Sunday, March 31, 2013

Why it is so Hard to Clean the Augean Stables

There has been much talk about whether Pope Francis can "clean the Augean stables" of the Catholic hierarchy, i.e., sweep out the pedophile-enabling members of the hierarchy and institute new rules that any priest who harms children shall be turned over the the authorities, or at least kept away from children.  I am not getting my hopes up.

Or, perhaps more accurately, I have some hopes that he will remove some of the most notorious offenders (based more on where they are most publicized and have generated most outcry, rather than the ones who have actually shielded the most pedophiles), and that he will institute a reasonable policy for such things going forward.  If we are very lucky, he may even do a decent job of firing people who don't follow the policy going forward.  But a purge of members of the hierarchy who covered up pedophile priests is out of the question, and the reason is simple.

The cover-ups were official, systematic policy, ordered from the very top.  This policy dates back at least to John XXIII, who commanded all bishops to keep a policy of "strictest secrecy" toward such allegations and to insist on an oath of silence from all complainants.  The instructions themselves were to be kept in the secret archives of the Vatican, and any bishop breaking silence was to be excommunicated.  These instructions remained in force until 2001 and were strictly followed.  Excommunication is a terrible thing to a bishop.  Among the members of hierarchy following these instructions appear to have been an Argentine Jesuit by the name of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now known as Pope Francis I.  In short to fire members of the Catholic hierarchy complicit in covering up pedophile priests would be to fire the entire Catholic hierarchy.  I do not know of any institution that could survive a purge on such a scale.

The Catholic Church is by no means unique in this regard.  Indeed, one of the most depressing conclusions I have reached over recent years is that reforming an entrenched power structure is just about impossible.  The reasons why this should be so are obvious -- attempts at reform at striking the powerful where they are strongest.  The powerful are well prepared to resist.  If there is one thing the last few years have proven, it is that the United States is no exception to this rule.

I suppose I should have known.  This history of serious reformers coming to power in democratic countries, attempting to reform power structures, and running intense resistance is an old one.  One need look no farther from our own shores to see the resistance to Thomas Jefferson or Andrew Jackson becoming President (to say nothing of the reaction to Lincoln!)  Countless other examples can be offered of the fear reformers have inspired in democratic countries -- Popular Front governments in Europe in the 1930's, Salvador Allende in Chile, Lula da Silva in Brazil,* any European today who questions the austerity orthodoxy -- examples can be easily multiplied.  Many a democracy has failed when leaders attempted too great an interference with power structures.  Which leads to another point.  Power structures are hard to attack, not just because a narrow elite is well-placed to defend them, but because enough people have enough stake in the status quo to make resistance to change broad-based.

Attempts to attack power structures in non-democratic countries were the gloves are off are even more difficult -- and dangerous.  Just ask anyone who has gotten on the wrong side of Vladimir Putin.  Entrenched power structures are extremely difficult to modify short of all-out revolution that sweeps everything away.  And all-out revolutions are immensely destructive, plunge society into chaos and madness, and usually bring to power whoever is strong enough to impose order on the overall chaos -- not usually anyone very nice.

The only exception I can think of right off hand is blessed little Iceland, and Iceland is an unusual case.  What happened in Iceland was that the country's financial elite committed economic suicide.  Iceland's massive banking structure collapsed.  Suddenly Iceland's bankers had no power or means of protecting their power, and no one else had a stake in the survival of a power structure that had ceased to exist.  The bankers were still powerful enough that the government proposed to bail them out.  Given that the banks' debts were about ten times the size of Iceland's total economy, such an attempt was doomed to fail, but that didn't keep many other countries from attempting it.  In Iceland, the people saw that their bankers had committed economic suicide and insisted on a referendum on whether to transform them into zombies.  The proposal failed overwhelmingly.  And Sweden and Norway were reasonably successful in forcing banks to write off their losses and restructure in the 1990's.  Clearly Scandinavians are special.

So what does that leave the rest of us?  The best remedies I can offer are time and persistence.  Francis I, after all, is from Argentina.  Argentina, like most of Latin America, was once quite a nasty military dictatorship.  When the military stepped down, it retained considerable power through various institutions and left safeguards in place to protect itself.  Slowly and over time, it was squeezed out of power, its abuses exposes, and even prosecutions undertaken.  In any advanced capitalist economy, large and powerful industries are displaced over time with other powerful industries.  And the Catholic Church?  Well, remove the worst offenders, institute new policies going forward and rigorously enforce them, and wait for the current crop of bishops to die off.  Then put in new bishops who will treat child abuse with the seriousness it deserves.

