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  • Alarmism of the Future!

    Matt Yglesias and Brad Plumer are talking about oil's impact on the collapse of the Soviet Union. Piffle. Those discussions are so 1993. The real cutting-edge blogger-alarmism is over natural gas, of which over half the known reserves are in Russia and Iran. Which is why we should be so remarkably unhappy that Tehran and Moscow have been slowly, carefully, and happily drawing closer to each other -- that's bad stuff. We're going to be needing natural gas, more than anything else it has the potential to soften the changeover from oil -- many call it a "bridge fuel". But America's natural gas reserves have already peaked, and while there's an enormous amount of the stuff out there, it is, if anything, in worse spots than oil. Concentrating so much of it in autocratic Russia and anti-Western Iran is really a recipe for trouble. It gives Russia cause to defend and protect Iran because the two together can dictate the market, and it gives Iran room to be, well, Iran. In all the criticism...
  • "What's Google?"

    Regarding Daniel's point on child poverty and the promise the internet has for linking kids to a world that'd otherwise remain inaccessible, I want to tell a quick story. Grant, one of my closest friends, works with Amnesty International going into urban areas of Chicago and teaching the students about human rights. A recent lesson plan of his focused on Abu Ghraib and American attitudes towards torture. Towards the end of the lesson he noted that further pictures, documents and information could be found on Google. One student raised his hand and, not joking, said: "What's a google?" He wasn't the only one in the class not to know. We take it for granted that the information revolution sweeping through our lives has, to some degree or another, rippled into every crevice of America. It hasn't. And while modems aren't a silver bullet to poverty and despair, they do provide those hoping for a better life but sequestered in an impoverished one with the opportunity to tap into worlds...
  • House of Scandal

    Ever wanted to learn about your friendly neighborhood majority leader and all the congressional Republicans who're friendly with him? Sure you did.
  • Words Have Power

    I'm downright intrigued by the new effort to paint the filibustering of judges as a broadside against Christians everywhere. Fascinating, fascinating stuff. Part of it, of course, is Bill Frist's understanding that his presidential hopes rely wholly on his reputation as a Christian crusader, a term I use carefully. Because that's what keep pinging my radar on all this -- more and more, you're seeing the Christian Right adopt a policy of confrontation and, indeed, aggression against the non-religious elements of American life. Culture, politics, even community -- the clash of civilization does seem to be in the offing, but it's not with the Islamists a world away, it's a homegrown conflict for the direction of the country. That was always the flaw in the Clash of Civilizations concept. The war between Shari'a and modernity was taking place in Islam's backyard, it was no worldwide conflict threatening to wash up on America's shores. No matter how many gaskets Hitchens blew on route to...
  • Always Low Wages. Always.

    Saying Wal-Mart is antiunion is slightly less shocking than calling Tom DeLay unethical, or noting that I have an elbow*. Nothing could be better known. But I think most are confused, like I was for a long time, over how Wal-Mart can actually stop the unions. So one day, I called up an organizer buddy of mine and asked. The answer was so simple that it barely qualified as an answer at all. If workers unionize, or threaten to unionize, or feint at unionizing, or think about unionizing, or see a union hall on their way to work one day, Wal-Mart shuts down the store. Oh. Nevertheless. it seemed a bit odd to me. Pretty drastic measure, knocking down a whole store because they formed a union, can they really do that? Indeedy-do, they can and they have. In fact, they just did it in Canada. The workers in Jonquiere, Quebec, signed the cards creating a union and, immediately thereafter, everyone lost their jobs and the town lost its Wal-Mart. Now the city's got deep divisions between those...
  • The Means-Based President

