Wednesday, February 22, 2017

#notallconservatives... Well, Actually Maybe it is All Conservatives

No surprise I agree with Atrios about the conservative movement being and having always been a horrible thing.  I am still, however, a bit impressed at how well a movement without any popular ideas manages to be a popular movement.  Yes, racism/sexism/xenophobia/... but it's more than that.

The main goal of the conservative movement is to take stuff from most people (mostly poor, and most loudly minority but really they don't give a shit) and give it to rich people.  That's a shit goal that huge majorities in this country believe is a shit goal, and yet they get people to buy into it.  At some level, that's impressive--scary and horrible, but impressive nevertheless.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Manufacturing Jobs Aren't Inherently Better Than Service Jobs

I wish economists would make that point more often and more loudly.  DeLong kind of gets the low skilled manufacturing part in his post criticizing the consensus around globalization hurting wages.  There's a lot of talk about how bargaining (read: unions) has been actively killed by Republicans the past 30 years or so, and a mention that low-skilled blue collar jobs aren't really great jobs, but since he's criticizing Larry Summers omissions I'm feel I should criticize his: there is no mention of service industry jobs.

This is a glaring omission for a couple reasons. One goes to the whole globalization issue: outsourcing service industry jobs is harder than manufacturing.  Yes, you can locate a call center in India, but you can't really staff a grocery store for St. Louis residents by hiring people in Tanzania, or move goods within the US with truck drivers in China or go to get a physical from a doctor in Cuba.  Those jobs don't globalize the way manufacturing can.  They may also be harder to mechanize due to our preference for human contact/interactions.

The other reason it is an omission has to do with the reduction of bargaining power.  The reason that manufacturing jobs are perceived as better is because they have, historically, paid better, and the reason for that is unions and bargaining.  Low-skilled service jobs (operating a cash register, or stocking shelves) often do not have unions to support the wages and benefits.  If Wal-Mart had ended up unionized when it was started I think the jobs in this country would be very different today.  Now I don't think that the big box stores would be nearly as prevalent were that the case, and that's an alternate reality with far reaching consequences, but we perceive manufacturing as better than service, not because it is, but because it is associated with unions.

Science Advocacy

Ah for the shared science perspectives in the decades before I was old enough to vote.  There is certainly a lot of noise around scientists becoming increasingly "concerned" with the way science is viewed and treated [by politics/politicians] in this country.  Deciding what to do isn't easy for reasons pointed out as part of this post a few weeks back.

Basically science and scientists, while knowing full well, that science is inherently political (funding from government, initiatives and tax exemptions for R&D...) it has not, historically, been partisan.  Sure Reagan liked his science explodey, but everything else got funded along with it.  Things started changing in the 90's.  Initially this was part of the GOP's strategy to court evangelical voters (creationism good, evolution bad!) but that embrace of some anti-science views made it easier for anti-science ideas and points of view more generally to gain traction among Republicans (politicians and voters).

Yes, there are plenty of anti-science, and unscientific views that get associated with liberals (anti-GMO and anti-nuclear energy are the big two...anti-vaccination is historically party independent, though after being thoroughly discredited they are gaining ground again thanks to the current administration), but the Democratic party does not broadly embrace those views--at least not yet.

But despite the obvious situation that Democrats are better for science than Republicans, science organizations and scientists have been reluctant to push that, and for a simple reason: if scientists start endorsing Democrats over Republicans, then the GOP will see just one more reason to not support science.  So what's the fix?

Today, if you are a scientist or science fan, or just someone who thinks science is a good thing, then there is no real question that voting for Democrats is better for science.  Still, that isn't really how most people--not even necessarily most scientists--vote.  Social programs, taxation, foreign affairs, and the place of government in regulating industry/finance/trade are all things that tend to be higher on most people's mind when selecting for whom to vote.  Maybe because most people thought that it didn't really matter much for science, but it looks like scientists, at least, seem to be becoming more aware that it does--or at least more active about it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Sure, But Only If You Disagree With Them

I get the point Atrios is making here, but leaks really do exist in a grey area.  Leaks that are vindictive, or that are trying to discredit someone based on irrelevant information are mostly bad, while those from whistle blowers are mostly not bad (not necessarily good, per se but not bad).

It's not easy to determine good from bad.  Leaking about a politician having an affair is largely irrelevant, but if that politician is having an affair with someone who is the same [gender] while fighting against legislation that protects LGBTQ people, well, it kinda becomes relevant in that case.  Leaks that endanger US operatives in foreign nations are bad, but what if those operatives are torturing and raping people in those locations?  Even more, leaks that show the US doing bad things in general do endanger other Americans that are not doing that by association.  This is why we have a court system.

It's not perfect, and there are some serious potential issues with the courts going forward, but it's the system we have.  If someone does something nominally illegal (leaking classified docs) but there are extenuating circumstances (the docs are covering up war crimes) then a judge/jury can say whether breaking the law was ok.  Or something.

Until you get to a court case all we have in the meantime is speculation which is very likely to be clouded by political priors.  Maybe that means everyone is full of shit, or maybe (more likely) it means that distinguishing between full of shit and not is a fools errand, in which case it may as well be that everyone is full of shit.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Good Interview

I should probably read Hillbilly Elegy, but not sure I can spare the depression.  I think this is a very good interview with the author (J.D. Vance), and mostly I was nodding my head throughout.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Now That's an Idea

When Republicans do something they have a nice simple phrase they can tell everyone, and make sure people know that it was Republicans that did it.  When Democrats do something it gets hidden, and is so complicated that it's not always easy to know what it is or whether/why it is good.  The ACA (Obamacare) definitely has this problem, and it is much easier to attack than defend (you actually have to understand it somewhat to appreciate it--even if you still don't really like it--and most people don't but on the other hand: "website BAD" "premiums going up!" "mandate and tax"), so I think the article at democracy journal should be required reading for Democratic politicians.