Thursday, June 28, 2012

America is Not the Greatest Nation in the World

"So when you ask me what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don’t know what the $%*@ you’re talking about; Yosemite? . . . It sure used to be.  We stood up for what was right.  We fought for moral reasons; we passed laws, struck down laws for moral reasons; we waged wars on poverty, not poor people.  We sacrificed; we cared about our neighbors; we put our money where our mouths were, and we never beat our chest.  We built great, big things; made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and we cultivated the world’s greatest artists AND the world’s greatest economy.  We reached for the stars; acted like men.  We aspired to intelligence; we didn’t belittle it.  It didn’t make us feel inferior.  We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn’t…we didn’t scare so easy.  We were able to be all these things and do these things because we were informed, by great men; men who were revered.  The first step in solving any problem is recognizing that there is one.  America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.  Enough?"

Before I elaborate, I must attribute.  This quote comes from the new HBO series "The Newsroom," which premiered Sunday.  You can watch the first episode here for free (note that the episode is no longer available for free), and you absolutely should.  Now.  It's okay, I'll wait. When you get back, I'll talk more about this after the jump:

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Blast From the Past: Retro Blog Posting (June 29, 2006)

I was wandering around my old MySpace page, and I stumbled on a blog I used to keep before law school. I discovered an interesting post from 2006, that I'd like to share with you after the jump:

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Is Car Manufacturing Moving West?

Tesla Motors handed over the first of its Model S luxury sedans yesterday. These first ones cost a pretty penny, of course, coming in at around $100,000 apiece, but the mainstream Model S, while still pricey, will be slightly lower in cost, and they're planning on putting out a $30,000 car very soon.

I've been following Tesla Motors since I heard about the Tesla Roadster, which is an absolutely beautiful sports car that costs less than my law degree, so doesn't seem all that expensive. Frankly, very little (except housing) seems expensive to me these days, which may or may not be a bad thing.

Anyway, I'm glad that we're getting fully-electric cars on the road. They're no panacaea for the environment, of course, because most of our electricity currently comes from environmentally-damaging sources, but they are an important first step. It is so much easier to change the environmental impact of the energy production at the source rather than at the consumption end.

Now all we need is for the market pressure to build to the point where we can erect a nationwide electrical infrastructure that will allow these vehicles to leave California effectively. Something like this, only in a country much larger than Israel.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Cheers to you, Debbe Ebben.

This article about the winner of the Miss Alaska contest really shows us that beauty is beauty, and it is expressed more in deeds than in words, style, or fashion choices. Say what you want about the Miss America pageant, but you can't deny that the dedication to public service these women show is truly inspiring. I have the pleasure of knowing a former Miss America contestant personally, and I can say with no exaggeration that she is more beautiful on the inside than she is on the outside.

An Open Letter to Senator John Thune

I just read Senator Thune's opinion post on which is basically just a campaign advertisement for Mitt Romney and Republican candidates for Congress. For background, Thune is a Senator from South Dakota, and is the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.

"It doesn't take an economist to realize the president's economic policies have spectacularly failed to make things better." - John Thune

But, Senator Thune, it probably does take an economist to realize whether the President's economic policies have succeeded in preventing things from getting worse. Let's hear from one.

I don't think it's fair to lay the blame for the nation's economic woes on any President, though. The President is just one of many actors in the complex web of the American government, a system that is specifically designed to make meaningful changes impossible. Obama took office pledging to change things in Washington, and I don't think anyone can reasonably argue that he hasn't failed at least a little bit on that front, but one person (or even an entire party) cannot change the nature of the debate on Capitol Hill unilaterally.

So okay, he hasn't changed the nature of the debate on Capitol Hill. Fine. But that doesn't mean his Presidency has been a failure. Democratic policies have been opposed almost unanimously by Republicans in Congress from the very beginning of 2009. It's not surprising that they haven't succeeded in everything they set out to do.

That being said, Obama has a pretty decent track record when it comes to his campaign promises. According to this Pulitzer prize-winning website, out of 508 campaign promises, Obama has only broken 71, or roughly 14%. He has affirmatively kept 187, or roughly 37%, and has compromised with his opponents with respect to 62, or roughly 12%. The remaining 188 are either currently stalled in Congress or in the works. And, of course, not all the broken promises are the result of a failure on the part of the President, unless failing to convince Congress or the public that it is a good idea is a failure on the part of the President.

But okay, that's fine. Senator Thune is expressing his opinion. His opinion is that the Obama Presidency has been a failure. So naturally, "It's time to try something new." Great. I like new things. What would you suggest, Senator?

Senator Thune: "First, we need to ensure businesses are confident enough to expand and hire more workers. That means stopping the job-killing regulations that are strangling small businesses and reforming our burdensome and complicated tax code to fuel economic growth. It also means stopping a large tax increase, which is scheduled to hit next year unless Congress acts. The threat of this massive tax hike is creating serious economic uncertainty and discouraging companies from hiring more workers."

But Senator, isn't that what we were doing at the beginning of this century? This isn't new...this is more of the same. It's just more of the same Republican BS instead of the Democratic BS. You don't want something new. You want your old policies back. What else have you got, Senator?

Senator Thune: "We can create tens of thousands of new American jobs by encouraging the development of America's vast energy resources and supporting truly shovel-ready projects like the Keystone XL pipeline, which would create an estimated 20,000 jobs, according to TransCanada, while boosting domestic energy production."

Oh, cool. So you're going to support wind and solar production in the Southwest? How about upgrades to our electrical infrastructure so we can move the production of energy away from the consumption of energy and make everyone safer and healthier? Oh, I just saw the last half of your sentence. You just want to drill for more oil, huh? Okay Sarah Palin. So that's just more old stuff from 2008 again, huh? Anything else?

Senator Thune: "We also need to protect jobs by repealing the president's health care law, which is driving up health care costs and making it harder for small businesses to hire workers. The director of the Congressional Budget Office testified that the health care law will mean 800,000 fewer jobs over the next decade. Those are jobs Americans can't afford to lose."

You don't want businesses to have to bear the burden of health care for their employees? Me neither! You think that'll encourage more employee hiring? You're probably right. But who's going to pay the bills for all the uninsured people, then? Surely you have a plan whereby all of those bills are covered by an entity with vast market power to allow strong negotiation with the healthcare industry regarding costs and expenses? What did I have in mind? I don't companies could do it if everyone had insurance, but you want to repeal that part. Okay, how about the government? Single payer has always been the liberal goal anyway. I'm glad you recognize that the compromise we made to get Republicans to sign on doesn't work. Any other ideas?

Senator Thune: "Finally, we need to cut reckless government spending and tackle the mounting debt crisis. America's brightest days are ahead. But if we don't take action soon, our country could end up in the kind of financial disaster Greece and Spain are facing. Our children and grandchildren should not have to pay for Washington's inability to stick to a budget. We owe it to the next generation to leave the country better than we found it."

Umm, Senator Thune, maybe you need to see this article again.

As an afterthought, I figured I'd mention that neither side of the political argument has everything right about what's wrong with the country and how to fix it. Here's a good crash course. The trick is figuring out how we get the lumbering behemoth that is the United States government to make this happen.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Japanese Pensioners, I Salute You

I was recently directed to a series of pictures (with descriptions) intended to restore faith in humanity. This series of pictures was very effective, in large part because of this story about a group of Japanese engineers over the age of 60 who volunteered to go into the reactors that were damaged by the earthquakes to make the necessary repairs, in order to prevent younger engineers from having to be exposed to deadly doses of radiation.

It just goes to show you that there is still good in the world, and it comes to the forefront when it is most needed. Here's to you, Japanese pensioners!