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Posts Tagged ‘election’

White Guys Have Opinions

Ever since the election, we’ve had waves of articles wherein conservatives say that they won “on the issues”, and only lost because of higher than expected “urban turnout”. Here’s Paul Ryan, saying precisely that:

“I don’t think we lost it on those budget issues, especially on Medicare, we clearly didn’t lose it on those issues,” Ryan to local station WISC-TV. “I think the surprise was some of the turnout, some of the turnout especially in urban areas, which gave President Obama the big margin to win this race.”

Well, OK, I guess that’s a natural response to a loss, chalk it up as a loss in name only. But do you pick up on the implication? The GOP won “on the issues” but only lost because black people voted. For the “win on the issues” bit to be true, then, it must also be true that the decisive votes of black people were not based on issues! (Otherwise, they would have lost on issues, too) 

This sentiment is really very common, and its disgusting. If black people vote for a black guy, its because he’s black. If women vote for a woman, its because she’s a woman. If white guys vote for the white guy, its because they agree with him about the need to reduce the deficit by reducing medicare payments and block granting it to state governments. 

You see, only white men are capable of making electoral choices based on issues. For everyone else, purely identity politics.

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Four More Years

Excellent.

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Four questions on the ballot in Philly today. 

The first asks whether the city should institute a committee to set water and sewer rates. On this, my vote is yes. It’s less than ideal, but the current method for rate setting is that the water department sets the rate. Thus the rate is set by a single person, the head of the water department. A committee seems like a much better plan than a single person on this.

The second question asks if the Mayor should be required to subit additional information to city council with his budget, “including, but not limited to, information about the cost of performing specific functions, the effectiveness of such functions, and the costs versus benefits of proposed expenditures, and to require the Finance Director to provide such information?” On this, I vote no. While I think that such information is important, in practice it is already compiled when addressing the budget needs of projects. My fear is that this requirement would be used as a de-facto veto to kill projects. See a project you want to block? Just tie it up in red tape with endless requests for reports about the cost / benefit trade-off of every little thing, and you can stall a project indefinitely. This will serve to raise the cost of projects, and will ultimately lead to more wasteful spending, not less. Writing reports isn’t free.

The third question asks whether the city should be allowed to give hiring preference to the grandchildren of police and firefighters killed in the line of duty. This would be an extension of the city’s current policy of providing preference to the children of police and firefighters killed in the line of duty. On this question, an emphatic no. Granting preference to grandchildren is simply taking things too far. Will we extend preference to great grandchildren in 2016? The city should hire the most qualified applicants for positions. 

The final question seeks approval for the city to borrow $123.7 million for capital improvements in areas such as streets, transit, sanitation, etc. An emphatic yes on this. Philly is in dire need of capital improvement. Our infrastructure is crumbling to pieces. We need to do something about that. 

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There’s a Philly polling place located in a school. The school happens to have an Obama mural on the wall of the room used for the polls, which clearly violates the no campaign material in the polling place rule. The PA GOP is outraged:

As news of the mural spread Tuesday morning, Republican Party of Pennsylvania Chairman Rob Gleason released a statement accusing the Obama campaign of trying to suppress Republican votes. 
“It is clear the Obama campaign has taken their campaign in the gutter to manipulate this election however they can,” the statement said. “Based on the Obama campaign’s behavior today, it certainly raises the question: what are Democrats doing in the polls that they are working so hard to shield folks from monitoring this election?”

Um, yea, I don’t think the Obama campaign chooses polling places, nor do I think that they ordered their brown-shirted rendition squads to stealthily paint a mural in the middle of the night. 

Rather, some local elections official didn’t even think twice about the decor of the room he chose as a polling place, and that turned out to be a mistake. He should have chosen a different spot, or covered it up. The GOP is right to cry foul over the mural, because it is obviously a violation. So toss a sheet over it and move on, that’s all. 
For the PA GOP, especially after their attempt to disenfranchise a not insignificant portion of Philadelphia, to scream voter suppression over a mural makes me laugh. 

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What’s Next?

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Desperate

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Show Time

Polls open in PA in a minute or two. Already a very long line at my polling place. Poll workers are sticking their heads out the door looking surprised. And its cold, damn it.

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In the morning, I will be voting for Barack Obama.

I won’t go over all the specific policies and reasons why, if you read this blog you already know them.

But there are two things I’d like to bring up. This won’t be a particularly well written piece because its late and I’m tired, but I want to toss it out there before the polls open.

First, the issue of foreign policy and civil liberties. This is where I think the strongest case against Obama can be made, and so I’d like to take a brief second to refute it somewhat. Obama’s record in this area has been dismal, but I do not think this is a reason to vote against him. Mitt Romney would be far, far worse.

Obama’s policy towards Iran has been about as measured and calm as can be expected. Were Mitt Romney president right now, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that we would be in a full scale war with Iran.

