April 19, 2005

the ‘n’ word

Today’s Times editorial page is calling for the creation of a meaningful energy strategy and I wholeheartedly endorse that broad proposition. While we can argue long and hard on the details, I think it is well past time for serious measures.

If America has an Achilles heal, then it is her rapacious energy appetite. Those of us who lived though the Arab Oil Embargo should understand the peril of dependency on foreign sources of oil. And certainly if one cares about the world we leave our children, we should be concerned about long term reliance on oil whatever its source. One can only hope that the current run up in gasoline prices will get a few people’s attention.

It should: these price increases have come even without any serious interruption to crude supply.

While I am concerned about the environment, it is the national security aspect of the crude supply that screams out for government action with the loudest voice. We have reached a place where extreme political unrest in places like Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Mexico could throw the world economy into a devastating abyss.

These places are not exactly epitomes of institutional stability. It is time for Americans to demand better than this.

It would not be so irresponsible on the part of our “leaders” if it were not for the fact that alternatives are available. None of them are as cost effective in the short run, but here is an example of where the market simply does not work. The probability discounted future cost of a breakdown in oil supplies is scarcely factored into any balance sheet in the World, though that will start to change as insurance premiums rise further with the increasing probability of realizing some of these risks. The problem with the insurance cost feedback loop is it is too slow for the purposes of national defense: the time to act was thirty years ago. Any further delay is simply compounding foolishness.

What we need now and not thirty more years hence is a multi-pronged attack that approaches various alternative energy sources in a serious way. In the short run this means exploring efficient use of our abundant natural gas reserves, conservation measures such as an improved automobiles, and revisiting nuclear power.

There, I said it. I used the “n” word.

I am not suggesting that nuclear power is some cure-all, but rather that it could be an important part of a better future if we approached the topic as rational beings rather than emotional ones. I suppose that is probably a bit of a stretch goal for this politicized society in which we live.

We desperately need to be pouring money into more research on alternative fuels. There have been exciting developments in the last five years in the areas of photovoltaics and biomass to name but a couple. The fascinating thing about many of these more futuristic possibilities is that in addition to the supply potential, the energy sources are much more decentralized. This is fascinating because decentralization will bring infinitely greater energy security than is imaginable with the more conventional large-scale energy sources destined to dominate the next quarter century.

What a great legacy we could we leave our children by bequeathing energy security.

Undoubtedly calls for a serious energy policy will go unheeded due to the lack of public demand and the vested antagonistic interests of those who hold the reins of power. If the seventies did not shock people into reality, I doubt the present situation will either. We know with disturbing certainty the alternative: the coming military budgets will be gruesome thing to behold.

Almost as gruesome as the imperialist acts that our greed and intellectual sloth will compel us into.


Anonymous PeterE said...

In general I agree with your points. The US has been profligate with energy, and with its national security.

This requires a 3-point programme:

(1) curbing oil consumption by increasing taxes, particularly on motor fuel. Not to European levels, but certainly much higher than at present. You certainly should be looking at the $3 gallon
(2) promoting energy efficiency in a much more concerted way than at present
(3) progressively developing nuclear power until it accounts for around 50% of national electricity generation

5:53 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...


Part of the problem with a gasoline tax is the impact on the little guy whose livelihood is directly effected by gas prices... (truckers, territory sales, taxi drivers, etc.). It would seem there would have to be exemptions, and managing those surely would be a nightmare.

10:04 PM  
Blogger someone else said...

i'm a naturally anxious person (to put it mildly), but I do worry about building nuclear facilities in an age in which the U.S. is being targeted for attack. Am I being paranoid, or would a single successful attack on a nuclear power plant bring unimaginable horror?

I think a good first step, as an alternative, would be to tear up the highways. Then people would have to live closer to work and we could generate the political will for mass transit.

I've learned so much from the Republicans about cause and effect :)

1:35 AM  
Blogger Randy P said...

Yeah CG, but if we can put the little guy out of business quick then he can get on welfare and not worry about his future, because Social Security will be fixed by then. And when we put the little guy out of business then the Govt steps in and regulates all other shipping costs so that they don't go through the roof and everything will settle down.

Just kidding, just wanted to see your blood boil for a minute.

OK couple of points and fears to tack on to Tony's message here.

Energy is our Achilles heals, and we are gluttons, but as a free nation we have the right to be gluttonous. We do, however, have just about the cheapest prices of anywhere on the planet, most other countries are paying for a liter, what we pay for a gallon. We are an over massaged cry baby country that wants it all to be our way. We want to dictate to other countries what would be best for them, and when other things around the globe affect our lives we are up in arms. Bunch of big ugly world domineering babies.

We have so many options out there that we are slowly exploring, this is an area that I am not seeing eye to eye with Bush on. Frankly I do not care if we drill up in the Northern wildlife region, my problem with this is it isn't going to affect anything, by the time we get to pumping up there, the consumption will probably have doubled and we won't be any better off than before. No ground taken. The most costly war to fight is one of attrition, that is similar to a stalemate, and you wait each other out. Problem is while the politicians are waiting each other out; military personnel are dying in the field. Same thing here. While we wait for these paltry attempts at making the public feel like something is happening, small businesses, truckers, suppliers, and small shops are going to fold, each one of these entities play off each other to survive. Wal-Mart is going to have a field day. I need to learn how to build them, because that is going to be the market that will make money.

