shimajiro comments

Posted in: McCain says setting Iraq withdrawal date 'not that important' See in context

yabits,

The Iraqi parliament is already in favor of setting a definite date for a US pullout.

That has yet to be established by vote. It's one thing to favor a withdral in the abstract, it's quite another to vote to demand a withdrawl by a certain date.

The facts that the US government is engaged in negotiations with the Iraqi government about the conditions under which US forces will stay and how long they will stay and that Iraqi legislators are posturing and deliberating and ultimately will vote on the matter proves my point. The US is currently operating under a UN mandate which may or may not be renewed. If it should not be renewed and the Iraqi government were to vote for US forces to leave then, I am quite confident, that the US president would be compelled to leave, whatever his preference. Alternately, were the Iraqi government to insist upon conditions for staying on that the US side feels are unacceptable then, again, the US would depart of it's own volition.

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Posted in: Anti-Americanism at record levels worldwide, report shows See in context

chardk1,

but claiming it is doing nothing but God's work on Earth, as some Americans (Dubya) do with no perceivable irony, is going to draw a lot of criticism and rightly so.

I think this is a bit of a strawman. It's one thing to believe or claim one's country to be a paragon on virtue - which I think few Americans do - and another to defend one's country from charges of being bad/evil - which they are unfortunately often obliged to do.

You can't claim the moral high ground AND complain about being held to a higher standard.

It may, however, complain of being held to double standards.

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Posted in: Anti-Americanism at record levels worldwide, report shows See in context

chardk1:

But as Americans we should care about why people think what they do about us even if we disagree with the "what."

Agreed. All other things being equal it is desirable to be popular. I wouldn't make it a primary aim of US foriegn policy, though.

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Posted in: Kitakyushu cops’ indiscretions come under scrutiny See in context

Licensed deri-heru services are legal, but limited to erotic massage culminating in oral or manual stimulation.

Wow, that would meet the legal definition of prostitution in the U.S. I didn't realize such was legal recreation in Japan. Do Japanese wives and courts consider it to be adultery and/or grounds for divorce?

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Posted in: Anti-Americanism at record levels worldwide, report shows See in context

Esther Brimmer, director of research at John Hopkins University’s Center for Transatlantic Relations, noted that after the September 11, 2001, European nations were keen to help the United States, including in Afghanistan. But their support was “deeply impacted by the invasion of Iraq,” and cooler relations contributed to Washington’s failure to secure Macedonia’s membership of NATO and to undermine its role in reforming the U.N.’s human rights mechanisms, she said.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq provided an excellent natural experiment to test the U.S.'s NATO allies' willingness and ability to share the burden in a fight. Afghanistan was the so-called "good war" in which the Europeans were fully complicit. Even if they later refused to join the fight in Iraq on legal or moral grounds they could have delivered a powerful object lesson to the US had they shown their mettle and value in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, their paltry contributions to the effort in Afghansitan have shown Ms. Bremer's premise to be threadbare. Even such troops as have been sent have often been prohibited by their governments from operating in the dangerous parts of the country - not primarily because of their disagreement with the US but because their stingy with their blood and treasure.

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Posted in: McCain says setting Iraq withdrawal date 'not that important' See in context

yabits quoting Chait:

But the history of the Middle East suggests that Iraqis are never going to accept a long-term American military presence.

If they can't, then they won't, regarless of who's president. Were the democratically-elected government of Iraq to request that the U.S. leave, the American president would find it politically untenable to stay - whatever his preference. If the recent trend of improving security in Iraq can be sustained there is every reason to think that Iraq's government will ask for the US to begin scaling back its operations sooner rather than later. Iraqis are already bearing the brunt of the security load in terms of ground fighting and policing but the Iraqi government will likely continue to need and want various kinds of support for some time.

So these comments are a window into McCain's rosy scenario that ought to be challenged.

Sure challenge McCain - but challenge Obama, too. Would Obama really jeopardize the hard-won recent gains with a precipitous withdrawl over the objections of the Iraqi government and risk genocide and a wider conflagration just to meet an arbitrary timetable?

McCain backed Gen. Petreus's plan at a time when it looked liked political suicide to do so because most of the trends in Iraq were bad. That now appears to have been good judgement. McCain was also an early and vocal critic of Rumsfeld's prosecution of the war.

Yes, he wants the Iraq occupation to become like the West German occupation, but right now it's not, and McCain won't concede there's any limit to how long the status quo is acceptable to him.

At the end of WWII, were a US presidential candidate to have predicted that the US presence in (West) Germany would end by a date certain in the near or intermediate future, s/he would today look foolish. Both Obama and McCain would be wise not to tie their hands today because the situation may look quite different come inauguration day.

