Memorial Day at Normandy, 2016

(Me from two years ago)

A four-year-old with her toy basket and cute yellow boots plays with her father in the sand. She has no way to understand–not that the rest of us really do, either that the spot on which she is playing was once a killing field, Juno Beach, where so many brave Canadian troops were subject to withering German fire on the morning of June 6, 1944.

IMG_4207

Our tour bus from Paris hit the usual sites. Memorials to Allied soldiers pepper the area. We saw no memorials to their German adversaries, who fought all too bravely and well for an unspeakable cause. I cannot honor these men. Yet they, too, left much behind.

Like many of my contemporaries, I was a childhood World War II buff. I’ve probably read a hundred books on World War II since I was a child. I learned world geography from the battle maps of American Heritage accounts of Midway, Stalingrad, and the Ardennes. So I was intimately familiar with our guide’s account of the logistical feats and planning missteps in Operation Overlord’s first day.

I knew of the bombing runs missed, the amphibious vehicles than had sunk. I knew about the currents and tides led many of the invaders to arrive a fatal thirty minutes late or to land a fateful few hundred-yards from their intended site. The greatest and most consequential victory of American arms since 1865 was, at ground level, bloody chaos, replete with tragic mistakes and accidents that led thousands of men to die.

I knew about the American Rangers who rappelled the steep face of Pointe du Hoc, while German troops on the ridge above slashed their climbing ropes and rained down grenades. I did not, until Saturday, know what that rock face looked like from above.

Continue reading “Memorial Day at Normandy, 2016”

Tom Schelling’s monument

This Monday the friends, colleagues, family, students, and disciples of Thomas C. Schelling gathered at the Kennedy School to honor his memory. The speakers included his eldest son (Andrew Schelling), the current dean of the school (Doug Elmendorf) two former deans (Graham Allison and David Ellwood), and an academic all-star cast including Mort Halperin, Richard Zeckhauser, and Glenn Loury. Somehow I was also asked to speak.

I didn’t speak from a text, but what follows is a version of what I said, “revised and extended,” just like the Congressional Record.

*****

SCHELLING’S MONUMENT

The dome of St. Paul’s cathedral marks the center of the City of London – a cathedral, and a city, both rebuilt after the Great Fire thanks largely to the energy and genius of Christopher Wren. On the floor directly below the dome appears Wren’s obituary, which concludes: “Si monumentum requiris, circumspice” – “If you’re looking for his monument, look around you.”

Here in the Forum of the Kennedy School, one can say the same thing of Thomas C. Schelling: his monument is all around you. Not the buildings, but the school itself as an institution, the idea it embodies, and all of us and all the others who came together around that idea are Schelling’s monument. The city of Cambridge, among many other cities, also forms part of that monument, since without Schelling’s wisdom about how to avoid nuclear war it might well be a heap of rubble glowing in the dark.

As to the more local monument: Schelling did not re-form the Littauer School of Public Administration into the Kennedy School of Government all by himself. A whole catalogue of giants in that founding generation – Richard Neustadt, Francis Bator, Howard Raiffa, Fred Mosteller, Phil Heymann, and Edith Stokey – helped to start the work. The second and third generations, home-grown or recruited, who carried on the project here and elsewhere, included – in addition to those who have spoken here today – Mark Moore, Mike Spence, Mike O’Hare, Al Carnesale, Ronnie Heifetz, Bob Leone, Michael Nacht, Bill Hogan, Bill Clark, Dutch Leonard, and Ash Carter.

But though Schelling did not act alone, the power of his mind and the force of his personality were indispensable in convoking this community.  To cite my own example among many: as a college senior, I was interrupted on my way to law school by reading “On the Ecology of Micromotives,” which introduced the “tipping” idea with its famous checkerboard model of how residential segregation could emerge, almost inevitably, in a population where everyone prefers integration but no one wants to be part of a small local minority. I went to Holland Hunter, the chair of the Haverford economics department and my mentor, and said “I have to learn how to do that.” Ho chuckled and said, “Well, Schelling teaches at the Kennedy School.” I said, “The where?”  And I’ve never looked back.

Among the giants of his generation, Schelling was foremost in creating the idea of public policy analysis as a discipline of thought, distinct both from public administration and from the social sciences: a pragmatic discipline focused on the question “What course of action, in these circumstances, would best serve the public interest?”