    While reading some post-mortems of the just passed Screw The Poor Bankruptcy Bill, I came across this sneaky little stat : "With 90% of bankruptcies attributable to job loss, divorce or excessive medical bills, it is clear that better economic policies, social services and affordable healthcare is the way to reduce bankruptcy," said Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Petaluma) . Most of us already knew that about half of bankruptcies are precipitated by crushing medical emergency, though I'd no idea such innocuous and understandable trials as job loss and divorce made up for the rest. But isn't it weird that the answer to bankruptcy from medical bills and job loss was to make it, well, harder to declare bankruptcy? If the Bush administration had wanted to end bankruptcies, they could have offered federal reinsurance for catastrophic medical costs. You would've ended half the bankruptcies right there. If they'd wanted to do more, they could have instituted better unemployment insurance and...
  • The NBC Special Mini-Series Emergency

    Kevin Drum dismisses Kunstler's book The Long Emergency on the grounds that he tries to explain most everything through entropy. Well sure, the blatant misappropriation of physics concepts is one reason to dismiss the guy's post-apocalyptic predictions, but why stop at just one? How about the fact that Kunstler really isn't an oil expert? He was a staff writer for The Rolling Stone , published a string of (self-described) bad novels, and then wrote a few books on the crushing soullessness of suburban architecture. Hearing him confidently predict the end of civilization definitely has a crazy-guy-on-Venice feel to it. But no, you say, Rolling Stone published excerpts from the book, and if RS thinks they have merit, they probably do. Or at least they would, if Kunstler hadn't worked for RS, thus pulling that appearance into question. But maybe pseudo-physics and lack of credentials aren't enough for you. Maybe you still need one last piece of evidence that it's not quite time to head...
  • "Fundamentally Anti-Democratic"

    According to Jason Spitalnik, the House is planning 30 minutes of debate before passing the Bankruptcy Bill tomorrow. 30 minutes! I spend more than 30 minutes picking out movies at Blockbuster. I spend more than 30 minutes deciding on takeout with my friends. I spend more than 30 minutes on the treadmill. You're telling me I spend more time on the treadmill than the Senate spends debating major legislation? Jason calls this fundamentally anti-Democratic. True 'nuff. But it's also a basic affront to the idea of deliberative democracy. Good government is laying in the mud with the Republican Leadership's foot digging into its throat. and I'm sure it'd appreciate it if the press noticed, or if media populists like O'Reilly found a mere 30 minutes of debate on an anti-family bill half as deserving of airtime as some elementary school teacher saying a naughty thing about Bush. But we've reached a point in this country where the major offenses are too toweringly repugnant to wrap our minds...
  • Nepotism

    I keep trying to summon up some rage and bile over the practice of Congressmen employing their families, but I just can't. Businesses employ family members all the time. Politics is an all-consuming occupation. If families can find ways to involve the clan, all the better. Dana Rohrabacher paying his wife $40,000 to manage his campaigns doesn't bother me (and he's my congressmen, by the way). In fact, I'm glad he does it -- hopefully it makes the process a bit less grueling for him. Tom DeLay paying his wife and daughter $500,000 over 4 years also isn't too shocking, that's an average of $62,500 per year per family member which, assuming they actually did jobs, isn't particularly excessive. Now, if there are congresscritters paying their wives and children princely sums in return for occasionally decluttering the congressman's desk, I'll call for the guy's head. But simple nepotism at fair prices is too pervasive, too understandable, and too unthreatening to really raise my blood...
  • Peak Oil

    I realize you guys have been hearing about "peak oil" a lot lately -- kinda like when everyone began talking about Social Security bend points and wage-indexing and ZZZZzzzz. But though you might be bored, you don't have to be confused. At least, not if you go read this quick and dirty primner on the subject . Via The Oil Drum. Update : So long as I'm doing oil links, this tsunami analogy is pretty spot-on. As Grouch & Eligh would say: Time -- time is of the essence. Update 2 : I'm just going to condense today's oil-related posts into this thread, even though they're not all related. Matt, I think, misunderstands something in his piece on Cartel economics: if every OPEC member cut production by 20 percent they'd all be better off. But any given OPEC member would be even better off if the whole cartel agreed to cut production 20 percent, but then your country went around and cheated on the quota. So if you cut the quota, everyone will just cheat, and everything will stay the same...

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