Category Archives: Politics

Ted Cruz might be against how the nation’s telephone system is managed

Ted Cruz had this to say about Net Neutrality:

“Net Neutrality” is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government.

(via Twitter)

Of all the arguments I’ve heard against Net Neutrality, this is the most incoherent and doesn’t hold up to any scrutiny of any kind. For the first sentence, if Ted Cruz is against the proposed Net Neutrality rules because they align with Obamacare, then he is against anything that falls under the FCC’s Title II including the nation’s telephone system. Regardless of one’s position on Obamacare, this is a stupid statement, unless Ted Cruz is against how the nation’s telephone system is managed. About the only overlap I can find between Net Neutrality rules (and FCC Title II in general) and Obamacare is that President Obama sponsored both. Which is probably all we really need to know about Ted Cruz.

The second sentence is even less coherent than the first. If “the speed of government” is meant to be a play on “the speed of business” there are far too many examples of business maintaining the status quo despite all coherent arguments to the contrary—Net Neutrality being a great example—for that statement to be anything meaningful either.

Ultimately, that tweet reads as rhetoric for rhetoric’s sake and not anything actionable on anyone’s part. Which is probably all we really need to know about Ted Cruz.

Election Day

  • If you don’t like having your views challenged, then discussing politics (and making grand assertions in general) is not for you.
  • Understanding the ballot measures being provided is vital to making elections work. Coming to a decision isn’t necessary up until the moment you vote. In fact, I would argue that letting things swirl around a bit before coming to a decision is the better option, if only because you will come to a more comfortable, reasoned conclusion. You may come to the same conclusion as your initial impression to the measure and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. But you at least need to understand what voting “Yes” will do and what voting “No” will do. I’ll concede that they way these measures are written is not the best, but then all the more reason to ensure you understand your vote’s influence before going to the voting booth. Also, understanding the measures fully will help ensure that your votes are in line with your day-to-day complaints. For example, if you complain about how your roads are in need of repair, then accidentally voting against tax revenue streams that go directly, by law, to fixing those roads because of you misunderstanding how the measure was written is not a good way to get your complaints addressed.
  • While seeing any party other than Democrat and Republican on the ballot was great—both parties have had their day and I think it’s time we all moved on—I just can’t take seriously anything called “Green-Rainbow.” Sounds like a flavor of Bubblicious bubble gum, and their website is unprofessional in my view. I don’t care how earnest or correct they may be, presentation counts. A lot.

No normal decent person is one thing.

Emphasis mine, but I kept the rest both for context and the fact that it’s really funny:

“The whole country’s got a fucked up mentality. We all got a gang mentality. Republicans are fucking idiots. Democrats are fucking idiots. Conservatives are idiots and liberals are idiots. Anyone who makes up their mind before they hear the issue is a fucking fool. Everybody, nah, nah, nah, everybody is so busy wanting to be down with a gang! I’m a conservative! I’m a liberal! I’m a conservative! It’s bullshit! Be a fucking person. Listen. Let it swirl around your head. Then form your opinion. No normal decent person is one thing. OK!?! I got some shit I’m conservative about, I got some shit I’m liberal about. Crime—I’m conservative. Prostitution—I’m liberal.”
Chris Rock

I forget which album this was on, but I keep coming back to this quote repeatedly. One thing I have learned as I’ve gotten older is that absolutist positions are rarely tenable or realistic.

“We need a systematic theory of distributive justice”

My working assumption borders on a philosophical commonplace, shared by many theoretical perspectives, despite the more general practice of the public, which often claims rights wherever strong interests are felt. To answer the difficult questions of what a right to health care or a right to health might include, we need a systematic theory of distributive justice for health-related needs.
Norman Daniels, “Three Questions of Justice”, ”Just Health”, 2007

The Unexotic Underclass

To your left are single mothers, 80% of whom, according to the US Census, are poor or hovering on the nasty edges of working poverty. They are struggling to raise their kids in a country that seems to conspire against any semblance of proper rearing: a lack of flexibility in the workplace; a lack of free or affordable after-school programs; an abysmal public education system where a testing-mad, criminally-deficient curriculum is taught during a too-short school day; an inescapable lurid wallpaper of sex and violence that covers every surface of society; a cultural disregard for intelligence, empathy and respect; a cultural imperative to look hot, spend money and own the latest “it”-device (or should I say i-device) no matter what it costs, no matter how little money Mum may have.

