Saturday, April 17, 2004

For all those who consistently bleat "MY MONEY! MY MONEY! MY MONEY! LIBERALS ARE ALWAYS USING THE GOVERNMENT TO TAKE AWAY MY MONEY!!!!, here is a question to ponder:

"If it's really my money (or your, or anyone else’s for that matter), then WHY IS IT A FEDERAL OFFENSE TO DESTROY A FEDERAL TREASURY NOTE $$$$$?"

You know who you are. I posted this just a couple of days ago, but back then I didn't comment capability. However thanks to Haloscan that has changed, and I was hoping to hear some feedback on this one from both sides, be it lib or con. Not too many people seem to read the BMA much regularly, and that is mostly my own fault for irregular postings, a lousy template, no time for interesting political discussion, but I digress. I really hope someone starts posting some interesting answers on this one.

To be completely upfront, I pretty much agree with just about every single liberal argument regarding a progressive tax system, as well as a distaste for the Bush tax cuts, his fiscal policy, his spending priorities (and so on and so on). That fact aside, I have to say that liberals have been doing a very poor job of debating this issue. While the liberal clichés are worn out and don't seem to resonate the way they should, I think there is something more fundamentally flawed in retorts regarding the subject. The question is not a means to an end but rather an entry point to get the ball rolling on a concept that most people don't think of very much.

A recent discussion on The O'Franken Factor with Al and his ditto-head childhood buddy didn't go so well for Al. I agree with Franken's perspective. However even if I feel the ditto head was wrong I'd have to say he won that verbal joust.

The quip of how rich liberals who opposed the tax cuts are hypocrites if they kept the extra cash, or you should send the difference of the tax cut back to the government if you truly the Bush tax cuts are wrong is so loaded with holes it could qualify as swiss cheese. Unfortunately the retorts to these arguments are time consuming, labor intensive and require the metal capacity that the average Oxycontin addict doesn't have. However I think the aforementioned question could really get people thinking in ways that they don't. All points aside in the on air debate team competition, I'd like to see some libs start dropping the aforementioned question into debates regarding taxes and such. If money was truly equal to property, then you would be able to destroy it just like your stereo system, or your car, or your house (minus your local zoning laws) without fear of federal penalty.

This short quandary may seem a bit strange and short. The reason is if you think about it, you should come to some very different and hopefully interesting ideas about the way most people misconceive the concept of money. That and I don't feel like writing a ten page paper on the fact that money is essentially a piece of paper that is worthless without the institution of the government behind it, which is in turn built on the foundation of revenue, i.e. tax dollars. But I've said too much already, just think about it. If anyone is still reading BMA, even by accident, it would be great to hear some feedback.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

"Al, I'm listening to you debate taxes with conservatives, and I'm about to explode. If you want to win this argument you have got to be a little smarter about how you debate this...."

Posted by datorres at 04.15.2004 01.27 PM (on the Air America Radio O'Franken Factor Show)

I totally agree with datorres's statement, your dittohead friend did a better job on the debate AND I agree with datorres' subsequent arguments BUT as much as I wholeheartedly support your ideas, I'd like to put forward an argument or idea that I haven't heard from libs that might be more effective.

Every time a conservative starts whining about taxes and their money I'd really like to start hearing liberals respond with this one;

"If it's really my money (or your, or anyone elses for that matter), then why is it a federal offense to destroy a dollar?"

If money was truly the same as property, then you would be able to destroy it just like your stereo system, or your car, or your house (ignoring local zoning laws) without fear of federal penalty.

This short quandry may seem a bit strange, but if you really think about it you should come to some very different and hopefully interesting ideas about the way most people conceive (or misconceive) about money.

That and I don't feel like writing a ten page paper on the fact that money is essentially a piece of paper that is worthless without the institution of the government behind it, which is in turn built on the foundation of revenue, i.e. tax dollars. But I've said too much already, just think about it.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

At 8:30 eastern time, as heard on Air America Radio on Morning Sedition;

Let's hear what you want to ask Condoleeza Rice, I have Jared from Chicago...

That was yours truly, Palmer Haas going by his given name. When AA first went on the air last Wed I listened for a little while and I have to say I was rather dissappointed. Fast forward a week, there is a lot of room for improvement but it is getting better. One thought though that makes me happy but also concerns me - I was on hold for less than 5 minutes, and was the first person to go on air.

