Re: Framing the Debate

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spending cuts could only ever be applied to non-defense discretionary funding

Well, interest on the national debt is technically categorized as nondiscretionary spending, and whether or not we're going to keep paying that seems to be an open question.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:07 AM
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Should I cash my savings bond?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:10 AM
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Come to think of it, a bond issued in 1974 should probably be pretty close to mature by now.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:10 AM
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a bond issued in 1974

Ooh--what was the yield?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:12 AM
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Interest pron.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:13 AM
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4:Still reasonable I think

IIRC, the US defaulted on the early 80s 30 year bonds early in the Bush administration, paying only 9% instead of the face-value 18%


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:15 AM
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4: I was joking. I blew my 1974 bonds on text books and cheap pizza.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:17 AM
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The only place you could cut spending is discretionary spending by definition. That defense spending gets a magic pass is the big galling bone in my throat, since defense-related spending is something on the order of 60% of all discretionary spending. Also, as the 2010 deficit is approximately $1.3 trillion dollars and total defense spending is estimated between 1 and 1.3 trillion dollars, well, hmmm.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:18 AM
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Right. The 'non-defense' is the part that's aggravating, not the 'discretionary'.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:20 AM
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Still reasonable I think

That's right; I wasn't thinking.

The only place you could cut spending is discretionary spending by definition.

Well, no. You could just decide to cut SS benefits, effective immediately. Or default on the debt, as I mentioned in 1.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:22 AM
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You could just decide to cut SS benefits, effective immediately.

The problem with that is you'd inflict a great deal of pain on many, many people and they are of an age where they are really inclined to whine about such things. From a political perspective, it would be better to have a random lottery and just stop paying any SS benefits to 5% of the senior citizens. Then, 95% of senior citizens would be happy and 5% of senior citizens won't be enough to vote anybody out of office.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:25 AM
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More to the point, I haven't been following the budget debates closely, because I can't imagine a bigger waste of my time, but I was under the strong impression that at least some of the current Democratic proposals were working the chip away at this shibboleth, by including cuts in the defense budget along with everything else. Not nearly big enough cuts, but at least bringing that idea into the conversation, which is a big step forward.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:29 AM
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Matt Stoller at Naked Capitalism and Numerian at The Agonist on Egypt and neo-liberalism.

Titles:"Well if George Bush Wasn't Behind the Egyptian Revolutiion, What About Robert Rubin?"

"Matt Stoller: The Egyptian Labor Uprising Against Rubinites"

But they don't go far enough.

One number out there is $25 Trillion in give-aways to the banks in various vehicles and agencies, buying MBS's and mortgages at face value, low Fed rates only for investment banks. That money is, via circumlocation and circulation used to buy and build factories in Egypt.

IOW, our Pell cuts finance wage-slavery in Egypt. For those who think we should stay uninvolved. If we can stop capital from moving...


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:30 AM
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No shit, Moby. I wasn't suggesting that a SS cut would be a good idea.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:31 AM
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14: Did you not finish reading 11?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:32 AM
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re:11

Heh. Or institute a sort of random reverse-jubilee, in which we select, say, 5% of all of the people with more than say, $10million assets, and just confiscate all their shit.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:34 AM
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15: I didn't finish reading 11 and I wrote it.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:34 AM
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As far as the budget and cuts, pitchforks. Just waved gently for the tender souls.

This is, of course, Shock Doctrine. The idea is to really make people hurt, discouraged, and especially diaffected from gov't as preparation for the real cuts to come after Obama gets his Republican Senate in 2012.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:35 AM
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17 was me.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:35 AM
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16:Or a real Jubilee.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:36 AM
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15: I read the whole thing. Why?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:49 AM
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21: I hereby aver that comment 11 was not trying to make a criticism of urple's position on Social Security nor was it a premised on any specific interpretation of urple's preceding comment. For a full discussion of this comment, I refer you to Standpipe's other blog.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:57 AM
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6: What?! I feel like I would have heard about that. Details?


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:58 AM
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16 made me cackle with glee again.


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 9:08 AM
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16. Liturgies!


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 9:18 AM
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chris y, you beat me to it!


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 9:22 AM
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23:Can't find it. I didn't make it up.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 9:22 AM
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27:Googling "20 year bonds" etc to find something specific is pretty tough


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 9:23 AM
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27: My guess is that you misinterpreted something that wasn't an actual default.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 9:26 AM
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I contemplate a universal draft in which, if the nation did not want your life and body on the front line, they could have your income (above whatever we pay soldiers) instead. There are incentive problems, and I personally would be much worse off, but it seems fair. Also, boy, would we be reluctant to start the draft.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 9:34 AM
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The only place you could cut spending is discretionary spending by definition.

Not "by definition." The difference between discretionary and nondiscretionary is just that discretionary needs re-funding every year, and nondiscretionary continues automatically - but Congress has just as much power to alter one as the other.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 10:13 AM
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IIRC, the US defaulted on the early 80s 30 year bonds early in the Bush administration, paying only 9% instead of the face-value 18%

I don't think you do RC. That would have been a fairly massive deal.

I contemplate a universal draft in which, if the nation did not want your life and body on the front line, they could have your income (above whatever we pay soldiers) instead.

This sounds similar to Wealth Conscription.
http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1917/jun/27/conscription-of-wealth

Except that wealth conscription doesn't have the same incentive problems (ie why should I work so hard if I'm only getting a GI wage, and I get the same wage if I only work part time?)

One concept of wealth conscription is that the government takes away part of your personal wealth and invests it in low-yielding war bonds. It's also been used to describe simple confiscatory taxes on personal and corporate assets.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 10:24 AM
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Speaking of framing the debate, a PNAS article:

"Claims that women scientists suffer discrimination in these arenas rest on a set of studies undergirding policies and programs aimed at remediation. More recent and robust empiricism, however, fails to support assertions of discrimination in these domains. To better understand women's underrepresentation in math-intensive fields and its causes, we reprise claims of discrimination and their evidentiary bases. ... We conclude that differential gendered outcomes in the real world result from differences in resources attributable to choices, whether free or constrained, and that such choices could be influenced and better informed through education if resources were so directed."

I suspect reading the whole thing would make me grumpy, but I don't have the energy today.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 10:32 AM
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the thing about putting the entire debt on a random 5% of the population is that you would want to be sure that the people in the 5% are spacially and culturally isolated from each other, to make it hard to organize.

The politically ideal policy would be to identify a group of people that contains a minimum number of individuals, with a minimum amount of power separately and a minimum abiltiy to organize. I bet you could quantify it and develop a rigorous algorithm. The whole thing would be much more scientific than simply balancing the budget on the backs of the poor.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 11:01 AM
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with a minimum amount of power separately and a minimum abiltiy to organize

Methodists?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 11:04 AM
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The politically ideal policy would be to identify a group of people that contains a minimum number of individuals, with a minimum amount of power separately and a minimum abiltiy to organize.

Software developers.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 11:06 AM
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Uh, if political science teaches us anything, it's that small groups with a lot at stake can almost always gain political influence disproportionate to their numbers (because the gains to the majority are diffuse).


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 11:13 AM
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If political science taught me anything, it is that time spent learning statistical methods is far more likely to enable you to earn a living than time spent pondering the Franco-Prussian War.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 11:17 AM
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and a minimum abiltiy to organize.
Software developers.

