Category Archives: american politics

To Drill or not to Drill: That is the Question

So I was reading a couple of articles on the legislation in the United States that was stopped before it began on the possible drilling of off-shore locations for an increase in the domestic oil production of the US.  The bill was designed to allow lands, that were previously off limits, to be accessed for use in drilling to increase the domestic supply of oil in the US and help brunt some of the increase in costs on the amount per barrel.  Many politicians saw this as a way to help the consumer absorb some of the cost that they were paying at the pump, while others saw this as a “big oil” or  “anti-environmental” movement aimed at furthering the destruction of the planet.  Continue reading

Trade Subsidies: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

In the market oriented world, trade subsidies are supposed to be an advantageous means to protect a country’s ability to produce a good and have a chance to be marketable on the global market.  Thus when one country produces a product at a lower cost and begins exporting it globally, another country has the ability to place an export duty or a trade subsidy on it so that their product meets the price of the same or similar product in that nations market.  Thus, if an African country can produce, say wheat, at a lower cost and ship it worldwide, then Europe would subsidize their farmers and pay them the difference in the market value so that the European farmers could sell their wheat at the same price as the African country.  Thus, the African country loses the battle because their product is no longer as competitive as it was when it was shipped from their ports.  Continue reading

The New Deal: Savior from the Great Depression or Creator of the Welfare State?

Looking back over the history of not only the United States, but the history of most of the now modern world, the Great Depression was a defining moment in many people’s lives.  This was a time when the world economy came to a grinding halt for some, or slowed down so significantly that the people were desperate for any means possible to get out of their economic depression.  The evils of capitalism would not and could not allow for the economies of the world to rebound as fast as the people wanted or needed and thus drastic measures were required.  At least that is how the political figures in-charge defined their arguments for such “New Deal” policy and legislation.  Continue reading

The Gore-Ax: By the Castaway Castro

Yo, I am the Gore-Ax, who speaks for the trees
 I speak for the Earth and she wants to say “Please!”
 “Address global warming as soon as you can.”
 “The sun cannot cause it. The culprit is man.”
 Oh Gaea, so fragile, she can’t take the heat
 A few more degrees and the Earth is dead meat
 From choking on carbon emissions, you hear?
 More threat’ning than any munitions you fear
 Your minivans, Hummers, immense S.U.V.s
 Are wreaking great havoc on Earth and her trees
 And muscle car drivers, you ruin the air
 So switch to a Prius to show that you care
 Or better yet, travel by bus or by train
 And then my new limo can have a clear lane

 For I am the Gore-Ax, who speaks for the trees
 I’ll speak for the Earth until everyone sees
 The danger that climate change poses to all
 Especially if suburbs continue to sprawl
 We must limit suburbs if we’re to defer
 The global catastrophe soon to occur
 If glaciers keep melting, the oceans will rise
 And polar bears surely will meet their demise
 My house in the Hamptons, right there by the shore
 Will be underwater if Earth heats up more
 When oceans get warmer, more hurricanes form
 My house in the Hamptons might fall in a storm
 It’s Earth in the balance.  Am I getting through?
 Do all that you can to reduce CO2

 Now, I am the Gore-Ax, who speaks for the trees
 When saving the Earth I refuse to appease
 You stubborn deniers who won’t see the light
 We have a consensus that says that I’m right
 You shill for big oil and guzzle gas, too
 It’s time for a carbon tax levied on you
 The planet’s in peril, so cut back or pay
 Your country should bow to Kyoto today
 I know it’s not easy, but what can you do?
 A truth inconvenient is nonetheless true
 I’ve so much to teach you, but must say goodbye
 My Gulfstream is waiting. It’s time that I fly
 To Hollywood, Davos and maybe to Cannes
 So limit your energy use when I’m gone

NATO: The Price of Defense

In a world that is ever changing and in a time where providing for your nation is tantamount to the survival of your people and society, we need to have a better understanding of the governmental regimes that are at play in our world.  From dictatorships to monarchies, democracies to socialist regimes, countries around the world are creating a future for themselves in which government has an important role and place in their society.  Some societies feel that government should be the “be all and end all” of their world and provide for it, everything they need to live the best life possible.  Others believe that the people should decide how they live their lives and that government should be there to provide stabilization and a governing force to protect their basic needs and tenants. Continue reading

Policy vs. Politics: The Unknown Battle in Government

In our ever changing world, the idea of policy and politics tends to have a powerful and often times contentious meaning.  People see politics as a necessary evil in their day to day lives and for the most part completely forget the policy behind the politics.  In some cases, and more than most of us would like to think, we combine the world of politics and policy and blur the lines of what they truly are and represent. Continue reading

five years

On the five year anniversary of the war in Iraq, President Bush continues to defend America’s presence in the Middle East. Below are excerpts from his Wednesday, March 19 speech – flowery rhetoric that ignores the reality of the situation:

Five years into this battle, there is an understandable debate over whether the war was worth fighting … whether the fight is worth winning … and whether we can win it. The answers are clear to me: Removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision – and this is a fight America can and must win…

Over the past five years, we have seen moments of triumph and moments of tragedy. We have watched in admiration as 12 million Iraqis defied the terrorists, went to the polls, and chose their leaders in free elections.