And remember the legend of the Augean stables.  They ultimately turned out to be so filthy that any conventional attempt to clean them was hopeless.  Instead, Heracles diverted two rivers into the stables to wash the whole mess away.  See revolution, above.

*Granted, Lula da Silva ended up mostly tinkering around the edges of Brazil's power structure and was highly successful.  But the panic when he first came to power was real, and many people urged him to take some sort of harsh, punitive measures against the poor, just to assure foreign investors that he was their friend.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Brief Comment on Gay Marriage

This is the first time I have posted on gay marriage and for a simple reason -- it just isn't my issue.  On the one hand, it is of benefit to people who want it, and I don't see how it can harm anyone else, so why not.  On the other hand, I do understand why people might hesitate at such a radical redefinition of such a long-standing tradition.  So I mostly regarded it as a minor and mostly symbolic issue, more like flag burning or anti-obscenity pledges attached to NEA grants, rather than something important like the Iraq War, indefinite detention, torture, surveillance, a collapsing economy, or financial reform.  I give Andrew Sullivan (too much work to find the link) credit for convincing me otherwise.

Andrew Sullivan was born in 1963 and is part of the surviving remnant of gay men of his generation.  He witnessed the AIDS epidemic as seen up close and personal, watching friends all around him die, with their partners often not allowed to visit them in the hospital, and never allowed to make medical decisions on their behalf because they were not officially family.  Seen from a survivor's perspective, marriage is an important, indeed, critical issue.  Having a formally recognized partner can be very important in a crisis.

And it is interesting that AIDS had not been much discussed during the whole gay marriage debate.  Perhaps it seems too judgmental on the left and too bigoted on the right, but one lesson that should have emerged from AIDS is that all-out, unrestrained promiscuity is not a good idea.  While there is no mandatory way to forbid or prevent promiscuity among gay men that is also consistent with a free society, it is possible to bring social pressure to bear to disapprove of it.  I do not pretend to know how much gay male promiscuity of the time was simply male promiscuity without women's restraint and how much of it was a relic of underground days, or an overly exuberant coming out of the closet party.  But I do know that men are not inexorably programmed to be promiscuous beyond any power of society to restrain.  People act against social norms, but social norms nonetheless have power.  If we consider stable pair bonds a good thing to encourage among all people regardless of sexual orientation, then it seems only reasonable to give those stable pair bonds formal recognition and reward them.

Well, I still don't think gay marriage is quite up there with the Iraq War, indefinite detention, torture, surveillance, a collapsing economy, or financial reform.  But I no longer think of it as a trivial or symbolic issue like flag burning or NEA anti-obscenity grants.  To the people involved, it is a very important issue indeed.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A Comment on Drone Warfare (Mostly to Clear my Own Head)

I don't really care to go digging for links right now, but the pro-Bush crowd have several points they like to make about Obama's drone strikes.  On the one hand, they take an almost prurient delight in all the civilian casualties the drones cause, seeing them as vindication of the need to get tough on terror.  On the other hand, they affect to deplore the civilian casualties, saying that the civilian casualties of drones are the regrettable byproduct of Obama's decision to kill, rather than capture, terrorists.  And finally, they explain that by refusing to engage in Bush-era torture enhanced interrogation techniques, rejecting indefinite detention without trial, and seeking to close Guantanamo, Obama has foreclosed the possibility of capture and therefore has no choice but to kill.  The number of innocent bystanders killed in drone strikes is, after all, higher than the innocent bystanders killed in Guantanamo, Bangram, black sites, and all our overseas prisons combined.

I have my own misgivings about drone strikes.  One can fairly argue whether the presence of terrorists in the Pakistani border area, in Yemen, in Somalia and now perhaps in Mali, is a great enough threat to justify action on our part.  And if one does believe that action is justified, one can argue whether drones are an appropriate form of action and, if so, whether the drone strikes are being done with adequate restraint.  But the argument that the more humane alternative to drone strikes is a return to Bush-era practices is unconvincing, for a number of reasons.

