Thursday, May 27, 2010

“We Need It All” —Senator John Barrasso

Light Speed & Wind Speed
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Wyoming’s U.S. Senator John Barrasso was recently interviewed on Wyoming Public Radio’s Open Spaces where he was asked several questions about today’s energy issues—in particular those about energy regulation and transmission lines in the Cowboy State. When discussing his support (or non-support) for renewable and fossil-based energy, seven times he used the term (or a reference to it), “We need it all.”

So... that’s it from Senator John Barrasso when it comes to solving our energy woes: “We need it all.” Not one word from Barrasso about conservation of energy or energy efficiency when it comes to our excessive consumption.

We need it all.

If I didn’t know better, I’d guess the good senator weighs over 400 pounds. Rather than acknowledging he has a weight problem, his response is to simply say he needs more food to maintain is weight and perhaps even get bigger.

I was reminded of the shallow thinking that came from many of our top leaders following the attacks on September 11, 2001. Most outstanding were the words that came from former New York City major Rudy Giuliani when he told reporters during a news conference on September 12, 2001, “Go to restaurants, go shopping, do things, show that you’re not afraid.” Former President George W. Bush basically said the same thing several times too—including urging us to “...get down to Disney World.”

The promotion of consumerism—for whatever reason—seems to be the call to arms in this day and age when things aren’t going our way. Should oil prices soar even higher because it becomes harder to come by, I wonder if Barrasso will use the same approach as Giuliani and company in advising us to take a road trip.

In sorting out our ongoing energy conundrum, I would like to know whatever happen to the promotion of true conservatism? Rather than acknowledging that we will continue to use more energy than ever, when will one of our leaders call us out on the carpet and say, “You know son, it’s time we had a little talk about these 30-minute hot showers you take twice a day.” More importantly, if someone does blurt out the obvious, will we be humble and honest enough to acknowledge such a critique or will be become defensive while wearing patriotism on our sleeve as we’ve done so many times in the past when backed into a corner?

I was surprisingly encouraged today when listening in on President Obama’s press conference regarding the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. He indirectly eluded to Barrasso’s folly which tells me one thing—Obama gets it. Here are his comments (and off the cuff) regarding our precarious lifestyle when it comes to energy.

Now, let me make one broader point, though, about energy. The fact that oil companies now have to go a mile underwater and then drill another three miles below that in order to hit oil tells us something about the direction of the oil industry. Extraction is more expensive and it is going to be inherently more risky.

And so that’s part of the reason you never heard me say, “Drill, baby, drill” —because we can’t drill our way out of the problem. It may be part of the mix as a bridge to a transition to new technologies and new energy sources, but we should be pretty modest in understanding that the easily accessible oil has already been sucked up out of the ground.

And as we are moving forward, the technology gets more complicated, the oil sources are more remote, and that means that there’s probably going to end up being more risk. And we as a society are going to have to make some very serious determinations in terms of what risks are we willing to accept. And that’s part of what the commission I think is going to have to look at.

I will tell you, though, that understanding we need to grow—we’re going to be consuming oil for our industries and for how people live in this country, we’re going to have to start moving on this transition. And that’s why when I went to the Republican Caucus just this week, I said to them, let’s work together. You’ve got Lieberman and Kerry, who previously were working with Lindsey Graham—even though Lindsey is not on the bill right now—coming up with a framework that has the potential to get bipartisan support, and says, yes, we’re going to still need oil production, but you know what, we can see what’s out there on the horizon, and it’s a problem if we don't start changing how we operate.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Palin Takes A Hitt

Cattle Sign
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Here are some classic excerpts from the June 2010 issue of the Harper’s Magazine article titled “Is Sarah Palin Porn?” written by contributing editor Jack Hitt.

Modern television politics, we are usually told, begins with the famous 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debates. If you look back to them, what you see is not merely the first presidential candidate to realize that packaged talking points come off convincingly on television but also an obituary for a lost political style. Critics always note that Nixon looked crummy in those debates—the five-o’clock shadow, the sweats, the sideways glances, the tugging at his infamous dewlaps. But those gestures are not what sank Nixon. They were merely symptoms of what Nixon was doing, and he was the last politician ever to do it on live TV: Nixon was thinking.