The other problem that I see, and Tony touched on it a little, but did not uncover some of the biggest issues, or all the issues anyway, is the military. The military is a massive two headed monster that consumes, and consumes, and consumes. No vehicle that the military has is efficient, well efficient for what they do, but by our terms, not efficient at all. The initial effect of soaring prices, or reduced oil production will be, not an inflated budget, although that is sure to follow closely on the heals of the first problem, which I see as the worst one. Training. This will be the first to go for the military. Training is already too expensive to do right, so we fake a lot of it, starting with blanks, but those are expensive too, so then you see grown military men out in the woods of the Carolinas or the deserts of California with real weapons and as you walk up on them you begin to hear the scary sound of "bang", bang, bang, not bullets whizzing over head, not blanks popping in the distance....people literally saying "bang". Poor kids, thought they were going to be doing something with their lives, and they are back in the second grade playing guns. I know this will not be news to most here on the blog, but you can not take the best military in the world, put them on a shelf to get dusty, and pull them out dust them off whenever there is a need. They have to train constantly. And when they are not training they have to be cleaning after training and having classes, and then training again. It is a massive machine that demands to be fed. When most vehicles get under 10 miles to the gallon, those wonderful "unarmored" HMMWV's and that is not the staple vehicle of the military, when you think about M1 tanks and 6 gallons to the mile, or M813 and M923 5 ton trucks getting about 6 to 8 miles to the gallon, load that down with 8 tons of M198, 155mm howitzer. Geez you can imagine that in one howitzer battery that has 8 guns, 5 supply trucks and about 16 HMMWV's, out for one week traveling over 150 miles a day moving three times a day, not including the trucks that bring out the food twice a day for breakfast and dinner. There are 4 batteries in one battalion, and 5 battalions in one regiment and 4 regiments in the Marine Corps alone. I can not even talk about the Naval vessels that cart the Marines around the world, and average ARG carries 4 amphibious vessels, escorted an aircraft carrier, several destroyers couple cruisers, subs. These leave from two ports every 6 months west coast and east coast. We won't give up this projection of force; it also allows us to train with other countries easier since they are already in the area and just sitting around anyway. What will happen is the training leading up to these deployments will slack, figuring that it would be better to save that money and give it to the deployed so the can train while on the cruise. Training will slow for even the average person on ground and we will start developing computer games that will be cheaper and seem "realistic"....hogwash. I know this will seem rather callous, but in real training you lose men, good men, because of stupid mistakes, and that is part of it, it is part of the process of learning war. War is h***, and you can not get away from it. You can develop all the "smart" munitions you want to, but we will not go in and wipe out an entire city to root out several insurgents, guess who has to do that. If our Military personnel do not experience some of the tragedies that occur in training they will freeze in combat and that will cause the unacceptable losses. I lost a lot of friends through the years, and almost got lost several times, maybe I am coldhearted, but these kids need training, at any cost and unless we come up with alternative fuels like Willie’s bio-diesel we are going to be sunk. I am not sure if any one has noticed of which region most of these terrorists come from, but I do not think that money or fuel will be a problem for them. And again we will be sunk. IMO

I agree with Saurav in a way, get the rail system working again, limit highways to trucking develop mass transit. Problem is we are soooooooooo selfish. I even make me sick.

7:59 AM  
Blogger Randy P said...

Guess I got riled up a little.

8:00 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


Great post. You should get riled up more often.

I think you said far better than I could how I feel about the Alaskan drilling. I have no problem with that per se, but unless it is part of a larger strategic initiative, it is nothing but a band-aid. I think we have to be comprehensive in our approach.

It is pathetic our government isn’t doing anything. I’ve worked for oil companies most of my adult life, including right now. I’m not anti-oil, but still I see the strategic consequences of inaction and you know our leaders do too. What I honestly think is probably a bit too cynical for a lot of people, but I believe the power elite is consciously choosing to ignore the problems because of the political risk of proactive approaches. They would rather manage a crisis than head it off because they can make political hay out of a crisis. Knowing this, they realize that to manage the inevitable conflicts they are anticipating will require some extraordinary military muscle. Strong military spending gives them short-term power and long-term tools for military intervention.

Fixing things would be better for all of us, but it just isn’t in the cards. Politicians are loath to propose anything that might possibly be associated with individual sacrifice. I have echos of Shrub and Co telling us that we are in a War on Terror, but just to live our lives normally. Sacrifice for your fellow man or succeeding generations just isn’t in our vocabulary any more.

And people wonder why I think America is already dead.

The weakness of our mass transit system is pathetic. I use mass transit when I can, but the problem is the system is so poor, I really can’t make it work much of the time. And it isn’t just a matter of trying harder. Granted, I have a long commute, but if I were to try to take mass transit the entire route it would be three hours each way. I’m not an ideal example, but I know a lot of people with more reasonable needs who just find it nearly impossible in DFW. The situation is somewhat better in the big Eastern cities, but even there because of cut backs it is often difficult.

You would think that people would support mass transit for selfish reasons. Sitting on a train is a lot more pleasant than sitting in a traffic jam.

9:55 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...


Now why would you want to rile me up? Something I said? :) (I'm going to work on my debating style... really) Besides, you just set a new standard on being riled up in that post. Soldiers yelling "bang bang" in the woods did me in... almost spilled the coffee.

I heard some talking heads the other day predict there would be a mass migration back to living in urban centers. The combination of commute times and fuel costs will lead many to migrate back to living downtown.

btw... I could care less about the caribou in Alaska or some wildlife preserve that almost no American will ever see, but if it's a bandaid that is just driven by some connected oil company profits... I would fight against it also.

11:09 AM  
Blogger someone else said...

You would think that people would support mass transit for selfish reasons. Sitting on a train is a lot more pleasant than sitting in a traffic jam.

