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Son of Philly Bluejay February 19, 2011

Posted by Amir Roth in Uncategorized.
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For all of you who have wondered where I have gone to, the answer is … tumblr. For the past month or so I have been experimenting with a new microblogging format and site. Micro-PhillyBluejay is called “A Frayed Knot” and you can find it at http://a-frayed-knot.tumblr.com/. I plan on keeping both blogs active. I will begin reposting to Philly Bluejay again as soon as I figure out which kinds of posts work better in which format.

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Season of Giving December 23, 2010

Posted by Amir Roth in climate, economy, football, politics, taxes.
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Tis the season of giving. Time to give the loyal readers a juicy post after giving them a whole month off. With Philly Bluejay, the giving just doesn’t stop. Only the posting does. Why the long layoff? Well, I was in my lame duck session. I was tired. And I had given up on reaching my initial goal of 100 posts in the first year of Bluejay. After hitting #73 on Nov. 21st, I calculated that I needed to average a post exactly every three days to hit the century mark by Bluejay’s first birthday on Feb. 10th. And that realization made me even more tired! But perhaps the 30 day hiatus has given me a second wind. Now, if only I can average a post every 1.89 days…

Debt us all with piles of money. Tra la la la la la la la la. Where to start? How about a quick only slightly revisionist history of the tax cut compromise bill?

When the battle lines were initially drawn, I was optimistic bordering on euphoric. I thought that a tax cut for the top 2% was politically radioactive. That there was no way for Republicans to reconcile it with their rhetoric about debt reduction. That it was such a middle finger to the voters that just gave them 63 House seats that they would suffer a huge backlash in 2012, perhaps even giving Democrats the first ever 435-0 House unanimity! Of course, I wildly underestimated Republican depravity, the ideology of the liberal left, and the shallowness of my own understanding of political gamesmanship.

In reality, the tax cut for the rich was standing on two firm political legs. First, Republicans knew that it is the top 2% that wins and loses elections for them. That in the US, it’s not “one person, one vote” it’s more like “one dollar, one vote.” By November 2012 most voters will forget about October 2012 much less November 2010, and will vote by whatever ads they see on television. Those ads will be paid for by the top 2%. Second, Republicans knew that POTUS Lightning was a decent human being. That he wouldn’t allow middle-class tax cuts to expire just to make an ideological point. That he would eventually give in. And that the Democratic party would either fall in line behind him or splinter while allowing the last six weeks of Democratic majority to waste away. Win. Bigger win. And so Republicans dug in and marched single file past MSNBC cameras proclaiming that “the top 2% will use the money from the tax cuts to hire more workers.” Whether anyone believed this poppycock is debatable, but also besides the point. Republicans weren’t talking to America. They were talking to POTUS Lightning.

POTUS Lightning heard them. Congressional Democrats, Eugene Robinson, and Adam Green apparently didn’t. Either that or they are actually Republican operatives. The Democratic/Independent echo chamber led by boldprogressives.org and the two idealogues from Vermont began screaming into the wind, urging POTUS Lightning and the lame duck Democratic majority to take a unified stance alongside “98% of America” and putting the blush in John Boehner’s cheek and the grease in Eric Cantor’s hair. But seeing the bigger picture, POTUS Lighting ignored the bluster and immediately set out to cut the best deal he could. When you play hardball in a hostage situation, sometimes the hostages get killed. If you want to ensure the safety of the hostages in the present you have to give in to terrorist demands. And yes, I just called Mitch McConnell a terrorist. Personally, I preferred a different hostage exchange—if Republicans wanted tax cuts for the rich and were willing to put the entire tax code on the table to get it, they would have to swallow a carbon tax. Shockingly, that didn’t happen. But the deal POTUS cut—a 13-month extension on unemployment benefits and an increase in the estate tax—was sweet enough.

In the end, Mitch and the Boyz got a two-year stay of their precious tax cuts. In exchange, POTUS Lightning got unemployment benefits, the middle-class tax cut, and $500,000,000,000 worth of stimulus that may sufficiently improve the economy by 2012 to both keep him at 1600 Pennsylvania and restore secure majorities on both sides of the Capitol. Just in time for the Bush tax cuts to come up for renewal. Mu ha ha. Ha ha ha ha. As for POTUS Lightning, he comes out looking every inch the leader—a measured, unruffled commander negotiating a sea of political madness, a compassionate general who cares more about the people in the trenches than about the lieutenants at the extreme fringes of his own party. Lightning—you have done old TJ proud!

Tis the season to be Danny. Fa la la la la la la la la. But the Democratic haul was actually better than that. By “compromising” on taxes, POTUS freed up Congress to pass two more important pieces of legislation—a renewal of START and a repeal of DADT. Years late and ho-hum by international tolerance standards, does the repeal of DADT signal a change in American focus? Are Americans going to start worrying about actual problems rather than medicating themselves by hating on anyone who is slightly different? Let’s wait and see if the Dream Act passes.

Want to stimulate the economy? Give to the homeless! The Republican argument that giving money to the wealthy stimulates the economy is poppysmic! Rich people don’t spend additional disposable income on goods—at least not on goods produced in the US. And they aren’t likely to spend it on services either. Rich people stash additional funds in a financial market where most transactions are performed by computer—often at the behest of a baby! Not even stockbrokers get trickle down effects of tax cuts to the rich! Giving money to lower income folks is much better stimulus. Lower-income folks are likely to turn over the money quickly on food, clothing, rent, utilities, credit card debt and other basic necessities. Whereas $1 given to a rich person may represent $0.10 of economic stimulus—a tip to the dog-walker, perhaps—a $1 given to a lower income person may yield $2 of economic stimulus. By this definition, the best stimulus of all should be giving money to homeless people. Homeless people don’t pay rent, utilities, or credit card debt and don’t turn their money over to conglomerates who then stash the money in financial markets. They use it on food. Or other … “produce.” Giving a $1 to a homeless person may yield $5 in economic stimulus for all you and I know. Unfortunately, tax cuts don’t extend to the homeless and presumably unemployed. This kind of stimulus is up to you and me. Since the weather in the DC area has taken a turn for the arctic, I have given seven homeless people a total of $90. Believe me, giving $20 dollars to a homeless person feels better than giving it to your alumni association. If homeless people gave receipts, I would give to them exclusively.

Want to stimulate Philly Bluejay? Give to Wikipedia! If you read Philly Bluejay regularly, you know that I believe that Wikipedia—not YouTube, not Facebook, not even Groupon, okay maybe Groupon—is the fairest child of “Web 2.0.” For my money, there is simply no better way of getting the quick skinny on just about anything. Did you know that Ed Schultz briefly played professional football and was a Republican until 2000? Or the chain of discoveries that led to Pluto being downgraded from planet to minor-planet/Kuiper belt object? Or what Edward Fortyhands is? I know that some dismiss Wikipedia as a monoculture that suppresses the original ethos of the web while others—Nassim Taleb, your post is coming soon—consider Wikipedia as part of the Internet “shallows” and people who read Wikipedia as faux intellectuals and “bildungphilistines.” Those camps can form two lines and kiss me. Other than homeless people, the only charity/cause/goodworks I have donated to this season is the Wikimedia Foundation. I guess I just couldn’t resist the personal plea from Jimmy Wales. I mean, who can say no to Jimmy Wales? Look at that punem!