It's great that there wasn't a hold time of 2 hours.

However this little tidbit concerns me because no long hold time means there wasn't that many people to compete with while calling, leading one to believe the show isn't that popular.

It's still early, but I hope listenership gets the phone lines ringing.....

From this article;

In the Sept. 2003 Atlantic Monthly, the conservative writer David Brooks, citing the late liberal political activist James Chapin, observed the following:

[E]very place becomes more like itself. People are less often tied down to factories and mills, and they can search for places to live on the basis of cultural affinity. Once they find a town in which people share their values, they flock there, and reinforce whatever was distinctive about the town in the first place.

Quite true. But in the essay, Brooks suggested that this trend toward greater geographic self-segregation applied across the board, from race to economics to cultural affinity. That isn't so. Racial geographic segregation—traditionally the hardest racial segregation to undo—has actually declined slightly. (Brooks paused briefly to acknowledge this, then speculated that the "new suburbs" of the Southwest would eventually become as segregated racially as the older suburbs of the Northeast and Midwest.) Between 1980 and 2000, geographic segregation between whites and blacks at the county level declined by 3.7 percent, according to figures compiled by John Logan of the Mumford Center for Comparative Urban and Regional Research. But during roughly same period—1976 to 2000—geographic segregation by major-party affiliation at the county level increased by 47 percent. The change in neighborhood segregation between Democrats and Republicans is so much greater than the change in neighborhood segregation between whites and blacks that the latter scarcely seems worth mentioning, except to express outrage that geographic racial integration, one of the most important goals of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, has advanced so slowly. A young and hungry sociologist seeking a dramatic new fin de siècle trend to study wouldn't give geographic segregation by race more than a passing glance before committing the next 10 years of his life to the study of geographic segregation by political orientation.

Chatterbox takes all this data from an excellent story by Bill Bishop in the April 4 Austin American-Statesman (and also from a brief phone conversation with Bishop). By crunching demographic numbers (in collaboration with the paper's statistical consultant, Robert Cushing), Bishop has been able to demonstrate that the United States isn't merely separated by Red (Republican) and Blue (Democratic) states; it's also separated, increasingly, by Red and Blue counties. The likelihood that you will ever argue politics with your neighbor is diminishing rapidly, because it's less and less likely that, politically, you and your neighbor will ever disagree.

Everybody (including Chatterbox) has blamed the blowhard nature of contemporary political discourse on talk radio and cable news shout-shows. But maybe Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, and their aspiring opposite numbers on the new Air America have been framed. Maybe the vulgarization of the American political sensibility predated the media trend. Maybe it arose from people no longer having any friends who could challenge their political beliefs.

According to Bishop, from the end of World War II until the mid-1970s, the trend at the county level was toward ever more political integration (based on presidential voting). Voters became more tolerant of party-based political differences, and by 1975 Washington, D.C. was awash in collegiality. Even the 1960s, which we look back on as an era of political upheaval, were not, now that Chatterbox thinks about it, years of partisan upheaval; Vietnam war protesters hated Democrat Lyndon Johnson at least as much as they would later hate Republican Richard Nixon. The Watergate scandals of the early 1970s increased cynicism about government, but the congressional inquiries into Watergate didn't have anything like the partisan rancor that hobbles far more routine congressional doings today. The scandal ended when one of the Senate's most conservative Republicans, Barry Goldwater, told his party leader that the jig was up. By contrast, Sen. Joe Lieberman, President Clinton's most vociferous Democratic critic during Monicagate, never came close to calling for his party leader's resignation. (If he had, Al Gore would have run as an incumbent in 2000 and Lieberman would probably be vice president today.)

The 1970s, which most of us remember as an era of high inflation, long gas lines, and malaise, were, in short, the Golden Age of Bipartisanship. Gerald Ford, the most boring man in modern memory to occupy the Oval Office, was its high priest.

Remember all the hand-wringing in the 1970s and 1980s about the decline of political parties? Bring back the political bosses, reformers cried. Bring back the smoke-filled rooms. In 1972, Bishop notes, the Washington Post's David Broder published a book titled The Party's Over. In it, Broder fretted that America was losing the "habit of partisanship." It's impossible to imagine Broder using that phrase today in anything other than a pejorative context. "What Broder couldn't have known then," Bishop writes, "was that voters were beginning to change the way they thought about politics and parties."