Aha--but waiting for a bus outside, standing up on a packed train, and taking an extra hour for your commute to save $4--now those things are not more pleasant than your own little airconditioned pod with music you can play as loud as you want.

Of course, if public transportation were more universal, I'm sure they would have nice alternatives for the wealthy (like commuter railroads are in NY) and taxi cabs and the such to complement the public transport.

11:13 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


The migration back into the city is already on. I think there is a killing to be made by buying real-estate in blighted inner city areas. Property prices are skyrocketing in areas with convenient access to downtown areas. You should see the prices fetched for small unspectacular flats near downtown Dallas.

11:15 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


I don’t think you are being paranoid at all. I think the problems and risks of nuclear energy are very real and must be addressed. But what angers me is how it has become one of those third rail issues: nobody will touch it out of fear.

Terrorism is one problem with nuclear energy. One thought I’ve had is that perhaps we should build somewhat centralized facilities on public lands in the West. This would make the facilities and materials easier to secure. There of course is a balance there because larger facilities make more tempting targets.

11:46 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


I guess I am biased based on my mass transit experiences. In Philadelphia, my commute was generally less time consuming than driving. The SEPTA train fares were so high, I was not saving much money at the time: it took the train for convenience. Here in DFW, the Trinity Railway Express adds about a half hour each way to my commute, but it does save me a lot of money because I am offsetting a lot of miles (in Philly, it was few miles but more traffic). I get the additional benefit of being able to read or write for 45 minutes of my commute so the hour a day I invest in mass transit yields an hour and a half of constructive time.

Some of the problem is the old chicken and egg thing. You have to have a good service first to attract customers. Customers are relatively low to change fundamental patters so mass transit isn’t going to generate enough cash flow initially. This is a classic government enterprise just like the interstate highway system. The systems can be privatized after they are built, but the huge losses in the initial stages will scare away private capital.

11:54 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...


"And people wonder why I think America is already dead."

I just watched a skit they did on the Jon Stewart daily show that made me think of your comment. They did a skit about Shrub's flying around the country on Air Force One running his Fake Town Hall meetings. :)

12:22 PM  
Blogger stilldreamn said...

Hi y'all!

I grew up around the Cook Nuclear Energy Plant in Michigan, and actually have warm-fuzzy feelings for nuclear power. The beaches near the plant had the BEST swimming, and the fishing was excellent, too. Naive? Maybe. Everyone knows nuclear energy production entails risks, but so does every other energy source. By the way, all seven of my kids are normal, only one head, etc...

Can anyone explain why we haven't pushed harder on E85 fuel? There are a LOT of cars on the road that can run on that ethanol/gasoline mix right now, but I personally can't drive 200 miles to Nashville to fill up my minivan. When we bought it, I was really enthused about the dual-fuel capability, but it's useless if the fuel isn't available. We have zero mass-transit where we live, although that's partly because our metro area straddles three states and two of the states aren't interested in funding light rail or buses that primarily serve one state.

I think there's going to be a glut of SUVs on the market--people respond pretty quick to high gas prices. One of my cube-mates is looking to replace her ancient Toyota, and there are practically NO late-model gas-sippers to be had. One salesman told her that the supply might improve after everyone finished spending their tax refunds.........

5:23 PM  
Blogger Randy P said...

I am not sure that Nuclear is the way to go, there is so mouch untapped energy sources right in DC itself, we need to put windmills on the out skirts of Washington DC, that would solve all our problems

9:22 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

HAHAHA. Windmills would work. Which makes me think…you could also put some biomass electric generators in Foggy Bottom to convert all that BS into electricity.

Seriously though…I’m surprised nobody has objected to my nuclear suggestion with any vigor. Maybe the world has changed and we really are ready for that.

9:27 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


I for one am not excited by the alcohol stuff because it seems to be such a band-aid. That said, I would think some for of ethanol usage is certainly in order. E85 in particular is no great assistance in terms of greenhouse gases-though it can be a small help there as well.

Perhaps there are some things that I do not know about E85-feel free to educate me. But in the motor vehicle area, natural gas seems to me to be a much more exciting short-term help. This is kind of an interesting summary.

11:07 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

Even Alan Greenspan follows the Disenfranchised Curmudgeon: http://cnn.com.

11:58 AM  
Blogger QuietSally said...

Ok, I’ll try. It seems like back in the 80s that there was all kinds of information about nuclear energy not being cost effective. I really don’t know much about it. It seems like the danger of having those things around would be a stupid thign if it really costs that much money too.

12:05 PM  
Blogger Randy P said...

Seriously though,

Think about the help that could be created with windmills, the wind is free, maintenance is there, but minimal compared to some other forms of energy producing plants. We have unlimited space in places that have great winds. Think if the farmers that could have several on their farms that could help subsidise that industry and keep the farm rolling and maybe give the poor old codger some type of retirement and would not have to sell the farm cause his lazy kids are...well lazy. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Cattle farmers could have the same opportunity just like the oil well boom.

Not to get away from Nucular power ti has great advantages also, but it would take a lot more to start up and maintain over the long haul. To me it is not an issue of security from terrorists, they will do what they want when they want, with all the "freedoms" we have they can not be stopped. Even in their rudimentary forms of leadership all they havea to do is wait. Loss of power because of an attack should not be a worry, we are more vulnerable now than if we were protecting an N plant. I just can not get away from the idea of windmills, so efficient and clean and quiet. I think our next challenge will be a way to route power lines through neighborhood so that children are not born with two heads

12:17 PM  
Blogger David R said...

OK, I'll join with Sally. What about the waste from nuclear power? We haven't figured out the answer to that with what little nuclear power we are using today.

