Cogito Patris

Random Thoughts for Random People

I contacted my Congressman and Senator today…I feel so civic minded.

I do not feel that Energy is receiving enough attention. I would like to make a recommendation for a strategy I would like to see pursued. All energy on earth originally came from the sun. I think that solar technology has the highest potential for a semi-permanent energy strategy. The technology is not mature, though I think we can make a good start.

This is what I would like to suggest: The Government will purchase and install all solar panels produced with a minimum efficiency rating paying a premium for higher efficiencies. That efficiency rating can be changed from year to year (announced ahead of time).

If we can reduce the costs and pollution indicative of electricity production via fossil fuels we may also be able to encourage electric vehicles.

By paying a premium for higher efficiencies and upping the minimums the industry will be forced to innovate. By having a guaranteed buyer the industry could move to more efficient, higher throughput manufacturing techniques.

I know it would be expensive. Also finding a place to put all of those panels may be difficult (putting them on residential house roofs would allow for distribution, but not all houses would be able to handle the additional weight).

My undergraduate degree is in Integrated Science and Technology with a concentration in Energy Systems. I don’t work in the industry, so please take this as the advice of a knowledgeable citizen. Not a lobbyist who is trying to turn a profit.

Advertisements

February 17, 2010 Posted by | Random Thoughts, Thoughts on Politics, Wild Theory | Leave a comment

People are bad…probably

Recently I have been trying to figure out of people are generally good, generally bad or downright evil.  My original thesis was this:

First, “Good” can be defined as what everybody thinks is acceptable.

Second, Most people define “Good” in a way that fits their own activities.

Therefore, most people are good.

This may be a logical answer, but the argument falls short as an actual argument.  So I am going to try to have a better answer.  I would like to apologise if I seem to be arguing with myself during this post as that is exactly what I am doing.

Why are people good (as they define it)?  Is it because they fear retribution?  Is it a moral imperative?  If the former, then I would say that is an indication that, given the chance, most people would be bad (if not evil).  If the latter, then there may be hope for the human race after all.

How can we determine a single person’s internal reasons for taking actions, much less everyone’s?  The best way is to evaluate those people who think they are above retribution by means of personal wealth or because they think they are too stupid or crazy to know better.  Now in the second case, I am not talking about the people who steal to feed their family (they are being pushed in to violating societal mores).  I am talking about true lunatics here.

The evidence here gets hard to gather.  Many people are financially well-to-do and stick to their morality.  These people never make the news.  Then there are cases such as Bernie Madoff.  So, Are there more “good” guys than “Bernie” guys that fit this “above the law” criteria?  Probably.  Does that prove that most people are good?  Probably not.  I would rather use the term “adequate” for people that only do no harm.  What about actually doing good?  Again, the people who do good rarely make the news.  It can also be argued that the harm that one Bernie can do is not mitigated by the good that a single goodie-two-shoes does.  And what about the good guy?  If he has $20M in money that can be spent on anything, and buys himself a $19.9M car and give $100k to charity…is that good?  The car was built by someone and therefore he is helping the economy.  But that is not a selfless act…and therefore not really good.

Then there are other cases that do not conform to the case study from above.  I was renting a house until I got a job.  My landlord knew that we were strapped for cash.  He and his wife were both employed.  He chose to sell the house we were living in rather than take a financial stalemate (which was the situation with my lease).  This put a lot of pressure on me and my family.  He was a decent guy otherwise, but did something uncomfortable to me so that he and his family could be more comfortable.  Is that a good act?  I will leave it up to the reader to decide since I am too close to this example.

This is a small sample size.  But can we make a tentative conclusion?  I am going to say that people are not good.  People who consistently do good deeds are far outnumbered by the truly evil and just plain unconscientious.  Are people evil?  There is evil in the world, but the mere presence of the Mother Theresas in the world would seem to disapprove the “people are evil” hypothesis.

I think, by and large, people are inconsiderate.  Not really evil, but definitely not good.  So, if I have to put people in to one of the categories I outlined at the beginning, then I am forced to put the human race in the “bad” range.

October 2, 2009 Posted by | Thoughts on Politics, Thoughts on Religion, Wild Theory | Leave a comment

I know I said I would try to be unbiased, but…

Previously I posted the list of issues that I thought were important.  I still have not gone through the list, but I have already eliminated one of the three presidential hopefuls.

