Republicans claim to oppose high taxes, but they vote for more Big Government — and higher taxes. The latest case in point is a U.S. Senate vote to pass an Internet sales tax bill that would force online retail outlets to start collecting taxes on behalf of state governments.
I can’t tell you just how bad an idea this is. Much like some other recent legislation that died in the Senate (cough gun control cough), this is legislation that pretends to fix a problem that doesn’t exist, and actually makes a real problem worse.
The problem it pretends to fix is the failure to tax businesses that sell online. Fun fact: every American business that sells online pays sales taxes to every single state (and county, in many states) where it has a physical location. I wrote the sales tax code for DriveThruRPG, so I know for a fact that this is not a trivial amount of work for a small business. Expanding that added bureaucracy and back-end work to pay every single county in the USA is GODDAMNED INSANE (I am speaking for myself here, not for DriveThruRPG).
Adding injury to insult, it actually makes a real problem worse. The real problem is that local brick-and-mortar retailers can sometimes be undercut by online retailers. A solution to this problem would be to make sales tax lower, making the local retailer more competitive. Erecting a massive bureaucratic impediment, discouraging local brick-and-mortar businesses from selling their products online, actually makes their situation WORSE.
And, as usual, the only political party with two clues to rub together are the Libertarians.
The first segment, on the Philippines, illustrates the scenario that I think motivates some of the anti-gun hysteria in this country. Ironically, I think that divisive rhetoric and attempts to infringe on other people’s civil rights makes that scenario more likely rather than less. I hope, really hope, that Americans wake up to that and stop with the attacks on each other. Ignorance, hatred, and irrational fear are poor foundations for public policy.
The second segment, on the Taliban and Afghanistan… that’s almost too tragic. I have trouble even wrapping my head around it. It would be easy to blame religion, but the suicide bombers aren’t even being told what their own religion says. They are lied to and manipulated by their Imams and Muftis, who are distorting their own religion to use these children as weapons. The horror of it baffles me.
I am so grateful that I live in a relatively safe, relatively sane country. I hope it stays that way.
I had an idea for a political cartoon. There would be three people at a table, and in each panel they would each say something, expressing their opinion about a topic. The first person believes in creationism, that there’s no evidence for evolution, that evolution is a plot by satanists and atheists, etc. The other two people would follow a similar pattern, but with homophobia and “gun control”, respectively (e.g., there’s no evidence that homosexuality is natural or that guns save lives, it’s all a plot by the gay Jews in Hollywood or the gun lobby and the NRA, etc.). In the final panel, they would each say that “90% of Americans support…” their own particular brand of ignorance, hatred, and irrational fear.
It’s too wordy for a cartoon, though. Also, it strikes me as a bit unkind. Just because someone has a different opinion, even an opinion I consider hateful and ignorant, that alone doesn’t make them a bad person. It’s not that simple: even genuinely good and kind people can have genuinely horrific opinions. Human beings are complicated.
“Human kindness can be found in all groups, even those which as a whole it would be easy to condemn.”
– Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
However, the suggestion that such a thing could never happen here ignores a very important fact: it has already happened here.
There are people alive today who remember when FDR issued an executive order to arrest and imprison tens of thousands of US citizens (and nearly as many legal immigrants) without trial or due process of any kind — and in 1944 the US Supreme Court declared this a valid exercise of Executive power under the authority granted him by the US Constitution. That didn’t happen in Stalinist Russia or Nazi Germany — that happened here (the USA).
So while stories about FEMA internment camps is a bunch of crackpot nonsense, I think it takes a special sort of hubris to think something like that could never happen here again.
Ten years ago, the idea of the US government spying on its citizens, intercepting their emails or killing them with drones was unthinkable. But now it’s business as usual, says John Kiriakou, a former CIA agent and torture whistleblower.
Kiriakou is now awaiting a summons to start a prison sentence. One of the first to confirm the existence of Washington’s waterboarding program, he was sentenced last week to two-and-a-half years in jail for revealing the name of an undercover agent. But even if he had another chance, he would have done the same thing again…
Okay, another political thing, but this is less about politics and more about accuracy. When people talk about the former Confederate states voting as a block for Romney, those people are full of hot air. (In fact, pretty much any time someone starts spewing invective about the South or the North, you can safely bet they are full of hot air.) The Electoral College votes are not representative of who people actually voted for.
I’ll say that again:
Electoral College votes are not representative of who people actually voted for.
I made this because 1) I wanted to see what it looked like and 2) I think it’s kinda important. Talking about red states versus blue states in a monolithic way is reductive and annoying.
