Enough with Ayn Rand

In this poll, Ayn Rand’s works appear second only to the Bible as people’s most “life changing” books.

Now granted, the computer geeks tend to be of the personalty type that believes that if only everyone realized how intelligent they were they would be the next messiah and get all those chicks that don’t like them. Therefore, the for the masturbatory Ayn Rand novels is a perfect fit.

But I can’t understand this one bit. As a teenager, I briefly fell under the spell of libertarianism. Most people are led there by Rand. Rand is who chased me away. After a few chapters of one of her books (don’t remember which one it was) I realized what was really going on here: social Darwinism.

Only in such a self-centered, self-aggrandizing era can this be the case. (Telling every kid they too cna be an astronaut or president in school is probably not helpful here.) Our era has contempt for all things public. Who wants to be around all of those betas, anyway, right?

The Bible being number one can be looked at two ways. It could negate my hypothesis here–people take the message of Jesus and/or Torah seriously, or it could just be seen as an instruction manual for personal salvation and personal spirituality.

Chances are, it’s the latter.

If I was on global TV and had one chance to make one argument against Christianty, just one polemic, I would focus on the fact that it is a personal religion. Your acts. Your thoughts. Your grace. Your eternal soul. Even the more racist forms of Judaism see it as about the chosen people–but the more liberal streams see it as a faith of life, people, and repairing the world.

Something tells me that that’s a miniscule fraction of those Bible readers and that the ones that somehow can harmonize Deuteronomy and the sermon on the mount with Ayn Rand are in the majority.

Sign of the times.

Lingle?

If McCain really wants to be a maverick and tell conservatives to fuck off, I’ve got his VP: Linda Lingle, the two term governor of Hawaii. A (allegedly, yeah right) lesbian Jewish liberal probably would not be too welcomed by the GOP. Then again, it could really bring in some of those Hillary voters.

I’m not holding my breath, but it’s an interesting dark horse idea.

The Increase in Grid Energy Reduces Demand for Oil Fallacy

Since energy will be the defining issue of the 2010s it is important to get a few basics straight. The number one elemental aspect of energy that all ideological sides of our polity get wrong is the assumption of a profound symbiotic relationship between the grid energy that powers our homes and businesses, and the crude oil that powers our vehicles. While the two are related, this relationship is tangential enough that it renders the notion that an increase of grid energy will reduce the need for crude to be false in any practical sense. The oft spoken claim that an increase in nuclear or renewable (wind, solar, biomass, etc.) generation will reduce our reliance on foreign oil does not pass the laugh test.

A modicum of critical thinking problematizes the increase in grid energy = decrease in fuel energy maxim. It is currently impossible for the overwhelming majority of Americans to use grid electricity to propel their automobiles. A different version of the same oil that feeds your car does produce a little bit of grid energy in New England and does provide heat for about 8.1 million homes, mostly in the Northeast, but a wholesale magic wand replacement of this oil grid energy with any other source would not reduce America’s reliance on foreign oil in any meaningful way. While both grid energy and fuel energy are “energy” they perform tasks that are almost independent of one another.

The connection between grid energy and fuel energy is strongest with Natural Gas. Natural Gas, largely but by no means completely, comes from the same places and even the same wells as crude oil. The geography and extraction is similar enough that the price of natural gas is correlated with the price of crude oil. Natural Gas makes up enough of the USA grid energy market, that the price of a megawatt of any generation is correlated with the price of Natural Gas. In this tertiary sense grid energy is correlated to crude oil. Creating enough grid energy from a source other than Natural Gas to both decommission existing natural gas generation and meet load growth would help shield the grid energy market from price increases associated by the cost of oil, but it would do nothing to end American dependence on oil. Nuclear and renewables, even couple with a heroic conservation effort, are unlikely to pull off this trick any time soon for reasons that will be discussed in a future post.

Grid energy can reduce American dependence of foreign oil when grid energy can be used as a replacement for the oil used to propel our automobiles. Luckily, this is already possible. For $100,000 a Tesla Roadster will go 220 miles per charge — thereby obviating Bush Patsy McSame’s ridiculous gambit of offering 300 million dollars for anyone that will produce a technology that already exists. Two hundred and twenty miles is enough for even the most outrageous commute. Combining a Tesla battery with some gas or biodiesel capability for rare long trips would go a tremendous way towards reducing America’s dependence on foreign crude oil, while maintaining cars capable of doing the same tasks that they do now. The limiting factors are cost and availability of grid energy “Fill Up” stations. These are the sort of problems that can be addressed with subsidies, a gas guzzler buy back program, tax incentives, and, most of all, a massive, government-led if need be, effort to develop plentiful grid energy Fill Up stations.

Of course, once automobiles become a major consumer of grid electricity they will increase the need for additional grid energy supply, which could create new problems, or a different version of the old reliance on foreign oil if this new supply is largely met by Natural Gas. Similar problems arise when solar, wind, and other intermittent renewables become more than a bit player on the grid.

A creative, intertwined solution to these problems is to come.

Floods

So, apparently there is some flooding in some third world country called Illinoise, along the same river as third world country Minneapolis where bridges randomly collapse and third world country Na’awlinz where the whole fucking city was underwater.

Of course the problem in places like that is that they have corrupt dictators that are always too busy fighting stupid wars with their neighbors to do anything at home.

