[The American Years]

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.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


People like pictures of our kids. Here's one more.

Why does bad food taste good? Think of what was available to your hunters and gatherers. People in that day had to exert calories to hopefully find enough calories to keep going. So calories were what counted. Finding something with some sugar (fruit) or some fat (meat) WAS good for them. It was a reward. The tastiness drew them towards it, as it was a good return on the investment of energy spent.

Now, those tastes are so omnipresent that we have to avoid them. The foods available to us exploit our inherent and natural attraction to them.

One of my big beliefs in 2 easy steps:
1. Things in life that are good for the species have a sensory reward. We have a natural appetite or drive towards them. Eating, drinking water, sex, etc. all have a sensory reward which propel us.
2. Our drives for them are exploited to our own destruction. (Okay, maybe except for water. Although bottled water is pretty lame.) The substance of what we need, like the food value, is taken out. What's left is only the salt, sugar, etc. Candy everybody wants.

And why? Marketing possibly? Dunno. I'm going to get a Frosty and a can of Pringles and think about it.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Food Hobgoblins

Jeff asks "Do you blog anymore?" I say it's been so long it feels like I have to have a gargantuan life-changing post to make up for lost time.

Then nablopomo (National Blog Posting Month) says "30 posts in 30 days". So I'm only 5 days behind. I can catch that up. I already had this one half written. And I'll post it without further edit.

First a little Eye-Candy.

Have you noticed this trend? Every 2 years or so, the food bad-guy that needs to be avoided changes.

I remember when I was a kid, it was salt. Avoid salt. "Starches" were bad at one time. At some point, calories were actually considered. More recently it was fat grams, ignoring the pesky fact that fat-free foods can make you fat by the miraculous work of the liver. Beer, of course, is a fat-free food, but there's a pork chop in every can. Fat free frozen yogurt? Remember those days? Why did we eat that junk. (I'll take mine with smarties on top.)

Cholesterol in food was the thing to be avoided for a while. Hence, margerine hit our shelves. Polyunsaturated fats. Whatever those are. I don't remember if those were good or bad. The health aspects of safflower oil compared to corn oil were touted. McDonalds at one points proudly anounced doing away with lard in favor of frying their stuff in veggie oil, etc.

In the last 5 years it switches from fat to carbs. Now carbs are going away as well. Now I've heard the word trans-fats tossed around as well. I'm sure it will be something new next year.

Now, there is something to it. In our diet, food flavor comes from fat and sugar. (OK, not sugar. This is America. Thanks to Iowa and subsidies, sugar has been replaced by high fructose corn syrup. To quote Deutoronomy "... a food unknown to your fathers." Cultures where food flavor comes more from salt and vinegar than from fat and sugar live healthier and longer. That's clear. But I think it's consumption levels as well. We just eat too doggone much, myself included. I'm not superior, I'm just tired of being pointed away from the new food hobgoblin.