Hillary Clinton thinks voters are idiots.  Therefore, I will not vote for her.

As you may have heard, the primaries came to North Carolina recently.  As a result, we have been surrounded by advertising for Hillary or Barack.  Barack is annoying.  He (or his representatives) called me six times on Tuesday asking if I had voted yet.  I think I have realized why he ends up so close at the end of elections.  People get so tired of hearing from him that they vote for the competitor.

But I couldn’t vote for Hillary because she thinks I’m an idiot.

I was in the doctor’s office and I heard a Hillary commercial that I couldn’t help but laugh at.  I don’t remember the exact wording, but it was something along the lines of making the gas companies pay the gas tax instead of the consumer.

Does anyone else see a problem with this?

I have several, and I will take them in order of inverse obviousness:

Lets say that we eliminate the gas tax.  In NC I pay 48.6 cents per gallon.  With gas prices approaching $4 per gallon, that is an expected savings of about 12%.  My 1998 Dodge Durango gets a whopping 14 miles to the gallon.  So I should benefit “a lot” from this plan.  I also drive “the normal” annual millage of about 12,000 miles per year.  So, in one year I use 857 gallons of gas.  At $4/gal, I would spend almost $3,500 in gas/year.  Without the gas tax ($3.514/gal), that price goes to $3,000 (incredibly, I rounded up on the first calculation, and down on the second…so the difference is actually somewhat less).  For a total savings of $500 for the year; or about $10 a week (rounding up again).  Is this really Hillary’s big plan to save me, the consumer, money?

Well, no.  She wants “the gas companies” to pay the taxes.  Now, my father was an accountant.  I never took anything he said for face value; he was always too concerned with cost and not concerned enough with happiness.  But when he talked money I never found fault with what he said.  One of the things he said is that companies are tax collectors, not tax payers.  Why?  Because every penny a company has, comes from the consumer (duh?).  So if “the gas companies” pay the taxes, then they will simply pass the cost on to the consumer.  Meaning that I wouldn’t even save that $10/week.

If she thinks that voters can’t figure out the flaw in this reasoning, then she thinks voters are stupid.  I will not vote for someone who thinks I am stupid.  Hillary is no longer in the running as far as I am concerned.

May 12, 2008 Posted by | Thoughts on Politics | Leave a comment

State Secrets

It has been absolutely nuts the past few weeks.  Not only have I started working on a cool new project at work, I have also been working on a Morgan Family web site, projected release date is somewhere between December/2008 and December 2099.

Anyway, I have been thinking again.  Always a dangerous prospect.  Anyway, I was thinking about the United States.  Not the country, the actual states.  Why do we have states? 

The founding fathers had an idea about a weakened national government that was only really in place to settle arguments between states, and provide a unifying front for external nations.  Prior to Lincoln, that is exactly what the United States of America was.  Not “One Nation…”, but a loose conglomeration.

But for 7 score and 5 years, the United States has been a unified nation, with state governments simply providing a layer of government.

That brings me to my point.  The driving laws are essentially identical nation wide.  Yet we have 50 different state trooper organizations and 50 different DMVs.  The taxes are pretty close to each other in each state, yet there are 50 different state tax organizations.  Each of these has some overhead.  Combining states would eliminate some of this overhead…leading to a more effective use of our tax dollars.

However, I am not advocating eliminating all states.  States do have a purpose.  California and Virginia are good examples of what I mean.  California is a forward-looking state that is almost always the first to implement any wide-sweeping social reform.  In IT, we call this a beta release.  A trial run of new software to see if it works or not.  Virginia is more of a wait-and-see state.  They gauge the results from other states, and adapts the changes that they feel are improvements.  Having a mixture is probably a good idea.

So, here is my plan:

Staying the same:

  • Alaska – 663,661
  • Hawaii – 1,275,194
  • California – 36,132,147
  • Texas – 22,859,968

These constitute the largest states, and the states that are not a contiguous.

