So this is weird.
Yesterday, federal agents raided the workplace of the chief technology officer for the city of Washington DC. The same day, they arrested Yusuf Acar, who serves as the city's information systems security officer, as part of a federal bribery sting.
The man who until recently was CTO, Vivek Kundra, was just named the first ever Federal Chief Information Officer by the Obama administration -- which put this story on the national radar.
It's unclear whether Kundra himself is implicated at all. CNN today reports:
A law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation told CNN that Kundra is not involved in the case.
But it also reveals that, according to the White House, Kundra has taken a leave of absence from his new gig, until more details are known about the FBI probe.
So for the moment, there are more questions than answers -- but this bears watching.
David Petraeus is the most respected general officer the U.S. Army has produced since Colin Powell, and possibly since Dwight Eisenhower.
Rachel Kleinfeld, the executive director of the Truman National Security Project, may be a late entrant to the campaign to apotheosize a general who doesn't need hyperbole, but in the Winter issue of Democracy: a Journal of Ideas she proves herself an energetic booster. Kleinfeld argues that Petraeus should be seen as a progressive hero for bringing down the level of violence in Iraq through a strategy of protecting the Iraqi population. "However progressives feel about the decision to enter the Iraq War," she writes, "we should own its success."
Kleinfeld--like many of the liberal hawks now clamoring to claim the Iraq war a success--misunderstands both progressive national security principles, as well as the issues at stake with the ascendancy of counterinsurgency theory and practice.
Kleinfeld's case for Petraeus as a progressive hero oozes contempt for actually existing progressives. She first applauds Petraeus for recognizing that military power alone was insufficient for a problem like Iraq and that political progress was the key--meaning that civilian U.S. agencies had crucial roles to play, which she calls "another long-held progressive belief." Add to that a population-centric focus, "just as progressives wished to do in Darfur, Rwanda and Tibet." From these premises, Kleinfeld treats the progressives who opposed the surge as apostates. "Despite its [progressive] provenance, Petraeus' strategy was rejected by MoveOn and other leading progressive voices," she writes. Those progressives "rationalized away their belief in principles such as preventing genocide" in order not to "grant Bush a political victory."
In order to condemn antiwar progressives, Kleinfeld distinguishes between ending the war and "winning the war"--an empty term that she never bothers to define--which raises the question of why the war is worth "winning." The idea that progressives should champion a kinder, gentler occupation instead of heeding the clear wishes of a populace that never asked to be placed under the rule of a foreign power is many things, but it is certainly not progressive.
Kleinfeld makes a further argument about counterinsurgency, one that is becoming increasingly faddish. "With the bogeyman of George W. Bush out of the way," she writes, "progressives must re-embrace our own distinctive counterinsurgency strategy." Presuming a natural unity between progressivism and counterinsurgency is a category error. Counterinsurgency is, ideologically, value-neutral. There will be times when progressive goals dictate the application of counterinsurgency. There will also be times when counterinsurgency stands at cross purposes with progressivism.
One example from the surge demonstrates the point. In early 2007, to combat cross-sectarian violence, Petraeus and his brain trust opted to build huge cement blast walls on the seams of flashpoint neighborhoods. That followed good counterinsurgency practices of separating combatants. But the locals viewed it as enforced ethnic homogenization, and Petraeus proceeded with his plan despite loud protests from Iraqis. How progressive is that?
While counterinsurgency can afford to be agnostic to the legitimacy of a given insurgency and a given government, progressivism--insofar as it defines itself by a foundational commitment to justice--cannot be. Americans have to think hard about what sort of counterinsurgency capability they wish to truly build within both their military and their civilian national-security apparatus; progressives need to think hardest of all.
There is also a political temptation to misapply the lessons of particular successes. The U.S. military in Afghanistan, for instance, is recruiting tribal militias in the hope that what worked among the Sunni tribes in Anbar will also work for the Pashtun tribes along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border--even though the circumstances that fueled an indigenous Sunni rebellion in Iraq are entirely absent in Afghanistan. Appropriating the surge for progressive messaging purposes without regard for broader questions of either long-term strategy or progressivism is an invitation to the foreign-policy debacles of the future, this time under a Democratic president.
A longer version of this article appears in the Spring 2009 issue of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas.
Spencer Ackerman is a senior reporter for The Washington Independent, where he writes an ongoing series about counterinsurgency.
What dday says-I am a little late to this party, but Howard Fineman's barbaric yawp on behalf of the political establishment is a truly amazing document. It should be put in a time capsule so that future generations can understand why American politics[...]
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All the money is gone. Well, there never was any money, but accounting entries which created money through the issuance of debt. Nonetheless and you can argue magicians' tricks endlessly, but now not only is the rabbit gone but so is the magician's[...]
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Happy Friday and welcome to the 19th installment of Friday Constitutional! As nearly everyone that is reading this knows by now, this is the Dog's series looking at the Constitution of the United States. For those that missed any of the other[...]
