Let's take a break from politics, economics, and the daily grind and watch the beautiful video one Colin Rich made with limited means, unlimited imagination, a balloon, two cameras, and a parachute. Earth is a lovely place and his video reminds us of that.
A little suggestion to anyone in the White House who thinks a great New Year's wish is to pass a climate change bill in 2010: get jobs out there first.
If this Politico piece is accurate (and after the healthcare fracas, there's no reason to think Republicans will follow any other course), there will need to be 60 votes for any meaningful legislation to pass the Senate till hell freezes over.
Without an improvement in the unemployment numbers out there, it's only gonna get harder to pass any bill that costs the public in the short term.
As Brad DeLong is fond of saying, "Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?"
It's pretty disheartening, just as President Obama has announced he'll be going to the Copenhagen Climate Conference at its closing (implying a possible deal to announce on carbon emission reductions) to see that the WaPo is instead playing up the ridiculous 'Climategate' story so prominently. It's a great distraction for those who'd rather bury their heads in the sand than deal with the reality of climate change, but a real disservice to readers who by now should have little doubt of the severity of the crisis we are into.
I remember when the Post was a beacon for press freedom and independence. Do you?
Check out what Stan Ovshinsky is doing in Detroit to create energy jobs for an American economic and environmental renewal. You won't hear about his work on the evening news, but Bob Herbert writes about him today in his column.
The Sunday bobbleheads are all a-twitter about drawing a line at bailing out Detroit —and about demanding that the UAW make concessions before helping the automakers. I’ll be damned if the current situation is about the cost of labor—or about the auto industry sending the country into an economic crisis. Maybe somebody in the Obama transition team can get a grip on this. The problem originated on Wall St and in Washington, not in Detroit. The auto industry, hardly a model of foresight itself, is paying the price of greed and opacity in the financial markets going horribly wrong.
That said. what can the government do to prevent the financial crisis from taking Detroit down with it? Perhaps the answer lies in combining our essential transistion from the internal combustion engine to cleaner power with public investment in our manufacturing base. If the auto industry needs help, a reasonable quid pro quo could be that the investment go directly towards hybrids, electric cars, and incentives for the public to buy them.
We need to stimulate the economy now, not in several years. Therefore, why not combine an immediate investment in much larger tax credits towards the purchase of hybrids (only those getting a minimum mile-per-gallon, excluding the riduculous SUV and large truck hybrids) with an investment in hiring and spending in Detroit on producing hybrids and electric plug-ins like the Chevy Volt, which will be coming on line soon enough to require investment today?
Why not require equity for taxpayers in return for any U.S. investment in the auto companies, requiring a voting share. Our voting leverage would be focused on management working with an eye to conversion to greener technologies immediately. Why not also give consumers a credit—or a voucher—for turning in vehicles that are churning out greenhouse gases over certain amounts? This targeted stimulus voucher could be redeemable for purchasing hybrids, in addition to the new hybrid purchase credit. This combination of money would be a major incentive to largely low-income families, who are nursing old gas guzzlers, to turn them in for new hybrids, stimulating the economy as they clean up the air. And hey, they’d be helping keep Detriot workers on the assembly line to boot!
I’m no economist, but aren’t there lots of ways to structure targeted stimulus incentives towards spending we need, rather than merely bailing out rich investors or sending money out randomly from the IRS in checks we’ll just hoard instead of spending?
UPDATE— Clearly, I'm not an economist, since it's been pointed out to me that the incentives for low-income families to trade up from a gas guzzling clunker to a hybrid would probably be prohibitively expensive. However, brighter minds than I have suggested that an incentive to turn in the clunkers could be structured to finance a more efficient used car that gets much better mileage and needs less repair. This would still help stimulate the economy and clean up the air.
Hybrids and electrics clearly are the immediate future of the industry. Stimulating their adoption is in our best interest and in the interest of saving our auto industry. We better not forget that in any assistance Detroit is offered.
Closer to home, this is
welcome news for bike riders in NYC (especially since we may not have money for
subway fare in the coming economy).
In 2006, New York City Council Member David Yassky drafted the
Bikes in Buildings bill (Intro. 38) which essentially requires that commercial
buildings allow bikes to enter them and create proper storage facilities for
…To date, 30 Council Members
have signed onto the bill, so things are looking good. (NYC has 51 Council
This was supposed to be the cry of the plaintive Republican
convention delegate, urging Congress to beam itself ahead ten years in time, in
an effort to make petroleum mining of our shores and Artic wildlife preserves somehow
happen miraculously in the present day, lowering the price of gasoline
overnight, damn the environmental impact.
Today, however, it seems moans of this refrain actually came
from the bedrooms of employees in the Interior Department, engaging in affairs
with oil and gas company representatives, while snorting coke and taking bribes
to heighten the excitement.Folks
at the Minerals Management Service, according to the Interior Department’s
inspector general, worked for most of the Bush Administration in a “culture of
ethical failure.”The former head
of this organization stands accused of having expended more effort setting up a
consulting contract for a former aide than in collecting the billions owed the
government for royalties by oil and gas companies.