Now, we start combining some stuff:

  • Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa (Illiminnowiscowa – ILL) – 26,398,705
  • Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska (Wyodaknebidawashorigomon – WASH) – 15,974,272
  • Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah (Colariznevutnewmex – COL) – 17,417,245
  • Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana (Kanoklarkmisslou – KAN) – 19,395,663
  • Indiana, Ohio, Michigan (Indohmich – IND) – 27,856,875
  • New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut (Newmassrhoconvermhampyor – NEW) – 33,494,354
  • New Jersey, DC, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania (Jerdelmapenn – JER) – 28,141,974
  • Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina (Carolikenvergitenn – CAR) – 32,459,010
  • Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi (Georgalaflorimiss – GEO) – 34,341,336

The New US

By the constitution, the Senate takes 2 representatives from each state.  That would reduce the size of the senate from 100 to 26.  A much more manageable size.  The House has 435 members right now.  That is much more than was originally intended.  The house was supposed to be based on population.  The original total was for 65, divided by the original 13 colonies.  Although I didn’t plan on it, the Combined states happen to add to 13.  So, we can reduce the number of representatives to 65.  Hawaii and Alaska would each have one representatives.  The others would also be based on population, per the Constitution.

State Population # Reps # Senators
California 36,132,147 8 2
Georgalaflorimiss 34,341,336 7 2
Newmassrhoconvermhampyor 33,494,354 7 2
Carolikenvergitenn 32,459,010 7 2
Jerdelmapenn 28,141,974 6 2
Indohmich 27,856,875 6 2
Illiminnowiscowa
26,398,705 6 2
Texas 22,859,968 5 2
Kanoklarkmisslou 19,395,663 4 2
Colariznevutnewmex 17,417,245 4 2
Wyodaknebidawashhorigomon 15,974,272 3 2
Hawaii 1,275,194 1 2
Alaska 663,661 1 2
Total 296,410,404 65 26

That would reduce the number of people in the government.  The founding fathers wanted deadlock in the house and senate.  They wanted that to make it difficult to pass legislation unless it was important.  But I think we have gone too far in that direction.  A little smaller would allow for some bold decisions to be made.  It would also have the unfortunate result of making Reps and Senators more important, but maybe that will get more people to the polls on non-presidential election days.

As usual with my wild theories, there are some major problems.  California has a lot of power in the current setup.  They would continue to be powerful in the new system, but not quite as powerful.  Getting California to agree to give up power to reduce government might be difficult.  And it would be difficult to make these changes without the approval of California.

Also there are states that are way outside the “norm”.  New Hampshire is proud to be odd, having no state taxes to speak of.  How would they do merging with the high-tax states like New York and Massachusetts?

I also like the idea of a recombining of Virginia and West Virginia, but I’m not sure if West Virginia would like it (nor, for that matter would Virginia like it).  But even when states are philosophically similar, there can still only be one state government and state capitol.  So, which one?

I doubt that this could ever happen in my lifetime, but it makes sense to me.

February 19, 2008 Posted by | Thoughts on Politics, Wild Theory | Leave a comment

How to Vote

I don’t vote every year.  Even when I do vote, I only cast a ballot for the races that I have researched.  I feel it is my duty as a citizen, not only to vote, but to do research before I vote.  I worry that I will do harm if I vote based on advertising or blind chance.  I actually think that is why the Founding Fathers limited voting to a select few.  Unlike the Founding Fathers, I don’t think the people should be limited.  Instead, I think that everyone should do the research before casting a vote.  Because I don’t always have time to do the research, I don’t always vote.

But, like most Americans, I will be voting in next year’s Presidential election.  Before I do so, I want to research the issues that are important to me.

The Background 

Now, I think of Government as have three purposes:

1) Protect citizens from external threats.

This is the original reason for Government.  In many ways, it is the oldest protection racket in the world. “Pay taxes, and we will protect you from the barbarians on the other side of an imaginary line.”   Never mind that the “Barbarians” are saying the same things to their protectees.  Granted, “Protection Racket” isn’t exactly accurate.  For one thing, there are Barbarians at the gate in many cases.  Also, in a true “Protection Racket” the protectees are buying protections from the same people that they would need protection from.

Examples of this in modern America are limited pretty much to Military spending.  I have said before that I am a fan of military spending because of the direct benefits to technology brought about by military research.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

2) Protect citizens from each other

I think this is the difference between a “civilization” and a “tribe”. I am using “Tribe” here to refer more to primitive associations that hunted and battled together.  I know that Native American tribes had all the complexity of what I am calling a “civilization”. 

