Sunday, October 21st, 2012 :: 4:27 PM
"Probably the first compromise will take the form of a rationalization. You'll be pressured to do something you know isn't quite right. But you'll be scared not to do it — if you don't, you'll alienate someone powerful, your career will suffer a setback, your ambitious goals will suddenly seem farther away. At this point, your lesser self, driven by fear, greed, status-seeking, and other selfish emotions, will offer up a rationalization, and your greater self will grasp at it eagerly. As Reinhold Neibuhr put it, 'hypocrisy… is the tribute which morality pays to immorality; or rather the device by which the lesser self gains the consent of the larger self to indulge in impulses and ventures which the rational self can approve only when they are disguised.' "
"Can you identify a personal or career cost to any of your decisions? If not… bad sign. Who will you be offending, and what retribution are you likely to suffer? Who has the power to reward and punish you, and what are you willing to do to risk losing those rewards and incurring that punishment?" (>>)
Saturday, October 20th, 2012 :: 9:00 AM
"The Obama administration, which promised during its transition to power that it would enhance 'whistle-blower laws to protect federal workers,' has been more prone than any administration in history in trying to silence and prosecute federal workers.
"During a point in history when our government has been accused of sending prisoners to secret locations where they were said to have been tortured and the C.I.A. is conducting remote-controlled wars in far-flung places, it’s not a good time to treat the people who aid in the publication of critical information as spies." (>>)
Saturday, October 13th, 2012 :: 3:20 PM
"I think there ought to be a great debate about the stimulus and its interventions in various sectors of the economy. But we haven’t had that debate. We’ve debated a bizarro-world stimulus that does not exist. And I think that’s true about Obama, too. I don’t think he comes across as “brilliant.” I think he comes across as a pragmatic left-of-center technocrat who wasn’t interested in pursuing lost causes, but basically tried to do what he said he would do during the campaign. He wasn’t a policy entrepreneur with new policy ideas, but he did his best to get 60 votes for old policy ideas that made sense, and then pushed his administration to put them into action as cleanly and competently as possible. And I did a lot of reporting in the bowels of the bureaucracy and around the country to show how change has been playing out.
"Can you explain why so many local Republican officials and organizations traditionally aligned with the GOP (like the Chamber of Commerce) supported the stimulus, while the national party was united against it?
"The top priority for many local Republican politicians and Republican-leaning business organizations was avoiding a depression. They saw that the Obama stimulus wasn’t radical leftism; it was textbook countercyclical stimulus. Republicans had called for $300 billion worth of tax cuts, and that’s exactly what it had. Republican governors like Crist, Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, Jodi Rell of Connecticut, Jim Douglas of Vermont, and Jon Hunstman of Utah understood that its aid to states—over $160 billion worth—would prevent massive cutbacks of public services and massive layoffs of public employees. As the lobbyist for the Chamber of Commerce told me: When you sit where I sit, you don’t want to see an epic collapse of aggregate demand. Depressions are bad for business. I also tell a fun story of a Democratic aide screaming and cursing at some business lobbyists, warning that they’d get nothing from the Democratic Congress if they couldn’t support an economic recovery bill during an economic emergency.
"But the top priority for Washington Republicans was denying Obama bipartisan victories, so that they could come back from political oblivion. There’s a lot of fun fly-on-the-wall stuff in the book about meetings where Eric Cantor, Mitch McConnell, and other GOP leaders made this case—and on-the-record quotes from former GOP congressmen like Mike Castle, George Voinovich, and Specter complaining about it. McConnell often reminded his caucus about the 1984 election. Everyone remembers it as the 49-state Reagan landslide, Morning in America; people forget that only one Republican challenger ousted a Democratic incumbent that year. (It was McConnell, so he remembers.) His point was that there was nothing to be gained by going along with Obama. If the recovery plan worked and the economy boomed, Republicans would get re-elected even if they had voted against Obama. But if the economy was still struggling in 2010, Republicans could make a comeback if they stuck together.
"Did the Republican opposition ruin Keynesian stimulus for the indefinite future?
"I doubt it. The opposition is mostly opportunistic. One of the Republican alternatives to the stimulus in the House was a $715 billion plan that included far more highway construction than Obama’s. Almost the entire GOP conference supported it. And Republicans still defend business tax cuts and defense spending in Keynesian terms, even though they’re generally mediocre as Keynesian stimulus. I suspect that if Mitt Romney wins the election, the Republican opposition to fiscal stimulus will vanish, along with their rhetorical commitment to reining in budget deficits." (>>)
Tuesday, October 9th, 2012 :: 9:06 PM
"Security theater refers to security measures that make people feel more secure without doing anything to actually improve their security. An example: the photo ID checks that have sprung up in office buildings. No-one has ever explained why verifying that someone has a photo ID provides any actual security, but it looks like security to have a uniformed guard-for-hire looking at ID cards. Airport-security examples include the National Guard troops stationed at US airports in the months after 9/11 — their guns had no bullets…
Politicians naturally want to do something in response to crisis, even if that something doesn't make any sense.
Often, this 'something' is directly related to the details of a recent event: we confiscate liquids, screen shoes, and ban box cutters on aeroplanes. But it's not the target and tactics of the last attack that are important, but the next attack. These measures are only effective if we happen to guess what the next terrorists are planning. If we spend billions defending our rail systems, and the terrorists bomb a shopping mall instead, we've wasted our money. If we concentrate airport security on screening shoes and confiscating liquids, and the terrorists hide explosives in their brassieres and use solids, we've wasted our money. Terrorists don't care what they blow up and it shouldn't be our goal merely to force the terrorists to make a minor change in their tactics or targets.
We should treat terrorists like common criminals and give them all the benefits of true and open justice — not merely because it demonstrates our indomitability, but because it makes us all safer. Once a society starts circumventing its own laws, the risks to its future stability are much greater than terrorism. (>>)
Thursday, October 4th, 2012 :: 5:46 PM
"The key question to keep asking is, are you spending your time on the right things? Because time is all you have." (>>)