The inspector general has uncovered a seedy drama so
soap-opera-ready that the agency’s ‘royalty-in-kind’ program may be re-defined
as a ‘taking-it-in-trade’ program.The folks who are supposed to be collecting $4 billion in oil and gas
assets in place of cash were apparently focused more on getting a steady supply
of sex and drugs than receiving energy stores from the private sector.
In a response many may now echo, Florida Senator Bill Nelson
suggested yesterday that the Senate could well hold up granting new offshore
drilling rights while the damage from the inspector general’s report sinks
in.It will be interesting to see
if the revelations slow the legislative rush to appear to be exploiting domestic
oil and gas reserves by opening up more territory to exploration and drilling
before the elections.
I’ve spent a fair amount of ink this past week on Sarah Palin, but aside from what her appointment says about John McCain, she’s probably not make-or-break in the Presidential race. Whether you believe it’s a boldly maverick move to bring along someone with no experience of national politics and barely any experience of statewide office or whether it just seems a tad strange to you that a candidate with so much gravitas himself would trust the country, in the event of his demise, to someone with none to speak of, Sarah Palin’s not the issue.
The main issue in the race for the Presidency seems to be whether the country has had enough of what got us where we are or whether we’re ready to chance that more of the same policies might yield better results in the future. The country is in pretty hard economic times. People are losing their homes and jobs at a fast enough clip to make one wonder whether things might just be getting worse still. $600 stimulus checks haven’t stopped a rising unemployment rate and the failure of several banks, a major investment house, two major mortgage lenders, and other predatory ones.
Tax cuts for the rich have drained the fat of the land into the coffers of those with the ability to invest it anywhere in the world they like, while workers real wages have stagnated and their jobs continue to disappear abroad. Health savings accounts provide tax deductible cash for elective treatments and health club memberships— if you can afford them— while tens of millions of harder pressed citizens can’t afford to get an annual checkup without health insurance.
We’re besieged in the opinion of the world. We haven’t found a way to unite the country around shared values some seven years after being attacked by a small gang of terrorists and five and one half years after attacking a country those terrorists didn’t come from in response. Most of the policies our government has pursued seem to be like rubber to Al Queda and glue for our troops bogged down in internal sectarian conflicts halfway around the world.
We’ve been through the drowning of a great American city and we now have a candidate who shared his birthday celebration with President Bush as it happened, but he later said he’d have landed Air Force One at the nearest base to New Orleans if he’d been the Commander-in-Chief. The city is still at risk from hurricane flooding and some tens of thousands of its residents even now are unable to reoccupy their homes.
We have a continuing assault on the civil liberties that made America the beacon of democratic hope around the world. We have a government that has institutionalized torture as a way to fight those would subject our troops and civilians to torture themselves and called it a necessary ‘dark side’ to war. When confronted with evidence that illegal imprisonments and torturous interrogations were being executed without deference to the Constitution’s ban and international agreements’ prohibition of them, our President merely waved away inconvenient facts— and dared the judiciary to enforce their rulings.
When confronted with unpleasant facts, this Administration has responded with character assassination and even by revealing covert identities of covert agents to retaliate against critics. When Administration figures were convicted of crimes involved, the President’s response was to commute any meaningful sentence against his Vice President’s aide and describe him in glowing terms.
The same Administration that puffs so loudly about terror 24/7 spends little energy securing nuclear materials around the world and putting salve on the conflicts that make their eventual use a little more likely every day. While they invaded a country supposedly to pre-empt nuclear proliferation with manufactured evidence, the government as a whole is pathetic in its inability to address the spread of nuclear materials for profit and ideology from sites around the world.
The last seven years of inaction against climate change and energy dependence on foreign oil have sunk the entire planet into a tailspin from which we don’t really know we’ll recover. One thing about the current energy and environmental mess we do know is that it was utterly predictable. In fact, the scientists who told us it would happen worked for the government in some cases. But the current Administration muzzled them, lest their cries of alarm trouble the citizenry about their strong support for the petroleum barons who put them in power. And now, the successor to the throne of the party in power leads chants of “Drill, Baby, Drill,” as a solution to the problem.
Even against this backdrop and years of backing the President, Mr. McCain hopes the country will still think of him as somehow separate from the party and the policies he’s endorsed and supported for Mr. Bush. He hopes that voters are more interested an ambience of freshness emanating from an unknown and appealing woman from the North and that they will fear another unknown, what a new and very different President might mean for their future.
If Americans are distracted enough by the hoopla about war heroism and the snarky things said about community organizing and supposed elitism to forget all that we’ve been through over the past seven years of hard right policies, perhaps America will be getting what it wants and deserves. Otherwise, this coming election ought to be a referendum on whether those policies have worked out so well for us.