Seriously? I mean, if you're talking about organize politically, maybe, but the OSS movement is a rather glaring counterexample to the general thesis.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 11:25 AM
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8: That defense spending gets a magic pass is the big galling bone in my throat, since defense-related spending is something on the order of 60% of all discretionary spending.

Indeed. The killer is that there appears to be a great deal of government waste in defense spending, still. I wouldn't venture to say how much could be cut (saved) by trimming things back, but judging from the tales passed along from my work partner's military son and his wife, absurd amounts are spent egregiously and unnecessarily. And that's just anecdotal. Never mind the reports we've all heard about government contractors in, say, Iraq.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 11:42 AM
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There are probably rich pickings under the broad skirts of "defense" for some enterprising young congressperson who wants a 2011 counterpart to the $1,000 hammer of yore.

OT: My gym is offering a Valentine's Day special on couples boxing lessons.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 11:44 AM
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I wouldn't venture to say how much could be cut (saved) by trimming things back

Considering there are no wars we currently need to be fighting, I'd say 100% is a good first approximation. That's not perfect, of course, since there are veteran's benefits, etc., that are technically run through the defense budget, but it's in the right ballpark.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 11:46 AM
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I got to write essay questions again this year for high school seniors who want scholarship money. One of the ones I picked is to the effect of "Is it time to leave Afghanistan?"


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 11:48 AM
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Seriously?

Well yes, IME. Anything to do with code they can organise fine. A piss up in a brewery, not so much.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 11:50 AM
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Considering there are no wars we currently need to be fighting, I'd say 100% is a good first approximation.

That's asking a bit too much. We wouldn't want to look like crazy people, asking for that.

41: counterpart to the $1,000 hammer of yore.

Apparently not so much "of yore." Anecdotally, a soldier stationed in Pakistan was given something like a $500,000 budget to upgrade and outfit the local station there (in a repurposed villa of some sort); not to actually set up operations, just to, erm, renovate and decorate the place. He managed to knock off about half of it after having upgraded the plumbing and whatnot, and then, in desperation, buying authentic Persian rugs and mahogany desks for every room, with still a few hundred thousand to go. (Things are much less expensive there.) I don't know whether he eventually met the target.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 12:03 PM
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But I really think the military contractors are the place to look. Is there merit to the numerous reports about contractors who drive trucks without replacement parts, even spare tires, who abandon said trucks on the side of the road rather than repair them? It's said that this is for security reasons: you can't stop to change a flat tire.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 12:08 PM
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46: It is not impossible to purchase run-flat tires, particularly with military-scale budgets.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 12:15 PM
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My sister basically reviews the defense budget for fraud and waste as a full-time job (and doesn't work for DOD), and, while the size of the waste is pretty shocking, she thinks that Gates is doing the best job of anyone in recent memory of trying to address it. That's all I know about the issue.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 12:19 PM
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I really think the military contractors are the place to look.

Certainly there is plenty of fraud and waste there, but I don't have any reason to believe or disbelieve that it's any worse than in the military proper. If you want big savings, the place to look is maintaining over 700 foreign military bases.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 12:20 PM
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We did manage to slash defense spending in the nineties. As a percentage of GDP, defense spending fell by about fifty percent from 1987-2000. So not that long ago it was quite thinkable.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 12:24 PM
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47: Given that supply-running operations are not infrequently done by non-military contractors, it's difficult to know of their procedures. Bastards. So who knows. I haven't checked in on the reporting on them for a while, which I suddenly feel quite dumb about.

48: Yay for your sister's efforts! Yeah, one hears that Gates is good, but that he's thinking of stepping down.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 12:28 PM
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As a percentage of GDP, defense spending fell by about fifty percent

IANAEconomist and maybe I'm about to reveal that in embarrassing fashion, but wouldn't % of the federal budget be a much more useful yardstick for this than % of GDP?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 12:29 PM
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Waste and fraud are bipartisan things to cut, but you can get just as much savings, I think, by identifying programs and systems that we don't actually need - airplanes, bases, etc. Of course that also runs into more direct opposition.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 12:29 PM
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Everyone will agree that waste should be cut; the hard part is agreeing on what is wasteful.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 12:31 PM
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Quite so. (When "waste" is conjoined with "fraud" it usually contextually means waste everyone agrees on, $1000 hammers and so forth, but without my specifying, the result was a weird comment.)


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 12:34 PM
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52: Abso. From here it looks like national defense fell from 28.1% to 16.5% of federal outlays over that period, though.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 12:36 PM
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the hard part is agreeing on what is wasteful.

The Navy has been trying to say fuel with its "Waste not wanted knot" program.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 12:42 PM
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So I guess raising taxes on people making more than, say, a million dollars is out? Honestly, how is that not politically viable? I also like this liturgy thing. I'd be fine with, for example, naming individual bombs after the wall street traders we taxed in order to make them, and I know a lot of traders who are juvenile enough to go for that.


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 12:42 PM
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I'd love to cut bases, but there's no way that's going to happen in the current political climate in the US, not with John McCain on every freaking Sunday talk show every other week cautioning that things are grave, very grave.

Gates is great for fighting against the renewal of certain fighter planes (I know nothing about this, really); I don't know if he's argued for the closing of some bases. Understood, though, that the savings are large there.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 12:42 PM
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(If it meant that suddenly we'd have money for health care, for example.)


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 12:43 PM
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Since the federal budget has very neatly hovered around 20% of GDP for a very long time, your accounting would not change much.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 12:44 PM
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one hears that Gates is good, but that he's thinking of stepping down

Well, let's hope. I don't have any particular problem with Gates, but we've had a Republican Secretary of Defense for 26 of the past 30 years.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 12:44 PM
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I'm in the mood for love!


Posted by: Pauly Shore | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 12:55 PM
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62: I really don't know, Apo. Yes, he's a Republican, but he's also argued adamantly for the discontinuation of the something-or-other plane which doesn't work, costs insane amounts of money, and so on. We'd want a replacement for him who's not just a yes-man.

Gates doesn't seem like a yes-man. He has an operation to run, and he doesn't seem to be in the throes of an agenda the way Rumsfeld was. Maybe I'm being naive.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 12:56 PM
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This is why I am going to stop reading the news and just skip to the finance pages from now on. I am getting netburned with fascism.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 1:01 PM
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Closing bases is as much a matter of state as of defense. Query, for one, whether Japan would feel compelled to rearm (cough nukes cough) against the North Korean threat if we closed all or most of our bases there?


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 1:06 PM
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Explain, Natilo?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 1:07 PM
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He has an operation to run,

You really can't get around the central problem, which is the operation Gates or any SecDef has to run is one that oughtn't be run. Cutting bases is nice--Heidelberg's army base is getting downsized or closed or something, for example--but it's largely just moving pieces around on a chessboard so long as the mission is the same: maintaining a capacity to fight multiple wars and project destructive power around the globe indefinitely. I agree that challenging this narrative is hard, but it's necessary, and at least as much an issue of culture as of 'politics' in the narrow sense.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 1:25 PM
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64: From what I can tell, Gates has been a good SecDef. But Democrats desperately need to quit reinforcing the narrative that only Republicans are fit to run Defense.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 1:27 PM
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68: it's largely just moving pieces around on a chessboard so long as the mission is the same: maintaining a capacity to fight multiple wars and project destructive power around the globe indefinitely.

Andrew Bacevich is a place to look for discussion of these matters.

69: But Democrats desperately need to quit reinforcing the narrative that only Republicans are fit to run Defense.

