Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Hopes and Fears in the Presidential Race.

One of the things that I've found particularly fascinating during this presidential race has been hearing about the reasons different people support their respective favorites. While a few individuals have been motivated by the defense of a particular ideology, many find themselves choosing between the lesser of two evils (and these aren't necessarily mutually exclusive motivations). Many of the arguments that I have heard formulated over the last couple of weeks are framed in terms of fears. As is typical in cases of divisive elections (like the vast majority of national races nowadays), there are a lot of poorly reasoned accusations being bandied about. Only occasionally do they seem to have some grounding in reality.

I'd like to think that I could make my decision primarily on hopes, rather than fears. In my case I can truly say that I am ultimately voting FOR someone, rather than AGAINST his opponent. But that line has certainly been blurred for me recently. There was a time not long ago when (though I supported Obama) I believed that a McCain presidency would not be disastrous for the nation. He seemed to genuinely want to reach across the aisle and consider ideas on their merits. Perhaps his gradual shift back to the most conservative wing of his party over the last few years should have been a tip-off. Still I can admit that I was honestly shocked when he announced Sarah Palin as his running mate.

I have mentioned a lot of negatives regarding the Governor of Alaska in this blog. However I think it's important to keep a sound foundation in the real-world when it comes to my doubts about a McCain/Palin ticket. As much as Palin represents an extreme version of social conservatism, as long as McCain is able to fulfill the duties of the office (should he win, of course) I don't think this will be much of an issue. I don't believe that Palin wil be able to get the nation to agree to outlaw abortion in cases where a woman has been impregnated as the result of rape or incest. I don't think the citizenry will look favorably on her urges to ban books. And I don't think she'll be able to fully integrate creationism into our science curriculum at a national level.

On the other hand, I think it's unlikely that the Obama/Biden ticket will likely enact comprehensive health care reform that substantially increases our national debt. I don't believe he will boost corporate taxes by any meaningful degree. And I'm certain he won't seek to outlaw personal property rights (as some wingnuts suggest). My expectations regarding his (or McCain's) presidency are naturally contained by the limits of the office. The Chief Executive serves as Commander-in-Chief, and sets the tone for the country's foreign and domestic policy. I want a president who approaches relations with other nations with an intellectual and overtly diplomatic approach. I want him to consider war only as a LAST Resort. I want nuanced and considered strategies that enhance our international standing.

The biggest national issue facing the United States is energy independence. It has extraordinary ramifications for national security, the future of our economic success, and our relations with the rest of the world. We MUST somehow develop alternative sources of energy. Aside from the issue of global climate change, it is in our best interest. We cannot bear another presidential administration that is beholden to the military-industrial complex and the oil industry. Compare the records and stated positions of the two tickets. McCain has not supported tax credits for companies developing solar/wind power, and Obama has. Look up their voting records. The GOP platform is "Drill, Baby, Drill" and Palin practices "Alaskanomics". That's enough reason right there to support Obama/Biden.

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Anonymous Notoriously Conservative said...

My issue with your final argument is this: of course alternative need to be found, oil will not last forever. But there needs to be a bridge, something to carry us into the future, until those alternatives are found and perfected. Oil and natural gas are the only things capable of that.

Currently the only sources of oil are volatile at best. Drilling domestically will allow time to produce the technologies necessary to eliminate our dependence oil.

So drill baby drill is not a counter, or polar opposite to alternatives, but a bridge to it. That, is reason alone to support a McCain/Palin ticket. There is nothing, nothing, to prove they don't support alternatives, they simply know that right now, oil and natural gas are the only viable fuel sources to keep our country running until alternatives are found.

5:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even Paris Hilton gets this! No rational predictions I have heard see us eliminating the need for oil or natural gas in the next 20 years. The real question then is how much of this comes from foreign sources.


You have also never given a position on nuclear energy which is already playing a huge role in many countries. In fact, the development of electric cars opens up the opportunity to have most transport run much of which could be generated by nuclear power plants.

5:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I meant most transport running on electric power or partial electric. Remember that most of these vehicles could be charged at night which makes best use of plant and power grid capacity.