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The Stewart-Cramer dialogs are pretty remarkable. Cramer is an interesting subject, but he requires an expertise in clinical psychology that I lack. He seems to be confessing and trying to cover up at the same time, out of mingled instincts of remorse and self-preservation. But we should understand him and CNBC as a symptom, not a prime mover.
The foundation issue here has been little noted, though Stewart half-consciously alluded to it periodically. To get the real, substantive, wonky background we actually have to go back to the Social Security debate.
One of the noteworthy documents in that controversy was a paper co-authored by the mighty triumvirate of Dean Baker, Brad DeLong, and Paul Krugman. At one point Krugman and Baker presented their material to an audience of gray eminences at the Brookings Institution, where Greg Mankiw had the opportunity to throw rocks. Which he did.
My one-sentence summary of the paper is that the stock market can't possibly be as good a long-run investment, relative to Social Security, as is commonly thrown about. At the time this was controversial. By 'good' I mean having a desirable mixture of low risk and decent return. As everyone should know, there is a trade-off between the two (risk & return, that is).
The average growth rate of the U.S. economy has been somewhere between three and four percent, after deducting inflation. Growth is a creature of growing labor supply, additions to the capital stock, and occasional hiccups (both positive and negative) from technological progress and who knows what else. In my view it is not well understood by economists. (I suspect I will not have to work hard to persuade you of that.) At any rate, in advanced industrial countries you would be foolish to expect sustained growth above five percent.
Even these numbers have an illusory component, since they do not account for depletion of the natural environment, the exhaustion of leisure time, and the sacrifice of other non-market amenities.
So it is idiotic to expect stocks to grow at double digit rates. In terms of 'fundamentals,' the value of stocks depends on the growth of profits from productive activity. Firms produce stuff that people want to buy. When you buy a stock you are buying an uncertain stream of future income. Some of this you may get in the form of cash dividends, otherwise you may reap capital gains. Alternatively, when you buy a bond you are buying a guaranteed share of a company's profits, but the company's survival is itself uncertain. Either way, you can't expect double digit returns on average for any sustained period of time.
Everything else is buying or selling in expectation of a short-term run-up or drop, respectively, in price, otherwise known as speculation. Your gain will be somebody else's loss, and vice versa. A huge accumulation of gains will end up as a big loss at some point. You can be lucky with a particular stock or with a particular portfolio for a particular period of time. You can be unlucky too.
The touts like to describe the popping of a bubble as "the destruction of wealth." But the basis for wealth -- natural resources, plant and equipment, skilled labor -- is untouched. It is only inflated claims to a level of wealth that could not possibly be conjured up that have been destroyed. Anybody who gauges our well-being by the progress of the stock market self-certifies as an imbecile and illiterate.
This is not new information. The interaction of bubbles in stocks, real estate, and more exotic financial instruments has been occurring since the dawn of capitalism. Read The Great Crash by Galbraith, or Panics, Manias, and Crashes, by Kindleberger. Any experienced person knows this history. When they tell you to buy the bubble, they're trying to ride it up before the pop, on your back. Or they are humoring your own delusion that you can ride it at someone else's expense. They know that leverage in a deregulated environment will end up as somebody else's problem. This is not new, nor is the industry of disseminating the message for the ears, and to the ultimate disadvantage of, the great unwashed.
The touts and authorities who conspire in this fraud are thoroughly, consciously at fault. They should all be hung by the balls, but they won't be, because they are still in charge. They run this.
It is tempting to look to Canada, which enjoyed sufficient regulation to protect its own banks from themselves. That is certainly a relevant model. But we have to go further afield than Baker-DeLong-Krugman to the old German to best appreciate what is going on here.
In this economic system, opportunities to profit from the expansion of enterprise become progressively limited as the system prospers. Capital becomes less scarce, returns on productive activity diminish on the margin. People with money to play with -- especially yours -- look for more exciting pastimes, and the manipulation of financial assets on the basis of huge leverage and the promise of socialized risk is it. This is not new.
It has nothing to do with either George Bush or Federal government borrowing or tax cuts, contrary to the credulous Obamatons' slogans. You getting taken to the cleaners is as lawful as summer following spring.
I was as credulous as anyone. When the Dow was over 14,000 I was looking at my home equity and 401(k) and feeling mighty fine. And I had read the BDK paper and I knew about the housing bubble. But like a coke addict I couldn't resist getting just a little more.
I need to be protected from myself, and so do you. But we are not all guilty. It's up to the authorities to provide some modicum of protection for us from our worst instincts, just like we try to stop people from jumping off the roofs of buildings and tell our kids to eat their spinach.
Don't call it paternalism. Call it enlightened collective self-interest. Do you feel sufficiently enlightened?
