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April 25, 2007

Cato-at-liberty » Media Bias?

Why it is hard to take the libertarian Cato Institute seriously.

Re: Cato-at-liberty » Media Bias?:

The item was headlined: Why Gun Control is a Long Shot

And the text began:

“If you want to know why major new federal restrictions on firearms will be a hard sell despite the horrific shootings at Virginia Tech last week, here’s a leading reason: The National Rifle Association is one of the nation’s richest and most influential pressure groups.”

Well, one of them, yes. But the other 9 of the top 10 are all liberal-to-left Democratic funders.  The top two lefty PACs together raised almost six times as much in 2006 as the NRA.  So did the top four unions. And two Democratic PACs that you probably haven’t heard of — America Coming Together and Forward Together — each raised just as much as the NRA.

The topic at hand is gun control.  But the Cato Institute conflates all “lefty PACs” with being pro gun control.  The fact is, neither Emily's list, the unions or any of the other “lefty PACs” have gun control as a key issue, let alone as their primary issue. 

The point being made by the original Washington Post author is that the NRA, singularly focused against gun control, has a lot more money than gun control advocates because no pro gun control group has anywhere near the money of the NRA. 

The point is lost on Cato in their effort to conform everything to their dogma.


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Re: Thinking Points Discussion of Chapter 4 - Part 2: Conservative Morality

Re: Thinking Points Discussion of Chapter 4 - Part 2: Conservative Morality 4/25/2007]

Joe at Rockridge raises the issue, “If we attack the label ”conservative“ we will alienate potential allies who share nurturant values with us. This is the problem I want to understand.  How can we get past this when the word ”conservative“ is currently applied to a political group of people who are not philosophically conservative at all.”

I’ve wrestled with this as well.

As a large collective group, “conservatives” don’t seem to care: they take their point of view, find the polar opposite, assign it to progressives and castigate progressives.  Thinking linearly, they assume progressives all oppose everything they stand for.  They don’t seem to care about alienating the progressives that might share some of their values.

However, we do care, so we wrestle with it.

We need labels in order to identify things; if you don’t have a name for a thing, it is hard to get others to understand what thing you are talking about.

In this case, what I want to do is, on the one hand be able to make the case, forcefully, against those policies and approaches that I see as detrimental and also marginalize those people who advocate for those policies and approaches (the “radical right”, some call them) and on the other hand, be sure that there is “wiggle room” for people associated with those first types but who have a greater percentage of bi-conceptualism (“prudential conservatives”, say).

Therefore we need to label the radical, fundamentalist, authoritarian, intolerant, “conservatives” in some way that helps isolate them from “traditional conservatives” and “moderates”. 

The challenge seems like it has been that the conservative mindset, rooted in hierarchy and the resulting “culture of obedience” has caused the moderate conservatives to “fall in line” with the controlling, authority group of radical fundamentalists.  When even the “moderates” denigrate liberals, making it so they can’t be comfortable associating with them, we are indeed in a tough spot.

The current political climate should help.  Now that the manifold built-in flaws of the conservative mindset for governing that result in corruption, incompetence, indifference and constitutional violations, are now plastered on front pages across America on a daily basis, people are beginning to ask themselves how we got here.  (Yes, we all saw it coming, but they didn’t and now they’re surprised.)

Unforturnately, there is a tendency among conservatives to blame Bush and his ilk as not a “true conservative”, but not to see their own complicity in not examining his appointments fully, not providing oversight, and following in obedience without question.  At least Andrew Sullivan and some other conservatives are wrestling with this and are trying to find a way to distance prudential/true/doubting conservatives from the fundamentalist/radical conservatives.

So, anyway, it seems we need to label the extreme, radical, fundamentalist segment of the conservatives in a way that allows others to distance themselves from them.  While some use “radical right”, I find the notion of “fundamentalist” more attuned to the real problem we’re trying to address.

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April 24, 2007

BarackObama.com | Foreign Policy Remarks at CCGA

A few snippets from Barack Obama's foreign policy speech.  I can't do it justice, so read it the whole thing.

Re: BarackObama.com  |  Foreign Policy Remarks at CCGA:

This President may occupy the White House, but for the last six years the position of leader of the free world has remained open.  And it’s time to fill that role once more.
Whether it’s global terrorism or pandemic disease, dramatic climate change or the proliferation of weapons of mass annihilation, the threats we face at the dawn of the 21st century can no longer be contained by borders and boundaries.

