Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Reason #122: Demagoguery

Maybe it's a little over the top to suggest that demagoguery is unequivocally a good thing, but I thought that it would present an interesting contrast to yesterday's "Candor", so here we are.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island revealed yesterday his plans to intrioduce the Buffett Rule to the floor of Congress this week in bill form. I've certainly said my piece about this already, but simply put, the bill would set thirty percent of one's income, if said income totals over one million dollars, as the minimum amount of taxes one must pay. There would still be a range of actual percentages based on deductions and such, but thirty percent would be the absolute minimum - which even critics say would result in around $35 billion in additional revenue; also known as twice that NASA spends in a year.

Make no mistake; this basically amounts to the Democrats making hay out of a popular issue (even 66% of Republicans have polled as supporting higher taxes for the wealthy) in the face of what may actually happen. Even some Democrats are reluctant to voice support for higher taxes on anyone--at least until after the election--and I have to admit that as far as this issue has come in the last few months, I seriously don't expect something like Whitehouse's bill to pass anytime soon.

But in a democratic system, popular support is always fair grounds for at least raising an issue (which echoes once again the point I made yesterday). Maybe the only advantage to this bill coming up now is in Dems getting to complain on the stump this fall that Republicans voted against it, but if Republicans are so keen to do so, they should at least be forced to defend that position in public.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Reason #121: Candor

I think I've spoken enough on this blog in support of gay marriage (just click the link on the right) that I can afford to reach across the aisle for just a second and say a little something in defense of Republican New Jersey governor Chris Christie.

Quick recap - the New Jersey legislature has been making noise about possibly granting the state gay marriage in bill form, a la New York last summer. After wobbling back and forth slightly (and only a week after naming a gay man to the state Supreme Court), Governor Christie today confirmed that he would veto such a bill were it to arrive at his desk, and said that the gay-marriage question would be better handled as a voter referendum a la California's Prop 8 (and likely with a similar result).

Oh, and he may have called somebody "numbnuts" at one point. But anyway...

I don't agree with his position on vetoing a bill. And I don't agree that this particular matter is crying out for a referendum - the last time Jersey put a civil-rights issue to a referendum was in 1915 when they decided that no, women shouldn't be allowed to vote just yet.

But these are not fringe positions. Gay marriage is working its way through all kinds of legal procedures at the moment, and it's 100% clear to me that if New Jersey's voting public looked more likely to okay gay marriage than its current legislature, the debate would be going the other way right now. So you can't really adopt a "victory by any means" approach and then give people shit for cherry-picking which means they feel are appropriate. You can fight it, certainly, but Christie isn't out of line to react this way.

The main point here is that Chris Christie strikes me as fairly moderate on this issue for a Republican governor. He's openly in favor of civil unions, which was John Kerry's position in 2004 and is still Obama's "position" today. I think it's good for the gay rights folk to take a breath once in a while and think about the people they're arguing against, because one thing Christie doesn't do is prevaricate (see: nuts, numb). The second he decides personally that he's okay with gay marriage, he won't let conversative pressure stop him from saying so, and that would be a huge coup for our side. He may not be with us today, but give him a wide enough birth (insert fat joke here) and he may surprise us in a couple years. Rip him a new asshole (insert gay joke here), and you'll just push him further away.

In my opinion.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Reason #120: Two Words - Space. Hurricane.

I really can't think of anything else that needs to be said about this. If you want an explanation, head here.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Reason #119: Gabby

I pointedly gave this blog a positive theme--government actions that I like--because I am at heart a cynical bastard. It would be easy to log on every day and just mock Republicans for 300 words or so - especially over the last few months. But I wanted a challenge; and certainly, finding federal activity to get behind isn't always easy. As I've mentioned before, though, sometimes you get something downright inspirational.

One day after making a heartwearming appearance at the State of the Union (last time I'll mention it, I swear), Gabrielle Giffords returned to Congress yesterday to tender her resignation.

As wonderful as it is to see anybody return to fighting strength after such a grave wound, and one so ruthlessly inflicted, my gut reaction, after coming of age in the maelstrom that is the American news meda, is to dwell less on the recovery and more on the disingenuity of the coverage - what exactly makes Giffords so special, other than having been in front of a bullet? Nobody pays the slightest attention to the everyday acts that actually make someone like her a decent person and a respected politician, but the second she gets shot, suddenly everyone decides she's a hero.

