Category Archives: Politics

Nate Silver to Republicans: Raise Taxes

Esquire: Nate Sil­ver to Repub­li­cans: Raise Tax­es

For Repub­li­cans, rais­ing a few tax­es may be good pol­i­cy and good pol­i­tics. We are now on the verge of the longest peri­od since the cre­ation of the income tax with­out an increase in what the wealth­i­est tax­pay­ers pay — fif­teen years, match­ing the no-new-tax­es inter­val from 1952 to 1966. Mean­while, even the White House­’s own fig­ures project sev­er­al tril­lion dol­lars in deficit spend­ing over the next decade, which would great­ly exac­er­bate the rough­ly $10.6 tril­lion in debt that Barack Oba­ma inher­it­ed from the Bush admin­is­tra­tion. Deficits are once again hot news. An NBC/Wall Street Jour­nal poll con­duct­ed in June found that 24 per­cent of Amer­i­cans regard the fed­er­al bud­get deficit as the top eco­nom­ic pri­or­i­ty — the high­est frac­tion since mid-1994, when Clin­ton raised tax­es. And even in these dire eco­nom­ic times, Amer­i­cans seem will­ing to make some sac­ri­fices to pay the debt down: 58 per­cent said they care more about par­ing the deficit than stim­u­lat­ing the econ­o­my, accord­ing to the same poll.

[…] In April, 51 per­cent of wealthy vot­ers told Gallup their income-tax bill was about right or even too low — “one of the most pos­i­tive assess­ments [about tax­es] mea­sured since 1956,” Gallup report­ed.

[…] Although rais­ing tax­es — or at least not try­ing to cut them — has been anath­e­ma to Repub­li­cans since the Rea­gan era, it has­n’t always been so. Richard Nixon and Dwight Eisen­how­er both large­ly resist­ed calls to cut tax­es (Eisen­how­er slashed the top tax brack­et all the way from 92 per­cent to 91), choos­ing to focus on deficit reduc­tion instead. Both were elect­ed to sec­ond terms.

I’d actu­al­ly con­sid­er vot­ing for a Repub­li­can that would do this.

It’s more or less clear at this point that inflat­ing the deficit isn’t a par­ty thing. I actu­al­ly hope Oba­ma reneges on his promise not to raise tax­es; it seems like the finan­cial­ly respon­si­ble thing at this point.

Debunking Health Care Lies (by Reading the Bill)

Debunk­ing Health Care Lies (by Read­ing the Bill) — Blog — Open­Congress

At Open­Congress, we’ve had the offi­cial text of the House health care bill avail­able online for a month for peo­ple to read and get the facts: H.R. 3200 – America’s Afford­able Health Choic­es Act of 2009. Any­one can eas­i­ly perma­link and com­ment on any indi­vid­ual sec­tion of the full bill text. And in this debate, the facts mat­ter — it’s imper­a­tive that as a nation we read the actu­al text of the bill and active­ly work to counter any mis­in­for­ma­tion about it. To be sure, it’s a long bill, and not easy to under­stand at first read. Some of the mis­in­for­ma­tion is inten­tion­al, and some is inad­ver­tent. But whether you sup­port or oppose this bill, we hope you agree that the mis­in­for­ma­tion sur­round­ing it is harm­ful to the pub­lic debate and the for­mal leg­isla­tive process on health care. In oth­er words, news cov­er­age and blog buzz and viral emails on the health care bill should refer to spe­cif­ic, citable sec­tions of what the bill actu­al­ly says — they must be real­i­ty-based.

Worth the read. Illu­mi­nat­ed some of the mis­in­for­ma­tion I’d heard.

Now can we begin to have an engag­ing dis­cus­sion about the actu­al bill?

Mexico’s drug war

Mex­i­co’s drug war — The Big Pic­ture — Boston​.com

In Decem­ber of 2006, Mex­i­co’s new Pres­i­dent Felipe Calderón declared war on the drug car­tels, revers­ing ear­li­er gov­ern­ment pas­sive­ness. Since then, the gov­ern­ment has made some gains, but at a heavy price — gun bat­tles, assas­si­na­tions, kid­nap­pings, fights between rival car­tels, and reprisals have result­ed in over 9,500 deaths since Decem­ber 2006 — over 5,300 killed last year alone. Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma recent­ly announced extra agents were being deployed to the bor­der and Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Clin­ton heads to Mex­i­co today to pur­sue a broad diplo­mat­ic agen­da — over­shad­owed now by spi­ral­ing drug vio­lence and fears of greater cross-bor­der spillover. Offi­cials on both sides of the bor­der are com­mit­ted to stop­ping the vio­lence, and stem­ming the flow of drugs head­ing north and guns and cash head­ing south.

