Don't Break the Set

[The American Years]

Monday, July 14, 2008

Not our first rodeo

Pics of kids. Like it or not. Can't believe this was two years ago!

Gas is expensive. More expensive than it has ever been, people say. When gas first approached $1, there was a gas crisis then, too. Should we look back and see what people did then?

One thing that was done was that they lowered the speed limit. Maybe in 1977 or so, the national speed limit went from 65 down to 55. The reason was to save gas. It stayed 55 for a long time because as an unforseen benefit, the fatality rate on highways fell much more than people expected.

Can you imagine the political will it would take to call for a reduction in consumption to that level? Can you imagine the backlash if a candidate brought that up as a possible means to RODOFO (Reduce Our Dependence On Foreign Oil -- an acronym I just invented! Someone go get the domain name!)

All this "pull together" and "great country willing to sacrifice" talk is all lovely rhetoric, casting for votes. I haven't seen a candidate for office, any office, talk about what part of our lifestyle we might have to sacrifice for the good of the our country, or even the good of our neighbor.

For the good of my neighbor I limit my sitting at the drums and getting the jams properly kicked out to 5 or 10 minutes a day. But when I get good enough that I can stand the sound of my own noise, I might go longer. Watch out Mr. Dunhouse!

So as my own experiment, I'm going to start driving 55 on the freeway. See what that gets me, besides flipped the bird.

Truly I have dropped my speed, and I think I'm the only one. People are still complaining about the price of gas, driving their big cars by me at 80 miles per hour. Am I the only one who sees the connection?

Friday, June 27, 2008


Here's why I don't want Obama to be president.

He's too good. The crappy condition that our country is in now will crush him under it's own weight. Eight or more likely four years from now, he'll be blamed for trying to fix things.

He'll be the one with the broken pieces of mom's vase in his hands when mom comes home and sees him in the living room. He was just trying to pick it up and glue it back together, but because his hands are on it, it's his fault.

I fear that he will be blamed for trying to right everything that is wrong. Our nation might have to sacrifice in true and tangible and painful ways to pay for the last eight years. Regulations might have to be tightened. People might have to be granted their rights. "Freedom" (which in America today is mostly economic freedom -- I don't think there's another kind we've fought for in my lifetime) might have to be constricted. We might not be able to own whatever we want and throw it away wherever we choose.

Many people will might have their lifestyle cramped to the point where they can't stand him.

I fear he'll be demonized for making things worse, when he's just trying to pick up the pieces.

Gas is expensive, and we think the world is ending because we have to acknowledge that driving costs money. The rest of the world already knows. The US has the 108th most expensive gas in the world. If gas were $10 a gallon, we'd have to consider whether it's worth it to drive somewhere. I bet we'd slow our usage, and we'd all survive. We'd make fewer unnecessary trips. We'd have to actually decide which trips are necessary and which aren't. The rest of the world already does this.

Have you noticed the news that there are food riots in parts of the world right now, and gas prices here are making people skip that trip to Florida.

When Obama decides that this over-thumped "Change" beacon means a change that hits people in their wallets, like gas, or social security, or healthcare actually costing money, the backlash will come fast and furious. It will make the demonizing of Carter (for being ineffective and naive) or Clinton (for being overindulgent and conniving) seem like grade-school put downs.

He's too good to deserve that.

Part of me wants McCain to win, so that he can be proven wrong. Or even proven right, if he is right. But if he thinks it can be put back together, and the respect for our nation can be reestablished, more power to him. Let him try. Let him be get the tar and feathers when he fails.
THEN let Obama come in (or Clinton, as long as she learns to do math first... or maybe Chelsea?) when we're really ready and committed to the sacrifice that we've bartered for ourselves.

I'll vote for McCain if he converts to Islam first. That'd be awesome!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Your lawn is not green

American are viewed by the rest of the world as selfish and wasteful. And they're at least partly right.

Today's example? Your lawn. (And... yes, mine too.)

Nations would (and have) killed for the fertile, arid soil that we have all around our houses, where we grow grass. It's a lovely crop.

It requires fertilizer, water, care. All of which are of value. (And you should see the people who water the sidewald with their sprinklers.)

The mower takes gas. It then pollutes the air.

And why? What's the payback to that cost?

We get some nice grass to play around in. Play catch, toss the pigskin. The kids can run and play outside... what else?

From what I've seen around my neighborhood, the only traffic most lawns get are from the lawnmowers. So it seems like the purpose for lawns is mostly for looking at. Mostly ornamental.

Mostly for ... vanity? Is that really why we have lawns? to serve our vanity? It's hard to argue otherwise.

If each community had a park nearby with the space for running and playing, that would seem to be enough, right? Most of us do have that, and in addition we have brought a mini-park here to each of our homes.

And get this. Here's what I realized recently. The reason there isn't better mass-transportation in the US? Economics. Our population is so spread out that the systems to get people moving in and out and around the 'burbs are cost-prohibitive.

And why are our populations spread out? Why is our population density so low? Blame your lawn (and my lawn too). Blame your vanity (and mine too). All that space between houses like we have in the US doesn't exist in other countries.

Let's plant a doggone tomato plant or something. At least a little nod towards effective use of our land. A little step towards admitting that we're blessed with amazing resources, more than we know what to do with. A little step towards making our yards truly green.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Fix this thing with Oil

Pictures of kids. Can't start a blog without them.


Watch during the upcoming election. People vote with their wallets, of course. Why wouldn't you? But watch out for the people who ask those running for office, any office, "What are you going to do about high oil prices?"

Yesterday Bush had a speech blaming oil and gas prices on congress. If only they could have such an effect on anything, good or bad. Democrats do the same, saying what the price was when the Iraq war started and what the price is now. "Failed Oilman President", etc.

Since there isn't one cause of the high prices (high demand, speculation, war, rumors of war) there isn't one solution.

But nobody should ask a politician how he or she is going to fix it. In a market economy, even a sluggish and embarrassing one like ours, the market is supposed to rule. Beware of the gas tax holiday (no economist, not one, reccommends it), the strategic reserve lapse, the increased drilling, all those things. Beware all promises.

There is no quick fix. Promise. And no one entity to blame. Okay, maybe China. We can always blame China, I think.

Part of the problem, which goes basically unreported, is the dollar's weakness. I heard (and have not confirmed -- I'm a blogger for petesake, not a journalist) that if you were to take oil prices from 2 years ago, and peg them to the Canadian Dollar or the Euro, that the $135 barrel of oil would be more like a $110 barrel of oil.

So when you hear "Oil is expensive, it's _____ dollars per barrel," remember that when you compare two things which both fluctuate, you have to create a baseline.

Gold prices have gone up a bunch as well. Is that because the dollar has sunk?

You should see my Canadian friends when they come down here. It's like the whole nation is Walmart, with smily faces on everything.

"65 cents for a candy bar? It's $1.25 at home (eh)." What a world it is, now that the Canadian dollar is at "par" with the greenback.

Why doesn't anyone in the media mention the weak dollar's contribution to the problem?

And we still have, as a nation, the 103rd most expensive gas in the world, and the rest of the world is getting to work somehow.

High gas prices just means that we have to think about it. We have to give something up. We have to weigh the cost vs the benefit for every trip to the store. The rest of the world has been doing it for some time now.