Becky notes that most of the readers of my blog are detractors of GWB and are eager to see him voted out of office on November 2. Among the people that I know who read my blog, this is certainly true. Even my critics seem to be pretty set in their opinions, and the things I write here aren’t likely to change their minds. Perhaps there are great cadres of undecided voters who are reading, but I doubt it.
Thus, I have decided to try to turn down the politics here and channel my political energies into more productive avenues for the next 9 weeks. I’m planning to put some time in with Democracy for America and with the Kerry campaign. Hopefully I can be involved in some efforts locally, as well as some efforts (online, hopefully) which might impact states more likely to turn blue in November.
In case I’ve left any doubt, let me be clear: I think George W. Bush is a horrible president. As John Scalzi once said (I’m paraphrasing), the USA has had some really awful presidents (e.g. Harding), so Bush may not be the worst ever, but he’ll be hard to beat as the worst president of the twenty-first century. Vote him out.
I finally purchased Paul Krugman’s book, The Great Unraveling, after I found out that it had come out in paperback a few weeks ago. I started to buy it in hardback a couple of times, but the cheapskate got the best of me. The paperback includes a new introduction and nearly 100 pages of new material. I haven’t gotten to the new material yet, but the book is astoundingly good. It shines a lot of light into some very dark places.
The most startling thing about the book is the way that the collected columns make it clear that Emperor Bush is not wearing any clothes. His policies are downright illogical, almost without exception. And they almost never address the actual problems they claim to be trying to solve:
A slump in the economy was an opportunity to push a tax cut that provided very little stimulus in the short run, but will place huge demands on the budget in 2010. An electricity shortage in California was an opportunity to push for drilling in Alaska, which would have produced no electricity and hardly any oil until 2013 or so. An attack by lightly armed terrorist infiltrators was an opportunity to push for lots of heavy weapons and a missile defense system, just in case Al Qaeda makes a frontal assault with tank divisions or fires an ICBM next time.
One of the things that Phil Agre said in the piece I linked to last week was that (I’m paraphrasing) liberal parts of the country were more economically successful than conservative parts of the country. Agre made this statement more-or-less without proof, and I found it difficult to believe. After all, aren’t the “red states” full of self-sufficient country folk and cowboys? Don’t conservatives abhor transfer payments? And aren’t those big cities in the evil, evil Northeast full of welfare queens? Apparently not. In a column in 2002, Krugman pulls together statistics showing that the federal government spends much more in the “red states” than they pay in taxes. That is, blue America subsidizes red America to the tune of $90 billion dollars per year. (Think farm subsidies and giant highway projects leading to nowhere.) Now, to be fair, the main comparison Krugman makes is between rural and urban America — the “red states” were just a convenient way to define “rural” for his purposes. And he mentions that the same comparison applies if you look at rural as compared to metropolitan areas within the red states. Krugman also points to a political reality underlying this discrepancy: rural states have more Congressional and Electoral seats per capita than urban states, so it makes sense for politicians of both parties to pander to those states. Nevertheless, I thought it was interesting to see a statistic which tended to support Agre’s assertion.
Oh, and by the way, divorce rates, murder rates, and the proportion of babies born to unwed mothers are higher in red states, too. So much for those conservative values…
Oops. I let the mackenab.com domain expire last week. I wouldn’t have done so had my registrar been so gracious as to send me a notice to tell me that my domain was about to expire. But they didn’t and it did, and it was a couple of days before I figured out what was going on, paid the bill, and got things up and running again.
I’ve written lots of posts in my head lately, but not many of them have made it to the blog. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. We’ll see.
I’ve gotta fix that comments thing too. Sorry.
I have something of a plan regarding comments, but I haven’t gotten it done just yet. So, be patient.
Our Fall faculty retreat was yesterday, students started moving into dorms today, and classes start in 5 short days. The summer, dear friends, is over. I was sad about the departure of summer, given how much more I have to do that probably won’t get done in hustle and bustle of a regular semester. The arrival of students on campus though, brings new energy and excitement (and bad driving), and I look forward to what the new school year brings.
Linked without comment: What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong with It? by Phil Agre
(Maybe I’ll comment later, but I’m not interested in starting a comment war (when I turn comments back on) at the moment. There’s lots of interesting stuff in there. I don’t necessarily agree with or endorse all of it. Food for thought, though. One morsel is actually related to my research – search for “game theory” in the text. I agree with Agre’s assessment of game theory, for what that’s worth, and am trying to do something about it.)
A wave of comment spam has been pounding mackenab.com for several days. I’ve been doing my best to keep up, but the version of Movable Type that I am running doesn’t exactly make getting rid of comment spam easy. (The routine that I usually use, including deleting the comment and turning off future comments on the infected post, requires 5 or 6 clicks, with waits for webpage loads and rebuilding between most clicks.)
So, for now, comments are off. I don’t have a long term plan on this front. The new version of Moveable Type is better, but it has had licensing problems. (The original license of the new version was, to my view, too restrictive and expensive. It has since been improved, but the arbitraryness of the licensing change made me question whether or not I would stay with Moveable Type in the future.) Some bloggers have changed software, but I don’t have the bandwidth to undertake such a change right now. So, I’ll leave comments off for a couple of days, contemplate possible further action, and hope for the best.