Sully is making peace with the sequester:

...in a budget crisis, where the GOP is rightly demanding structural spending cuts, we have two big shiny objects to raid: Medicare, and defense. (Social security could be saved with minor tinkering). Now if Americans were to choose between taking care of granny or policing the entire Pacific ocean for the indefinite future, I have a feeling they’d pick granny...

The public wants cuts; and it wants them overwhelmingly from defense, rather than Medicare. So let the sequester begin. It’s the dumbest version of what the American people want – but with this Congress, dumb is as good as we’ll ever get. [emphasis mine] As for Medicare, it too needs major surgery. But Obama has pledged to cut it by the same amount as Bowles-Simpson over the next ten years. If a Republican president had said that, they’d be giving him a standing O. But this is the moderate Republican Obama – and there’s nothing more that the GOP base hates than a moderate Republican. Eisenhower would have no home in this party. He loathed its core elements more than perhaps any other Republican president apart from George H W Bush.
I will freely admit that I am caught between my own (very immediate)  professional/personal concerns about the sequester, and what I'd like to see happen in the big picture. But, it is pretty clear that the Pentagon's budget will never be brought in line with a scalpel. A chainsaw is in order.

As to Medicare, I am less sanguine about the president's intentions than Sully is. But we have to start somewhere. It may as well be where we actually are.


why prostitution isn't like pot

Both Andrew Sullivan and Dominic Holden have brought up the problems and possibilities of legalized prostitution in the last few days. This is a topic on which my own views--to borrow a phrase--have evolved. Quoting, er, myself from the comments section of Dominic's post:

My bias is definitely that [prostitution] should be legal (as should any voluntary exchange among adults that does not involve force or fraud).

However, my enthusiasm is tempered by some counter-intuitive research that found higher rates of human trafficking into countries where prostitution is legal.

So although it makes intuitive sense (it did to me, anyway) that legalizing it would improve conditions for sex workers and reduce incentives to trafficking, what actually seems to happen is that the market gets so much bigger that it incentivizes trafficking further.

In other words, this might be where the pot analogy breaks down: there is not a pent-up market waiting for pot to be legal. Most everyone who wants to smoke pot, does.

That doesn't seem to be the case with prostitution, at least based on the LSE study cited above.
I'm not really sure how to resolve this. I still have no philosophical or moral objection to any consenting adults entering into an economic exchange that involves sex. If that is the state's affair, it is difficult to imagine what isn't.

But it would be irresponsible in the extreme to be cavalier about the impact of such a policy shift on the lives of sex workers, generally, and on the young people potentially being coerced into sex work, particularly.

Clearly, the devil is the details. My sense is that the Australian system works reasonably well (though I don't know a great deal about it) whereas the Dutch system appears to be failing miserably at its stated goal of bringing the sex trade above-board and improving working conditions. The last time I strolled through the red light district in Amsterdam (summer of 2005) it was...pretty seedy. A lot of the girls I passed knocked pretty enthusiastically on their windows when they saw me, and it isn't because I'm some prize--I just looked a LOT less scummy than the average guy rolling through. Drug dealers plied pretty openly on the streets, and--most unsettlingly--it was often hard to tell whether the guys working "security" were keeping the dregs out or keeping the girls in. Based on Bindel's account, it sounds like it has only gotten worse.


"...the American people will not hear us out if we stand against their friends, family, and individual liberty."

That Jon Huntsman was never considered a serious contender for the GOP nomination for president tells you everything that there is to know about the Republican party today.


a superlative presidents' day

You are invited to make your own nominations in the comments, with one stipulation: the incumbent is not eligible for any of these, because 1) I think we should judge the entirety of the term(s), and 2) aren't you just a little tired of talking about him?

Best President
I've turned this over in my head for years, and I always come back to the same answer: George Washington. He set every precedent that counts, from eschewing any title more ostentatious than "Mr. President" to gracefully ducking out after two terms. This country was very fortunate to have a fan of Cincinnatus as its first executive.