Examples of this rule are everything from anti-monopoly laws to murder to the protection from an illegal search.

3) Protect citizens from themselves.

In many ways, I consider this the newest set of government laws (as opposed to Laws of the Church which are supposedly to save a person’s soul).  It is also the largest part of America’s government and the primary difference between the Republicans and the Democrats.

Examples of this are speeding laws, social security and medicare.

So, if an issue does not fit in to one of these three categories, I don’t care about it.  That includes the non-issues of gay marriage.  Nothing about gay marriage will harm the average citizen from threats either inside or outside the United States.  And gay marriage will not harm the couple themselves either. (Please note that I had to work really hard not to make a derogatory joke about marriage here.)

The Issues

Now that I have defined the limitations of what constitutes an Issue, the next step in my decision making process is to list out the issues that I care about.  This list may be added to when I start doing research.  This is just what I know I care about.  This is actually a two-part process.  First I just list everything out, then I put them in to an order of importance.  I did these separately, but what you see below is the list in order.

1) The war in Iraq.  I think we should pull out of Iraq.  I also doubt that I will find many people who oppose pulling out of Iraq.  To his credit, I don’t think that Bush could have avoided a civil war in Iraq.  I think that once Saddam Hussein’s rule came to an end, a civil war was going to ensue.  All we did was accelerate that process.  But now that it is a civil war, I don’t think we have any right to be there.

2) The war in Afghanistan.  I think we should remain in Afghanistan.  In fact, I think we should increase our presence in that country.  After all, they asked for our help.

3) Reduction of out dependence of foreign oil.  I don’t want to hear “I will reduce our dependence on foreign oil”, I want to know how.  I want it to be aggressive and I want it to have teeth.  Congress is about to pass a bill (or already passed a bill) that calls for a 30% increase in the fuel economy of passenger vehicles by 2020.  This is based on EPA estimates which are faulty at best, and fraudulent at worst.  The bill does not call for incremental improvements, and it allows for a waiver.  So, Detroit could wait until 2019, not doing anything, and then ask for a waiver.  Ironically, the leading Democratic candidate, and the current President were pushing for a much more aggressive bill.  One that also required a 30% increase in fuel economy,  but includes incremental updates, a stricter regulation on the EPA’s fuel estimates, and sanctions if a company does not comply.  Even with the support of two powerful, and politically opposite, people, this bill didn’t pass.

But I don’t want the talking heads (candidates) to get too caught up in automobile regulations.  Power companies and other industrial applications also utilize a large amount of foreign oil.  We need incentives and penalties to help persuade these companies to do the right thing.

4) Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.  You may not have heard, but particulate, NO and SO pollutions are all down.  That means less smog and less acid rain.However, nothing has been done to lower the emissions of greenhouse gases.  The irony is, with less particulate matter in the atmosphere, global warming may now accelerate.  The particulate matter in the atmosphere reflected some of the sun’s radiation away from the planet.  Without that reflection, more is trapped by the greenhouse gases.  Yet again, with this issue I don’t want to hear “I will reduce greenhouse gas emissions”, I want to know how.  Unfortunately, I have not heard a single thing about Washington even looking in to this issue.

You may ask yourself where these last two issues fit in to my “3 reasons for Government”.  I consider them to be both #2 and #3.  Protecting ordinary citizens from the pollution made by big corporations (power plants are a big source of CO2 pollution) and protecting citizens by forcing them to buy products that perhaps cost a little more, but do better for the environment.

5) Health Care.  Autism is a new field medically.  As a result, many of the more experimental treatments are not covered by health insurance.  As a result, in the last year I have spent an incredible amount on tests and treatments.  Granted, most did not help at all, which is why the insurance company didn’t want to pay for it.  But every flavor of autism is different.  Just because a treatment didn’t work for Dante doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t work for some other child.  I also tried an experimental treatment for my Depression.  It didn’t work either.  But add it all up and what you get is a whole lot of out-of-pocket medical expenses.  I like the idea of a universal health plan with the option to buy premium plans.  But even if that is not an option, at least some government investigation in to insurance scams companies should be conducted.

6) Military Spending.  I told you I was getting ahead of myself.  This isn’t much of an issue this year, but a candidate that runs saying they will cut military spending will lose points in my analysis.  I doubt I am going to find that however.  Military research has been instrumental in producing many of the conveniences that we take for granted every day.  The Internet and cell phones are great examples.

