In re: Energy policy? nope

This is money laundering: we borrow money from China and ship it to Saudi Arabia and take a little cut for ourselves as it goes through our gas tanks. What a way to build our country. (Describing the results of putting in a gas tax holiday – resulting in increased consumption)

I just mentioned the gas tax of McCain recently and how dumb it is (see below), and then Hilliary Clinton jumps on the idea as well. Thankfully Obama hasn’t seen fit to give the ridiculous idea his approval as well. These candidates all have top notch economist advisers who apparently get overshadowed by their staffers who want to get dumb votes. Thomas Friedman has a good explanation of why it would be stupid in h is column “Dumb as We Wanna Be” while I don’t always agree with Friedman, he has some good thoughts on globalization and good that can come from it among other ideas, so I try to remember to read his column.

His column then proceeds to explain how we have not made any push into wind and solar power, which you can argue have strong potential both as renewable sources, but maybe right now more importantly in reducing dependency on hostile regimes (won’t have to go to war to keep our wind supply). Yet despite this he recounts the fact that all incentive programs have ceased.

While all the presidential candidates were railing about lost manufacturing jobs in Ohio, no one noticed that America’s premier solar company, First Solar, from Toledo, Ohio, was opening its newest factory in the former East Germany — 540 high-paying engineering jobs — because Germany has created a booming solar market and America has not.

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In re: “This is just to say”

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast.

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold.

— William Carlos Williams

‘This is just to say’ is a famous poem by William Carlos Williams that you may have come across in an englishclass long ago, I hadn’t heard it in a long time, although I was reminded recently why it is such a phenomenal poem by a great 6 minute segment on This American Life. Check out the episode Mistakes Were Made (description below) at thislife.org

“Mistakes Were Made – Act Two. You’re Willing to Sacrifice Our Love.

There’s a famous William Carlos Williams poem called “This is Just to Say”. It’s about, among other things, causing a loved one inconvenience and offering a non-apologizing apology. It’s only three lines long, you’ve probably read it…the one about eating the plums in the icebox. Marketplace reporter (and published poet) Sean Cole explains that this is possibly the most spoofed poem around. We asked some of our regular contributors to get into the act. Sarah Vowell, David Rakoff, Starlee Kine, Jonathan Goldstein, Shalom Auslander and Heather O’Neill, all came upwith their own variations of Williams’s classic lines. (6 minutes)”

In re: Bottle water tax anyone?

Yesterday was earth day and while many of us might have done nothing to celebrate the earth, I did some reading (well most online magazines and news sources tended to put up a few articles so maybe they were forced upon me – heck if Google hadn’t done an earth day image I might not have known it was going on at all)  Anyway, an article in Slate on the horrors, that’s right the horrors of bottled water.  That led me to suggest in a brief chat with someone that a great idea (and the article may have mentioned this as well) that taxing bottled water would be a good idea.  Why you say?  Well its not like we don’t want to encourage water drinking over soda and sugary drinks so we need to be real careful, but bottled water is quite a bad use of our resources.  If you think about it we spend a lot of money trucking, bottling in plastic (most of which ends up in the land fill – even states with deposit laws don’t have them on the plastic bottled water bottles) when we could focus our money and attention instead into getting great water from our taps (I know taps don’t sound sexy, look sexy or have the panache that drinking a Voss does, but we can work to change that).  Maybe the solution for now is getting people to realize that faucet mounted water filters (I use a Pur one and I really like it) can make your tap water taste great and that often times the so called bottled water is sourced from Municipal supplies as well (purified water may be better than the tap water source, so I am not saying this is bad, I am only saying lets get those filters downstream and get the whole bottle out of the transaction.

In re: Nintendos at the ballpark?

I love baseball and not much could get better than a night out at a baseball game with friends and a few beers.  Nintendo is trying to change all that (for the better – lets remember that Japanese love baseball as much as anyone) by introducing for their hand held video game system the Ninentdo DS Fan Network, it opened up last year at Safeco Field in Seattle (Nintendo is an owner of the team and has North American headquarters nearby).  Anyway, the Fan Network allows DS users to order food to be delivered, check stats, watch video replays, play trivia games (probably like the RTN network in bars).  Anyway it sounds like a great idea, as many baseball fans know you definitely have time between pitches to check stats, settle bets over all time this or that and of course have a few beverages.