Agreed. I've never been a defense policy buff, so I'm casting about a bit. Didn't Samantha Power have something to say about Democratic defense policy? I'm sure she didn't invent that narrative, but I don't know jack about this stuff in a policy or historical way, and her pitch a couple of years ago got my attention.

I seem to be pointing here and there because I really need some guidance, some framing.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 1:41 PM
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some framing

I have a whale-bone spanx.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 1:49 PM
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I'd say "defense spending cuts" is probably the wrong way to frame the debate, politically speaking. It's more useful to talk about cost-effectiveness. I get the impression that there are a lot of cases where we could get 80% of the desired capability at 50% of the price. (I guess I am thinking mainly of high-tech equipment; I think closing bases is a less forgiving trade-off.)

Anyway, I've heard that there are real discussions about cost-effectiveness within DoD. Well, at least within the Navy; maybe not so much in the Air Force and Marine Corps. I think Democrats could get more involved in that.


Posted by: YK | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 2:35 PM
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I don't know how to make this politically possible, but I wish we could frame the debate as "What the hell do we need to spend as much money as the entire rest of the planet put together on this shit for?" (inaccurate, but pretty close). A complete reevaluation of what we need, defense-wise. I'm not even asking for Urple's 100% cuts, but ramping the armed forces down to, say, 20% of their current size would probably still leave us amply able to defend ourselves.

But of course this is a hopeless fantasy.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 2:38 PM
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80% of the desired capability

This seems like horrible framing. 80% of desired sounds like failure. It's worth any amount of money not to fail.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 2:40 PM
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Ugh. Gates is cutting waste so he can put MORE money to programs that ARE EFFECTIVE ways to murder people.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 2:49 PM
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It's worth any amount of money not to fail.

Not everyone believes this, not even in the military. And people who do believe it, are never going to be persuaded anyway.


Posted by: YK | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 2:53 PM
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I seem to be pointing here and there because I really need some guidance, some framing.

Well, first you need to decide if the US is the early, mature, or Late Roman Empire. Then you need to decide if the periphery, or which parts of it, are developed but declining civilizations, client states, or resourceless petitioners.

Then you sit in the Colosseum and choose to watch the games, or watch the crowd.

Then you go home, take a bath, and open your forearms.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 3:10 PM
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77: Because the conversation on hell was too uplifting?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 3:11 PM
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Sounds like a plan.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 3:12 PM
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Wisconsin to strip collective bargaining from public employees;enforce with National Guard. Also Ohio.

The richest country in history, at the peak of its relative powers (USSR etc was competition in 1955, I could make more arguments)...with an insanely favored upper class...

...is turning its army on kindergarten teachers and DMV workers to steal their pensions.

God damn us all to hell.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 3:19 PM
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ramping the armed forces down to, say, 20% of their current size would probably still leave us amply able to defend ourselves

Defend ourselves? Since there's no organized military trying to attack us, that seems to be both obviously true and quite an understatement.

Note that the homeland security budget is separate from the "defense" budget. As a compromise, I'd be fine keeping the entire homeland security budget (even though it's got plenty of waste and misplaced priorities) if we do away with all other defense expenditures. The 2011 homeland security budget proposal is $43.8 billion (about $37 billion of which goes to the Department of Homeland Security, with the rest scattered across other agencies).


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 3:20 PM
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While no organized military is trying to attack us at the current instant, the chance that one might make the attempt at some time in the future seems to me to be significant enough that having a small military in place would be a sensible form of insurance against the vicissitudes of diplomacy.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 3:23 PM
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What 82 said. Anything else is insane. No other country does without either their own military or a heavy reliance on someone else's (usually ours).

Still would like to see some cuts to defense, tho.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 3:34 PM
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(Man, though, wouldn't this be a great argument to be having in Congress? "We should shrink the military to a fifth of its current size." "Don't be silly, we should eliminate it entirely!")


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 3:34 PM
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I mean, you're still talking about $150 billion goddamn dollars a year. (On TOP of Homeland Security, the FBI, the defense-related portions of the Energy Department, veterans affairs, the defense-related portions of NASA, etc.) That's some expensive fucking insurance. I mean, I agree that a 100% reduction probably isn't exactly right--I only said it was a good first approximation--but 20% is still far too unacceptably high. That money could be better spent elsewhere.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 3:41 PM
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You realize that the average military spending for the rest of the world combined is about 2 percent of GDP, right? That the EU countries spend 1.6% of GDP? That these numbers are only about half what we currently spend, not 20%.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 3:49 PM
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I mean, if you're determined to through billions of dollars towards military spending as a form of insurance against the vicissitudes of diplomacy, why don't we instead just increase our contrubtions to the UN peacekeeping budget by 10,000% (from about $600 million to about $60 billion)? Wouldn't that be better? And a hell of a lot cheaper?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 3:50 PM
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86: First, we have a bigger GDP than other countries, which means we ought to be free to spend a lower percentage of it on any one thing. Why does a country with twice the GDP of another need to spend twice as much on defense? If our GDP doubled tomorrow, our nation would not automatically become twice as expensive to defend. So that's a shitty metric you're using, IMO.

Second, for FY 2010, Department of Defense spending was 4.7% of GDP. (That doesn't include Homeland Security or the other (not insignificant) defense expenditures.) Reducing that to 1.6% of GDP would mean a cut of 2/3, not 1/2.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 3:56 PM
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Wouldn't that be better?

Not as such, no. Isn't part of the point of having a military for the purpose of national defense actually controlling that military?

But this is a silly argument. Much much smaller than now would be great, but I'm not sure how small is practical.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 3:57 PM
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I'm not at all happy about it, but fine: for the sake of compromise I'm willing to accept a 2/3 reduction in the defense budget.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 3:58 PM
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Isn't part of the point of having a military for the purpose of national defense actually controlling that military?

Is this a rhetorical question?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 3:59 PM
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Pretty much. That is, I can't see an argument that a military you don't control is all that much use for national defense against whoever it is who does control it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 4:00 PM
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I can't see an argument that a military you don't control is all that much use for national defense against whoever it is who does control it

You're thinking we may need to defend ourselves against an attack by the UN?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 4:01 PM
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Weirder things have happened.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 4:04 PM
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urple, I presume that you're trying to practice positional bargaining here (especially with 90), but that doesn't work so well if your bargaining positions make no sense in isolation. Even the most peaceable, nonimperialist country that could ever exist will need a certain number of people with guns and materiel to defend its borders. Pretending that's not the case is weird, even though I applaud your goals.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 4:06 PM
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Even the most peaceable, nonimperialist country that could ever exist will need a certain number of people with guns and materiel to defend its borders.

Well, there's Costa Rica, and Samoa, and a couple of others. But generally you're right.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 4:12 PM
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Even the most peaceable, nonimperialist country that could ever exist will need a certain number of people with guns and materiel to defend its borders.

I'm not opposed to having any poeple with guns around, nor have I suggested as much. Note that if we cut the entire Department of Defense budget to zero, our total spending on national defense/homeland security would still be approximately equal to that of China (which has the second largest military budget in the world, at US$77.95 billion in 2010). Once we're gotten the numbers down to a rational level, I'm fine reallocating some of that spending away from airline security and towards a standing army, if that's what the people want.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 4:14 PM
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I'm not opposed to having any poeple with guns around, nor have I suggested as much.

