Sunday, November 09, 2008

Palin and the Jews

It is remarkable that people felt, and still feel, Jews would have trouble supporting Barak Obama. Skin color and a middle name of Hussein are the trappings of a person that might not support the well being of Jews. But these were trappings hung on a deeply progressive man. And American progressives have always been the friend of tolerance, and the friend of the Jews.

Early polls might have shown soft support for Obama, but as soon as they started paying attention, the Jewish vote swung decisively for Obama. But regardless of how Jews felt about Obama, the key driver of the Jewish electorate in this campaign was the Know-Nothing campaign of McCain-Palin, and in particular Sara Palin.

It was a mere 60 years ago that racial purists were in the final stages of a holocaust that slaughtered 50% of the world's Jews. To hear angry mobs at Palin rallies, to think of these people eroridng the barrier between church and state, to see prominent Republicans call for purges of people with "Anti-American views" brings a deep and dark fear to my heart. It is ludicrous to think that Jews, or any historically oppressed minority, could be fooled into supporting such obvious agents of religious and intellectual bigotry like Sara Palin. Ludicrous.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Grandiose Visions of Technology = BOOM

It is really amazing what technology can do. In my previous post I lampooned an idea for a fleet of automated cars to solve some planning and transportation problems. The mere fact that this may be possible is very impressive. But, like I say below, maybe we should see if we can get the trains to run on time before we switch over to an automated fleet of robot cars. In other words, we need to recognize the limitations of technology in a world run by fallible humans.

One current tech heavy issue that requires a healthy dose of humility is the debate over nuclear power. Experts increasingly agree that the "technology" exists to have safe nuclear power and dispose of the waste. That is, of course, if we humans don't fuck it up. We would have to set up a federal agency, run by political appointees, to evaluate complicated science and create regulations and safety protocols, to oversee a for-profit industry with a motive to cut corners. What are the odds of a positive outcome there?  

Here is a clue. A certain federal agency with engineers and scientists was set up to oversee a system of dikes, levies and pumping stations to protect a certain American city from hurricanes. From a technological perspective, building defenses for New Orleans is a much less complicated task than managing nuclear power and waste. The technology was there in New Orleans. The scientists and engineers calculated how high and strong the walls had to be. How fast the pumps had to pump. The problem was that the people weren't up to the technology. 

Now let's take that level of human frailty and multiply it by 100 nuclear power plants scattered around the country and make the consequences of a fuck up last for 10,000 years. Sound like a good idea?

Baby Steps

Matt Yglesias posted about the possibility of solving our parking problems, and hence removing parking requirements as an obstacle to denser downtown development, by...

Having a fleet of automated cars. Really. Automated cars don't need to sit in a parking spot while you shop, sleep, etc. So they can drop you off and leave. That way, we won't need so much space for parking in cities. Then we can build more densely, creating walkable communities where parking isn't that needed anyway. 

I suppose anything is possible. But if we want to use "technology" to solve our planning and transportation problems, maybe we could start with getting the trains to run on time.

Funny Money

The root of the financial crisis is that pinheads wearing pinstripes on Wall Street figured out how to take real assets, like houses, and make them so abstract in the form of securitized mortgages and credit default swaps, that people lost track of their actual value. We all know the value of a house. But nobody really knew  the value of a mortgage that was written by one company, bought by a second, turned into a security and broken into little bits and sold on a stock market by a third, and then bought by a hundred new companies.

Breaking the link between a real world THING OF VALUE and an abstract Wall Street asset, enabled greedy folks to pretend it was worth more than it was and use it as collateral to borrow and spend more money (30-1 leveraging helped too). That new money drove new investing, new jobs, new spending, and more wealth.