Keith's report on Seymour Hersh's claim that Dick Cheney was running a covert assassination ring out of the Vice President's office with no Congressional oversight called the Joint Special Operations Command. The CIA denies the allegations. Keith's opening and Howard Fineman's slant are in the clip above and Howard Fineman states that even with the denials the CIA was not willing to dismiss Hersh's claim out of hand. He also thinks this may give some more creedance to Pat Leahy's call for a truth commission and find him some more support for it.
John Dean weighed in on the legal implications for the Bush administration as well as the CIA.
I’ll be working this afternoon outside my office, including attending a defense policy forum at the CATO Institute. The forum, “Can the Pentagon be fixed?”, begins at noon and will be streamed live. The speakers are Winslow T.[...]
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Despite Michael Steele's grasping the third rail of Republican Party politics-- and refusing to let go-- Chris Cillizza offers the controversial-- some would say "clownish"-- RNC chair a glimmer of hope that he won't be out on the street looking for a job again-- at least not right away. In his Washington Post column today, Cillizza lists 5 reasons why Michael Steele won't be removed anytime soon.
1. No More Drama: The Republican Party is reeling from a disastrous 2008 election and a race for party chair that publicly exposed the fissures between its warring factions. The last thing the party needs now is further chaos at the top, which is what would almost certainly ensue if Steele was ousted.
2. Symbolic Suicide: In the after-action report of the 2006 and 2008 elections, Republican operatives concluded that one of the party's biggest problems was that they were viewed as the party of old white men. Putting Steele atop their party infrastructure was a move greeted with a sigh of relief by the GOP's professional political class. Pushing Steele aside just over a month into his tenure would send the exact wrong message about who the Republican Party is and where it's going.
3. If Not Steele, Who?: The field for RNC chair was roundly panned as lacking any real star power. Among a group of largely unknown party chairs from around the country, Steele was the only candidate who could make the case that he could be a star thanks to his personal magnetism and charisma. While that bet hasn't paid off to date, there's not an obvious candidate who could step into the void if Steele was knocked out.
4. Procedural Problems: National party committees are ruled by a series of arcane rules and procedures for doing just about anything. (Ask anyone who attended the RNC chair election; it seemed to go on forever.) Removing a party chairman, not surprisingly, is not something that can be done quickly or easily.
5. Positive Movement: After a month occupied by a huge internal review led by a committee of 10 RNC members, the senior staff is starting to fall into place. Ken McKay, a former chief of staff to Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri, was named executive director on Thursday, and today Trevor Francis, a managing director in Burson-Marsteller's media practice, will be announced as communications director. Putting the senior staff in place should quiet some of the chatter that the committee is off the rails.
On February 7, just a week after Steele was elected, the Washington Post reported in a front-page story that Alan Fabian, the finance chairman of Steele's unsuccessful 2006 run for the U.S. Senate, told federal prosecutors that Steele "arranged for his 2006 Senate campaign to pay a defunct company run by his sister for services that were never performed." The day after the Post story appeared, Steele, speaking on ABC's "This Week," said the money-- it was about $37,000-- was "a legitimate reimbursement of expenses" for catering and other services provided by his sister's company. Steele pointed out that Fabian has been convicted in a multi-million dollar fraud case and made the allegations against Steele in an unsuccessful attempt to have his sentence lowered. "Those allegations were leveled by a convicted felon who is trying to get a reduced sentence on his conviction," Steele told ABC.
In late February, WBAL-TV, a television station in Baltimore, reported that Steele's 2006 campaign paid $64,000 to a company called Allied Berton, owned by a friend and a supporter of Steele's. The station reported that Allied Berton is a commodities trading firm, dealing in minerals, metals, and agricultural products. The report said that finance reports filed by the Steele campaign listed the services provided by Allied Berton as "political consulting." When WBAL tried to ask what kind of political consulting a commodities trading firm performed for the Steele campaign, a Steele spokesman declined to comment.
The allegations, which haven't received much national attention, have nevertheless rattled a number of RNC members across the country. "This came out right after his election," one member told me Wednesday. "If people had known that when he was running, he would not have won."
"The committee is split almost down the middle on this," the member continued. "The people who are concerned are very concerned. These are very serious allegations."... [H]is handling of the question is just making already skeptical RNC members even more skeptical.
A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White
Anyone who's seen even a minute or two of Glenn Beck's show knows he's not the most stable individual. But yesterday, Beck was crying out for someone to step in by projecting his feelings of frustration onto a man who went on a killing rampage earlier this week.
OK, I admit earlier in the week when I warned everybody about Glenn Beck's plans to usurp the faded popularity of martial arts actor/activist Chuck Norris to push a special program recruiting people for his new anti-government militia, I was more upset with Beck appropriating simple ol' Chucky to raise ratings for his new venture into the world of Fox News.
But after seeing Bill O'Reilly look rather sane next to Beck yesterday, I'm actually worried about Beck's mental health. I really think he is crying out for help. Watch a clip of it for yourself, thanks to Think Progress: