China Today?

May 14th, 2011


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'coca cola vase' 1997
Vase from the Tang Dynasty (618-907)
FAKE studio

This "defaced" Tang Dynasty vase is by Ai Weiwei. Ai is a prominent Chinese artist who disappeared after his arrest by Chinese authorities in April.

This work is from an exhibit of Ai's works at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo. The exhibit, "Ai Weiwei: According to What?", will be at the Hirshorn in June 2012.

Raising Children With Sticks and Masks

May 14th, 2011


Lots of congratulations passed around Gerty's family this week for a nephew off to some sort of semi-pro hockey training team.

Is a game that employs "fighters" a sport for children? I don't think so, but I am definitely in the minority in Gerty's side of the family. That would be a minority of one.

I can't get two images out of my mind. One is from one of the few NHL games I have attended. Two junior hockey teams skirmished during a break in the game and then were encouraged to attack a fellow dressed in Red Wings gear while screaming "Kill the Red Wings!" The crowd loved it. I'm told it was a regular feature. I never went back to find out.

The other is this photo.

Obama Adopts "Drill Baby Drill!" Energy Policy

May 14th, 2011


One of the reasons I was impressed by Obama was his reaction, during the campaign, when Clinton signed on to McCain's moronic proposal for a federal gas tax "holiday," as a reaction to higher gas prices. Obama took the politically more challenging course. He showed some leadership and pointed out that holiday would have little or no effect on pump prices, cost the government money which would lead to cutting construction jobs, and opposed it.

Obama was right. At the time, Krugman, a Clinton supporter, analyzed it this way:

Why doesn't cutting the gas tax this summer make sense? It's Econ 101 tax incidence theory: if the supply of a good is more or less unresponsive to the price, the price to consumers will always rise until the quantity demanded falls to match the quantity supplied. Cut taxes, and all that happens is that the pretax price rises by the same amount. The McCain gas tax plan is a giveaway to oil companies, disguised as a gift to consumers.

What happened to that guy?

Now Obama's doing the pandering. And, in doing so, he is reinforcing Republican talking points that are divorced from reality. From the NYTimes:

President Obama, facing voter anger over high gasoline prices and complaints from Republicans and business leaders that his policies are restricting the development of domestic energy resources, announced on Saturday that he was taking several steps to speed oil and gas drilling on public lands and waters.

It was at least a partial concession to his critics, who say he has shackled domestic energy development at a time when consumers are paying near-record prices at the gas pump.

We can "Drill baby, Drill!" as much as we want and dispense with, ignore, or weaken environmental protections for our public lands and it won't make a difference to gas prices. The basic reason is related to what Krugman said about the gas tax holiday: gas prices are set by supply and demand. An increase in domestic production will have negligible effect on supply -- nearly the same as an increase in production in Outer Nowhere, and therefore make virtually no difference to the price anyone pays at the pump.

It is environmental and public policy idiocy. The best policy for energy independence is higher prices not lower. The best policy to lower gas prices is energy conservation.

These policy changes do nothing positive and reinforce that the Republican view of the world is right and that environmentalists are crazies. And they make constructive policies more difficult to implement.

Ah well.

Another Whine About Jobs

May 13th, 2011

From Dean Baker:

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At this point, the data are clearly giving a warning of weakness in the labor market. It is also worth noting that many newly unemployed workers will not be eligible for benefits since they have been unemployed for much of the last two years.

I just don't understand why both parties are obsessing about the deficit. The renewal of the Bush tax cuts and the plethora of "no new taxes" pledges make actually dealing with the deficit impossible.

Moreover, reducing government spending now is precisely the wrong thing to do. It raises unemployment and reduces revenues.

And there's so much that could be built and repaired that would pay benefits in the future.

Ah well.

Thank You Allen . . . .

May 12th, 2011


I know. I know. If you like his journal you can just read it yourself. But Allen Giese had me laughing again today with this photo caption:

Rest stop in the middle of no where, which was where we were most of the day.

I can't really explain why I find that so funny. But I do. I do.

