Category Archives: Politics

In the broadest sense of the term

Put Up Or Shut Up

I will take conservative complaints about Planned Parenthood seriously the moment someone shows me a conservative pro-life organization that does half the work it does to provide birth control, test for STDs, and generally provide for reproductive health.

This should be an easy way for social conservatives to try and seize the high-ground. Undercut Planned Parenthood by taking away its lock on the uncontroversially good things that it does, and see if public opinion prefers an organization just like Planned Parenthood but without abortion.

But as far as I know, there’s no comparable organization. Which tells me that the people complaining about Planned Parenthood are either in the grips of bizzaro-world anti-feminist arguments against birth control, or simply don’t give a damn about people getting sick from STDs.

And for that reason, not just pro-choice people like me, but also pro-life people should see the attacks on Planned Parenthood as cynical and callous.

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What You Can Say While Being Objective

What would an objective article on waterboarding have looked like during the Bush administration? A history of the practice would have to state that the US government considered it torture for several decades and that this status was essentially unquestioned until after September 11th. It would also record that the US had hanged Japanese soldiers for waterboarding US POWs, and perhaps that as Governor of Texas, Bush had imprisoned a sheriff for waterboarding a prisoner. It would describe the experience of being waterboarded as essentially like the experience of being drowned, and record that there were often lingering psychological effects. Against that, such an article would have to report that legal memoranda had argued that waterboarding was not torture and was legal. It might also report that some people responded to the September 11th attacks by arguing that even torture should be justified as a response to terrorism.

That article would have been objective in even the restrictive sense that the American media uses. Every claim is not only true, but unambiguous and part of the public record.

And I don’t recall seeing anything like that during the Bush era. Individual claims might appear in an article about the waterboarding debate, but I never remember seeing a single article that would give the  full picture. 

Journalists are sometimes criticized for treating both sides of any disagreement as equally respectable, even if the facts are squarely on one side. But we can see that it’s not just that–the media won’t even collect and report facts that aren’t in dispute, if the net effect would be to undermine the claims of one side.

Ron Paul The Conservative

Will Wilkinson’s article on Ron Paul’s reactionary nationalistic libertarianism is great stuff.  So long as Paul stands no chance of being elected, he’s a welcome piece of resistance to certain evils of the Republican party, but he’s not much of a libertarian and he’d make a terrible president.

We’ve Already Paid

Older people often say that any changes to Social Security benefits should exempt them from cuts “because they have already paid for their benefits.”  You’ll hear versions of this argument from politicians and pundits but especially from people who are concerned about their own Social Security income. It also just so happens that it’s obviously wrong, for reasons which I’d never noticed until last month.

The idea is that you can’t cut the benefits of someone who is 60 because they have already paid, but since I’m 27 and have only been paying Social Security for less than a decade, you can cut mine.

This doesn’t make a bit of sense, because if you cut my future Social Security benefits, I still go on paying taxes at the same rate for the rest of my working life. Actually, I’ll pay higher taxes because the Social Security tax rates increased sharply throughout the 70s and 80s.  So I will pay for 40 some years of my working life, just like a member of my parents’ generation.1 If all those years of taxes guaranteed them benefits that can’t be cut, why don’t I get the same thing on the basis of the taxes that we all know I’m going to be paying? There’s no conceivable difference.

That said, there is a different reason that if Social Security is cut, it should fall more heavily on people my age (that’s a big if because there are decent arguments that Social Security is the wrong place to make cuts).  If I had to, I could start doubling my cat food purchases and put away enough money to fund all of my retirement without a cent from Social Security.  In contrast, someone who is 60 or 65 has extremely limited flexibility.  If you are a year away from retirement you can’t make major changes to how much you have saved regardless of what you do for that year.  People about to retire have made plans incorporating current Social Security payments, and you can’t fault them for doing that.  So you really can’t make large, disruptive cuts to their payments.  That’s not an absolute ban–responsible retirement planning involves preparing for uncertainty–but it sets pretty substantial limits on what we can do the older generation’s pensions.  It also happens to be entirely separate from the argument set out at the beginning.

1 Who were, admittedly, walking uphill both ways in the snow at the ages when I sat here blogging.  I should’ve ditched the first person and talked about a hypothetical member of my generation who’s had a less cushy life and who has consequently spent more of his teens and twenties paying payroll taxes.  Oh well.

Deep Thoughts About Federal Finances

A constitutional amendment that automatically raised taxes when there was a revenue shortfall would also be a balanced budget amendment.

Saint Patrick’s Day

I love Saint Patrick’s day.  Every year, conservatives dutifully stick to their principles and explain that Saint Patrick’s day is un-American because we don’t have hyphenated identities, and everyone just needs to assimilate.  It’s refreshing to note that they don’t just apply these ideas to people with darker skin.

The American Muslim Success Story

Every couple of weeks since it was published, something has made me wish that everyone in America would read Radley Balko’s article, The American Muslim Success Story. I forget the most recent provocation, but the article continues to be relevant. Everyone should read the article, and if you can twist the arm of one Palinite Republican into reading it, so much the better.