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  1. #681
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    From the New York Times:

    At Last, Conservative Reform

    IN American life, political ideas that lack partisan champions are regarded suspiciously, like an attempt to cheat at cards or pay for dinner with counterfeit cash. Because we have only two parties, because those parties are ideologically disciplined, and because everyone is obsessed with the other side’s unrighteousness, there’s a sense that if you aren’t fully on board with an existing partisan agenda, you don’t have any business getting mixed up in the debate.

    There is an exception for rich people who wish Michael Bloomberg could be president: they get to have gushing articles written about their boring, implausible third-party fantasies every four years. Everyone else is out of luck. If you’re a consistent libertarian, Naderite left-winger or social conservative who’s also an economic populist, it isn’t enough to make the case for your ideas; you must perpetually explain why, in the absence of a Libertarian Party or a Socialist Party or a Mike Huckabee presidential run, anyone should even care that you exist.

    And for the last few years, this same suspicion has attached itself to what had heretofore been a more mainstream group: conservative policy thinkers.

    The conservative policy larder was genuinely bare by the end of the Bush presidency. But that changed, reasonably swiftly, across President Obama’s first term. A new journal, National Affairs, edited by Yuval Levin, began incubating alternatives to a re-ascendant liberalism. The older magazines and think tanks were reinvigorated, and played host to increasingly lively policy debates. And a new generation of conservative thinkers coalesced: James Capretta and Avik Roy on health care, Brad Wilcox and Kay Hymowitz on social policy, Ramesh Ponnuru on taxes and monetary policy, James Pethokoukis on financial regulation, Reihan Salam on all of the above, and many others.

    By 2012, it was possible to discern the outlines of a plausible right-of-center agenda on domestic polity — a new “reform conservatism,” if you will.

    But the Republican Party simply wasn’t interested.

    Reform conservatism did have one partial champion in Paul Ryan, who co-sponsored the only plausible Obamacare alternative in Congress, and whose evolving Medicare proposal drew on ideas Levin and others had proposed. But Ryan was defined (and mostly defined himself) as Mr. Austerity rather than Mr. Reform. The rest of the party, meanwhile, was consumed by a Tea Party vs. Establishment rivalry that had a policy substrate but was just as often about posturing and score-settling.

    And then came the Romney campaign, about whose substance the less said the better.

    So a question has hovered over the would-be conservative reformers: If their ideas lack Republican champions, do they actually matter? Are they even worthy of debate? Or is reform conservatism basically a curiosity, an irrelevancy, a kind of center-right Naderism?

    Which is why the most consequential recent development for the G.O.P. might not actually be Chris Christie’s traffic scandal. It might, instead, be the fact that reform conservatism suddenly has national politicians in its corner.

    The first is Mike Lee, the junior Senator from Utah, who has pivoted from leading the defund-Obamacare movement to basically becoming a one-stop shop for provocative reform ideas: in the last six months, his office has proposed a new family-friendly tax reform, reached across the aisle to work on criminal justice issues and offered significant new proposals on transportation and higher education reform.

    The second is Marco Rubio, whose speech two weeks ago on the anniversary of the declaration of the war on poverty called for two major changes to the safety net: first, pooling federal antipoverty programs into a single fund that would allow more flexibility for state experiments; and second, replacing the earned-income tax credit with a direct wage subsidy designed to offer more help to low-income, single men.

    Taken together, Lee’s and Rubio’s proposals are already more interesting and promising than almost anything Republicans campaigned on in 2012 — and there may be more to come, from them and perhaps from Ryan as well.

    Of course these ideas coexist, as liberals have been quick to point out, with a congressional party that’s still wedded to opposition, austerity and not much else. But the Republican Party’s problems were never going to be solved from the House of Representatives, any more than House Democrats could rescue their party from its Reagan-era wilderness. The more likely solution for the G.O.P. has always required a two-step process: rising-star politicians coalesce around a new agenda; then a winning presidential candidate puts it into effect.

    Which may not happen in this case — because the party’s base may be too rejectionist, because Hillary Clinton may actually be unstoppable no matter what her rival’s platform says, because two senators do not a reformist moment make.

    But for conservative policy reformers, there’s an unfamiliar feeling in the air: It’s as if, for the first time in many years, their perspective actually exists.

  2. #682
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    From the New Republic:

    The Political State of the Union Is Not Good: Obama and the Democrats are in deep trouble

    In his memo this week, Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg warns me to “forget the conventional wisdom” that “the president is in trouble.” Greenberg points to Barack Obama’s approval rating being up, the Republicans’ reputation at a “remarkable low,” and the generic Congressional vote between the parties being even. Some of this makes sense, but on eve of Obama’s State of the Union address, I’m going with the conventional wisdom: Obama and the Democrats are in deep trouble.