Political parties, those laughably decrepit institutions, came back to life during the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. Even George H.W. Bush, a throwback to the earlier bipartisan era, felt compelled to turn vicious against his Democratic opponent in the 1988 election, attacking Michael Dukakis for his membership in the American Civil Liberties Union and his obedience to a Massachusetts state court decision prohibiting classroom recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. (And let's not forget Willie Horton.) In Congress, mud-slinging partisan fights were waged over the confirmation of John Tower for defense secretary, over Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court, and, eventually, over the sexual adventures of President Clinton. Today, the administration of George W. Bush is governed (in the words of one former employee) by "Mayberry Machiavellis" who scarcely even recognize that governmental decisions require anything other than the crude calculation of partisan advantage. The Bush fils style so appalled Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, a Ford acolyte, that he turned over 19,000 documents to journalist Ron Suskind.

Since 1980 we've been living in a golden age of party loyalty, which stands at levels "unsurpassed over any comparable time span since the turn of the last century," according to Larry Bartels, a Princeton political scientist whom Bishop quotes. Be careful what you wish for!

Bishop blames this heightened partisanship on the proliferation of "landslide counties." He defines a landslide county as one in which the presidential nominee of one party receives at least 60 percent of the vote. In 1976, 26.8 percent of American voters lived in landslide counties. By 2000, that proportion had nearly doubled, to 45.3 percent.

And it's getting worse. The GOP has a lot more landslide counties where the partisan imbalance continues to widen (939) than do the Democrats (158). But because the Democrats' landslide counties are much likelier to be more populous urban counties, the aggregate number of growing-landslide-county Democrats (15.2 million, or 14 percent of the national vote) comes out roughly the same as the aggregate number of growing-landslide-county Republicans (16.5 million, or 16 percent of the national vote).

What do all these numbers mean? They mean that within the universe of people who vote in presidential elections, nearly half of us are likely to be smug in our political views, while nearly one-third of us are likely to feel absolutely certain that the winds of history are at our back, rendering us utterly boorish. That's quite a market for political candidates and radio talk-show hosts to tap. Indeed, they'd be fools not to.

Monday, April 05, 2004

I got the following from a letter in the reader response section of Salon;

You disappoint me greatly in that you do not ask why wages are so low in India. Indians pay less for food, housing and services because many of their agricultural, construction and menial workers are held in debt bondage and victimized by caste discrimination. This is common knowledge, which you ignored.

I feel sure that you are aware of the very good information on bonded labor and the denial of civil rights to one in every six Indians at the Human Rights Watch Web site. Check the "Broken People" document. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International both recommend sanctions against India. Check the Amnesty site also. The book "Disposable People," by Kevin Bayles from Antislavery International, also explains the bondage practiced in India.

"Red China Blues," by Jan Wong, details some of the abuses of workers in China. Even better, "China's Workers Under Assault," by Anita Chan, includes accounts by Chinese journalists working undercover in sweatshop factories. Including accounts of beatings and murder. Amazon sells these books.

Offshoring jobs to countries that have low costs because of their repression of their citizenry brings that repression to bear on Americans. People have made the point that U.S. companies buy a lot of services already from Europe. Well, Europeans no longer shoot labor organizers. They no longer practice slavery or feudal bondage. They must compete on their innovation and energy, not their willingness to send out a goon squad. Competition with any country that maintains labor and civil rights will never cause massive unemployment or drop the floor out from under wages.

Apologists for India say that their tech workers are not bonded or oppressed. I agree. Their tech workers come from the hereditary higher castes. But check Arundhati Roy's book "Power Politics" for a description of emaciated workers digging ditches by candlelight -- to lay fiber optic cable. A bonded workforce cuts costs for infrastructure. And for food and housing. So Indian professionals can charge less for their work.

You probably know that the U.S. Congress passed sanctions against trade with Myanmar (properly called Burma) last year. Coerced labor, often unpaid, contributed to the building of a pipeline there for an American oil company. American companies will readily take profits that rest on violence done against the poor.