Sunday, March 24, 2013

Difficult decision on Keystone pipeline

The decision of whether or not to allow the construction of the Keystone pipeline will be made soon, I think. A lot of people have an opinion on this pipeline, but I doubt that many have actually sorted through the major issues. I haven't either, because I've found that getting answers on pollution is extremely hard. In other words, you can work very hard and not see any definite increase on your knowledge.

So if I had to decide, what criteria would I use? It's tempting to put my finger on the scale (for the pipeline, as the outcome that angers fewer people), but I'm trying hard to resist that temptation. The biggest reason for the pipeline is the jobs it would provide. With unemployment high and not many new industries developing, this type of project is too rare an opportunity--new development in sector that has a solid future and adds net earnings to the economy. (I assume federal and state governments aren't subsidizing this pipeline, but plan to reap net revenue gains. That better be so.)

On the other side are environmental considerations. The entire project is not doing the earth any favors. Extraction and refinement of this dirty oil will cause a higher level of pollution than many energy sources, even many other carbon energy sources. If this was a question on whether or not to develop this resource, the answer would probably be against development. However, it has already been developed, due to choices made by Canadians, not us. Also, this is not currently the dirtiest oil, so there is the likelihood of net environmental  benefit. We could choose to take the position that we won't participate in such a polluting enterprise--that would be principled stand for those who value the environment far above other considerations.

Since the US doesn't control the development of the tar sands, and since it isn't the dirtiest oil currently being used, the environmental arguments aren't a slam-dunk for me. The US control is only over whether or not to build the pipeline. So we should know what the dangers of the pipeline are, and we should minimize them. However, I'm not completely comfortable with this position. The more people are involved in the carbon energy economy, the less incentive we have to make incremental changes to cleaner energy. I may be making the mistake of valuing political peace, expediency, and jobs over the global environment, and that may very well be shortsighted and cowardly.


Other sources on environmental impact:

Friday, March 22, 2013

Short: Want, but won't pay

Big surprise. The Senate voted in a non-binding (read symbolic/fake) resolution to reverse the 2.3% tax on medical devices that is part of the funding for Obamacare. According to the article, 34 Democratic senators appear to want Obamacare, but don't want to pay for it.

Come on guys, it's 2.3%. It isn't a killer tax. It's in an appropriate area so that the medical industry can help fund medical care. Did you suggest any alternative funding? It wasn't mentioned in the article, so I'm guessing NO. If you were my children, I'd cut up your credit cards and send you to your rooms.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Recommence circular firing squad

So today Reince Priebus released the report on post-mortem on how the GOP lost the 2012 election. I thought it was a surprisingly realistic first step for the GOP, who haven't been exactly clear on the objective world for the past two years.

Some ideas I agree with:
  • Don't piss off women so much. They're not just vessels for babies... now that they have the vote.. and jobs.. and that damned independent streak. They have less time for news (due to tons of other responsibilities), but word does get around if a party doesn't care whether women get contraception or not. Lots of women pay attention to that.
  • Be welcoming to minorities. This will be harder because the GOP is the epitome of a white men's country club. Sure, there's room for a few more tokens to get up on stage and milk the party for support. But how many minorities are eager to sign up after watching the disrespect leveled at Obama and Holder and Sotomayor. Even white males who step out of bounds are hunted down like (as) RINOs. This is not a tolerant party. Good luck on winning skittish minority voters.
  • Pass immigration reform. This could be a no-win situation for the GOP. Latinos aren't voting for Republicans in large numbers because the GOP are nasty to immigrants, who are largely Latino. But if there's a path to citizenship, that will mean more lower-wage and minority voters, who tend to vote Democratic. Tough dilemma--do you take the risk and try to turn it around? Or do you hold tight to principles and circle the drain?
  • Shorter primary with fewer debates. Those debates did show the country a lot, including that audiences could be stacked, or they may be just a bunch of random yahoos. But it certainly was a pander-fest. A shorter campaign would help a little, but the bigger problem is pandering to the shrill conservative media. I don't think there were many suggestions about that.
The response from parts of the conservative spectrum were much uglier than my reaction. Limbaugh says "I’m sorry, but we’re not disrespectful to anybody." HAHAHAHA. Rush is personally disrespectful to the vast majority of humanity, so let's just say that he's so acclimated to disrespect that he doesn't smell it anymore.