But when Giffords walked into the chamber yesterday, she reminded us. Rather then parlay her newfound national adolation into a half-assed Senate run (or even Obama's next VP slot, as I remember people saying a while back), she gracefully does the right thing - resigns, so as to focus more fully on her recovery. She's only 41, and I'm sure she'll be back eventually, but by the time she does, her recovery will be an addendum to her story rather than the reason we care.

And even better, she used her last moments in the spotlight not to fluff her own ego, but to call her fellow congressmen and women on their bullshit:
"Always I fought for what I thought was right. But never did I question the character of those with whom I disagreed. Never did I let pass an opportunity to join hands with someone just because he or she held different ideals."
Of course, to be fair, she hadn't been in town very long.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Reason #118: STEM

I wanted to focus a little more on one specific thing Obama brought up in the State of the Union last night - STEM education. STEM, as I've learned today, stands for science, technology, engineering, and math - the four areas where the U.S. is most lacking. We're doing so badly at training new people in these subjects, in fact, that despite the huge unemployment numbers, growing science and tech companies have twice as many openings as the country has skilled workers.

So not only did Obama call for expanded STEM programs in community colleges, and partnerships between said colleges and companies that could benefit from subsidizing their students' tuition, but what I particularly loved was this:
"Hundreds of thousands of talented, hardworking students in this country face another challenge: The fact that they aren’t yet American citizens. Many were brought here as small children, are American through and through, yet they live every day with the threat of deportation. Others came more recently, to study business and science and engineering, but as soon as they get their degree, we send them home to invent new products and create new jobs somewhere else. [...] Send me a law that gives them the chance to earn their citizenship. I will sign it right away."
This is great not only because it's largely a restatement of the DREAM Act that the Dems crapped out on last year, but because if we're going to encourage any immigrants to stick around, it might as well be the ones who are more educated and employable than us already. The conservative nightmare scenario of a flood of unskilled laborers taking away all the premium crop-picking jobs is funny enough already, but imagine if the cliché ten or twenty years from now isn't Mexican laborers, but Mexican CEOs?

What will people say if our economy really does end up back on top of the world again, but it's hispanic immigrants who put it there?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Reason #117: The State of the Union

While it is technically required by the Constitution, the State of the Union address, originally known as "the President's Annual Message to Congress" (which I like better because it leaves the door open for somebody to just walk up to the podium and flip everybody off) did not involve an actual speech for almost half of the nation's history. Jefferson stopped it in 1801 because it seemed too hoity-toity and he didn't roll like that; Woodrow Wilson, on the other hand, liked the power trip, and brought the speech back in 1913.

It also didn't take place at night until FDR in 1936, and if you ask me, nine o'clock is pushing it. It wasn't shown on television until 1947, which I'm guessing was the first time the Vice President had to stay awake the whole time.

Anyway - surpassing even my loftiest hopes, it appears that President Obama plans to make the "Buffett Rule"--mostly forgotten since it first came up late last summer--a key element of his address before Congress tonight. For those of you just tuning in, the "Buffett Rule" is not an actual legislative anything, but rather a guiding principle that establishes that something is wrong when the third richest person on the planet pays a lower tax rate on his income than does his secretary.

Some of you may know this principle by its traditional name, "logic".

Lest there be any doubt about just how hard he'll be hammering this point home tonight (less than 24 hours after Mitt Romney released his tax records, further establishing that this man just fundamentally has no idea what he's doing), it appears that Warren Buffett's actual secretary will be sitting with the First Lady during the speech, which is the kind of thing usually reserved for Rosa Parks or anyone who happens to rescue a drowning puppy that week.

Between this and Mitt Romney being the walking, talking antithesis of the Buffett Rule, the 2012 presidential election has officially arrived at Big Boy Time. Should be exciting.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Reason #116: Voluntary Restraint

Adding more fuel to the fire of her pro-regulation, pro-financial-sanity public image (not to mention the fire of my love for her) Elizabeth Warren has signed a groundbreaking pledge designed to curb or even eliminate outside (read: Super PAC) spending in her Senate race against Scott Brown in Massachusetts. Scott Brown, impressively but perhaps not surprisingly--given that third-party advertising has been mostly pro-Warren thus far--has come on board as well.