Of course, Schelling wasn’t only a policy analyst: he was a social scientist of towering stature, the sort of person whose Nobel Prize led people to say not “Really?” but “About time!” Others today have mentioned his contribution to the understanding of strategic interaction, and the role his concepts of imperfect self-command and strategic self-management played in starting what became “behavioral economics.” But the Schelling idea that hit me hardest was the tipping model, and the more general principle of paying attention to the importance of positive feedbacks in the choice of problems to work on.

Reading Schelling on micromotives teaches you to avoid the Sisyphean problems – where, once you’ve pushed the stone up the hill, the power of negative feedback will roll that stone right back down over you on the way to its equilibrium – and to choose instead the exciting positive-feedback situations where a nudge might get the stone over the crest and moving of its own accord down to a much better place on the other slope, or the dangerous positive-feedback situations where a little effort in the right place and at the right moment might keep the stone from rolling irretrievably over the brink. All of my work on focused deterrence in law enforcement is the application of that bit of insight; the book that resulted forms part of Tom’s monument.

In the economics course Tom and Francis taught us as first-year MPP students, we learned many important things explicitly: for example, that an obviously pro-consumer ban on surcharges for using credit cards and an obviously anti-consumer ban on discounts for cash are, in fact and in truth, identical policies. That pointed to the general rule: Ignore the label on a policy, and ask instead about its results.

But Tom taught us even more vital things by his example:

  • to use models without being used by them;
  • to see the humor in serious situations, and look for the apparent paradox that might make sense of a situation and point toward a solution;
  • to be prepared, and willing, to be surprised by the way the analysis comes out, or by the way the real-world situation stubbornly refuses to behave as the analysis says it ought to behave; and
  • to embody clear thought in clear speech and clear writing.

Though he never would have put it in these terms, Tom taught us policy analysis not merely as a discipline in the academic sense but as a yoga, an intellectual and moral self-discipline requiring difficult feats of non-attachment: to self-interest, to group interest, to factional loyalty, to received opinion, to one’s own policy prejudices, and – most of all – to the need to have been right in one’s earlier views. No force in the world – not greed, not envy, not party spirit, not even cruelty – does as much damage as the inability to say, without too much discomfort, “I was completely wrong about that; good thing I’m smarter now.”

By his example, Tom also taught us to pursue questions not for their abstract interest but for their practical significance. He was disappointed when I chose to write my dissertation on cannabis policy – where I was convinced I could see the right answer – rather than on cocaine policy, where the stakes were much higher but the right set of policies seemed much harder to find.

That principle led him to choose smoking as the new focus of his attention once his insights about preventing nuclear war had largely been incorporated into the thinking of decision-makers. Tobacco wasn’t a “Schellingesque” problem, ready to fall apart at the touch of a brilliant insight. There is no analogy in tobacco policy to second-strike capacity or focal points or the threat that leaves something to chance. No, Tom chose tobacco simply because it was and is the leading preventable cause of death in the developed world, and a growing problem in the developing world, with tens of millions of lives at stake, and he was convinced that thinking hard about it would help point policy in the right direction.

The same was true of global warming. As Tom freely acknowledged, economic and strategic analysis were only two among the two dozen disciplines needed to address that question. He picked it up not because he saw the answer but because the problem was interesting and hard, and because the consequences of getting it wrong – either ruinously over-investing in fending off what might be a phantom threat, or under-investing and failing to control warming before it becomes self-sustaining, or combining the two errors by adopting expensive but ineffective control policies – might be so disastrous.

In both of those cases, he demonstrated his willingness to follow the analysis where it led, even if it led him away from his old allies. With respect to tobacco, he followed Nietzsche’s advice to “depart from one’s cause when it triumphs.” Having labored mightily to put the health harms of smoking front and center in policy discourse and to break the political power of the tobacco industry, and having helped demonstrate the futility of low-tar-and-nicotine cigarettes as harm-reduction measures, Tom later formed part of a distinct minority willing to speak out against what had become a rigid tobacco-control orthodoxy on behalf of the less dangerous non-combustion forms of nicotine administration, including “vaping.”

On global warming, he started out in the camp of the skeptics: not skeptical about the human contribution to climate change, but somewhat skeptical about what seemed alarmist views of how bad things might get and deeply skeptical both about the capacity of initiatives such as the Kyoto Protocol to control the problem and about the feasibility, constrained by international politics, of mounting the massive coordinated effort that might be required to keep greenhouse-gas levels below what some climate scientists regarded as intolerably dangerous levels.  He hoped that geoengineering approaches and measures to adapt to whatever climate change did occur might reduce the magnitude of the required economic adjustments.