Worst President
George W. Bush is certainly my generation's Richard Nixon, but Richard Nixon was Richard Nixon. The man might very well have committed treason while running for president in 1968 (and likely lengthened the Vietnam War in doing so), and it really kind of went downhill from there.

Most Underrated President
This is difficult; there are a lot of presidents I (and most people) just don't know very much about, which almost certainly makes several of them more literally underrated than George H.W. Bush. Still, we're talking about a man who ushered the U.S. (and really, an awful lot of the world) more or less safely through the collapse of communism, and assembled a truly broad international coalition to contain Saddam Hussien. He wasn't perfect--and I certainly have no love for the Bush family--but can you seriously imagine Mike Dukakis pulling all that off? I can't.

I just wish I could go back in time to 1945 and talk him into getting a vasectomy.

Most Overrated President
In my bones I want to say Reagan, but seriously, what is that thing you Boomers have for John F. Kennedy? He averted a nuclear war only because he damn near started one. (And don't try to tell me the Soviets started it by moving missiles onto the island to repel a U.S. invasion, because a U.S. invasion of Cuba wasn't exactly a paranoid fantasy, was it?) If he hadn't been martyred, we'd blame him for Vietnam, too.

Most Complicated President
Being born in a city that was burned to the ground by Union forces during the Civil War probably has more than a little to do with it, but I don't know how anyone could answer this with anyone other than Abraham Lincoln. Ending slavery? Awesome. Prosecuting a war that killed approximately 2% of the U.S. population? Less so. Regardless of what you think of Lincoln: we are still living the legacy of the Civil War in our politics today. A century and a half later.

Would it have been better to simply let the South go? Would doing so have ultimately threatened the security of the remaining United States? I have no idea, and neither do you. Like I said...it's complicated.

Alright...whaddaya got?


i'd hate to see what would have happened if he'd had the nerve to nominate a member of his own party

The biggest problem I have with the Senate Republicans' behavior on the Hagel nomination isn't that they are acting like petulant children (though they are), or that they are in danger of setting a terrible precedent for pretty much every cabinet-level nomination in the future (that, too),  so much as the fact that most of what they are using to smear Mr. Hagel is just some shit a conservative hack made up and put on the internet:

Hey, guess what, [Friend of Hamas] is just a totally made-up group that does not exist. Dave Weigel did this crazy thing where he actually spent some time looking into the claim and it turns out, whoops, Breitbart.com’s Ben Shapiro published a made-up, untrue thing, because Breitbart.com’s Ben Shapiro is both a liar and a moron. (Mostly moron.) Hint No. 1 should probably have been that a pro-Hamas front group would not call itself “Friends of Hamas.”

So, in case you were wondering, if you want to viciously smear someone, all you have to do is send a stupid lie to a Breitbart guy and he will publish it and then everyone in the conservative movement will repeat it. Just type, “Dear Ben Shapiro I heard Chuck Hagel cashed a check for ten million Soviet rubles from a group called ‘THE ALLIANCE OF EVIL’” into your AOL mail program and I guarantee Sen. Ted Cruz will be demanding answers within a week.
Laugh so you don't cry. 



I was looking for something in the archives, and it came to my attention that some older posts are lousy with comment spam, most of which seems to have appeared in the last month or so. So...for the time being, my highly permissive commenting policy is suspended. Not that I've been giving you much to comment on lately, anyway.

Hope to have this cleaned up in the near future. And if you're looking for Viagra, Cialis, or Tramadol...there are some great deals in the old comments sections, but they won't be there for long...

(UPDATE)--Ugh, it's worse than I thought. I've just taken the digital equivalent of napalm to the place...apologies if any of your witticisms were collateral damage (one post had over 500 spam comments.) I'm afraid moderation may be here to stay...


quiet time

Everything is fine, but my energies and attention are elsewhere these days. Don't see that changing anytime soon, but I'll be back when I have something to say.