Also, it seems that nuclear power doesn't really address the dependence on foreign oil, since most power plants are coal fired or natural gas. Am I missing something?

The internal combustion engine needs to be replaced with something else. And you're right, we're already 30 years too late getting started on it.

12:58 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


I agree that wind power is a useful thing that should be pursued. While it would not be a solution by itself, it would be a logical part of any sensible energy program. If you want to assume some pretty minimal impacts, it all adds up. Here are some numbers off that I worked up based on data available here.

Roughly 17% of our total energy requirements are met by crude oil. The US imports roughly 50% of that, so our dependence on foreign oil is around 9% of our total energy needs.

Now I’m just thinking about the national security aspect for right this second, but the goal would be to replace about half or a little more of that foreign oil with other supplies. So what we need to find is alternative sources for about 6% of our crude demands.

Looking at the data, if we upped our coal production 10%, that would be over 3% of our total energy needs. Now I’m not pretending that all of these feedstocks are interchangeable, just trying to get some perspective. Natural gas use increases of 10% would provide another 3%. A ten-fold increase in solar and wind power would add another 3%.

Now the real picture is more complex. You can’t just trade one for the other. But a real investment in Natural gas conversion for automobiles is a no-brainer. It is very easy to see how that alone could seriously dent our reliance of foreign oil. And while wind and solar don’t solve the problem, I think you can see how a little bit of increase there could shave a percent or two off of our needs.

And I haven’t even discussed conservation or nuclear energy. Nuclear is already a big part of our energy picture supplying 11% of our total energy needs. An increase in nuclear energy production of a mere 25% would add another 4%.

Now this is all a bit deceptive as our energy needs are growing. But it is pretty plain that alternative sources could make a huge dent in our reliance on foreign oil. We just need the resolve to pursue it.

David and Sally,

I certainly do not mean to imply that there are no problems with nuclear power. On the point of expense, I would have to do some research to get terribly specific, but I remember clearly that a lot of the argument against nuclear power in term of cost was related to the cost of litigation. That would probably be something worth digging in to. But the thing is, cost is a relative thing. What is the cost of a crisis in supply? Just because it doesn’t make cost sense in terms of a balance sheet doesn’t mean it is not the right thing to do in terms of national priorities.

On nuclear waste, I know there has been substantial progress in that area as well, but I agree that it is a big problem. I would suggest that expansion should involve pre-planned waste disposal. Waste could be disposed of directly at the site if we were intelligent with site location. Perhaps we would investigate and not pursue more nuclear power, but I tend to doubt it because of the large potential. But this is why I said that this needs to be approached from an intellectual level and not an emotional one. There are real problems with nuclear as an option, but we need to take a rational look and see if we can make it fit.

And David you are correct that nuclear doesn’t directly affect the dependence on foreign oil. What I am suggesting is that perhaps in the near term, natural gas might best be used in automobiles. Also, increasing the supply of electricity can reduce the price of electricity or otherwise make electric vehicles more attractive.

In short, I don’t think anything seems to be an easy fix. I think in the near term, however, natural gas for automobiles is pretty much the way to go. It helps with both our reliance on foreign oil and with greenhouse gas emissions. We should be doing something as a society to encourage that while the other forms of energy supply have time to be developed more fully.

And BTW, 30 years late in this case is definitely better than never.

1:27 PM  
Blogger QuietSally said...


So you are saying that the high cost of nuclear was all the lawsuits? That sounds pretty stupid. Would you happen to have any links on that?

I can’t believe that nuclear is 11% of what we use. It doesn’t seem like there are that many plants and I never hear about them. David brought up waste disposal and I hadn’t thought about that. But it does seem like there would be some way of securing it.

What happened to TC? Did you run him off? You two really got into it.

3:49 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

"In short, I don’t think anything seems to be an easy fix. I think in the near term, however, natural gas for automobiles is pretty much the way to go."

Dennis Miller: "Yeah... all we need is a mall parking lot full of mini-Hindenburgs." :)

3:55 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


Yes. The cost of the environmental lawsuits artificially drove up the “cost” of nuclear power plants. Don’t misunderstand; I think there are environmental concerns. But we should address those strategically and not litigate them to the point that the project is not feasible.

And no, I didn’t run off Texas Conservative. He is a good friend of mine. Sometimes he posts more regularly than others. If you don’t know it already, I don’t run people off. It would take pretty extreme behavior to get me to change that too. I certainly don’t mind being disagreed with but I will always be very vigorous in my responses.

BTW, I sent my previous post to Focus on the Family. Somebody from that domain read my post on the blog today. Do you think I’ll get a reply?

3:55 PM  
Blogger David R said...


I'm faintly surprised that someone from FOF actually took the time to visit the blog. If you do get a response, please share!

By the way, I heard that the House passed an energy blll today opening up ANWAR for drilling. Which isn't that big of a deal to me, one way or the other. My gut feel would be that it's probably on balance a negative if this passes Congress, because the American people are so stupid that they will believe our energy problems have been solved with a little drilling in Alaska, ergo complete loss of momentum for discussing any serious long-term strategy.

5:51 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...


The House has passed the ANWAR drilling before, and got stopped in the Senate.

8:40 PM  
Blogger Prof. Ricardo said...


I have only read the 1st chapter in the book Perfectly Legal. I’ve been real busy at work and off time was too precious not to spend it with family.

As a charter member of the Libertarian Accountant Fundamentalist-America’s True Manly Environmentalist, or LAF-ATME, we have opinions on the current subject matter.

I agree with C.G. that a fuel tax would nearly devastate the poor. Not only in direct taxes, but increased cost in everything transported by fuel burning vehicles, food, clothes, etc. Everything.