Okay, full disclosure: this was a bit of posturing. I admit that I think we'd be mostly better off without this, at least on anything like the scale that's being envisioned here. But again, I'm willing to compromise.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 4:17 PM
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But lots of the DHS spending doesn't have anything to do with the military. Does it really make sense to think of FEMA and the INS as part of the military budget? Sorry, that was another rhetorical question, but I'm assuming that "no" is an easy answer.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 4:17 PM
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87:I mean, if you're determined to through billions of dollars towards military spending as a form of insurance against the vicissitudes of diplomacy,

Keeping the nuclear weapons is great insurance against approximately every thing. It's very very cheap. (Developing new and improved nuclear weapons is not cheap, but the already existing ones cost very little.)(As to how much they actually cost - I believe that's effectively classified and/or obfusticated.)

Funding a lot of extra peacekeepers would be easy, if you really cut back that far. Problem is, is that if all you have are nuclear weapons, the equipment you at hand to use if there is trouble of most any kind is... nuclear weapons. Plus you just have the nukes hanging about all the time, being menacing, which isn't all that popular.

We could pretty much retire the entire army and most of the marine corps (or the other way around, if you're willing to have the army take over the marine corp role). Of course, then we wouldn't be able to fight land wars in Asia or anywhere else, either. We could cut the Navy by quite a bit if we were willing to only defend the sea lanes of the Western Pacific and the North Atlantic.

If we were willing to maintain a force to defend the US, including keeping some of the army trained in reserve, we could probably get it down to about 300 billion, I think. (In terms of employed humans that would be a much much smaller, even though the budget would only be cut in half. Naval ships are expensive.)(So are veteran's benefits.)

If we could just quite supplemental appropriating for the stupid fucking wars, the national debt wouldn't keep growing like it has.

max
['Bleh.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 4:17 PM
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What's left of national defense without DOD? National Guard or something? (Homeland security is not national defense; that's another weird thing you keep saying.)


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 4:19 PM
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Does it really make sense to think of FEMA and the INS as part of the military budget?

Fair point. So strip those out, and we wouldn't be spending as much as China. But I'm just not quite understanding why you think it's imperative that we not only have a big defense budget, but have the largest defense budget in the world by a huge margin. I don't see anything wrong with being #23 on the international list, and moving our goddamn schools up the list a few spots.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 4:23 PM
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Homeland security is not national defense; that's another weird thing you keep saying

Yeah, I find this confusing as well.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 4:38 PM
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Homeland security is not national defense

In the short term homeland security is our only national defense. Anti-terrorism is the only thing in the federal budget that could plausibly be characterized as a defense expenditure. The rest is pure offense, and is likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future.

(I guess if you consider maintaining our scattered global empire "defense", then the preceding paragraph isn't completely correct. But that's a tendentious way of looking at things.)


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 4:43 PM
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Does anybody remember the peace dividend on the early 1990s ?


Posted by: Econolicious | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 4:50 PM
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You're also talking like, if no armies are massing this instant to cross the St. Lawrence, then every dollar on conventional military forces is wasted. Homeland security (as a concept, not as the government department) is about new threats and does nothing about the old ones.

I don't want global force-projection either; I just want you to acknowledge that some very basic force reserves are necessary and justified (or will be until we institute the OWG). For example, the National Guard seems to cost the federal government about $30 billion a year; maybe double that for a bit of materiel that the Guard would normally relies on the regular military for, and that's a 91% reduction.

As I said, I assume you're trying to be bargained down to something like that, but the way you're arguing won't be effective anywhere the slightest bit to the right of here.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 4:59 PM
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A large military, especially overseas, is entirely about domestic control.

Think about having ten times as many police as you currently have in your city for a couple generations. Not only are they local jobs and broken window stuff, but after a while at least half the population thinks they might be needed. Maybe it is that dangerous and scary;maybe it could be. So the Japanese have the corner police box system.

There no significant external threats to the landmass of the United States. None. Zero. Especially if we stop projecting Empire. There are threats to American interests and clients, but "protecting the Western Pacific sea lanes" is nothing but Empire.

But after generations of having divisions of American military force overseas, Americans start to think there might be a good reason for it, and soon enough, there is. That is where Empire resides, in the minds, the hopes and fears of the citizens.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 5:06 PM
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Hardt and Negri now, bob? How the mighty have fallen. You used to be about the music.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 5:11 PM
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Hart & Boyce

I wonder what she's doing tonight.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 5:19 PM
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106: the way you're arguing won't be effective anywhere the slightest bit to the right of here.

I'm assuming Urple isn't actually expecting or intending to be effective with his arguments. They're a non-starter.

Flipp made an important point in 66.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 5:27 PM
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Does anybody remember the peace dividend on the early 1990s ?

I even remember the Ben and Jerry's tie-in ice cream bar!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 5:41 PM
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I knew Urple was a Canadian plant.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 5:48 PM
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112: If so, I'd still pay good solid money to watch him make poutine.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 5:52 PM
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the way you're arguing won't be effective anywhere the slightest bit to the right of here

Well, good thing we have LB's broadly popular 80% reduction to fall back on.

To me, this conversation more than anything demonstrates the incredibly powerful effect of the post title--it's all about framing the debate. If we actually had a $50 billion defense budget (still very sizable by world standards--we'd be fifth), I strongly doubt that many people (here especially, but even elsewhere) would be complaining about how essential it was that we triple it, solely as an insurance policy to protect our borders against currently-nonexistent threats. Sorry, thanks, I think we could find a better use for that money.

pwned by bob, of all people.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 5:56 PM
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I knew Urple was a Canadian plant.

He's actually a maple tree. This is why he has so little experience with food.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 5:56 PM
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SPEAKING OF FRAMING, IT'S NOT !^&$()^! "DEFENSE." IT'S THE MILITARY.

/shouting

Thank you for your kind attention to this matter.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 5:57 PM
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Defence? Shit. It's nothing less than war. And no one but the government knows what the fuck it's for.


Posted by: Opinionated Steve Ignorant | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 6:04 PM
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Well, back in Lincoln's day, it was called the War Department. So there is precedent.

I think Americans even name Lincoln as their favorite president, usually.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 6:06 PM
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If we actually had a $50 billion defense budget (still very sizable by world standards--we'd be fifth), I strongly doubt that many people (here especially, but even elsewhere) would be complaining about how essential it was that we triple it, solely as an insurance policy to protect our borders against currently-nonexistent threats.

I'm pretty sure I would. Then again I'm pretty damn hawkish for a liberal and disagree with LB's suggestion as going way too far. On the other hand, if we're indulging in completely unrealistic political daydreams, I'd be perfectly happy to see US public sector spending go up by a dozen points of GDP or more, financed by a combo of massively increased taxes on the rich, a payroll tax for single payer, and an escalating carbon tax. That plus cutting defense back down to the level of a decade ago in GDP terms would leave plenty of money for increased 'discretionary domestic spending'.

btw China's spending is significantly higher than its headline figure, though by how much is in some dispute (the official figure is about $78B for 2010, estimates of the real one run from about $100B to over $150B and that doesn't take into account lower costs due to it being a much poorer country). This is still much lower than the US as a percentage of a much lower GDP.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 6:26 PM
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||

Kenneth Mars, George Shearing, and especially Betty Garrett (not for gender, but for being a Commie) have taken a blister off my left hand.

Garrett and her husband Larry Parks two of the saddest blacklist victims

|>


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 6:36 PM
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Ugh, woken up again at 3am by nightmares. Witt, Urple, and Bob have things exactly right. Who are we afraid of, seriously? And it's not like the USA won't be armed without a military; we love our guns.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 6:38 PM
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Regardless of where we'd like to see the military budget eventually, it's not a downsizing that can be done in any short period of time. Any significant scaling back of bases and production of military hardware and so on affects far more than just this country; the rest of the world would, or will, have to adjust its stances accordingly.