First of all, there is no reason whatever why we cannot treat captured terrorists humanely and not subject them to torture/enhanced interrogation.  Bush apologists simply dismiss such an alternative out of hand.  To the extent they offer any reason for it, it is usually that we need these techniques to gain information.  Well, obviously no one killed by a drone strike is going to give any information, so nothing is lost in terms of intelligence by capturing terrorists and not questioning them at all.  Furthermore, it seems reasonable to assume that we will learn at least something using the Army Field Manual, and something is better than nothing.  In short, they present no evidence whatever that it is the burden of treating captured terrorists humanely that is the obstacle to their capture.

There is some obstacle in the question of where to hold terrorists captured abroad, but the obstacles are purely political.  There is no logistical or security reason why we could not bring terrorists to the US or hold them in prisons on military bases somewhere around the world.  In fact, the Obama Administration has brought a handful of terrorists or pirates captured abroad home, and nothing terrible has happened.  The only thing preventing him is the hysteria and fear Bush supporters have whipped up.  It is more than a little disingenuous to whip up hysteria preventing holding terrorists anywhere but Guantanamo and them argue that see, it is impractical.

As for the question of indefinite detention without trial, since Obama has formally committed to it in at least some cases, that can hardly be an issue.  Granted, Obama wants to limit the practice to terrorists captured by the Bush Administration who (for various reasons) are not triable, and to try any captured terrorists going forward.  Once again, the obstacle to trying them in criminal court is not that the practice cannot work, but that such hysteria has been whipped up as to make it politically impossible.  Anyhow, Congress has passed legislation requiring terrorists captured abroad to be tried before military commissions, so any wish Obama may have to try them in civilian courts can hardly be the obstacle to their capture

At the risk of stating the obvious, the real obstacle to our capturing terrorists in places where drone warfare is going on is not what to do with them afterwards, but how to get them in the first place.  Capture would mean sending in ground troops, i.e., invading Pakistan, Yemen and possible Somalia or Mali.  No one, so far as I know, is seriously advocating such a course of action.  Granted, Bush apologists may argue that we captured plenty of terrorists in countries the world over where we did not have ground troops, including Pakistan.  That is true, but in those cases there was a government that was willing and able to do the capturing.  Our drone strike are not occurring in countries with governments willing and able to capture or arrest terrorists for us.  They are taking place in areas beyond the control of their local governments -- the Af-Pak border, inland Yemen, and possibly Somalia and now Mali.  It would not have to be our ground troops making the capture, but someone's ground troops would have to.  The drone strikes are taking place in areas where that is not much of an option.

Finally, once we realize that the real issue is not what to do with captives once caught, but how to send in the troops to make the capture, the question of humanity becomes a lot iffier.  First of all, there is no question that our drones do kill innocent bystanders, although the rate is controversial.  It is not controversial that the drones terrorize a lot more people than they kill.  In Guantanamo and our other War on Terror prisons, many innocent people were held and mistreated, but few were killed.  An innocent person held by mistake can, after all be released once the mistake is discovered.  A person killed by mistake cannot be brought back to life.  But the focus on prisoners only is too narrow.  Once one takes into account that capturing terrorists means that someone has to send in ground troops to do it, the proper point of comparison is how many innocent bystanders would be killed in case of such an invasion, and how that compares with the number killed by drones.  I don't know the answer; I doubt Bush apologists have given it much thought.  Certainly our ground troops in Iraq caused a lot more civilian casualties than the drones ever have.

None of this is intended as a defense of the Obama drone warfare.  But the Bush Administration defenders are arguing that (1) Obama's  policies are worse than Bush's'; (2) it was the rejection of Bush era policies of torture and indefinite, lawless detention that have forced the Obama Administration into its current policies; and (3) there are no other alternative.  These arguments simply aren't plausible.

More in the Iraq War

I didn't intend to write any more on the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War, but there has been a lot of comment on it lately, so I do want to add one more thing.

One myth about the war that I would like to demolish right away is that the drumbeat for war was so overwhelming that opposition was completely excluded from mainstream discourse.  That is simply not true.

I limit myself here to the mainstream.  So, with a reasonably (though not extremely) narrow definition of the mainstream one might exclude the anti-war demonstrations as too riddled with the far left to count as mainstream.  Likewise one could exclude The American Conservative as Pat Buchanan's magazine.  David Corn could be dismissed as way off in left field.  And so forth.