Speaking of Academic Integrity

May 12th, 2011


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But it is actually. Image by Carlos G. Casares. Some rights reserved.

I was shocked that David W. Rasmussen, dean of the Florida State's College of Social Sciences, would sell his sister (sorry, faculty positions at his college) to a Koch foundation. (And for so little! I suppose if one is a free market maniac, the $1.5 million price tag tells us what Rasmussen's school is worth.)

Today, the NYTimes relates that Scholastic Inc., a corporation that is ubiquitous in primary schools. has an InSchool Marketing division which produces curriculum materials to order.

According to the Times, the division's programs are ?designed to promote client objectives and meet the needs of target teachers, students, and parents? and ?make a difference by influencing attitudes and behaviors.?

Apparently the American Coal Foundation paid Scholastic to develop a unit about coal called "The United States of Energy". From the NYTimes article:

? ?The United States of Energy? is designed to paste a smiley face on the dirtiest form of energy in the world,? said Bill Bigelow, an editor of Rethinking Schools magazine. ?These materials teach children only the story the coal industry has paid Scholastic to tell.?

. . .

What they do not mention are the negative effects of mining and burning coal: the removal of Appalachian mountaintops; the release of sulfur dioxide, mercury and arsenic; the toxic wastes; the mining accidents; the lung disease.

?The curriculum pretends that it?s going to talk about the advantages and disadvantages of different energy choices, to align with national learning standards, but it doesn?t,? Mr. Bigelow said.

?The fact that coal is the major source of greenhouse gases in the United States is entirely left out,? he said. ?There?s no hint that coal has any disadvantages.?

In a statement, Ben Schreiber, a climate and energy tax analyst at Friends of the Earth, called the curriculum ?the worst kind of corporate brainwashing.?

According to an article by Alma Hale Paty, the executive director of the American Coal Foundation, and posted on Coalblog, ?The United States of Energy? went to 66,000 fourth-grade teachers in 2009.

But What Fun Would That Be?

May 12th, 2011


From the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities:

There's an easy way to stop the increasing deficit -- let the idiotic Bush tax cuts expire. As an alternative, we can talk about reducing the deficit, slap poor people around, screw up social security and the environment, and not reduce the deficit.

In the interest of bipartisanship, we choose to slap poor people around, screw up social security and the environment, and not reduce the deficit.

Oh, and to show our good faith, we'll soon cave to threats to let the country default on its debts.

I wonder whether its better to just vote for the morons directly rather than voting for the morons who capitulate to the morons . . . . Hmmm. Another day another conundrum.

Florida: "It's very sandy"

May 11th, 2011


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"Sitting on my trailer pad fry'in up a steak. I told the locals it was raccoon and now we're all buddies." Image and caption by Alan Geise.

Most accounts of bike tours tend to focus on weather, miles, and how the rider felt. I understand. The basic facts of a trip are the easiest to set down. Still, those ledger-like accounts become dull, fast.

Few tourists write well and write for others to read. Those are worth reading daily. My grandmother followed her soaps; I follow the 22-year old who is in ecstasy about finding a warm church basement on a rainy day.

When I read a well-written account, I feel the burden of a dismal day, the warmth of unexpected charity, or the silliness that permeates so much of life if one is paying attention.

Sometimes I can't help laughing out loud. From Allen Giese on crazyguy:

I've never been to Yulee, FL nor have I ever heard of it. I doubt I will ever be here again. In fact, I might go out of my way to avoid it. . . .

I'm sitting in my tent, squishing gnats on my computer screen because it's the only light around. Except of course the RV parked 30 feet from me that doesn't look like it's been moved in two years with Christmas lights still strung on it. I digress.

. . . After something like 550 miles of Florida coastline I think I've seen enough. I get it. It's very sandy.

[The] ACA maps want to make sure that we experience what real back country liv'in is all about. It's about logging trucks whizzing by you at 70 miles an hour with a shoulder we're riding on that is more chewed up than my dog's chew toy. . . .