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Posted in: 80,000 rally against U.S. beef in South Korea See in context

As with Japan, protectionist sentiment plays a role in this. The concentrated domestic producer interest will almost always trump the diffuse domestic consumer interest in the political realm.

It's tempting to say "screw 'em" and adopt a beggar-they-neighbor trade policy wherein their exports are prohibited on trumped up safety grounds as well. But such a policy would deny American consumers and producers of valued Korean goods and marginally undermine American competitiveness. Such demonstrations should be met with a concerted information campaign (to put the infintesimal risks into context) and patience.

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Posted in: McCain, Obama trade jabs on economy, taxes See in context

Hey, Taka! Thanks.

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Posted in: McCain, Obama trade jabs on economy, taxes See in context

Obama wants to eliminate the secret ballot for union votes..

This position would seem to be indefensible. Unions want to be rid of the secret ballot so that their organizers can either use strong-arm tactics to coerce votes out of employees or offer inducements in exchange for votes.

[Obama] even proposed a unilateral re-negotiation of NAFTA — our agreement with Canada and Mexico that accounts for 33% of American exports,” McCain said.

Unilateralism, this. And bad policy to boot.

McCain “wants to add $300 billion more in tax breaks and loopholes for big corporations and for the wealthiest Americans, and he hasn’t even explained how he’d pay for it,” Obama said.

McCain was right to oppose the Bush tax cuts on the grounds that they weren't "paid for" in spending cuts. As it turned out their stimulative effects were salutary given the bursting of the internet bubble and the drag of 9/11 but the principle was a good one. Both candidates should be pressed to provide more details on how they plan to pay for the programs and tax cuts they favor.

McCain would eliminate the tax subsidy for employer-based insurance and give individuals a tax break to offset the cost of buying their own insurance.

A good idea. A better idea would be to eliminate the subsidy altogether. The tax treatment of health benefits has been a major contributor to health care inflation and wage (though not compensation) stagnation.

Obama said the McCain plan would help only the wealthy...

It would mitigate the problem of "job-lock" which presumably affects workers at all income levels.

He’s offering a tax cut that won’t ensure that health care is affordable for hardworking families who need help most...

If Sen. Clinton is to be believed neither would his.

Sen. Obama's plan would do a good job of expanding insurance coverage but would do little to control health care costs - the overall affordability of health care. In fact, there's a good case to be made that they would exacerbate the problem. McCain is right to try to expand private insurance through cost control but he needs to supplement his plan by bolstering and rationalizing our safety net in the mean time.

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Posted in: Obama slams McCain, Bush on economy, gasoline prices See in context

Betzee:

...be it bringing freedom to the long-suffering Iraqis or providing the world's downtrodden with the opportunity to better themselves by coming to the USA, these choices cost and that has to be acknowledged by their respective proponents.

Agreed. Costs as well as benefits should be tallied. On balance I think the evidence suggests that immigrants are a source of economic vitality both for our country and the countries they leave behind. However, the U.S. could do a much better job of managing the flow. A good place to start would be by making it much easier to enter the country legally and become citizens.

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Posted in: Obama slams McCain, Bush on economy, gasoline prices See in context

Obama's RX for the economy comes with a big dose of populism. Targetted redistribution can alleviate suffering but the broad brush soak-the-rich sort is not going to grow the economy and may well hurt. Furthermore his support for protectionism, unionization, regulation, unfunded mandates on employers, taxes on "windfall" corporate profits and higher personal taxes are a toxic brew that risk cutting the economy's growth potential and increasing inflationary pressures. . In the short term the Fed is going to have much more influence over the economic cycle than the president. In the longer term, rising productivity is the way to lift the standard of living. The government can best achieve this by improving the quality of primary and secondary education and engaging with the world via, dare I say it, globalization. Unfortunately Obama's not well positioned to take on the teacher's unions which, IMO, are an impediment to change in our schools nor the manufacturing unions. Greater investment in a broken system isn't going to produce the kind of improvement we need. . McCain's gas holiday is also economic populism that does him no credit. Expanding economic liberty through cuts in the overall level of taxation are a great aspiration but they must be "paid for" by cuts in government expenditure or a slowing the growth of economic expenditure relative to the growth of the economy. Increasing government borrowing to pay for tax cuts is misconcived. McCain needs to have the courage of his convinctions to sell the idea of immigration reform and work to assimilate the millions of illegal aliens. Like Obama, he has the unfortunate habit of trying to find scapegoats for American's economic ills - too often bogeymen such as "foreigners" or "corporations". . In terms of energy, the eco-friendly alternatives that Obama espouses are important for the future but will fall far short of our need in the near and even intermediate term. IMO, McCain is right to champion nuclear. A carbon tax can be used to limit the production of pollution to socially-desirably levels. . Lastly McCain needs to place more emphasis on improving the affordability and portability of health insurance - especially by making the government smarter about the way it procures medical care and empowering consumers. The government's "investment" level is alaready more than sufficient.