It looks to me as though Priebus's outreach to the Ron Paul liberty wing is falling flat. You really need to read the hair-raising comments here. They include throwing someone under a lawnmower, stabbings, kissing back sides, and a few Jew comments too. But definitely, there is no way the Paul wing is going support fewer caucuses, another Priebus proposal. The base at HotAir isn't happy either, with the general sentiment being that it's another way for the establishment to muzzle the base.

I won't tell the GOP what to do. They aren't my party, and I've learned from experience that you can't manage anyone else's life from the outside. I hope they make decisions that are beneficial for them and for the country as a whole, whatever those decisions will be. So, best of luck, GOP. Try not to screw it up.

How the hell do I fix this?

Extras. An insider at The Weekly Standard has written a moderate-length analysis of the GOP problem with a suggested, but unlikely, solution. A shorter version here to whet your interest.

The HotAir bloggers support the gist of the post-mortem. The commenters want to hang the traitors to GOP principles.

Erick Erickson at RedState: 'Meh. It just wasn't our year.' This response confuses me because it's completely anti-analytical.

Budget FAIL x 2

Ryan budget - FAIL
Senate Democratic budget - FAIL


I could leave it at that, but the topic deserves serious consideration, so I'll tell why both budgets are rotten, and thereby do more honor to budgeting than either party did. The GOP budget is a return of the usual Ryan chicken scratch. If this budget was a TV character, it would be wandering around dazed and with amnesia, unaware that it was rejected in the 2012 election. It contains all the usual Ryan touches: repeal of Obamacare, block-grants in place of Medicaid, and voucherizing Medicare ten years from now. Yawn. No, wait, I think they dropped the additional tax cuts for "job creators." So maybe there's only pervasive amnesia.

The Democratic budget is fairly similar to Obama's budget of 1.5 years ago, but with less stimulus spending--only $100 billion instead of $400B. The Dems are feeling their oats after the election win so the ideal balance is no longer 1/3 tax increases to 2/3 spending cuts. Instead it's 50/50. But in fact, there are no spending cuts, just slower spending growth. The deficit eventually slims down below 3% of GDP, but only if growth is significantly robust. In fact, the spending grows on average 4.7% per year, so we better have strong growth, or we'll have some mighty large deficits.

Of course, we don't really have to worry about the Dems spending as much as they say in their budget. It's as likely to pass as the GOP version. They are both losers, dead-on-arrival partisan toilet paper. We are on track to follow the prediction I made early this month--a status quo Continuing Resolution. Bigger yawn.

I think I'll take a nap for a few years, then wake up and see if the same predictable fake budgets are walking around like unfulfilled specters haunting the Capitol. Then I'll vomit.


Extra. The WSJ sugar-coats the Ryan budget and invents a new euphemism for a Medicare voucher system:
 "The idea is to revamp Medicare's benefits and premium structure so these relics from 1965 work like normal insurance and give seniors the incentive to take a larger role in their own care."
Yes, I'm sure that medical insurance for seniors can be just like auto insurance. That will totally work.

And good news of just desserts. Obama's approval rating is considerably lower, especially with independents. I interpret this as unhappy moderates (like me).

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Short: Newt Gingrich rescues the GOP

OK, only in his own fantasies.

I was researching CPAC (particularly who controls the conference schedule), and I found this gem of incomplete thinking. Here is the short version:
  • Karl Rove shouldn't try to pick the GOP candidates because he's on a losing streak. And he shouldn't soak up all the GOP money!
  • Rich GOP donors shouldn't try to pick the winners just because they have wads of cash.
  • Don't shoot all the consultants.
  • Get wonky data types like the Dems had and start testing the GOP messages.
The first three recommendation are negatives--what NOT to do. Really, when you're short of ideas, this doesn't help because you need suggestions of what TO DO. The last suggestion is the most ironic, however. Really, all the GOP needed was a bunch of data-crunching nerd-whizz-geniuses, and they could have won?