    Greenberg cites an improvement in Obama and the Democrats’ polling numbers over the last month, but the improvement is very slight. What I’d point to instead is a comparison between where Obama and the Democrats stood in January 2010 and where they stand today. In January 2010, they were about to lose the Massachusetts senate race, and in November 2010 would lose 63 seats in the House and six seats in the Senate. If Obama and the Democrats’ numbers are better now than they were then, they may not be in trouble; but if they’re worse, the conventional wisdom is right. And they’re worse.

    The most recent standard of comparison is the ABC/Washington Post poll that asked some of the same questions in January 2010. First, there are the questions about Obama. These are relevant because midterm elections are often referenda on the president and his party. In January 2010, Obama’s approval ratings were 53 approval to 44 percent disapproval of his “handling his job as president.” Today, 46 percent approve and 50 percent disapprove—a 13-point swing. In January 2010, 47 percent approved and 52 percent disapproved of his handling of the economy. Today 43 percent approve and 55 percent disapprove—a seven-point swing.

    In January 2010, 57 percent of registered voters thought that Obama understood “the problems of people like you.” Forty-two percent did not. Today, it’s 47 to 52 percent—a 20-point swing. And there is a similar 20-point swing in the question of how much confidence voters have in Obama’s ability to “make the right decisions for the country’s future.” In short, the electorate has far less confidence in Obama now than they did in January 2010.

    ABC–Washington Post didn’t ask the same questions about Democrats and Republicans in January 2010 that they asked today, but they did ask these questions in October 2010 on the eve of the Republicans’ sweep. In October 2010, voters thought Democrats would do a better job than Republicans handling the economy by 44 to 37 percent. Today, they think Republicans would do a better job by 44 to 37 percent—a 20-point turnaround. In October 2010, voters said (incredibly) that they preferred Democratic House candidates by 49 to 44 percent. Today, they prefer Republicans by 45 to 46 percent. The number for October 2010 may be inaccurate, but in any case, there is nothing in the current numbers to inspire confidence. In midterm elections, the Republicans have a built-in advantage that allows them to maintain their majority without winning a majority of votes.

    What can be said against the conventional wisdom? First, voters have an unusually low opinion of the Republicans as well as of the Democrats and President Obama. In January 2010, only 24 percent of voters had a great deal or a good amount of confidence in Republicans’ decisions about the country’s future; today, it is down to 19 percent. If Republicans were to behave in the coming year the way they did last fall when they shut down the government, Obama and the Democrats could make up a lot of political ground from what they lost during the Obamacare rollout in October.

    Secondly, voters favor the Democrats on several issues that the President and his party are likely to promote this year. These include an increase in minimum wage, immigration (where the Democrats enjoy only a 39 to 37 percent advantage), and extending unemployment insurance. Finally, there is the question of the economy. During 2010, unemployment hovered at about 9.5 percent through the last six months before the election. Voters remained very pessimistic about the country’s economic future. Last month, the unemployment rate dipped below seven percent for the first time since November 2008. If it continues to fall, that will benefit Obama and the Democrats.

    But it may not continue falling. As economists Barry Z. Cynamon and Steven M. Fazzari argue in a recent paper, the recovery from the Great Recession has been constrained by a failure of median wages to increase. That has held down the consumer demand that is necessary for a buoyant recovery. They conclude that “a robust recovery is unlikely without policy or other institutional change that at least stops, or even reverse, the trend toward greater income inequality.” But the changes they propose – a “redistributive tax policy” and wage growth tied to productivity growth—are both unlikely to occur this year. Republicans will not back a redistributive tax policy or changes in labor law that would revive the standard remedy—strong labor unions—for keeping wages tied to productivity. There may modest economic improvements over the year, but as happened in 1994, they may not be sufficient to prevent significant Republican gains in November 2014.

  3. #683
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    From RealClearPolitics:

    Obama Running Out of Reasons to Reject Keystone XL

    WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama is running out of reasons to say no to Keystone XL, the proposed oil pipeline that's long been looming over his environmental legacy.

    Five years after the pipeline's backers first asked the Obama administration for approval, the project remains in limbo, stuck in a complex regulatory process that has enabled Obama to put off what will inevitably be a politically explosive decision. But the release Friday of a long-awaited government report removes a major excuse for delay, ramping up pressure on the president to make a call.