The horrific attacks on that clear September day awakened us to this new reality. And after 9/11, millions around the world were ready to stand with us. They were willing to rally to our cause because it was their cause too – because they knew that if America led the world toward a new era of global cooperation, it would advance the security of people in our nation and all nations.
This will require a new spirit – not of bluster and bombast, but of quiet confidence and sober intelligence, a spirit of care and renewed competence. It will also require a new leader. And as a candidate for President of the United States, I am asking you to entrust me with that responsibility.
This election offers us the chance to turn the page and open a new chapter in American leadership. The disappointment that so many around the world feel toward America right now is only a testament to the high expectations they hold for us. We must meet those expectations again, not because being respected is an end in itself, but because the security of America and the wider world demands it.
The first way America will lead is by bringing a responsible end to this war in Iraq and refocusing on the critical challenges in the broader region.
The second way America will lead again is by building the first truly 21st century military and showing wisdom in how we deploy it.
The third way America must lead again is by marshalling a global effort to meet a threat that rises above all others in urgency – securing, destroying, and stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
The danger of nuclear proliferation reminds us of how critical global cooperation will be in the 21st century. That’s why the fourth way America must lead is to rebuild and construct the alliances and partnerships necessary to meet common challenges and confront common threats.
The fifth way America will lead again is to invest in our common humanity – to ensure that those who live in fear and want today can live with dignity and opportunity tomorrow.
Now it’s our moment to lead – our generation’s time to tell another great American story. So someday we can tell our children that this was the time when we helped forge peace in the Middle East. That this was the time when we confronted climate change and secured the weapons that could destroy the human race. This was the time when we brought opportunity to those forgotten corners of the world. And this was the time when we renewed the America that has led generations of weary travelers from all over the world to find opportunity, and liberty, and hope on our doorstep.

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Clip: The Re-Branding of America

Brack Obama is the strongest candidate to revitalize great American principles and to show and to communicate to America and the world how they are rooted in progressive values and principles that focus on fairness and opportunity for all.

Clip: The Daily Dish: The Re-Branding of America:

From conservative Andrew Sullivan, regarding Obama's recent foreign policy speech:

But this much we can already say: Obama brings something no one else does to this moment. By replacing one of the most globally despised and domestically divisive presidents in American history with a young leader half-Kansan and half-Kenyan, America would be saying something to the world: Bush-Cheney is not who we are. America is not what it has come to appear to be. This country is among the most culturally and racially and religiously diverse on the planet. America has long been a powerful and vital beacon for human rights - not, as recently, the avatar of torture, rendition and executive tyranny. The simple existence of Obama as a new president in a new century would in itself enhance America's soft power immeasurably, just as a clear decision to leave Iraq would provide much greater leverage for diplomacy and military force in a whole variety of new ways. Obama would mean the rebranding of America, after a disastrous eight years. His international heritage, his racial journey, his middle name: these are assets for this country, not liabilities.

This is the reason for his ascendancy. This is what the American people sense and the world awaits. This is what the Islamists fear. That last alone is reason to feel hope.

Which he compares to Bush:

The president, moreover, is partly responsible for the enemy's success. He has divided a country when it desperately needs uniting; he has misused military power; he has permanently stained the moral tradition of this country by the indelible evil of torture. And in all this, he has made the United States far weaker than it was seven years ago. We can and should debate how this came to be the case - whether tragedy or accident or deceit or incompetence or arrogance or some hideous, toxic combination of them all. But the first thing we have to acknowledge in looking for a new leader is the bankruptcy of the current one.

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April 19, 2007

Confirmations have consequences

[Cross-posted from Attorney General Hearings 4/19/2007]

Confirmations have consequences. This was predictable when Gonzales was confirmed in 2007 by the Republican-controlled Senate.

It was one thing for President Bush to nominate Alberto Gonzales, a man who advocated torture, isn't sure about the constitutionality of the filibuster and doesn't think there is a constitutional right to Habeas Corpus in the Constitution.  But it was another for the Republican-controlled Senate to approve his nomination two years ago in the face of clear knowledge of his constitutional incompetence and Bush loyalty-first approach to life.

I wrote at that time to Wyden and Smith that Gonzales should have been rejected on grounds of an incompetent understanding of our Constitution, an evident unwillingness to uphold his oath to the Constitution over personal loyalties and of lying and evasion to Senators while under oath.

And here we are. This is not just a Bush administration fault, but a fault of Republicanism.

[Update -- this is a link to a couple articles on impeachment of Gonzales]

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April 13, 2007

Clip: From a former NSA chief, a plan for getting out of Iraq | csmonitor.com

Clip: From a former NSA chief, a plan for getting out of Iraq | csmonitor.com:

Brzezinski lays out a two-point plan for the US: First, he says, go to the Iraqi leaders and say: Let's sit down and discuss a jointly defined date for departure.

“And when I say Iraqi leaders, I don't mean just the guys in the Green Zone. I mean a lot of the guys outside of the Green Zone,” the guys with militias, Brzezinski says. “A lot of the guys in the Green Zone – not all, but a lot of them – will pack their bags and leave when we leave.”

Next, he says, he would suggest a US departure in about a year, and see which Iraqi leaders are prepared to go along with that. “My guess is it will be the guys who are not in the Green Zone, but who have the militias,” he says.

[Second, ] Brzezinski would, at the same time “and more overtly,” set in motion a process of “really consulting” all of Iraq's neighbors, plus possibly Pakistan, Algeria, Morocco, and Egypt, about arrangements for security in Iraq after the US leaves.