One of the great advantages the U.S. has economically is our non-punitive taxation of fuel. If we are to remain competitive internationally and fuel prices double through taxation, something will have to give to remain competitive, and that something is real wages. If C.G.’s underpinnings are in a wad now over 40 million uninsured, wait till the number triples because companies can’t afford that luxury anymore.

Re: nuke plants. Bring ‘em on. We have a technology advantage now over nuke plants of yesteryear and third world countries of today. There is no reason for the US not to be a leader in this area. The environmentalist wackos propaganda machine has worked and reasonable thinking people respond like Pavlov’s dog each time certain tainted code words are mentioned. Nuclear (or as “W” says it, nucular,), rain forest, baby seals, ozone, global warming, Freon. I’m twitching right now.

Whatever alternatives to fossil fuel MUST be economically feasible. We have enormous known reserves that we should use. And some have postulated that it might be far greater and even sustainable. For security sake we need to limit use of foreign oil, but that does not necessarily mean that if we can’t use foreign, we can’t use any. Fossil fuel gives the best bang for the buck, and the consumers know it.

Photovoltaic is extremely expensive and impractical, although cool for you Y2K guys that want to live off of spam, crackers & MREs. Wind is great. I just moved to Green Mountain Energy reseller of electricity. They have wind generators they are shutting down because they are generating more electricity than they can sell. You gotta have a market. It has to compete. Hydrogen cars are cool, until you realized the amount of fossil fuel electricity went into creating the hydrogen, the car, and the delivery system, just so the end user can have warm fuzzies watching a trail of water vapor come out his tail pipe.

Finally, it was Tony’s pestering that stimulated this cameo. As one of 6 billion shifting blame for my own action to others. Its Tony’s fault.

Prof. Ricardo

9:36 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...


"I’m twitching right now."

Man, we miss that around these parts. :) I have a secret, that may get me kicked out of the liberal club... I'm not much of an environmentalist either. I'm not as anti-environmentalist whackos as the dominion crowd, but protecting a Caribou just doesn't work for me. That said, when you hear stories like this , and hear about the mercury levels in fish... some warning flags have definitely been raised.

I got my book back from the neighbors yesterday. Looking forward to the Curm's and Prof's opinion on David Cay Johnston's facts... maybe in June. :)

11:02 AM  
Blogger Prof. Ricardo said...

"...protecting a Caribou just doesn't work for me."

Of course we need to protect them. You don't want the meat to spoil before it gets to the table do ya? I think we should use the herds on the wildlife refuge to feed the hungry drill rig workers that bring us that delightful black syrup. If God had not meant man to eat these Caribou, He would not have made them out of meat.

Prof. Ricardo

1:15 PM  
Blogger someone else said...

My uncle, who has some backgorund on these issues, once told me that there was a renewable fuel industry waiting to take off in the 80s that Reagan's Administration killed. I was just a baby and haven't read up enough to know whether he's right or not, but I wouldn't be surprised.

I don't know if this has been mentioned already, but, to be real here, none of these proposals (wind power, increased public transportation, nuclear power, solar power, greater fuel efficiency, more ethanol hybrid gas stations, etc.) will ever happen with this group of people in the White House.

Which is not to say that this kind of debate is not worthwhile or that we should become forlorn and give up. What I mean to say is that the political battle has to go hand in hand with the intellectual/policy choices--so write a freakin letter, organize a demonstration, get some folks together, and generally do what you need to to turn these bums out :) Organize, organize, organize!

9:27 AM  
Blogger David R said...

" If God had not meant man to eat these Caribou, He would not have made them out of meat"

I love that argument, it works for damn near anything. If God didn't want me getting high, he wouldn't have put opium in poppies, or hallucinogens in marijuana, peyote, and mushrooms.

Saurav is correct, and I admire his optimism that common folks working together can still have an impact on the entrenched powers. Unfortunately I have no faith in the people themselves having the good sense to organize around these issues. But perhaps people will start surprising me one day.

By the way, the House in passing their energy bill, rejected yet again an ammendment that would have raised fuel efficiency standards in automobiles. And it looks like the Bush-backed energy "plan" has a much higher likelihood of passing the Senate this time, thanks to the election of more wing-nut Republicans like our own Tom Coburn from Oklahoma.

All in all, not much to hope for. But hey, if God didn't want me getting drunk he wouldn't have made yeast.

11:29 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...


I can't remember if you were a history buff or not. I sent this link to Tony... it was Franklin's instructions to the French and the English that might consider moving to America post-Revolution. I know Prof is a history buff... so maybe he will enjoy the read. Franklin appears to be the founder that trusted "the middling people" the most.. i.e. he was the most democratic. Maybe he was wrong... and Hamilton was the one closest to right. Maybe people really do require to be governed my elitists. We certainly seem to have a Hamiton-like form of government now. I really don't see much sign either that the masses are capable of plugging in long enough to understand what we have in this Adminstration. I know we repeat ourselves here... but that's ok... it's therapy along with that God intended beer.

David, do you watch the Jon Stewart Daily Show? If not, you should catch it sometime. A rare moment happened in the Bolton nomination... several Republicans broke ranks. Stewart put up a graphic that said something like "Non-Partisan Alert"... accompanied by bells and appropriate music. LOL!

btw... saying I don't care about the Caribou was a little misleading. As you probably remember, we are huge dog lovers at the CG house... we have a soft spot for all critters. I was really making the point that any protection of Caribou carries vary little weight compared to fuel required for people's lives. If I thought Anwar really helped... then it would be a no-brainer. The problem is, this admin is lying about Anwar just like everything else. I heard Robert Kennedy Jr say that improving gas mileage in the US by 1 mpg would equal Anwar... 7 mpg gets out of foreign dependence. I don't know if those numbers are correct, but if so... it makes Anwar efforts look pretty dumb and pretty much connected oil company interest and not nation interest. But hey... what do I know... I voted for Kerry and drink too much beer.