Now, the reality is bubbling back up, those houses were worth less than people thought, and the whole economy is snapping back. Think about that for a second. The world was living high on the hog for a long time based on imaginary money. But the stuff we were consuming wasn't imaginary. The IPods and sushi and nice cars were all real. We didn't imagine it, did we? No we didn't. But what it means is this:

Our "money" based economy is basically a huge imaginary construct. People thinking they have money causes other people to make new real stuff for them. The crops, and mines, and oil wells, and roads, and factories, the productivity of the labor force, haven't changed. The only thing that has changed is some numbers in the bowels of some accounting firm now show that some of the money wasn't really there. So this causes everything to come to a grinding halt.

OK, crazy idea: what if we all just agreed to keep going like nothing changed? What if we told the folks in China to just keep making stuff for us, and we'd keep sending them our stuff, and everyone keep making their stuff and sending it to everyone else, and all call it even?

Well that would be communism (or at least a centrally planned economy), and besides that it wouldn't work. But the idea of it illustrates how much of the real economy is subject to the whims of the imaginary economy. So, next time you hear some Libertarian or right wing fringe guy say that we should go back to the "gold standard", what he is saying is that we need to have the value of the money in our economy all backed by gold, or some other REAL thing of value, and not our collective imaginations.

The Minister is Back!

After a long hiatus to breed and move, the Minister is back! Hypocrites and fuzzy thinkers beware!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Minister has nothing against Pitt Bulls. But he notes that people who own Pitt Bulls in his neighborhood never pick up after thier dogs. Shit.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

That's what I'm talking bout

Howard Dean showed today why he would have kicked George Bush's behind in the election. When criticized by Republicans about making a contoversial statement, his response was: Yeah. I said it. And I meant it. And I'll say it again.

That is all it would have taken to bring the country clear of the fog of George W. Bush.

WASHINGTON - National Democratic Chairman Howard Dean was defending another of his comments Friday after telling liberal activists a lot of Republicans "have never made an honest living in their lives."

Republicans called his Thursday comment "mudslinging." Some fellow Democrats expressed reservations over his choice of words, too, before Dean amplified his comments.

"The point I was making is clear: Republican policies have declared war on hardworking Americans," Dean said Friday. "I will continue to criticize Republican leaders and their policies, and the Democratic Party will continue to offer constructive alternatives."

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Enviro Wimps

In the past few days I've received a host of emails about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Republicans are trying to open it up to oil drilling. Even John Kerry is writing to tell me how this is the end of the world.

This really frustrates the Minister. Drilling in ANWR is a bad thing. But ANWR has been a red herring and distraction for the environmental movement for too many years now. It is a nice safe winning issue; always good for riling up the troops and raising some money. For some reason it has been the line in the sand, the one issue that will make enviros go berserk. To save ANWR they will pull out all the stops and compromise on any other issue, from Kyoto to fuel efficiency standards.

Of course, the real issue is global warming. Not only will global warming ruin ANWR as an ecological reserve by turning it into a swamp, global warming will be the end of the world as we know it. But the enviros don't even talk in public about the real scope of carbon reductions necessary to stop global warming. That would scare people. That would be politically unpopular. It's much easier to save some nice reindeer on a mountain in a Sierra Club calendar.

It's about time John Kerry and his wimpy enviro allies get on the stick and start talking about the major changes that will be necessary to avert the economic and environmental disaster that global warming will be and stop wasting their energy and our time on secondary rear guard actions like temporarily preserving this or that particular patch of "nature".

Monday, November 29, 2004

Local Fun - Tree Lighting

For those in the holiday spirit, check out the tree lighting ceremony in downtown NB tonight.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Get Involved in NB

Mark the 24th anniversary of the Block Club. Come enjoy hot spiced cider, fruit punch, desserts and holiday music at historic home "Wisteria Hall", built in 1889. 123 Livingston Ave., New Brunswick, NJ (corner of Suydam) 6 PM onward, Sat. 4th Dec. 2004.

Hosted by the Second Ward Neighborhoods Block Club/Crime Watch. Also in conjunction with the monthly George St. Food Co-op Pot Luck & friends.

Drop in with your friends, family or neighbors. Please bring a favorite easy-to-serve food item or non-alcoholic beverage to share. Supervised children are welcome. Volunteers still needed, please let us know if you can help.

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