The best gift—ever! The best gift I received this holiday season? “The Miracle in the New Meadowlands“—by far the best of the 200+ Eagles games I have watched. Made better by the fact that I watched it in a bar flanked by my brother—and sister in law—on the left and an obnoxious Giants fan on the right. Four touchdowns in the last 8:17 to come back from 21 down. The first-ever “walk-off” punt return. And the driver’s seat for the NFC East and maybe a first round bye. E! A! G! L! E! S! EAGLES!

The larger gift was made possible by three smaller gifts. Gift #2 came with 7:28 remaining. Having just given up the first of the four touchdowns, the Giants fell for a “surprise” onside kick that didn’t surprise anyone at the Wing Hub on Cordell. Not only did the Giants have a conventional return team on the field rather than a hands team, but the front line was lined up 15 yards from the ball and retreated at the kick. When Riley Cooper caught the ball at the Eagles 42, there wasn’t a single Giant in the picture! Gift #3 came with 0:14 remaining. Having just gone three-and-out after giving up the game tying touchdown, the Giants had to punt from their own 30 to an Eagles team holding no timeouts. Punt out of bounds and give the eagles fourteen seconds to run two sideline plays to gain 30 yards for a field goal try. Or punt high away from DeSean Jackson and give the Eagles eight seconds to run a single play to gain the same distance. But don’t kick a line drive directly to Jackson. Or maybe do. To make things even better, Jackson muffed the punt—perhaps even intentionally—which caused the Giants to completely lose all lane and backup discipline. Here it is in case you missed it. Gift #1? Andy Reid putting the Eagles in position to stage the comeback by refusing to challenge two big plays—Nicks catch in the first and Jackson fumble in the fourth—that on replay clearly would have gone the Eagles way. Thanks SantaAndy.

Philadelphia 2—New York 0. Eagles 38—Giants 31 was the second comeback beatdown administered by Philadelphia team to a New York team last week. Here is the first.

Climate change 1—California 0. Here’s a lump of coal in your stocking. If you can even find your stocking.

Bathroom Talk November 21, 2010

Posted by Amir Roth in environment, water efficiency.
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In Bluejay mansion, bathroom talk is only allowed when one is actually in the bathroom. And so I am typing this post while on the can. As far as you know. Happy belated toilet day, everyone! Friday was world toilet day! You missed it? Wasn’t this all over facebook, twitter, foursquare, or whatever this months’s thing is? Weren’t people foursquaring where they just popped a squat? Tweeting every turd? Digging every dingleberry? How many downloads of SitOrSquat were there?

WTD is actually serious business, The World Toilet Organization originated it to draw attention to the fact that most people in the world live without proper sanitation—think toilet scene from Slumdog Millionaire—and face unnecessary health risks as a result. The WTO is often confused with its better known sister organization with the same acronym, and this confusion is understandable given their missions. WTO the lesser aims to allow non-Western countries to shit as cleanly and efficiently as Western countries. WTO the greater aims to allow Western countries to cleanly and efficiently shit on non-Western countries. But I digress. The reason I brought up WTD and WTO is because I think that their charter is too narrow. Yes, there are serious sanitation problems in many parts of the world. And yes, these need to be addressed. But Western countries have sanitation problems as well and the WTO needs to draw attention to those as well.

What’s the problem with Western sanitation? It wastes too much water, uses too many chemicals, requires too much expensive infrastructure, and generates too much pollution. Of these, water usage is by far the biggest problem. The world will run out of fresh water way before it runs out of oil. Many places already have. In the US, large rivers like the Missouri and Colorado are already completely dry in stretches because all the upstream water is channeled away for agricultural, commercial, and personal uses. The Ogallala aquifer which sits under Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma has only about 30-40 years worth of water left in it. Attention, great plains farmers, now is the time to cash out! If only there was somewhere to cash out to! And as with everything else, things are only getting worse.

As much as the US needs to get off of carbon, we need to get off of fresh water. A human being needs 6 gallons of fresh water a day to satisfy basic drinking, cooking, and washing needs. The average American uses 80 gallons of water a day. A 5 minute shower is 20 gallons. Each flush of a standard toilet is 3.5. Then there’s the dishwasher. The clotheswasher. The flowerbed. The carwash. The grapes at the supermarket—growing grapes uses a ridiculous amount of water as you can imagine. Meat—animals drink water in addition to eating grain grown using water. And pretty much everything else that we buy—water is used extensively in manufacturing.

What to do? Well, use less water obviously. Take shorter showers. Eat less meat and fruits and vegetables that take a lot of water to grow—rice, berries, nuts. Buy less cotton—cotton is another incredible water hog. Take it easy on the carwashes. Use local plants in your garden that don’t need a lot of water. Don’t water your lawn. Install low-flow shower heads and toilets. Even better, install a composting toilet. Of all the things to use water for, flushing your shit to a treatment plant en route to a river seems the most asinine—ha! The next toilet I buy will be composting. I shit you not—double ha! I know what your first reaction must be—ugh! But you’re wrong. I’m not going to install a port-a-john in my house. A port-a-john is an open unflushed bowl in which water-soaked turd undergoes methane-producing anaerobic digestion. A composting toilet separates urine from feces and uses bacteria to digest excrement aerobically. Aerobic digestion produces less odor—not no odor, but a lot less—breaks down pathogens, and reduces volume by up to 90%. A composting toilet has to be emptied only once every three months, not every three days. And the sludge is black, mostly odorless, and can be dumped directly in the garden. Using a composting toilet is cleaner and more convenient than cleaning up after a cat, much less a dog. It’s really no different than using a conventional toilet.

If sanitation is developing countries is going to improve, composting toilets will have to be the way. There is no water-based sewage infrastructure—in many places there is no running water of anykind—no money to build infrastructure, and not enough water anyways. Just like the developing world skipped past landlines and went straight to cellular, here’s betting and hoping that they skip past centralized sewage and right to composting toilets. And as our own sewage infrastructure starts to break down, why pump billions of dollars into repairs? Why not move to composting toilets and spend public money elsewhere—education, healthcare, paying down the debt, or invading countries that have oil. The debt commission—is there a goofier combination of name and face than Erskine Bowles? Not even John Boehner—recommended a $0.15 a gallon gas tax. Hey Erskine, how about a $0.15 a gallon toilet tax? $3,000 tax credit for a hybrid car? Why not a $500 tax credit for a composting toilet? A little of this and a bit of that, I smell a toilet compost collection cottage industry—triple ha! And think of all that free, non-oil-based fertilizer!

The Philadelphia Eagles have announced plans to make Lincoln Financial Field “net-zero energy” . The Linc will produce more energy than it consumes using a combination of solar panels and Michael Vick powered wind turbines. Jeff Lurie, if you really want to go green, install composting toilets and waterless urinals also! And replace the water in the players’ squeeze bottles with beer. For the visiting team.