5:58 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

notoriously conservative,

"So drill baby drill is not a counter, or polar opposite to alternatives, but a bridge to it. That, is reason alone to support a McCain/Palin ticket. There is nothing, nothing, to prove they don't support alternatives, they simply know that right now, oil and natural gas are the only viable fuel sources to keep our country running until alternatives are found."

Did you even bother to click on the links in the post? It's been clearly stated that the McCain/Palin ticket has NO plan for alternative energy. Their focus is on drilling- an option already available to the oil companies without government intervention. McCain has NOT supported tax breaks for companies working with solar and wind technologies.

The corporate subsidies that are currently going to oil companies should be diverted to corporations willing to invest in alternative energy. Failing that, McCain (and the rest of the GOP) should have at least extended tax breaks to alternative energy companies, so that they are able to develop their products here instead of overseas. There is no need for federal funds or tax breaks for oil companies while they are operating at record profits.

Any bridge required (in terms of oil) requires no specific governmental action. If they thought that Arctic drilling was in their best interests, the oil companies would have already taken every available opportunity to do so. They simply have not. The GOP energy plan is simply a distraction, an obfuscation, and business-as-usual.

6:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

NUCLEAR Merge, Answer my question or is this a non approved question?

6:18 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...


I don't look to Paris Hilton for ideas regarding public policy. I'm not interested in clicking on your link.

I am ambivalent about nuclear energy. I'd prefer cleaner production methods with little-to-no byproduct and facilities that aren't vulnerable to catastrophes that can cause longterm environmental devastation. Additionally nuclear byproducts promote the proliferation of nuclear weaponry, as well as present serious security risks.

Having said that, I don't think I'd rule it out completely as part of an integrated plan utilizing the best of new sustainable technologies. I certainly wouldn't put any kind of primary emphasis on it.

6:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice to know-- in all this blather it's never mentioned even though it's the primary form of electricity for a number of countries and in no way adds to greenhouse emissions.

Please refrain from lying about policies I never advocated. I have never supported "tax breaks for oil companies. I support low flat tax rates accross the board. I have said many times that I do not come close to fully supporting McCain's policies but I think they would be much better than Obama, at least on economic policy.

7:02 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

Who's lying about policies you did or did not advocate? I have no idea who you are. I made an assumption based upon your professed support for McCain. It was perfectly reasonable to assume that you are in favor of lower taxes for corporations, as well as tax credits. If you are going to post anonymously, you can claim to believe in anything you want without reliability or internal consistency. Therefore you can't presume to blame me for any assumptions I might make.

7:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nobody professing to be a libertarian would generally advocate special tax breaks, credits and or handouts to any industry. But as you have said on here before, you really don't know much about economics. Of course Libertarians would support low taxes across the board which would eliminate the need for tax breaks.

I know you find it hard to believe that anything can be created without a special government program or favors.

.Now, I want to try to make it clear why I am opposed to special breaks. The first is a an ethical reason but I won't go into that. The other reason is that one wants whatever technology or business that develops to be economically sustainable. The higher the credits, cash or other special breaks are, the less chance there is that the investors will look hard at making the numbers work and be as efficient and practical as possible. The result is often a boondoggle that can never support itself without continuing subsidies as seems to be the current case with corn based ethanol.

Please admit that you are a government employee.

8:04 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

"But as you have said on here before, you really don't know much about economics."

What credentials do you have in economics? Have you made yourself wealthy with that knowledge?

Since we're on your subject... what's your occupation? What do you contribute to society? Are you a "doer" like those you claim to admire?

9:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hae an interesting question for you. This year, for the first time in many years, the Democrats hope to pick up Virginia in the election which has been trending their way. Maryland has long been a Democratic stronghold. Could it be that the vast growth of government employeesithe DC area has been the biggest factor at work?

10:15 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

Awww... did we run into a question you want to avoid? Fucking hypocrite.

10:17 PM  
Anonymous Steve said...

Do you curse the oil companies when you're in your nice toasty house during those harsh Pennsylvania winters? Do you curse them every morning when you get up and drive to work? Do you curse them every time you flip a switch in your house and the lights come on?