...At a recent “tea party” gathering, she leaned over the lectern and sneered, “How’s that hopey, changely stuff working out for you?” It was a great bit, but a great written bit.

Here Palin most resembles Reagan, but cut her loose from her speechwriters and she shrivels into Dan Quayle. It would not be fair to make this case if she’d had only a few frozen moments with television interviewers. But without a tight script or notes scrawled on her palm, she quickly becomes confused. Her itinerant syntax is now legendary, what Bill Maher calls her gift for unspooling the “sentence to nowhere.” You don’t need to be an English teacher correcting an essay to know that the student did not read the assignment and is slipping into classic high school bullshit.

When Rahm Emanuel referred to liberal activists as “retarded” in a private conversation, she opportunistically pounced. Typically, conservatives stay away from the political-correctness angle. But Palin howled that she was deeply offended. Unfortunately. Rush Limbaugh shortly thereafter denounced the retards in the White House. Retard, retard, retard—he said it forty times, with the usual honking, farting, grandmother-horrifying derision that passes for humor on radio these days. The day after that, Palin defended Limbaugh, drawing a meandering distinction between Emanuel’s comments and Limbaugh’s “satire.” The very next day, an actual satirist, Stephen Colbert, made the argument that “we should all come to her defense and say Sarah Palin is a fucking retard.” For once, Palin shut up.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Mother, Mom, Mum... Erma

Originally uploaded by mdt1960
For those of you who remember my mother, Erma, I’m happy to tell you that she is still making deserts, tending to her garden during the growing season, pampering her dog Mandy, and finding projects for my dad around the house.

On this mother’s day I thought I would tip my hat to her for the life she has carried on; especially the one that had to deal with me when I was such a disrespectful, self-serving, arrogant teenager.

Erma Wilma Kline Tyree is now 81-years-old.

My mother was the second daughter and the seventh child born to Thomas and Stella Kline. Seven more siblings came after her as well—fourteen children in all. Here is the line-up: Velma, Earl, Gayle, Herb, Fred, Paul, Erma, Imogene, Shirley, Hillis, Russell, Elenor, Leo, and Dorreen. Of this list, six have passed on including the oldest and the youngest.

Raising children throughout the 60s and 70s, my mother was probably not much different than others during this period. She was a stay-at-home mom which seems luxurious compared to the mothers of today’s kids. I could always count on her to make sure I was awake on time and ready for school, while having a lunch ready for me when I returned home midday. Whatever activities/sports I participated in, she was there to witness my accomplishments and failures and lend an ear of support.

Erma & Pauline Ave House
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
I learned many things from my mother. She taught me to behave around girls/women as I entered courtship, she encouraged me to fight my own fights and challenge anyone that spoke untruths. She didn’t tell me who I should make friends with and who I shouldn’t, but she told me a lot about what to look for in a friend. Many of these friends that she welcomed into our home often told me she was a “looker,” but I saw her as the person who kept me in line, took care of me and rewarded me when she saw fit. Several times when I was in high school, I would come home at some point in the evening with a few friends and she would drop whatever she was doing and make us all some of her delicious French Toast. She has always been willing to feed or offer drink to whoever has come around.

As a junior and senior in high school, I was stupid enough to tell my mother during any given disagreement how much I looked forward to moving out after I graduated. And indeed I did—going off to college in far-away Arizona. Fortunately, during my freshman year at ASU, I realized how good I had it thanks to her and—soon after—how much I truly missed her.

Grand Erma
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Each year I travel back to Akron to visit her and my dad. This year will be no different. I’m uncertain as to how many years are left for such visits, but everything about her is permanently written into my fiber.

Along with my own mother, there are a few others who took me in under their wing from time to time as well. These are the “other moms”—the mothers of friends and family.

