Sunday, April 24, 2011

Kelly plays the Nazi card

I don't know how many wars are going on right now, beyond the three we are involved in. There have been wars going on since there has been writing to record them. Yet which war, which theater and army did Jack Kelly today choose use as a metaphor for the state of unions today? World War II, the Russian front and the Wehrmact. Kelly chose to compare American unions, public service unions including the police, fire personal and emergency medical technicians who ran into the twin towers to the Nazis. Actually, it must be a delicious comparison, the Nazis and communists killing each other.

All right, so maybe I am going a bit overboard there. But in all of Kelly's column today, he never once mentions that the unions he is talking about include public service unions we used to consider heroes. Police, fire, emergency medical services and teachers. Either we think they are doing important work (sometimes heroic) or not. At the very least, I take exception to comparing police and teachers to Nazis (OK, so I didn't like some of my teachers, but they weren't that bad).

Now, I have admit the collective bargaining model appears to have some problems. Unions have certainly shown the tendency to act in their own interest over their employer, and to some extent to act in the interest of their most senior members over the membership as a whole. This can be particularly problematic when the employer is the taxpayers of a city, county, state or the nation.

That said, I think that if governments, local or national, made promises in the past, even if they were merely passing the buck to the future, we need to honor the promises. They won't last forever. For current public service employees, we do need to transition to defined contribution in health and retirement benefits. And although I am not sure what this would means for collective bargaining, but possibly salaries for public service employees need to be tied in some fashion to local salaries in private industry for people with similar qualifications (in experience and education). Of course, doing that might bring the salaries up for teachers, but if that's fair?

Kelly may be right, that public service unions are in danger of being dismantled, and thus the Democrats may lose a lot of funding. And I guess since Kelly seems to have bought into the Tea Party ideology, he thinks having just one party would be just fine. We could call the party the Nationalist Capitalist party.

Watch out, Sudetenland.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth day 2011 - I burn all three

I freely confess I don't know the history here; is Earth Day always on Good Friday? Seems like it would violate some part of the lib'rul ten Categorical Imperatives (apologies to Kant), like separation of the hated organized religion (as opposed to the disorganized Uni- Uni-'s) from all that is good and sweet in the world. But hey, if we have to celebrate the death of a messiah, might as well celebrate the planet too.

Of course environmentalism has changed somewhat since 1970, when the emphasis was (as I understand it) on pollution, and perhaps somewhat on recycling. Now the deleterious effects of greenhouse gases on the climate have pushed environmentalism towards reducing energy use (to avoid producing those gases by burning fossil fuels). The funny thing about that is that energy use reduction through more efficiency is something that an economist ought to be able to wrap his/her head around. If Compact Fluorescent's use few watts to provide the same light, and last much longer, they save the user a fair bit of money. If hybrids drive much like a regular car, but use half as much gas, they will save you money (eventually). So being a thoughtful consumer of energy means you have more money for other things. Yet environmentalism has successfully been tied to sacrifice (or at least discomfort) by the Republicans. So many people are losing out by not buying into conservation.

I myself burn natural gas to heat my apartment and the water I use, coal (probably) for electricity and oil (gasoline) to get places. My natural gas use will drop to nothing for the summer (the building pays for the hot water heater and the stove's gas). I am already using all CFL's (except for two LED lamps and an incandescent in the fridge), although there is probably more I could do to reduce my electricity usage. As for driving, I drive a hybrid, but I have been driving to work recently. I would like to start taking the bus where possible, and riding a bike when I can otherwise. Perhaps I will share the outcome of these resolutions here. What do you do to reduce?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Kelly, Tea Partier ...

So I didn't post last week on Jack Kelly. Although I thought his column lacked any sense of history or circumstance, I found myself somewhat in agreement with the thought that it might be time to leave Afghanistan some time soon (it doesn't look like there is much we can do, short of taking action like replacing Karzai summarily, that will change the equation there).

