Thursday, November 24, 2005

Who, If Anyone, Do Tax Cuts Help?

There is a good NYT article by Robert Frank, asking what I think is very good question, in what sense did the recent round of tax cuts actually help anyone, including the well-to-do? He argues that many of the cuts in spending that are being proposed to fund these tax cuts, from infrastructure support to research to food inspections, are will hurt the wealthy as well as the poor. His main point is one that I very much agree with. The tax policies of the past five years benefit only the very wealthy and even at that only over the very short term. As such these policies are extremely foolish.

I also think that there is a flip side to this that Democrats could exploit. Namely that tax cuts on the middle and lower classes, with a repeal of the Bush cuts on the wealthy, would in the long run benefit the wealthy as well as the poor. Indeed, conservatives have long been arguing that the impact of tax policy is not always intuitive, specifically that cutting tax rates can raise revenue. I would like to see liberals take over this argument and arguing that raising tax rates on the wealthy can increase their wealth by directing those taxes to infrastructure, research, and general safety and stability for the populace as a whole.

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Monday, November 14, 2005

Habeas Corpus

The United States Senate is currently considering repealing the right to habeas corpus for detainees at Gitmo. It is hard to conceive of a more shameful, more disgusting spectacle. Habeas Corpus is among the most essential rights that a free people must respect to remain free. The right requires that the state can be compelled to give reason why a person is being detained. The importance of this right can hardly be better described than by Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Paper number 84
The creation of crimes after the commission of the fact, or, in other words, the subjecting of men to punishment for things which, when they were done, were breaches of no law, and the practice of arbitrary imprisonments, have been, in all ages, the favorite and most formidable instruments of tyranny. The observations of the judicious Blackstone,[1] in reference to the latter, are well worthy of recital: "To bereave a man of life, [says he] or by violence to confiscate his estate, without accusation or trial, would be so gross and notorious an act of despotism, as must at once convey the alarm of tyranny throughout the whole nation; but confinement of the person, by secretly hurrying him to jail, where his sufferings are unknown or forgotten, is a less public, a less striking, and therefore a more dangerous engine of arbitrary government." And as a remedy for this fatal evil he is everywhere peculiarly emphatical in his encomiums on the habeas corpus act, which in one place he calls "the BULWARK of the British Constitution."[2]

To repeal this right is to adopt tyranny and, what I think is as important, is to embrace cowardice. For the only reason for taking this step is to quell our fears for what might happen. Once a population abandons courage, there is little hope for its liberty.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Framing the Healthcare Message

Kevin Drum has a good post up on the way that Democrats need to frame the Healthcare issue. I think that he is very right that we have concentrated too much on helping the poor as the reason to initiate a universal national health insurance program. Many folks in the middle class are tired of the 'helping the poor' message not because they are callous, but because they believe, and fairly so, that they are already doing what they can. There are plenty of folks who are already generous in their private lives, and who support a fair degree of public assistance already, who believe that we are doing enough. We have already sold them on 'helping the poor' as much as we can. We need to press our policies on other benefits that they provide.

And indeed there are other benefits. National Health Care (NHC) will reduce costs on businesses of all sizes. Particularly for small businesses, keeping all one's employees healthy can be very good for the bottom line. NHC will help make that happen. For people who are working now and have insurance, it will improve mobility to have NHC. You're better off if you can easily change jobs if circumstances warrant. Additionally, improved job mobility could well improve working conditions for everyone if employers learn that they'd better treat their people well or their people will leave. These are just a few of the points that we should press when trying to sell health care.

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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Good News for the Rational

The Dover, PA school district is where the latest battle between Creationism and Evolution is being fought. The school district has been defending in court it's inclusion of Intelligent Design into the curriculum. Today all eight board positions were one by anti-intelligent design Democrats. This would seem to be a pretty clear repudiation of the Creationists. This is very good news, perhaps even better than Kaine and Corzine

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A Good Night for the Democrats

Well it has turned out to be a very good night for the Democrats so far. Yes the Reform Ohio Now initiatives lost badly and Bloomberg won in New York, but otherwise the news is good for the Democratic party. But also it seems to be a very bad night for George Bush. Today's results are clearly, in part, an unfavorable reforendum on his leadership.