Several people have asked how this was done. The numbers were taken from MSNBC. I matched the percentage of blue in an RGB color picker to the percentage of the vote Barack Obama got and did the same for Romney and red. Green stayed at zero.
So if a state had voted 100% for one or the other, you would see the bluest blue or reddest red your computer screen can produce. The reason all the colors are more or less in the middle is because no state went more than ~70% for one side or the other. Although if you zoom in you can see that DC is very bright with 91% for Obama.
A few people mentioned that they’d like to see this done by county. Personally I don’t think the county map would be that useful unless it reflected the population disparity between counties (which is harder, but maybe possible). I’m thinking about it.
The USA is not divided into huge subcontinent-sized areas that voted for Tweedle Dee or Tweedle Dum in monolithic blocks. There is a good chance that half of the people you meet on a given day voted more or less the way you did, and half didn’t. That’s true whether you live in New York or Georgia, Alaska or Florida. People who spout hate and demonize entire regions of the USA based on electoral college votes aren’t interested in accuracy or seeking common ground: quite the opposite.
Be accurate. Seek common ground. Assume good faith in others until they prove otherwise. Don’t distort the truth to spread hate and divisiveness.
I don’t interpret the election results the way anyone else does. When given the choice between two virtually identical candidates and three other very distinct candidates, 98% of the country voted for the two virtually identical candidates, and the votes for those two candidates got split almost exactly in half. To me, that says that a) 98% of the country approves of our current domestic and foreign policies, and b) that the two major parties are very good at choosing candidates that appeal to nearly everyone, to the extent that choosing between them may as well be a coin toss.
I find the chest-thumping of the winners and the hand-wringing of the losers surreal. Half of the country wanted a Pepsi, and a very tiny fraction less than that wanted Coke. This means that Coke is no longer relevant, can no longer be seriously considered as a soft drink, should be removed from grocery store shelves and relegated to local convenience stores, and so on? This means that people who want Pepsi are morally and dietetically inferior (or superior) to people who’d rather drink Coke? It’s the end of the world and/or the beginning of a new era because a very tiny fraction of the population prefers one brand of carbonated brown sugar-water over another brand of carbonated brown sugar-water?
It all just seems a wild overreaction to a very tiny difference in preference between two extremely similar things.
I am, by ancestry, as white as white can be. However, I grew up in a black neighborhood — I was *the* white boy on the school bus. My family was on food stamps from time to time, and I was on the hot lunch program at school. So it’s always struck me a little surreal when people brag or bitch about our “first Black President” when he had one white American parent and one foreign parent (not an “African-American”, but a plain old African — a senior governmental economist from Kenya), he was raised by his white mother and grandparents, and he lived a life of privilege that I never saw anywhere but on television. In every way that matters, I think Barack Obama (who was called “Barry” most of his life) is just an ordinary, affluent, career politician. I don’t think he has anything in common with any of the people I grew up with.
I am not supposed to say any of this, because, as I mentioned, I am as white as a slice of Wonder Bread. But on the eve of his re-election (he’ll get approximately 64% of the popular vote) (* see below), I was just thinking about all of the important things that I wish people were taking into consideration when they vote (like the erosion of our civil rights, the lack of accountability of corporations, the insane expansion of our military, the fact that we incarcerate more of our population than China does, and so on), and all of the trivial nonsense that they talk about instead. Like who the candidates’ ancestors are.
What is the controversy? It’s not his culture and upbringing. Is it because, like a great many completely ordinary Americans, Obama’s ancestors are from multiple continents? Is it literally the color of his skin that makes a difference? Is the big deal not that he’s our “first black President”, but that he’s our first President who isn’t as light-skinned as I am?
Apparently I am the only one who finds this obsession with Obama’s pedigree peculiar.
One thing I don’t expect from President Obama’s second term is a miraculous resurgence of our economy. The President is not the Wizard Of Oz. Despite the sound bites from both Romney and Obama, we have neither recovered from the depression, nor are we still at the bottom of it. Actual unemployment is around 14%-16%, but it’s getting better. The housing market still sucks, but it’s getting better. The price of gasoline is still over $3.00 a gallon, and it’s not going down by much, if at all, ever again. None of this is Obama’s fault. He didn’t break the engine of our economy, and he can’t fix it. He might deserve a little credit if he doesn’t do anything to disrupt the current recovery process. We’ll see.
* 2012-11-07: I was way wrong on the popular vote. I said Obama would get almost 2/3 of the popular vote, and he barely got 50%.