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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.

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Shall We Geo-Engineer? April 19, 2010

Posted by Amir Roth in climate, geo-engineering, society, taxes.
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A few days ago, Fresh Air hosted Jeff Goodell about geo-engineering solutions to the climate crisis. You might be thinking “another NPR-inspired post?” No, no. This post is inspired by this NYTimes article about the same topic.

I don’t know how much you know about geo-engineering, but it encompasses a relatively wide swath of ideas for cooling the planet that don’t involve the only real long term solution—reducing our consumption of fossil fuels. Some examples? Sending giant “umbrellas” into low orbit to reduce the amount of sunlight that hits the atmosphere. Blasting soot particles into the atmosphere to reflect more sunlight. Covering glaciers with reflective thermal shields. Dumping powdered iron into the ocean to spur the growth of carbon-capturing algea. Ordering all drivers to with the windows open and the A/C on high. And so forth and so on. Many of these approaches sound loony. Many of them reek of  unintended consequences. But all share two important characteristics. First, they would likely succeed in cooling the earth to one degree or another. (Ha!) Second, they are eminently feasible from both technology and financial standpoints, rendering their “political feasibility”—my least favorite term, perhaps of all time—essentially moot. Some rogue well-intentioned country or even individual billionaire—Bill? Warren? Sergey? Sir Richard? J.K.? Tiger?—could under-write one or more of these single-handedly! Should they?

Definitely maybe. It would behoove (I promise this is the last time Bluejay will use that word) the US and other governments to undertake detailed feasibility and impacts analyses of the most readily “reversible” or “undoable” of these proposals. Dumping iron into the ocean would be pretty hard to undo. And if it turns out that the resulting algea also de-oxygenate the ocean and kill all other life in it—not that this isn’t going to happen anyway because of acidification and the great pacific garbage “patch”—then we would be adding injury to already serious injury. Similarly for using ballistics to shoot soot particle bombs into the atmosphere. But what about putting giant reflectors into orbit above glaciers, Greenland, the Arctic and precarious ice shelves of Antarctica to keep these in perpetual shade? Is this not worth a try? Or at least very serious study? What’s the worst that can happen? We find that changes in temperature gradients are changing precipitation patterns around the world in bad and unpredictable ways—meaning in ways worse and more unpredictable than they are changing already? Well, then we take the shields down with the added knowledge of the effects of “spot cooling.”

Here is the problem. Regardless of how much we cut back going forward—and sadly, as a world, we don’t seem to be serious about cutting back at all, on anything—we are already “locked in” to a certain level of future warming. This by virtue of the CO2 that’s already in the atmosphere and oceans and by the hands of vicious feedback loops we discover on an almost weekly basis. No one knows for certain, but without additional measures, this locked in warming may mean the loss of some serious “assets” like Arctic summer ice, the Greenland ice sheet, various large glaciers, etc. Unlike fictitious Wall Street assets which can be created just as quickly as they can be destroyed, these assets, once lost, will take millenia to regenerate. The Greenland ice sheet is over a mile thick. If it slides into the ocean, it will take quite some time before another mile-thick ice sheet forms on Greenland, if one ever does.

The only real long term solution is to first halt and then reverse the growth of our collective carbon footprint. But even that might be too little too late to save us from a planet with a significantly different climate—perhaps better in some places but probably worse overall—than the one we have today. To avert or at least delay real disaster, we might need more extreme measures. In an effort to buy a little time—time we shouldn’t need because we have known about this problem for 40 years and have literally done nothing about it—we may have to call on the lunatic fringe of science to save us. Do something, Walter!

P.S. Philly councilman Darrell Clark must be an avid Bluejay reader, having introduced a bill to tax non-cigarette tobacco products including pipe, loose leaf, and chewing. This vice tax is estimated to bring in $6 million annually. The city of Philadelphia is fast running out of both money and potential vices to tax. Even if the tobacco tax passes, closing the remaining $144 million budget hole would require taxing vices like spitting, cursing, nose-picking, line-jumping, excessive body odor, excessive tweeting, and excessive blogging. Oh no!

P.P.S. The bonfire of the vanities continues. Which bank is going to emerge from the meltdown of October 2008 untainted? Even my daughter’s piggy bank had some toxic sub-prime nickels in it!

P.P.P.S. Kevin, I promised someone you would drop a 50 in this series. Don’t disappoint me.