Kaine wins solidly in Virginia 52 to 46, winning a clear majority of the vote. George Bush visited Virginia on Sunday to campaign for Kilgore. At the time he arrived the polls showed the race neck-and-neck. The President's visit, however, provided the vital surge which put the Democrat Kaine over the top.

Likewise Corzine has trounced Forrester 53 to 43, with about half the votes in. With another Democratic victory the Republicans, with Bush as leader, can't make much headway.

On an even clearer repudiation of the Bush leadership, the mayor of St. Paul, Randy Kelly, was soundly defeated by Chris Coleman. Kelly had famously supported George Bush in 2004 and the voters of St. Paul made clear their opinion of that.

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Monday, November 07, 2005


Ok, this is scary, a top Senate staffer working with Sen. Grassley on the Finance Committee was assaulted with a baseball bat. A number of factors suggest that it might be related to her Senate work. The efforts to bring peace and decorum to government are not working.


Creation Care

This NYT article discusses the existence and influence of the evangelical environmental movement. The existence of these folks is a very good sign for a number of reasons.

Adding strength and influence to the environmental movement is a good thing. It has been weakened considerably during this administration. Much of The Republican War on Science deals with the weakening of regulations and agencies aimed at protecting the environment. Strengthening the environmental movement is a good thing.

The evangelical groups will add new perspectives and new outlooks to the environmental movement. This can only serve to improve the movement in nearly everything it does. I've written a lot here about the nature and value of critical review and that one essential component is a diverse group of independent reviewers. The evangelicals will add diversity and are certainly independent of the existing environmental movement.

This will help break down the false dichotomy between the religious and the liberal points of view. For far too many years liberals have acquiesced in this division which has put too many people with liberal sympathies into the conservative camp. The polarization of the nation that many complain about is in part due to this overly simplistic division. Including these folks in the liberal coalition, even if only on this one issue, is all for the better for liberalism and for the country.

This could help restore the acceptance of scriptural and religious references as a means of communicating ideas. Citing scripture to argue that because it is written there it must be true, is, I believe a mistake and a disservice to both religion and the country. However, many true things are described well in scripture and many people are best persuaded by reference to those passages that do describe true things well. That usage of scripture should not be discouraged, although unfortunately it has.

As an extension to the last point, this could help in a revival of liberal theology. Not much is heard in the national debate from a theological and a liberal position. I believe that that is unfortunate and that liberals and Democrats would do well to correct that error.

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Maryland Politics

Maryland is traditionally a pretty blue state so much of what I'll be reporting here is no surprise. However, for those of us looking for a Democratic revival it is good news.

President Bush is thoroughly unpopular here in Maryland, approval rating down to 33%, as low as any national leader in three decades. Quite an achievement.

The Governors race next year is looking good for the Democrats. Martin O'Malley leads current Republican Governor Bob Ehrlich 48% to 33%. It is interesting to note that many voters approve of Ehrlich's job as Governor, but still want a change back to a Democrat in the Statehouse. I suspect that Bush's performance is helping to shape that opinion.

The other big race is for U.S. Senator. Again the Democrats are in the drivers seat, with either of their two contenders ahead of Michael Steele. The Democratic primary is still shaping up to be a contest though with Kweisi Mfume and Ben Cardin running neck and neck.

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Sunday, November 06, 2005

Evolution and Religion

I just came across this article on the Catholic Church and the Theory of Evolution. As it states the Church, and indeed the current, fairly conservative, Church sees no conflict between Christianity and Evolution. In the ongoing public debate on evolution and creationism one of the most persistent, and most misleading, claims of the creationists (here I do include the proponents of Intelligent Design with the creationists) is that there is an inherent conflict between religion and evolution. While it is true that many specific religious sects have a profound problem with evolution, there is no inherent conflict between the two. If, as the article clearly shows, the Catholic Church can coexist with evolution, then clearly it is possible to be a religious evolutionist.