7:40 PM  
Blogger someone else said...

Unfortunately I have no faith in the people themselves having the good sense to organize around these issues. But perhaps people will start surprising me one day

Isn't that what we're doing here? There are several people participating in this conversation. I have to imagine there are many, many other conversations like this.

The reason I'm enthusiastic is not blind, but because I see these conversations all around about different issues, from lgbt rights among lgbt people to race among people of color to many other things (I think the 2000 democratic primaries, i was pretty much at the nadir on this point--at least for me).

More and more I see the "this is what's wrong and this is what we're going to do about it" kind around me. It's moving slowly, but it's moving.

So hop on board :) I'm sure there's an energy conservation and/or alternative fuel group that could use your labor, money, or emotional energy (even if it's one you have to start yourself). We all have something to give.

3:50 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

I have little doubt that those numbers regarding ANWAR drilling and the CAFÉ are based on fact. Conservation is a huge potential swing. Not to mention that if Conservation is encouraged in an intelligent way, the long-term effect would be to make our products more competitive. As global energy demands increase, we could be able to use this as a strategic advantage.

DavidR hit it on the head when he said, if God didn't want me getting drunk he wouldn't have made yeast. I think that argument is kind of weak. I’d also add that Genesis 1:29 says that plants and animals are given to the dominion of man for food. There is no real warrant to suggest that we are free to simply as we please with the earth and other living beings.

I’m not a Green, but rather and old time conservationist. I believe we need to prudently protect our natural environment but that we should balance such things against the progress of man. And I further agree with DavidR that drilling in the Anwar is a concern primarily because the simpletons will go, “whew, problem solved!” And of course the conservatives will smugly assert that they yet again rescued America from liberals that would have us all sit in unheated homes and ride bicycles. Otherwise, I think careful drilling in Anwar is a good thing but we still need the strategic energy policy I’m calling for.

On the cost effectiveness of energy. I just want to be clear here: I think while new technologies today aren’t cost effective, with further research and development they most certainly will become so. Prof can dis photovolatics if he wishes, but steady progress has been made. There is technology on the lab bench that has the potential of pushing efficiency up a full order of magnitude. I do not suggest anything is a total solution. I do suggest that perhaps many different energy sources will not just make sense, but excel at certain applications. Look at the growth in solar powered lighting for public signs, or the new solar powered yard lights that I just bought. Wind has long worked in the Windswept west and should continue to be pursued. Fuel cells will undoubtedly have a role in certain applications.

Rather than simply nitpicking the problems of these things and clinging to the still distant hope of hydrogen fusion, we need to invest now. This is where I go off the rails with my libertarian brethren. The American economy has excelled primarily because of the genius of free enterprise. However, it is folly not to give proper credit to key government support over the years such as the Interstate Highway System and the enormous facilities gifts at end of the Second World War.

9:54 AM  
Blogger Randy P said...

And Anwar will probably not see much result for about ten years. It will take yearsa to just figure out where to start drilling and then there has to be a thermally protected pipeline that does as little damage to the enviro as possible. We could be reaping the benefits of wind and sun within months on a small scale and a couple of years on a larger scale. Quit honestly we have let our politicians paint us into a corner, which is exactly what they are not suppose to do. I say get rid of all of them limit all terms so that there is no succesive terms greater than 8 years. The Congress can re-run after a four year hiatis and let's get some new blood in there. I think that that would solve some quick fix problems, right away.

11:32 AM  
Blogger Randy P said...

And if we could just abolish the parties on the left all would be greater for it

11:33 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


I am all for term limits, but the need to be constitutional. I would also put at an equal priority constitutionally prohibiting ballot access restrictions that operate to keep Republocrats in office and third parties on the fringes.

The term limits I have suggested in the past are: 1) President > one 6 year term, 2) Senator > three 3 year terms, 3) Congressmen > 3 two year terms, 4) additional restriction for federal elected office of 9 consecutive years and with a 3 year gap, 12 total years.

And the third thing, which may be more important than any of the others: Constitutional amendment forcing public financing of all campaigns.

Ideally, I would also like to see some form of testing to qualify for a voter registration card. This also could be done, but only with a Constitutional amendment.

As far as parties on the “left”, I have to tell you the old left-right labels have ceased to make any sense to me. If they work for you, great, but I’d like to see a lot more parties myself.

11:45 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


Still no response from Focus on the Family. I guess I won’t hold my breath any longer.

I am still shocked that somebody at FOTF bothered hitting the website though as I sent the text to them in my email.

12:44 PM  
Blogger Randy P said...


Wondering what your thoughts on this were. Funny how things never really get worked out, or that we always come full circle.

Commemoration of Mellitus, First Bishop of London, 624
The Church has always found it easier to fulfill her
priestly than her prophetic role. The temptation to
institutionalism is always with us, and who will profess
himself guiltless? We reduce Christianity to the service of an
institution, the Church, for this enables us to be active in
what is fondly called "the work of the Lord," while at the
same time failing to grapple with the fundamental problem for
all Christians, that of winning our generation for Christ. In
our little circle of like-minded people we condemn outsiders
because they do not come in. Perhaps we even make half-hearted
attempts to get them to come in. And then we snuggle down
again in the warmth of our fellowship, comforted that we have
done all that might reasonably be expected of men in our
situation. Fortified with this consolation we concentrate on
keeping the institution, the Church, running as it should.
... Leon Morris (b.1914)

1:25 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


Great quote. I’ve never seen that before. It reminds me of one of the Screwtape Letters, but I don’t have that volume here to find the citation. Screwtape definitely made that argument.