Veeptstakes – Murray?

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) has been circulating around the blogosphere as a possible Obama Veep.

This makes sense on many levels. Murray was a Clintonette, but her support was never as loud as Ted Strickland’s or as a race baity as Ed Rendell’s. She immediately switched her support to Obama once Clinton dropped out. Better yet, unlike most if not all other Clintonians being floated for Veep, Murray was one of the 22 Senators to vote against AUMF. Her reasoning was prescient:

“Mr. President, if we do take action in Iraq, there is no doubt that our armed forces will prevail. We will win a war with Iraq decisively, and, God willing, we will win it quickly. But what happens after the war? That will have as big an impact on our future peace and security. Will we be obligated to rebuild Iraq? If so, how? Our economy is reeling, our budget is in deficit, and we have no estimate of the cost of rebuilding.”

Part of Murray’s lore is that she started her career in politics when, working as a community organizer (sound familiar?), she was told that she was “just a mom in tennis shoes” who could not make a difference. She decided to run for Senate in 1992 in response to stories that the incumbent Democrat, Brock Adams, had sexually assaulted several women; Adams dropped out and she won by a large margin. In 1994 Murray was sexually harassed by the ancient racist creep Strom “Inappropriate Touching” Thurmond, but managed to handle the fiasco with aplomb (She demanded and received an apology, but never made a public statement). She has gone on to win two convincing re-election victories.

These anecdotes are important because they appear to provide an ideal salve to the Clntonettes who feel that HRC was denied the nomination through inchoate societal misogyny. VP Murray would also immediately elevate another woman to national prominence, providing hope to those that felt that HRC was a once in a lifetime opportunity for a woman to become President. Agree or disagree, these opinions are real and a Democrat cannot win without the women that hold them.

Because there are now substantially more Democrats than Republicans, all that Obama needs to do to secure victory is to win the same percentage of Democrats, Republicans and Independents that Kerry won in 2004. I do not know if Senator Murray has the right style for a national campaign and she doesn’t quite cover Obama’s “national security” flank (although she does serve on the Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security Committees), but her experience, her story, and her gusty vote to be on the right side of history regarding AUMF make her an intriguing choice to cement the necessary support from Democrats to elect Obama in 2008.

The Uprising and Precious Oil

I have not read David Sirota’s new book, “Uprising,” but I did see him give a power point presentation that was half an “inform” and half call to action the other evening at a local bookstore. Sirota’s thesis is that America is at a time similar to the late 70s and early 80s when a lack of faith in government, an energy crisis, problematic Middle East entanglements, percolating racism, and economic dislocation were the basis of a populist uprising against establishment politics. The Right was able to channel this uprising into the Reagan Revolution and create the elemental political moment that is still pre-dominant. Sirota argues that the 2008 election will be a chance to create a Progressive “Uprising”, but that it is up to Progressives themselves to use the Dems/Obama as a means rather than an ends by advocating for Progressive policies through a bevy of grassroots organizations and in state legislatures. The price of a failure, such as Jimmy Carter’s in the late 70s, will be a Conservatron populist akin to Reagan or worse rising in 2012 and appropriating the Uprising.

The Conservatrons succeeded in grabbing the last Uprising through some duplicitous insider shenanigans. Though we may never know the truth, there is strong circumstantial evidence, as displayed in Kevin Phillips’ book “American Dynasty,” that Bush the Elder used his CIA backchannels and familial connections to Middle East oil royalty to maintain the Iranian Hostage Crisis through Carter’s term. The fact that it ended precisely as Reagan was inaugurated feels a bit too good to be true, now don’t it? Similarly, the Middle East eventually reopened the oil spigot thereby ending the artificial – as in caused by politics rather than economics or geology – Energy Crisis.

It is unlikely that Team Obama has an underground secret to end the Bush junta’s Iraq debacle, but a path towards disengagement will be feasible if politically and militarily difficult. It is not yet possible to tell if today’s oil crisis is caused by the arrival of peak oil or rising global demand. Richard Heinberg’s must read book of the Bush era, “The Party’s Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies” makes a compelling argument that it is the former; indeed, Bushite foreign policy does not make sense outside of a coming peak oil context. Either way, onerous oil prices are “real” and are not going away. Ten dollar per gallon oil can be mitigated, but not without a fundamental alteration of the life that the vast majority of Americans, of all ideological stripes, are accustomed to living.

If Obama is victorious in 2008 his ability to channel the Uprising into a long-term Progressive direction will hinge on his ability to shape the elemental lifestyle change that Precious Oil will require. Precious Oil will mostly mean a loss of individual mobility, distance, and privacy. Obama must make this forced communality a source of broad commonwealth rather than a struggle for groups to own most of what’s left.

The Conservatrons’ reaction is predictable: they will tribalize and divide; subjugate and hate. They will foster layers of inferiority and keep people just above each layer being afraid and superior to those in layers below, and resentful towards anyone advocating unity for the common good. All the while Charlatan McSame will make occasional hollow strokes of comity to offer relief that the Dystopia is not too viscous.

I have argued before that Obama is a once in a generation Persuasive leader. He has the charisma to create the space for the rest of us to realize a better future with brio… for a while. Sirota is correct: a successful Progressive Uprising is dependent on the local actions of Progressives.