Since they can't legally coordinate with their sides' respective PACs anyway (see: Colbert, Stephen), the agreement the two campaigns have reached is that each will pay a penalty of 50% of their side's ad spending to a charity of their opponent's choice. This seems batshit crazy for a split second, but if you put yourself in the mindset of someone who wants a person to get elected so badly that they'll actually form their own PAC and launch their own negative campaigns against the other guy, it actually makes a bizarre kind of sense - would you rather let your favorite candidate get their own perspective out, or would you rather get your perspective out at said candidate's expense?

Whether the Super PACs will actually feel that way, of course--or whether both campaigns will abide by the agreement--remains to be seen. I wonder, if it seems to work out, if it will get brought up as a model for the presidential race as well. That would really be interesting.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Reason #115: Apogee of Fear

Apogee of Fear is a science fiction film directed by millionaire video game designer Richard Garriott. Set aboard the International Space Station, it involves astronauts searching for alien life that has invaded (infested?) the station and is using up all their oxygen. At eight minutes long, it's probably not the deepest sci-fi story ever told.

I say "probably" because I haven't seen it, and aside from Garriott, his crew, and a roomful of people at Dragon*Con, pretty much no one else has seen it. NASA, thus far, has not allowed its release to the public.

Why does NASA give a crap, you ask? Because Apogee of Fear features real astronauts as actors, and was shot onboard the actual ISS. It is, in fact, the first science fiction film to be shot in space - all thanks to our glorious system of private citizens being allowed to plunk down $30 million or so in exchange for status as "spaceflight participants" on trips to the ISS.

In any event, NASA seemed at first to feel that the film was maybe not the best way to present real NASA hardware and personnel to the public, but late-breaking news (well, yesterday afternoon) is that pending a few potential edits, they've changed their minds.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Reason #114: Bipartisan Mayhem

I've been a huge fan of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report as long as they've been around - almost half of my life now. But while they've dabbled in actual political involvement before, the whole Colbert Super PAC saga, and its "non-coordination" with Colbert's ironic run for President of South Carolina, has been the best yet.

The main point of the whole thing is to poke holes in Citizens United--are they are utterly eviscerating it from where I'm standing--but there's something to be said for a system that's flexible enough to allow comedians to run for president, and form completely authentic Political Action Committes, just to prove a point.

The best part is that the South Carolina Republican Party, and even Herman Cain from the look of it, are just happy to have the attenion (and possible boosted turnout), whereas state Democrats are the ones actually upset over it. Because, y'know, being right is secondary to the good of the party.

Go Herman Cain!!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Reason #113: SOPA

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.

Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Maybe a more motivated blogger would actually write a full-length entry here, but I pretty much said everything I had to say on this matter on Monday. Lazy? Maybe. Justified? At least a little. Lazy? Definitely. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. If Wikipedia can get away with it, so can I. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat.

Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Whosoever reads this text, if they be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor! Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Reason #112: One and a Half Tons

Now that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker has been in office a full year, voters can finally recall him.

State law says that to obtain a recall election, at least 25% of the electorate, based on the election results in question, must give their signatures to the effort. Now, after two months of collecting, area organizers are turning in around three thousand pounds of signature petitions, which they say amounts to more than double the necessary 540,208 signatures.

Even if a large amount of those are ultimately deemed ineligible, which they undoubtedly will be (the certification process will take three whole months, in fact), we're still talking about easily 30%, if not 45%, of the electorate being so angry with Scott Walker as to demand a new election. Doesn't bode well for his chances come this summer, does it?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Reason #111: Continuing Education

Read this sentence very carefully: "Much more education for Members of Congress about the workings of the Internet is essential if anti-piracy legislation is to be workable and achieve broad appeal."

I haven't been as attentive to the whole SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) issue as some folks - anyone with a Facebook account is bound to have at least one or two friends who can't shut up about it. Part of it is that I myself am not familiar enough with the exact specifications of the legislation to make broad declamatory pronunciations about the death of the internet. But most of it is that I just don't think you can really legislate the internet.

This is a feeling I've had more and more since my early twenties - my world view is such that I perceive certain things as being inevitable and unassailable in modern society. Civil rights (gay marriage being the prime example right now) are one. Thomas Friedman's flat world (connectivity, outsourcing, rising living standards, etc) is another. That's not to say that fighting for gay marriage, or against outsourcing, isn't a valid enterprise (indeed, I think gay marriage is inevitable largely because of how vocal its citizen supporters can be), it's just hard for me to work up much steam about it.