But as the temperature data continued to come in, and as sailboats began to ply the Northwest Passage through waters once utterly ice-locked, Tom parted company with the “Copenhagen Consensus” group and started to call for more vigorous action, on the theory that changes in relative prices – especially if phased in – were likely to be easier adjust to than rising sea levels and shifting and rainfall patterns.

From the outside, it was hard to see the influence Tom Schelling wielded over those of us who followed him, without ever handing out orders. Once, in a conversation with Mark Moore about something Mark wanted me to do or not to do, contrary to my inclination – I can no longer remember the original topic, about which Mark was probably right – I defended my intentions by saying, “Mark, you don’t understand; I always wanted to be Tom Schelling when I grew up.” He replied, “What you don’t understand is that everyone in this building wants to grow up to be Tom Schelling.”

Well, Tom is no longer with us, and neither is that unforgettable smile. So it’s time for the rest of us to grow up and get back to building the monument.

Footnotes

Here’s an earlier tribute to Schelling, from the memorial service at the University of Maryland.

And here are some of his thoughts on climate change and what to do about it.

 

Schelling’s most famous book, and the one most likely to be read 500 years from now, is The Strategy of Conflict.  Micromotives and Macrobehavior is a  similarly stunning achievement, centering around “tipping” phenomena. The best introduction to Schelling’s thought for the non-specialist is probably the collection of essays called Choice and Consequence; the two essays on “self-command” reflect his role in founding behavioral economics.

 

 

 

Trump grifting update

The constant of Trump’s business career has been to stiff investors, lenders, customers, suppliers, taxpayers, and partners at every opportunity: bankruptcies (a fancy name for not paying your debts), the piano seller, Trump U. students…the list is endless. If you invest with Donald, you do it for his profit and not yours.

Now he has embarked on a political career, and the pattern is already repeating itself, in two ways. Voted for him because he would trash climate stabilization? because he would put Hilary in jail? because he would torture terrorism suspects “worse than waterboarding”? In a roomful of New York Times reporters, on the record, we learn “You already voted? OK, you’ll get none of those things, suckers!” And it’s not even Thanksgiving.

One one point of fundamental principle, however, the Donald is firm: the point of his new job is his personal enrichment. He is going to hold on to his businesses, and he is going to use his position to make more money.  Blind trust…what are you, some kind of moron?

The 3 AM phone call goes like this:

Mr. President, I need a large shipload of tanks and artillery to put my uppity neighbor in its place…what’s that? you say the neighbor is a peaceable country where the US has large investments? and you’re worried about the conflict spreading?…Mr. President, the other thing I wanted to talk to you about is the bill in our parliament nationalizing your hotel/casino complex. No, of course we don’t pay compensation when we protect our national interest!  As I told Jared yesterday, I would really hate to have to sign that bill if it passes, and we also have the permanent tax and labor law exemption for the hotel drafted…I know, the royal suite you provide us is nice, but about those armaments…don’t forget the spare parts, and extra ammunition.

Trump’s Kremlin connection: the other shoe(s) drop

Mike Isikoff is about as far from being a Clinton-lover as it’s possible to be on an outpatient basis: he was last seen chasing down a semen-stained dress. But today he broke a blockbuster story: tracing the activities in Moscow of Carter Page, an otherwise utterly obscure person who was nonetheless one of the five people Donald Trump listed as “foreign policy advisers” to his campaign.

It appears that, after Trump named him as an adviser and just before the Republican convention, Page met in Moscow not only with an oligarch on the sanctions list but also with the official apparently in charge of Russian efforts to interfere in U.S. elections, including both the activities of the RT and Sputnik News and the hackers who broke into the DNC emails and released the results to WikiLeaks timed to create maximum heartache for Clinton.

Also today, ABC blew a major hole in Trump’s denial of major economic ties to Russia: his estimated take was in the “hundreds of millions of dollars,” some of it from the Russian mafia. His proposal to put his assets in a “blind trust” run by his children doesn’t pass the giggle test:  that trust wouldn’t even need glasses.