I'm guessing the answer is no. The first thing we need to do to solve our energy crisis is to stop demonizing the people who make it possible for us to have such a high standard of living. Whether you like it or not, our domestic energy companies are one of the greatest treasures we have as a nation. How bad of shape would be in without them? We'd be completely at the mercy of foreign powers.

If we're gonna discuss facts, then lets do it. The fact is that the oil companies work on about an 8% profit margin. They make their money from the volume of product they sell, not by inflating the price. Say you wrote a book and charged $10 a copy for said book. If it goes on to sell a billion copies, have you taken advantage of the consumer? Or have you just reaped the benefits of providing something that was in such high demand?

Second, global warming called be called a theory at best. There is no hard evidence that it's man-made, and thus shouldn't be factored into our energy policy. The Great Lakes were formed by the constant formation and receding of glaciers from the artic all the way down into the northern US. The process of intense cold, followed by intense warming happened over and over again over the course of millions of years. That wasn't man-made. The temperature of our planet has always fluxuated and always will. A simple review of the historic record can show that.

12:23 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

Where have I "demonized" the oil companies? That's pretty dramatic. Have you really absorbed my arguments?

In response to your assertion that "We'd be completely at the mercy of foreign powers."-

We already are, increasingly so. We consume a disproportionate amount and produce little of it. Even if we drilled our entire Alaskan territory, it still wouldn't significantly ameliorate the problem, not even under the most favorable estimates of production in 10 years time. I'm interested in energy idnependence, and we can't get there with this "Bridge to Nowhere". We need to make substantial changes, not simply go ahead as if there were no problems.

You don't hear me complaining about oil profits. That's not my focus... not my point. The rising prices in the US still do not come close to accurately reflecting the real costs of gasoline.

Global warming is not a theory. It's a description of what's happening with the Earth's average temperatures. As far as what's causing it- I'm aware of the "debate" regarding how much man's behavior has contributed to the phenomenon. Again... that's not my argument. There are plenty of reasons (and I've listed several of the most important) to prioritize alternative energies. Fine with me... Don't do it for the environment- do it for the security of the nation and our economic future.

1:34 PM  
Anonymous Steve said...

"Don't do it for the environment- do it for the security of the nation and our economic future."

This is where you and I are on the exact same page. I think the future of Energy Technology is going to be the next massive force that shapes the power structure of the world, both economically and politically. It will be similar to the revolution that Information Technology has become over the past 40 years. I'm in favor of taking advantage of our oil and natural gas reserves so that the people who are going to come up with these technologies have the time to develop well-thought out strategies. However, when these technologies eventually do come online, the economic rewards this country will reap will be staggering.

1:51 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

Right. Absolutely.

I'm not saying we shouldn't drill for oil- I'm saying that it's not a valid political platform to suggest that oil companies drill, and claim it's some kind of helpful plan toward "energy independence". The oil industry will do it on their own, when and where it makes economic sense for them to do so. McCain/Palin and the entire GOP convention is not going to make any difference either way, as far as they are concerned.

They don't need the president's permission or talking points. There is plenty of opportunity for them to start in places already open for them. They know what's there, and that it won't make any impact at all for at least ten years, and by then the price of oil will be so high that it will justify the investment. But it will make little or no difference to the consumer.

The McCain/Palin platform disturbs me most because it is a smoke screen for the fact that they have no plan. What do they suggest. Exploit oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear power. In that order exactly... we're already doing those things.

We need to encourage American corporations to invest in new energy technologies, and we simply aren't doing that because the GOP and McCain won't extend the tax credits before the election- they don't want the Democrats to get a legislative victory. They are just playing politics with something that is a deadly serious issue.

4:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Realizing this is a bit off the topic of the thread, I'll press forward anyway. In the last three presidential elections, I was able to compare the positions (and sometimes...gasp...even proposals) of the two parties on various issues, on a side-by-side "objective" comparison. Yes, I know I could probably develop this on my own, but (call it laziness) it would be nice to see this for this year's election.

So, here's the question...have you seen such a comparison this year? If you ever come across one, would you please link it? It would certainly make for some lively discussion. I know that in my case, it not only made me realize that the part of my entire life was not one I now agreed with down the line as it regarded several of the major issues. In fact, it caused me to vote for "the other side".

