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Tire-pressure politics

August 8, 2008 5 comments

Commuting on a bicycle keeps you in tune with certain realities.  One of these is that tire pressure has a huge effect on rolling resistance.  Get enough air in the tires and your bike just seems to glide down the street with hardly any effort.  Ride on under-inflated tires, and you’re worn out by the time you get to work. 

There’s no fundamental difference between a bike tire and a car tire.  So along with his comprehensive energy plan, Barack has talked about small conservation steps that people can take, like checking their tires more often.  They won’t fix the problem in one dramatic stroke, but they’ll help, sometimes quite a lot.  The reason is that conservation is a ‘high-payoff’ activity.  If you save a gallon of gasoline, that’s about four gallons of crude oil that never have to be pumped out of the ground in the first place.  It’s a big effect for a small change.

But conservation is one of those things that conservatives just don’t seem to want to think about.  It’s in the category of “Things they won’t do for their country.”  Which is weird considering that conservation doesn’t really involve any significant sacrifice.  It just involves a little care for a big payoff.

Now the Republicans are handing out tire pressure gauges and saying “that’s Barack’s energy plan.”  As Barack says; “It’s as if they’re proud of being ignorant.”

Well you bet they are, Barack; they’ve made ignorance a virtue.  And oh my, what a relief it is to hear it said out loud on the national stage. 

This is not to say that Barack’s energy plan is perfect; it isn’t.  It still contains some really stupid things like corn ethanol and carbon sequestration.  But I’m willing to consider that those things are political necessities.  I don’t think you can get elected president without some pandering.  On the whole, his plan is a good one, and it’s the right approach.  He isn’t trying to treat addiction with one more fix.  He proposes hitting the energy problem from a whole lot of angles at once, which makes sense because it is a multifaceted problem. 

In his novel Friday, Robert Heinlein described an energy storage device called a “Shipstone”, that could take energy from any source and store it compactly and without loss.  The Shipstone was a single, simple invention that solved all energy problems for an entire fictional society.  But in real life we already have most of the technologies and the methods we need to fix most of our energy problems.  We just need to stop whining about it and get off our butts. And if we don’t want to do it for our country, maybe we could do it for our grandchildren. 

Categories: Politics

Fiscal Conservative

August 8, 2008 10 comments

When you invest in America, you get a return.

By Steve Greenberg, from Stranger Fruit, who got it from Crooks And Liars.

Categories: Economics, Politics

Vote McCain

August 4, 2008 3 comments

Blog Around The Clock has a whole bunch of reasons why you should vote for McCain.  No need to thank me for finding this stuff, it’s all part of the service.

Categories: Politics

Monday Morning Music: “For A Mistake”

July 27, 2008 5 comments

I caught Bruce Springsteen on 60 Minutes this evening. 

I’m interested in what it means to be an American,” Springsteen says. “I’m interested in what it means to live in America. I’m interested in the kind of country that we live in and leave our kids. I’m interested in trying to define what that country is. I got the chutzpa or whatever you want to say to believe that if I write a really good song about it, it’s going to make a difference. It’s going to matter to somebody.”

“I guess I would say that what I do is I try to chart the distance between American ideals and American reality. That’s how my music is laid out. It’s like we’ve reached a point where it seems that we’re so intent on protecting ourselves that we’re willing to destroy the best parts of ourselves to do so,” Springsteen says.

Asked what he means, Springsteen tells Pelley, “Well, I think that we’ve seen things happen over the past six years that I don’t think anybody ever thought they’d ever see in the United States. When people think of the American identity, they don’t think of torture. They don’t think of illegal wiretapping. They don’t think of voter suppression. They don’t think of no habeas corpus. No right to a lawyer … you know. Those are things that are anti-American.”

Go read the rest of it – good stuff.  I love the part where he explains why he still gets up on stage, despite being worth “somewhere north of 100 million dollars…”

Categories: Politics

Dadburn gub’mint regulations!

July 19, 2008 4 comments

Many people don’t realize how bad things were before the invention of antibiotics.  Injuries in war and peace were likely to result in horrible death, contageous bacterial diseases raged through communities, and a bad sandwich could kill you. Babies died from things that are considered trivial today.  Not just occasionally, but often – it was a major reason why life expectency was only about half what it is today. 

Now suppose there was an industry that was doing something that makes antibiotics useless – in effect turning back the clock to pre-antibiotic days?  What do you think we should do?

  • Immediately step in with the full power of law to make them stop it!  Their profits are less important than keeping a major public health tool. 
  •  

  • Do nothing and hope the “free market” will somehow make the industry stop externalizing its costs against the public good. After all, government regulation is bad.

If you picked the second option, you are a Big-L Libertarian.  The thought of government inspectors walking around a place of business taking samples and writing things down on clipboards sets your teeth on edge.  The connection between agricultural misuse of antibiotics and a baby dying of a formerly treatable infection sounds like college-boy stuff to you.  How dare the government throttle a growing economy?!