Certainly I do not dispute that there was plenty of liberal support for the war.  The vote in Congress was 296-133 in favor in the House and 77-23 in favor in the Senate.  Many Democrats sought to compete with the Republicans in belligerent speeches.  The New Republic rather predictably came out in favor of the war, as did  Matt Yglesias, Jonathan Chait, Peter Beinart, and many others.

But it is simply false to say that there was no mainstream opposition to the Iraq War.  Being an opponent myself, I was always on the lookout for mainstream opposition to the war and never had any difficulty finding it.  My favorite columnists were Georgie Anne Geyer, a Cold War hawk who was nonetheless outraged by the doctrine of preemptive war, and the late Molly Ivins, an unabashed liberal who feared -- well, exactly what happened.  Our local paper carried Robert Scheer, who was too strident for my taste, but proved extremely prescient.  Phil Donahue, inventor of the talk show format, lost his job for opposing the Iraq War. Paul Krugman, of course, came out against it.  Knight-Ridder, the second-largest newspaper publisher in the United States published many excellent and informative stories opposing the war.  Al Gore spoke out against it.  And let's face it.  A 296-133 vote in the House and 77-23 in the Senate, though it suggests opposition to the war is a minority view in our political class, it hardly suggests that such opposition is considered outside all reasonable bounds of discourse.

Granted, there were attempts before the war to marginalize opposition to it.  Christopher Hitchens, for instance, had an infuriating habit of beginning any discussion of the merits of the war by automatically dismissing opposition was outside all reasonable limits of debate.  The Economist, also a war supporter, wrote article about the irresistible drumbeat of public opinion in favor of war in the United States.  Granted, I lived in liberal Santa Fe, so I knew I was getting a biased sample, but public opinion polls I saw generally showed a fairly even split nationally.

So why this insistence that opposition to the war was completely excluded from national discourse?  Part of it, I suspect, comes from people who supported the war at the time, trying to explain why they were misled.  Part comes from people who opposed the war, wanting to exaggerate what heroic underdogs they were, standing alone against the tide.  And part of it may have been that the forces in favor of the war really did seem overwhelming to the people who stood up to them.

Because, I will confess, although I was against the war, I did nothing to actively oppose it.  Demonstrating against the war seemed pointless to me.  It was obvious that George Bush had made up his mind, and that  nothing I could do would sway it.  So in the end, opponents of the war were right -- they were totally excluded from power and had no sway on decision making.  But that is far from saying that their voices were totally excluded from mainstream discourse.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Shameless Self Promotion

Anyone who visits this site is invited also to visit my companion blog, to see my comments on the adoption of the U.S. Constitution.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Looking Back on the Iraq War

James Fallows has proposed that with the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War coming up, we should look back on where we stood at the time and consider our views.  I have the advantage of having opposed the war, although I did not get out in the street and demonstrate, or write to my Congressman, or anything else, since it seemed obvious that George Bush was going to have his war, and nothing was going to stop him.

Why did I oppose it?  Well, there wasn't just one reason, so I will break it down.

1.  I opposed George Bush's doctrine of preemptive war on general principle.
It looked to me very much like a doctrine of we get to invade anyone we want, any time we want, for any reason we want, just because we're USA.  I had serious moral problems with that idea and was going to oppose it.  And I took for granted that this was an example that doctrine at work because none of the other reasons being offered by proponents of the war seemed convincing.  Which leads to reason #2.

2.  None of the reasons being offered by proponents of the war seemed convincing.
This calls for some breakdown.

2a. Saddam obviously had nothing to do with either 9-11 or al-Qaeda.
I was therefore unswayed by any talk of "going to the source" or "taking the fight to the enemy."  To my mind, September 11 justified war against the people actually responsible, but not taking out someone we didn't like who had nothing to do with the attack.

2b.  I saw no justification for humanitarian intervention.
favor(ed) humanitarian intervention -- as a neutral principle.  If it effectively stops the slaughter, I favor humanitarian intervention, either by us or by someone else.  But I did not see any justification for such an intervention in Iraq.  Humanitarian intervention could be justified when Saddam Hussein was actively crushing  a rebellion, but not 13 year later.