P.S. In his recent memoir, King George XLIII’s refers to himself as “The Decider.” Which I suppose is accurate since deciding doesn’t imply knowing or thinking. Anyways, when I first heard that I had faint echo of someone else calling themselves by the same moniker. But I couldn’t remember who. Then I saw it while reading Little Miss. Bluejay her bedtime book—Skippyjon Jones! The delusional Siamese cat who fancies himself the great Chihuahua sword-fighter El Skippito Friskito! SNL were ahead of their time with that 2000 skit of Bush playing with a ball of yarn.

P.P.S. Donovan McNabb’s contract. Funny.

Carbe Diem November 18, 2010

Posted by Amir Roth in climate, economy, football, taxes.
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Shortly after the midterm election, a chastened POTUS Lightning said that he was looking forward to working with Republicans on moving the economy and the country forward. He didn’t mention the Bush tax cuts. He didn’t mention healthcare. Or immigration. Or the deficit. He mentioned education. And he mentioned energy. Is Obama planning something major? I hope so, but probably not given that he’s an actual practicing politician and not “just a blogger.” Will Republicans go for whatever it he has in mind? Stranger things have happened. Okay, they haven’t. But here’s an idea—start phasing in a carbon tax. The time is ripe. Let me explain.

Ichi: A carbon tax will create jobs. Opponents of energy taxes claim they kill jobs. This is true for any tax! Taxes on consumers reduce disposable income and demand for goods and services. Taxes on businesses reduce the amount of money available for employee salary and benefits. Income taxes kill jobs! Sales taxes kill jobs! All taxes kill jobs! But some taxes can create jobs too. How? By fixing a price signal to a commodity or activity that creates a market for substitutes for that commodity or activity. A carbon tax will create a market for alternatives to and more efficient use of carbon-based energy. What do sales taxes create a market for? Alternatives to sales? What does income tax create a market for? Alternatives to income? Actually, sort of. It creates a market for ways to hide income. The US government doesn’t need to inject billions of taxpayer dollars into energy efficiency and clean energy research, a carbon tax will draw that money from the private sector much more efficiently. Taxes are necessary. With no taxes, there is no government and no social services—actually, there can be government without taxes but this requires massive amounts of oil and Sharia law. If we have to fund our government through taxes, shouldn’t we use taxes that create jobs in addition to killing them as opposed to taxes that only kill jobs?

Ni: A phased-in carbon tax will not kill any jobs, at least not immediately? A carbon tax will kill some jobs immediately, or—assuming that most precarious jobs are already gone and that most remaining jobs are robust—will restrict the creation of new jobs. But a phased-in carbon tax will not. An effective carbon tax needs to be something on the order of $200 per metric ton of CO2. That works out to about $1.83 a gallon. Yes, if a $1.83 per gallon gas tax goes into effect January 1, the economy will wretch. But if a $1.83 per gallon gas tax gets phased in over the next five years at six month increments, then on January 1, the tax would only be $0.18. It would go to $0.36 on June 1. And so on. The economy will adjust to a slow climb like that—in a way that a frog adjusts when you boil the pot of water it is swimming in—especially if it’s predictable. So if the carbon tax is initially too low to kill any jobs, how can it create jobs? Aha! The investment, and jobs, will be drawn to the certainty of the future tax not to the present tax!

San: There is a window of opportunity to restructure the tax code. With the Bush tax cuts—here is a piece by the Brookings Institution that summarizes the Bush tax cuts and their effects—set to expire when the apple drops on 2011, Republicans and Democrats are angling and wrangling over whether to let them expire, extend them, or create a hybrid solution split at an “upper-middle-class” earning level like $250,000 a year. It looks like Republicans are going to insist that upper class tax cuts are part of any deal—attention, middle class! the Republican party is holding your tax cut hostage just so that the 2% of American families making more than $250,000 a year can have a tax cut too! Remember this in November 2012—but they seem willing to put other parts of the tax code like deductions and exemptions on the table. Perfect. And perfect. Perfect I. Democrats can use a phased-in carbon tax in a tax hostage exchange! Republicans, you want the upper-class tax cuts? Accept a phased-in carbon tax! Perfect II. A carbon tax is regressive in the sense that it taxes consumption and lower-class households consume a larger fraction of their income than upper-class ones. However, Democrats can protect lower class households using exemptions and deductions—the parts of the tax code Republicans put back in play! How about an automatic $1,000 carbon deduction? Or an automatic $1,000 carbon refund?

Chi: Philly Bluejay will start incorporating bold run-in headers. Following the lead of proto-Bluejay TMQ and the 15 rules of good blogging, Philly Bluejay will begin introducing bold run-in headers to make posts more “skimmable” and to allow casual readers to absorb the major points without tiring their batting eyes by forcing them to digest a thousand plus words. Coming in 2012, a photo! Maybe.

Go: We will not make any dent in climate change without it. No amount of good will towards polar bears and residents of lowland regions in developing countries and Florida will get us off of carbon. When push comes to drive, people just don’t care about polar bears that much. Not to mention developing countries. You want people to get off of something? Tax it! Note, this applies only to things people are already doing. I’m not talking about California Prop 19, although I personally would have voted for it. By the way, if you still don’t believe that climate change is going to be off the chain, read ClimateProgress sometimes. And if you still don’t believe that climate change is real, why are you reading my blog?

Roku: We will not make a dent in the debt without it. In order to reduce the federal debt, the US government has to start running at a surplus rather than a deficit. The US government is currently running at a deficit of about $1.5 trillion. $1,500,000,000,000. Can you find $1,500,000,000,000 to cut here? It’s not easy unless you significantly cut both defense and social security. And don’t go after other discretionary spending. For one thing, it’s only about a third of the deficit. For another, it includes “discretionary” outlays like education and roads. Basically, there is no way to do it without raising taxes.

Shichi: goto ichi.

P.S. Want to know what voters really care about? Ask two weeks after an election! On November 2, Democrats lost 60 House seats, 6 Senate seats, and 10 state houses because voters were upset that government spending was exploding the deficit. Voters replaced many of these Democrats with Republicans who propose to grow the deficit further—but that’s a small detail. Less than two weeks later and with the mid-term behind them, only 4% of the same voters care about the deficit suggesting of course that they never did, that deficit hawking was convenient Republican misdirection. In a previous post, I asked whether any Republican candidate knew why a deficit was bad, and not just that it was bad. Predictably, the answer is a resounding ‘who cares?’ Hey Wisconsin/Pennsylvania/Indiana/Illinois/Arkansas/South Manitoba, can we have those seats back now?

P.P.S. How much is the decline in fertility rates in industrialized countries due to increased working opportunities for women and how much is due to increased laptop use by men?

P.P.P.S. Philly Bluejay gets about 20-30 hits a day. Some of these are from subscribed readers. Some are from aggregators that pick up on tags. But more than half are from searches. Specifically, from five particular searches. Evidently, Philly Bluejay is now an authority on the following topics, in frequency order: 1) Aron Ralston, 2) “the birthday problem,” 3) volcano lightning, 4) Salvador Dali butterfly pictures, and 5) Amir Roth.

