Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Daily Links: Sanders Financial Collapse and Value of Unpopular Presidents

The Worst New Thing in the World
The latest National Defense Authorization Act is coming up for a vote soon, and like many such bills, it is awful. Among other demerits, it will require women to register for the draft (hooray, equality!), grant the Obama Administration $60 billion in its discretionary funding, and dedicate some $3B to placing more armaments and personnel near the Russian border because, apparently, that relationship has been too harmonious lately. On their own terms, many of these provisions and others would be almost impossible to defend. But, naturally, the bill will certainly come under the rubric of "supporting the troops" and voting for it will be readily justified as such, no matter how difficult it is to divine exactly how troops benefit from more war.

Incidentally, the bill is also another example of why procedural reforms like the One Subject at a Time Act could make an incredible difference in preventing massive, unseemly bills like this from existing in the first place.

Dis/Honorable Mentions

The CIA Inspector General "Accidentally" Deleted Full Senate Torture Report
Antiwar.com has reported that the CIA Inspector General apparently managed to delete their office's only copy of the important Senate Torture Report during a routine upgrade. There's no real reason to believe it's true this was an accident. However, as Jason Ditz appropriately notes in his write-up, it doesn't really matter anyway. The Obama Administration fought tooth and nail to ensure only the executive summary (rather than the whole report) was released, refused to prosecute anyone that was responsible, and along with pro-torture members in Congress, has actively worked to ensure the report is not subject to Freedom of Information Act requests. So the report was unlikely to get in the public anyway, but the latest incident--which is also likely to go unpunished--is a nice reminder that the idea of the rule of law or transparency in the US government has been a farce for some time now, campaign rhetoric notwithstanding.

College Once Run by Jane Sanders (Bernie's Wife) Closes Its Doors Due to Crippling Debt
In a new story that almost seems too perfectly ironic to be true, the small liberal arts school known as Burlington College has announced it will be closing its doors due to financial issues. According to Zero Hedge, the issues stem from an ambitious--and debt-financed--expansion during the tenure of Jane Sanders. The debt could not be repaid out of receipts, and the college was unable to recover. In an extra ironic and devastating twist for Bernie supporters, Jane left before the full consequences were felt and took a $200,000 severance package with her (golden parachute anyone?). Thus, with apologies to Bernie supporters, the sad summary runs something like this. (Burlington College) President Sanders took on massive amounts of debt, based on promises of new revenues, in support of a progressive cause (the college itself), and when the optimistic revenue forecasts failed to materialize, the whole system went broke--sabotaging both progressive goals and even the provision of basic services to its constituents. The parallels draw themselves.

The Silver Lining (Sort Of)
A new piece in the Boston Globe points out that the campaign against the Iran Nuclear Deal continues among the hard-liners in the Washington and Tehran. It also effectively illustrates a fundamental and common misunderstanding about opposition to the Iran Deal in the first place. Truth be told, the opponents of the deal were not concerned that Iran would violate the terms of the deal or that it would make it easier for Iran to make a nuclear weapon. This idea was always absurd on its face. How does expanding inspections, requiring a dramatic reduction of spinning uranium centrifuges, and reducing Iran's enriched stockpile somehow make it easier for Iran to make a nuclear weapon? The answer is, and always was, it does not. No, the real reason people opposed the Iran Deal was because they were afraid it would work--that Iran would fully comply (as they did) and there would no longer be a strong excuse for the long-standing hostility with one of the most important countries in the Middle East. The good news is that Iran has complied with the deal, but the bad news is that the campaign against the deal continues apace regardless.

If You Only Read One (More) Thing Today
Make it this new and pragmatic case for Donald Trump as a lesser evil than Hillary Clinton. It's probably not the first time the case has been expressed, but its essence is straightforward and decidedly reasonable. Basically, it takes for granted, whether true or not, that both Hillary and Trump will try to implement many terrible authoritarian policies once elected. But then it notes the crucial difference. Hillary Clinton, like Barack Obama, would enjoy support from the Democratic party by default almost regardless of what she does. With Trump, however, it's just the opposite. Trump is likely to meet opposition on almost anything he does, especially if they are remotely authoritarian. This isn't because his policies will be worse; it's because he's Donald Trump. Thus, even if Hillary and Trump try to operate in an equally authoritarian way in office, Hillary is far more likely to succeed in doing so. Therefore, Trump is the lesser evil by default.

Of course, it should be noted that this isn't an affirmative case for voting for Donald Trump. On the contrary, we have previously argued that voting for a third-party is likely a better choice for most people and is not "wasting your vote". Having said that, the question of Trump versus Hillary is still likely to be a conversation topic from now until the election, this is an important argument to understand. If we are going to have an authoritarian president in power, then a deeply unpopular president is probably preferable for the sake of foreign policy and civil liberties.

No comments:

Post a Comment