Slightly to the right, are your veterans of two ongoing wars in the Middle East. Wait, we’re at war? Some of these veterans, having served multiple tours, are returning from combat with all manner of monstrosities ravaging their heads and bodies. If that weren’t enough, welcome back, dear vets, to a flaccid economy, where your military training makes you invisible to an invisible hand that rewards only those of us who are young and expensively educated.
The Unexotic Underclass

The Economist: True Progressivism

Compete, target and reform

The priority should be a Rooseveltian attack on monopolies and vested interests, be they state-owned enterprises in China or big banks on Wall Street. The emerging world, in particular, needs to introduce greater transparency in government contracts and effective anti-trust law. It is no coincidence that the world’s richest man, Carlos Slim, made his money in Mexican telecoms, an industry where competitive pressures were low and prices were sky-high. In the rich world there is also plenty of opening up to do. Only a fraction of the European Union’s economy is a genuine single market. School reform and introducing choice is crucial: no Wall Street financier has done as much damage to American social mobility as the teachers’ unions have. Getting rid of distortions, such as labour laws in Europe or the remnants of China’s hukou system of household registration, would also make a huge difference.

Next, target government spending on the poor and the young. In the emerging world too much cash goes to universal fuel subsidies that disproportionately favour the wealthy (in Asia) and unaffordable pensions that favour the relatively affluent (in Latin America). But the biggest target for reform is the welfare states of the rich world. Given their ageing societies, governments cannot hope to spend less on the elderly, but they can reduce the pace of increase—for instance, by raising retirement ages more dramatically and means-testing the goodies on offer. Some of the cash could go into education. The first Progressive era led to the introduction of publicly financed secondary schools; this time round the target should be pre-school education, as well as more retraining for the jobless.

Last, reform taxes: not to punish the rich but to raise money more efficiently and progressively. In poorer economies, where tax avoidance is rife, the focus should be on lower rates and better enforcement. In rich ones the main gains should come from eliminating deductions that particularly benefit the wealthy (such as America’s mortgage-interest deduction); narrowing the gap between tax rates on wages and capital income; and relying more on efficient taxes that are paid disproportionately by the rich, such as some property taxes.
The Economist: “True Progressivism”

“A new form of radical centrist politics is needed to tackle inequality without hurting economic growth”

I never was one for ready-made politics, but this is really good.

Why I read The Economist

I might have quoted this in the past, but I think this is just great:

We like free enterprise and tend to favour deregulation and privatisation. But we also like gay marriage, want to legalise drugs and disapprove of monarchy. So is the newspaper right-wing or left-wing? Neither, is the answer. . . it opposes all undue curtailment of an individual’s economic or personal freedom. But like its founders, it is not dogmatic. Where there is a liberal case for government to do something, The Economist will air it. Early in its life, its writers were keen supporters of the income tax, for example. Since then it has backed causes like universal health care and gun control. But its starting point is that government should only remove power and wealth from individuals when it has an excellent reason to do so.
The Economist explains itself: Is The Economist left- or right-wing?

“Heroes are painful, superheroes are a catastrophe.”

This, then, was one of my themes for Dune: Don’t give over all of your critical faculties to people in power, no matter how admirable those people may appear to be. Beneath the hero’s facade you will find a human being who makes human mistakes. Enormous problems arise when human mistakes are made on the grand scale available to a superhero. And sometimes you run into another problem.

It is demonstrable that power structures tend to attract people who want power for the sake of power and that a significant proportion of such people are imbalanced—in a word, insane.

That was the beginning. Heroes are painful, superheroes are a catastrophe. The mistakes of superheroes involve too many of us in disaster.
Dune Genesis by Frank Herbert

The last time I’ve read Dune is many years ago. Perhaps a new reading during my winter break is in order.