7) DirecTV monopoly of the NFL Sunday Ticket.  I know this doesn’t seem like much of an issue.  But the NFL has a monopoly on professional football and DirecTV has a monopoly on letting a citizen choose the game they want to watch.  But I pay an outrageous price for Sunday Ticket to watch the Redskins play because I am in a secondary market.  But because I am in a secondary market, I usually get three to six games on local TV.  Add to that another couple of games that are on National TV, and I pay for Sunday Ticket to get eight to eleven games a season.  That is simply outrageous.  In fact, last year I was going to cancel my subscription and just go to a sports bar for those few games I couldn’t watch at home.  When I called to cancel they gave me a reduced price so I decided to stay with them.  But I don’t think that is going to keep me again next year.

8) National WiFi.  A few years ago, I remember someone mentioning the possibility of providing high-speed Internet for every citizen.  I don’t remember who it was that said that, but I agreed with it then and I continue to agree with it.  But I want to go one step further and provide WiFi everywhere.  That might be a pipe dream, but then again, so was the Model T.

Next time, I will look at each candidate and grade them on these issues.  I may also add some new issues.

December 21, 2007 Posted by | Thoughts on Politics | Leave a comment

Solar Decathlon

OK, I usually wait until later in the day to blog (read that…waste time).  But I just found out about this project being sponsored by BP call the “Solar Decathlon”. 

These folks are building solar houses that will be energy self sufficient.  This is something I have considered doing (retrofitting my own house).  So you can bet that I will be watching this as it develops.

http://www.bpsolardecathlon.com/?utm_source=BP&utm_medium=220104

October 12, 2007 Posted by | Thoughts on Politics | 1 Comment

Why You Don’t Want me to be President of the United States

In a word, Taxes.

That’s right, the dreaded “T” word.  Although not four letters most people consider it profane.  Personally, I don’t think we pay enough in taxes.

Now I agree that we pay a lot in taxes.  My tax bracket has almost ensured that my kids can’t go to college.  But I don’t think we are spending our taxes where they need to be spent.

Reason 1

I do have one tax that is just for tax purposes.  A Modified Gas tax.  In 2008 the taxes should increase the price of gas by 50 cents.  In 2009, it should increase by an additional 75 cents.  Then continue to balloon to an impossible number.  Then it should recede.

  • Year: Tax Increase – Gas Price based on $3.00/gal market price
  • 2008: +$00.50 – $3.50
  • 2009: +$00.75 – $4.25
  • 2010: +$01.25 – $5.50
  • 2011: +$01.50 – $7.00
  • 2012: +$01.50 – $8.50
  • 2013: +$01.50 – $10.00
  • 2014: +$01.50 – $11.50
  • 2015: +$01.50 – $13.00
  • 2016: +$01.50 – $14.50
  • 2017: +$01.50 – $16.00
  • 2018: +$01.50 – $17.50
  • 2019: -$02.50 – $15.00
  • 2020: -$03.00 – $12.00
  • 2021: -$04.00 – $8.00
  • 2022: -$05.00 – $3.00

I assume you would like to know why I want the gas prices to increase to an impossible level. The answer is a cost benefit analysis.

My Durango gets about 14 Mi/gal.

The Hybrid (Toyota Camry) that I want to purchase gets about 40 Mi/gal

If I drive 12,000 miles/year.  In the Durango I consume about 860 gallons of gas/year.  In the Camry I would consume 300 gallons.  That is significant in reducing our dependence on foreign oil and in reducing pollutants.  But, at current gas prices of $3.00/gal (actually it is about $2.75) the cost of that gas is $2,580 in the Durango and only $900 in the Camry for a savings of $1,680 per year.

The Camry costs about $25,000 for the base model.  So the payoff period is a little less than 15 years.  To say the least, I am not going to have the car for that long (in all likelihood), so it doesn’t make financial sense to buy a new car just for the fuel savings.

Now, let’s apply my ballooning gas prices model.

