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Comment Re:From the front lines (Score 1) 39

I've noticed there is a significant discrepancy between the national ads, the in-state ads, and what the local canvassers/protesters/campaign offices say about the varying issues of the day. The biggest problem the conservatives are having in local politics (and this goes back to the Tea Party phenomenon) is that the local and to a certain extent the statewide Republicans are having a lot of trouble holding on to the message, when that used to be their biggest strong point.

It strikes the local thinkers (admittedly over beer at the cafe the Philosophy and Poli-Sci students hang out in) that the Republican party is trading their patented Party Unity away in order to more firmly cement themselves in with the religious social conservatives, and for a large number of independents and moderate Democrats, the fiscal message is getting lost because it's simply not as important to them as gay rights, pro-choice, drawing down overseas military commitments and domestic surveillance, etc. And it's the rhetoric that's winning the day for the most part right now--we'll see if there's any backlash to Obama's/the Democrats' strong words on some of those subjects compared to their weak or contradictory actions, but it's really too soon to tell in the mainstream right now.

Stimulus bill aside, Specter's going to rise or fall with me on whether he decides to go full-bore Democrat all of a sudden or stays in the political place he's been solidly in for the last two decades. One of the things that I always liked about him was his stance on abortion--not because of his position, but because he was willing and able to say "I'm a Republican, but I'm not straitjacketed to their platform on every single issue." In the political climate in this country that took a certain amount of personal integrity.

The battle lines the parties are drawing are shaping up to be in vastly differing locations for 2010, with a gulf between them--but I suppose this early on we can expect both major parties to be staking out defenses on safe-with-the-base territory and waiting for the other side to engage them.

Comment From the front lines (Score 1) 39

From within PA (I'm just a smidge north of Toomey's former Congressional district), the battle lines are being laid out on social conservatism lines, not fiscal ones as much. That is, both in 2004 and already in the rumblings about 2010, Pat Toomey (the presumptive Republican nominee) is going after Specter primarily on his abortion rights record and his positions on gay rights, with fiscal issues being a distant second.

With a lot of moderate Republicans and Independents having shiny new Democrat registrations in PA after the "Oh God, anyone but Hillary" presidential primary last year, if the Specter thing isn't handled carefully the Republicans have a serious chance of losing a lot of ground here--from the point of view of a lot of folks in the central area, Specter's one of their old boys, a touchstone back to the Reagan era, etc. Somewhat ironically, given the circumstances, Specter's also well-respected for his ability to compromise with the Dems while standing firm on his own principles.

This could be played well or poorly by both parties, but already the local Republican types are taking the wrong tack--just this weekend, I got to watch a group of avowed Republicans pile onto a Tea Party type who called Specter a "traitor to his party and country".

Probably better for the Republicans to either portray him as someone who should retire, and act as though this is sort of a tacit retirement for him, and then quietly push whoever his primary opponent is. On the other hand, the Dems could potentially force the issue to a head by simply encouraging people to let Specter run unopposed.

Basically it's just as contentious and wrong-headed on the ground here in PA as it is nationally.

Comment Really dumb move from a revenue standpoint anyway (Score 1) 1

...since if it costs that rich guy less to avoid your tax by shifting income, perhaps to another state, than the tax itself, his/her only incentive to pay said tax is a feeling that it's fair for him/her to pay it.

If it passed, I bet you'd see a few "corporate offices" springing up in Oregon and/or Idaho, just across the border.

Comment Re:Yours went a lot better than the ones here. (Score 1) 8

Yeah, I concur that the larger part of the whole shebang was grassroots--to the extent that there was orchestration, it seemed pretty clear the big shots were following/attempting to steer a nascent grassroots movement rather than making it happen from whole cloth. And it does seem like a red herring compared to a substantial discussion of the issues.