I say why limit it to Nintendo owners (well I can see why in Seattle they would) but why aren’t other teams jumping all over this and setting up wifi friendly ballparks where I could order drinks on my iPhone or see the stats even if I am in the bleachers with my back to the scoreboard (that the setup in Jacobs, err. Progressive Field in Cleveland – its gonna take a while to get used to saying that).  Anyway, I think its a great idea, Nintendo used to charge $5 for the service but now is dishing it up free.  See Engadget for that update or an older article on MSNBC that explains what its like to use it.

In re: Neo imperialism

So there can be no doubt in anyones mind that the United States has moved into Iraq for a really long time – possibly forever – as the new US Embassy clearly shows.

Nothing says permanent U.S. occupation of Iraq more than the construction of the largest embassy in the world, a $474-million compound with 27 different buildings, 619 apartments and an Olympic-size swimming pool—all, of course, for a country with 26.7 million people and 115 billion barrels of proven oil reserves.

I hadn’t heard about this crazy embassy of the US in Iraq has now surpassed $700 million in construction costs and will cost the State Department over a billion a year to operate, standing as the largest embassy in the world.  Why so large?  Well of course this isn’t going to be a traditional embassy but rather a fully self contained outpost to allow the US to maintain our presence in the Middle East.

See Washington Post

In re: McCain’s gas tax holiday = dumb idea

I just heard about this on my drive home today (thankfully while on the subject of gas its only a 5 minute trip), anyway John McCain the presumptive Republican presidential nominee has proposed a summer gas tax holiday, meaning the 18% or so federal gas excise tax would be discontinued for the summer so as to spur on the economy, allow people to travel and generally drive like gas prices were what were used to.  This is all well in good if you forget for a moment that the gas tax funds a lot of important road projects (yeah, its not like we couldn’t just ramp up the deficit a bit more and borrow).  Secondly the price of gas in the summer going up reflects and increase in demand and the fact that capacity is constrained, such that if the price dropped supply already being extreme would be further challenged by a surge in demand – surely a boon to big oil, but is it really a boon to Americans who would deluding themselves that it is domestic issues that are driving the price up – the reality is high gas prices are here to stay as China and India are now happy to buy barrels of oil even when they are over $100 a barrel.  It is the price raising over the summers that will remind people that they need to be responding to the market forces and finding alternative ways to vacation (maybe closer? maybe think about using the greyhound bus long the realm only the realm of the lower classes one might say but no reason to think that everyone needs to take their cars w/ them on vacation.

Marketplace on NPR had a nice piece on why it is a stupid idea and there are a number of articles (including a Fox News article) that rip the idea apart as well, so I am not too worried that it will gain traction and garner a chance of becoming law.  That said it is a bit troubling to see a supposedly grounded in economics (at least his advisers were?) candidate turn against what is most certainly a smart tax.  While debatable, many would agree that it is best to tax inelastic goods so as to decrease dead weight loss, or secondarily to tax items that you are wishing to discourage consumption of – sin taxes etc., gasoline falls into both camps and I would argue that we don’t tax it enough – as I have mentioned before In re: Skiing in the Emirates.

If we want to lower prices long term we need to reduce demand, not to mention the gain of reducing the oil producing nations grip on the world.

In re: Extreme Savers

Uber saver Mike Hegarty, a CPA in Des Moines, Iowa, says he saves $500 a year on meat by purchasing whole animals from local farms.

In case you’ve never done it and you’re having a hard time visualizing it in your garage, when you buy a quarter of a cow from a local farm, a butcher cuts it into the familiar hamburger, flank and sirloin steaks and packages it for you.”  (Extreme-Savers from Yahoo! Finance)

These days everything is extreme, they got extreme golf, extreme makeovers, extreme food, and now apparently extreme savers, people who really really really try and save money (something I will probably never be even close to – trouble even using coupons for me)  but the idea that buying local foods, buying whole (or quarter) animals make a lot of sense, of course most of us don’t buy whole animals, but I assume a few folks with deep freezers or who enter into a food buying co-op can do very well with that (I am doing a CSA 1/2 share this year but its hard to tell if that will be a cost savings or not – but at least the vegetables from it will be local).