In my opinion, the internet is the harbinger of a post-national Planet Earth. Not only does it not have borders, it functions in a way that's antithetical to the entire idea of borders. So while punishing a Walmart for selling bootleg DVDs would be a reasonable and just thing to do, punishing a search engine (i.e., limiting its free speech) for linking to a site that hosts bootleg files doesn't seem quite as morally clean, is it? Maybe someday there will be a fair way to manage online piracy, but not as long as we're working with an outmoded paradigm.

What was I talking about? Oh, right, Congress.

The quote that started the post is from congressman Darrell Issa's announcement that SOPA is being put on hold until greater consensus on the bill's details can be reached - government speak for "never". But even if something eventually moved forward, just hearing someone in government flat-out admit "we're not informed enough about this issue to throw our votes at it yet" is pretty heartening, if you ask me.

It's worth noting that Issa also has his own version, the OPEN Act, and the Senate has its own version, the Protect IP Act. SOPA seems by far to be the furthest along the tubes at the moment, which is why the Obama administration has bothered to release a statement expressing its own reservations, and Jimmy Wales is going to shut down Wikipedia for a day in protest, directing visitors to call Congress instead.

I'd love to know how many Wikipedians get redirected only to think "SOPA? Hmm, I should look that up on Wikipe--son of a bitch!!"

Friday, January 13, 2012

Reason #110: Exoplanets

Back in the ongoing analysis of Kepler's wealth of planetary data, researchers in Pasadena have now confirmed three exoplanets smaller than the Earth - among the smallest ever discovered, and all orbiting the same star. The three are between .57 and .78 times Earth's radius, and they're noteworthy examples not only for their size, but for their rocky Earth-like composition.

Alas, they're far too close to their sun to be habitable - think Mercury at best, Florida at worst.

Meanwhile, the Kepler data is drastically reshaping our understanding of "typical" planetary systems, as we find more and more binary planetary systems and "Super Saturns" (full disclosure: that last one's not actually from the Kepler data. But still), but alas, no aliens yet.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Reason #109: Stating the Obvious

At the behest of her father, Natalee Holloway has at long last been declared legally dead. There are two things I find crazy about this situation - one is that missing adults aren't automatically declared dead for seven years! Holloway only disappeared about six years ago, and this has only been done now because the father specifically petitioned for it, for insurance reasons and to free up her college fund for use by her little brother.

The second thing is that, despite the myriad red tape involved in a missing person still being legally alive, to say nothing of the emotional toll, Holloway's mother--who I should add is now divorced from her father--opposed the request.

I guess it's not entirely unreasonable for a parent to want to leave this hanging as long as possible, but come on - imagine if they'd found some trace of DNA five years ago and used that evidence to declare her legally dead at the time. Her family would have had five years to deal with their grief by now.

It's a bullshit situation, and I wouldn't presume to tell a dead girl's parents how to feel about it, but that's what she is - a dead girl. Would her mom really prefer that she'd been tied up in a basement somewhere all this time? Six years, in my opinion--let alone seven--is way too long to keep that wound open. Especially if it's becoming a practical and financial problem for others in the family.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Reason #108: Sharia, or a Lack Thereof

In 2010, seventy percent of Oklahoma voters passed a referendum banning the use of Sharia law in its court system. One state judge later granted an injunction against the law, which may have had something to do with the law's supporters not being able to name a single instance of Sharia law having the slightest influence on any legal proceeding on record. That injunction was upheld today by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, though the law itself is still on the table and its proponents will undoubtedly fight on.

Once they've won this one, here's hoping they move on to specifically banning all other forms of over-the-top evil. I for one am frequently tempted to hold the moon hostage with my death ray, and would appreciate more precise legistative language on the matter. Also, how does Oklahoma feel about me hanging spies over my shark tank from a rope that's slowly being burned by a magnifying glass aimed at a solar eclipse? I'm not directly killing them, after all, and I can hardly be held accountable for astronomical phenomena! I mean, what is this, Sweden?

I mean, it's hard enough to run a small business with a Democrat in the White House. No one seems to understand that I'm a job creator - do you think the average congressman knows how many people it takes to build and maintain a death ray? Not a chance. And I've gotta feed these sharks something - last thing I want is Animal Control up my ass.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Reason #107: Dixville Notch

Last night at midnight, nine people at the Balsam's Grand Resort Hotel in Dixville Notch, New Hampshire became the first people to cast votes in the 2012 presidential primaries (note: caucusing is lame and doesn't count).

