TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY HEROES
In the seventeenth century, the heroes of Western civilization were the great explorers. In the eighteenth century, the heroes were the great sailors and traders, revolutionaries and colonizers. In the nineteenth century, the heroes were the frontiersmen and railroad builders. In the twentieth century the heroes were the industrialists, inventors, aviators, astronauts and the American G.I. Here we are in the twenty-first century, and who are the heroes? Chefs and crab fishermen. Well, the century is young..
CAP AND TRADE
This is a dumb idea. This is like going to the doctor and having him install a trick knee. The notion they're selling is that the government will decide each year how much the country's industry will pollute, and that those allotments can be bought and sold on the open market. They say this will encourage industry to pollute less in order to save manufacturing costs.
This scheme is ripe for the intrusion of the infamous "unintended consequences."
Suppose the Chinese buy up a third of these allotmments. The price of the remaining allotments goes way up, driving American manufacturers out of business, or at least making American products less competitive with imports. American industry cries foul, so the government simply waves its magic wand and creates more allotments, thus driving the price of pollution down and allowing American industry to survive. Then the Chinese dump their allotments on the market, driving the cost way down and increasing the polution permissible pollution by manufacturers.
It doesn't have to be a foreign power playing this game. Look what happened to the price of oil a year ago. Speculators took oil from $40 to over $100 a barrel in the absence of a shortage. A couple of big hedge funds could buy up enough allotments to put American manufacturing in a bind. Not that the altruistic and patriotic Americans on Wall Street would hold American businesses hostage to their trading, but if somebody as dumb as me thought of it, you can bet somebody else is out there hatching plans.
Whatever those people come up with, this cap and trade notion creates a complicated game that catches American manufacturers in the middle. They could find themselves controlled by far-off paper speculators. Contrary to the sales pitch of the proponents of cap and trade, the game is set up to disregard fairness, to subvert the marketplace and to place an unrealistic price on the cost of pollution. The same forces that played with the price of oil last year will do the same thing for these allotments and paper shufflers are going to use this as a wrecking tool.
A simple carbon tax might seem a little arbitrary, but in the end it'll be much more fair and less prone to abuse than cap and trade. It'll also be easier for businesses to plan if the cost of allotments doesn't fluctuate daily.
IT'S HAPPENED AGAIN
If you've been reading my rants for any length of time, you'll note that I've been trying to correlate product recalls with spates of rampages. Well, it's happened again. Peanuts and almonds were recalled and within a month we had a spate.
RTJ -- 4/30/2009
HEALTH CARE REFORM
I just listened to the president's speech on health care reform. He promised that the doctors, drug companies, insurance companies and HMO's are going to get together and come up with a plan to reduce the cost of the country's health care.
Really? These are the guys who make their livings by dividing up the health care pie. Are they all going to agree that the pie should be smaller?
If we reduce the amount spent on health care, some of these health care professionals are going to lose their jobs and move into some other field. They have no incentive to reduce costs and every incentive to raise costs, and so I'm guessing that's what's going to be the ultimate result.
I remember eight years ago the Bush/Cheney white house relied heavily on energy industry leaders when formulating our energy policy. The liberal press cried that the fox was being put in charge of the henhouse. Now Obama does the exact identical same thing with health care policy and the liberal press is cheerleading. The administration is soooo enlightened, soooo compassionate, very much not like the Republican bunch that did exactly the same thing.
DON'T ASK DON'T TELL
The issue of gays in the military is in the news again. Now gay soldiers want to be openly gay. They say "don't ask -- don't tell" is not a good policy in a free, pluralistic and inclusive society.
The military isn't and never has been a liberal democratic institution. Military organizations from Alexander's to Caesar's to Kruschev's to Pericles' to Longshanks' to Saladin's to Ghengis Khan's to Ours have always been exclusive and ultra-conservative because that has been what has worked throughout the eons. The military is more concerned with being effective than in being fair; and any change, especially one forced on them from outside, is seen as potentially disruptive.
Actually, those two Greek examples might have been ill chosen for this argument. The ancient Greeks were pretty gay. The Spartans didn't sleep with women because they feared the practice would make them effeminate. When they wanted to procreate, they'd sneak into their wife's bedroom, perform their husbandly duties, and then retire to the barracks before morning. Historically, the military reflected the most conservative aspects of the society at large. If the society was queer as a three-peckered goat, then so was the military. If the society was straight as the path to the outhouse, then so was the military.
If you want some scholarship on this subject, check out a book called "War" by Gwynne Dyer, particularly the chapter titled, "Anyone's son will do." In that chapter he discusses the ways a military recruits members. The new member is signing up for danger, loss of personal privacy, hard physical work, privation, separation from his family and so on. What does the military offer him? For one thing, instant manhood. After you complete your basic training, the rest of the society treats you like a man in full, even though you're just eighteen and all you've done is six weeks of basic.
The outward evidence of your status is the fact that unmanly elements, namely women and homosexuals, historically tended to be excluded from the position you now occupy. All that stuff about the G.I. bill and job training and pension and medical care is great, but instant silverback status is a big draw for a kid just graduating from High School. And it's those kids who sign up for those reasons who end up doing the fighting and dying so numbnuts like myself can sit in the air conditioning and write my little opinions on my little blog.
For a couple of hundred years, "Join the Army, Be a Man" was all the recruiter had to say. If you allow gays to be open about their sexuality in the army, you're saying, "Join the Army, Be as manly as this peer group." There goes your testosterone appeal, and there goes a certain percentage of recruits.
If this were AIG or General Motors or some other government agency, this argument would be silly; but Don't Ask Don't Tell is about as progressive as you can get without damaging the effectiveness of the military at a time when the military is really important. Such reforms are better implemented in peacetime.
RTJ -- 05/23/2009
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