Friday, August 29, 2008

Palin VP Nomination

There seems to be some excitement about Palin, but I don't share it. I think it is an inadvisable choice, both tactically, and on the merits. It reminds me of George H. W. Bush's choice of Dan Quayle in 1988.

Palin's experience seems ridiculously thin. That is already a problem, but a much bigger problem when the guy at top of the ticket would become the oldest president, by several years.

I wonder if McCain was not excessively captivated by Palin's own apparent "maverick" (boy is that word over-used, for lack of a good synonym) image. This Peggy Noonan article dwells on the notion that McCain defines himself, more than anything else, by his "maverickness".

Then there is a subtlety pertinent to being the first woman in the office. Not every husband is well-equipped to be a good first gentleman (or whatever he will be called). Margaret Thatcher's husband, Denis, I believe was thought to have laid down a great path to follow in the U.K. I really know nothing about Palin's husband, except that he must have far less experience of the world even than she does, so one just has to wonder about that angle.

The Republican Party Has Developed A Bad Habit

...of nominating the guy who has paid his dues and whose turn it seems to be. And typically that kind of person is a career pol, an organization man, and not necessarily a very exciting candidate. That was how George W. Bush got nominated in 1992. Riding on Reagan's coattails, a record-breaking economic expansion, and a weak opponent, he got himself elected once, but was weak against Bill Clinton. Dole in 1996 was an even more stark example of the habit. Bob Dole was a good man, a dedicated and dutiful politician, but clearly a terrible campaigner for national office. He got destroyed by Clinton, it wasn't even close. Even Reagan was, to some extent, awarded the nomination after waiting his turn (I didn't say the habit always produces lackluster candidates!).

John McCain is yet another example. That wouldn't have been the case in 2000, but it is now. Waaaayy too old and establishment for the present mood of the country.

The one time the Republicans deviated from this recent pattern? Well in 2000, they did the exact opposite, nominated a guy who hadn't paid any dues at all, and that got us Dubya. Which I think explains this year's strong reversion to form.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Exercise Fights Cancer

One more benefit of exercise. As close to a "silver bullet" as one is likely to find. And it is nearly free.
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/14/health/nutrition/14fitness.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&adxnnlx=1218716635-H0lSJmQwokQsrAoQ/avGhA

Sunday, August 10, 2008

There Is No Domestic Oil

This whole article is good, using very arch and pointed language to provide an econ and politics 101 lesson about the stupidity of presidential candidates blathering on about the importance of energy independence.
If we were energy independent, the politicians imply, prices wouldn't go up. But if you're an oil-striking American dude - maybe a little naive but smart enough to know that your hot daughter Elly May is going to be better off in Beverly Hills than the Ozarks - you're going to shop your barrels to the highest bidder, not just to whiny Americans with their near-worthless dollars. More oil procured from under U.S. soil means more oil on the global market, not more oil for just us.
And let us not overlook this point:
The only smart thing I heard was Obama's advice to fully inflate your tires, although he overlooked the fact that gas stations no longer have free air pumps or even decent pay ones.
That last part is SO true! 15 years ago, many stations had these nice, dial-your-psi pumps. When you hit the desired psi, the pump would ding 3 times, and would stop pumping. In one sense it is a silly and trivial thing, but since my solution (using my bike pump) is unlikely to appeal to most people, the absence of good pumps really is an impediment to a public good. A little bit like the shortage of public restrooms in many cities is an impediment to tourism and quality of life.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Know-Nothings, Willful Ignorance

I was already planning on writing the prevous post, then I saw Krugman's article about Republican know-nothing-ism. I don't really like Krugman, and have always self-identified as a Republican conservative, but I have been thinking exactly the same thing myself. That is quite a contrast to Obama, who seems willing and able to speak to Americans as if they were competent adults.

National Inflate Your Tires Day!

Dave Winer has a great idea: National Inflate Your Tires Day. We Americans need to drop any notion that there is a "silver bullet" that will solve the energy/carbon crisis. We need to find many little things that add up. The nice part about little things is they aren't all that hard, the hard part s are paying attention, and taking the first couple of steps toward forming a new habit. After that, little things usually become pretty easy.

(The tires example struck me right away, since it was the subject of my New Year's Resolution 3 years ago. And I have found that one pretty easy to keep.)

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Static Electricity and Gas Pumps

I used to think the posted prohibition on re-entering your vehicle while fueling it was intended to make sure the customer keeps an eye on the pump, just in the very unlikely case it should jam somehow, and not auto-shutoff. But I have since learned the real peril is static electricity, (although the article touches on the auto-shutoff issue as well).
"You should never re-enter a vehicle when you're fueling," Mr. Wormser said.

That's because a person who re-enters a vehicle and slides across the seat can acquire a static charge of thousands of volts, caused by friction between two electrically dissimilar materials, such as clothing and seat upholstery, said Dr. Robert E. Nabours, an electrical engineer. If the charge is not harmlessly discharged through the person's shoes or by the person touching metal, such as part of a grounded car, an electrical arc can jump from a hand to the nozzle, igniting gas vapors and starting a fire.