Maybe he's right--after all, the Oakland A's management used nerd-genius ideas to build a winning team on the cheap. Still, I can't imagine what whizz-bang ideas would help the GOP sell their moldy old ideas that tax cuts equal a booming economy because we've lived the 2007-2009 cycle disproving that. Maybe they would use the nerd-geniuses to identify some sidelined GOP ideas that are winners, but that doesn't seem to be the plan since the general GOP declaration is that their ideas are good, goshdarnit!

Not even Gingrich can follow up on his ideas, like this one:
Latinos worry about getting health insurance and health care. A Republican candidate who had a better health idea could have had great appeal.
This observation dead ends with ... nothing. The GOP has policy problems that nerds or other magic potions won't cure. It's the policies, stupid. Work on them.

 Trying to dress up the GOP as winners

Extra. Another post on the same site irritated me with different rhetorical fallacy.The author argues that you shouldn't worry about mass shootings because the numbers are too small--you really need to focus on shooting deaths in urban areas. Here's some truth there, except maybe we can work on improving both situations. So why not?

Poof! Most of his argument is shot down. Does he really want to rely on such a weak argument?

Monday, March 4, 2013

On vacation

Taking family time. It's a great antidote to politics because it's all about love and caring and doing the best for the people you love.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Tea Party to GOP: Fight this one!

There is somewhat of an internal GOP struggle over how the GOP in Congress should handle the next fiscal crisis point, which is March 27 when the most recent appropriations bills time out. Many in the Tea Party are urging the GOP leadership to demand additional spending cuts and especially reforms of Social Security and Medicare as the price for passing a Continuing Resolution.

The GOP leadership seems to be trying to avoid blame. It doesn't want the blame for shutting down government operations, which is what would happen if the GOP makes any new demands. But they also don't want to face primary challenges from Tea Party-backed candidates, so they have to look tough.

Boehner is walking a tight rope on this issue, and many will be watching and wondering whether he'll make it to the other platform or whether he'll plunge off the line and into either an abyss or a safety net. I'm predicting that he gets to the other side, much to the chagrin of the Tea Party. The other side is the totally predictable status quo appropriation--no cuts, no revenue increases.

Perhaps the more interesting show will be what the Tea Party does this month and during the next year. They've been agitating for spending cuts and entitlement reform, but their only success was the mixed blessing of the sequester. After its losses in the election, does the Tea Party have any strength left to effect fiscal changes, or only to scare GOP congressmen? I'm betting they spent their influence for too little fiscal restraint, but they'll still be the most frightening boogeymen to GOP pols for a while yet.

 Boehner and Tea Party friend

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Continuing resolutions and continuing stonewalls

I like to write about significant issues, not the outrage du jour (currently whether or not the White House threatened Bob Woodward and all the petty partisan point-scoring around that non-issue).

So I won't be writing much for a while. It's strange to have written almost 400 posts, and now have nothing to say. But I don't want to endlessly repeat my complaint that neither party will seize the wide-open middle ground and actually propose a centrist spending plan.

Here's what will happen with the biggest issue in Washington, the federal  government budget:
  • The GOP will continue their typical non-specific (Ryan) budget proposals, with lots of dollars removed from social programs, but no details on how that will translate to benefit reductions.
  • The Dems will continue their proposals for larger budgets fueled by tax increases on the wealthy and budgetary sleight-of-hand to hide the growing deficits in the proposal.
  • There will be NO POSSIBILITY OF RECONCILING these proposals.
  • Just before a government shutdown on March 27, Congress will reluctantly pass a Continuing Resolution that follows the same budget we have now, with no replacement for the sequester and no reforms on the huge Medicare expenditures.
  • The only bit of uncertainty is how long the Continuing Resolution will cover--six months or one year.
THIS IS PITIFUL. Our elected officials have reduced themselves to one decision: how long to keep the status quo going. We aren't getting much for the salaries we pay them.

The only silver lining is that neither the GOP nor the Dems can implement their respective destructive programs. So these doldrums are the price for avoiding the catastrophe we'd have from following one or the other partisan fantasy. I can live with that, but I'll need a new hobby since blogging on politics will be mighty sparse. Suggestions?

Better than blogging

Extra. There is still one blogger who's doing well. Kudos to Jonathan Bernstein at Plain Blog (a good example here).

Update 3/17/13. The length of the Continuing Resolution isn't even in doubt. It will be 6 months, which takes us to the start of the 2014 fiscal year.