Monday, June 29, 2009

Catching up on my reading...

After spending well over 2000+ miles in a car, taking part in a friend's wedding, and seeing Fenway Park and Niagara Falls, it's time to catch up on what I've missed.

  • Steven Pearlstein (I swear I don't link to all of his columns... just most of them) takes the Agricultural lobby to task over their stance on the climate change bill and corn ethanol. I just wish more people would do this. Corn ethanol is a farce. Even the EPA's most generous estimates call it a marginal improvement over gas.
  • Nicogate continues. This is ridiculous. The administration sees a way to reach out to Iranians and suddenly it's collusion? Methinks the MSM is a bit jealous of Huffpost and Nico.
  • Lexington thinks that the President is too close to congress, to the detriment of his policies. I think he's right. Congress is not the best body to write laws for the good of the country.
  • David Rothkopf rightly takes CNN to task for dropping everything to cover Michael Jackson's death 24/7.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bill Maher on Liberals and loonies

Bill Maher went off on... I think everyone, on Real Time Friday night. His conclusion: there is no leftist, liberal party anymore. Democrats have become a center-right party, and Republicans have fallen off the right end of the spectrum. He points out that Democrats are standing in the way of Obama's liberal efforts.

In November, when Obama won (and before this blog existed) I predicted that Obama's biggest obstacles to success would be his own party in Congress. While I think Bill is right about the political spectrum in this country being a bit skewed, I think it has more to do with Congresspeople having exactly one issue that they care about: reelection.

  • Defense cuts? No can do, that means losing jobs in my district.
  • Public option for health care? Uh oh, does that mean losing all the money I get from pharmaceutical companies and health insurance companies?
  • Cap-and-trade plan or a tax on carbon? Nope, too many coal plants and big industries in my district. (The current carbon bill has been watered down to the point where it will do almost nothing.)
  • Gay rights? Ehh... It's not hugely popular in my district and I'll get slammed by religious groups and "values" groups. Sorry, can't do it.
Congresspeople have, as their primary goal, reelection. Ok, so that means that they should be doing what's best for their constituents, and that's not a bad thing, right? Unfortunately, that doesn't always hold. First, they do what's best for the constituents with the most money, not necessarily what's best for all of them. And, as an elected representative, it is your responsibility to look long-term. What is in the best interests of the country going forward? In many cases, that is not in the short-term interests of your district.

A great example of this is corn ethanol. Corn ethanol subsidies are FANTASTIC for the farmers in Iowa and Illinois. But corn ethanol is not the answer as a renewable fuel. It is very inefficient, especially compared to the sugar ethanol made in Brazil. But because of Iowa's electoral importance, nobody is willing to take on corn ethanol subsidies.

Until Congress can look past the money wielded by the special interests in their districts, they will be unwilling to do what's right for the country, and continue doing whatever they can to be reelected. And the country will continue to suffer as a result.

Monday, June 22, 2009

In case you needed convincing...





(Tip of the hat to Nico Pitney.)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

They just don't get it...

Rep. Mike Pence, (R - IN) has introduced a resolution in support of the Iranian protesters and dissidents. He gift-wrapped a propaganda tool and placed it in Ahmadinejad's hands. Allowing pro-regime forces to paint the protesters as Western puppets is beyond counterproductive, it's criminally stupid. (They're already trying, now they'll have ammunition.) Everyone who studies these things has said that Obama's low-key approach is perfect.

I guess Mr. Pence must have just been convinced of the truthiness of his position.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Welcome Home, Stephen!

Jon Stewart gave Stephen Colbert a well deserved hero's welcome back from Iraq. Big props, many kudos, all of those hip and cool ways to say well done to Stephen for taking his show to Iraq. It takes some big brass ones to do what he did. Despite what you may think, Iraq is far from a done deal, and still far from a safe place. I applaud Mr. Colbert for making the trip to entertain the troops and to raise the awareness of the war back home. Well done.

The Minute by Minute Dish

As far as I can tell, Andrew Sullivan has not slept since the polls opened in Iran. His blog is being updated at a furious pace. He has even changed the color of the site to green in solidarity with the protesters. He is a bit hysterical about the entire situation, but his blog is certainly worth following at the moment.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Fascinating...

There have been many reports of Iranian protesters using Twitter to communicate, and the people who run Twitter are apparently very aware of it. Do you think the founders of Twitter ever thought they would have a press release like that?

UPDATE: From technology invented in 2006 to some that dates to 1843. University of Chicago students have set up a fax number for Iranians to get messages out of the country, since cell phones and internet have been blocked by the government. Nothing is posted yet, but it's worth watching. At this rate, they'll be reduced to letters carried on horseback by the weekend.

Protests in Persia

I would be remiss if I did not make some comment on the elections and subsequent turmoil in Iran. On the face of it, I'm not making news by saying that the results sound fishy. In a country as young and urban as Iran, it seems unlikely that even if Ahmadinejad won, he could have won by as many votes as seems to have happened. As Mr Biden said, the numbers don't seem to add up.

Dan Drezner has an interesting take on how this result is actually better for the US in regards to Iran's nuclear program. In short, the nukes are controlled by the ayatollah, not the president, so the election of a "reform-minded" president unrealistically raises expectations of progress. That's probably not going to give much comfort to these people.

There's been a constant murmur over the past few years about the potential of the young (more liberal) Iranian population, and their ability to influence Iranian policy. If nothing else, the events of the past few days put a damper on that thought. We are reminded that Iran is not a democracy. What's worse, even the nod to democracy that is the presidential election has seemingly been subverted. While the Ayatollah makes the decisions at the end of the day, allowing for slightly more liberal presidents, popularly elected, would be a start. Alas, it seems, that was not to be.

(I highly recommend going through the multiple galleries of photos from Tehran over at TPM. As always, pictures can evoke emotions that mere words cannot.)

No settlement on settlements.

While he (reluctantly) espoused a two-state solution, Mr Netanyahu's latest speech did not make concessions on settlements. This is (unsurprisingly) shaping up to be the major bone of contention between the US and Israel. I don't know how Israel can rationally believe that digging its feet in on this issue will get it anywhere. The longer this conflict goes on, the more lives will be lost; in Palestine, in Israel, and around the world. Israel does not have to necessarily abandon the settlements that are already there, just stop expanding them. Without US support, how long will Netanyahu's government last? What is the imagined endgame for this course of action?

I don't know the answers to these questions. Does Mr. Netanyahu?

Friday, June 12, 2009

There is a reason... (II)

Steven Pearlstein's latest column makes some good points. It is pretty incredible how near-sighted and "forgetful" people can be. As always, he's worth reading as he brings some common sense into economics and politics.

Friday, June 5, 2009

A college degree ain't what it used to be...


That's me, grinding paint off the bottom of a pool this afternoon. Good times!