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Archive for the ‘Partisanship’ Category

Attempting to Mix a Hypocrisy Tonic

My uncle loves to send me right-wing chain emails about the dangers of government, the evilness of Obama, all the crazy things “the liberals” are up to, and sprinkles in some nativist xenophobic blather for good measure. Honestly, he’s a great guy personally, but seriously warped with partisanship, paranoia, and populism like others swept up with Tea Party style politics. His colleagues don’t seem much better. I recently got into an email row with one of them over the Massachusetts RMV offering a spanish language manuel and test (written by volunteers). I pointed out among other things that multiple studies and surveys (here, here, and here) show that 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants and Americans in general overwhelmingly speak English. He responded with “I think you’re wrong” and asked about some anecdotal cases. Failure to deal with actual evidence doesn’t often lead to a fruitful conversation.


Most of the emails I get sent end up being demonstrably false, yet that doesn’t appear to give my uncle any reservations. Bizarrely, these emails often bash big government and advance some pretty narrow (and wrongheaded) views about the constitutional limits placed on our government. I say bizarre because he works for the government. I hope this will be a hypocrisy tonic:

FAA wastes stimulus funds:

  • Lake Cumberland Regional Airport in Kentucky got $3.5 million to build a glass-fronted terminal in 2004 that was largely unused until the first passenger flights began this June. The airport now has six flights a week.
  • Montgomery Regional Airport in Alabama got $22 million to build a $35 million terminal with a sloping glass facade and a rotunda topped with a domed ceiling that reflects the historical architecture of the state Capitol.
  • Halliburton Field Airport in Duncan, Okla., got $700,000 for a terminal with a pilot room and a reception room. The airport, open only to private planes, has 24 landings and takeoffs a day, mostly local pilots in piston-engine planes.
We can privatize many of the FAA’s duties for example:

Air Traffic Control. The Federal Aviation Administration has been mismanaged for decades and provides Americans with second-rate air traffic control. The FAA has struggled to expand capacity and modernize its technology. Canada privatized its ATC system in 1996. It set up a private, nonprofit ATC corporation, Nav Canada, which is self-supporting from charges on aviation users. The Canadian system has received high marks for sound finances, solid management, and investment in new technologies.

Delayed? Blame the FAA:


Go to the site to watch the video. 


[update]: He does recognize the irony but it doesn’t seem to affect his politics. I think that might show the mind’s ability to compartmentalize and hold mutually contradictory beliefs. 

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Unprincipled Party

March 24, 2010 Leave a comment

An open letter to conservatives. Pretty devastating. 

Your party — the GOP — and the conservative end of the American political spectrum have become irresponsible and irrational.  Worse, it’s tolerating, promoting and celebrating prejudice and hatred.  Let me provide some examples — by no means an exhaustive list — of where the Right as gotten itself stuck in a swamp of hypocrisy, hyperbole, historical inaccuracy and hatred.

If you’re going to regain your stature as a party of rational, responsible people, you’ll have to start by draining this swamp:

(h/t: The Daily Dish

Partisanship Poisons Everything

March 13, 2010 Leave a comment

Ever ask why climate change, a scientific issue, became a partisan political issue? The New Republic looks at the recent partisanship citing a new Gallup poll:

That skepticism about global warming is almost exclusively on the rise among political conservatives. Two years ago, for instance, 50 percent of conservatives believed climate change was already happening—that’s now down to 30 percent.

The post considers a few possible reasons for the increase, but I’m curious why the issue ever became a political issue. I understand different scientists having different opinions on the matter but why, for example, would liberals and conservatives have different opinions on the underlying science not just on the best course of action? The libertarian think-tank CATO for as long as I can remember has been skeptical of climate change. 


I suspect that because if greenhouse gases truly have a large effect on climate change, the government (gasp!) has to correct the “market failure,” which puts no price on such a huge negative externality. That doesn’t easily fit with libertarian and conservatives prejudices. They need to get over it. I always wanted to ask CATO if you were convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that climate change is real and is a problem, would you acknowledge the need for government intervention? Their time could be better spent advocating more market friendly solutions. 


(HT: The Daily Dish)

Why I Support President Obama

January 30, 2010 Leave a comment

The President visited House Republicans on Friday to have an exchange on their differing views on a host of issues and to try to get past the bitter partisanship gridlocking Washington. Please watch these videos, the first is President Obama’s introductory speech and the second is a revealing Q&A with the Republicans. Once again, the President acts like a serious adult ready and willing to honestly tackle the problems facing our nation.

I can’t help but be amazed that he is so often portrayed as some crazy communist ideologue. Throughout the speech and conversations he addresses the reasons behind what may seem like wild departures in policy for the United States, what his policies really are once you break them down, and what they have already achieved. I hope he succeeds in what seems like an honest effort to tame the partisanship and political gamesmanship that “boxes in” each side, preventing them from working together constructively. More of these events would be greatly appreciated. Ok, just enjoy:

[update]: I tracked down the poll Obama references in these videos about the popularity of the component parts of the (unpopular) stimulus package. The tax cuts were a little less popular than he stated, but his main point remains. If you break it down, all the parts are greatly more popular than the whole; I can’t help but see this as another example of our sad political/media reality.

On Political Independents (i.e. closet partisans)

January 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Few things aggravate me more than pure partisanship. People who only side with the Democrats or Republicans make politics into a football match rather than a governing process to best serve the interests of the nation. However the reality is that even among self-identified “independents” astonishingly few actually are independent. Other than about 10% of the US population most “independents” really act just like partisans. A blog post at The Monkey Cage fills us in on what political scientists have known for decades.

The number of pure independents is actually quite small — perhaps 10% or so of the population. And this number has been decreasing, not increasing, since the mid-1970s.

Again, there is really no difference between partisans of either stripe and independent leaners. As far as their views of Obama are concerned, it doesn’t really matter whether you say you’re a Democrat or an independent who leans Democrats, and the same is true on the other side of the aisle. Only “pure” independent appear to have evenly divided attitudes as of November, but, as above, these people are only a very small part of the sample — 7% overall.
The media, as the linked post makes clear, needs to stop acting like pure independents are always consequential in elections. I also have a stronger hope that the media will stop fueling the aggressive partisanship (the endless polling doesn’t help) and just report on issues as objectively as possible. The political horse race, football, or whatever analogy you prefer really cheapens our politics. Once our elected officials get to Washington, Beacon Hill, or wherever could really do us a favor and act like responsible representatives and not feed into the partisanship. Yet I worry that with our cynical media and hyper-partisan reinforcing electoral districts we will continue to polarize politically. We all need to make a conscience (however difficult) effort to not play into the partisan story-line. 
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