Therefore, the cost savings would be medium-term at best, not short-term. We can and should close a base or three or five or thirty-five, though I myself couldn't tell you which ones they should be. Can we generate enough savings to avoid unconscionable cuts to social programs in this country? Within the next year? I don't know.

We've built this huge military presence around the globe over decades; everybody else has adjusted themselves accordingly. You don't shut it down -- to 20% of current levels? -- in one year.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 6:46 PM
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Well, sure, but in terms of structural budget deficits, our real problems are *also* medium-to-long-term. This mania for austerity now-now-now is groundless. (Or rather: at the individual state level, it's a pure function of recession-hit tax receipts, and the inability of states to run deficits in the same way the federal gov't can; at the federal level, it's groundless.)


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 6:49 PM
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117 IS BANNED


Posted by: OPINIONATED THE ROXY | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 6:51 PM
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||

My Second Favorite>Kenneth Mars performance, after Producers ...classic 70s stuff

Watching Miss MacLaine and Mars work together is enough to justify the movie, whatever you think of its urban paranoia. ...Ebert

|>


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 6:51 PM
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This mania for austerity now-now-now is groundless. (Or rather: at the individual state level, it's a pure function of recession-hit tax receipts, and the inability of states to run deficits in the same way the federal gov't can; at the federal level, it's groundless.)

I agree. In the meantime, we have our politicians offering budget proposals that significantly scale back discretionary (non-military) spending, and it's fairly clear that some form of austerity or other is going to go through. Babbling on about cutting the military to 20% of current levels doesn't realistically address the issue.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 6:54 PM
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Yes. Please stick to productive comments.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 6:57 PM
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Heebie, can I email you at heebie/.geebie at g/mail ? Did I make that up?


Posted by: donaquixote | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 7:07 PM
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I can't tell if 127 is sarcastic or not, but the biggest freaking obstacle right now is the idea that our only option is to cut spending, but we can't raise revenue (taxes). I guess it's too late now, right? The Bush tax cuts are extended for 2 years. It's fairly important that they not be extended permanently on the wealthy.

I understood that Obama's proposal to revamp the tax code, 'reducing' the corporate tax rate while eliminating loopholes, was a veiled way to raise revenue. Who knows whether that has legs enough to matter within the next 10 years.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 7:08 PM
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||

DVD Verdict gives Desperate Characters a 99, and considers as lucky a find as O Lucky Man

Call the dialogue mannered all you want, but there are many memorable lines and moments. As a couple, Otto does most of the talking, while Sophie is more reserved. While walking to a party, he looks at the bite on her hand and says she should get a tetanous shot at least. In response, she asks, "What do you mean...at least?"

MacLaine has been bitten by a stray cat. "At least?" Point is, Mars is worried about rabies, but doesn't care enough to bring it up. Or is worried about MacLaine freaking out, and doesn't want to deal. Or is worried that MacLaine doesn't give a fuck whether she has rabies or not, and doesn't want to deal with that.

Stagy piece, but the writing is about the banal rituals that enable us to maintain, and how scared we are to move out of them. Or something.

Mars was also one of the great cartoon actors.

|>


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 7:09 PM
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Over at OW the late, great unfoggedatarian, John Emerson, has a guest post about the media and framing and such. Nothing about the evils of Valentine's Day, presumably he thinks that its existence helps, rather than hurts his anti-relationship crusade.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 7:17 PM
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129:It's fairly important that they not be extended permanently on the wealthy.

Good luck on that in 2012, the re-election year.

'reducing' the corporate tax rate while eliminating loopholes

Your public opening position is always a negotiating position, and not the limit of what you'll sign, and everybody knows it. I do not think Obama and his staff are lousy negotiators.

Scott Walker in Wisconsin. Maybe he will get slapped down hard on his outrageous proposals...and end up getting what he wanted all along.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 7:17 PM
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114

... If we actually had a $50 billion defense budget (still very sizable by world standards--we'd be fifth), I strongly doubt that many people (here especially, but even elsewhere) would be complaining about how essential it was that we triple it, solely as an insurance policy to protect our borders against currently-nonexistent threats ...

This is basically completely wrong. Why do you think our military spending is so much higher than it was 15 years ago? Raising it was politically popular. And 911 type attacks are not a nonexistent threat. I don't think our response to the attacks was particularly wise but that is a different issue.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 7:19 PM
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I can't tell if 127 is sarcastic or not

I'm sure heebie was earnestly telling us we should only write comments that we think can reshape the direction of US policy in substantial ways.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 7:22 PM
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128 yup.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 7:22 PM
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Also yup to 134.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 7:23 PM
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So, apparently Americans everywhere are outraged that the Arcade Fire won an important Grammy, because they don't think they're famous enough? What a weird world we live in. I was annoyed by how pervasive and inescapable the hype surrounding them was six or seven years ago, and I'm hardly on the bleeding edge of musical taste.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 7:24 PM
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The best are the outraged comments about these upstart newcomers who have robbed Lady Gaga of her just deserts.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 7:27 PM
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137: Meanwhile, in bizarro world, I'm on an email list of people that have been bitching all day that Arcade Fire isn't really indie like everyone's saying, and, man, dude, like, what a bunch of, like, bullcrap, man. Dude. Like.

It's sort of...dumb.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 7:27 PM
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131: Emerson is fiddler?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 7:30 PM
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Oh well. Everyone has it wrong: Janelle Monáe was robbed!


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 7:31 PM
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137: Who?

I win, right?


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 7:34 PM
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Janelle Monáe

I adore her, and think she is cute as a bug to boot, but man, that accent kills me.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 7:34 PM
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134: I feel so free now!


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 7:34 PM
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Its not just framing. Existing jobs lock people into needing to keep those jobs. Its a lot harder to close a plant than to not open one. Military spending is at least as much about military contractors (and their hostage workers) as about anything else. Look at the weapons systems that the pentagon doesn't even want that congress buys anyway.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 7:37 PM
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that accent kills me

Huh. It certainly doesn't look that grave.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 7:38 PM
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You're a cute one, Stanley.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 7:42 PM
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Live a critic, die a critic, I always say.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 7:43 PM
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Oops, I linked to the previous OW post which is by fiddler. The current top post is by JE.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 7:47 PM
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Regardless of where we'd like to see the military budget eventually, it's not a downsizing that can be done in any short period of time.

Whereas we can painlessly slash funding for social programs by, what, 50%?

We can and should close a base or three or five or thirty-five, though I myself couldn't tell you which ones they should be. Can we generate enough savings to avoid unconscionable cuts to social programs in this country? Within the next year? I don't know.

Can we? Sure. Will we? Of course not.

the biggest freaking obstacle right now is the idea that our only option is to cut spending, but we can't raise revenue (taxes)

Well, that's a big problem, sure. A related aspect of this problem is that it's being framed as if our only option were to cut non-defense spending, which is absurd. That's the point of the post. If you brought DoD into the conversation, you could generate equivalent savings much less painfully. Although, there's the separate point that our military spending is absurdly high, wastefully high, needlessly high, destructively high, immorally high, and that even if we didn't have blowhards from the Republican party whining about austerity, and even if we weren't feeling any deficit pressures at all, it would still make sense to cut it back dramatically.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 7:47 PM
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urple gets everything exactly right. Also, I think the military should hire him to teach soldiers how to subsist on paper cups and rotten eggs in order to reduce their food budget.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 7:49 PM
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149: Thanks. ObWi hasn't been on my regular reading list lately.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 7:51 PM
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Emerson is fiddler?

