Obama’s War Budget

Oct 1 2014 @ 7:53pm

Jessica Schulberg reads a new report that attempts to tally the cost of the ISIS war so far:

Due to the vaguely defined scope of the conflictPresident Barack Obama has vowed not to deploy U.S. combat troopsit has been hard to put a dollar amount on the operation. But a Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) report released Monday estimates that the U.S. has already spent between $780-$930 million in Iraq and Syria. In just the past month, the cost was $250-$400 million, or $9-$14 million per day. …

Because Obama has yet outline any long-term plan for U.S. efforts in Iraq and Syria, CSBA’s long-term cost estimates are based on likely hypothetical levels of warfare. If the U.S. draws down airstrikes to approximately 100 targets a month (there have been 200 targets this month, but air campaigns usually peak early because targets learn to hide) and caps U.S. personnel at 2,000, the cost is estimated to be between $2.4 and $3.8 billion a year. But if the administration follows recommendations to deploy 25,000 ground forces and raises the number of air strikes to 200 a month, it will be closer to $13-$22 billion annually.

“To put this in perspective,” she adds, “the U.S. spent approximately $1.1 billion in total direct expenditures in the 2011 NATO-led intervention in Libya.” But notes that these estimates are “far less than the roughly $150 billion the U.S. spent during the peak years of the Afghan (2011) and Iraq (2008) wars.” Business Insider looks at where the money to fight ISIS is coming from:

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The Father Of Three Faiths

Oct 1 2014 @ 7:15pm

800px-Sacrifice_of_Isaac-Caravaggio_(Uffizi)

Sajjad Rizvi suggests the “very notion of Abrahamic religions is arguably Islamic” – and explains how he sees the relationship between Judaism, Christian, and Islam:

The Quran presents Abraham as an adherent of Islam, but here “Islam” means the primordial faith that connects humanity to one God and leads in turn to Judaism, Christianity and then historical Islam as proclaimed by Muhammad. There are some who view Islam as a faith that supersedes the two earlier monotheistic religions. But I think it’s more useful to understand Islam as a religion that is self-conscious about its relationship to Judaism and Christianity and explicitly takes account of their scriptures and traditions. Almost all the prophets of the Quran will be familiar to those who know the Bible, and the Quran explicitly refers to parables, ideas and stories from the Bible.

The common roots — and inheritances — of the three faiths make it useful for us to think seriously in terms of a Judeo-Christian-Islamic civilization and heritage that we all share. The development of philosophy in Islam also shows a common tradition of rationality. Anyone with a basic understanding of the categories of Aristotle’s thought employed by Christian and Jewish thinkers would find many of the arguments of Islamic philosophers and theologians familiar. The great Islamic philosopher Avicenna (10th-11th century) developed a metaphysical notion of God that had a tremendous impact on the Latin west: the idea that God is the necessary being required to explain the existence of every contingent being.

(Image: Caravaggio’s The Sacrifice of Isaac, 1603, via Wikimedia Commons)

Face Of The Day

Oct 1 2014 @ 6:45pm

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A Syrian Muslim pilgrim poses for a picture outside a hotel near Mecca’s Grand Mosque on October 1, 2014. Hundreds of thousands of Muslim worshipers started pouring into the holy city for the annual Hajj pilgrimage. The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and is mandatory once in a lifetime for all Muslims provided they are physically fit and financially capable. By Mohammed Al-Shaikh/AFP/Getty Images.

Global Business Boosters

Oct 1 2014 @ 6:13pm

Neil Irwin flags a new survey showing that “where big business has the least power and capitalist economies are the least developed, optimism and support for the corporate sector is highest”:

When it comes to business exerting power over the economy, Americans have mixed views but are generally comfortable. But when it comes to business exerting power over government, they are much more exercised. Americans aren’t antibusiness, in other words. They’re just against business having what they see as too much power in Washington.

Compare that with China, where citizens seem to view businesses as less powerful in terms of lobbying (only 19 percent seeing a lot of influence by corporate lobbyists, a full 40 percentage points lower than in the United States) but are more likely to believe it is good for companies to be strong and influential. One might imagine that Chinese citizens see less a phenomenon in which business overly influences government and one more in which government overly influences businesses. … In Communist Party-led China, 74 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that “it is a good thing when corporations are strong and influential, because they are engines of innovation and economic growth.” That is around three times the level of support found in capitalist paradises like Britain, the United States and Australia.