  • Year – Fuel Cost (From Above) – Durango Fuel Costs – Camry Fuel Costs – Savings For the Year – Total Savings
  • 2008 – $3.50 – $3,010.00 – $1,050.00 – $1,960.00 – $1,960.00
  • 2009 – $4.25 – $3,655.00 – $1,275.00 – $2,380.00 – $4,340.00
  • 2010 – $5.50 – $4,730.00 – $1,650.00 – $3,080.00 – $7,420.00
  • 2011 – $7.00 – $6,020.00 – $2,100.00 – $3,920.00 – $11,340.00
  • 2012 – $8.50 – $7,310.00 – $2,550.00 – $4,760.00 – $16,100.00
  • 2013 – $10.00 – $8,600.00 – $3,000.00 – $5,600.00 – $21,700.00
  • 2014 – $11.50 – $9,890.00 – $3,450.00 – $6,440.00 – $28,140.00
  • 2015 – $13.00 – $11,180.00 – $3,900.00 – $7,280.00 – $35,420.00
  • 2016 – $14.50 – $12,470.00 – $4,350.00 – $8,120.00 – $43,540.00
  • 2017 – $16.00 – $13,760.00 – $4,800.00 – $8,960.00 – $52,500.00
  • 2018 – $17.50 – $15,050.00 – $5,250.00 – $9,800.00 – $62,300.00
  • 2019 – $15.00 – $12,900.00 – $4,500.00 – $8,400.00 – $70,700.00
  • 2020 – $12.00 – $10,320.00 – $3,600.00 – $6,720.00 – $77,420.00
  • 2021 – $8.00 – $6,880.00 – $2,400.00 – $4,480.00 – $81,900.00
  • 2022 – $3.00 – $2,580.00 – $900.00 – $1,680.00 – $83,580.00

That is a payoff of less than 6 years.  That is much more reasonable.  And yes, I could probably cut my ballooning tax to extend only six or seven years.  The cost benefit should push most people to replace their vehicles with more economic models.  But all of this is predicated on knowing that the gas prices are going up.  That will get Americans out of our SUVs and in to more fuel efficient vehicles.  Optimists now can assume gas prices won’t go up and reinvest in another gas guzzler.  But if they know the gas prices are going up, they will take that in to consideration.  That is how the small cars dominated the market in the early 80s.  And probably more important, it would get the auto industry looking in to alternate fuels.  The market would force them to become more energy conscious.  There would be no need for CAFE regulations (which are near meaningless anyway).

Reason 2

Another reason that I shouldn’t be president is that, although I am a pacifist, I believe in military spending. Most of the technological advances made over the past 70 years have been as a result of Military spending.  The two biggest being the advent of portable personal communication devices (cell phones) and the Internet which was originally created to aid in communications between military computer systems.

Where would we be without cell phones and the Internet?

Reason 3

I think that a universal health system is long overdue.  I pay a lot for one of my depression treatments because it is not covered by my insurance.  Nobody should have to worry about how they will pay for medical treatment.  That would also greatly reduce the amount of money that the Social Security system would need.  Seniors wouldn’t have to worry about going without needed medications because they couldn’t afford them.

Reason 4

I think so-called “Higher” education should be provided free-of-charge.  As a society we already foot the bill for elementary through high school.  The idea being that if we make our kids smarter then our society becomes a better place to live.  I agree with this whole-heartedly.  Obviously the education system needs work.  the Standards of Learning that have been implemented to make sure that no child is left behind have been good for the kids that may have been lost in the system.  But it has hindered the development of the exceptional students.  Unfortunately I don’t have a solution to this problem.  I myself would have been considered an average student, because I didn’t really hit my stride until my Junior year of High School.  If we put in measures that find gifted students in elementary school, then those of us with a learning impairment might be overlooked.  But as it is now, gifted students are simply being ignored.  They are the good kids, so teachers don’t worry about them.  In many ways, that is a much worse circumstance.

Reason 5

And finally, I’m just too shy to speak in front of that many people. 🙂

All of these stratagems would cost money.  The government can’t run a deficit forever (technically they can, but they would risk another recession).  But America doesn’t have the highest standard of living.  I am recalling from a radio program many moons ago, so forgive me if I get some details wrong.  But I recall America being fifth.  The top four were all socialist countries.  Countries that already have many of the programs that I mentioned above.  So, what is taking us so long?

September 25, 2007 Posted by | Thoughts on Politics | Leave a comment

Peace in the Middle East

Yes, I think Peace in the Middle East is possible…in fact, it is inevitable.  The question is “When?”

