Friday, September 29, 2017

5 Things on a Friday: Not Going Back to Korea

Happy Friday, folks!

1. How Roy Moore's Win Roils Republicans (Bloomberg)
Roy Moore, a popular longtime Alabama judge, defeated “President Donald Trump-endorsed Senator Luther Strange in the Alabama Republican primary on Tuesday…” and now folks are arguing that this matters.
Trump's utter inability to move the polls despite being very visible in his support for Strange will remove some, and perhaps quite a bit, of the belief among Republican elites that Trump has some sort of special connection with their constituents. Indeed, Moore won by a larger margin in the runoff than he did in the first-round election.
But really, would there be even a quarter-inch difference in the future voting records of two would-be arch-conservative senators from the great state of Alabama?  
As I’ve said repeatedly, I’m no fan of the current president.  Far from it.  However, everybody in the media hates him SO BADLY that they take even the slightest reversal on any issue anywhere, and they turn it into The End of the Trump Phenomenon.  That is not where we are, and it’s most especially not where we are because one extremely Trump-positive politician from Alabama lost a local election to a perhaps fractionally-less Trump-positive politician from Alabama.
Astonishingly, the ultra-pro-Trump Strange was considered the “moderate” in this race.  Alabama Republicans preferred the zealot by a whopping 9%.
“I'm about 99 percent sure there will be some criminal charges from this investigation,” said Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Blumenthal has also served as a U.S. attorney and spent 20 years as his state's attorney general.
Blumenthal said he is less certain Trump himself would end up facing charges, including for possible obstruction of justice for his firing of FBI Director James Comey.
Do we trust Blumenthal on this?  I mean, yeah, he’s in a position to know.  However, he also benefits from the negative press associated with even the rumor of these charges.
3. Friday Hair Metal: One Live!
In honor of last week’s Punisher trailer.
One of the great canards of American politics these days is that the “struggling” middle class needs and wants a tax cut. It doesn’t. What it needs and wants after years of tax and spending cuts is more and better government services for the taxes it already pays.
According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, the average rate of income tax paid by the American middle class — the 20 percent of households in the exact middle of the income ladder — has been going down for decades, and was at 2.6 percent of gross income in 2013, the last year for which statistics are available. For the 40 percent of household below them — what you might call the working class — the average household not only paid no tax, but because of refundable tax credits actually got money back from the government equal to 1.2 percent of income, helping to offset payroll taxes (Social Security and Medicare) that averaged around 8 percent…
This is where Mitt Romney got himself into trouble by noting the obvious, that a shitload of people aren’t paying any income taxes at all.  But that’s not the issue.  The real issue is that no one wants to define themselves outside the middle class.  This despite the realities of what actually constitutes the middle of a given group of people.
We had this discussion within my own family earlier this week at dinner.  My wife argued, in essence, that we’re struggling because we own neither a boat nor a vacation home near a ski resort, and that the lack of a boat is particularly galling considering that we do belong to a local yacht club.  My daughter shot that down, however, by noting that most of her friends don’t even have cable, and they hardly consider themselves poor.  But she just spent two years at an inner-city magnet technical school in nearby Bridgeport, Connecticut, so she’s got a markedly different frame of reference for what constitutes “average” than does the rest of the family.  The view from the Boat Club is markedly different.
Are rising costs of health care, housing and college education putting strains on some households, particularly those that haven’t had a decent raise in years? Sure. But the solution to those problems is to reform the health care and education systems and increase the supply of housing, not to jeopardize the government’s ability to make the public investments needed for sustained economic growth, which is what cutting government revenue would do.
I think maybe there’s room here to argue about solutions.  It’s manifestly true, however, that cutting taxes isn’t a viable solution for those who aren’t paying much now.  It’s also true that 75% of the upper 20% think of themselves as sitting in “the middle” of the American income scale.  But Americans themselves know jack shit about statistics, so I’m not sure what that proves.
On April 15, 1969, North Korean MiG fighter planes shot down an American EC-121 spy plane flying off the coast of the Korean Peninsula (but still over international waters), killing all 31 crew members. President Richard Nixon, National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff spent the next 2½ months pondering what to do…
After a few days of deliberation, the central dilemma became clear to Kissinger, the chiefs, and all the other advisers mulling the problem. If the U.S. responded to the shoot-down with a limited attack, it would neither deter the North Koreans from further aggression nor prevent them from retaliating. Yet if the U.S. responded with a massive attack, it probably still wouldn’t knock out the entire North Korean military, and Pyongyang would almost certainly respond with its own devastating counterpunch. (Then, as now, North Korea had thousands of artillery shells well within range of Seoul, the capital of South Korea, just 35 miles from the border.)
I read recently that Americans who don't know where North Korea is are 10x more likely to want war.  I am therefore
sharing this map in hopes of talking some of you down off the ledge.  N.Korea is just south of China.
Image via CNN.
I talked to a good friend of mine on the phone on Wednesday, arguably my closest friend who’s still in the Army.  We talk pretty frequently.  He’s coming up on the end of a tour stateside, following a tour at the Pentagon, and—amazingly—the Army is telling him that he’s been home too long.  This is a dude who’s been to war three times and to Korea once, who has also served in the 18th Airborne Corps’ Rapid Deployment Force.  But sometimes you’re in a force like that, ready to go on two hours’ notice, and still you wind up sitting on your ass for years at a time.  I did that myself back in the late 1990s.  I’ve always counted those times a blessing, but apparently the Army holds them against you these days.
So my friend needs to go overseas.
We talked about his options.  I want him to come back to DC, so we can go to some more football games at Michie Stadium and FedEx Field.  More realistically, though, it looks like he’s got a choice between a two-year accompanied tour in Korea or a nine-month tasker to Afghanistan.
“Dude,” I said, “if I can take my family, I’ll go to Korea right now.  How is that even a choice?”
But my buddy told me that I was crazy, that Korea is way too unsettled right now, and that taking his family there might actually put them at risk.  It seems far-fetched to me, for the reasons noted in the article above, but my friend is probably going to go back to Afghanistan, sit on his ass--hopefully in relative safety--for nine solid months of sand, and then be done with it.  After that, he’ll be able to ride it out to twenty-five years and retirement, God willing back in DC, so that we can again watch some football from the storied banks of the Hudson River.
I guess we’ll see.
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That's all, folks!  Have a good weekend.

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