I don't think so. The address for fiddler's Typepad profile is http://profile.typepad.com/fiddlergrrl


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 7:51 PM
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Should have previewed.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 7:52 PM
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150: A related aspect of this problem is that it's being framed as if our only option were to cut non-defense spending, which is absurd. That's the point of the post. If you brought DoD into the conversation, you could generate equivalent savings much less painfully.

I understand and I agree, but we'll need to say exactly where the savings will be found. You need to point to something. I'm not saying, by any stretch of the imagination, that because you haven't yet, it's a fool's game. Just that wild gesticulating doesn't go anywhere, unless you want to be the liberal version of a Tea Partier.

I also agree that our military stance is immoral and destructive. Correcting that is a longer-term thing.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:01 PM
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Why do you think our military spending is so much higher than it was 15 years ago? Raising it was politically popular.

Our military spending is higher than it was 15 years ago because we've gotten ourselves involved in several ludicrously expensive needless wars, and because the nature of the beast is ever-expanding scale. "Politically popular" is an odd way to describe what's basically simple rent seeking. There's basically zero popular political pressure* for more defense spending in the abstract sense. Military families want better pay and benefits, contracts want more contracts, etc. but no one strongly believes we just need to be spending more on the military in general. Homeland security? Yes.

From someone opposed to defense cuts:

Voters support sweeping cuts of federal spending and believe that defense can be cut, as there is no sense that the U.S. is at risk in a way that requires more defense spending. In polling I conducted earlier this month, almost half, 47 percent, say federal spending should be cut by 20 percent.... The area of federal spending voters say should be cut first is defense.

* Distinguished from meaningless poll data about where funding should be cut. Obviously, the public ideally wants the budget balanced while increasing spending on everything but foreign aid. I'm not sure that's helpful information.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:07 PM
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but we'll need to say exactly where the savings will be found. You need to point to something.

End two wars and bring home troops and stop housing troops in dozens of countries.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:11 PM
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unless you want to be the liberal version of a Tea Partier

What would this mean? Animating and organizing the liberal base of the democratic party sufficiently to successfully primary every Democratic who even hinted at compromise with Republicans, and scaring every ounce of moderation out of the rest of them? Yes, please. Especially compared to the alternative.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:15 PM
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157: What's the time-frame, heebie?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:16 PM
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You need to point to something.

I pointed to something--the entire goddamn department of defense. If you want me to be more specific about what exactly less-than-the-whole-thing-but-more-than-zero needs to be cut, you'll need to tell me how much money I'm supposed to be cutting. Although really, I don't see any reason not to just trim the overall allocation by the chosen number (10%? 20%?), and let the department adjust the budget as it sees fit.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:20 PM
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Making a halfhearted attempt at seriousness: I tend to come down on the side that thinks we can scrap almost the entire DOD budget with no ill effect. I tend to think the main role of the US military in the world is destructive; in the last decade it's caused on the order of a million deaths, if not more, and I can't say I think it's done much that's worth celebrating to balance that. But maybe I underestimate the size of the budget we would actually need for defense, as some people here seem to think.

This discussion we're having isn't at all the discussion that happens in the real world, though. It has been a long time, if it ever happened, since people sat down and thought about what type of military is needed to defend the US. It's laughable to think that's the goal of the military as it exists. If we had even a handful of politicians taking seriously the notion that the Department of Defense is about defense, and thinking through what that entails, we would be living in a really different world than the one we live in.

On the other hand, I'm extremely reluctant to think about what would happen if we had a sober assessment of how various departments spend their budget and whether it's consistent with their core mission. A lot of science happens out of the DOE budget, for instance, and the main reason it survives (to the extent it does) is that it's a tiny slice of the budget of a department primarily focused on other goals, and if people want to cut things they tend to look elsewhere first. Science funding survives because it's an afterthought. So I think to some extent government departments that do lots of random things that might or might not be aligned with an overarching goal or a good thing, and attempting to go back and rationalize the system and enforce minimal budgets that are just enough to get the job done would be a disaster. I can't help really wanting to see that happen with defense, though.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:20 PM
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with an overarching goal or are a good thing,


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:22 PM
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I'll be honest, Urple, I had no idea you took this stance. Bravo, but I'd have to think about it seriously, just as we pretty much do every damn session: to primary or not to primary? We are constrained by electoral politics and districts.

I heard a lengthy interview on CSPAN radio with the new head of the DCCC, Steve Israel, recently. He's pretty hardcore and pragmatic: the goal is two-fold: not to lose seats to Republicans, and to liberalize those seats that are safely Democratic. There's not a lot of wiggle room.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:25 PM
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163 was to 158.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:30 PM
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161: It has been a long time, if it ever happened, since people sat down and thought about what type of military is needed to defend the US.

There was actually a bit of this in the early '90s (interpreting "defend" broadly). And what was one long term political result A dozen years later John Kerry had to defend constant attacks for being weak on defense that cited his knowledgeable role in the bi-partisan effort. (And led by the non-heart of darkness Dick Cheney who also was part of the effort.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:34 PM
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114: If we actually had a $50 billion defense budget (still very sizable by world standards--we'd be fifth),

But that's wrong. The combined EU military budget is clocking in at around 400 billion USD. (See here. Although there used to be a better page the compared the US and EU, which I can't find.) The EU is comparable to the US in size, population, per cap income and combined GDP. They have a lot more army personnel than we do, but no carriers, far fewer nuclear weapons, and so on.

That's a useful baseline for the comparison of US defense budgets. And that tells me that while our defense budget is high (and higher still if we include the off-budget appropriations for the wars), it isn't actually awesomely high in the way that comparing the US only to the UK appears to show. Moreover, while Russian spending is much less than the US (they have lower overall income, reducing their costs), they have something like 4 million men in arms, plus a comparable number of tanks and bombers. And nuclear weapons. (On the other hand, their navy mostly can't afford to put to sea.) I am not here saying that we're going to fight all these people, but I am saying that we'd be going basically pacifist to cut that far (and if we did we'd be outgunned by every major power, and in turn we would then depend heavily on our nuclear deterrent (which I would like to very much to reduce in size by quite a lot) which is a fairly precarious position to be in.

107: A large military, especially overseas, is entirely about domestic control.

Everything the government does is about domestic control, very specifically including social security and medicare. The government does those things not because our lords and masters need them, but because the people would kick their asses if they didn't provide it. (Not to say we shouldn't do those things. We should. I like doing those things. But the 'theys' of the world could not give a flying fuck, even back in the era of Democratic dominance. They do it because they think it lets them stay in power and keeps the people from rising up and strangling them. Which it does fairly nicely. Right now we're having an experiment to see if 'they' can get away with shafting as many of the little people as possible.)

There no significant external threats to the landmass of the United States. None. Zero.

Nope.

Especially if we stop projecting Empire.

Probably but not certainly.

There are threats to American interests and clients, but "protecting the Western Pacific sea lanes" is nothing but Empire.

The United States has been an Empire pretty much since the ink dried on the Constitution. You know that. It's a settled, domesticated, democratic Empire, but very much an Empire whether we're overseas or not.