The Belle of the Ball
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Helen Pryseski lived next door to us and was my best friend’s mom. She always laughed along with our stupid jokes and antics, made the best chocolate chip cookies and was responsible for my appreciation of good chili. During World War II, Helen worked on aircraft that were produced inside Akron’s giant airdock. Never one to get out much, Helen was the quintessential stay-at-home mom who was always upbeat and positive despite losing her oldest son when he was in his 20s.

Phyllis Gilbert was another next-door-mom who raised the five-famous Gilbert kids. Despite the ups and downs between her oldest boys and myself, she always treated me warmly and welcomed me in whenever I came by their house. Florence Henderson’s “Carol Brady” had nothing on Phyllis Gilbert.

Alice Fuller tolerated the taking over of her laundry room by her son Jim and I when we started our own photography business in high school. Even when Jim wasn’t home and we had prints to make, she allowed me to come over after school and set up our basement darkroom while a meal awaited me when I was ready to take a break.

Mamie Lew is Kevin Lew’s mother—my roommate all through college at ASU. I loved this woman before I even met her. She made the best beef jerky and often sent an abundance of it to Kevin with instructions to share it with me. When I travelled home to Oregon with Kev following the completion of another school year, I was as good as adopted in this extensive Chinese-American family.

Orillia LeRoux’s son Bouvier taught me to make tortillas from scratch. He had learned from his mom because she suffered from arthritis. Once I was visiting their place and Bouvie wasn’t home from work yet, and she needed a batch of tortillas to go along with the evening’s dinner. I offered my new skill and following the completion of dinner, Orillia and the entire family paid me several compliments for the tortillas I had made. To this day, every time I make tortillas, I’m thankful for her and the arthritis she endured back then.

Lastly, I can’t forget my grandmother Marcella Tyree who possessed a sharp wit like no one else I knew growing up. She was a prolific crossword puzzler, a wicked card and domino player, scored the Cleveland Indian baseball games she listened to on the radio and always had cookies and milk whenever I visited. Marcella always kissed my friends when I brought them along with me for a visit and truly loved meeting any girlfriends I was willing to introduce to her. An impeccable dresser and always in fashion, she wasn’t shy about discussions that some might have found uncomfortable. One of her more humorous and memorable comments had to do with how she couldn’t do housework in the nude any longer because the wooded area behind their house was being thinned and those living in homes on the other side of the wooded area could now see through.

These accounts above remind me of what Mark Twain once said about his mother, “My mother had a slender, small body, but a large heart—a heart so large that everybody’s joys found welcome in it, and hospitable accommodation.”

Saturday, May 01, 2010

The Weather of Economic Times

Spring Irrigation Ditches
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Even though June 21 is the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, that day and the days surrounding it aren’t necessarily the hottest. The same goes with the shortest days of the year not being the coldest.

I suspect this same model applies to global and national economics too. Yet, there seems to be many folk who think that if the administration of Barack Obama was all he and others (like me) made it out to be, we’d be out of the woods by now. As I see it, when Obama assumed the office of the President, that was probably the equivalent of the shortest day of the year—not the coldest.

Have things become worse since he took over? Probably, but not because he has been running the show for 15 months. I chalk it up to the same inertia that brings on the coldest days way beyond those that are the shortest.

Still, I’m not totally happy with every play our President has called, but I knew way back before his election, that whoever won the race, they weren’t going to win the popularity contest that followed. Both candidates promised plenty of pain in turning the country around.

And the promise of pain has certainly found us—as we deserve!

So, are there any signs of spring yet? I suppose it depends on what glasses you might be wearing and what latitude (of economics) you call home. Many economist point toward the “crocuses” of rising oil prices—which isn’t the kind of economic news I personally welcome. Back in December, better economic conditions were reported in consumer spending, moderately improved manufacturing conditions and a slight upswing in real estate activity. Now there is promising news related to jobs, but unemployment is still high. Hardly a banner year, but some signs of life are beginning to take hold.

We’re hardly at the point where we can put away that wooly hat and gloves, but I’m giving Obama the benefit of the doubt. However, if it’s still blustery come 2012, I might reconsider voting for him again, but we should keep in mind that the summer of our economy is still a considerable stretch down the road.