It is worth noting that Jesus never told us to build Cathedral’s. He never donned the vestments of the Temple. It is no accident that as Christians have vacillated on these simple teachings, that evil has resulted.

I’ve thought about writing a book about what Jesus would have to say about American Christianity and its political involvement. I just don’t think Jesus would be as approving of Tom Delay as is the Religious Right.

I have left large institutional religion probably for good. I go now to a Christian Church and generally adhere to the ideas of the restoration movement. I am excited to be in a Church that actually believes in outreach and the teachings of Christ. I think getting back to the basics are where it is at in terms of the great Commission and truly making a difference.

2:00 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

"And then we snuggle down
again in the warmth of our fellowship, comforted that we have
done all that might reasonably be expected of men in our

Clear your conscience.... go with the snuggling down.

Regarding the topic of this blog... I just heard my Senator (Inhofe) claim on the Senate floor that Global Warming is one of the greatest hoaxes ever pulled on the population. He offered as proof (you just can't make this kind of stuff up), Michael Chricton's new book. When I make fun you your Texas elected types in the future, please feel free to remind my about mine. And btw... Inhofe is our most sane senator of the two.

2:17 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


While I’m concerned about Global Warming, I’m not seriously worried at this point. I think the doomsayers are as overstated as the Idiothoffes are understated.

The problem with it is that the science is not conclusive, but the evidence is continuing to mount that something should be done. While I have consistently railed against over-reaction, I’m growing with impatience at no reaction. It is so striking to me when you look at natural gas in motor vehicles what a win-win prospect that is for the US and the world. By developing cheap NG engines and refining an economical delivery system, we could have a technology that would make us world leaders in an important arena. And falling short of that, we could eliminate our dependence on foreign oil and greatly reduce green house gas emissions. It is unconscionable that we aren’t doing more to encourage the development of these technologies.

2:28 PM  
Blogger Prof. Ricardo said...

Prof can dis photo-volatics if he wishes, but steady progress has been made.

I have read magazines, books, and catalogs galore on solar panels/electricity/setups, etc. Their cost effectiveness depends more on distribution difficulties than cost/watt of fossil fuel electricity. I have no problem of people wanting to supplement or replace the grid with solar, wind, or whatever. I like the idea of energy independence, both personally and nationally. However, I am against punitive taxes to herd us towards one direction or another. Solar panels are coming down in price slooowwwly, and they are increasing in output efficiency. They are coming on board just as fast as they should. Kind of market driven, if you will. I like that.

Re: Global Warming, Paul Harvey mentioned today (4/25) that a significant global warming meeting had been cancelled. All the blizzards and snow is screwing up traffic, I guess. Just got off the phone with a client in Colorado. He says there’s a foot of snow on the ground. All the snow this year has been hampering construction. They tell me that the severe winters are actually a symptom of global warming. I love it. A theory where no evidence can contradict it. If the temperature goes up, its global warming. If the temperature goes down, its global warming. I’m not as worried since the same sky-is-falling crowd said in the 70's we were heading towards another ice age. I figure one will offset the other very nicely.

David & C.G.

Re: CAFÉ mpg requirements for vehicles. What mpg do you propose? How do you suggest engineers get there? Do the vehicles you currently drive reflect a commitment to your ideal of higher mpg’s?

Prof. Ricardo
Elk taste good too.

3:39 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

"The problem with it is that the science is not conclusive"

Some believe it is very conclusive, and the only confusion is coming from the industry paid "scientist" to make up arguments against it... i.e. introduce confusion.

I'm no genius... but I have seen the before and after pictures. Big frickin chunks of ice before... no ice after. :)

My two Senators are a bit touched.... that's my story and I'm sticking with it. The one who isn't proclaiming all global warming science "is a hoax", is very worried about too much lesbian sex in Oklahoma school bathrooms (I assume given his ideology, it was only happening in public school bathrooms). Oklahoma... home of the Cowboy, Indian and Lesbo children... who knew?

3:39 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...


Molly Ivins provided a book review for you. I know how you love Molly. :)

I've only eaten Elk once... and it was very good. I drive a very old Lexus LS 400... but not very far. :) I don't want to drive one of those little hybrid tin cans either, but there are worse things... if you know what I mean.
Maybe the big cities should have hybrid lanes so they won't get run over by SUVs. :)

btw... from the Molly article (I can't help myself :):

"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."

--- John Kenneth Galbraith

3:59 PM  
Blogger Prof. Ricardo said...


You said:“Some believe it is very conclusive, and the only confusion is coming from the industry paid "scientist" to make up arguments against it... i.e. introduce confusion.”

From a Walter E. Williams column, my current fav economist:

According to the July 2001 Consumers' Research article "Global Warming Science: Fact vs. Fiction," written by Mark LaRochelle and Peter Spencer, the media have it all wrong. The news media have leaped to erroneous conclusions from a summary of a yet-to-be-released 3,000-page report. A follow-up study on global warming was released June 2001 by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Science.