Naomi Klein’s new book, This Changes Everything, argues that capitalism is largely to blame for our climate crisis. How Klein describes her book in an interview:

Changes EverythingWhat I’m arguing in this book is that we need to return to the progressive tradition of responding to deep crisis by trying to get at the root causes of the crisis. And the best example of that is the way in which the progressive movement responded to the Great Depression. It became an opportunity to change the way we organized our economies, to regulate banks, to launch social programs that got at the roots of inequality.

If we really believed that climate change is an existential crisis, if we believed climate change is a weapon of mass destruction, as John Kerry said, why on Earth would you leave it to the vagaries of the market?

In another interview, Klein clarifies her position:

I’m not saying that markets have no role in combatting climate change. I think the right market incentives can play a huge role—we can point to all kinds of companies doing great stuff. The issue is not to say the market has no role. It’s the idea of leaving this to the market. We can mint solar and wind millionaires and still not get there because we have these hard targets we have to meet. There will have to be a strong role for the public sector, a strong role for regulations and, yes, incentives. But the idea of just leaving our collective fate to the market is madness. You wouldn’t treat any other existential crisis in that way.

Zachary Karabell strongly disagrees with Klein’s thesis. He fears that “rhetoric risks obscuring just how much is being done by large companies around the world to reduce their carbon emissions and environmental footprint”:

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Would You Eat A Black Bun?

Oct 1 2014 @ 5:15pm

Tiffanie Wen discusses the reception of a black burger in Burger King restaurants in Japan:

Americans have been both intrigued and repulsed by the images. “Finally #BurgerKing makes a burger the way your body sees it … disgusting and cancer-causing,” one Twitter user wrote. Another tweeted: “It’s the black cheese that freaks me out the most. It looks like the kind of rubber they use to make gimp masks.”

But the burger is enjoying a “favorable reception” in Japan, according to the Guardian—so why do Americans have such a negative response to it?

She offers an answer:

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Critical Thinking On The Job

Oct 1 2014 @ 4:32pm

Tara Mohr flags startling new research on the criticism men and women receive in the workplace:

Across 248 reviews from 28 companies, managers, whether male or female, gave female employees more negative feedback than they gave male employees. Second, 76 percent of the negative feedback given to women included some kind of personality criticism, such as comments that the woman was “abrasive,” “judgmental” or “strident.” Only 2 percent of men’s critical reviews included negative personality comments.

She offers some practical advice:

In my coaching practice and training courses for women, I often encounter women who don’t voice their ideas or pursue their most important work because of dependence on praise or fears of criticism. …

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Mental Health Break

Oct 1 2014 @ 4:20pm

Spot your favorite underwater scenes in cinema:

A reader shares a harrowing series of stories and insights on corporal punishment, which at times borders on torture:

This email is too long, Andrew. But I don’t know another way to do it. Those last sentences in your post on “The Racial Divide On Spanking Kids” are packed with the stuff I’ve been struggling with all week. I’m sending this because I took so much time to write it. I’ve been close to tears often this week, and I suppose it’s a way of defending that tenderness.

“Discipline”: It was a belt or a switch in my house, except for the handful of times I was slapped. I hail from a poor, white, fundamentalist family in Texas. Sometimes we managed to get a hold of the bottom rung instead – lower-middle class, or is it upper-lower class? – but it wasn’t ever a very firm grip. I think that matters, our economic and social status – how it operated on my parents, their sense of self, their sense of control and agency, their standing, that fuzzy line between “poor” and “trash,” the dependable hierarchy at home of respect and obedience. But I can’t unpack all of that, and I don’t know what it would mean for anyone else if I did.

Whenever I got caught swearing – or if someone told my mother I’d been swearing – I had my mouth washed out with soap. In practice, even this is a stupid and violent thing to do. Really, the logistics of the sink and the soap and the faucet, the mouth and the hands, the gagging and spitting and crying – it’s jammed with aggression. I was six the first time.

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An expert from the in-tray weighs in:

I am a political scientist, and my research focuses on executive power and the American warfare state. I’m writing in response to the ongoing discussion about the Obama administration’s tenuous legal rationale to wage war against ISIL without requesting permission from Congress. Most legal scholars that you cite agree that a congressional authorization is constitutionally required in order to carry out extended air strikes. You pushed this normative case even further, balking that “Obama…has blown a hole so wide in any constitutional measures to restrain the war machine that he has now placed future presidential war-making far beyond any constraints.”

However, there are very logical (if troubling) reasons why presidents continually assume the prerogative to carry out their national security agendas unilaterally, and why Congress’ power to declare war has become nearly obsolete.

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