Open Thread for Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Some possible topics:

  1. U.S. Team in Iraq Lands on Mountain to Plan Rescue — Boots on the ground again in Iraq, in a good cause.
  2. Ukraine Vows to Bar Russian Aid Convoy — It’s a bit of an understatement to say this has trouble written all over it.
  3. More Dads Want Paternity Leave. Getting It Is A Different Matter — Thoughts? Bryan?
  4. SC doctor charged after 9 dogs left in car die — I find myself wondering whether he saved a human life while he was in the hospital and the dogs were dying. That would set up an interesting ethical question. The story doesn’t say, but it does say he said it was an “emergency.”
  5. Woman charged with assaulting husband for overcooking steak — Apparently, this sort of crime isn’t nearly as rare as we’d like it to be.

Sorry about that last one.

25 thoughts on “Open Thread for Wednesday, August 13, 2014

  1. Dave Crockett

    I generally like Arial’s cartoons but this one hits me kinda like the post on my eldest child’s Facebook page this week proclaiming “Obama: he’s not my president!” To my knowledge, the kid didn’t even bother to vote in the last two presidential elections. The boy’s comment and Arial’s here just strike me as cheap, non-helpful shots.

    Look, I’m the first to admit that Pres. Obama has demonstrated tremendous hubris, made some really questionable decisions (and non-decisions) in his time in the White House and generally been a disappointment to those of us who voted for him. I expected a lot. Still, I’m not convinced that his opponent in either presidential race would have performed better.

    But considering the stonewall of uncompromising opposition he’s faced on Capitol Hill and elsewhere since Day One, I can still cut him some slack. He still hasn’t used Executive Orders as much as some of his predecessors who, as far as I can tell, did so in the face of far-less recalcitrant members of Congress. And I don’t completely castigate him for just trying to unplug for a bit, even if some of that effort seems aloof and/or insensitive. His vacationing also amounts to less than some of his predecessors, too.

    I’m just weary of the constant anti-Obama drumbeat coming from folks who seem to have precious little else to do and don’t seem terribly inclined to offer constructive, insightful criticism that might just offer some improvement of domestic and international conditions.

    OK. Who’s gonna be the first to pin my hide to the shed for this one?

    1. Doug Ross

      “He still hasn’t used Executive Orders as much as some of his predecessors who, as far as I can tell, did so in the face of far-less recalcitrant members of Congress. ”

      I think it is a mistake to review the use of executive orders simply on a count of how many were executed. It’s how they are used that is far more important than how many. Do you recall any executive orders of prior Presidents that were as controversial as some of Obama’s related to Obamacare or immigration? I don’t.

      1. Dave Crockett

        Doug, I will agree that more research needs to be done (by me) on the specifics of Pres. Obama’s use of executive orders to compare their reach with that of his predecessors. I’m pursuing that now.

        But I don’t accept the suggestion that the raw numbers can simply be dismissed when the claim of “an imperial presidency” are being tossed around by his critics (you didn’t use those words, Doug, but that’s the thrust of the Arial cartoon). See:

        1. Dave Crockett

          At first blush, I’m not terribly convinced on the ‘controversial’ criterion, either. Just a quick comparison of:

          versus, say,


          But, of course, we are now well into the area of interpretation of ‘controversial’ and not a statistical analysis.

        2. Doug Ross

          Counts don’t matter in this case. If I eat ten green beans and someone else eats one hot fudge sundae, you wouldn’t say I am eating too much compared to the other guy.

          Obama’s executive orders delayed large portions of his signature healthcare bill. He is rewriting the law on the fly… and the timing of those orders nearly always seemed to coincide with the election cycle. If the law says “do X on this date”, how can Obama change the date? By what authority can he do that?

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Hey, if Doug the engineer is saying ignore the actual numbers and consider subjective qualities of the particular instances, I’m going to sit up and pay attention. That’s man-bites-dog…

        3. Bryan Caskey

          Dave, I don’t see the logic of counting the total number of executive orders as a way of looking at whether the executive branch is or is not overstepping its bounds. The substance of what the executive order seems to be the relevant inquiry.