2 Baja California state police stand guard at a captured marijuana greenhouse in the basement of a ranch in Tecate, Mexico on March 12, 2009. (REUTERS/Jorge Duenes)
2 Baja Cal­i­for­nia state police stand guard at a cap­tured mar­i­jua­na green­house in the base­ment of a ranch in Tecate, Mex­i­co. (REUTERS/Jorge Duenes)

I know it may sound naïve, but I have to won­der if a lot of the resid­ual vio­lence would be quelled if mar­i­jua­na were made legal.1 I know drugs aren’t the only rea­son for bor­der con­trol, but I also won­der if the bor­der sit­u­a­tion would be dif­fer­ent too. I believe enough in the pow­er of the free mar­ket that it could reg­u­late the — shall we say — more col­or­ful char­ac­ters in the indus­try.

Or maybe  I’ve just been watch­ing too much Weeds. Seri­ous­ly, that show is fun­ny, but I’m left after watch­ing sea­son 4 with a vague uneasi­ness. I think it got to me, that there are actu­al­ly peo­ple out there whose lives become whol­ly con­sumed by the drug pro­fes­sion.

  1. I’m cer­tain­ly not eager to try it out, for the record. []

The long road ahead

Amer­i­ca’s Best Places For Alter­na­tive Ener­gy — Forbes​.com

The “cubic mile of oil” – a met­ric rough­ly equiv­a­lent to the amount of oil con­sumed world­wide each year – is fre­quent­ly used to explain the chal­lenge fac­ing solar, wind, geot­her­mal and bio­mass pow­er.

So what would it take to replace the amount of ener­gy in a cubic mile of oil? Rough­ly 4.2 bil­lion solar rooftops, 300 mil­lion wind tur­bines, 2,500 nuclear pow­er plants or 200 Three Gorges Dams, accord­ing to Men­lo Park, Calif., non­prof­it research insti­tute SRI Inter­na­tion­al.

In oth­er words, no sin­gle cat­e­go­ry of renew­able ener­gy is grow­ing any­where near the speed it needs to bear the full brunt of dis­plac­ing car­bon-emit­ting fos­sil fuels any­time soon.


While there is no doubt that wind, solar and geot­her­mal [pow­er] have ample ener­gy to pow­er the plan­et – the sun­light that hits Earth in a sin­gle hour con­tains enough ener­gy to fuel the human pop­u­la­tion for a year – they will need years to mature before they reach any­thing approach­ing their poten­tial. Oil has had more than a cen­tu­ry to mature, and its short­com­ings remain painful­ly obvi­ous even now.

Hope­ful­ly this isn’t a sur­prise to most, but it looks like we’ll need a lot of hard work — cer­tain­ly not just a bunch of peo­ple and com­pa­nies “going green” in name — to real­ly effect envi­ron­men­tal change. That’s a glass of cold water.

On the Dignity of Life

I’m a Chris­t­ian and I’m vot­ing for Barack Oba­ma on Tues­day (in large part) because of his stance on life issues.

I had intend­ed to write a longer post about how I think a pro-life stance must be holis­tic, incor­po­rat­ing not only the issue of abor­tion, but I have not. So I will be bor­row­ing words.

Tim point­ed me to an arti­cle by Jim Wal­lis from Sojourn­ers Mag­a­zine talk­ing to James Dob­son. Dob­son takes a very con­ser­v­a­tive (and nar­row, in my opin­ion) Chris­t­ian view­point on the elec­tion. Wal­lis responds on the issue of abor­tion and what it means to be “pro-life”:

You [Dob­son] make a mis­take when you assume that younger Chris­tians don’t care as much as you about the sanc­ti­ty of life. They do care — very much — but they have a more con­sis­tent eth­ic of life. Both broad­er and deep­er, it is inclu­sive of abor­tion, but also of the many oth­er assaults on human life and dig­ni­ty. For the new gen­er­a­tion, pover­ty, hunger, and dis­ease are also life issues; cre­ation care is a life issue; geno­cide, tor­ture, the death penal­ty, and human rights are life issues; war is a life issue. What hap­pens to poor chil­dren after they are born is also a life issue.

And there was an inter­est­ing point from the arti­cle to which Wal­lis links:

While many Chris­tians dis­agree on the legal ques­tions sur­round­ing abor­tion, togeth­er we can and must pur­sue prac­ti­cal steps that actu­al­ly reduce abor­tion rates. Three-fourths of women who have an abor­tion say a pri­ma­ry rea­son is that they can­not afford to raise a child, so reduc­ing pover­ty and sup­port­ing low-income women is a good place for our can­di­dates to start.

I became Catholic this year and while we dis­cussed pro-life issues in RCIA, I was nev­er told (nor in Mass today) which way to vote in this elec­tion.

I advise every­one, of any moral back­ground, to vote with your con­science on Tues­day. Each of us must make an esti­ma­tion of which can­di­date will do the best for our coun­try and every­one there­in — and such deci­sions are dif­fi­cult and are hard­ly cut and dry. In my opin­ion, on every mat­ter oth­er than abor­tion, it is clear that Oba­ma has (and I would argue Democ­rats in gen­er­al have) more respect for life, and that plays a very big part in my upcom­ing vote on Tues­day.

High-Fructose Corn Syrup: Bad for you, bad for the environment?