And we have watched in horror as al Qaida beheaded innocent captives, and sent suicide bombers to blow up mosques and markets. These actions show the brutal nature of the enemy in Iraq. And they serve as a grim reminder: The terrorists who murder the innocent in the streets of Baghdad want to murder the innocent in the streets of American cities. Defeating this enemy in Iraq will make it less likely we will face this enemy here at home.

A little over a year ago, the fight in Iraq was faltering. Extremist elements were succeeding in their efforts to plunge Iraq into chaos…

My administration understood that America could not retreat in the face of terror. We knew that if we did not act, the violence that had been consuming Iraq would have worsened, spread, and could eventually have reached genocidal levels.

Baghdad could have disintegrated into a contagion of killing, and Iraq could have descended into full-blown sectarian warfare. So we reviewed our strategy – and changed course in Iraq. We sent reinforcements into the country in a dramatic policy shift that has become known as “the surge.”…

The surge has done more than turn the situation in Iraq around – it has opened the door to a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror. For the terrorists, Iraq was supposed to be the place where al-Qaida rallied Arab masses to drive America out. Instead, Iraq has become the place where Arabs joined with Americans to drive al-Qaida out. In Iraq, we are witnessing the first large-scale Arab uprising against Osama bin Laden, his grim ideology, and his terror network. And the significance of this development cannot be overstated…

The challenge in the period ahead is to consolidate the gains we have made and seal the extremists’ defeat. We have learned through hard experience what happens when we pull our forces back too fast – the terrorists and extremists step in … fill the vacuum … establish safe havens … and use them to spread chaos and carnage. …

The successes we are seeing in Iraq are undeniable – yet some in Washington still call for retreat. War critics can no longer credibly argue that we are losing in Iraq – so now they argue the war costs too much. In recent months we have heard exaggerated estimates of the costs of this war.

No one would argue that this war has not come at a high cost in lives and treasure – but those costs are necessary when we consider the cost of a strategic victory for our enemies in Iraq.

If we were to allow our enemies to prevail in Iraq, the violence that is now declining would accelerate – and Iraq could descend into chaos. Al-Qaida would regain its lost sanctuaries and establish new ones – fomenting violence and terror that could spread beyond Iraq’s borders, with serious consequences to the world economy.

Out of such chaos in Iraq, the terrorist movement could emerge emboldened – with new recruits … new resources … and an even greater determination to dominate the region and harm America. An emboldened al-Qaida with access to Iraq’s oil resources could pursue its ambitions to acquire weapons of mass destruction to attack America and other free nations. Iran could be emboldened as well – with a renewed determination to develop nuclear weapons and impose its brand of hegemony across the broader Middle East.

And our enemies would see an American failure in Iraq as evidence of weakness and lack of resolve. …

In the long run, defeating the terrorists requires an alternative to their murderous ideology. So we are helping the people of Iraq establish a democracy in the heart of the Middle East. A free Iraq will fight terrorists rather than harbour them. And a free Iraq will be an example for others of the power of liberty to transform societies and replace despair with hope. By spreading the hope of liberty in the Middle East, we will help free societies take root – and when they do, freedom will yield the peace we all desire.

Ted Carpenter, vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, offers the following argument for withdrawing from Iraq.  In the article he states, “Staying in Iraq is a fatally flawed policy that has already cost more than 3,000 American lives and consumed more than $350 billion. The security situation in that country grows increasingly chaotic and bloody as evidence mounts that Iraq has descended into a sectarian civil war between Sunnis and Shiites. Approximately 120 Iraqis per day are perishing in political violence. That bloodshed is occurring in a country of barely 26 million people. A comparable rate of carnage in the United States would produce more than 1,400 fatalities per day”.  Read the rest of his article here.

nyc produce carts and the public health argument

a view from new york city. a look at municipal politics shedding light on the more general “macro” issues

Kevin Medina

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn recently began pushing a new bill that would create 1,500 new permits for fresh fruit and produce carts in impoverished neighborhoods, in order to battle the correlated obesity epidemic. “Impoverished” as such may be too harsh a word to describe these neighborhoods, considering the creep known as gentrification that has been changing said neighborhoods (please, detach yourself from its purported “negative” connotation), but they continue to be home to the lowest income earners in the city (Harlem, parts of Brookyln and the Bronx, and Southeast Queens).

At first, you may deem this scheme a classic instance of the government overstepping its bounds by artificially creating a supply absent of a clear demand, and “Let the markets decide!” may seem like a logical counter. I’ve read and heard this argument a number of times from New York Libertarians or small “c” conservatives (and you’ve only heard it if you’re wonkish enough to follow such mundane topics as permit awards!) and agreed at first. However, I have stepped back from my initial assumption and have taken a position in favor of Speaker Quinn’s bill.