Add these to the list: Trump’s threat to renege on our NATO treaty commitments and not support our allies in the face of Russian aggression; Trump’s expressed admiration for Putin as “a stronger leader” than Obama;  hiring Paul Manafort, who worked to elect Putin’s puppet Yanukovych as President of Ukraine; his having foreign policy advisers like Gen. Michael Flynn, who takes money to go on Russian propaganda channel RT and compares it to CNN; Trump’s invitation to Putin to hack Clinton’s emails; and Trump’s astounding assurance that Putin wasn’t “going into Ukraine” two years after Russia had annexed Crimea and while Russian troops (under thin disguise as “volunteers”) were still shooting up the Donbass; and Trump’s promise to “look at” lifting the economic sanctions imposed on Russia after the annexation of Crimea.

Since the United States is not at war with Russia, what Trump is up to does not meet the Constitutional definition of “treason.” But since U.S. and Russian interests directly conflict, and since the Russian military has engaged in risky provocations such as buzzing U.S. Navy vessels in the Baltic, there is no reason not to call what Trump is doing – most of all, his invitation to an adversary to intervene on his behalf in our elections – disloyal. That’s the first time in U.S. history (unless you want to count George McClellan in 1864) that such a word could be  accurately used about a major-party candidate for President of the United States.

And yet the Republican Party – including legitimate war heroes such as Bob Dole and John McCain – is unifying behind a man not just obviously unfit to lead this country but not even loyal to it. That should give you some idea how deep the rot goes.

Footnotes

  1. With his usual impeccable timing, Ted Cruz chose today to endorse the man he previously said was unfit to be President.
  2. In related news, the Russian newspaper Kommersant reports that former KGB Col. Putin plans to reanimate his old outfit by recombining foreign and domestic intelligence agencies. Instead of doing so under the KGB name, however, Putin proposes to revert to name the outfit carried when Lavrenti Beria ran it for Stalin: the Ministry of State Security, or MGB. No word yet on plans to re-open “mental hospitals” in which to torture dissidents. But have patience.

Memorial Day at Normandy, 2016

(Me from two years ago)

A four-year-old with her toy basket and cute yellow boots plays with her father in the sand. She has no way to understand–not that the rest of us really do, either—that the spot on which she is playing was once a killing field, Juno Beach, where so many brave Canadian troops were subject to withering German fire on the morning of June 6, 1944.

IMG_4207

Our tour bus from Paris hit the usual sites. Memorials to Allied soldiers pepper the area. We saw no memorials to their German adversaries, who fought all too bravely and well for an unspeakable cause. I cannot honor these men. Yet they, too, left much behind.

Like many of my contemporaries, I was a childhood World War II buff. I’ve probably read a hundred books on World War II since I was a child. I learned world geography from the battle maps of American Heritage accounts of Midway, Stalingrad, and the Ardennes. So I was intimately familiar with our guide’s account of the logistical feats and planning missteps in Operation Overlord’s first day.

I knew of the bombing runs missed, the amphibious vehicles than had sunk. I knew about the currents and tides led many of the invaders to arrive a fatal thirty minutes late or to land a fateful few hundred-yards from their intended site. The greatest and most consequential victory of American arms since 1865 was, at ground level, bloody chaos, replete with tragic mistakes and accidents that led thousands of men to die.

I knew about the American Rangers who rappelled the steep face of Pointe du Hoc, while German troops on the ridge above slashed their climbing ropes and rained down grenades. I did not, until Saturday, know what that rock face looked like from above.

IMG_4150

Continue reading “Memorial Day at Normandy, 2016”

Trump reverses course on unlawful orders

Just the day after he doubled down on his assertion that he could order the U.S. military to violate the laws of war by committing torture and murdering enemies’ families, and that he would be obeyed because he’s such a great leader, Donald Trump backed off, without of course admitting that he’d be wrong.

Of course that’s good news. Anything  that reminds people that war – and politics – are contests within rules is, to that extent, valuable. The worst thing among many bad things about Trump his consistent message that the rules only apply to “losers” and “p*ssies.”

Why did he do it? After all, backing off is not Trump’s strong suit (though neither is consistency). It’s impossible to be sure at a distance, but my guess is that he was told by people he has to listen to that – while he can get away with a lot – he couldn’t get away with dissing the military. Perhaps the combination of the letter by 25 Republican-foreign-policy Establishment figures, the furious denunciation by Mitt Romney, and the fairly harsh words from John McCain finally sunk in, though all of those took place before the debate.

