree with you that there's no reason to follow through on prosecution of CIA agents engaged in interrogation (though i would encourage you to read Glenn Greenwald if you think liberal civil libertarians aren't complaining about Obama).

Also, watched 'A Few Good Men' tonight- good stuff.