Thursday, November 08, 2012

"The Envelope, Please!"--Cole's s Top Ten

My friend David showcases Juan Cole's top ten wish list progressives should press on President Obama.   "Could be punchier but it's a start," says David. "Let's start with the extrajudicial killings and the warrantless wiretaps, today. We put you back in there, Barack—time to pony up."

I'll sign on to "could be punchier."  I would also sign on (if asked) to "could be less quirky," or "could be less simplistic."  But I'll grant that "quirky" is in the eye of the beholder and "simplistic" is not the stuff of which top ten lists are made.   I will pretty much sign on re "extrajudicial killings" and "warrantless wiretaps," though I think that neither is an issue that lends itself to easy fixes. We need an effective defense regime, which implies killing people. We need an effective information-gathering system, which probably implies doing what I did when I was a reporter--i.e., snooping around and sticking my nose in somebody else's business. There's a lot of devil in a lot of details here. Still, I'd sign on to the idea that we've gone batshit loony on both of this issues and that it is time for a major dialback.

A couple of other points--Cole may have said some of this, but perhaps I can try it in a different way.  One, I'm old-fashioned enough that I'm still  wondering where we come off making war without a declaration of war.  I suppose you could say we lost that round when Grant sent Sheridan out after the Indians, but I still think we could gain a lot from a rethink.

Related: I know the United States now  spends as much on defense as the next--what is it now, fifteen?--nations combined.  Could we dial that one back so the real number is something like, say,  twelve?  Details don't matter, you get the drift.

Here's one Cole does not seem to touch on:  I suppose it is too late to relitigate the handling of the meltdown/recovery of 2009, but isn't it time found a way to convince the banks that the next time we have a disaster, it is on their tab?  I gather Tim Geithner is on his way to the dustbin of history and let's just say that one is way overdue.

I'll agree with Cole that we need to put some heft behind the forces that want to legalize marijuana use,  But I'd offer another reason, oddly overlooked by Cole.  That is: I can think of no faster way to reduce our grotesquely excessive prison population than to stop providing government food and housing to a bunch of snot-nosed kids who got caught with a dime bag.  It's not that I'm aching for the chance to toke up  myself: I speak a dope virgin, and I had a tough enough time quitting smoking so I'm not about to stuff some other kind of fire into my mouth.  But criminalizing low-level drug use is not only unfair to potheads; it rips at the whole social fabric.

One item on Cole's list that leaves me baffled: he wants tax breaks for wind energy, and more incomprehensible still, he lists it at number one.  When it comes to picking winners in industry support, I'll never say never, but most of the time we do get it wrong.  If he really wants to level the playing field, how about getting rid of sugar subsidies and shutting down that !@#$! ethanol?   And BTW, if the forces of evil really want Big Bird, I say let 'em him have him, as long as we get paid. Probably time for the government to be out of the public broadcasting business too.

Climate change, did someone mention climate change?  Well I guess Cole did indirectly when he talked about wind farms and fracking.  I can't imagine why he didn't give it center stage.  And while I'm thinking of green-type issues, is there any way to revive cap and trade?

Boy, I'm drifting here, saying nothing more than that my list is different from Cole's ("Please hold, Professor, for President Obama...").  Maybe I'm not even a "progressive." But I am still willing to sign on to David's suggestion that Cole's list is a start.

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