It’s time to raise the gas tax | Vox

Over at Vox, Matthew Yglesias makes a powerful argument for raising the gas tax and indexing it to inflation.

For starters, gas taxes serve as a kind of user fee that ensures that the people who benefit from highways — those who drive on them a lot — are doing the most to pay for them. They also help to constrain congestion. Last but by no means least, as anyone who’s ever rolled down the windows in a crowded tunnel can tell you, burning gasoline creates a lot of pollution.

(via Vox)


The Absent Democratic Party In Alabama

Sounds like the Democratic National Committee needs to adopt that old lottery slogan: “You can’t win if you don’t play!” I mean, no wonder Republicans feel empowered to spout the most ridiculous lies and bullshit, if no one’s going to step up and call them on it.

The Absent Democratic Party In Alabama – Esquire

The G.O.P.’s Dixiecrat Problem

From The New Yorker, an interesting look at the origins of the current political dysfunction on the right: it all goes back to 1948:

The [Confederate] flag, defended by its stalwarts as an apolitical symbol of Southern pride, actually came to prominence not in the aftermath of the Civil War but eighty years later, in defiance of civil rights. The massive resistance campaigns that inspired the Southern Manifesto and shut down school districts rather than comply with Brown v. Board of Education were orchestrated under the banner of the Stars and Bars. The election that galvanized the brand of racialized acrimony and indignation we’re now seeing in the country was not the one that brought Barack Obama to office in 2008; it was the one in 1948, which brought us the Dixiecrats.

The G.O.P.’s Dixiecrat Problem : The New Yorker


The Case for Abolishing the DHS

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security was a panicked reaction to the Sept. 11 attacks. It owes its continued existence to a vastly exaggerated assessment of the threat of terrorism. The department is also responsible for some of the least cost-effective spending in the U.S. government. It’s time to admit that creating it was a mistake.

You know, if Businessweek is advocating that the Department of Homeland Security is a bloated mess that should be abolished, it’s maybe not such a crazy radical left pinko commie idea anymore.

(via Businessweek)

What’s God trying to tell Texas?

Ever since I heard this heartbreaking story on NPR’s Morning Edition about the deadly toll Texas’ historic drought is taking on wildlife, I’ve been thinking. Thinking back to 2001, when Christian evangelist Pat Robertson told us the terrorist attacks on 9/11 were God’s punishment for America’s predilection for pornography and abortion. Back to 2005, when Robertson and other Christian conservatives blamed Hurricane Katrina on legalized abortion and homosexual behavior. Back to March of this year, when Glen Beck speculated that the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan was God’s wake-up call to a sinful world.

I’ve also been thinking back to just a few weeks ago, when tens of thousands of evangelical Christians gathered in Dallas, Texas, to try to pray America out of its economic and moral doldrums. And what I’ve been thinking is this: Does it ever occur to any of the evangelicals who deeply believe that God sends natural disasters to punish wayward behavior that maybe He’s trying to tell Texas something?

Maybe he’s trying to tell Texas and its evangelical Governor-cum-Presidential candidate, Rick Perry, that it’s time to stop kowtowing to multi-billion dollar business interests who demand lower and lower corporate taxes that force middle- and working-class people to bear ever-larger economic burdens. Time to start enacting and enforcing reasonable air and water pollution standards. Time to start taking care of its most vulnerable citizens. Time to stop killing innocent people in its prison system. Truly, I can’t help but wonder why Pat Robertson isn’t jumping on this opportunity to warn wayward Texans to straighten up and get right with God.

Now, I don’t really believe that God sends natural disasters to kill innocent people to send a message. You could say I’m more in tune with the New Testament Jesus than the Old Testament Jehovah. But the point isn’t what I believe. It’s what these prominent evangelical Christians have repeatedly and publicly stated that they believe. And it’s not just the conservative Christians who get TV time who believe it. According to a USA Today poll earlier this year, 60% of evangelical Christians in America “believe God can use natural disasters to send messages”. So where are they now? Maybe they should have a little chat with their poster boy, Gov. Perry, about removing the log from his own eye before he starts poking at the splinters in the eyes of others.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately

The latest twist in a local story that’s gone nationwide, the ICE raid at Agriprocessors in Postville, Iowa:

The New York Times: With the arrest of the former chief executive, Sholom Rubashkin, federal authorities extended their criminal prosecution to the highest level of management at the plant.

Let’s hope this story becomes irrelevant on Tuesday:

Des Moines Register: “This is one of the great mysteries of life: Why hasn’t Iowa elected a woman to Congress?” said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for Women in American Politics at Rutgers University. “On the face of it, it doesn’t make any sense.”

Why even good news is bad news in the current economic disaster:

The New York Times: No, what the economy needs now is something to take the place of retrenching consumers. That means a major fiscal stimulus. And this time the stimulus should take the form of actual government spending rather than rebate checks that consumers probably wouldn’t spend.

And for a solid suggestion of what that stimulus should be, read on:

The New York Times: In times like these, the best a sensible leader can do is to take the short-term panic and channel it into a program that is good on its own merits even if it does nothing to stimulate the economy over the next year. That’s why I’m hoping the next president takes the general resolve to spend gobs of money, and channels it into a National Mobility Project, a long-term investment in the country’s infrastructure.

This would be a great program for The University of Iowa to consider:

The New York Times: The goal, college and university officials said, is to ease critical shortages of parking and to change the car culture that clogs campus roadways and erodes the community feel that comes with walking or biking around campus.

Nice story about one of my favorite musicians:

Los Angeles Times: Indeed, emotionally rich songs about the upside of relationships have become a hallmark of Hiatt’s body of work, which he discussed over lunch on a return visit to L.A., where he lived and worked in the early 1980s.

If after reading this newspaper article you want more, I can highly recommend Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson:

1900 hurricane changed Galveston — and forecasting

International Herald Tribune: The storm came without a name — without warning — and it shaped the future of weather forecasting. It’s known simply as The Great Storm of 1900, and it was the worst natural disaster ever to hit the United States.

There’s got to be a better way

I’m listening to the second presidential debate right now, and Tom Brokaw is really starting to annoy me with his nagging reminders to Barack Obama and John McCain about giving answers that exceed the agreed-upon one-minute time limit. I understand the necessity of keeping either candidate from rambling on all night with non-answers. But you know, these are complex questions, and voters want to hear some complex answers. You can’t answer a question about “How will you deal with the looming underfunding crisis for Medicare and Social Security” in a one-minute sound bite and still make sense.

Plus this stupid “one minute per candidate per question” ground rule means that Brokaw can’t ask follow-up questions to force either candidate to actually answer the damn question that’s asked instead of spouting off half-truths and outright lies about the other guy.

There must be a debate format that would allow candidates to give thoughtful, complex answers to the questions that are actually being asked. I don’t know what that would be. But I know this isn’t it.

(Photo from Sept. 26, 2008 debate from The Associated Press)