“All of these countries have a stake in Iraq not blowing up,” he says. “And the fact of the matter is, if you go around Iraq and look at each country systematically, whether it's Iran or Turkey or Syria or Jordan or Saudi Arabia, each one is seriously threatened if Iraq blows up.”

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April 11, 2007

Losing your only friend: a liberal Muslim’s letter to the west Tarek Osman - openDemocracy

Re: Losing your only friend: a liberal Muslim’s letter to the west Tarek Osman  - openDemocracy:

reconciliation is not between the west and the Arabic/Islamic worlds, but between the values of the two cultures. The key premises are threefold:
• the deterioration that the Arabic and Islamic worlds have undergone over the last three centuries has nothing to do with the inherent values of Islam or the foundations of Arabic culture - rather with repression and backwardness
• the values upon which the west has built its progress since the Renaissance are fundamentally universal, and have been in the fabric of the Islamic religion since its early days
• the early days of Islam - whether the Prophet Mohammed's small community in Medina, or the heydays of Baghdad under the Abbasid caliphs or Arabic-Islamic Andalucía - are prime examples that such reconciliation between values is realistic, indeed achievable and workable.

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Cato-at-liberty » Is Benign Neglect the Best Immigration Policy?

Re: Cato-at-liberty » Is Benign Neglect the Best Immigration Policy?:

Given the likelihood that politicians and bureaucrats will sabotage even a good idea with needless regulation and red tape, this is a compelling argument [quoted from a piece in the WSJ]: “…from a purely economic perspective, illegal immigration is arguably preferable to legal immigration. …the illegal route is for the moment vastly more efficient than the cumbersome legal system.”

Well, a compellingly irrelevant argument.  This is one of those useless, academic “if the sky were green” kind of arguments that has so many simplifyinrig assumptions (poorly called out) as to be irrelevant, as much as they seem beloved by libertarian free-market fundamentalists.  They include:

  • “purely economic” -- so let's ignore whether things are legal or not (who cares about the rule of law?)
  • let's hold everything else in the economy equal as if they don't matter
  • let's assume that no program could be more efficient than the current one
  • let's not care about other economic and social impacts that illegal immigration and illegal work involves
  • let's focus on “immigration” not on work
  • let's ignore working and living conditions

In other words, let's ignore the real world.

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April 10, 2007

Re: A Bad Idea Whose Time Has Come?

[Re: A Bad Idea Whose Time Has Come? 4/10/277]]

I'm not sure the Oregon bill is as blindly bad as you imply. 

To start, the incentive is a tax credit, so the producer needs to make a profit, that is produce more than it costs. 

Second, for the most part, the kind of issue you address is only one of many biofuels (as taken from the bill text (search for HB 2110 here):

“(A) Forest or rangeland woody debris from harvesting or thinning conducted to improve
forest ecological health and reduce uncharacteristic stand replacing wildfire risk;
”(B) Agricultural residues;
“(C) Offal and tallow from animal rendering;
”(D) Food wastes collected as provided under ORS chapter 459 or 459A;
“(E) Yard or wood debris collected as provided under ORS chapter 459 or 459A;
”(F) Wastewater solids; or
“(G) Crops grown solely to be used for energy.

Third, of course we are subsidizing a ”more costly“ energy mechanism because there isn't the infrastructure, economies of scale and design effciencies because we haven't generated energy this way to scale before.  (I am not defending the use of excess energy input, but rather things like forest biomass for which we don't have conversion plants and for which we don't have convenient hook-ups to the grid located where the biomass is, etc.).  Those are reasons to subsidize the process in order to help get it to scale.

Fourth, Oregon isn't a big corn or other producer of ethanol feed stock, so I'm not as concerned that suddenly this will turn around and the other 6 renewable fuels will diminsh in importance here.

While I like the ”net renewable“ concept, it would penalize new technologies if it wasn't a penalty also applied to fossil fuels as well, which use fossil fuels to refine them, transport them, etc.  Normally this is accounted for in the cost of production, and I'm unsure of why this wouldn't be the case here too for renewables as well for the most part.  A net renewable would also be very difficult to calculate for each separate producer. 

An easier approach, and to level the playing field, would be to increase the tax on fossil fuels -- this would build in the incentive to find alternatives and to cut mileage.

All in all, I would much rather have this bill in place even as it stands and modify it to improve it in the future than to throw out the baby with the bathwater and have no support for other fuel types today.

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April 09, 2007

Democratic Strategist

Re: Democratic Strategist:

Meanwhile, Dems should vigorously deploy a grand strategy directed at all voters. In his book “Being Right Is Not Enough,” Democratic strategist Paul Waldman argues, for example, that Dem candidates must above all communicate character and values to voters, with policy and “framing” serving as tools to support this greater goal. Candidates who master this challenge will likely win the support of most identity voters, since good character and values are respected in all cultures.

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