Tag: 2016 Presidential Race

VP Debate

Just a quick few thoughts, again.

The VP debate rarely matters in an election. And I guess that’s good if you’re a Clinton supporter because Pence beat the crap out of Kaine. Kaine was constantly interrupting, frequently off-topic, vague with details and awkward in his transparent one-liners. By contrast, Pence was focused and prepared. I disagreed with him plenty, but I ended the night with a good impression of where he stands on the issues. I have no idea what Tim Kaine thinks about anything other than, “Donald Trump sucks.”

It was also a good reminder of what the GOP gave up when they nominated Trump. The election is still close — Clinton has surged in the last week but there’s still five weeks left; plenty of time for Trump to come back and win. However, the Pence debate made it really clear that any normal Republican would be crushing this. The only time Pence ever floundered was having to defend Trump: Trump’s statements, Trump’s positions, Trump’s “foundation”, Trump’s businesses. On these, he mainly resorted to “who is this Donald Trump person of whom you speak?” When he was talking about generic GOP policy or about Clinton, it was simply no contest.

I’m also told there was a moderator, but it was hard to tell. Someone seemed to keep asking pointless questions.

Scientific American Drifts From Science

A few weeks ago, Scientific American sent twenty questions to the four Presidential candidates, asking for their policy positions on scientific issues. I think that’s a fine idea. The next President will control billions of dollars in federal funding for science, have to set priorities for our various department and agencies that do science and have to deal with scientific issues like disease, vaccines and climate change. These questions won’t reveal much about what the candidates think, but will reveal the kind of people they surround themselves with who actually write the answers. Are they surrounding themselves with real scientists or cranks? Big government lackeys or free market gurus? Earth-first idiots or global-warming-is-a-fraud crackpots?

Having read through the answers, it’s about what I would expect. It’s mostly pablum but gives you a general sense of their philosophies. Clinton thinks government can solve everything, Johnson is very in favor of free markets, Stein is a crackpot and Trump is kind of all over the place. All show some grasp of the issues but differ on their approaches. In terms of the quality of answers, I would rank them Johnson, Clinton, Trump, Stein, but … that is an entirely subjective rating. I rate Johnson high because I favor free markets and Stein low because she’s a crank who favors massive government intervention in everything.

Well, that wasn’t enough for Scientific American, who decided to “grade” the candidates on their answers. They rated Clinton highest (64 points), Stein (44 points), Johnson (30) and Trump (7). But their ratings having nothing to do with the actual science and everything to do with politics.

Both Trump and Johnson are hit for favoring free market approaches to climate change. Why? Because Scientific American doesn’t think the free market can handle climate change. Maybe it can’t, but that’s an opinion not a fact. It’s fine for pundits to have opinions but SA is presenting this as though it is some kind of objective analysis, which it clearly is not.

It get worse. They are heavily biased against Trump, frequently giving him zeros on issues where he’s not entirely wrong. They give him 0 points on education because he favors bringing more market forces to bear on education. Trump may be right or wrong on that (I think he’s right) but they bash him because ITT folded and Trump University was a scam. This has nothing to do with what Trump said. It’s bashing him for things he said outside of the forum and for issues unrelated to what he’s talking about. If you’re going to hit Trump for the failure of ITT (which he had nothing to do with), why not hit Clinton for taking millions in “for profit” college money? Clinton and Trump give basically the same answer on nuclear power, but Clinton gets two points and Trump gets one because reasons. On scientific integrity, they give Trump 0 points because … Politifact has rated a lot of his utterance as untrue. Look, I’ll be the first to call Trump a liar but this has nothing to do with his answers to this specific question. It’s ridiculous.

But it gets even worse. On nuclear power, they give Jill Stein 2/5 points. Jill Stein’s answer on nuclear power is one of the worst answers the entire debate. She plans to shut nuclear power down based on junk science and favors on-site storage based on junk science. Her proposal would almost certainly make climate change worse, not better. And if we’re going to judge candidates by what they’ve said elsewhere, she once claimed nuclear power plants were bombs. Stein is a complete crank on nuclear power. There is no way she should get any points on this. She also get 2/5 on food, even though she’s a complete crank on GMOs and farming.

Nowhere is this bias more visible than the question on vaccines. Trump is given 1/5 for occasionally engaging in anti-vaccine nonsense. But Stein is given 3/5 when her entire party is devoted to anti-vaccine nonsense; nonsense she has not seen fit to dispel. Seriously, Scientific American? Seriously?

I’m glad someone is asking the candidates questions about science policy. But Scientific American needs to just lay out the questions and answers and leave it that. We do not need this kind of biased analysis showing up in a supposedly scientific magazine. Write about it on Politico or Daily Kos or whatever.

You might wonder why this set me off. It’s because this is one of the biggest problems facing science today: the efforts by scientists and scientific publications to wed scientific facts to political opinions. This shows itself most thoroughly in the debate about global warming where disagreeing with left wing policy solutions to global warming is considered a form of “denial” on par with claiming the planet isn’t actually warming. The debate over global warming (and a host of other issues) would be light years easier if we separated those two; if we said “you can accept that global warming is real and not accept my solutions to it”. SA’s “grading” of the answers to the science debate is just the latest in the misguided philosophy of mistaking opinions about scientific issues for facts about scientific issues. And it needs to stop. These issues are way too important.

Democrat Debate

The Democrats debated last night. Or maybe I should say that Clinton and Sanders debated last night since the only other person on the stage, Martin O’Malley, seemed to disappear at times. For the most part, it was what you’d expect: more spending, less freedom, more power. But there was one particular bit that infuriated me. It was from that canker sore, O’Malley:

The things that we need to do in our country, like debt-free college in the next five years, like making universal — like making national service a universal option in order to cut youth unemployment in half in the next three years, all these things can be done if we eliminate one entitlement we can no longer afford as a nation.

And that is the wealthy among us, those making more than a million dollars, feel that they are entitled to paying a much lower marginal tax rate than was usual for the better part of these 80 years.

You read that? You see what O’Malley did there? He claimed that paying a marginal tax rate less than 90% is an entitlement. That wanting to pay less in taxes isn’t a political disagreement or even greed. It’s entitlement.

As a matter of mathematics, O’Malley is full of it. The higher marginal rates of the 20th century came with numerous loopholes so that no one really paid the 90% top rate except maybe John Rockefeller. When Reagan cut tax rates in the 1980’s, he also eliminated most of those tax shelters so that the proportion of taxes by the rich was either steady or went up. In fact, the rich are currently paying half the income taxes in this country.

You could confiscate all the income of this country’s millionaires and it still wouldn’t pay for the kind of spending these bozos want. In the end, they will have to tax the middle class because that’s where the money is. Sanders is at least semi-honest in this. His socialized medicine plan includes heavy payroll taxes because the math won’t work otherwise.

But that’s details. The important paint here is how O’Malley thinks. All your money belongs to government. Your income is whatever they allow you to keep. And if you want to keep more of it, you are acting entitled.

I’m willing to debate whether the rich should pay more in taxes. But I’m not willing to countenance that kind of mentality. O’Malley is gunning for Vice President this time around. With two candidates who will be in their 70’s next year, that means he could end up a heartbeat away from the Presidency. His horrifying record in Baltimore and Maryland is reason enough to vote against that. But the revelation of how he thinks closes the deal.