Most of Obama's words thus far suggest that he is staking a claim for the Moral High Ground. He has released the torture memos because he believes he is better than the Bush administration in this regard. He is releasing the pictures of "torture" prisoners for the very same reasons. When he was oversea he apologized for past US actions, because he nominally believe the US could have done better, and that under him we will. There are two things to consider here.
First is that if he thinks this will make the US safer or better he is wrong. Those who work toward our destruction do so not because of some reasoning, but some hatred. That we could have been better angers them. That we believe we could be better also angers them. There mere fact that we are different from what they want to be angers them, regardless of how good we are. Staking claim to the Moral High Ground may make things worse for us. It certainly not keeps us safer. Those that seek to compete against us will not treat us better, or help us further our goals. They compete against us because they think they can beat us. Given any opportunity to do so they will certainly try regardless of who has the Moral High Ground.
Second is that if he thinks he can claim the Moral High Ground he is also wrong. This sort of thinking seems rampant to those without practical experience in life, living by concepts they believe the world should operate by rather than the principles the world lives by. This is akin to a rich couple believing their wealth keeps their estate well maintained, rather than understanding that it is still the housekeepers and gardeners' labors over dirt. Or a hospital CEO proclaiming how many lives his hospital saves, without acknowledging it is the doctors and nurses work in soilage and pus. Or a general believing he won the battle rather than the soldiers killing and maiming. The difference between Obama's Moral High Ground and reality is the difference between Ideals and Practice.
At best, his stake for the Moral High Ground only shows his naïveté. What it clearly reveals is his hubris, not his humanity. And through it all, he has also demonstrated willingness to use politics to further himself.
I did my taxes yesterday. Two days from now will be tax day, and many will turn out that day for a Tea Party protest. Here is a great summary of what taxes should be like from Bookworm Room:
Principles of Sound Tax Policy
¨ Simplicity. Administrative costs are a loss to society, and complicated taxation undermines voluntary compliance by creating incentives to shelter and disguise income.
¨ Transparency. Tax legislation should be based on sound legislative procedures and careful analysis. A good tax system requires informed taxpayers who understand how tax assessment, collection, and compliance works. There should be open hearings and revenue estimates should be fully explained and replicable.
¨ Neutrality. The fewer economic decisions that are made for tax reasons, the better. The primary purpose of taxes is to raise needed revenue, not to micromanage the economy. The tax system should not favor certain industries, activities, or products.
¨ Stability. When tax laws are in constant flux, long-range financial planning is difficult. Lawmakers should avoid enacting temporary tax laws, including tax holidays and amnesties.
¨ No Retroactivity. As a corollary to the principle of stability, taxpayers should rely with confidence on the law as it exists when contracts are signed and transactions made.
¨ Broad Bases and Low Rate. As a corollary to the principle of neutrality, lawmakers should avoid enacting targeted deductions, credits and exclusions. If such tax preferences are few, substantial revenue can be raised with low tax rates. Broad-based taxes can also produce relatively stable tax revenues from year to year.
Great article by Joe Queenan at the WSJ today. Here is the start:
The Obama administration has come under intense criticism for replacing the term "war on terror" with the emaciated euphemism "overseas contingency operations," and for referring to individual acts of terror as "man-caused disasters."
This semi-official attempt to disassociate the administration from the fierce rhetoric favored by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney has enraged Americans on both the right and left. Many feel that such vaporous bureaucratese is a self-emasculating action that plunges us into an Orwellian world where words have no emotional connection with the horrors they purport to describe.
Yet, if the intention of the Obama administration is to tone down the confrontational rhetoric being used by our enemies, the effort is already reaping results. This week, in a pronounced shift from its usual theatrical style, the Taliban announced that it will no longer refer to its favorite method of murder as "beheadings," but will henceforth employ the expression "cephalic attrition." "Flayings" -- a barbarously exotic style of execution that has been popular in this part of the world since before the time of Alexander -- will now be described as "unsolicited epidermal reconfigurations." In a similar vein, lopping off captives' arms will now be referred to as "appendage furloughing," while public floggings of teenaged girls will from here on out be spoken of as "metajudicial interfacing."
A Taliban spokesman reached in Pakistan said that the new phrasing was being implemented as a way of eliminating the negative associations triggered by more graphic terminology. "The term 'beheading' has a quasi-medieval undertone that we're trying to get away from," he explained. "The term 'cephalic attrition' brings the Taliban into the 21st century. It's not that we disapprove of beheadings; it's just that the word no longer meshes with the zeitgeist of the era. This is the same reason we have replaced the term 'jihad' with 'booka-bonga-bippo,' which has a more zesty, urban, youthful, 'now' feel. When you're recruiting teenagers to your movement, you don't want them to feel that going on jihad won't leave any time for youthful hijinks."
Central Asia is not the only place where the coarse terminology of the past is being phased out. In Darfur, the words "ethnic cleansing" are no longer in use, either by rebels nor by the government itself. Instead, the practice of targeting a particular tribe or sect or ethnic group for extinction is being called "unconditional demographic redeployment." In much the same spirit, the archaic term "genocide" -- so broad and vague as to be meaningless -- has now been supplanted by "maximum-intensity racial profiling."