Archive for the ‘Clinton’ category

Really Stupid Ideas: John McCain – Environment – Global Warming edition

April 17, 2008

I begin to think that John McCain and George Bush made major — and really scary — speeches on Tuesday and Wednesday in the hope that any serious examination of what they actually said would disappear in the intensity of the very serious ™ examination of Obama’s hatred of small town America and Hilary’s capacity to distinguish between the sound of AK 47 and Dragonov fire.

But they both said very interesting — stupid, but interesting — stuff, and if we wait for media grandees to help us figure it all out,….it could be a while.

Bush, of course, decided to punt action on global warming not just to the next occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania, but three or four down the road.  I’ll probably blog about it, but the real story is not the last President, still desperately trying to burnish his already impressive claim on the title of worst President evah.

The real concern now has to be the thinking of those trying to take his place.  And here, McCain has given us all real, renewed cause for worry bordering on panic.

McCain delivered his much anticipated speech on his economic “plan” (sic) on Tuesday.  There was an extraordinary amoung that was frightening in both his analysis and his policy proposals (that’s a grand term for what was rather a grab bag of half formed ideas).  I’ll blog a soon — I really ought to do it with my next post — about the real killer for American science (and probably our lng term economic health and national security too, now that I think of it) within the fine print of what he said.  What makes this one scary is that it stands a chance of being enacted if McCain does become President.

But the real insight into the kind of thinking that McCain would bring to the Presidency came in one of the more obvious non-starters, his proposal to enact a gasoline tax holiday through the summer driving season, Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Now there are all kinds of reasons that this is a really dumb idea.  People have pointed a lot of them out.  It would drain the already underfunded Highway Trust Fund.  (That is: if you liked this, you love driving on John McCain’s infrastructure.)  It will be a windfall for the oil refining companies.  (What a surprise, given the recent history of Republican transfers of wealth from American consumers to oil company owners.)  It would kill jobs, bash mass transit, and save the average driver — wait for it — twenty eight bucks a year.

All of that is true, and probably is sufficient reason why this is going nowhere, at least for now.  But I’ve been surprised that what seems to me the biggest and most obvious point.

McCain has been praised as the first major Republican candidate to take global warming seriously.  That claim is incompatible with this proposal.  Flat out.  One or the other wins.  If McCain wants to combat global warming, then he has to support policies to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide.  If he wants to encourage driving by making the use of cars cheaper, then by all means cut the gas tax — but Katie Bar The Door for the global climate system.

There is no rocket science here, and there are no loop-holes.  Virtually every thinking economist says that the most efficient way to cut carbon emissions is to impose a carbon tax.*  The only existing even vaguely broad such tax is the gas tax.  A genuine commitment to controlling global warming would raise that tax, and make it truly universal across different emissions sources; alternatively, a cap-and-trade system could perform the same goal, making the cost of polluting the atmosphere an explicit element in the total cost of any economic transaction.

The one thing you really don’t want to do if you have any serious concern about climate change is to provide yet more encouragement for people to drive.

So which do you think McCain would save, if he had to throw a tax cut or an environmental stand under the bus.  Bets?  I didn’t think so.

At least we learned something from the whole affair; McCain is an environmentalist in precisely the same way that George Bush was compassionate and a conservative.

*See this NYT article if you want a backgrounder on carbon tax vs. cap-and-trade schemes..  For broad, digressive, funny and incredibly well informed analysis of global warming and the follies of our leaders, see Eric Roston’s blog Carbon Nation.  I’m a little embarassed to plug it here, because he has just posted a truly generous review of a book I published almost two decades ago. (Yours, for only 2 cents on Amazon!  — the price dropped two cents since I last grumbled.)  Also, look for Eric’s book coming out in a couple of months.

Image:  André Huppertz, Painting – 2.  Licensed under a GNU Free Documentation License.

I don’t think ‘civil’ means what he thinks it means: Andrew Sullivan is deluded again editon

February 8, 2008

Warning: Science Free Rant.

From the ever romantic Andrew this morning:

But I have read it and it struck me as a stirring, honest, forthright and properly conservative speech. I am relieved that in the important debate about the war, McCain is unbowed but civil.

From McCain himself:

Senator Clinton and Senator Obama will withdraw our forces from Iraq based on an arbitrary timetable designed for the sake of political expediency, and which recklessly ignores the profound human calamity and dire threats to our security that would ensue. (Italics added, of course.)

Forthright, I’ll give Andrew. Honest? Civil? In any meaningful sense of the word, “properly” proper? Not so much.