While he has not held anyone accountable for the US torture regime, Barack Obama has ended it. Mitt Romney would not only re-instate it, but expand it! When asked if he considered water boarding torture, he indicated that he did not, and that he would seek to increase the list of techniques used by interrogators. Barack Obama attempted to close Guantanamo Bay and hold actual trials for detainees, but was stymied by congress. Mitt Romney wants to double Guantanamo. You may not like Obama’s record on these issues, but Mitt Romney would be so much worse. If you truly think there is no difference between them on these issues, you’re fooling yourself.

Secondly, and more importantly, I will be voting for Barack Obama because we absolutely must take a stand against the GOP of the past four years. If they win, it will be an affirmation of their tactics. It will show that the public is accepting of putting party before country. It will vindicate the strategy of rank, baseless obstructionism. The GOP has not been even remotely interested in actual governing, except where they see an opportunity to score partisan points. From day one, their primary goal has been to make Barack Obama a one term president. If Mitt Romney wins, they will have been proven right. We will be telling them that their irresponsible, reprehensible strategy was correct, effective, and acceptable.

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Of course, if we had required the voters whose ballots were tampered with to show their IDs, none of this would have happened!

A Clackamas County elections worker is under criminal investigation for tampering with ballots, WW has learned. 

The underlying allegation is that the woman, whose name has not been released, filled in blanks on ballots turned into the county for the Nov. 6 general election. 

Sources familiar with the incident say their understanding is that the woman filled in a straight Republican ticket on the ballots where preferences had been left blank by voters.

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If you’re anything like me, you probably found the worst part of the Presidential debates to be the section on energy. Essentially, the candidates spent a couple minutes arguing over Solyndra and then a couple more seeing who could say the most nice things about West Virginia’s 5 electoral votes coal, then they reached a consensus that neither of them actually care when they could be arguing over who is the better job creator instead. 

So I was glad to see that an entire debate was held between the campaigns on energy at MIT. Here’s the transcript. The candidates themselves weren’t present, but their (high level) campaign surrogates were, which I suppose is the best we can hope for in what 99% of the public would find to be an excruciatingly boring debate put on by a bunch of MIT nerds. Romney was represented by his campaign’s domestic policy director, Oren Cass, and Obama by former White House energy and environment adviser Joe Aldy. I won’t write up a complete play by play commentary here, but I do want to point out a couple things. 

On the question of government incentives to spur energy innovation, Romney’s campaign would focus on basic research, rather than direct subsidies to specific companies (read: Solyndra). It kind of gets lost in an argument over wind subsidies, but both campaigns are really saying the same things here, that basic research is something the government should be doing. They both go on to praise ARPA-E (a DOE energy research funding program, modeled on a defense research funding program). The Obama campaign also sets a solid benchmark: a goal of 80% “clean energy” by 2035 in the power sector (ie electricity, not liquid transportation fuels). The problem is that coal and natural gas are included as clean energy. I’m less concerned about the carbon emissions aspect of this (and this holds true for my views on energy as a whole) than I am about the non-renewable nature of these fuels. My concern with a heavy reliance on coal and natural gas is that we will run out of both of these things, and find ourselves in the same boat down the road. We would be better served by renewables. 

The Romney campaign’s follow-up to that is, I think, very troubling (emphasis mine):

I think an interesting thing that Joe mentioned that begins to raise deeper issues about the president’s plan is that he frequently cites job creation as the goal. If job creation is the goal for energy policy, and Governor Romney believes it should be, then we should be focusing our energy policy in a direction that creates jobs. Now it is true that jobs are created assembling wind turbines, assembling solar panels, but in fact, the jobs that are destroyed and eliminated elsewhere in the economy every time we do that are significantly larger.

There is no evidence, frankly, that the sorts of investments the president is making in green energy are superior to using the far more economically effective energy technologies we already have available, and as with almost every area of technology we see, the best way to produce those innovations is not, again, through government choosing which technologies are best, but through actually encouraging innovation in the private sector.

Job creation is a wonderful, important thing. I support it! But it should not in any way be the goal for energy policy. As an added benefit, awesome, but not the goal. The goal of our energy policy absolutely must be to find a way to obtain energy sources that we can continue using for some time. Again, I don’t view this as much as an environmental issue (though it certainly is) than an issue of having the energy we need to do the things we want to do. Continued reliance on fossil fuels, coal and natural gas included, doesn’t fit the bill. We can and should continue our use of fossil fuels, but they will become progressively scarcer and more expensive, and will by necessity be phased out. We need renewable energy to fill their gap. Now is the time to find those sources, before we experience significant disruptions to our economy. Disruptions which, by the way, will have a massively larger impact on jobs than any individual policy we could argue over in this area.

In an exchange about shale gas, we get back into the argument we heard at the Presidential debate over drilling on federal vs. non-federal land. I really don’t undertand the distinction. It seems like a way to cherry pick the data to make a point, and the whole thing is being used as a proxy for an argument over the role of government. That’s all fine, but when it comes down to the actual issue of energy, 1 BTU derived from federal land = 1 BTU from private land. 

On the issue of “energy independence”, the Obama campaign’s answer acknowledges that the energy market is global. This is an important fact that I think is often misunderstood. Even if the US has the necessary energy production (from whatever sources) to meet 100% of its demand, it still participates in a global market. Some of that energy will be sold abroad and some domestically. We will likely never encounter a situation where we utilize only what we produce. 