As for the "Bush did it" defense, the nuanced version that I've heard of that comes in two parts, one of which is trivially rebutted and one of which takes more thought:

1) 'Bush didn't include the Iraq War in his budgets, instead using "emergency spending", so his deficit reports were artificially low.' -- True on the face of it, but we're talking IIRC 1.8 trillion over seven years at that point, so the Bush deficits still don't approach the Obama ones.

2) 'Deficit spending is the indicated Keynesian response to an economic recession." That's harder to positively refute--one could argue that Reagan's economic successes early on coming out of the 70s were a large part due to the huge cash influx his defense spending pushed into the economy, for example. And it's a basic idea of Keynesian economic that as long as you're not basically destroying goods, it doesn't matter WHAT you spend money on, it's the act of spending it domestically that stimulates the economy. (I'm obviously simplifying this for the purpose of a summary)

I'm not really worried about this year's budget. At this point I'm worried about those trailing off years of increased spending, I don't really think we need to plan for what's basically emergency spending to go on for that long, and I think that we need to focus on sustainable expenditures right quick so that we have a plan in place once the economy gets back into a growth mode.

Frankly, given recent history, I'm hoping that the Republicans retake Congress in 2010 but Obama wins in 2012--in the time I've been old enough to be politically aware, that R/D split has been best for the budget deficit overall.

What I'd also like to find, and I haven't been able to so I might do it myself, is a chart of debt/deficits in inflation-adjusted dollars, just to get a better sense of historical perspective--specifically, I'm interested in seeing how the Obama-proposed deficits compare in inflation-adjusted magnitude to Reagan or FDR.

Comment Re:Yours went a lot better than the ones here. (Score 1) 8

Yeah, that hype basically annoys me--of course the news coverage of impending events made them bigger. That doesn't imply orchestration.

My criticisms of the whole movement are less about who's wagging whose tail and more about maybe it becoming a movement with a coherent conservative purpose rather than just a collection of angry right-wing types.

As it stands, in my neck of the woods they were more disorganized and off-message than the Iraq War protesters a few years ago--but only by a hair. This is obviously not a compliment.

Comment Yours went a lot better than the ones here. (Score 1) 8

Even dead-center in the middle of PA, where aside from the town itself it's solidly conservative, we had maybe forty people, with signs protesting everything from illegal immigration to abortion to taxes.

It was really more like an incoherent Ron Paul rally than anything else. I've literally seen impromptu drum circles draw more people around here. And the worst part is that the organizer somehow decided that rather than protesting at a city government building, they'd block the entrance to the post office. (thank goodness for e-filing, which I put off until last night since I owe for the first time in a while)

It's sad, too, because an on-message protest about the need to be very careful with deficit spending is something even my generally Keynesian self can get behind. It actually makes me feel pretty good to hear that some of these things went down in a way that wasn't completely counterproductive.

Comment Re:Ah, Earth Hour (Score 1) 10

Yeah, I pretty much want to kick every anti-nuclear protester in the head. I mean, seriously, do they really think about it?

My favorite statistic on "green power" came from my father-in-law (a full professor of agricultural engineering) who pointed out that enough wind+tide power to run the electrical demands of the United States would literally kill the trade winds entirely, in terms of efficiency vs. wattage available to be extracted.

Granted, I'm doubly in favor of nuclear power precisely because I live two hours away from "the biggest nuclear plant accident in the US", namely, Three Mile Island. Knowing what I know about THAT (and everything I need to know is summed up by "the plant is still operating and producing power for south-central PA") makes me wonder what the big deal is.

Comment Ah, Earth Hour (Score 1) 10

I've been cutting back my electricity use as much as possible for a while now anyway, but living in central PA I have a disproportionately high carbon/pollutant footprint (stupid coal power) per kilowatt.

Having lived in a former coal strip-mining town that is obviously a former coal strip-mining town I tend to be a bit sensitive about that particular environmental issue.

Comment Target (Score 1) 10

I'm pretty picky about pillows and I abuse mine shamefully, but these days I get the extra-thick "for people who sleep on their side" pillows from Target for about $10, they last me a year or so which is still better than most pillows I've tried.

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