P.P.P.P.S. The Mrs. and I were at FedEx field Monday night as the visiting Philadelphia Eagles administered a beat down for the ages to the Washington Redskins. The ink was not yet dry on Donovan McNabb’s head-scratching $78,000,000 contract—somewhat less head-scratching now that full details of the deal have come out—and Billy Ray Cyrus was not done singing the anthem before Michael Vick connected with DeSean Jackson on an 88 yard touchdown! And the route was on. By the middle of the second quarter, with the Eagles leading 42-14 and steady rain coming down, most of the Redskins “faithful”—including the douchebag who flipped Mrs. Bluejay off—had departed, leaving a scattered sea of green to watch the rest of the game in drenched peace. Must-see-TV Michael Vick—the NFL’s top rated passer and maybe its top runner too—blew through Washington’s “wet paper bag” defense to the tune of 413 total yards and six touchdowns. Was it only four weeks ago that I said that Kevin Kolb should stay the starter for the rest of the season? How “must see” is Vick? NBC has already flexed next weekend’s Eagles-Giants game to Sunday night—Vegas has Eagles -4. Really? Is that all? How did Eagles -3 work out for you boys this past Monday night?—and Fox has already moved the following week’s Eagles-Bears game to the 4pm “national game” slot. Next up—the NFL will launch a Michael-Vick only network.

Delusion Points November 14, 2010

Posted by Amir Roth in books, climate, economy, family, football, politics, taxes.
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I like to read. I also have a healthy dose of morbid curiosity. But I will not be adding Decision by King George XLIII to the Philly Bluejay reading list. At least not as long as I have to pay for it. It’s not that I mind spending money on books. Au contraire, mon cheri. I dropped $200 at Kramer’s last month, and another $110 at Amazon a few weeks ago. It’s just that I don’t want any of my money going to Bush. Especially because it’s certainly all about the money for him. About “replenishing the old coffers.”

I’m not being cynical and presumptive. When invited to speak to the Chicago Union League, Bush didn’t thank mayor Daley for a chance to talk to the hardworking people of Chicago, he thanked him “for a chance to sell his book.” And in interviews with Matt Lauer, Oprah, and Greta van Susteren, he repeatedly answers pointed questions with “Read my book and draw your conclusions.” I guess one could interpret this answer as evasive, as Bush unable to defend the actions and inactions of his presidency on camera. But it isn’t. He isn’t at all interested in defending himself, in explaining himself, in polishing his image, in apologizing or rationalizing, or in brightening the dim view history will take of him. He’s too intellectually lazy for that degree of reflection and too morally void for that sort of aspiration. He could care less what history thinks of him. He just wants money so that he can spend the rest of his days kicking around on the farm. This is probably all he wanted even while he was president. To him, the presidency wasn’t some great opportunity or awesome responsibility, it was the quickest way to a rich, lazy retirement.

And he evidently took the same route with DP. Unable to give Crown Publishing an original manuscript, Bush lifted passages from journals and other memoirs that describe his presidency. And who didn’t see this coming? Did anyone believe that Bush could write a 700-page book? Or even have enough original thoughts to give a ghost-writer 700 pages of material? Of course not. Bush has probably never read 700 pages worth of books. This is the same man who claimed that his favorite book was “The Very Hungry Caterpillar“—a book that was written when he was 19 years old! Someone should check whether any quotes from TVHC appear in DP. “On Tuesday, the Twin Towers and the Pentagon were attacked and I felt really bad. I had a tummy ache. On Wednesday, I ate a bright green leaf and I felt much better!”

The most telling thing about this episode? No one is shocked or outraged by this. It’s what we’ve come to expect from Bush. The man who cheated his way into the White House—does everyone realize how different would the world be today had Katherine Harris allowed the 2000 Florida recount to proceed? the mind boggles—who lied us into a war, who sanctioned torture, who spied on American citizens, who stopped stem cell research, and who made one thoughtless, dogmatic decision after another over the course of eight years the world may never recover from. Why would he start doing things the right way now? Why, when he repeatedly got away with doing them the wrong way during his presidency?

And so I will not purchase a copy of DP. At least not until it drops below the price of toilet paper. From the looks of it on Amazon, that should be the case before Thanksgiving.

P.S. Speaking of Bush, one of the most asinine moves by the increasingly Machiavellian GOP is the way in which they are holding the middle class tax cuts hostage for tax cuts for the top 2% of earners. Debt, shmedt! Middle class, kiss our @$$! People making half a million or more will get their tax cuts or no one is getting anything! Ladies and gentlemen, your new House majority!

P.P.S. This past Friday, I attended the ACEEE Conference on transportation efficiency in the 21st century. The most memorable speaker of the day? Joe Romm of climateprogress.org. Joe is a fiery and abrasive man. He prefaced his talk by saying that it was usually a waste of his time to speak to such small audiences and ended it by getting into a shouting match with David Greene about the future of fuel cell cars. He was assistant secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy under Clinton. Had he still held the post, he would have been my boss’ boss’ boss. It’s hard to imagine someone with his personality as assistant secretary. Then again, maybe he developed this personality during the eight years of the Bush climate “policy.”

P.P.P.S. In the past few weeks, I’ve noticed questions and comments from Israeli readers on several NFL blogs, including TMQ and John Clayton’s 1st and 10. Evidently, football is gaining popularity in the land of milk and honey. Witness the Kraft Family Israeli Football League. I wonder how an IFL all star team would fare against the worst NFL team? Or against University of Wisconsin? Or Trinity High School?

P.P.P.P.S. Speaking of the NFL. Eagles-Redskins. MNF. The Mrs. and I will be in Section 450. This would never happen if the game was in Philly.

P.P.P.P.P.S. Happy belated birthday, sista!

The Hangover November 6, 2010

Posted by Amir Roth in economy, football, politics, taxes.
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Oh, my head! Did anyone get the number on that Hummer?

This past Tuesday night, Philly Bluejay’s home district PA-7 turned from Blue to Red from top to bottom. Outgoing—both personally and politically—Democratic governor and Eagles booster Ed Rendell was replaced by Republican and likely Steeler fan Tom Corbett. In the Senate, Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter’s seat was won by Republican Pat Toomey. Toomey defeated PA-7 Rep. and Philly Bluejay favorite Admiral Joe Sestak. Democrat Bryan Lentz couldn’t keep Sestak’s seat warm for him, getting thrashed by Republican Pat Meehan. And so we went from Rendell, Specter, and Sestak to Corbett, Toomey, and Meehan. Philly Bluejay’s house in PA-7 has a blue front door. It is possible that on January 20, Philly Bluejay may be required by law to paint the door red. And perhaps also to change his name to Philly Redjay or Philly Cardinal. This would never have happened if actual bluejays still wintered in PA-7.

By the way, some of you may have noticed that some posts are written in ultra-annoying third-person self-reference while others are written in only slightly less annoying first-person and wondering why that is? Does Philly Bluejay have dissociative disorder or megalomania? Yes. No. Who are you talking to, me or Philly Bluejay? Seriously though. In the past, there may not have been a method to the voice madness, but in the future all political-themed posts will be written in third person whereas all other posts will be written in first person. You see, when it comes to important matters like politics, it helps to think of oneself as the blog rather than as the person so that opinions can be shared without regard to personal consequence. It’s not me! It’s the blog! I’m not a flaming liberal, I just write a flaming liberal blog! Philly Bluejay is glad we got that sorted out. And so am I.