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Posted in: In U.S. Congress, gas prices trump global warming See in context

To the extent that they reflect underlying supply and demand, high relative prices for oil is a good thing. It will spur exploration and exploitation of previously marginal fields and provide an incentive for consumers to economize and spur R&D into energy subsitutes. A side benefit of higher prices is that it ought decrease the production of pollution and increase energy efficiency. If the price stays high for long enough it will permanently alter consumption habits.

Unfortunately too many countries, China, Iran and Iraq among them, are dampening the market's price signal.

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Posted in: McCain, Obama both say Iran is other's weakness See in context

To talk or not to talk to one's is too stark a dichotomy. The US and Iran already "talk" today - through intermediaries and low- and intermediate-level diplomats. IMO, direct talks between the heads of state should not be ruled out but neither should they be unilaterally granted. That's where I part company with Obama who would dispense with "preconditions". Normalized relations are a uaseful bargaining chip that shouldn't be squandered. Both candidates' positions could do with a bit more, er, "nuance".

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Posted in: Clinton ends campaign, urges supporters to work to elect Obama See in context

Most of Sen. Clinton's supporters will "come home" to the Democratic nominee come November - McCain's support for a continued presence in Iraq and free trade and his opposition to abortion will see to that. But McCain may be able to peel away a significant minority of the disaffected, or keep them on the sidelines. Depite the efforts of Sen. Obama and the Dems to paint him as Bush, Sen. McCain's an altogether different sort of Republican with the potential for cross-over appeal. What's more he knows that he's not going to be able win by simply rallying his base a ala GWB. Hispanics, whites, women, blue collar workers and Catholics who could have been reliably counted on to pull the lever for Clinton may give McCain a look if he makes a decent outreach.

Obama's got to guard against the kind of hubris that toppled Clinton. His recent comment that he'll be president come the the 2012 Olympics should be setting off alarm bells.

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Posted in: Obama, Clinton meet to discuss how to unite Democrats See in context

Choosing Hillary would make him look weak and undermine his claim both to be a post-partisan uniter and a change agent. I think he'd be wiser to someone to shore up support in a electorally rich swing state or among Hispanics. Wouldn't hurt if his selection had managerial, military and FP experience to boot.

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Posted in: McCain challenges Obama to join him in 10 town hall meetings See in context

Certainly Mcain's should be comfortable with the free-wheeling format after the months he's logged on the Straigh Talk Express. Obama and/or his campaign seem to prefer a more stage-managed presence. In any case, McCain is right to want to try to find ways to mix things up - he's trailing - and try to influence the conditions under which he and Obama debate. Obama risks looking bad if he declines and getting caught in a a conservative/defensive posture where he's trying to avoid making mistakes. I think that hurt HRC early in her primary campaign.

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Posted in: Obama seals Democratic nomination; Clinton seeks VP slot See in context

Congrats to Mr. Obama. He's run a smart primary campaign, culminating in one of the biggest upsets in recent U.S. political memory. He had help from the Clinton's misteps and fawning media coverage, of course, but he's an attractive figure. Certainly, that the next president will be neither a Bush nor a Clinton.

Obama's resume is pretty thin for a presidential aspirant but his personal story is inspiring and he's bright, young, handsome and charming. Surprising to some both in- and outside the U.S. his race has been a political asset.

Even if the political environment seems to favor a generic Democrat this election year, much less a Messiah figure, McCain can be heartened by Barak's underdog story.

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Posted in: NASA spacecraft lands on Mars See in context

Aside from satisfying natural curiosity about the universe and man's place in in it, space exploration has led to discoveries that provide us insight into Earth's past, possible future(s) and present day climate challenges. I think there's a good case to me made that private, voluntary organizations like The Planetary Society could/should play a larger role in the financing of space exploration but I think government stil has a role. I would like to see white elephants like the International Space Station abandoned to fund more robotic missions like the Phoenix spacecraft.

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Posted in: NASA spacecraft lands on Mars See in context

Congrats to NASA on the first successful "soft landing" on Mars since the Viking missions. Robotic missions such as Viking and Phoenix are much more cost-effective than the manned orbital missions it devotes so much of its resournces on.

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