2c.  I was not afraid of Saddam's Weapons of Mass Destruction.
There were people who accurately foresaw that there were no such weapons.  I was not among them. I was convinced that Saddam did not have nuclear weapons, though not for a very good reason.  My reasoning was that following the first Gulf War, we were assured that Saddam was about to get nuclear weapons, like, tomorrow, so we had to go to war right away.  In the end, such talk scared me enough to support the war, only to find out that Saddam's army was vastly overrated.  Now, with the drums beating for a second war, suddenly he was about to get nuclear weapons any day all over again.  Fool me once, and so forth.*

But I never doubted that Saddam had chemical weapons.  After all, he had used them in the past, which I took as overwhelming evidence.  I did not realize at the time how quickly sarin and other such chemicals break down.  As for biological weapons, I had no idea and was open to persuasion either way.  But his chemical weapons did not scare me.  Saddam clearly had no delivery vehicles capable of hitting us, and it seemed most unlikely that he could hit Israel.  His supposed arsenal was only a danger to his neighbors, and if his neighbors were not concerned, why should I be?

2d.  I distrust the plural casus belli.
In other words, if a war is truly worth fighting, then there is one reason for fighting it and others need not be given.  The Bush Administration kept offering one explanation after another, and any time one was refuted simply shifted to the next.  If worst came to worst, war proponents said no one cause was sufficient, but all combined were.  I was and remain unconvinced.

3.  Finally, I feared the outcome.
To me, the worst case scenario was a Vietnam-style people's war.  What should have been second-worst was a civil war with us being dragged in.  I foolishly discounted that.  Instead, I considered the second-worst outcome piecing together a government that looked good, withdrawing, and seeing everything fall apart months later.  Third-worst was a quick and easy victory that would encourage more such wars.  As for my best case scenario, it would probably be something like what we had in Bosnia or Kosovo -- a long, weary, labor intensive but bloodless course of nation building.  Something that would be tiresome enough to discourage any further interventions, but didn't actually get people killed.

Looking back through old posts, I find that I said much the same (though in a different order) five years ago. My opinions from back then remain unchanged.

PS:  This post is brilliant.  (Not the blog post itself, but the comment at 3:33 a.m. by Heterosensible).:

[T]he secret to every analysis I've ever done of contemporary
politics has been, more or less, my expensive business school education.
. . .  Here's a few of the ones I learned which I considered relevant
to judging the advisability of the Second Iraq War.

Good ideas do not need lots of lies told about them in order to gain public acceptance.
I was first made aware of this during an accounting class. We were
discussing the subject of accounting for stock options at technology
companies. There was a live debate on this subject at the time. One side
(mainly technology companies and their lobbyists) held that stock
option grants should not be treated as an expense on public policy
grounds; treating them as an expense would discourage companies from
granting them, and stock options were a vital compensation tool that
incentivised performance, rewarded dynamism and innovation and created
vast amounts of value for America and the world. The other side (mainly
people like Warren Buffet) held that stock options looked awfully like a
massive blag carried out my management at the expense of shareholders,
and that the proper place to record such blags was the P&L account.

Our lecturer, in summing up the debate, made the not unreasonable
point that if stock options really were a fantastic tool which unleashed
the creative power in every employee, everyone would want to expense as
many of them as possible, the better to boast about how innovative,
empowered and fantastic they were. Since the tech companies' point of
view appeared to be that if they were ever forced to account honestly
for their option grants, they would quickly stop making them, this
offered decent prima facie evidence that they weren't, really, all that

Application to Iraq. The general principle that good ideas are not
usually associated with lying like a rug[1] about their true nature
seems to have been pretty well confirmed. In particular, however, this
principle sheds light on the now quite popular claim that "WMDs were
only part of the story; the real priority was to liberate the Iraqis,
which is something that every decent person would support".

Fibbers' forecasts are worthless. Case after
miserable case after bloody case we went through, I tell you, all of
which had this moral. Not only that people who want a project will tend
to make innacurate projections about the possible outcomes of that
project, but about the futility of attempts to "shade" downward a
fundamentally dishonest set of predictions. If you have doubts about the
integrity of a forecaster, you can't use their forecasts at all. Not
even as a "starting point". By the way, I would just love to get hold of
a few of the quantitative numbers from documents prepared to support
the war and give them a quick run through Benford's Law.

