Episode 243

The media’s coverage of gas prices is about as ridiculous as the various proposals our politicans have put forward. join us for a good rant on the subject. Then, later on the show, resident blogger The Contrarian is our guest to talk about immigration reform and the legacy of Jane Jacobs.

Television Sets: Unsafe At Any Width Over, Say, 19 Inches

The New York City area has been rattled by several falling-television incidents recently, the most recent of which involving a 27-inch set toppling over and killing a four-year-old:

A Brooklyn girl crushed by a falling television — the third city child to die that way in six weeks — was laid to rest yesterday by her devastated family.

Dozens of mourners gathered outside Congregation Yeshurin in Gravesend to grieve the loss of 4-year-old Debbie Lerner, who was killed by the family TV Wednesday evening.

“This is every parent’s nightmare,” said family friend Sam Strasser, 27, whose son went to camp with Debbie. “These people are extremely nice and the most outstanding parents. This is such a tragedy.”

A 27-inch television toppled from its metal stand onto Debbie around 6:30 p.m. while her father was in the kitchen with her twin brother, police said.

The Administration for Children’s Services is investigating.

Not to sound too anti-consumerist, but there’s something peculiarly and tragically American about ever-expanding television sets becoming literal instruments of death . . .

Drivin’ on a Prayer

Via Carpetbagger, this is too good to pass up:

Many are talking about the rising gas and energy prices and overlooking the power of prayer when it comes to resolving this energy crisis. Many of the nations most prominent clergy will join Pray Live and others praying Bishop Donald R. Downing, Heart to Heart Ministry, invited Apostle Betty Peebles, Jericho City House of Praise, Juanita Bynum, Bishop C. L. Long, Scripture Cathedral, Pastor Yusef Fletcher, Greater Works International, and Pastor Le Ron Atkinson, The Ecclesia Fellowship, Largo, Maryland and others to join him.

Prayer Power! But, as a bit of a self-styled energy wonk, I have to ask: won’t there be some loss of energy as the power of prayer is converted into unleaded gasoline? For example, some suggest that it takes 1.8 gallons of gasoline to produce a gallon of ethanol. Do we know for a fact that prayer is more efficient? Or should we just take it on faith?

Perhaps instead we should be giving incentives to automakers who build prayer-powered cars and SUVs. If bumper stickers are any indication, we already know that cars seem to function better when people have God as their co-pilot, so why not use God to drive the whole powertrain?! I think if GM and Ford started experimenting with faith-based transmissions, we’d really be getting somewhere.

Or, instead, we could just have a rational national energy policy.

Gas Prices

I hate it when politicians grandstand on gas prices. I hate watching Chuck Schumer bloviate about price controls and “windfall profits taxes.” I especially hate watching the President and Sen. Frist call for hearings into price fixing.

They’re all full of it.

I will say that I thought Schumer had a good idea a little while back when he suggested that (gasp!) the oil companies should pay the government the money they owe us for leasing federal lands to drill on. With ExxonMobil’s CEO raking in a $400M payday, the least they can do is NOT skip out on the check. Fuckers.

But the problem with the Democrats grandstanding and bloviating about gas prices (though it may be an effective short-term electoral wedge) is that the GOP just counters with a laundry list of ways to get more cheap oil: Drilling in ANWR, delaying the switch to the summer gasoline blend, and, today, the kicker: allowing refineries to skip the environmental regs to get more gas to market!

All of these things, of course, are terrible from an environmentalist point of view.

Reminds us that, as politically difficult as it may be, a gas (or carbon) tax is the only way to go. Because we don’t know what we want, we just know what we don’t want: fossil fuels. So tax ‘em and let the market adjust itself.

Update: What David Roberts said.

No-Gore

For those of you holding out hope that the new-and-improved filmmaker Al Gore would run again in ’08, you’re probably going to be disappointed. As this article in Wired makes clear, the man has a lot on his plate, and he couldn’t be happier about it.

In addition to making a movie and doing a national tour on global warming (like some kind of policy-wonk rock star), he’s got a fledgling TV network and an investment fund with $200M in assets and growing:

For all the early hype surrounding Current TV, the commercial venture that excites Gore most these days is Generation Investment Management, his global fund. As governments begin imposing carbon caps on businesses, Gore says, free markets will reward companies that practice environmental sustainability. The result: reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases responsible for global warming.

The idea, as far as I can tell, is to try to beat the market by looking at companies who have undiscovered enviro-related liabilities or opportunities. By looking beyond the balance sheet to a company’s enviro-friendliness, they think they can spot smart investments:

As an example, Gore cites a Generation report on the auto industry. Researchers analyzed traditional metrics, including sales and labor costs, but they also looked at the degree to which profits depended on high carbon output. Two years before it became clear how badly General Motors and Ford were performing, the Generation team calculated that Toyota, a more carbon-conscious company with better labor relations, would gain a $1,500 advantage per vehicle as government-mandated fuel efficiency and carbon emission standards come into effect

Good stuff. But it assumes that governments are on the path to tightening carbon emissions and fuel efficiency standards. Otherwise enviro-friendliness is not a strategic asset. But that, of course, is the point.

Anyway… after reading this whole piece I’m pretty convinced he’s got his hands full doing the kind of work he wants to be doing. Or, to paraphrase a recent Atrios comment, over the last few years Gore has been cured of the specific form of insanity that makes people want to be President.

Cue Gene Simmons And The Double-Barreled Middle Finger

This s**t is getting Brechtian:

Sources close to the White House said Monday that Fox anchor Tony Snow is likely to accept the job as White House press secretary, succeeding Scott McClellan.

The sources said they expect him to announce his decision within the next few days.

A source familiar with the discussions said Monday that newly appointed Chief of Staff Josh Bolten asked Snow to make a decision by early this week.

Two sources familiar with the discussions said Bolten wanted to fill the post this week, as early as Tuesday.

Seattle Center

A task force weighs in with recommendations for the aging complex. The center needs the help. Specific areas of concern are Mercer Arena and Memorial Stadium. The stadium needs to go. The task force suggests potentially replacing it with an outdoor amphitheater. That makes sense. And, seeing as how it’s right next-door to Paul Allen’s struggling EMP, why not get Allen to build and operate it? A decent-sized, 6,000-seat amphitheater would be a fantastic addition to the EMP, which does a great job of programming interesting, contemporary music.

Hu’s Crying Now?

Had they gone with “Hu’s Your Daddy?” like I told them to, then the New York Post would not have been in hot water with the Asian-American community:

The Post’s offending headline, “WOK THIS WAY” — a word play on “walk this way” and the traditional Chinese sauté pan — ran with a photo of President Bush tugging at the sleeve of Chinese President Hu Jintao at a White House event Thursday.

“It was racist and offensive because it takes the president of China and connects him to the stereotype of a cook in a Chinese restaurant,” said Margaret Fung, executive director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

“It’s just a clumsy attempt at a clever headline — a clumsy attempt at humor. But it’s not funny,” said Fung, who urged the Post to print an apology.

The Asian American Journalists Association also received calls about the headline — the third complaint about Post headlines in the past two weeks — prompting the group to refer the matter to its media watchdog committee.

“Individuals on the committee have expressed a range of concerns,” said Janice Lee, deputy executive director of the San Francisco-based group. Committee members felt the wording was “insulting” and “perpetuates the stereotype of all Asians as cooks in chop suey joints,” Lee said.