The Romney campaign defines energy independence as “the economic activity associated with energy production is something that occurs here, so that the wealth that we are seeing experienced in the places that we import from now is instead occurring in our own communities.” But in the very next sentence he goes on to say we need to expand production in Mexico and Canada! 

In an exchange regarding explicit subsidies for various energy sources, The Obama campaign makes what I think is a very important point:

Now when we actually think about reforming these, I think it’s important that’s there some who say, let’s just have a level playing field. Let’s get rid of all the subsidies. Now when you’re doing that, you may say, hey, we don’t want to pick winners, but you are picking winners. First, those who have benefited by subsidies for an incredibly long time, the incumbents in the fossil fuels that have benefited from subsidies for, in the case of oil, nearly a century, they’re winners. They’ve become established, and they will actually benefit if you got rid of all of these.

Exactly. “Leveling the playing field” automatically hands advantage to oil, as the incumbent. Now you may say that this is just the free market at work, and that’s a perfectly reasonable opinion. But my problem is that markets are reactive, not pro-active. The free market case goes that when, for example, oil is no longer preferable, market forces will shift towards renewables (or whatever, non-oil). In the time it takes to make that shift, though, we will be hobbled by soaring energy prices. That will be crippling for the economy. Why, when we know that oil will become increasingly scarce, wait on the market signals? Best to develop the alternatives now, in my opinion, in order that they are ready for deployment when needed. 

The argument then goes on to what counts as a subsidy, and gets a little semantic, but neither side makes what is, to me, the obvious point. The largest government subsidy in the energy sector is the United States Military. The global flow of oil is secured in large part thanks to the fact that anyone who decides to block our flow of sweet, sweet crude will find themselves on the receiving end of a carrier battle group. This is never brought up in the discussion of energy subsidies, or cost/benefit analyses, but it is very significant. If we didn’t have oil to secure, our role in the middle east would be much reduced. 

On the topic of coal: Everyone loves it! West Virginia, 5 EV, etc. The debate quickly becomes a he said / she said on the job killing EPA and the cost / benefit of “clean coal” (ugh), but the Obama campaign makes the fundamental point when talking about the coal industry’s future:

In fact, when you actually look at the analysis, EPA did not say there’ll be no new coal plants because of this regulation. They actually said that because of natural gas prices, we don’t foresee any new coal plants coming online. So they actually estimated that there is not this burden on the coal industry because they are going to have challenges with new plants competing with natural gas.

Exactly right. Coal simply is not competitive with cheap natural gas. That’s just the reality of it. If you want coal to be a big part of our energy future, you have to shut down shale gas or heavily subsidize coal. Romney’s campaign can’t go all free market on us while simultaneously talking up coal’s bright future. Sorry, West Virginia. Yes, EPA regs will exacerbate coal’s problems, but they’re icing on the cake. Coal is going down in the face of cheap natural gas, with or without those job killing lazy socialist bureaucrats at the EPA. 

On the policy steps each campaign would take to reduce carbon emissions, Romney’s campaign makes the crucial point:

China’s increases in coal consumption are extraordinary. In fact, over President Obama’s term, for every 1 unit of coal that has been cut in the United States, China has increased its consumption by 10. And so in that context, for the United States to take action to drive up the price of carbon in this country to try to reduce emissions is not going to address what is a global problem. What it is going to do is hurt our economy very seriously, and it’s going to drive a lot of industrial activity from the United States to countries that are frankly much less efficient in their use of energy. So the positive benefit is weakened even further in that respect.

I don’t agree with the economic analysis here, but I’m glad Romney’s camp recognizes that carbon emissions are a global issue, and that the energy appetite of developing countries is voracious. Our reductions will pale in comparison to others’ increases. Now I don’t think that’s a reason not to attempt to curb our own emissions, but it’s an important aspect of the situation to recognize. Improving our efficiency and switching to renewable forms of energy will reduce our emissions, and have the benefit of reducing our demand for non-renewable energy! We can’t just ignore the problem because China. 

On the larger question of climate change, this came as news to me:

So what Governor Romney has said about climate change generally is that he believes its occurring, that he believes human activity contributes to it, but that he thinks there’s absolutely still a debate around the extent of — on both of those factors, and the nature of the threat that that poses. And so he certainly supports continued scientific inquiry in that respect.

Mitt Romney: Not a “climate denier”? Who knew? Don’t tell the Republicans. 

This post is already long and rambling so I’ll wrap it up. In my opinion, the largest problem we face on the issue of energy is that we rely on non-renewable sources which we will exhaust, at massive cost to our economy and society. We must find reliable, renewable alternatives. The issue of energy is largely misunderstood, and its discussion typically comes down to tree hugging hippy liberals vs. greedy pollution loving conservatives, but that’s a silly framing. Overall this was a good, substantive, and informative debate. I wish people knew it actually happened, and I wish the candidates themselves could engage in a debate like this, on this and every other issue. We would be a lot better off. 

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