Let’s review, shall we?

Arbitrary…well that’s a lie, the central one. I know that John McCain never lies, except, of course, he does, routinely.

Here’s Obama on his reason, not his arbitrary whim, for his policy of withdrawing the troops:

The best way to press Iraq’s leaders to take responsibility for their future is to make it clear that we are leaving. As we remove our troops, Obama will engage representatives from all levels of Iraqi society – in and out of government – to seek a new accord on Iraq’s Constitution and governance

Here’s Clinton from a speech in September:

“If we don’t begin to withdraw our troops, we are going to continue to referee the Iraq civil war,” Clinton said. “There is no military solution in Iraq. If the Iraqis themselves don’t make up their minds that they’re going to live together, there is nothing the American military can do for them.”

In other words, both Democrats have assessed the situation in terms of the original reason for the surge — to create a window of military stability that would allow political progress — and concluded, correctly on the actual evidence from the ground, that for whatever tactical gains have been made, that purpose has not been met. They have looked at the situation on the ground, concluded that the surge on its own terms has thus failed, and the decision to withdraw is not arbitrary. Q.E.D.

McCain surely knows this argument. He may disagree, but he knows that the criticisms of his endless war policy are real and reasoned, not arbitrary — but he is both famously stubborn (self acknowledged) and basically has no choice. If the country concludes with this blog that the surge has failed its political goals and that the war is a disaster, he’s toast.

UPDATE:  See Georgia10’s diary at Daily Kos for a more detailed update on the “success” (sic) of the surge.

But Andrew knows this too — he’s written on this subject himself. He knows opposition to the war is not expedient, not reckless. He knows that those who support withdrawal do not ignore either the human calamities, either those to come, or those that have already occurred. He knows that those of us who were right about the war when he was wrong cared deeply about the kinds of threats our nation still faces despite, or rather, because of our disastrous and extended engagement in Iraq.

So why the saccharine, obsequious and deeply unthoughtful praise of the annointed one?

Andrew’s problem is an acute case of Man on a White Horse Syndrome. It sucked him into Bush in 2000. Lately, Andrew has succumbed to Obama — but if you read Andrew’s stuff with any attention, the central affirmative reason offered for the choice is that Obama makes Andrew feel good.

Now along comes McCain. He has all he trappings of a man to admire: a good story, a direct speaking style, and a claim, repeated endlessly, to be selfless in his commitment to hard truths. Even better, he calls himself conservative. Andrew swoons.

But Andrew — and many others — here commit exactly the same error made in 2000. Just because a man tells you he’s not a liar does not, in the real world, make that statement true. You have to check. Just because you want your hero to be a Perfect Gentle Knight, it does not mean that he is, say, “civil” or “respectful,” when in fact he is not. In his CPAC speech and at venue after venue, McCain makes stuff up about his opponents, distorts beyond recognition their positions and repeatedly insults and trivializes the other candidates, showing no respect for the possibility that Senators Clinton and Obama might have rational arguments for their points of view.

And that’s fine – really. This is a campaign, not a tupperware party; he’s trying to win; Clinton and Obama are grown ups who can — and must — fight their own corners.

But Andrew — and all his bedazzled fellow travelers in the political press — have no such excuse. They are blinded by the light emanating from McCain’s forehead, wide eyed calves, staring at their cowherd, and they seemed to have lost the capacity for actual, unromantic analysis of what was said.

This is exactly what got us into such deep trouble last time around. How quickly they forget.

Read McCain’s CPAC speech for yourself, (and by the way, actual, science – informed posts about substantive problems with McCain’s policies to come)…

and then listen to these words of true wisdom:

Squids Rule (The Power of PZ Myers)

January 15, 2008

I read Pharyngula and think Percy Bysshe Shelly: “Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.

In this post the King of Kings, PZ Mandias, reviews (I’m putting that in the most neutral way possible) the offerings of a Christian radio station in his area.

At the end of the post, he tells of an online presidential poll at the station’s website, and notes, sourly, that Mike Huckabee dominates — with Hillary Clinton dead last. In what seems almost like an aside he then suggests that his readers go to the site to vote for the Senator from New York, just to mess with some heads.

I check it out, and as of my last look it was Hilllary 42%, Obama 25%, Edwards 12% — and Huckabee in fifth place with 4%.

Who else beat him out?

With 5%: Nobody.

Now that’s impressive.

Image: Gustave Guillaumet: Le Sahara (The Sahara), also known as Le Désert (The Desert), 1867. Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Photo by Bertil Videt, licensed under the terms of a GNU Free Documentation Licence.