This week Kelly is using facts to make his accusations. Now, I am not sure the accusations Kelly make are actually legitimate, but I will point out that Glenn Greenwald has made similar accusations. So, I won't take on Kelly line by line; Obama certainly has things of the sort Kelly mentions to answer for.

That said, where I do take issue with Kelly is in his total lack of a historical sense and no sense of perspective about the situation in government. The second Kelly mentions the constitution (as in "Our Constitution permits Congress to delegate ..., but makes no provision for waivers ..."), I think back to George Bush (or more accurately his advisers) advancing the "Unitary Executive" theory of the Presidency. Complaining about waivers for the healthcare bill ("Obamacare" as Mr Kelly so disrespectfully and tellingly puts it) make me think about Cheney's secret meetings with energy industry executives, and the mineral rights essentially given away to industry during the Bush administration.

Kelly's references to the constitution and his accusations that Obama has broken the law are, to me, clear signs that Kelly is in the bag for the Tea Party. This kind of blatant pandering is offensive to me, to present issues as facts when in fact they are actually in support of an agenda. To only complain when a Democrat is in the White House is reprehensible. And before anyone accuses me of the same thing, I would point to my linking to and talking up Greenwald. Also I will express my hope that Obama will make good on some of the things he said in his speech on Wednesday. Let's repeal at least the Bush tax cuts for the rich.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Kelly, monotonous ...

Today's Jack Kelly column is essentially a retread of last week's, although Kelly notices Obama spoke on Monday to the nation. Kelly's take-away from Monday's speech was for his eyes to glaze over and hallucinate George Bush. By contrast, on Tuesday or Wednesday Jon Stewart's Daily Show had a much more sophisticated analysis, where Stewart noticed both the soaring rhetoric and the qualifying phrases, and declared that Obama was actually being relatively honest with us, more so than any President in the last fifty years (OK, he didn't include Nixon, Johnson or Kennedy, I guess because we are pretty clear about their honesty). Plus Stewart ended the segment noticing a Palin unforced error ("sqermish"?).

Kelly took pains to say that Obama sounded a lot like the most recent George Bush, until he quotes a former Bush speech writer who says that Obama did something no other President has ever done. In between, Kelly references himself (apparently we weren't paying attention, since we hadn't stormed the White House in the last week).

Kelly also says this "It's easier to get into wars than out of them. Regime change in Iraq took about three weeks. It was the unforeseen aftermath that took eight years, thousands of lives and nearly a trillion dollars.". Incredible. Did Kelly say anything like this in 2003? Or did he blindly buy into Condelezza Rice's logic "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."? And before you say that Iraq had not occurred yet, I will say we could look at the Vietnam War, in which US involvement started in a limited fashion during the Eisenhower administration (1955).

Kelly is actually right that the US is headed into uncharted territory. Qaddafi has been in power since 1969. 42 years is a long time to have no practice at democracy, and some of the most powerful non governmental organizations in the Middle East are ones we designate as terrorist. Now, maybe Qaddafi would have slaughtered thousands if we had waited one more day, although we have to admit Obama and company waited for the UN Security Council to deliberate. Is that better or worse than what bush did? We have to admit that Obama has started this process without really having a plan for what might happen after. Is it better or worse that Obama has dragged the UN into this (although I gather Bush's initial "coalition of the willing" was larger).

The thing is, Kelly is not really helping us see the nuances. If the reader has to work it out for him/her self, then they have the option to not work it out, so Kelly is not doing his readers any favors. Consider the difference in this, this, this, this, or this. A liberal who admits to have been a supporter (he thinks Obama is smarter than McCain) but now is examining all the issues through the prism of the constitution and the rulings of the Supreme Court might be a better critic than conservative whose view of the world apparently needs to be shoehorned into Tea Party doctrine. It is disappointing that the PG could have intelligent criticism of the President, or it can have Jack Kelly.