Monday, January 30, 2012
Keystone Pipeline - another Conservative Cause?
I am not concerned about the possible success of the proposed legislation. I don't think it will go anywhere. The Democratic majority in the Senate will probably vote it down. If the legislation ever gets to the President, he will veto it. The Senators are simply doing an exercise to please their conservative constituents. And that raises the question: Why is the Keystone Pipeline a Conservative Cause? In my observation, here are some of the Conservative Causes:
- Build up our military strength
- Cut taxes, especially for the ultra rich
- Phase out Social Security
- Phase out Medicare
- Phase out environmental regulations that annoy business men
- Criminalize abortion
- Forbid gay marriages
- Threaten Iran with bombs, fire, and brimstone
- Eliminate the federal Department of Education
Unless, of course, these "dedicated conservatives" are not really dedicated to an ideology of small government but instead to the prospect of becoming even more rich.
Saturday, January 28, 2012
Mitt Romney's tax return
Naturally, Mr. Romney was reluctant to reveal his tax return. He wasn't worried about being exposed as an unscrupulous cheat, which he isn't. He was worried about publicizing those parts of the tax code that permitted him to reduce his total tax liability to about seventeen percent of his total income. Airing these features may energize the public to force a change in the tax code. Neither Mr. Romney nor any other multimillionaire wants to see these features go away.
Now, eliminating the tax code features that allow very rich people to pay at a low rate is a cause worth demonstrating for. Is the OCCUPY movement ready to take it on?
Labels: tax rates for the very rich
Friday, January 27, 2012
Another blunder in our foreign policy
Our foreign policy blunders are the result of our ignorance or deliberate ignoration of the policies and interests of other countries. About seventy years ago a professor of a college class I was taking told the class that American foreign policy is simply and extension of domestic policy. The same is not true of most European countries. Unlike the United States they are small, weak, and dependant on smooth relations with their neighbors. We are, for the most part, independent of the rest of the world and we don't have to worry about diplomatic niceties like tact and reasonable negotiation.
In its policy toward Iran the administration is catering to the cries of a vocal minority who insist that a strong and powerful country like the United States should simply dictate to other countries how they should behave. This minority happens to control the House of Representatives at present. The administration wants to get something done by the House and it thinks it has to placate the "let's bomb Iran" faction. It practices conciliation and appeasement at home and threats abroad. Some of us who support the administration wish it would do less appeasing and more threatening it its relations with Congress.
Friday, January 20, 2012
Piracy vs. Censorship-2
Today, with the Internet and the proliferation of facilities for storing, printing, and replaying music, it is between very difficult and impossible to enforce a copyright once the piece of music is available on the net. Anyone with the right equipment and software can download the piece, make copies, and sell them. The best protection the composer has is to keep the music off the Internet. Even so, an unscrupulous person can buy a copy of the music on a CD at a music store and make a copy of it. The technology of recording has developed to the state that, Internet or not, it is almost impossible to prevent pirating of music once it is available commercially in some form suitable for playing it. Whatever I can hear I can copy, print, and sell. It is impossible for any government to catch and punish or restrain music pirates. Even strong laws won't solve the problem because they're inherently unenforceable.
We need a new model for protecting and rewarding artists who create beautiful music.
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Piracy vs. Censorship
This controversy points to a defect in our system of protecting the rights and income of inventors, artists, and other creative persons. Our constitution permits the federal government to issue patents and copyrights. These documents provide that the owner (inventor, artist, etc.) has the exclusive right to make, perform, publish, license, etc., the protected item for a certain number of years. The idea is to reward creativity and innovation. The duration of the right or monopoly is long enough for the creator to receive a profit for his or her creation.
With many products and artistic creations this simple system works well. Successful artists prosper. Artists without talent fail. However, in a few cases the system produces a bad result. Let us suppose that someone had developed a cure for HIV AIDS. It's a magic pill, 100 percent effective. Naturally, this inventor either sets up a factory to manufacture the pill himself or licenses a pharmaceutical firm to do so. He stands to obtain a fortune from his creation. Anyone with AIDS and enough money to buy the pills will do so. The bad effect is that people with AIDS who can't afford the pill will have to do without and take their chances on less expensive medication that won't provide a cure. How do we handle that seeming inequity?
One answer is that the pharmaceutical company or the inventor can simply make available doses of the medication for those who can't pay. That's not a completely satisfactory solution. Suppose not enough pills are set aside. Then, some poor victims of AIDS will still go untreated.
My solution is to create a nonprofit institution, funded mainly by government, charged with the responsibility of selecting new medical treatments, buying the patent rights, and having them manufactured and distributed at either no cost to the patients or at a low enough cost that all patients can afford them. These treatments would be selected on the basis of ultimate value to the community. The selection would be limited to treatments that cure life-threatening ailments and the like. Things that merely improve quality of life a small amount, such as Viagra, would not be selected.
Comments? Suggestions? Figurative cabbages and tomatoes?