          It would be like trying to determine who’s a better hitter by simply counting his total plate appearances, rather than looking at his batting average and on base percentage.

          As for Obama’s getting some personal time, I have no problem with Obama going on vacation as much as he likes. How he wants to spend his time is up to him. Maybe he wants to spend more time with his family, as opposed to taking meetings all day. I’m sure golfing at Martha’s Vineyard is much more preferable than being stuck in the Oval Office reading briefing books.

  2. Bryan Caskey

    1. From more recent reports, it now looks “less likely” that the USA will be undertaking any kind of rescue. I also thought it was odd that the soldiers being sent in were characterized as “non-combat”. As I often repeat, “the enemy gets a vote” in military operations. If ISIS wants to attack the non-combat US troops on that mountain, then guess what? They’re gonna become combat troops pretty quickly.

    To repeat another military cliche: “If you start to take Vienna – take Vienna.” These half-measures of limited strikes seem to be a bad idea. I think we should either be going in hard or not going.

    2. Kind of reminds me of the Greeks at Troy. I bet the Ukrainians half-expect a bunch of Soviet troops (the combat kind) to jump out of the aid convoy. (Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes) Is there a similar quote applicable to the Russians? There should be.

    3. Paternity leave? I get that some dads might want this, but I’m not sure we should have a top-down federal mandate for this. In general, I’m against having a one-size fits all policies. What works for me might not work for someone else. I took three days off, but I help out in other ways. For instance, I’m now in charge of dropping off and picking up our older son from school, and running more errands around town.

    4. Why would someone have NINE dogs in a car at the same time? That seems odd to me. I could understand one. But NINE?

    5. Sounds like she’s the one who got overheated.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I was unfamiliar with Bonaparte’s dictum, “If you start to take Vienna – take Vienna,” until this morning, and this is the second time I’ve run into it now. George Will cited it in his latest column.

      I will drink to “Confusion to Bonaparte” with any man. My particular friend Stephen Maturin would expect no less of me. But the tyrant was onto something with that one.

      That should be engraved deeply into the wood of the president’s desk in the Oval Office — this president’s, and every other one. In my lifetime, we have failed time and again as a nation to live up to it. Rather than making up our minds to do something, and then doing it until it’s done, we go charging off to much fanfare, and within a week or two the buzz starts within the U.S. electorate, “We’re tired of this now; let’s go home.” We’re like kids on the way to Disney World, saying, “Are we there yet, Daddy?” Only in this country, Daddy isn’t in charge, so as soon as we get restless, he pulls over and stops, so we never get there.

      Part of the problem is that we seldom undertake anything so simple as taking Vienna. When we DO, we get the job done. “Take Baghdad?” Sure. We get it done in three weeks. But be peacekeepers or nation-builders? We lack the patience for that. Unless we can keep it out of the headlines, as we’ve managed to do in the Balkans.

      But if it’s making headlines — whether Somalia, Iraq or Afghanistan — it’s not long before we’re demanding to pull over and stop, in the middle of nowhere…

      1. Bryan Caskey

        I’d come across the line about Vienna in a biography of Bonaparte that I had read a few years back, and I’ve seen it a few times since then.

        I’ll admit that I read the same George Will column you did, so that’s what brought it back to mind. (I actually read it online at about 1:30AM while holding Molly and letting her sleep.) For anyone else who wants to read the column, here’s the link.

        I typically agree with Will’s take on things, which shouldn’t surprise most of the regulars around here.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I agree with Will’s points sometimes, and disagree other times.

          VERY often, I don’t know what his point is. He’s quite the master of making a lot of pointed observations, many of them of the throwing-elbows variety, but then not arriving at a conclusion.

          In this column, I agreed with his Vienna point, but did not agree with all the scorn he heaped upon nation-building.