What I was going after was the fact that we have promised to backstop our friends in Europe, backstop Japan and North Korea, backstop the ANZACs, consider South America our home turf, and we do have some interest in not being blockaded our having our shipping sunk off our coasts.

Given that right at the moment and for quite some foreseeable future, and given that 'they' will, at a minimum, insist we be able to defend ourselves against most any conceivable threat, or combination of threats, I was saying that I could do that for 250 billions bucks. Declare (or redeclare) a Monroe line down the middle of the Atlantic with some extensions to reach our pals, another line down the middle of the Pacific, with some extensions to reach our Pacific buddies. (We'd need five or six bases: one in the area of Japan (we also have the Aleutians), one in Iceland/Norway (pick), one in the UK (not the two we have), one in Spain, one in Sicily, and one in the Eastern med. We dump the Benelux and German bases along with the other various bases around the Middle East.) Combine that with a reduced Navy (eight carriers, not twelve, fewer surface ships, same number of missle subs, maybe some extra attack subs), some fighter cover from the Air force, very little Army and no Marines, and I come in around 250 billion bucks. We could cover any conceivable naval threat, and all air threats, and reduce total nuclear weapons.

What I can't do is cut everybody off, or close all the bases in the South (US). 'They' would not tolerate that even if we gave them a trillion dollar defense budget. And 250 billion would compare pretty favorably with Europe. Our stance would be about where it was in the 1930's (maybe a little hawkish) or a (maybe) bit less forward than 1950.

I don't think we'd have a snowball's chance in hell of getting there (much less where ever you're trying to go), since that's not good enough for the people who want to cut defense, and probably even then is way too much for people who don't want to cut defense, but I could at least advance it as a concept without being laughed at.

max
['Are we at run completion on the leftier than thou thing for the moment?']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:35 PM
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131: Thanks for the link. John Emerson's (frequent) posts and comments on facebook are more or less the only worthwhile things in my facebook feed, but on the other hand they by themselves are more than sufficient reason for me to log in every day.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:35 PM
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Okay, new plan: Defense keeps its current funding levels, but all the money goes to DARPA who's tasked with the singular mission of inventing a dog that craps pot.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:35 PM
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250 billions bucks.... I could at least advance it as a concept without being laughed at

Good luck with that.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:39 PM
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we'd be going basically pacifist to cut that far

Horrors!

(I know, I'm off in fantasy-land. It's nice here. There are cookies.)


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:42 PM
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157: What's the time-frame, heebie?

Start today. Be done in six months.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:46 PM
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While I'm here in fantasy-land, might as well suggest that we realize that a vital part of defending our interests at home and abroad is to stabilize global climate. Where would we get the money to do that? Might as well cannibalize part of this "defense" budget that isn't doing much useful right now....


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:48 PM
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stabilize

Is this a term of art that's now in currency? I mean, the global climate has never been stable, has it?


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:51 PM
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Only for the last 10,000 years, during which civilization developed.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:52 PM
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131, 167: Well Emerson made it about thirty-some comments into his gig at OW. Oh, go fuck yourself. This is not the place for me. and Goodbye, all. There may be people in the world able to communicate fruitfully with Turbulence here, but I am not one of them, and apparently he's in charge of the local culture. It might have been nice. I assume some folks might be familiar with the commenter Turbulence who did some a right twit.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:54 PM
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did some s/b did seem


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:54 PM
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Then what do you mean by stable, essear? Also, if you feel like being a dick, have at it. But I was asking a serious question. I haven't paid close attention to the climate change literature for about a decade -- I stopped around the time that it got too depressing for me to handle -- but I used to be relatively current. And I don't recall reading about "stabilizing" the climate back then. That's why I asked.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:55 PM
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173, 174: Wikipedia is pretty good on this. Global mean temperatures over the last 800,000 years; temperatures over the last 12,000. (Both from this page.) Remarkably flat for the last 10,000 or so, within error bars.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:56 PM
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I guess I misunderstood you. I was reading "stabilizing" as an active verb, something volitional that people could do to, um, stabilize the climate. But I think you mean that people should try to stop pumping so much carbon into the atmosphere, thereby limiting the anthropogenic climate change, right? I guess that's the same thing, but it's not how I read you earlier.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 8:59 PM
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Sorry, didn't mean to be a dick, I'm just being overly flippant today. I'm a little grumpy.

But yeah, "climate stabilization" does seem to be a buzzword now. Probably the most sensible version of it is to have a target CO2 concentration. Honestly, I think at this point restoring the pre-industrial revolution climate is hopeless, but "stabilizing" doesn't seem like a crazy term for trying to halt the current trend.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 9:00 PM
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Sorry again, but 10,000 years is a pretty short span, right? To be clear, I'm not coming at that from the denial side of things (at all). I'm just trying to understand what you're saying in light of what I used to know.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 9:00 PM
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"stabilizing" doesn't seem like a crazy term for trying to halt the current trend

Okay, I'm treading on thin ice, I know, but this sounds like what's going to be stabilized is the amount of carbon output not the climate. Is that right? For the umpteenth time (I protest too much, I know), I'm just trying to get some sense of what the realistic goals are considered to be these days.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 9:02 PM
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This is a pretty good simplified view of the last 10K or so with some events labeled.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 9:02 PM
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My opinion on the defense budget is that we should keep the marines and the navy both at roughly their current size, and eliminate the army and the air force. I think the Navy does a lot of good in keeping the seas safe and pirate free and in projecting some force in emergencies. I think that any land operation that can't be done with marines is too big to do successfully anyway. I think the air force is bad for the country and would support having it reabsorbed by the army even if there were no cuts at all.

In the long run, we could try to decrease the size of the Navy somewhat as newer powers like India and Brazil increase the size of their navies.

In order to replace the army (which does a good job of training people and getting them ready for jobs) we would want to have large non-military organization that could take the place of college for people not inclined for college.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 9:02 PM
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I'm treading on thin ice

This was no more intentional than saying "I know" twice in one comment. Unless you liked it, in which case I planned it all along.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 9:03 PM
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183: Although ignore the "optimum"s at the warm peaks.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 9:05 PM
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182: I think the point isn't to stabilize output, but rather to stabilize the concentration of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere so that it's not increasing. That would require real cuts in emissions from what we have now, but would not be enough to actually reverse the change that we're already stuck with.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 9:05 PM
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183: It's northern hemisphere, though. Things like the Little Ice Age and the Medieval Warm Period don't seem to have been global events (or didn't hit everywhere at the same time), so that probably exaggerates their effect in terms of global mean temperature.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 9:05 PM
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Eh, forget it. You're in a bad mood. And there's a decent chance, given the subject matter, that I'll leave this conversation and then go rock back and forth in a corner, staring at the wall (like in Blair Witch), before crying myself to sleep.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 9:06 PM
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181: Yeah, on the scale of geological history or even human evolution, it's not a long time. But it is basically the entire interval in which we've been able to rely on agriculture for food production. We would be wise to take it seriously and wonder how well we'll manage with a climate far outside the range of the last 10,000 years, is all I'm saying.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 9:07 PM
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You're in a bad mood.

I'm afraid this will be my state until mid-March, at least.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 9:07 PM
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My guess is that the idea behind the word "stabilize" is that it's already too late to stop anthropogenic climate change, but nonetheless we're really fucked if we just keep making things change more and more. So we'd really like to stabilize things at *some* concentration so that we can at least make do with some new level of normal.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 9:10 PM
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171: Start today. Be done in six months.

