Gen. Petraeus’s Phony Heroism and Obama’s Inner LBJ: Six Reads Monday
FlaglerLive | November 19, 2012
Previous Best Reads (and Daily Jail Bookings)
“Gen. David H. Petraeus: A Phony Hero for a Phony War.” Lucian Truscott in The Times: “No matter how good he looked in his biographer-mistress’s book, it doesn’t make up for the fact that we failed to conquer the countries we invaded, and ended up occupying undefeated nations. The genius of General Petraeus was to recognize early on that the war he had been sent to fight in Iraq wasn’t a real war at all. This is what the public and the news media — lamenting the fall of the brilliant hero undone by a tawdry affair — have failed to see. He wasn’t the military magician portrayed in the press; he was a self-constructed hologram, emitting an aura of preening heroism for the ever eager cameras. [...] THE problem was that he hadn’t led his own Army to win anything even approximating a victory in either Iraq or Afghanistan. It’s not just General Petraeus. The fact is that none of our generals have led us to a victory since men like Patton and my grandfather, Lucian King Truscott Jr., stormed the beaches of North Africa and southern France with blood in their eyes and military murder on their minds. [...] The generals who won World War II were the kind of men who, as it was said at the time, chewed nails for breakfast, spit tacks at lunch and picked their teeth with their pistol barrels. General Petraeus probably flosses. He didn’t chew nails and spit tacks, but rather challenged privates to push-up contests and went out on five-mile reveille runs with biographers. His greatest accomplishment was merely personal: he transformed himself from an intellectual nerd into a rock star military man. The problem was that he got so lost among his hangers-on and handlers and roadies and groupies that he finally had his head turned by a West Point babe in a sleeveless top. If only our political leadership, not to mention the Iraqi and Afghan insurgencies, had known how quickly and hard he would fall over such a petty, ignominious affair. Think of how many tens of thousands of lives could have been saved by ending those conflicts much earlier and sending Dave and his merry band of Doonesbury generals to the showers.
The tally from Gaza: From B’Tselem, he Israeli information center for human rights in the Occupied Territories: “Initial B’Tselem investigations indicate that between the launch of the Israeli military’s “Pillar of Defense” operation on the afternoon of November 14, 2012 and the night of 17 November, 43 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip. Initial investigations indicate that at least 13 of those killed were civilians, among them seven children (five of them toddlers under the age of 4), and two women. B’Tselem will continue to investigate the incidents in which civilians have been killed in Gaza, and to review reports coming in even now regarding additional incidents in which civilians have been killed or injured. Three Israelis have been killed in the course of the operation to date, as a result of rocket fire from Gaza by Palestinian militant organizations.” See all updates.” The full column.
The Swedish experiment with paternal family leave: “In 1974, Sweden was the first country to allow fathers to use parental leave. By 1993, Norway had granted four weeks of paternal leave, and by 2011 that had jumped to twelve weeks. Paternal leave is more likely to be used by better educated, wealthier, native-born men. Other kinds of parental buffers are provided. As an example, fathers or mothers can stay home with a sick child, with a limited number of such days paid for in Sweden and Norway and the public sector in Denmark. In the event of parents’ splitting, rules govern custody and visitation. The law is designed to privilege the child’s interests rather than, as had been the case, the mother’s; the law provides for normative joint custody. How do the laws interface with reality? As Haas and Hwang describe, changes in law in some cases have parallels in behavior, but in other cases there remains a gap between rules and reality. In the past several decades, Scandinavian fathers have increased the amount of time they spend in childcare, even if the amount of time is lower than mothers. In Sweden, but not Norway, men take on a greater proportion of childcare duties when the child’s mother works full-time. More and more men are taking advantage of paternal leave, although this is more likely to be utilized for fathers working in the public than private sector. A small percentage of men increase their work hours after having a child (as might be expected if privileging their breadwinning). Overall, however, relatively few fathers work long hours; in Norway, 15 percent of fathers worked more than 50 hours weekly, compared with 3 percent of mothers. The longer hours and slightly higher pay of fathers’ jobs lead to men providing a higher share of family income, but especially in the early aftermath of having had a child. After parental separation, a large majority of children live with mothers rather than fathers, with shared residential custody—around 25 percent—highest in Sweden.” The full post.
Barack Obama’s best chance for his second term: a path halfway between JFK and LBJ? “Mr Obama’s path to success is narrow. He is right that most Americans are sick of Washington squabbling. But that is not enough. It is easy for voters to enthuse about bipartisan compromise. It is harder to agree such questions as how large government should be and how to pay for it. On many fronts, the country is split down the middle. [...] That leaves the Machiavelli test. In his first term Mr Obama was cool with congressional allies and chilly with foes. That will have to change. If he takes big fights to the country, he will have to scrap in Washington too. When discussing a president’s need to handle Congress with guile and ruthlessness, it is hard to avoid comparisons with Lyndon Johnson, who used threats, patronage and arm-twisting to push through giant and contentious chunks of legislation, notably in the field of civil rights. [...] Thankfully, as Mr Obama contemplates his second term, he is the inheritor and guardian of his own historic legacy, able to draw on the still-considerable power of what his first election in 2008 represented (as well as the mandate earned by beating Mitt Romney). Hence the question posed in the title of this blog posting. Perhaps a useful ambition for Mr Obama, as he moves to a second term in which public opinion but also Washington haggling will loom large, might be to synthesise the best of those two successive presidents, Kennedy and Johnson?” The full post.
The Next Chapters in the Republican War on Math: Tax Cuts and Austerity: “On election night, Republican strategist and Fox News contributor Karl Rove was unwilling to believe that President Obama had won Ohio, arguing with anchor Megyn Kelly that Ohio was too close to call. Eventually, Kelly asked Rove if his calculations were “just math you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better or is this real?” This televised moment on Election Day was one small victory for statistics. Another was that FiveThirtyEight blogger Nate Silver accurately predicted the election outcome, right down to the number of electoral votes, using a model that aggregates local and national polls. These victories for math come on the heels of an election season where Mitt Romney repeatedly and willfully worked to convince the public that his tax plan would both deliver tax cuts and reduce the deficit, which was about as true as saying that two plus two equals five. But the fact that Romney lost the election does not mean that the war on math is over. While election outcomes lay bare whose hopes got in the way of their math, on a host of other issues, understanding math-denial requires more digging. There are two math fallacies affecting the current economic debate. First, Republicans continue to argue that tax cuts for the wealthy are key to growing the economy, despite solid evidence to the contrary. This argument is their primary objection to allowing President George W. Bush’s tax cuts on the wealthy expire at the end of the year. The facts fly in the face of their argument.” From the Atlantic.
It was ‘terrible mistake’ that man gave cocaine to trick-or-treat children: “A man who was arrested after children found snap-bags of cocaine among their trick-or-treat sweets has pleaded guilty to possession of drugs. Donald Green, 33, told magistrates he had meant to give the children a bag of sweets when they visited his house on Halloween, instead he said he accidentally handed them £200 worth of the Class A drug. Green, from Sycamore Avenue, Chadderton, told magistrates he would not have knowingly given the drugs to children, and said he was mortified by his ‘terrible mistake’ – which he only discovered when he felt inside his trousers for the cocaine and pulled out a packet of Haribo sweets instead. Realising his mistake, Green told the court he attempted to get the cocaine back and searched the streets for the children – but could not find them. The court heard the father of the children, who was an off-duty police officer, discovered the drugs when the children returned home and emptied their bags of sweets. He reported the incident to his colleagues, who later arrested Green.” From the UK Independent.
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