    The State Department's report raised no significant environmental objections to the pipeline, marking a victory for proponents, who argue the project will create jobs and strengthen America's energy security.

    Environmentalists disagree and insist approval would fly in the face of Obama's vaunted promise to fight climate change, even as the report gives him political cover to approve it. They argue the report, which provides a detailed assessment of tar sands emissions, offers Obama more than enough justification to oppose the pipeline.

    Obama is not tipping his hand. But the White House pushed back on the notion that the pipeline is now headed for speedy approval. Only after various U.S. agencies and the public have a chance to weigh the report and other data will a decision be made, said White House spokesman Matt Lehrich.

    "The president has clearly stated that the project will be in the national interest only if it does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution," Lehrich said, echoing a declaration Obama made in a speech laying out his climate change plan.

    A final decision isn't expected until this summer, at the earliest, meaning the verdict could potentially come in the run-up to November's midterm elections, in which energy issues are likely to be a factor in some key races. The decision might also coincide with the Obama administration's release of new emissions rules for existing power plants that are also politically contentious.

    Because Keystone has become a proxy for the broader battle over energy vs. environment, Obama's decision will have an outsized impact on his environmental legacy. The issue has taken on a life of its own, trailing Obama seemingly wherever he goes.

    Protesters, one who dresses as a polar bear, show up regularly outside the White House and at Obama events across the country to demonstrate against it. Both sides have run television ads urging Obama to take their side on the pipeline, which would carry oil from tar sands in western Canada 1,179 miles to a hub in Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines to carry more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast.

    "Sometimes you don't get to choose the symbol of an issue - they get chosen for you, and there's no better example of that than Keystone," said Daniel J. Weiss, director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress and a Keystone opponent. "His decision on this issue will symbolize his record on climate and energy for people on both sides of the debate."

    If Obama gives Keystone the green light, environmental groups that are already upset with him for promoting domestic oil and gas drilling are sure to pile on. Moreover, it's unlikely to win him any accolades from Republicans. Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster, said rather than give Obama credit for finally making the decision they wanted, Republicans will criticize him for taking so long.

    Ironically for Obama, who has been seeking out opportunities to act unilaterally in the face of congressional gridlock, this is one decision the president may wish weren't up to him. Republicans seized on Obama's vow to use his "pen and phone" to take executive action this year as they urged him Friday to sign the pipeline's permit.

    "Please pick up that pen you've been talking so much about and make this happen," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

    The White House has sought to dodge questions publicly about the pipeline by arguing the review process is housed at the State Department, which has jurisdiction because the pipeline would cross a U.S. border. But privately, administration officials concede that Obama will decide an issue of this magnitude.

    Obama doesn't just face domestic pressure on the issue - Canada has been angered at the long delays of the project it needs to export its growing oil sands production. Obama meets with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at a trilateral summit in Mexico in a few weeks.

    Obama blocked the Keystone XL pipeline in January 2012, saying he did not have enough time for a fair review before a looming deadline forced on him by congressional Republicans. That delayed the choice for him until after his re-election.

    Now that the review is complete, other government agencies have 90 days to comment. Then Secretary of State John Kerry makes a recommendation to Obama on whether the project is in the national interest, taking into account Obama's pledge that the effect on greenhouse gas emissions will be part of that equation.

    The State Department report Friday said Keystone is unlikely to significantly impact oil sands extraction or the demand for heavy crude oil at U.S. refineries. Keystone opponents called the report flawed and argued it ignored evidence.

  4. #684
    LL P. Stewie Beorn's Avatar
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    Obama just cares about the environment it's not like one of his backers stands to make billions off of this decision... Oh wait...

    Buffett’s Burlington Northern Among Pipeline Winners

  5. #685
    Senior Member Lateralus's Avatar
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    Obama may or may not care about the environment, I really couldn't care less about what he believes. He's a corporate whore.

    I think most people don't know how many pipeline leaks there are every year. According to PHMSA, there were 603 pipeline "incidents" in 2011. Those resulted in 17 deaths, 70 injuries, and $326 million in property damage. That is a typical year. I don't know if that includes environmental damage to public and private land or if that figure is just what people have claimed through insurance companies. I'm leaning toward to latter, meaning the actual damage is much greater.

