Friday, October 21, 2011

Just ran across this. McCain sucking up to a dictator.
Watching Republicans on TV the last two days talking about Libya and Iraq has been downright embarrassing. They've gone into 24/7 election mode and refuse to say anything good about the US under Obama. Not only are they clearly hoping the economy doesn't recover until after the election, they just as clearly are upset when the US scores any foreign policy victories. Wouldn't be surprised to find out some of them secretly wish Osama bin Laden were still alive.

McCain congratulated the French and British yesterday on victory in Libya without mentioning the American contribution, then churlishly claimed that the war would have been over much sooner if Obama had done things differently. Today, Romney was talking about our orderly and planned well in advance withdrawal from Iraq as if it were the panicked evacuation of the last personnel from the embassy roof a la Saigon.

Need I point out the obvious. Libya is an example of using our power in a limited but very effective way to help people free themselves. Iraq is an example of using overwhelming force to create a total mess. The Republicans find it quite inconvenient that they were in charge of the amazingly expensive mess while someone they dislike was in charge of the inexpensive success.

This is Mitt's quote on Iraq:
President Obama’s astonishing failure to secure an orderly transition in Iraq has unnecessarily put at risk the victories that were won through the blood and sacrifice of thousands of American men and women. The unavoidable question is whether this decision is the result of a naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government. The American people deserve to hear the recommendations that were made by our military commanders in Iraq.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Koch bros

If you want background on the most powerful men in American politics whom you've likely heard of, you should read this New Yorker article on the Koch brothers, billionaire right-wingers who fund an entire web on organizations, media fronts, and other assorted attempts to move American politics as far to the right as possible.

the Kochs vastly outdid ExxonMobil in giving money to organizations fighting legislation related to climate change, underwriting a huge network of foundations, think tanks, and political front groups. Indeed, the brothers have funded opposition campaigns against so many Obama Administration policies—from health-care reform to the economic-stimulus program—that, in political circles, their ideological network is known as the Kochtopus.

Oddly, as I was typing this; Rachel Maddow (who I would totally hit on if she were straight, as I just love smart tomboyish chicks) started talking about the Kock brothers somehow going after one of her producers by name.
Here's the video (but it's not very exciting, TBH)

Apparently, it is now illegal to take cash for used goods in Louisiana.
It's a law that was passed during this year's busy legislative session.....
.....[House bill 195] states those who buy or sell second hand goods are prohibited from using cash. State representative Rickey Hardy co-authored the bill. Hardy says, "they give a check or a cashiers money order, or electronic one of those three mechanisms is used.".....
.....Besides non-profit resellers like Goodwill, and garage sales, the language of the bill encompasses stores like the Pioneer Trading Post and flea markets.
 So much for limited government. I guess you can get right wingers to go along with almost anything as long as it's in the name of "law and order" (in this case, keeping people from selling stolen goods). Obviously, this bill was so poorly written that it'll likely be repealed (can't take cash at yard sales, brilliant). But the urge to control more and more of our lives is genuine. If something can't be monitored by the government, best not to allow it to take place at all.

Just look at our famously successful War on Drugs (so successful that no one can get drugs anywhere in the US). All we've had to do is spend hundreds of billions of dollars, lock up millions of people, sacrifice our 4th & 5th Amendment rights, enrich murderous gangsters at home and despots around the world; and we've made drugs slightly harder to get hold of. Terrific. I can't wait to see what's next on the agenda.
Word out of Tripoli is that Gadhafi is dead. To me, Libya is an almost perfect example of how American military power should be used. There was a popular uprising against a brutal dictator, which was being violently suppressed. We and our allies provided support for the rebels, including airpower; but never committed ground troops. The dictator eventually gets defeated, mostly due to opposition by his own people. Post-war Libya will be rebuilt by Libyans for the benefit of Libyans. That's the way to do things. Hard to do anything but pat Obama on the back on foreign policy.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I really don't understand the hostility to alternative energy on the part of the right wing. OK, I understand hostility on the part of those in the oil or coal industries as pure short-sighted self interest. That's pretty standard. What I don't understand is the hostility emanating from right wing bloggers, talking heads, or even commenters on message boards. It's as if anything the damn hippies like absolutely must be opposed regardless of what it is.