New Hampshire law says that polling places are allowed to close early if all their district's registered voters have cast their ballots - usually that's nigh impossible to make happen, but since there are fewer people in Dixville Notch than on your typical basketball team (and, I'd wager, way fewer black people), they all decided a while back to just meet up at midnight and get it the fuck over with.

Technically, there are a few other villages that do this as well, but Dixville Notch gets all the attention because they've been doing it continuously (and correctly picking all the eventual Republican nominees) since 1960, longer than anyone else in the state (nation?). This all started when the guy who invented latex surgical gloves, and conveniently owns the aforementioned hotel wherein the voting takes place, retired there and spearheaded the idea - whether out of sheer laziness or as a means of generating publicity for his hotel is probably debatable.

Incidentally, their Republican-nominee-picking streak is technically over now, as last night's vote was a tie for the first time - Romney and Huntsman each got two votes.

Obama, as it happens, got three votes. Just sayin'.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Reason #106: Wait, There's Uranium in the Grand Canyon?

In one of those moves that you have to be a cartoon villain to oppose, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced today that the Obama administration has banned uranium mining on more than one million acres of land surrounding the Grand Canyon for the next twenty years - the longest ban they're able to enact.

Naturally, Republicans and the (gasp) National Mining Association are decrying the ban as a job-killer, calling it a "power grab" and an "ideologically-driven energy policy". Leaving aside entirely the possibility that mining could pollute the water supply for 25 million area residents, which is the primary stated reason for the ban - it's the Grand fucking Canyon! Is being ideologically driven to protect the Grand Canyon a bad thing all of a sudden?

I will allow that there are obviously potential mining jobs that won't exist due to the ban (though keeping the area a pristine tourist destination is good for jobs as well). But is there any natural resourse in existence that we're not willing to plunder for the sake of a few jobs? This isn't oil rigs off the coast, or a pipeline way out in the Alaskan tundra - it's the Grand. Canyon. Deal with it.

Opponents do have 90 days to challenge the ban. They have yet to indicate that they'll do so, but nothing would surprise me at this point.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Reason #105: Science - It Works, Bitches

Even though I just said that Space Fridays were an Official Thing now, this week offered a nice mélange of general science-related goodness, so I'm going to cheat a little and offer up three different stories of varying degrees of governmental involvement, but invariable awesomeness. And one does involve space, so there.

Without further ado, I give you three phrases I never thought I'd read in a news article:

"...the first linkup of a private-sector craft with the International Space Station."

Pretty self-explanatory - NASA announced today that SpaceX will launch its new Dragon capsule next month for eventual docking with, and resupplying of, the ISS - not counting test flights, the first entirely commercial space mission in mankind's history.

Amusement parks, here we come.

"...devices with atomic-scale components."

Moore's Law, which dates back to the 1960s, points out that as technology and manufacturing standards improve, circuitry size is cut in half every two years. This is exponential shrinkage, as it were, and it explaints why an iPod-grade processor would've taken up an entire building (at least) only a couple generations ago. Wires are now approaching molecular lengths, and conventional wisdom was that we were nearing the end of that process, because transistors were assumed not to function properly at the quantum level.

Now, however, researchers have been able to test wiring only a few billionths of a meter wide - and the tests are looking good. Traditional circuits are built onto silicon chips, but if they can keep shrinking things down to about a hundredth of where they are now, the wiring could actually fit between the molecules of the chip itself. Damned if I know what effect that will have on my iPhone 9 someday, but it sounds fucking crazy.

..."a complete spatio-temporal cloaking device."

Okay, this one's kind of tough. Picture two cars, one red and one blue, following each other down the street. After watching this for a bit, you turn your back for a minute to look at, I dunno, daisies. One car then goes through a railroad crossing unimpeded, but the second one has to stop and let a train pass. Once the crossing opens up, the second car quickly catches up to the first, erasing the gap that had opened up between them. You turn back to observe the cars again, and since the train crossing happened while your back was turned, the cars appear to have been together the whole time.

