On Global Warming

Apropos of President Bush’s speech on global warming, King County Exec Ron Sims has an op-ed in yesterday’s Seattle Times urging a “no” vote on our local Prop. 1, the joint “Roads and Transit” measure.

I already blogged a bit on the piece itself over at Orphan Road, but I want to take a step back and talk about something that has peeved me vis-a-vis transit and global warming. The thrust of Sims argument is that the plan is really expensive and commits us to building a lot of new highways that will ultimately add to global warming.

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Good Gravy! We Haven’t Even Beaten Iran Yet!

Talk about ambition! Here we are, the military’s plans to beat Iran fresh off the planning table, and the Secretary of the US Airforce is already planning for the war with China.

[Secretary of the Air Force] Wynne directly linked the need for the F-35 to the potential threat posed by China. He rejected a new CSBA study that suggests cutting back the JSF order and investing in a long-range bomber to penetrate deep into enemy airspace.

“The last time I [traded stealth fighters for a long-range bomber], I bought 21 B-2s,” said Wynne, referring to the small US force of B-2 Spirit stealth bombers. “How big do you think China is? Think about that.”

Jeesh. Good thing Bush’s inevitable coup will keep him in office long enough to pull this off. And don’t you just love Wynne’s personalization of the issue? There’s no “we” in “I”. Am I sensing a little intra-service envy? I mean, after all, looks like the Navy will get to have most of the fun in Iran.

Mind Meld, Pt. 2

I usually think Krugman is a windbag [takes one to know one!], but at least he, too, listens to B&P:

As far as I can tell, America has never fought a war in which mercenaries made up a large part of the armed force. But in Iraq, they are so central to the effort that, as Peter W. Singer of the Brookings Institution points out in a new report, “the private military industry has suffered more losses in Iraq than the rest of the coalition of allied nations combined.”

And, yes, the so-called private security contractors are mercenaries. They’re heavily armed. They carry out military missions, but they’re private employees who don’t answer to military discipline. On the other hand, they don’t seem to be accountable to Iraqi or U.S. law, either. And they behave accordingly.

[sigh]

Look, Blackwater may not (yet) be Executive Decisions,  but Krugman’s right — these guys (like many others in the Bush administration) simply don’t feel themselves bound by the rule of law, Iraqi or otherwise.

Way to go, Georgie boy.  Sell that “democracy” at gunpoint to a world increasingly skeptical of American intentions.  It’ll take us a generation to clean your mess, asshat.

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Electoral College

It’s probably good news that California’s 55 electoral votes won’t be apportioned by vote (instead of winner-take-all, as is custom), but the whole thing reminds you why the Republicans are so good at winning despite their unpopular agenda. They’re always playing offense. If they’d gotten this initiative passed, what was once 55 solid dem votes in the EC would have been split 30-25 or whatever.

The question is, why aren’t Democrats pushing a similar initiative in, say, Texas or Ohio, where the Dems get 40 or 45 percent of the vote but almost never take the state. Dems play softball, the GOP plays hardball. Never give an inch.

The only compelling reason I’ve ever heard for why the Dems do this is that they are a naturally majoritarian party, but the Republicans aren’t, so they need to be relentless. And that’s fine as long as it works.

Buddy-Buddy

Matt Yglesias notes that Tom Brokaw goes bird watching with Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and notes, “it is striking that you tend not to hear about this sort of coziness between the media and political elites when said media elites are busy posturing as a vast brigade of Woodward and Bernsteins eagerly digging to the truth.”

I had a similar thought last Sunday watching Tim Russert interview Alan Greenspan on MTP. How many times, I wondered, have Greenspan and his wife, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, had Russert over for dinner? In fact, the three were probably headed out to brunch just as soon as the cameras stopped rolling.

Makes you wonder.

Switchgrass!

So, we may have mocked the little plant a bit when President Bush mentioned it in his State of the Union a few years back. But lo and behold, it’s shown up again on the cover of this month’s Wired magazine.

Wired has a bit of a hyperbole problem (biotech will save the world!!) in its reporting, so it’s always important to read with a skeptic’s eye. This is not an academic energy policy review, by any means. Still, if some of the experiments being conducted by the article’s subjects do pan out, we could drastically bring down the costs and environmental impacts of ethanol production to the point where it actually makes sense.

One idea involves synthetically recreating the microbes that are found inside the stomach of a termite. These microbes do a remarkable job of naturally breaking down cellulose to convert it to energy. But thus far they haven’t been able to reproduce them in sufficient quantity.

In the meantime, Big Oil may be doing us all a favor by casting doubt on ethanol’s viability. Anything that slows down the rush to corn-based ethanol is a good thing, in my book.

A New Model for Health Care

Is there a “third way” for health care payments, one that relies neither on employers nor the Feds?

Contemplating GM’s arrangement with the UAW — in which GM will set up a VEBA (“Voluntary Employee Benefits Association”) — I think there might be.

This would be something similar to the classic model for a building society (aka “saving and loan”) or its Catholic, working class equivalent, the credit union.  Individuals band together to endow a trust, from which funding for their health care is drawn.

Thoughts?