The libertarian and “c”onservatives argue that by pushing for fresh fruit and produce stands in lower-class neighborhoods, the government facilitates an unfair competition between them and already established grocery stores. Others argue that areas in these neighborhoods with a demand for fresh fruit and produce are meet with a proper supply by virtue of market forces, thereby negating any need for the government to intervene and try to fill a void they argue is non-existent. The final and more general counter is that, perhaps the government shouldn’t be worrying so much about food carts and more about other “consequential” topics, whatever they may be.

There are probably a variety of other arguments that can be made here, but I think the general principle is simply: providing fruit stand permits to poor neighborhoods is not a role of government.

But, however black and white this issue may seem theoretically, I agree with speaker Quinn’s initiative on different grounds. In arguing for the creation and selling of permits that are specifically destined for an impoverished community, a new market that would not have existed is being created. Since most permits issued by New York City allow the holder to freely choose their location, most fruit and produce vendors migrate to wealthier areas of town where demand is the greatest. This natural gravitation by merchants is an outcrop of a hard reality: healthy food isn’t on the mind of the poor – and for good reason! Health food, organic food, specialty food, et cetera, is more costly, perishes faster, and is raw – thereby requiring more processing. Most poor people don’t have the luxury of considering these things, and are rather concerned with filling their own bellies and their children’s. Merchants of course, recognize this.

Since these permits are limited to impoverished neighborhoods, Speaker Quinn is attempting to artificially create a new market where one would probably (or at least for the near future) never come to be. The government isn’t forcing merchants to set up shop in impoverished neighborhoods, instead the government is encouraging it. If no opportunity exists, then the permits will just languish, and eventually the idea would be dropped all together. I think the forces of competition and creativity need a little push at times.

to the contrary, there is no guarantee that a few new fruit stands would be enough to change the eating habits and consequently, the health of the people in these neighborhoods. while the issue of languishing communities is itself much deeper (including the reason they’re perpetuated in the first place, the affects of welfare, etc…) than a bill allowing for fresh fruit stands addresses, i think Quinn’s bill is worth a try.

I hate to say I told you so but…..

Oliver Tree

 


Across the pond a minor scandal has been raging in Libertarian circles. Unbeknownst to this writer it appears a certain Ron Paul has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons. This latest besmirching of the Libertarian name only adds to the argument of my post ‘A Definitive Year’ below.

 

Whilst one is keen to see some traditionally Libertarian ideals emerge as part of a viable political campaign, one has to bear in mind that using politicians as standard bearers has its dark side. Paul did indeed give credibility to some Liberal ideas but has now tarnished that reputation with his mirky newsletters and flaky denials.

 

Rapid disassociation by the likes of Tom Palmer and CATO should go some way to repairing the  damage done yet the only way forward folks seems only too clear; our vehicle is ideas not political parties or politicians.

 

 

a splintered party

Jessica Wright 

The New York Times reported in 2005 that there are four major blocs within the American Republican party, they are as follows:

1. the “leave us alone” coalition
2. the cultural coalition
3. the security coalition
4. the old guard coalition

Most people that call themselves “Republican” fall within one of these categories, making it difficult to say exactly what a Republican is and stands for. This multifariousness is evident in the current lead-up to the 2008 Presidential primaries with the three Republican front-runners taking one each of the three caucuses held in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Michigan. In a New York Times article today, Nagourney writes:

“On the most tangible level, the vote on Tuesday was proof from the ballot box of what polls have shown: this is a party that is adrift, deeply divided and uninspired when it comes to its presidential candidates and unsure of how to counter an energized Democratic Party”.

Those who voted for Huckabee in Iowa belong to the socially conservative wing of the party, advocating for a faith-based leadership. McCain’s voters in New Hampshire were from the independent crowd, who are plentiful in “live free or die” state.

The Times reports the following about Mitt Romney:

“Mr. Romney has made a conscious effort to reassemble the coalition of economic and social conservatives that came together with Ronald Reagan and that President Bush kept remarkably unified in his two campaigns and through much of his White House tenure. Mr. Romney’s uneven performance has highlighted the strains in that coalition, and a central question about his candidacy is whether he will be able to rally its fractured components to his side. It was no coincidence that he invoked Reagan more than once in his victory speech on Tuesday, though it was perhaps equally telling that he also invoked the first President Bush, who like Mr. Romney struggled to convince Republicans that he was Reagan’s rightful heir”.

At present, Huckabee appeals to Republican voters who see their party as a bastion of moral authority, McCain to those who are not fully satisfied with their options but would not vote outside party lines, and Romney, who wants to appeal to those socially conservative (but not too conservative) and economically liberal voters who reminisce over the Reagan era.

The New York Times Guide to the Political Herds

Spiegel International on the Michigan Primary
The New York Times on the Republicans