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How to Cut Fuel Consumption

From an article in the NY Times by Robert H. Frank titled "A Way to Cut Fuel Consumption That Everyone Likes, Except the Politicians", an interesting proposal for how to reduce fuel consumption:

SUPPOSE a politician promised to reveal the details of a simple proposal that would, if adopted, produce hundreds of billions of dollars in savings for American consumers, significant reductions in traffic congestion, major improvements in urban air quality, large reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and substantially reduced dependence on Middle East oil. The politician also promised that the plan would require no net cash outlays from American families, no additional regulations and no expansion of the bureaucracy. As economists often remind their students, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. So this politician's announcement would almost surely be greeted skeptically. Yet a policy that would deliver precisely the outcomes described could be enacted by Congress tomorrow - namely, a $2-a-gallon tax on gasoline whose proceeds were refunded to American families in reduced payroll taxes.


Let the Voters Decide

From an article in the Economist, an unconventional view on the abortion debate in the U.S.:

Most rich countries other than the United States have solved the abortion problem by consulting the electorate - either through the legislature or through referendums. This led to vigorous debates and, broadly, the triumph of abortion rights. Because abortion was legalised democratically, pro-lifers accepted the fact that they had lost and abortion became a settled right. By contrast, in America, abortion is a fundamental right of privacy protected by a 1973 Supreme Court judgment - Roe v Wade. Few objective outsiders - if it is possible to be such a thing on abortion - would argue that relying on judges rather than popular will has helped American politics: no other comparable country has such destructive culture wars. Roe left a large chunk of the country feeling disenfranchised by the court; it also established a cycle of attack and counter-attack that has debased everything that it has touched, especially the judiciary. A prime example is the Roe-obsessed confirmation process for Supreme Court nominees. Samuel Alito, Mr Bush's new candidate, claims that the fact that he once advised the Reagan administration on how to overturn Roe will have no bearing on his behaviour on the court. No less disingenuously, liberal senators pretend they are trying to gauge Mr Alito's legal philosophy when they are trying to catch him out on Roe. All this is bad for America; but, in political terms, Roe has been particularly disastrous for the Democrats. The Republicans have generally had the better of the abortion wars (something most liberals admit as long as nobody from NARAL Pro-Choice America is in the room). Roe has proved a lightning-rod for conservatives; and many moderates dislike the Democrats'Roe-driven defence of partial-birth abortions. So consider a heretical proposition: why on earth don't Democrats disown Roe?


Another Fine Appointee

It bugs me that political pressure is being wielded so prominently against the scientists at NASA. From a NY Times article by Andrew Revkin titled "A Young Bush Appointee Resigns His Post at NASA":

George C. Deutsch, the young presidential appointee at NASA who told public affairs workers to limit reporters' access to a top climate scientist and told a Web designer to add the word "theory" at every mention of the Big Bang, resigned yesterday, agency officials said. Mr. Deutsch's resignation came on the same day that officials at Texas A&M University confirmed that he did not graduate from there, as his résumé on file at the agency asserted. The resignation came as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was preparing to review its policies for communicating science to the public. The review was ordered Friday by Michael D. Griffin, the NASA administrator, after a week in which many agency scientists and midlevel public affairs officials described to The New York Times instances in which they said political pressure was applied to limit or flavor discussions of topics uncomfortable to the Bush administration, particularly global warming. Mr. Deutsch, 24, was offered a job as a writer and editor in NASA's public affairs office in Washington last year after working on President Bush's re-election campaign and inaugural committee, according to his résumé. No one has disputed those parts of the document. A copy of Mr. Deutsch's résumé was provided to The Times by someone working in NASA headquarters who, along with many other NASA employees, said Mr. Deutsch played a small but significant role in an intensifying effort at the agency to exert political control over the flow of information to the public. Such complaints came to the fore starting in late January, when James E. Hansen, the climate scientist, and several midlevel public affairs officers told The Times that political appointees, including Mr. Deutsch, were pressing to limit Dr. Hansen's speaking and interviews on the threats posed by global warming.

Domestic Priorities

From an article titled "Domestic Agencies Face Cuts in Bush Budget" by Andrew Taylor on

Domestic priorities like federal aid to schools and health research are squeezed under President Bush's proposed budget for next year, but funding for the Pentagon, the war in Iraq and anti-terrorism efforts get impressive increases. Monday's budget tome will have a price tag of more than $2.7 trillion. The departments of Education, Commerce, Interior and Energy will see their budgets, on average, frozen or cut slightly below today's already austere levels. Even though domestic non-entitlement programs take only one-sixth of all federal spending, they are in the administration's bulls eye as it tries to reel in the growing deficit. The National Institutes of Health's budget is frozen at this year's level and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is being asked to take a 2 percent cut. Both programs lose ground as Bush puts a higher priority on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and hurricane relief. The Pentagon would receive a nearly 5 percent increase in its budget, to $439.3 billion, defense officials said, with an additional $120 billion earmarked for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those war funds would be spread over both the current budget year and fiscal 2007, which begins Oct. 1. The budget also will project spending $18 billion more this year for hurricane relief along the Gulf Coast, bringing total spending in response to September's devastating storms over the $100 billion mark. Some of the new proposed cuts, such as eliminating the $107 million Commodity Supplemental Food Program, are likely to get a chilly reaction on Capitol Hill. The program provides food to low-income mothers and children under 6 years old, as well as to the elderly poor.


Bono Calls

bono.jpgFrom an AP story on MSNBC:

Quoting from Islamic, Jewish and Christian texts, rock star Bono called Thursday for the U.S. government to give an additional 1 percent of the federal budget to the world's poor. Speaking to President Bush and members of Congress at the National Prayer Breakfast, the U2 front man said it's unjust to keep poor people from selling their goods while singing the virtues of the free market, to hold children to ransom for the debts of their grandparents and to withhold medicines that would save lives. "God will not accept that," he said. "Mine won't. Will yours?"


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