The article also goes on to point out that
indeed, one can go back nearly 1,500 years before Darwin and find St Augustine of Hippo, the most commanding intellect of all the early doctors of the Church, teaching a doctrine of evolution in the early 5th century. In one of his greatest works, De Genesi ad Litteram, he stated that God did not create an organised Universe as we see it now, but in the beginning created all the elements of the world in a confused and “nebulous” mass. In this mass were the mysterious seeds of the creatures who were to come into existence.

Augustine’s thought does therefore contain the elements of a theory of evolution, and even a genetic theory, but does not have natural selection. St Augustine has always been orthodox. He did not foresee modern science in AD410, but he did have an extraordinary grasp of the potential evolution of scientific thought. Cardinal Poupard’s address to the journalists should not be seen as a matter of the Roman Church changing its mind and accepting Darwin after 145 years.
The faith of the Roman Catholic Church has therefore been truly religious and in accord with evolution for the entire history of the Church. To claim that evolution is inherently anti-religious is therefore a towering absurdity.

But this raises a further question with regards to the ongoing political debate about evolution and creationism. It has been shown that the Catholic Church has been both religious and in accord with evolution for over 1500 years. Given this, how can we place any trust in the honor and integrity of those who claim today that evolution is inherently anti-religious. Any person saying so must either be dishonest or profoundly ignorant of the topics being discussed. In either case, such an individual should be given no credence whatsoever.

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Foreign Relations

Looking at Bush's reception in South America it becomes powerfully clear how thoroughly this administration has trashed the image of America overseas. It is true that we cannot be slavishly devoted to foreign opinion, but at the same time alliances and the good will of others around the world is of great value. Alliances mean that you have more resources to handle whatever troubles might arise, and having additional resources can only help. Also, while it is sometimes the case that everyone around you believes you are wrong even though you in fact see things more clearly than anyone else (they laughed at Galileo after all). However, generally the reason that everyone else thinks you are wrong is because you are, in fact, wrong. For this reason too, it is well to keep up the good opinion of other nations. Abandoning that good opinion should only be done for something of great value. But for what valuable thing has Bush squandered our good name? Iraq? I cannot see that this nation is gaining anything from that adventure, certainly nothing as valuable as the good relations we once had with the rest of the world.

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Add Sen. Rockefeller to the List

I posted the other day that Sen. John Kerry had come out saying that he got it wrong supporting the Iraq war, now Sen. John Rockefeller has joined him. And, of course, Richard Gephardt had done so earlier. The remaining Democrats that voted to grant Bush the authority for the war need to reexamine their positions and more of them need to join this group that admit it was wrong. That is the first part of the narrative that the Democrats need to put forth. I agree with Chris Bowers over at MyDD that it is early yet for the Democrats to be putting forth specific proposals for Iraq. That will come in due time. I still advocate that the Democrats should consider arguing that Iraq has been like the bloody angle at Spotsylvania, or the Anzio beachhead in WWII, an attack that has failed and where we need to redirect our forces back to Afghanistan. But those proposals can come next year.

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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Republicans and Women

Follow the link from Hunter at daily Kos to see one of the latest Republican talking points from Drudge. Basically because the Democrats oppose Alito they must have a racist bias against Italian Americans. Now that reasoning is absurd, however, if the Republicans truly believe that then surely the reasoning applies them. Otherwise, we can conclude that they are just being dishonest. So if the reasoning applies we can confidently conclude that the Republicans do have an inherent bias against women, given their opposition to Harriet Miers.

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Mark is Right

Mark is right. Fight Alito and fight hard, but use every opportunity to link the scandals. Cheney and Plame is a good one during the Alito fight.

Also, keep in mind that there is still the distinct possibility of other indictments. The Plame issue will come back up, even during the Alito fight, if another indictment comes down. The Democrats need to show that they are willing to fight even if they are not certain about the situation. Refusing to fight on Alito out of fear of loosing the Plame issue and never getting it back is, I believe, exactly the kind of thing which leaves people seeing the Democrats as weak.

Final point on loosing the Plame issue. How many times so far has the Plame issue gone off, and come back on, to the front page. It may well do so again.

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