    The idea of a pipeline is fine in a purely theoretical sense. But the reality is that pipelines leak all the time and this Keystone pipeline would be thousands of miles long. I would be in favor of the pipeline if proper safety precautions were taken, but what would be proper, in my opinion, might end up making the pipeline more expensive than using the railroad for transport. If it is ever actually built, we know that there will be neglect. It's in the company's financial interest to neglect because the cost of neglect is less than the cost of proper maintenance. In the end, the government will have a hand in cleaning up messes and making sure the company doesn't go out of business compensating those who were harmed. Privatized profits, socialized losses. Fascism.
    "We grow up thinking that beliefs are something to be proud of, but they're really nothing but opinions one refuses to reconsider. Beliefs are easy. The stronger your beliefs are, the less open you are to growth and wisdom, because "strength of belief" is only the intensity with which you resist questioning yourself. As soon as you are proud of a belief, as soon as you think it adds something to who you are, then you've made it a part of your ego."

  6. #686
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    How's crying wolf working out for you?

  7. #687
    Senior Member Lateralus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DiscoBiscuit View Post
    How's crying wolf working out for you?
    Trying to channel your inner-Palin?



    I'm just pointing out one of the many the moral hazards that exist when it comes to corporate law in this country. It's ironic that someone from the party that never stops talking about how government handouts make people lazy says someone is "crying wolf" when the same concept is applied to business.
    "We grow up thinking that beliefs are something to be proud of, but they're really nothing but opinions one refuses to reconsider. Beliefs are easy. The stronger your beliefs are, the less open you are to growth and wisdom, because "strength of belief" is only the intensity with which you resist questioning yourself. As soon as you are proud of a belief, as soon as you think it adds something to who you are, then you've made it a part of your ego."

  8. #688
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lateralus View Post
    Trying to channel your inner-Palin?
    It's funny that the only tool in your toolbox is to find the weakest conservative argument you can, then tie the author behind that to whatever Typoc poster you disagree with.

    But hey don't take my word for it take Benjamin Zycher's....

    The Fact-free Opposition to Keystone XL

    Contrary to opponents of Keystone XL, the pipeline would have virtually no effect on global warming, and the world is not experiencing more frequent and extreme climate-related events.

    Now that the State Department has reported the obvious — that the Keystone XL pipeline would have virtually no effect on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions or on global temperatures — the opponents of the project are bringing the heat. But in the realm of energy and environmental policy, Pavlov’s dogs are many, loyal, and deeply religious, and unlike Sherlock Holmes’s four-legged friend in Silver Blaze, they decidedly are not silent.

    One such immediate reaction was offered by Professor Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University, who informs us modestly that “the future survival and wellbeing of humanity” is at stake. His specific arguments in summary are as follows:

    • “The world is on a trajectory to raise the mean global temperature by at least 3 degrees C by the end of the century.”
    • “The world is experiencing a rapidly rising frequency of extreme climate-related events such as heat waves.”
    • “The Keystone pipeline is crucial to the global carbon budget,” that is, an effort to limit the use of fossil fuels to an amount that would yield a global temperature increase of no more than 2 degrees C.

    Where to begin? With respect to the world trajectory of “at least 3 degrees C,” the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 5th Assessment Report (AR5) summarizes the data as follows. The total increase between the 1850-1900 average and the 2003-2012 period (in short, approximately a century) was 0.78 °C. For the period 1951-2012, the increase has been 0.12 °C per decade, or about 1.2 °C per century. Data for 1880-2012 published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are displayed in the following chart.


    There is little dispute that temperatures began to rise (almost by definition) at the end of the Little Ice Age in the early to mid-19th century. The data show some cooling in the late 1880s through about 1910, perhaps due in part to the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa and the massive release of dust and various aerosols. Temperatures then increased through about 1940, fell until approximately 1975-1980, increased through 1998 (a strong El Niño year), and have displayed no trend over the last 15 or so years. The more-recent atmospheric data from the satellite record are shown in the following chart, from the University of Alabama. (Note that 1999 was a strong La Niña year.) No trend is obvious since about 2001.


    So: The basis for Sachs’s assertion of a trajectory of “at least 3 degrees C by the end of the century” remains entirely obscure. The earth has been warming since the end of the Little Ice Age, and the degree to which that long-term trend is driven by GHG emissions is an issue hotly(!) debated in the scientific journals. Notwithstanding Sachs’s assertions about the “overwhelming scientific consensus” — note that scientific truth is not majoritarian — the issue of the climate sensitivity of the atmosphere to increasing GHG concentrations is nowhere near resolution.

