Nouns and verbs

June 27, 2009 at 8:23 am | Posted in News, Politics | Leave a comment
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Yesterday saw the passing of the “American Clean Energy and Security Act,” a bill that the Wall Street Journal calls out as historic for its sweeping changes in environmental regulation.

I don’t claim to be an expert on the matter, and I’m not familiar enough with the content of the bill to fairly judge its merits. What I will judge, however, are the political reactions.


Mr. Obama and other top Democrats insisted the measure will spur job-creating investments in “green” technologies, while lessening U.S. reliance on foreign oil.

Ok. That sounds optimistic, promising. I can get on board with that.

How about the Republican response:

[Republicans] contended the measure amounted to a job-killing tax on consumers and businesses. “The Waxman-Markey bill promises to destroy our standard of living,” said Rep. Frank Lucas (R., Okla.).

Um. Ok. That’s a bit…extreme.

I gather that you don’t like the bill, and that’s fine, but, really? A job killing tax on consumers and businesses that will destroy our standard of living?

Can we have no gradients in the language of our disagreement? Are our politicians really at a point where the choices are that they can either love something, or accuse it of destroying America?

Tell me, Congressman Lucas, will the bill also kill puppies and unicorns?

Green Hot

May 12, 2009 at 7:59 am | Posted in Life, News | Leave a comment
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I am not, I profess, green. I’m not that into recycling, or biking to work, or properly disposing of old televisions and computer monitors. My carbon footprint was once estimated by some eco-website to be equal to roughly eight people. I should say, in my defense, that the site factored air travel into the results, as if my decision to travel to Ft. Myers meant that they had to charter a 747 specifically for me, so I remain skeptical of my purported environmental shoe size.

Even so, I can recognize the effort that some people are putting forth, and for the most part their decision to be green doesn’t really impact my life so I’m ok with it.

For the most part.

Here, though, is a proposal I read this morning on an industry website on how to immediately and effectively cut US energy usage by 12%.

Do Away with Air Conditioning

Facts about air conditioning:

It perhaps accounts for 12% of U.S. electricity use. You hear about “building energy use” being a big contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Here’s a way to strike directly at a big contributor and lop it off!

People can live without it. The human race has gotten by without A/C for 99.9% of its presence on Planet Earth. Heck, 5,000 years ago, only the Pharaoh had fans.

People DO live without A/C, right now, on this planet. Large masses of people, billions. Many live in some very hot places.

I swear to god, if you so much as move my central A/C a single degree, just one single degree, above 68 in the summertime, I will foment a revolution.

I will take you down.

Well, the windshield was broken but I love the fresh air y’know

I’ll stick with Splenda

October 1, 2008 at 9:41 am | Posted in Business, News | 2 Comments
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News here that the Senate will attempt to revise and pass the bailout bill today by adding several “sweeteners” that House Republicans can’t resist. 

Anyone else think this sounds a bit like the “Open a Home Equity Line of Credit and get a free toaster” strategy that got these banks in trouble in the first place? Here are some highlights of what is being added to the bill:

1) There is a proposal to raise the FDIC insurance limit from $100K to $250K for personal bank accounts. In today’s (sensible) rules, banks are required to pay fees to the FDIC for this insurance; however, as the banking industry is not doing so hot right now (you may have heard), Congress is proposing that we waive the fees. This even though there only exists $1 in the FDIC backing every $100 of insured funds – the lowest level in history.

Are these people insane? We are going to shore up the failing banks by replicating their behavior in our government (not holding enough assets to back your debt)? This is the equivalent of helping your neighbor, whose house is burning down, by lighting your own house on fire. A bigger, crazier fire.

2) Congress wants to relax restrictions on “Mark-to-Market” accounting rules. The Wall Street Journal today explains it as, “On the question of the SEC’s mark-to-market accounting rule, the agency issued guidance Tuesday that could give management more flexibility in valuing securities when there isn’t a regular market for them.” It continues: “…its implications are nonetheless significant, potentially giving financial firms a way to revive the value of assets that were previously considered worthless. ”

Read that carefully. Management will be allowed to assess the value of a security even though there is no market for it. I believe that my fingernail clippings are worth a million dollars. Sure, nobody out there wants to buy them, but someday, they might. If “Mark-to-Market” accounting rings a bell, you might be remembering the last big company to become enamored with this accounting principle.

3) There is a provision to provide a new $1,000 tax deduction for homeowners who don’t itemize their deductions. If you are a homeowner and you don’t itemize your deductions, you are essentially passing on the opportunity to deduct the interest you paid on your mortgage last year. You would only do this for one of two reasons: your mortgage payment is so low that the standard deduction (a pittance) is bigger, or (and here’s where I’m leaning) you are an idiot. We are essentially giving a tax cut to people that either don’t need it, or are too lazy to copy the number provided to them by their mortgage company into a box on their tax return. Awesome. 

4) Because you can’t even pass a kidney stone these days without adding in some kind of “green” provision, there are tax credits for renewable energy usage. I submit that our Congress may be focused on the wrong kind of green here.

5) The final, crowing achievement of this bill is just too precious for words; it’s called the “Mental Health Parity” provision. It forces health insurance companies to cover mental health claims at the same level that they cover physical health claims. It’s presence in the financial bailout bill makes complete sense if you think about it, as this entire plan is batshit insane. These people are clearly in need of treatment.

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