9:47 AM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...


Actually your comment was specifically relevant to the topic, considering I was writing about the need to assess what these candidates are likely to do, should they achieve office. One component necessary to any speculation would have to be an understanding of their assumed positions on the issues. It's an excellent starting point.

If I see one in my online travels, I'll provide a link. In the meantime, if you do decide to go ahead with this project on your own, please forward it to me.

10:47 AM  
Blogger Dagrims said...

I haven't found any one link that throws everything together, but here are ones that cover the major topics:

Comparison of healthcare proposals: http://www.health08.org/sidebyside_results.cfm?c=5&c=16

Comparison of tax proposals:

Comparison of science policy issues:

Comparison of foreign policy issues (you'll need to click on the different areas, but this is a good summary, and has Hillary's positions as an added bonus!):

Those four cover most of the important issues, and they appear to be nonpartisan.

1:30 AM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...


Thank you very much for the information. I'll check those out.

7:20 AM  
Anonymous john morris said...

Let's hope these comparisons are updated by the minute. Both candidates seem to flip flop regularly.

9:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What would be very interesting is to have a six-column chart, ten topics deep.

Columns 1 & 2
Democratic and Republican general party positions on a major issue

Columns 3 & 4
The latest positions of the Presidential candidates

Columns 5 & 6
The latest positions of the VP candidates

Is that too much to ask to make an "intelligent" decision? This is a service the media COULD perform while not busy seeking a Pulitzer.

10:55 AM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...


You wrote...

"Let's hope these comparisons are updated by the minute. Both candidates seem to flip flop regularly."

HERE'S a link to McCain's flip-flops. Feel free to post a similar link for Obama.

11:52 AM  
Anonymous john morris said...

I have no time to give a comprehensive list right now but here's an old link to some of the biggest ones.


12:21 PM  
Anonymous john morris said...

Here's a little more from the AP,

I personally am willing to acknowledge the fine line between policy nuance and flip flop but a good number cross the line.


"On Iraq, Obama said Thursday that his upcoming trip there might lead him to refine his promise to quickly remove U.S. troops from the war.

He now supports broader authority for the government's eavesdropping program and legal immunity for telecommunications companies that participated in it, after opposing a similar bill last year.

After the Supreme Court overturned the District of Columbia's gun ban, the handgun-control proponent said he favors both an individual's right to own a gun as well as government's right to regulate ownership."

The public financing one, everyone knows is huge but so are a number of the others, particulary those related to the Iraq war since his total anti war spin played such a big role in handing him the Democratic primary nomination.And there's also a flip flop in there regarding the Death Penalty.

"After his remark at a news conference about refining policy exploded onto the political scene, he called a do-over four hours later to "try this again." He said the refining wouldn't be related to his promise to remove combat forces within 16 months of taking office, but to the number of troops needed to train Iraqis and fight Al Qaeda. But then he acknowledged that the 16-month time line could indeed slip if removing troops risked their safety or Iraqi stability."

Hell, that pretty much puts him on the exact same page on McCain on Iraq now. (if that is an accurate quote.)

12:49 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

John wrote...

"I personally am willing to acknowledge the fine line between policy nuance and flip flop but a good number cross the line."

Which ones do you think cross the line?

After determinig that, I think the crucial qiestion is which flip-flops of these candidates are the results of crass political expediency, and which are motivated by a learning curve and the reception of new information.

Obama's support for the FISA bill was a huge mis-step, and considered a sell-out by many of his supporters. It certainly bothered me. Unfortunately the other party offers no alternative to this, and in fact they are more rabid in their support for this sort of government intrusion.

1:54 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

John wrote...

"Hell, that pretty much puts him on the exact same page on McCain on Iraq now. (if that is an accurate quote.)"

This is a distortion of the truth, even if the quote is accurate. John McCain still claims that Iraq is the central war on terrorism, is on record as saying that it is fine with him if the troops stay there for "a hundred years", and still talks about "victory" in Iraq, as if anybody knew what he meant by that.

1:58 PM  

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