Monday, November 10, 2008

a (modest) green proposal

I don't understand all I know about such things but when General Motors comes to DC looking for a bailout/infusion of capital it seems to me like a time for a sit down on a number of issues.

I'm fine with loaning them money (or buying a piece of their action) if they will agree to a couple of things.

1. there should be a target for phasing in a requirement that a certain percentage of their production is in hybrid auto technology attaining a certain mileage standard

2. there should be a target for phasing in a requirement that the rest of their fleet attain a different but significantly higher mileage and emissions standard than is now required.

3. that the recipients of this help agree to play their part in the general proposal that follows.

The federal government will also initiate a program to underwrite providing car buyers of a certain (modest middle class) income who want to trade cars of a certain profile (non-green) in for new, greener vehicles with an "augmented" trade-in value to ease the burden of increased cost of the green technology.

The car sellers would destroy the cars traded in and certify their destruction. They would get a tax credit (which perhaps would be split with the car companies) for the documented full amount of the trade in allowance they gave the buyer.

The cost of this augmented trade-in and destroy program would be in part funded by a substantial rise in the federal gas tax and a phasing out of subsidies (direct and indirect) to oil companies.

This proposal would

a. "save" the American auto industry and put it on a sustainable footing, benefiting workers and shareholders, local governments and everyone else who rely on the cash it generates.

b. "green" the auto industry, itself, and result in a gradual increase in the number of "green" automobiles on the road and decreasing the number of "ungreen" vehicles on the road with with them.

c. allow more American consumers access to such cars by increasing production and lowering the cost to them of converting

d. lessen America's demand for and reliance on foreign oil

e. spur green transportation technology

f. decrease driving (although the price per gallon increase is recouped by those who purchase higher mileage vehicles)

I could think of many more advantages, and probably can, over time, come up with ways to hook in more strategies to move forward into the post-petroleum age.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Oh, today's Lily....

Yes, the cynicism doesn't stop...

Dick Armey, a one time (and perhaps a future) member of Congress--House Republican Leader and noted conservative--analyzed the Republican loss in the way Republicans (and Democrats, now that I think about it) are apt to do: we acted too much like them and the voters punished us for not being true to our values.

The idea is that over the last eight years the Republican party left behind the small government, fiscal conservatism and individual liberty type values traditional to conservatives and, because they did the voters turned them out.


Because Republicans acted too much like Democrats the voters punished the Republicans by turning them out of office and replacing them with Democrats?

"Well," said the R voters, according to Mr. Armey, "the Republicans gave up their good guy ways and started to act like the bad guys always do so we decided to kick the good guys out and replace them with a bunch of bad guys who will keep doing all the things we hate, all the things we punished the Republicans for doing."

"What?" I asked from the shower, addressing my radio, from where Mr. Armey's voice came. "Let me get this straight. You're so upset with what you claim is profligate spending, collective security and big government that you've elected a bunch of people who will give you more of those things you hate?"

"Sure," I heard Mr. Armey say, in my head. "Sure. We gotta be what we really are and stop acting like..."

Like I say, I've heard this from both R and D die hards after a serious defeat.

"Well," I said, putting even more words into Mr. Armey's mouth, "Don't look around at what going on. Just go with what you know. And good luck."

Then I remembered who I was dealing with. Mr. Armey is not stupid. He's just in a position that he has to hide what he's really trying to do, along with a lot of things he doesn't know to begin with.

So, the Lily to Mr. Armey for the cynical manipulation of the rank and file of his own party so that he can get them back under his control.

No matter how cynical I get, it's hard to keep up.
--Lily Tomlin

How am I going to know?

I could go on for a while about the election of Bark Obama--what it means and what it doesn't mean to me.

I'll sum it up.

I chose Obama over Hillary because he seemed to be saying that we need to get people together and work things out together while she seemed to be hanging on to the approach that we get things done by consolidating our power and riding down on our enemies to defeat them.

I like what I saw as the "Obama approach" because it is like (although hardly identical to) what is called "Quaker process."

I wish he would have talked about that more in the campaign but he obliquely referred to it from time to time, frequently enough to keep me going.

Now, we see.

He has won by a substantial margin and only the most partisan would claim that he does not have a "mandate" to move forward as he has talked about doing. But one of the ways he got that mandate was by trying to move beyond the red state-blue state, left-right approach--or at least claiming that's what he wanted to do.

I'll know it's what I voted for if he approaches problems in an inclusive way, listening to those with whom he disagrees and trying to fashion compromises that both get the job at hand done and that build enough support for those compromises to get them implemented.

If a man with a mandate can govern as though he just barely won he can get things done and unify the country.

We have just lived through eight years in which someone who just barely won swaggered around like he had a mandate and we are living with the aftermath.

"Look upon my works, Ye Mighty, and Despair."

Monday, November 03, 2008

what's the right answer?

When people say Obama is a Muslim we jump to say that's not right: he's a Christian.

Why don't we say "So what? A Muslim can't be President?"

Yeah, I know. The "real world" and all that.

I can say it, though, even if the campaign "can't."

But that's not such a big whoop--in fact, it's just an indication of how meshed with empire I am, how my identity in Christ is compromised by my identity with the global capital empire for which this "nation" stands, that this nation serves.

Colin Powell, on Meet the Press a couple of weeks ago, told a stirring story of a gravestone at Arlington National Cemetery. It was that under which is laid a 19 year old casualty of the the Iraq war and at the top of which is the crescent and the star.

Powell was saying that anyone can meet the "test" and that there should be no presumption based on the external indicators. If one can show one is sufficiently committed to this country and endorses the myth of redemptive violence as the means to maintain its pre-eminence in the world then one is in the club.

Most Quakers do not buy into the myth of redemptive violence, at least insofar as its implications in our own lives are clear to us. But we should recognize at the very least that integrity would require those among us who do buy into it to acknowledge that passing the "test" is not based on being part of one group or another. (Of course, integrity would require all who support a war to fight in or actively participate in it as integrity would require someone "supporting" a religion to actually practice it rather than merely tithe...I digress)

Of course, groups (as well as individuals) seek security in redemptive violence and what is "at stake" in the national/spiritual life of most Americans today is dominating one group or another to keep the "American Standard of Living," as our current leaders have sworn to do, "off of the table."

For Americans to realize that Muslims can serve the American Empire as well as Christians and Jews can is really not such a great leap forward.

I guess for me to try to point that out is not only fairly depressing as I realize what it's about but not good for my own spiritual condition. It's a bit like "favoring" gays in the military--advocating that anyone be allowed to destroy the image of Christ in themselves.

But, on the other hand, it's what separation of church and state is about, isn't it?

In school, years ago, I learned that if one is unsure of the right answer one should choose the alternative labeled "C." Having been a teacher, now, I know that's a myth.

But as I cannot help but touch the side of the airplane as I board I cannot help but say, in regard to this, the correct answer is "C."

For Christ.