In other Philly news. Former Philadelphia Eagles right tackle, interview favorite, and McDonald’s coffee spokesman Big Jon Runyan is now in Da House representing Philly suburb NJ-3. For the wrong party. Although looking at Jon’s stance on the issues, I see potential for an Arlen Specter-like party-switch in the future. No potential party switch in KY-4, where former Phillie pitcher Jim Bunning’s seat will be occupied for the next six years by Dr. Rand Paul. For his first act, Dr. Paul will very politely ask the Senate to deliberate on this—we have six years of Rand Paul!

Insult and injury extend beyond the immediate environs of the Mason-Dixon line. Speaking of which, it was only a few years ago that Philly Bluejay learned that Mason-Dixon is the line that separates Maryland from Pennsylvania and Delaware. For the preceeding twenty-some odd years, Philly Bluejay was convinced that it was the line that separated Maryland from Virginia, i.e., the Union from the Confederacy. For the ten-odd years prior to that, Philly Bluejay was completely unware that the Mason-Dixon line existed. The fact that Philly Bluejay is now residing south of Mason-Dixon is somewhat disturbing. Although not as disturbing as the fact that in our new world, Russ Feingold is not a Congressman but Ben Quayle is. Who is defense secretery in this universe, Walter Bishop? Quayle claims that “Obama is the worst president in history.” Ben must not the old saying that people whose father was the most laughable veep in history shouldn’t throw stones.

On the bright side, Democrats retained control of the Senate thanks to clutch wins by Democrats in Colorado, Washington, and Nevada. For his second act, Dr. Paul will go to the Senate and respectfully ask them to deliberate on this—we have six more years of Harry Reid and Patty Murray! That fact is obviously lost on minority leader Mitch McConnell. By the way, whereas some people believe McConnell was separated at birth from Steve Forbes, Philly Bluejay believes he was separated from Jean Stapleton. On Wednesday, McConnell WikiLeaked the Republican agenda for the next two years—make sure Obama doesn’t gain a second term. That’s pretty much it. Not jobs. Not the economy. Not immigration. Not the environment. Just make sure that Obama is a one term president. Actually,that’s not fair. There was one actual plank in McConnell’s agenda. Oh yes, make the Bush tax cuts permanent for the top 2% of Americans. I knew there was something. Perhaps sensing the unseemliness of his position, on Thursday McConnell hedged by saying that he needs a Republican in the White House so that he could roll back all of Obama’s policies. Someone, please tell McConnell that in order to do that he first needs a Republican majority in the Senate! McConnell has been so smug he makes John “Pledge to America” Boehner look like a Democrat by comparison! To his credit, Boehner—who actually is majority leader—has been humble and conciliatory and pledged to work with Obama to move the country forward. Is Charlie Francis still alive? John Boehner! We may have to officially change the spelling of his name to Bayner!

The most ridiculous outcome of delusion 2010? MSNBC suspending Keith Olbermann indefinitely because he contributed $2,400 to Jack Conway, Dr. Paul’s opponent. MSNBC, why do this? Because it undermines the network’s image for balanced and impartial journalism? Let me tell you, you don’t have that image! Do you think FOX would suspend Bill O’Reilly for donating to Dr. Paul? FOX would probably suspend him for not donating to Dr. Paul.

If there is a something to hold onto in this mess—aside from the fact that Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell, and Propositions California 23and Colorado 300 were defeated—it’s that we still have POTUS Lighting. You want to see a mensch? Watch Lightning’s post-election news conference. I have a feeling he’s going to come through this stronger than ever. Dr. Paul, please go to the Senate and politely ask them to deliberate on that!

P.S. With Rahm Emanuel leaving for Chicago and a Republican “shellacking” in the midterms, many are looking for Obama to shuffle his staff. Philly Bluejay has a suggestion—Admiral Joe Sestak! Admiral Joe—a rising star in the Democratic party—will be sitting on the sideline for the next two years. POTUS Lightning, I know the Admiral scoffed at your request that he not run against Arlen Specter in the primary. But you want him on that wall! You need him on that wall!

P.P.S. Speaking of the Fringe alternate universe, Eagles giving a field goal to the Colts? I know the Eagles are at home and coming off a bye while the Colts are coming off a short week, but … come on! Is Vegas trying to make Peyton mad? Perhaps the line should be Eagles +17. Then again, what if Peyton’s MO is to just try to cover? Maybe the line should be Eagles -10.

P.P.P.S. Several weeks ago, the knuckles on my right hand had a run-in with the escalator at L’Enfant Plaza. Well, the escalator has struck again.

P.P.P.P.S. Philly Bluejay is considering starting a “Bethesdan of the month” feature, featuring prominent people who live in Bethesda, and may or may not shop at the Whole Foods on River and Dorsey. We’ve already covered Tom Friedman and Gregg Easterbrook. BOTM for November 2010 is Washington Post columnist and NPR political commentator E.J. Dionne.

P.P.P.P.P.S. Belated happy birthdays to Mrs. Bluejay, Safta Bluejay, cousin George, and William. And belated happy Guy Fawkes Night everyone.

A Rally to Restore Anti-Climax November 2, 2010

Posted by Amir Roth in politics, society, sports.
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Dedicated readers of Philly Bluejay—hi Mom—may have noticed that posts during this election season have been surprisingly sparse and that the occasional post has been either rambling or milquetoast—by the way, I love the word milquetoast, it just sounds so delicious. But back to my main point, how could a flaming liberal like myself sit on the sideline while the Boys and Girls in Blue are taking one revisionist insult after another and party stalwarts like Harry Reid and Russ Feingold are getting ridden out of town by clueless lunatics. Well, obviously that was not my the intent. The plan was to have a very digitally active election season, but somehow life, work, travel, and the constant stream of media blather got in the way. Every time I saw some outrageous piece and started to either fan or flame the author, a more outrageous piece came out which immediately caused me to suspend my previous piece and shift gears. As a result, my dashboard shows nine half-finished posts with titles like “Smokin’ TEA,” “The Sharron Angle,” and “Do Any Republicans Actually Know Why Deficits Are Bad?” Well, we’re down to the 11th hour of what must be the nuttiest midterm season since 1994. By the end of today, we’ll have the House we deserve, hopefully not the Senate we deserve, and zero shot of getting a serious energy bill passed in the next two years. On the bright side, the Dallas Cowboys are 1-6 and Donovan McNabb just got benched! A few personal notes from this election season:

Mrs. Bluejay and I attended The Rally to Restore Sanity on Saturday. Or maybe it was The March to Keep Fear Alive. Or Scared-Dem-a-palooza. Actually, attended poorly describes what we actually did. First, we waited for 50 minutes on the platform at Van Ness while eight red line trains, each more packed than the previous, rolled by. On the ninth train, I power-rushed off left guard, pushed the pile forward, and then pulled Mrs. Bluejay behind me just before the doors decapitated her. On the train, the Mrs. and I figured out why so many people on the platform we actually taking the train in the other direction—they were hoping to catch the train further out in hopes of catching it while it wasn’t full. The ride was pleasant enough. I spent it chest-to-chest with a woman in a San Francisco Giants jersey—not my wife, she’s a Royals/Phillies girl—while getting a sensual massage from a sixty year old man on the other side. All is forgiven. Getting off at Metro Center, we attempted to swim our way to the mall. We got as far as 7th and Independence, largely because we slipped in behind a pulling block from an ambulance, and ended up not far away from this dude. From the angle, it looks like we were standing next to the person taking the video. The woman on the other side of us held a sign that said “Don’t tread on me, I just got a pedicure!” After about an hour of not being able to hear or see anything, but enjoying the second-hand high—the highlight of the hour was a woman heading to the meetup point because she got separated from her six-year old daughter—we decided to make our way back home. The highlight of the event was definitely the handmade signs. In addition to “DTOM,” other winners were “Is this the line for Georgetown Cookies?”, “Am I late for the Glenn Beck rally?,” “Actually, I’m pretty content!,” and “When I think about Christine O’Donnell, I touch myself!” In the end, it was pretty … milquetoast—there goes that word again. Just a little pre-Halloween party, notable mostly for the exaggerated ratio of hype to happening. Controlled experiments are obviously impossible, but it’s doubtful whether this particular Comedy Central special increases Democrat voter turnout much less turns any race blue. Someday, will I tell my kids I went to this rally? I didn’t even tell them where I went when I got home.

Speaking of insanity and anti-climax. Mrs. Bluejay and I missed the deadline to register for absentee voting in Pennsylvania’s 7th district by a scant three hours. And so for the last week, I have been monitoring theRCP poll aggregator—the new official website of Philly Bluejay—to see whether Sestak v. Toomey was close enough to prompt me to drive 360 miles round-trip from Bethesda, MD to Havertown, PA so I could vote. Early last week, Sestak was trailing by a point—well within the polling error margin—and six hours in the car was looking likely. Towards the end of the week and through the weekend, though, the margin grew to 4.5 points leaving me with the choice of violating my political principles or my environmental ones. In the end, environmentalism won—I am keeping my vote in my pocket and 190 pounds of CO2 in my gas tank. Mr. Sestak—I will see you in 2012. Mr. Lentz—keep Mr. Sestak’s seat warm for him, will ya? Mr. Easterbrook—I know you disapprove, and I will avert my eyes in shame the next—first—time I see you at Georgetown Bagelry or Moo Cow. But I will continue to bitch, moan, and parody. Because, as my daughter says, “I just like to.”

Finally, everyone has an explanation for the anti-Democrat backlash, but here’s one that caught me off-guard. And I don’t really mean the article. I mean the comment by Jennifer from Texas. Women are turning away from the Democratic party because they are still angry about Barack over Hillary in the 2010 primary? Because they are turned off by Democrats portraying Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell as clueless bimbos? Because they want to identify with a party that promotes strong women rather than discarding them? Wow. I always thought that calling Palin and O’Donnell clueless bimbos was an insult. But I thought it was an insult to clueless bimbos.

Anyways, post mortem tomorrow. Or Thursday. Or next week.

P.S. Here’s a top-15 list of “best blogging practices.” Philly Bluejay is a pathetic 5 for 15. You choose which 5.

P.P.S. Congratulations to Buster Posey, Pat Burrell, Brian Wilson, Tim Lincecum, Drew, Barb, Charlie and Ty Kunz—that’s right kids, Ty Kunz—and Martha and Bill Brook on the Giants winning the World Series. You want to win the World Series? Get as many ex-Marlins on the team as possible.

The Expert Problem October 30, 2010

Posted by Amir Roth in books, politics, society.
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My current DC Metro book is “Black Swan” by Nassim Taleb—a full report is coming when I finish. The Black Swan theory says that history is largely a product of low-probability, high-impact, unpredictable events—think fall of the Soviet Union, 9/11, Facebook—and that bell-curve events are low-impact essentially by virtue of their predictability. There are several interesting and counter-intuitive conclusions that fall out of the BS theory. One is that “book” smarts are often useless—even dangerous—in the real world because the artificially simplified world of the academy often prejudices one to believe that he understands the world more than he does, to underestimate the unknown and its effects, and to willfully ignore risk. Another is that fields that are fundamentally dynamic and prone to exogenous influences also fundamentally resist expertise—only static, self-contained fields can have true experts. Physics lends itself to expertise—it’s a closed system and the rules don’t change over time. So does brain surgery. And plumbing. But economics doesn’t have experts—economists are only slightly and insignificantly better than non-economists at predicting future economic events. Neither does politics. Nor business. Nor, fundamentally, can any discipline that deals with human subjects. The famous adage that “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it” is trivially both true and false. It’s trivially false because history never exactly repeats itself, even in microcosm. The same social and techonolgical context never comes up twice, nor does the exact sequence of external events. It’s trivially true because in a rough sense even those who do know history are doomed to repeat it, insofar as history repeats” itself. Knowledge of historical events does not help much in predicting the future. And you laugh dismissively when I tell you that I could run the Eagles or be a decent Senator! Well, I don’t know about the Eagles, but I would certainly be a better Senator than some of the yahoos who will appear on actual ballots this coming Tuesday. You don’t need to know much about the theory and history of politics and economics to be an effective legislator. Theory—which doesn’t capture large unpredictable events—and history—which never repeats—exactly are largely irrelevant in determining whether a given piece of legislation will achieve its desired effect.

The political “expert problem” is interesting in light of the alarming number of (Republican) candidates for national political office who are ignorant and seemingly proud of it. I parenthesized Republican because all the ignorant candidates I can think of are Republican. Christine “I didn’t go to Yale! I’m YOU!” O’Donnell. Ron “This election is not about ‘details’” Johnson. Sharron “I can’t spell Sharon” Angle. If BS is right and deep knowledge may be as much a hindrance to legislative and governance success as a pre-requisite, then maybe TEApublicans are on to something. Maybe Samantha would make a kick-ass Senator.

Nah! Taleb downplays domain-specific knowledge in some domains but not the process of acquiring knowledge or the tools used in acquiring it—intelligence, curiosity, and skepticism. Deep reserves of knowledge are rarely helpful in dealing with a given economical-political situation, what is helpful is the ability to gather information specific to the situation at hand, to weed out low-order details, and to weigh outcomes of different strategies.
While Team Christine certainly lacks domain specific knowledge—at least in constitutional law although perhaps not in other domains—she also lacks the tools to deal with real-world situations. All she has is doe eyes, white teeth, and Sunday-school dogma.

The ironic thing about the “I didn’t go to Yale! I’m YOU!” campaign is that it actually proves Christine’s point. What Christine is hopefully trying to say is that she didn’t have the opportunity to go to Yale because she isn’t an old-boy/old-money elitist like her opponent Chris Coons. But whereas old-boy/old-money may describe Yale of the 1950s, Yale of the 1990s has need-blind admission policies and enrolls more women than men. Christine didn’t go to Yale because she wouldn’t have gotten close to getting in if she tried. By saying “I didn’t go to Yale” Christine may as well be saying “I’m not intelligent!” and by saying it with the tone that suggests “I wouldn’t want to go to Yale even if I could!” she is effectively saying “I don’t want to be a Senator!”