          Will is a conservative, rightly understood, as he puts it. That means he’s against such things as our ventures in Iraq and Libya. As I pointed out in 2003, our invasion of Iraq was a liberal enterprise, a Wilsonian effort based in a faith that we can go out as a country and do good. Bush was embracing a liberal enterprise in launching that. I wasn’t alone in pointing this out, of course. The New Republic, for one, made the same obvious (to me) point.

          The conservative position was NOT to invade Iraq. (Wouldn’t be prudent.) That people who call themselves “liberals” embraced that position may seem contradictory, but not if you understand that the ways we use “liberal” and “conservative” today are often nonsensical.

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          And thanks, Bryan, for reminding me that I hadn’t provided the link to the Will piece.

          Here’s why I frequently make that mistake: As you know, the boxes in which we write comments don’t provide tools for such things as inserting links — or italics, or anything else.

          So I frequently make a reference to something I intend to link to, sometimes signaling that intention quite overtly (“this column,” or some such wording) and then keep writing, and keep writing, and keep writing… and then hit “Post Comment” and forget to wait for the page to refresh and hit “Edit” (which gives me a dashboard of editing options) and insert the link.

          Sorry about that. Blogging encourages such a stream-of-consciousness mindset that it’s easy, for me at least, to forget such things…

      1. Bryan Caskey

        Calvin and Hobbes is my all-time favorite comic. This is one of my favorites. I may have linked this here before, but it’s worth doing it again.

        (Did you know that Calvin’s dad is a lawyer?)

        I didn’t realize that until this year. Knowing that makes Calvin’s dad so much more understandable. I can definitely relate to Calvin’s dad.

  3. Doug Ross

    I received an email from my CPA today that explained the potential impact of Obamacare subsidies on next year’s return (this does not impact me).

    “On or before January 31, 2015, you will receive a statement from the Marketplace that summarizes your annual premiums and your total credit. This information will be needed to complete your 2014 tax return. When your tax return is prepared, total premiums and credits will be reconciled to see if the credits received are accurate based on the income reported on the tax return. If you received too much of a credit, you could owe money on your tax return or reduce the amount of your refund.”

    Think about what this means — next April, there will be a number of people who will owe additional taxes because they did not qualify for the full subsidized amount. That should go over really well.

    Also, Aetna has reported that 30% of the enrollees who signed up for Obamacare plans have not paid their premiums. The bogus signup numbers reported by the Obama administration were off by a couple million people.

      1. Doug Ross

        Yeah, most businesses thrive when 30% of their customers buy a product they don’t pay for.

        That 30% doesn’t include those who have missed payments since the first one. Another flaw in the poorly designed system. A signup should have required payment immediately.

        1. Doug Ross

          Think about what happens when people get hit with a tax bill they can’t afford next year. You think a collection agency is tough? Try the IRS sometime.

          1. Doug Ross

            Right, which is why it sucks at being efficient… and why it relies on ever increasing taxes and deficits to keep its inefficiency solvent.

            If only I could find a job where I could force customers to pay whatever I ask and borrow money to support myself using the credit of my customers.

            Obamacare is the hallmark of government efficiency.

            1. Brad Warthen

              Such belief in the greater efficiency of the private sector would be funny if I hadn’t spent my adult life in it, observing it up close and personally. I’m not laughing.

            2. Doug Ross

              Obviously there are companies that are not efficient in the private sector. Has anyone ever suggested otherwise? The difference is that when private companies are inefficient, they are replaced by others who do a better job. See K-Mart, Sears, America Online. The fact that you worked in an industry that wasn’t able to handle the changes related to technology efficiently is why it is going the way of the dinosaur.

              Government functions have the added advantage of taxation power combined with borrowing power on the backs of the citizens. And yet, for the most part, the performance of those functions strives for mediocrity and often misses the target. The market forces entities to be competitive and efficient or else they don’t survive. Not having to worry about failure removes the incentive for improvement. It’s pretty simple.

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