Using a process somewhat along those lines, Pentagon scientists have developed a form of invisibility. By splitting a beam of light into two component frequencies--red and blue in this case--they are able to create a time gap between each component, into which a separate pulse of light can be fired (only about 50 picoseconds long) that will then arrive undetected at its destination - rather than being invisible in the traditional sense, the pulse essentially exists between the cracks of the visible light.

This, apparently, has some interesting applications in stealth technology.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Reason #104: Slimming Down

In the further adventures of the big budget cut the Pentagon is currently dealing with (which I've dealt with once or twice already), Obama today announced his plan for a leaner, meaner American military, which is politician for "we can't afford nine hundred aircraft carriers anymore".

Refocusing our resources on the Middle East, and on smaller-scale conflicts generally, is obviously a good thing now that the Cold War has been over for, y'know, twenty-three years, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said as much in the joint press conference alongside Obama, but he felt compelled to add that decreasing military spending at all will by definition come with "some level of additional but acceptable risk", which I suppose is true in a mathematical sense, but hardly needs to be said out loud with an election looming. Luckily, the Republicans won't touch defense with a ten-foot-pole right now.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Reason #103: Recess Appointments

Though the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was formed almost eighteen months ago by the passage of Dodd-Frank, and has technically been in operation for almost six months, congressional Republicans have filibustered any attempt to put someone in charge of the thing; making the entire bureau about as effective as a fancy sign hanging on the door to the janitor's closet.

Elizabeth Warren, my future wife and the person largely responsible for the creation of the CFPB in the first place, was the first director-in-waiting, until last summer when she gave up on the "in waiting" part and decided to run for Senate in Massachussetts instead. She was "succeeded" in her "position" by a guy named Richard Cordray, whom I'd never heard of before, but hey, whatever.

After being blocked just as ferociously since July, he finally became the sitting CFPB director today via a presidential recess appointment, which admittedly makes Obama look like kind of a dick--John Boehner called it "an extraordinary and entirely unprecedented power grab by President Obama that defies centuries of practice", apparently forgetting that Bush had made 61 recess appointments to Obama's 28 by this point in his presidency, and ultimately made 171 during his eight years in office.

Actually, that it's kind of a dick move (even the above NYT article says it was "intended to kick dirt in the face of Republicans") is why I like it. This new, boisterous Obama might just be a campaign tactic designed to highlight congressional contentiousness, but I wouldn't be surprised if he'd finally, legitimately given up on compromising with these people. And with some people predicting that the GOP will take the Senate next year, that could make his second term (which I'm basically considering a foregone conclusion at this point) very interesting.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Reason #102: Paul Krugman Says So

I'll step aside today and let the inimitable economist Mr. Krugman explain for me. Excerpts from this excellent editorial from Sunday's New York Times:

"Deficit-worriers portray a future in which we’re impoverished by the need to pay back money we’ve been borrowing. [...] Governments don’t [have to pay back their debt] — all they need to do is ensure that debt grows more slowly than their tax base. The debt from World War II was never repaid; it just became increasingly irrelevant as the U.S. economy grew, and with it the income subject to taxation.

"...nations with stable, responsible governments — that is, governments that are willing to impose modestly higher taxes when the situation warrants it — have historically been able to live with much higher levels of debt than today’s conventional wisdom would lead you to believe. Britain, in particular, has had debt exceeding 100 percent of G.D.P. for 81 of the last 170 years."

Let me restate one key part - the debt from World War II, that most unimpeachable of success stories, was never repaid. Nations don't erase their debts, they move beyond them. And they do so by growing their economies, not cutting them.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Reason #101: Half-Measures

Another gay-friendly law coming into effect in 2012: civil unions are now legal in Delaware and Hawaii. Remember in 2004 when John Kerry was in favor of civil unions, and that was painted as the extreme liberal position? It's funny, because Obama's technically only a civil-union guy himself, yet the dynamic has changed so much since then that they now seem kind of tame and middle-of-the-road.

Sure, it would be nice if the new laws were for real marriage rights, but civil unions can't be overlooked as an important stepping stone; especially since these two states mean that over one-fifth of the country now endorses some kind of legal union for gay couples (five with civil unions, six and DC with marriage). Imagine how big of a deal it would seem if one-fifth of the country legalized pot tomorrow.

And for those of you who just can't help but see civil unions as a lame half-measure, I'll give the Hawaii Family Forum (three guesses where they stand on the issue) the last word: "a vote for civil unions is a vote for same-sex marriage."