Christine, what do you think the Senate is if not Yale 2.0? The point of Yale is not to learn more than you would learn at Fairleigh Dickinson or the Claremont Institute or Wilfred Beauty Academy or wherever it is you went, it’s to get to hang out with other people smart enough to get into Yale! Christine, you are obviously ignorant. But that’s not your biggest problem. The biggest problem is that you lack the mental tools and desire to overcome your ignorance to suit the situation. What is the last book you read? Facebook? Could you give a specific action item for any one of your issues? A cap-and-trade system is a “market-based” approach to the energy problem—do you favor that? How many points behind Coons are you polling? What’s four plus two? By the way, the answer to the last question is 6. And to the one before that is 18. Which thankfully means that after Tuesday, we will never hear from you again.

Unfortunately, we might still hear from Mr. Johnson—leading stalwart Russ Feingold by an incomprehensible six points—and Ms. Angle—ahead of majority leader by four points, albeit in a beaten-down state like Nevada. I understand the anti-incumbent backlash. I don’t agree with it but I understand where it comes from. But anti-incumbent does not equal pro-idiot! How did we as a society get to a place where a large swath of us values ignorance over erudition? Blind faith over intellectual curiosity? Claremont Institute—which by the way is a conservative think tank, not a college—over Yale Law? If you had to have brain surgery—or even a root canal—would you like to be treated by Christine O’Donnell or Chris Coons? If you were on trial and facing the death penalty—or even six months in Martha Stewart-ville—would you want to be defended by Sharron Angle or Harry Reid? How did we get to a place where we value intelligence and competence in most places except for politics? How did we get to a place where we simultaneously scream about the incompetence of government but fawn over clearly clueless politicians? People, we have huge problems. Now is not the time to be putting crackpots and morons in Congress! An ignorant doctor can kill a few people. An ignorant politician, properly placed, can actually do a lot more damage than that.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to go restore sanity! Woot!

P.S. This post was partially inspired by Anne Applebaum’s “Rise of the ‘Ordinary’ Elite.” The piece describes a new kind of populism which is not “anti-elite”, but “anti-elite-education.” Its targets are not the old-money, old-boy elite but the new, upwardly mobile, self-made elite. Working-class to White House elites like the Obamas. The piece is interesting precisely because of the angle it avoids—racism! Applebaum may not want to touch this subject because she likes her job at the Washington Post, but I have no such problems and I will touch most things. Merit-based elite education is the great equalizer. It’s the “in” to the circle of national politics and power. What could be worse if you are an ignorant white person than to see a black family use that vehicle to get into the passing lane and blow by you. While elite education was the privilege of privilege, you could always pretend that “you could have been a contender” if only you were born to the right parents. That elite status was not fairly earned and—by juxtaposition your non-elite status—was not your fault. But now that elite education is open to all and you still can’t get a sniff, you have no one to blame but your ignorant self and perhaps your ignorant parents. And given this what could be a more transparent self-preservation strategy than to pretend that elite education doesn’t matter anyways? And that you wouldn’t avail yourself of it if you tried? Who do you think you’re fooling other than ignorant people like yourself? Pfffft.

Hot, Flat, Crowded, and Taxed October 12, 2010

Posted by Amir Roth in books, clean energy, climate, energy efficiency, sustainability, taxes, weird.
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One of my favorite parts of my temporary new job is the commute. It’s between 30 and 40 minutes each way, but all on public transportation. This not only gives me the moral authority to browbeat people about their energy consumption—I’m not part of the problem! I use public transportation! My carbon footprint is only 12 times that of an average Indian, not 14 times!—it also gives me time to read in relative peace and while I am more or less awake. In fact, I am somewhat surprised by the relatively small number of people that read on the Metro. On any given day, I would say that fewer than 20% of the people on the Metro are reading, and most of those are reading that free magazine you can get as you come into the station. What are the other 80% doing? 20% are texting. 20% are listening to iPods. 20% are staring blankly into space. 19% staring blankly into space, listening to their iPods, texting in one hand, and holding the Metro newspaper in the other. 1% are trying to extricate themselves from the Metro doors.

The first book I read entirely on the Metro was Tom Friedman’s “Hot, Flat, and Crowded.” I won’t rehash Friedman’s thesis—the best thing America can do for itself and the world is to go seriously Green—Friedman does that just fine. I did want to say three things about the book though. First, I love that the cover is sampled from “Garden of Earthly Delights” by Hieronymous Bosch. Look no further than GoED for proof that they had very good psychotropes even in the 15th century! With publishing margins as slim as they are these days—although perhaps not for bankable stars like Friedman—why pay for cover art? Sample a renaissance painting for free!

Second, one of the things that struck me about “World Is Flat”—HF&C’s predecessor—was Friedman’s own itinerary. Bangalore. Shanghai. Doha. Copenhagen. Sao Paolo. Back to Bangalore. The most frequent refrain in WiF is “I just kept on moving.” Readers of Philly Bluejay know how I feel about business air travel. Friedman may fly more than any person on the planet! This was bad in an absolute sense but not hypocritical in the context of the book—WiF is about globalization. But HF&C is about climate and the Energy Era and yet the itinerary is similar. London. Mumbai. Dalian. Multiple visits to every continent except for Antarctica. I hope Mr. Friedman purchased carbon offsets for all of those air miles! Now, if you will excuse me, I have to fly to San Francisco. For business. Tom, I kid because I love. And because I am a hypocrite.

Third and finally, I want to elaborate on Friedman’s point about the necessity of a carbon tax. One of Friedman’s sub-points is that a clean energy revolution will never truly take off without a clear, loud, consistent and projectable price signal on carbon. The market will not move away from carbon—at least not efficiently and at scale—unless they know what staying with carbon will cost and unless that price is sufficiently high. Short of privatizing the atmosphere, the fastest way to create this signal is by government regulation. And here he advocates a carbon tax over cap-and-trade. Friedman views cap-and-trade as a kind of “hidden ball” trick—a way for the government to limit emissions in a way that does not result in direct costs for consumers or a direct trail of money back to itself. In a perfect world, the government hands out emissions credits, electric utilities buy and sell them amongst themselves and customers don’t see increased rates, and when they do, they don’t see that money going to the government. Friedman claims that this kind of shenanigan hides the true urgency of the problem from people—people are not going to change their habits unless they see how their actions translate directly into costs. I agree. Wholeheartedly. But I think that a better and more accurate way to state this problem is that a cap-and-trade system isn’t an effective price signaling mechanism because it doesn’t behave like a traditional price!

A price is a constant. The price of the first unit of is the price of the millionth unit. With a price, cost is always proportional to consumption and you can safely map out the future. Not so with cap-and-trade. With cap-and-trade, the price of a unit purchased under the cap is far less—perhaps infinitely less—than that of a unit purchased over the cap. And whether a unit is over or under depends on overall demand, not on your demand. Which system do you reckon would be more conducive to economic growth? “Neither” is not an option!

Meanwhile, the real commodity here is not electricity—or even coal—it’s CO2. It’s easy enough to create a cap-and-trade system for coal or electricity. A CO2-emissions-from-coal exchange would consist of a relatively small number of individually large participants. A cap-and-trade makes some sense in this case. But oil companies do not operate like utilities and so the CO2-emissions-from-gasoline effectively consists of millions of small participants. Cap-and-trade is logistically much more difficult here! And remember, if cap-and-trade were a true pricing mechanism than it would be possible to trade gasoline emissions for electricity emissions. Anything short of a holistic economy-wide cap-and-trade will effectively create a market distortion, effectively subsidizing uncapped sources of emissions at the expense of capped ones. Market distortion—specifically, implicit subsidies for carbon emissions—is how we got ourselves in this mess to begin with!