Theoretically after the human race is extinct and the Solar Star has gone cold the Middle East will be peaceful (there won’t be anything left alive, but there shouldn’t be any war either).

I’m thinking of a shorter term plan though.  Granted, I think we would still be looking at a couple of generations before we would see real improvement.
What is my plan?

Religion is a poor excuse for war.  It is a common excuse, but a poor one nonetheless. In the absence of other factors, religion is not enough to sustain a war.  I am not privy to the economics during the Crusades, but I am sure more than one soldier signed up because they needed a paycheck.

Ultimately prosperity is the best piece keeper.  I am not sure where I heard the following, but it sounds reasonable:

“There has never been a war between two countries that had a McDonalds”.
The idea being that in order to support a fast food industry a certain level of economic stability would need to be reached.  Rather than risk that prosperity the populace will be more willing to leave a war alone.

I am not familiar with the economics of the Middle East, but I seem to remember that the rich are filthy rich while the poor are just plain filthy.  So, how can we raise the quality of life in the area?

Well, despite our high-tech endeavors, the United States economy is still dominated by agriculture.  The fact that Americans have plenty to eat (domestically) is a big part of our own prosperity.  The problem with the Middle Eastern area is that it is primarily an arid environment.

There are people a lot smarter than me trying to figure out how to reclaim farm land from the desert.  The science seems easy enough.  With enough Sun and water at least some kind of vegetation can grow…even if it is algae.  The desert has plenty of sun…the water is where it gets tricky.

The Mediterranean sea…as well as the Persian gulf…are full of water.  It shouldn’t take a genius to pump water from these sources inland to a centralized area (to start).  The energy for these pumps can be run off fossil fuels to begin with (plenty of that around) then can be switched over to wind and/or solar sources (the principal component in solar cells is silicone.  Most of the sand in the desert is also silicone).

So, now we have water and sun…time to start growing crops, right?  Not exactly.  Agriculture has become a science in and of itself.  It is also a science that I only slightly understand.  But one thing I do know, you need some nitrogen to grow meaningful crops.  Where is that going to come from?  Well, it is best to pull it from the air.  There are crops that are not consumed that do this pretty well. (that is called rotating crops…I think).

So even if the area starts as an algae farm that produces no usable food, it will help to enrich the soil to make meaningful crops later.  But wait…one more thing.  The water that is pumped in from the Med and the Gulf are salted.  Crops don’t grow well with salt water.  That means a desalination plant…which requires yet more energy…which requires more solar panels/wind mills.

But people are stupid.  You see, where would you build this new community?  I would suggest a new city so that sanitation plants and plumbing can be built in.  That is the one thing I can say.  I would personally like to see it on the border of Jordan, Iraq and Syria.  But the Saudi’s wouldn’t like that and may actually attack the city while it was under construction.

Putting it at the border between Jordan, Saudi Arabia Israel and Egypt would also make sense (that has the benefit of being pretty close to the Med), but if the Americans took point on this project (which we are likely to do), we would be showing favoritism toward our allies in the area.

I don’t have an answer…but let’s move on.

Above all else, I think that what the middle east needs is to be less important to the world.  The best way to do that is to eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels.  Once this new city was finished, the technology for creating a renewable energy economy would be developed.  America could take the lessons from “Capital City” to eliminate our own dependence on the fossil fuels.

I call it “Capital City” because I think it should be the new home of the United Nations.
The big problems with this plan?

1) Make war, not gifts – America is more likely to attack an area that is unstable than try to help it.  Remember Vietnam?  For that matter, Iraq really need aid, but we brought guns.

2) Protecting the project – Although the project would be intended to help the area, it would inevitably be a source of attack by short sited people and royalty that would see it as a way of subjugating their wealth and power.

3) Price – This would cost a lot.  To protect and to build the city would be a huge project.  I wouldn’t mind helping to foot the bill if it would bring stability to my future grandchildren.  But I don’t know how many other people would feel as I do.  And I can’t afford it on my own (any Billionaires out there want to give it a try?)

All in all these are fewer problems than other wild theories I have had (remember the terraforming of Venus?).  But it is a long term plan that isn’t even guaranteed to work…but I think it is better than what we are doing today.

July 27, 2007 Posted by | Random Thoughts, Thoughts on Politics, Wild Theory | Leave a comment