Hudathunkit? Looks as if The Donald might be minimally educable after all. Of course that doesn’t make him fit to be President, but it suggests that limits still apply. That’s a relief.

Update Kevin Drum offers a more cynical take: Trump was relying on the fact that masses of people would see and hear him acting tough while much smaller numbers – but including members of elites he needs to please – would read about the retraction. That makes him a winner both ways. The only sure thing about the 2016 election is that the more cynical interpretation is likely to be the correct one.

Donald Trump, Michael Hayden, unlawful orders, and the Establishment

Michael Hayden is a retired four-star general who ran the NSA and then the CIA under George W. Bush. Bill Maher asked him about Donald Trump’s plans to, for example, kill the families of terrorists, and Hayden replied that the armed forces would refuse to obey unlawful orders.

This is (1) unsurprising (2) surprising and (3) significant.

Continue reading “Donald Trump, Michael Hayden, unlawful orders, and the Establishment”

No, Michael Hayden–The Case for Drones is Much More Complicated Than That

I don’t really know where to start with Michael Hayden’s piece in the New York Times defending drone strikes. Perhaps with the report last fall from the Intercept that shows that the very data we use to characterize the results of drone strikes is cooked “by categorizing unidentified people killed in a strike as enemies, even if they were not the intended targets.” Drone strikes are automatically effective if you assume they are effective, and you can do that by the casual us versus them analysis that says “If you live in one of these areas, or are walking near particular people, you’re probably a terrorist.” The only (ironic) way in which this might be true is that, if you didn’t hate the United States before indiscriminate drone killings, you’re much more likely to afterwards, when someone you know was killed. Not that the targets are necessarily well-chosen, either. One analyst has described these methods as “completely bullshit.”

But what I want to point out is the argument Hayden makes about the efficacy of drone strikes. He says definitively that, despite the errors (which he acknowledges the existence but not the magnitude of), the program is worth it because it has prevented terror attacks. I’m not sure how we know this definitively. It’s always good to invoke a mushroom cloud when we’re talking about killing people in other countries (see the Iraq war), but these are always questions of probability, not certainty. I get that that’s inherent in intelligence work, but I think it’s probably overstating it to say that we necessarily got X benefit for Y deaths.

The bigger problem, as I see it, is the narrow way in which Hayden’s analysis views the costs and alternatives. Drones might be justified if they are the best option we have, but drone use shouldn’t be compared to doing nothing, but compared to doing something else.  Whether it’s worth it “to America” has to include the long-term damage it is doing to our reputation around the world.  But I’d like to think we should also consider the lives and psychological well-being of innocent people who are being randomly killed.

I guess Hayden’s fundamental cost-benefit analysis is this: extra-judicial killings are “worth it” only because he sees innocent lives as worthless. Perhaps they are to Michael Hayden—after all, these are mostly Muslims living in foreign lands. I don’t see it that way, nor do I see this as being representative of the values of the United States.

How to make a stupid party out of not-stupid people

If intended literally, references to the GOP as “the stupid party” are just nasty snark. I doubt that Republican office-holders or voters have, on average, lower IQs than their Democratic counterparts. Ted Cruz, for example, would seem to be roughly on a par, in sheer brainpower, with Barack Obama.

But there’s a deeper kind of stupidity that involves not only willful blindness to inconvenient facts – a tendency never far from human nature – but active celebration of that blindness. It is possible to make yourself stupider in practice than would be predicted by your score on the Raven’s Progressive Matrices. When that sort of rejoicing in folly becomes an accepted social practice within a group, it is fair to say that the group has a culture of stupidity.

Which brings us back to Sen. Cruz (J.D.  Harvard, magna cum laude). Using a warship as a political prop, Sen. Cruz went aboard the U.S.S. Yorktown for a national-security speech, which included the following remarkable sentence.

The last thing any commander should need to worry about is the grades he is getting from some plush-bottomed Pentagon bureaucrat for political correctness or social experiments — or providing gluten-free MREs.

The political point of the exercise, of course, was to make fun of “political correctness” and “social experiments.”

Now “political correctness” is an interesting phrase. Like “permissiveness” and “elitism,” it is designed to make a virtue (respectively, common courtesy and decency, liberty, and excellence) appear to be a vice. “Social experiments,” as used now, means integrating women and LGBT people into military service, as it once meant integrating African-Americans. In each case, the idea was to present an obvious act of justice as a risky venture.