Perhaps Tom and I can discuss these points en route to Sacramento. Or maybe at the checkout counter at the Whole Foods on River Road. Tom, Text me!

P.S. The cover art of HF&C contains several images from the Paradise and Earth panels of GoED, but none—as far as I can tell—from the Hell panel. Was this intentional? A better cover would have had a sample from “Paradise” on top and “Hell” on the bottom. No?

P.P.S. Another suitable cover for HF&C—although not renaissance and likely not royalty free either—would have been a pair of paintings by neo-Bosch Salvador Dali. Butterfly windmills on top and that-painting-with-a-giraffe-on-fire-which-I-swear-is-by-Dali-but-I-can’t-find-a-link-for-so-now-I-don’t-know on the bottom.

P.P.P.S. Wonder if the Taliban puts this on their recruiting posters.

P.P.P.P.S. If you drop something on an escalator, never shoot your hand down to try to catch it while it’s falling. I’m just saying.

An Open Letter to Rick Sanchez October 6, 2010

Posted by Amir Roth in media, society, sports, television.
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Rick,

Can I call you Rick? You don’t know me from Adam and I don’t know you from Jonathan Leibowitz. I’ve never watched Rick’s List and I guess I never will now. Actually, I don’t watch any CNN. Not even 360 despite the fact that Anderson Cooper is a fellow Bull. I don’t even know where CNN is down here in the 20816. Not that I watch Comedy Central either. I get my television news from MSNBC, Joe in the morn—sadly I have to leave before Chuck and Savannah come on—Ed or Rachel or Matthews or O’Donnell in the eve. You see, I like my news with a heavy liberal slant but only 40% sarcasm, not 98%.

Rick, you got on my radar last week when CNN fired you for calling Jonathan Leibovitz a bigot and claiming that Jews are not a true minority a la Hispanics. You weren’t even on CNN at the time, you were a guest on a radio show. A sattelite radio show fagadsakes! The same radio service that broadcasts Howard Stern! No matter. You were out on the street the next day. That was wrong, Rick. Not what you said. Although that was also wrong. And ignorant. But firing you for it was wrong too. And vindictive. And petty. A reprimand, a public apology, and a week off the air would have sufficed. You are not the first member of the national media to make an inappropriate remark and you won’t be the last. CNN was wrong to make an example of you. It was a bully move. Bush league.

Rick, your parents fled Cuba when you were two years old. They came to America to give you a better life. In Cuba, you can’t look sideways at a picture of Fidel Castro without getting thrown in the slammer. Or worse. In America, we have the First Amendment! Here, you can say whatever you want! You can say that Michael J Fox is faking Parkinson’s. You can say that a presidential candidate attended a madrassa. You can shout “baby killer” during a congressional debate. You can say that former presidents committed war crimes when they ordered nuclear attacks on Japan. You can even say that another country has WMD’s as pretext for attacking them, kill thousands of American soldiers and foreign civilians, and plunge the country into debt we may never recover from—hypothetically, of course, no one would ever really do such a thing. In America, Rick, you can say whatever you want …

… except you can’t make fun of minorities. Even ones that aren’t disadvantaged. It’s not nice. It’s not politically correct. You can get sued. You can’t insult hispanics—although you can deport them! God help you if you mock blacks—see Imus, Don—and no it doesn’t matter that we have a black president. And, whatever you do, under no circumstances are you to defame, denigrate, or otherwise dis Jews! I mean, Jews control the banks, the media, and White House staff in this country! If you go after one of them, you are going down! You send one of theirs to the hospital, they send you to the morgue! That’s the Chicago way!

So, I’m sorry Rick. I myself am Jewish and I wasn’t offended by what you said about my people. I actually thought it was kind of funny. And really, something can’t be funny if it’s not also true. But funny has nothing to do with it. Sarcasm is for the news. Not for candid interviews on pay radio. You crossed the unspoken line and you got whacked. But don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll get picked up by FOX “news” in a few days.

Sincerely,

-Amir

P.S. Perhaps CNN firing you was karmic payback for the hit-and-run in 1990. How did you get away with that anyways? I know you were driving back from a football game, but were you actually playing in it?

P.P.S. Rick, the following P.S.’s are not directed to you, but rather to my six loyal readers. And to whoever Googles Rick Sanchez and scrolls to the 20th page of hits.

P.S. Red October 2.0 started in Phine Phashion with Roy Hallady no-hitting the Cincinnatti Reds! It can only go down from here! There is much to like about Roy. He’s a non-complainer—10 years and 280+ starts in Toronto with not a sniff of the postseason and not a single complaint. He’s a throwback horse—more complete games than any other National League team. And he possesses a filthy arsenal—then again, as far as I can tell, the 80 mph batting cage pitching machine does too—the second pitcher to throw two no-hitters in the same season. But he has a bad nickname—Doc. Presumably after Wyatt Earp sidekick John “Doc” Holliday. Don’t get me wrong, Doc works. Halladay isn’t spelled quite right—perhaps Matt Holliday should sue Roy for the rights to Doc—but most baseball fans can’t spell anyways. And it gives us “re DOC tober.” Alas, it’s already taken. By Dwight Gooden. Who legally changed his name to Doc by the way. And you just can’t recycle bigtime nicknames, no matter how well they fit. It’s wrong. There is only one Babe, one Wizard, one Sandman, one Rocket, one Kid, one A-Rod, one Hebrew Hammer, two Pudge’s and two Whitey’s. And only one Doc. Roy needs a new nickname! Maybe a play on another famous Holliday—Billie? Matt? Jrue? Perhaps a play on the word holiday—Happy Halladay? High Halladay? Federal Halladay? Or maybe a play on Doc—most doctors are specialists today—the cardiologist? the podiatrist? the proctologist? the gynecologist? I got it—”the dentist!” After all, that’s how John Holliday became “Doc.” Red entistober everyone!

P.P.S. The Andy Reid/Donovan McNabb/Kevin Kolb/Michael Vick tetrahedron spins on! Week 4: Washington at Philly. The hype. The drama. The anticipation. The clock mismanagement! Michael Vick is out with torn rib cartilage—I broke a rib snow-boarding two years ago and couldn’t sleep for six weeks much less play professional football, of course I couldn’t really play professional football even when perfectly healthy but that’s besides the point—and castoff 2.0 Kevin Kolb is back in! Andy Reid immediately announces that Vick will start as soon as he is healthy—because of course you can’t lose your job to injury—unless of course, Mike Kafka looks really good running the scout team this week! Anyways, Donovan McNabb exacts sweet revenge on the Eagles by being the worst quarterback on the field but leading the Redskins to an upset by “establishing the running game,” “throwing only one interception,” “trusting his defense,” and “using Jedi mind tricks to coax another all-time brain-fart from Andy.” Actually, you don’t need any Jedi mind tricks for that.