    With respect to “extreme climate-related events”: I summarize the evidence here, but in brief, tornado, hurricane, and cyclone activity are at historically low levels, wildfires are in a long-term decline except in government forests, there is no trend in sea-levels related to increases in GHG concentrations, the record of the Arctic ice cover is ambiguous, there is no drought trend since 1895, and the same is true for flooding over the last 85-127 years. In the most recent IPCC assessment report, the worst of the potential extreme events is the possible disappearance of the summer arctic ice, an outcome that IPCC now views only as “likely” with “medium confidence.”

    In short: Sachs’s assertion about extreme events ignores both the evidence and the IPCC analysis. With respect to Sachs’s argument that the nonapproval of Keystone is crucial in terms of limiting future temperature increases to 2 °C: If built, Keystone XL will transport 830,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Canadian crude oil, the total GHG emissions from which would be 147-159 million metric tons per year on a “lifecycle” basis. Suppose in the extreme case that this Canadian oil would not replace any other crude oil, so that the net additional emissions would be the full 147-159 million metric tons per year. Total world emissions of carbon dioxide in 2013 were about 36 billion metric tons; in this extreme case, Keystone XL would add about 0.4 percent. As world GHG emissions — and atmospheric GHG concentrations — increase over time, the Keystone XL contribution would be smaller proportionately and its warming effect even more trivial because of the logarithmic relation between GHG concentrations and the effects of GHG emissions. (An increase in GHG emissions of 0.4 percent would raise global temperatures in 2100 by something on the order of one ten-thousandth of a degree.) Accordingly, Sachs’s argument that Keystone XL is “crucial” in terms of limiting temperature increases to 2°C is preposterous, particularly in a world in which GHG emissions are rising steadily as a result of industrialization in Asia and elsewhere.

    Sachs gives the game away when he argues that “The State Department doesn’t even raise the possibility that the pipeline should be stopped in order to keep a lid on the total amount of unconventional fossil fuels burned around the world,” that is, “that the pipeline discussion really needs to be about the urgent need to shift from fossil fuels.” And so there we have it: His opposition to Keystone has nothing to do with GHG or climate effects. Instead, it is part of the broad view on the environmental left that there is just something not salutary about conventional energy, and that therefore “we must… [make] considerable investments for several decades to come… [in such] low-carbon alternatives [as] nuclear, solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal power.” By “we,” Sachs presumably means government and its subsidy machine, an indication of his real view of the uneconomic nature of “renewable” energy. For a discussion of why renewable energy cannot compete, see this and this.

    Sachs concludes his missive with an outpouring of emotion against the “greed, cynicism, and shortsightedness” of Washington and Ottawa, due to the reality that “there is money to be made NOW [emphasis in the original], the future be damned.” And there is “incompetence” and “gilded interests” that must be “face[d] down.” Can a grassy knoll be far behind?

    In a similar vein, Robert Redford — “actor, director, and environmental activist” — argues against Keystone XL by referring to purported findings in the State Department report differing rather sharply from those actually presented there. Redford: “The State Department report makes it clear that [Keystone XL would raise] the dangers of climate change.” Really? Where? That is precisely what the State Department report does not conclude — the Canadian oil will be produced regardless of whether Keystone XL is built — and that is why Sachs and the environmental left are so critical of it. And for Redford, it is downhill from there. “It’s about big profits for Big Oil.” The Canadian oil would “be refined on the Gulf and shipped overseas… [putting] our farmers and ranchers at needless risk.” (?) And he offers the usual genuflection for “cleaner, safer, renewable sources of power and fuel.” Is this the best that an “environmental activist” or one of his staffers can do?

  9. #689
    Senior Member Lateralus's Avatar
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    That entire argument is based upon the idea that the only environmental concern is global warming. I know you haven't been paying attention to my posts over the years (or even two posts ago, where I didn't say anything about global warming), so I'll sum up my position here. Habitat destruction is a far greater threat to humans than global warming (IMO). A 1000+ mile long pipeline is a disaster waiting to happen and I'm not a global warming alarmist. That Canadian oil is going to be extracted, regardless. Whether it's transported by railroad or pipeline, we're going to get it out of the ground and burn it. So the question is, what is the safest way to transport that oil, not what is the cheapest.
    "We grow up thinking that beliefs are something to be proud of, but they're really nothing but opinions one refuses to reconsider. Beliefs are easy. The stronger your beliefs are, the less open you are to growth and wisdom, because "strength of belief" is only the intensity with which you resist questioning yourself. As soon as you are proud of a belief, as soon as you think it adds something to who you are, then you've made it a part of your ego."

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    Forgive me if I rely on the state department report instead of conjecture.

    The pipeline will be approved, I would put money on it.

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