Application to Iraq This was how I decided that it was worth
staking a bit of credibility on the strong claim that absolutely no
material WMD capacity would be found, rather than "some" or "some but
not enough to justify a war" or even "some derisory but not immaterial
capacity, like a few mobile biological weapons labs". My reasoning was
that Powell, Bush, Straw, etc, were clearly making false claims and
therefore ought to be discounted completely, and that there were
actually very few people who knew a bit about Iraq but were not fatally
compromised in this manner who were making the WMD claim. Meanwhile,
there were people like Scott Ritter and Andrew Wilkie who, whatever
other faults they might or might not have had, did not appear to have
told any provable lies on this subject and were therefore not

The Vital Importance of Audit. Emphasised over and
over again. Brealey and Myers has a section on this, in which they
remind callow students that like backing-up one's computer files, this
is a lesson that everyone seems to have to learn the hard way.
Basically, it's been shown time and again and again; companies which do
not audit completed projects in order to see how accurate the original
projections were, tend to get exactly the forecasts and projects that
they deserve. Companies which have a culture where there are no
consequences for making dishonest forecasts, get the projects they
deserve. Companies which allocate blank cheques to management teams with
a proven record of failure and mendacity, get what they deserve.

I hope I don't have to spell out the implications of this one for
Iraq. Krugman has gone on and on about this, seemingly with some small
effect these days. The raspberry road that led to Abu Ghraib was paved
with bland assumptions that people who had repeatedly proved their
untrustworthiness, could be trusted. There is much made by people who
long for the days of their fourth form debating society about the
fallacy of "argumentum ad hominem". There is, as I have mentioned in the
past, no fancy Latin term for the fallacy of "giving known liars the
benefit of the doubt", but it is in my view a much greater source of
avoidable error in the world. Audit is meant to protect us from this,
which is why audit is so important.

. . . . . . . .

[1] We also learned in accounting class that the difference between
"making a definite single false claim with provable intent to deceive"
and "creating a very false impression and allowing it to remain without
correcting it" is not one that you should rely upon to keep you out of
jail. Even if your motives are noble."

*As I say, this is not really sound reasoning.  People who fell for exaggerated stories of German atrocities during WWI were resolved not to be fooled again in WWII, and so discounted atrocity stories that turned out to be true.

And a Brief Reflection on the Republicans

I am too lazy to link now, but recent focus groups have found Republicans to be in trouble.  It appears that swing voters have developed a lot of unfavorable associations with them (with the Democrats, too, but not as many).  But the one thing they were associated with more than any was "rigid."  And how surprising is that, really?  When a group of people let it be known that they will never compromise, never yield the tiniest point to get anything done, that they equate obnoxiousness with principle and cooperation with weakness, sooner or later people will start to notice and brand them as unduly rigid.

Republicans' strategy all along has been to seize the whole political process hostage and warn the American people -- give power to us or we will make this country ungovernable.  They assumed the American people would give power to them, out of fear of the country being ungovernable.  It is starting to appear that instead, the American people have noticed that one party seems to want to make the country ungovernable and decided that they shouldn't be trusted to govern.  Go figure!

The Sequester Hits (Yawn!)

Unsurprisingly, most Americans have greeted the sequester with a shrug.  What else could you expect?  This is, by my count, the fifth self-inflicted fiscal crisis we have had in just over two years. We had the struggle to prepare any budget and avoid a government shutdown in 2011.  Then there was the first debt ceiling showdown.  Then the fiscal cliff.  Then the second debt ceiling showdown.  Each time, general catastrophe was predicted.  Each time, a last-minute deal averted it.  At some point, the American people were bound to become jaded and start ignoring the whole business.  And, after all, this one is not a true crisis.  It is a bad thing and will be economically harmful, but not truly disastrous.

Washington politicians should read the story of the boy who cried wolf.  After a while, people stopped paying attention.  Some people have said that the real lesson of the story was that the wolf eventually did show up after all.  Some people may say that the wolf really has shown up this time.  Actually, it would be more accurate to say that a wolf cub has shown up that may or may not some day grow up to be a full-grown wolf.  Or it may not.

In any event, I predict the sequester will soon be forgotten in face of our next fiscal crisis.  If Congress does not get some sort of budget out by the end of the month, the government will shut down.  Sigh!