June 26, 2007

Blog Designer for the Stars

Having already created an excellent blog for journalist Chris Hayes, my brother, Paul Smith, has helped renovate the vanguard for the Sam's Club conservative revolution, otherwise known as The American Scene. Do check it out -- if nothing else, Reihan Salam needs the company.

Oh, and watch out for EveryBlock -- It will change your life forever...

June 25, 2007

God Damn the Grinning Kings

I often think about this Carl Sandburg poem, and this article about one of the most severely wounded veterans of Iraq -- who can hardly even speak -- brought it to my mind again:
A million young workmen straight and strong lay stiff on the grass and roads,

And the million are now under soil and their rottening flesh will in the years feed roots of blood-red roses.

Yes, this million of young workmen slaughtered one another and never saw their red hands.

And oh, it would have been a great job of killing and a new and beautiful thing under the sun if the million knew why they hacked and tore each other to death.

The kings are grinning, the kaiser and the czar—they are alive riding in leather-seated motor cars, and they have their women and roses for ease, and they eat fresh-poached eggs for breakfast, new butter on toast, sitting in tall water-tight houses reading the news of war.

I dreamed a million ghosts of the young workmen rose in their shirts all soaked in crimson … and yelled:

God damn the grinning kings, God damn the kaiser and the czar.

June 24, 2007

Disconnected Thoughts on Pollution and Resource Taxes

I was watching this Bloggingheads session between Megan McArdle and Dan Drezner and at some point they get to talking about the so-called Resource Curse, where an abundance of natural resources (usually oil) actually retards the development of a strong economy and democratic political institutions. This led me to wonder about proposals for a carbon tax -- in particular, calls to use the revenue from such a tax to reduce payroll or other income taxes. Besides alleviating the impact carbon taxes would have on people, many in the field of ecological economics (e.g., Herman Daly) have argued that we should shift the tax base from labor and investment, which we want to encourage, to natural resources and pollution, which we want to curtail in the case of the former and eliminate in the case of the latter. (This post at Gristmill is representative of this view.)

The question I now have is: would a reliance on resource or pollution taxes have an eroding effect on the economy or on political institutions, the way that a reliance on income from natural resources seem to have? One benefit of taxing labor is that it entails a agreement between citizens and the government that it will use taxpayer money responsibly. When the government is not dependent on citizens for its funding, it can induce leaders to behave in irresponsible ways -- which can range from, to use Tom Friedman's examples, Vladimir Putin's saber-rattling to Nigerian officials calling off local elections. On the other hand, the big difference between deriving income from natural resources directly and deriving income from resource consumption is that the human element remains in the latter: Public officials still have to answer to the people when they raise resource taxes or misuse the revenue gained from it.

Then there's the question how much we could shift from labor to resource taxes, i.e., how reliable a source of income they are, but that's for another blog post.

June 23, 2007

Rahm Plays Hardball

Via Atrios, it appears the idea to bring Dick Cheney to heel through the power of the purse is gaining traction:
Washington, D.C. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel issued the following statement regarding his amendment to cut funding for the Office of the Vice President from the bill that funds the executive branch. The legislation -- the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill -- will be considered on the floor of the House of Representatives next week.

"The Vice President has a choice to make. If he believes his legal case, his office has no business being funded as part of the executive branch. However, if he demands executive branch funding he cannot ignore executive branch rules. At the very least, the Vice President should be consistent. This amendment will ensure that the Vice President's funding is consistent with his legal arguments. I have worked closely with my colleagues on this amendment and will continue to pursue this measure in the coming days."

June 22, 2007

Zombie Lincoln

Yes, the coverage of the 2008 election is still ridiculously superficial:

Power of the Purse

Lots of people are rightly aghast at Dick Cheney's assertion that he is exempt from executive branch rules about classified information because the Vice President is not part of either the executive or legislative branches of government -- in effect, above the law. But I think there's an easy solution to this, courtesy of Jonathan Zasloff, who says that the next budget should include this item:
None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used to fund or support in any way the Office of the Vice President of the United States.

June 15, 2007

The Truth About Colony Collapse Disorder

The Washington City Paper has a new article on the sudden crash in the bee population over the last year. The good news is, the culprit is almost certainly not your cell phone. The bad news is, it's probably industrial agriculture:
Compared to the bucolic trappings of small-scale beekeeping, with its stationary hives and natural feeding practices, commercial beekeeping operations are like entomological concentration camps. Large-scale apiarists maintain hundreds or thousands of hives, gorging the bees on high-fructose corn syrup in the winter, then dousing them in pesticides in the spring to kill mites (“They usually hire Mexicans to do that,” one beekeeper told me.) They then take them on the road in 18-wheelers, all the way across the country. Once the bees have reached their destination, they’re unleashed to pollinate fields and groves, then packed up and trucked back home. Transporting bees long distances is SOP for modern industrial beekeeping—but that doesn’t mean it’s good for the bees. A significant percentage of the increase in dead bees seems directly related to moving the hives.
The article also points the finger at a pesticide, imidaclorpid, that is known to cause nervous and immune system disorders in insects -- i.e., can cause bees to get sick and die. In both cases, the agriculture and chemical industries have prevented a serious examination of the issue. This is a great (if depressing) read, both because it dispels some of the conspiracy theories surrounding the bee collapse, and because it focuses our outrage at how our food supply has been put at risk by narrow corporate interests.

June 10, 2007

The Soundtrack of My Life

Via Megan McArdle, a new thing to do with iTunes Shuffle. Here's what I got, though, like Megan, I subbed in alternates for repeat artists. I'm due to have a strange, strange life:

Opening Credits:

My Endless Fall - chocolate genius - Godmusic

Waking Up:

Money - will.i.am - Future Soundtrack for America

First Day At School:

Dead Voices - Ted Leo & the Pharmacists - Hearts of Oak

Falling in Love:

A Different City - Modest Mouse - The Moon and Antarctica

Breaking Up:

Good to Be on the Road Back Home - Cornershop - When I Was Born for the 7th Time


The Stars are Projectors - Modest Mouse - Moon and Antarctica

Carrion - Fiona Apple - Tidal

Life’s Okay:

Brothers and Sisters - Blur - Think Tank

Mental Breakdown:

We Walk - R.E.M. - Murmur


I Know What I Know - Paul Simon - Graceland


Headphones - Björk - Post

Getting Back Together:

Deeper Into Movies - Yo La Tengo - I Can Feel the Heart Beating as One


Save Us S.O.S. - Hot Hot Heat - Make Up the Breakdown

Birth of a Child:

Kiss Me Like You Mean It - The Magnetic Fields - 69 Love Songs

Final Battle:

Hold On, Hold On - Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood

Death Scene:

Baby (1968) - Os Mutantes - Everything Is Possible!

Funeral Song:

Something in the Way of Things (In Town) - The Roots - Phrenology

End Credits:

The Ballad of the Sin Eater - Ted Leo & the Pharmacists - Hearts of Oak

Young at Heart - Joss Stone - Mind Body & Soul