It’s not hard to understand why some speechwriter – or perhaps Cruz himself – thought “gluten-free MREs” was a good punchline. “Gluten-free” has indeed become a rather silly food-label fad; no doubt many people are paying extra for “gluten-free” food who have no actual gluten sensitivity at all, and no doubt the marketers of such products are delighted to take advantage of their vague impression that gluten, like cholesterol, is something vaguely bad and to be avoided. And of course any food preference or aversion can be made to seem funny to those who do not share it: no doubt most South Carolinians think that eating kimchee and not eating grits reflect equally risible tastes, while most South Koreans think the same about eating grits and not eating kimchee.

However, as I was able to learn in less than five minutes of Googling, about 1% of the U.S. white population – and no doubt a similar share of servicemembers – suffers from celiac disease, and an unknown but probably larger share of the population suffers from other gluten-sensitivity conditions.

If you have the misfortune to suffer from one of these disorders, a gluten-free diet isn’t a joke, it’s a necessity. And it appears that most people who do so suffer aren’t aware of the source of their distress. Under those circumstances, and given that the military buys MREs by the carload and can easily get them made to any set of specifications, it seems obvious that, where logistically possible, gluten-sensitive servicemembers should be given food that is healthy for them to eat.

Again, Sen. Cruz is plenty smart enough, in the IQ sense, to be able to figure that out. If he’d taken a minute to think about it, he could have substituted “GMO-free” or “BST-free” for “gluten-free,” making the same point and getting the same laugh without making fun of people in uniform with genetically-determined digestive problems. But he couldn’t be bothered, and within the current culture of the Republican Party he will likely pay no political price for his blunder.

And that, my friends, is stupid.

A grown-up talks to grown-ups about ISIL

What we saw on TV this evening was the product as advertised: No Drama Obama. The President said what had to be said. We need, he told us, to do measured, reasoned things to defend ourselves at home and abroad, and one of  them is cultivating a split between the radical Islamic fringe and the mass of Muslims.

This is the basic point that divides Obama from Trump and Cruz and Rubio and everyone in the 101st Chairborne Division who insists that Obama say “Islamic terrorism.” Really, it’s not hard to see that when it comes to Christianity: those of us who aren’t Christians want Christians to disavow Junior Falwell and the Westboro Baptist Church and that Bible-thumper who just shot up the Planned Parenthood clinic, and we know we can’t achieve that by insisting that every lunatic who has a cross at home or a pulpit to pound, and kills someone or makes speeches full of hatred, demonstrates that Christianity, as such, is evil.

By the same token, putting massive numbers of U.S. troops on the ground in Syria would be to follow the fox into the briarpatch. That, after all, is the great lesson of the Iraqi adventure. (As  @Lib_Librarian – not otherwise known to me – Tweeted, “You know the stupid thing we did before? Which got us in this mess? Yeah, let’s try to avoid that this time.”)  “Not doing stupid sh*t” isn’t an emotionally satisfying foreign policy principle, but it beats the alternative all hollow.

But in some ways the tone of the speech was even more important than the substance. The President made his case with logical force but without dramatic passion. No anger. No shouting. He addressed us as a grown-up talking to other grown-ups about a difficult situation, not an adolescent gangbanger egging his homies on to some act of emotionally satisfying, but disastrous, retaliatory violence.

What Barack Obama’s fans love about him is precisely what the Red Team hates: his sanity. Unlike Trump, he doesn’t appeal to people who want a leader to express their rage for them and make them feel righteous about it: An Angry-Drunk-in-Chief.

What we need most, at this moment, is courage: the courage, as the President said yesterday, not to be terrorized, not to give the terrorists the power that only we can give them, by letting them bait us into folly, like stallion driven mad by a horsefly.

What I felt when the speech was over was a mixture of gratitude and pride: gratitude that we are being led by someone who prefers accuracy to dramatic passion, and pride, as both a Democrat and an American, at having a leader worth following.

Footnote  Given that being placed on the “no-fly” list means that, if you’re an American citizen abroad, you’re effectively stranded there, a virtual exile, Obama’s argument that someone dangerous enough to be on that list shouldn’t be able to acquire an arsenal seems reasonably sound. On the other hand, the objection that people are put on the list without due process, and have no effective recourse once they’re on it, also seems cogent. So how about we compromise: Give everyone on the no-fly list full notice and an opportunity to be heard and represented, and extend the consequences of being on that list to not being able to buy weaponry?