Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Taking a Break

I recently took on extra work at my job and have much less time to read the wide assortment of stuff that I look at on the internet. I've also been generally unmotivated to write lately, so I'm taking a break. Posting may or may not resume at some point. I am posting this explanation because it seems that most blogs just stop, and you never know whether the owner got hit by a bus, or just decided to stop blogging.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Conservative Whining About Mitt Romney

The "true conservative" wing of the GOP is constantly whining about Mitt Romney as a presidential candidate, despite polls regularly showing that he has the best chance of anyone running to defeat President Obama. The latest is an article from Erick Erickson, with the ridiculous title of "Mitt Romney as the Nominee: Conservatism Dies and Barack Obama Wins." Obviously conservatism isn't going to die whether or not Obama wins. Here's Erickson,
Mitt Romney is going to be the Republican nominee. And his general election campaign will be an utter disaster for conservatives as he takes the GOP down with him and burns up what it means to be a conservative in the process.
So far Romney has appeared to be the most competent GOP candidate.
Mitt Romney, on the other hand, is a man devoid of any principles other than getting himself elected. As much as the American public does not like Barack Obama, they loath a man so fueled with ambition that he will say or do anything to get himself elected. Mitt Romney is that man.
So is Obama, and his election disproves Erickson's assertion.
To beat Barack Obama, a candidate must paint a bold contrast with the Democrats on their policies. When Mitt Romney tries, Barack Obama will be able to show that just the other day Mitt Romney held exactly the opposite position as the one he holds today.

Voters may not like Barack Obama, but by the time Obama is done with Romney they will not trust Mitt Romney. And voters would rather the guy they don’t like than they guy they don’t trust.
This is another weak argument. There are plenty of issues on which voters don't necessarily want a "bold contrast" on policy positions, they just want to see competent leadership. I think Romney's flip-flopping on issues is much more important to the GOP conservative base that views him as a RINO, than it will be to the general public. The general public isn't looking for a true conservative. Erickson goes on to argue why Romney is so bad for conservatism at large, arguments which I find unconvincing at best.

For someone that is supposed to be a political expert, it is strange that Erickson -- like many other conservatives -- doesn't seem to grasp that almost all presidential elections are not about who is the greatest choice, but who is the lesser of two evils. We have a two party system with two huge parties that both embrace a wide variety of views. Their nominees almost never please every faction and viewpoint within the party on every issue. As Republicans, we vote GOP because overall we expect Republican policies to be better than Democratic ones, even if a particular candidate isn't much to our liking. Furthermore, we have to go with the candidates who are available, not some magical candidate that stands for everything we like. If there was a great conservative Republican candidate running who looked like a better bet to beat Obama than Mitt Romney, Erickson's article attacking Romney would make sense. Since there isn't, and since despite everything Erickson says, Romney appears to be the best bet of the current GOP candidates to win, attacking and trying to undermine him is stupid and counterproductive. Conservatives who whine about Mitt Romney and say they won't support him might as well go ahead and vote for Barack Obama, since they'll be doing so by default.
Some conservatives, of course, will not go all in for Romney. These conservatives will be blamed by major Republican and “conservative” mouth pieces for not doing enough to help Mitt Romney. They will be alienated, blamed, and made the scapegoat for the failures of the establishment GOP.
They'll be blamed because they'll deserve the blame for not supporting the GOP candidate. It will have nothing to do with the GOP establishment. That's a total cop-out. We have a nominating process. It's just too bad that the conservative base couldn't put forth a competent electable candidate. If Romney wins the nomination he's the GOP candidate -- period. If you are a Republican who won't support him, you deserve all the blame you get if Obama wins reelection.

Monday, November 7, 2011

War on Sugar in Schools Not Achieving Results

Despite bans on drinks containing sugar in schools, children are still drinking them.
health experts who would like to reverse the rise in childhood obesity. But a new study has some discouraging news: Students in schools that limited sales of soda and other sugary beverages on campus consumed just as many of the drinks, overall, as students in schools without any such restrictions.
Naturally, for anyone that seeks to control the lives of others by deciding what they consume, the problem as they see it is that we have a free society.
“in the contemporary ‘obesogenic’ environment, youth have countless ways to obtain SSBs through convenience stores, fast-food restaurants, and other food outlets in their community.”
We can't have that. Expect more calls for higher taxes on sugary drinks, which are apparently defined as just about anything containing sugar. Even with draconian policies in seven states which ban "all manner of sugar-sweetened beverages" in school, the bottom line is that these restrictions are achieving nothing -- aside from probably annoying kids.
[According to]all researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago who have been studying these issues for years. “The public health impact of these policies may be minimal.”
Don't worry, that won't stop them from coming up with new ones.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Casual Slurs Against Atheists