We can, per your 157, "End two wars and bring home troops and stop housing troops in dozens of countries" in six months? Where do all those troops go when they get home? What happens to the abandoned military bases? You don't think we'd need to, say, break them down? Are the home-coming troops still in the military, or are they decommissioned? Do they need veterans services? What jobs are they going to get? What do we do with all the stuff? Y'know, the military hardware stuff. What about the factories that produce all that stuff, and the people who work in them?

It's going to take longer than six months. I hope 171 was joking while dreaming of a pony.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 9:17 PM
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Wait, all I'm doing is answering which military programs I think should be ended. Why do I have to know how to end the program?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 9:22 PM
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127 to 194.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 9:25 PM
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I think I have a good idea for an unfogged thread.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 9:38 PM
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Cryptic!


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 9:56 PM
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192- My guess would be that it's pushback against the "they talk about global warming why's it snowing lol" miasma pervading ambient opinion. There's been a move in general towards terms that makes people think less of cartoonish desert wastelands.


Posted by: persistently visible | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 9:58 PM
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I'm trying to generate "buzz". Once I have people on tenterhooks, and everyone begins talking about this great thread that hasn't happened yet, I'll sell my idea to the highest bidder. They call it guerrilla marketing, old man.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 9:58 PM
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Seriously, that's why you're in physics and I'm where the big bucks are: in the humanities*.

* Strictly speaking, history is a social science here. Laydeez.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 9:59 PM
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Oops, my slip is showing.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 9:59 PM
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I've decided that it's time to begin my quasi-annual Veronica Mars rewatch. Already feeling less grumpy.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 10:00 PM
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202: No bum fights, essear.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 10:03 PM
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200: While "the humanities" is obviously proper English, I've been hearing "a humanity" more and more often, and it makes me wince. What's your verdict, as an official humanitarian humanist social scientist?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 10:04 PM
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203: Thank you, oudemia, for that succinct and somewhat inappropriate response.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 10:05 PM
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Humanities. Also, a historian rather than an historian. Glad you asked.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 10:07 PM
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Finally, I'm pretty sure it's bumfights -- one word -- rather than bum fights.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 10:08 PM
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206, 207: I did know if anyone would be dogged and resourceful in this matter, it'd be you.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 10:13 PM
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I'd like to see a tenterhook some day.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 10:15 PM
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Also, a historian rather than an historian.

Bless you.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 10:17 PM
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Related, maybe: my mom has a couple of weird photos of my dad and me together, sitting on a car, dancing (separately but in the same frame) at a wedding. We make eerily similar gestures.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 10:26 PM
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Oh, hey, wrong thread. I'm slow.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 10:26 PM
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211 to 203.


Posted by: Beefo Meaty | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 10:28 PM
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213: we have three hands, me and my dad, plus the hobo consultants. We could take Vom Waffle, I bet.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 10:36 PM
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Oh, the humanity!

Hee.


Posted by: JennyRobot | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 10:39 PM
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193

It's going to take longer than six months. ...

You are being silly. Winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would start saving money immediately.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 11:02 PM
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156

... "Politically popular" is an odd way to describe what's basically simple rent seeking. There's basically zero popular political pressure* for more defense spending in the abstract sense. ...

There was a lot of popular political pressure to do something in the wake of 911. Just as there was after Katrina and the BP spill. A lot of the response was stupid but when the public wants something to be done money gets spent.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 11:09 PM
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"Sometimes I'm even persnicketier."


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 11:18 PM
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190

... We would be wise to take it seriously and wonder how well we'll manage with a climate far outside the range of the last 10,000 years, is all I'm saying.

So maybe we should try to stay out of another ice age which is likely where we were headed before we started messing with things.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 11:19 PM
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Now that's just silly.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 11:35 PM
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Unlike the rest of this thread.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 11:38 PM
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So why didn't "the humanities" follow the old Greek and be called the "humanologies". Just aesthetics?


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 02-14-11 11:44 PM
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re: 137

Yeah, they sell out arenas, ffs. Here, anyway. I'm on record as not liking them, but they are, by any standards, a pretty huge and well-known band these days. Their stuff is completely mainstream on the radio here [I mean on stations/shows not aimed at the under 30s, or even the under 40s].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 12:50 AM
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re: 166 The EU is comparable to the US in size, population, per cap income and combined GDP. They have a lot more army personnel than we do, but no carriers, far fewer nuclear weapons, and so on.

There are others here who are more interested in defense issues [Alex?], but I'm pretty sure that claim about carriers is false. The UK has one carrier [not including helicopter/amphibious assault ships], France has one, Italy has two, as does Spain.

I don't know who the US is supposedly defending against, with respect to the EU, either. The situation in the cold war no longer holds after all.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 12:58 AM
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ajay, thanks for Wealth Conscription.

"The Government have not made such a statement; but I have stated myself, and the Prime Minister has also stated, that as long as money exists in the country we will take it for the War in one way or another. "


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 1:25 AM
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223. I'm just happy that Bieber got shafted. I quite like Esperanza Spalding.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 2:31 AM
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The EU is comparable to the US in size, population, per cap income and combined GDP. They have a lot more army personnel than we do, but no carriers, far fewer nuclear weapons, and so on.

max, the EU is not comparable to the US because the EU is not a country. Please stop being silly.

ttaM, it's a common American trait to define anything smaller than a Nimitz-class as "not a real carrier". There is no very obvious reason for this.
The UK has one carrier, HMS Illustrious, but she's playing at being a helicopter carrier at the moment because we haven't got any jets to put on her. Italy and Spain have Harrier-carriers. Big Charles, however, is a real kosher carrier, with a 35-ship air wing including a squadron of Rafales (probably the best carrier fighter currently in service anywhere in the world).

Parsimon and others should take a look at the UK for how to do defence cuts. Wise they may not be, but they're fast.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 2:47 AM
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||

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-12451893

Scots study science and engineering in substantial numbers, shock! In other news, rain is wet, and bears prefer arboreal toilet arrangements ....

>


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 3:16 AM
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||

Emerson at ObWi. Good stuff.

|>


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 4:19 AM
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209: You just had to ask.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 5:36 AM
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228: A link from that article reveals the shocking news that two burger restaurants have opened in New Orleans, and that it is a "boom." BBC News is written by people on speed, right?


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 5:52 AM
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BBC News is written by people on speed, right?

Could be. It's read (on TV and radio) by people apparently on Mogadon, so maybe they're trying to create an appearance of normality by adjusting everybody's dosage.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 5:56 AM
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I notice Pauly has followed JE to ObWi. Can somebody contact Farber and tell him how to deal.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 5:58 AM
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I do like Emerson's use of the phrase 'lumpen intelligentsia'.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 6:13 AM
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234. It was a phrase widespread in BritTrot circles in the 70s. I'd take a small bet you'd find in somewhere in the works of Ken MacLeod.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 6:23 AM
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re: 235

Heh, yeah, it wouldn't surprise me. I've come across more than a few 'Trotfacts' via Ken MacLeod; being too young to have been politically involved before the late 80s, and never having been a Trot the 'groupuscule' related stuff is often amusing and informative.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 6:35 AM
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234:me too.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 7:32 AM
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It seems the defense budget is currently being cut so defense cuts aren't actually unthinkable.

As a result, the total of $693 billion in 2010 might have represented the peak for the surge in military spending that began after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. And Congressional leaders say that new members from the Tea Party movement may try to cut military spending even more.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 02-15-11 6:01 PM
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