Well that seems to be the position of the current FDA.  Misuse of cephalosporin drugs was widespread in 2001 when they bothered to look, and on July 3 of this year they just got around to issuing a rule to stop it, which goes into effect in October of this year.  Meanwhile, the industry has a chance to ‘comment’, which means they can try to stop the rule.  No hurry, guys, take your time.  You’re doing a ‘heckuva job’.

Cephalosporin, by the way, isn’t the only antibiotic being abused by the livestock and poultry industries, and we’ve known about it for a long time.  The problem is that in a competitive market, altruism does not apply and the gravitational pull of profit is irresistible.  The industry sure as hell won’t regulate itself.  Only external regulation can protect you and me and our grandkids from industries that externalize their costs to the commons.  And regulations – which we all hate, are funded by fees and taxes – which we all hate even more. 

We’re rugged American individualists, dagnabbit!  It’s our precious choice!  If only the germs would respect international boundaries, it wouldn’t be anybody else’s business how we raise our cattle.  Because if there’s anything we hate more than regulation and taxes, it’s thinking about the well-being of other countries.  After all, what happens to them doesn’t affect us.  Does it?

Categories: Politics

Crackergate

July 13, 2008 5 comments

It is possible to write a very, very long post about the impulsive college student in Florida who didn’t eat the Eucharist wafer that was given to him in Mass, but took it home instead, and received many threats so he returned it, but his apology wasn’t good enough for Catholic League president Bill Donohue, and then a college professor in Minnesota offered to desecrate a host if someone could get one for him, and the still-developing Donohue-fuelled backlash to that offer.

But I won’t; it’s been done, more eloquently than I can, and I have already probably read a thousand or so posts and comments on the issue.  Of more interest to me is the academic freedom issue.  Donohue (who is known as an ideological bully) wants the college professor (who is not known for subtlety in his criticism of religion) fired from his tenured position teaching biology.

Stipulated: the professor was rude and nasty in offering to desecrate a host, and it will do more harm than good if he follows through with it. No argument there.  But Donohue’s threats prompted me to send an actual letter, printed on physical paper, signed in ink, to the president of the university in question, supporting the rude college professor. (Yes, I had to look up the amount of postage required to mail a letter.  It keeps changing.  And find an envelope.  And go drop the finished envelope in a blue box on a street corner)

Adlai Stevenson said; “My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular”.  That means no fear of physical violence, no fear of being blacklisted from an unrelated job, no fear, period.  And we’re rapidly moving toward a society where the greatest fear is of giving offense.  Let’s be clear: only offensive speech needs protection. ‘Defend to the death your right to say it’ and all that.

(If you want to make a sociological study of the politics of the Eucharist, start here.)

Categories: Politics

The India-Pakistan crisis

July 7, 2008 4 comments

I always appreciate insightful reporting on complicated issues,..


Volatile India-Pakistan Standoff Enters 11,680th Day

…especially when a practical, nonviolent solution is proposed.

Categories: Politics

Fiscal responsibility

July 6, 2008 1 comment

It always fascinates me to see “Borrow and spend” Republicans try to say this is the Democrats’ fault.  That big dip in the middle there?  It’s the effect of Bill Clinton’s 63 spending vetoes and his advocacy for “PayGo”.  Anyone remember “PayGo” and which administration allowed it to lapse?

The worst part of this is that paying for a war with borrowed money makes it seem unreal.  If we had to pay for wars as we go, it would have a much more immediate effect than a draft.  Or maybe the worst part isn’t the war.  Maybe it’s that massive debt creates the illusion of prosperity along with the certainty of recession.  I dunno, there’s lots of downsides to national debt – which is the biggest?

(Hat tip to Ed at Dispatches From The Culture Wars)

Categories: Economics, Politics

Don’t let the screen door hit you on the ass on your way out, Jesse

July 5, 2008 3 comments

America has one less self-described bigot: Jesse Helms has died.  He is survived by the majority of North Carolinians who re-elected him time and again.  My deepest appreciation to the minority who voted against him, and sympathy for all the eulogies they will have to endure from their neighbors, from the Bush administration, and from the lapdog press.

And in honor of Helms’ passing, I’m going to do something you won’t see very often on this blog: quote Jesse Jackson:

“At the height of his power, he fought for the values of the old confederacy. He resisted the new South. He resisted the opportunity to fight for a more perfect union.”
_ The Rev. Jesse Jackson.

In more detail and with the right amount of invective, here’s Jesse Wendell at Group News Blog.  And Dana at En Tequila Es Verdad.  But amazingly, Pam’s House Blend has one nice thing to say about him… see if you can find it.

I don’t believe in hell, so let’s just say it’s lights out, curtain down on that sanctimonious bigot.  He was a poor advertisement for our nation.

Categories: Politics

Bush tours country

July 2, 2008 2 comments

From The Nation’s Finest News Source:


Bush Tours America To Survey Damage Caused By His Disastrous Presidency

And now these items:

Categories: Politics