Even some people who aren't targeting atheists for criticism are predisposed to reflexively view atheism as a bad thing, and the act of being an atheist as a regrettable condition. Consider the following line I stumbled across at a website called "Vibe Vixen." It's from a short article about actress Tasha Smith appearing on the cover of Essence magazine.
The cover should definitely be a great read since this Jersey girl has had a spotted life as an atheist and a drug addict.
An atheist and a drug addict? Apparently being an atheist is right down there with being a drug addict. Unfortunately, there are all too many people who would read that line without even thinking twice.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Instead of Getting Raped, Shoot the Rapist

There have been some highly publicized incidents where certain police spokesmen advised women not to "dress like sluts" in order to avoid sexual assaults, in effect blaming the victims for enticing criminals. But after an attempted rape in South Carolina park, a local sheriff had some much better advice.
[He] is urging women to get concealed weapons permits and carry guns to protect themselves. ... He suggested that women carry a .45-caliber weapon, and showed reporters at a news conference a fanny pack women could use to carry a handgun while jogging.
The sheriff also noted that a gun is far more effective than mace, and had this to say.
"There won't be any doubt if you need to use your firearm to defend your life," he said. "I don't want this to happen, but I am telling you, I am tired of looking at victims and saying, 'I'm sorry, we've done the best we can to get them in jail.'"
I applaud the sheriff for speaking out on this issue and actually giving advice that could save women from rape or death. I've been saying for years that the best way to prevent rape is to give yourself the ability to respond with lethal force, an action that not only can prevent rape, but might remove rapists from the population permanently.

Huge Roadside Crosses Will Not Be Going Back Up in Utah

The Supreme Court refused to hear a case involving 12-foot metal crosses on Utah public land, essentially affirming a lower court decision that declared them an unconstitutional state endorsement of Christianity. I wrote about this case previously here and here. Justice Clarence Thomas wanted to hear the case and wrote a strong dissent,
chastising it for missing an opportunity to provide better guidance to lower courts on the complicated issue of public religious displays."Today the Court rejects an opportunity to provide clarity to an Establishment Clause jurisprudence in shambles," Thomas wrote.

I often agree with Thomas but not this time. I think the lower court ruling was reasonable, and that further time on this case would be a waste of the Supreme Court's time. Far from offering "clarity," Supreme Court involvement could just as easily create more confusion.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Flat Taxes & "Fairness"

Whenever anyone starts talking about "fairness" in a political context it raises a huge red flag to me, as it usually indicates a total lack of objective reasoning in favor of ideological propaganda. Most political commentary against a flat tax is a prime example, claiming that it wouldn't be fair since it would cut taxes for the rich while raising them for the poor. This type of reasoning is based only on the current system, ignoring the fact that it is harder to get much fairer than a tax where everyone pays exactly the same rate. The only way a flat tax isn't fair is if you believe that wealth should be seized from the rich and redistributed to the poor, that the wealthiest should bear a tax burden far greater than what is their fair share mathematically, and that the poorest should get tax "refunds" of money that they never even paid. Now you might think that's a good system, but it has nothing to do with fairness.

The problem with any flat tax proposal is its contrast with the current system, which taxes the rich at higher rates and transfers some of their money to the poor. Because the current system is so unfair, those who benefit from that unfairness, whether individually or politically, do not want anything fair. If you have gone for years paying no income tax, or have even received money that you never paid in from the earned income tax credit, why would you want a fair system that actually asks you to pay a proportional amount of your income? Likewise, if you see your political constituency as those who receive government benefits, rather than those who pay for them, you want to transfer even more benefits to your supporters, not force them to contribute.

In my opinion a true flat income tax is probably not politically viable in the U.S. And I'm not sure a flat tax that is loaded down with a maze of deductions and rules like the current system would be all that much better. But those who oppose a flat tax on the basis of "fairness" don't want anything fair. What they want is a system that conforms to their ideology, whereby the rich pay an ever-increasing proportion of their income, while the poorest receive greater and greater handouts of that money.