If we really want "energy independence", is it better to hope unicorns discover a massive overlooked source of oil deep in the American heartland, or to come up with alternatives to the oil we now import from dictatorships in the Middle East? Is it better to burn through our limited fossil fuels as fast as we possibly can, or to adopt methods to stretch how long they last.

The easiest is solar energy. By far our biggest demand for electricity is during the day. It's when we run A/C the most. It's when our factories are running. It's when our offices, schools, and stores are open. We have to build an overcapacity of electrical plants just to deal with the big spikes in demand we experience in the day. Luckily enough, that's also when the sun is shining. We have tens of millions of single family homes with empty roofs, just waiting for electrical panels. We have entire office and industrial parks with rooftops just as empty. Filling these rooftops with generating capacity would drastically reduce the demand for electricity and suffer almost no transmission loss. Fossil fuels combine for 2/3 of our electrical generation, and as demand increases they account for almost all the new generating capacity that comes online.

The Freakonomics site has a post that manages to completely miss the point. It disparages rooftop solar in places like San Francisco because there are sunnier parts of the state; treating it as an either/or proposition as if putting rooftop solar in San Francisco meant it couldn't go in Bakersfield or Fresno. It also completely ignores the energy lost in transmission which is saved by generating it where it's consumed and indulges in some hippie-punching by speculating that San Franciscans only want solar panels to make themselves look good.

The article goes on to praise San Diego for having just over 2000 residential solar installations. In a city of over 1.3 million people which gets only 42 rainy days a year, 2000 roofs with solar is a friggin joke. San Diego is absolutely perfect for solar and should have it on almost every roof. We should be putting rooftop solar pretty much everywhere practical, especially in places that never have snow and to which power transmission is lossy and can't be easily expanded.
Charles Pierce on David Brooks

It's Tuesday, and David Brooks is happy — nay, ecstatic — that all of you out there are using your encroaching poverty to rediscover your moral compass. He calls it — and I am not kidding here — The Great Restoration, and he's awfully proud of each and every one of you peasants..... Brooks, "Quietly but decisively, Americans are trying to restore the moral norms that undergird our economic system."
Jesus H. Christ in a fking Volvo, no, it doesn't. It means people are broke. People are broke because the end product of 30 years of economic theorizing and political action that you supported has resulted in a shattered middle-class. People are broke because the Wall Street casino that your politics created and celebrated and enabled finally broke the entire country and took the rest of us down with it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bloomberg's Editorial Board
writes on the same basic idea as my "tax to cause the least pain" concept, but is also worried about people getting pissed off and just wanting to "punish" Wall Street.

We support Obama’s stance that people who earn more than $200,000 (or $250,000 for a couple) ought to contribute more to the public weal. Critics call this “class warfare,” but it needn’t be. The intention isn’t to punish the rich, nor to suggest that people with high incomes are bad. The intention is to raise the money necessary to finance the amount of government we want, and to do so as fairly as possible. Those who have been luckiest in the lottery of life -- whether by talent or trust fund -- have also, in recent years, been luckiest in rates of taxation

Monday, October 17, 2011

Goldman Sachs must really, really be sweating its public image, as I just ran across a full page they ran in "Popular Science" touting their role in building a big arena in Louisville. I can't imagine that the readership has a big crossover with investment banking customers, so I'm guessing they're just trying to tell the world: "See, we sometimes actually help get funding for stuff you like. We're not just blood-sucking vampires."

I Liked Ike

Where has the Republican Party of Eisenhower, of Ford, even of Nixon gone?

There is space for a political party that is in favor of a small yet efficient government that intrudes into the market and personal lives only when necessary, strong cost-effective defense, low taxes that cause the least pain and market distortion, and balanced budgets except in emergencies. We just don't have one of those parties.

Small, efficient governments don't spend hundreds of billions in corporate welfare. Cost-effective defense doesn't waste billions on unneeded big-ticket items nor does it get involved in military adventurism overseas. A sound government would raise enough money to pay for its operations, not borrow hundreds of billions to avoid raising taxes while shifting as much of the tax burden as possible onto the backs of those who can least afford it.

I really think that a lean government that only operates where it is really needed could be an electoral winner, mainly through keeping tax rates really low without borrowing our kids into the grave. So it depresses me to see the party that pays lip service to low taxes and small government make corporate welfare its biggest priority.