I start­ed look­ing up high-fruc­tose corn syrup after those dubi­ous pro­pogan­dacom­mer­cials about how “every­thing’s OK guys.” (I agree with the poster of the video that it does seem akin to a tobac­co com­mer­cial.) Turns out it’s worse than I thought.

I knew that import tar­iffs made sug­ar expen­sive and have dri­ven pro­duc­ers to use corn (cheap and abun­dant here in the US) for sug­ar. I recent­ly learned that fruc­tose (and thus high-fruc­tose corn syrup) more or less sup­press the body’s hor­mon­al sig­nals to stop one’s appetite. (And, for my own part, I knew that it caused prob­lems with my own ener­gy and headaches.)

What I did­n’t know was the sug­ar indus­try’s and our gov­ern­men­t’s effect on ethanol and alter­na­tive fuels:

Deal Sweet­en­ers: The New York­er

Our cur­rent pol­i­cy is absurd even by Wash­ing­ton stan­dards: Con­gress is pay­ing bil­lions in sub­si­dies to get us to use more ethanol, while keep­ing in place tar­iffs and quo­tas that guar­an­tee that we’ll use less. And while most of the time tar­iffs just mean high­er prices and reduced com­pe­ti­tion, in the case of ethanol the neg­a­tive effects are con­sid­er­ably greater, leav­ing us sad­dled with an infe­ri­or and less ener­gy-effi­cient tech­nol­o­gy and as depen­dent as ever on oil-pro­duc­ing coun­tries.

(I under­stand that ethanol may not be the prover­bial bas­ket in which we put all of our prover­bial eggs; appar­ent­ly too much reliance on corn could dri­ve up food prices.)

And regard­less of the tim­ing though, this is no par­ti­san affair:

A recent study by Amani Elobeid and Sim­la Tok­goz, sci­en­tists at Iowa State Uni­ver­si­ty, pro­ject­ed that if the tar­iffs were removed prices would fall by four­teen per cent and Amer­i­cans would use almost three hun­dred mil­lion gal­lons more of ethanol.

But that isn’t like­ly to hap­pen any­time soon: the Bush Admin­is­tra­tion pro­posed elim­i­nat­ing the ethanol tar­iff this past spring, but Con­gress quick­ly quashed the idea — Barack Oba­ma was among sev­er­al Mid­west­ern sen­a­tors who cam­paigned in sup­port of the tar­iff — and the sug­ar quo­tas appear to be as sacro­sanct as ever. Tar­iffs and quo­tas are extreme­ly hard to get rid of, once estab­lished, because they cre­ate a vicious cir­cle of back-scratch­ing — gov­ern­ment largesse means that sug­ar pro­duc­ers get wealthy, giv­ing them lots of cash to toss at mem­bers of Con­gress, who then have an incen­tive to insure that the largesse con­tin­ues to flow.

We’re pro­tect­ing domes­tic corn farm­ers, but in a very odd way and with odd con­se­quences.

Palin hits Obama for ‘terrorist’ connection

Palin hits Oba­ma for ‘ter­ror­ist’ con­nec­tion — CNN​.com

Alas­ka Gov. Sarah Palin on Sat­ur­day slammed Sen. Barack Oba­ma’s polit­i­cal rela­tion­ship with a for­mer anti-war rad­i­cal, accus­ing him of asso­ci­at­ing “with ter­ror­ists who tar­get­ed their own coun­try.”

Pal­in’s attack deliv­ered on the McCain cam­paign’s announce­ment that it would step up attacks on the Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date with just a month left before the Novem­ber gen­er­al elec­tion.

“We see Amer­i­ca as the great­est force for good in this world,” Palin said at a fund-rais­ing event in Col­orado, adding, “Our oppo­nent though, is some­one who sees Amer­i­ca, it seems, as being so imper­fect that he’s palling around with ter­ror­ists who would tar­get their own coun­try.”

Is this real­ly hap­pen­ing now? Was­n’t this more or less set­tled as “not a ter­ri­bly big deal” a while ago?

As Tim said, “What do you do when you can’t win on your own mer­its? Answer (appar­ent­ly): Slan­der your oppo­nent.”

McCain blames Obama for House bailout vote

One won­ders whether the Democ­rats, and Sen­a­tor Oba­ma, ever had any inten­tion of deliv­er­ing this bailout, or whether they always thought there was more to gain, polit­i­cal­ly, from let­ting the pack­age die on the House floor.

John​M​c​Cain​.com — Where Was the Lead­er­ship?

What both­ers me about this arti­cle is that it does­n’t paint a com­plete pic­ture.

Accord­ing to the New York Times, the final vote was 205 – 228. For Democ­rats, that was 140 – 95, or 60% for. For Repub­li­cans, that was 65 – 133, or 33% for. How is this pos­si­bly Oba­ma’s fault?

At the end of the day, I don’t think this is real­ly a mat­ter of blam­ing either McCain or Oba­ma (I don’t even think you could blame Pelosi or her speech), but this kind of politi­ciz­ing for the sake of your cam­paign, John, is sim­ply ludi­crous.