MIT Professor Richard Lindzen, one of the NRC panelists and lead author of the IPCC report says: "Our primary conclusion was that despite some knowledge and some agreement, the science is by no means settled. We are quite confident (1) that global mean temperature is about 0.5 degrees Celsius higher than a century ago; (2) that atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide have risen over the past two centuries; and (3) that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas whose increase is likely to warm the Earth. But – and I cannot stress this enough – we are not in a position to confidently attribute past climate change to carbon dioxide or to forecast what the climate will be in the future." Adding, "That is to say, contrary to media impressions, agreement with the three basic statements tells us almost nothing relevant to policy discussions."

That conclusion shows just how much confidence we can have in what the media and environmental radicals tell us.

You say, "Williams, are the environmentalists lying and deliberately frightening us?" That's part of their strategy. Consider what environmentalist activist Stephen Schneider said in a 1989 issue of Discover: "We have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we may have. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest."

Here's what former Sen. Timothy Wirth, D-Colo., was quoted as saying in Michael Fumento's "Science Under Siege": "We've got to ride the global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we'll be doing the right thing, in terms of economic policy and environmental policy."

Dr. Fred Singer, president of The Science & Environmental Policy Project in Arlington, Va., says there are four different independent data sets for measuring temperature. First are thermometers at weather stations around the world. They show warming over the past 30 years, but not in the United States. The second are weather satellites. They show no warming. The third are weather balloons. They show no warming. The fourth are called proxy data – tree rings, ice cores, lake sediments, etc. They show no warming.

We choose sources of information that agree with our worldview. It causes less stomach acid. I just thought I would give you one such bit of info from this side of the argument.

Prof. Ricardo

4:02 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


Well, that is a nice head in the sand approach to energy independence. You like the idea but you are unwilling to do anything to achieve it.

I suppose our differing attitudes have something to do with the apparent urgency. I for one am not comfortable sitting idly by and allow countries such as Saudi Arabia and Venezuela acquire the means of our destruction through our own unwillingness to come to grips with reality.

Ideally, I would agree that I don’t really want the government to herd us toward particular solutions. But the exigency of the moment dictates that we should be doing something to encourage us to move in some direction. I am more of the tax credit kind of bent on a lot of this stuff: gently nudging the cost-benefit ratio to favor newer technologies. But I have always favored direct government funding of basic research and I think the areas of nuclear fusion and hydrogen combustion belong in this category.

I share your skepticism on Global Warming as I stated above. That said, I think it is just good common sense to not continue to dump CO2, Nox, and Ozone into the atmosphere. While the hysteria is unwarranted, I just think it is smart to work toward a better way.

On CAFÉ. I think that short term we should look to improve fuel economy by 25% and 50% in the not too distant future. But I would actually change it to an individual vehicle standard and heavily tax the vehicles that don’t meet the standards.

Don’t lose track of what I’m saying: I view this as a true emergency. It takes years to get this stuff on-line and starting now is the only hope.

4:19 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...


Thanks for the info. Ironically, ice cores were exactly what they were using to explain that Global Warming was historically real on a show I watched recently.

Hey, maybe we should just quit poisoning ourselves first, and then worry about the temperature. Dennis Miller said that if the nation's temp went up 3 degrees in the next several years, he would just tell his kid they moved to Phoenix. :)

4:23 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


I agree with William’s summary sort of…the problem I have is using our uncertainty as a justification for doing NOTHING. That kind of thinking leads to things like the Iraq war. I suppose for some people that might seem a good thing, but I like to do things for reasons.

The sad thing is that this discussion illustrates one of the key themes here at the Disenfranchised Curmudgeon: by tolerating a two party mentality, people can only think at one extreme or the other. The truth is that dumping crap into the environment cannot possibly be a good thing. The truth is that over-reaction or hasty reactions can lead to new and unanticipated problems (think MTBE here). The ideas that we need to do nothing or we need to do everything are both equally absurd.

Oh, and I try very hard to read sources that disagree with me. In fact, I try to avoid sources that I know in advance will simply parrot my own outlook.

4:31 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

WhooHoo! I just got another hit from the Focus on the Family domain. This was from a different computer too.

{sniffle} Somebody actually cares. {sniffle}

4:35 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Maybe FOF can hire you for their constitution propaganda in the future. :)

5:26 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


FOTF would’ve been better off paying me to write that letter for them. I might have disagreed but I could have at least kept Dobson out of a logical ditch.

5:33 PM  
Blogger Prof. Ricardo said...

Rambling on the “N” word.

Except for the security issue, I think the military’s use of small nuclear power plants to power ships and subs demonstrates the safety of using nuclear power for energy production, if indeed they are the same kinds of power production units that the civilians could use. I am ignorant of such things. Neighborhoods, huge businesses like General Motors Corp, and small townships could all be independent of a “grid” tie-in with large multi-state grids prone to black outs and brown outs. Of course, security is an issue, so in a world of post 9/11 where bad boys will be bad boys, unless each place has such a security force as is necessary (I have no idea what Comanche Peak has), its all just a dream.

Prof. Ricardo

8:31 AM  
Blogger Randy P said...

Great point Prof,

If an aircraft carrier can produce enough power to operate it could certainly be done for production plants, this would be the start, with some moderate tax breaks it could start just the revolution we need. And to top that off, extra security requirements would bolster the economy of those areas

11:56 AM  
Blogger Prof. Ricardo said...

Tony: “...the problem I have is using our uncertainty as a justification for doing NOTHING.

I am not opposed to either progress, nor corporate concern, nor even all governmental nudges and restrictions to better our society. However, the track record of our government at responding emotionally and quickly to perceived difficulties or needs, warrants a much closer, less emotional, less political analysis and more equitable solutions.

Every governmental action benefits some group and hurts another. Many governmental actions are initiated solely to benefit some small group at the expense of some greater group. Whether you agree with the particular programs are determined in part on whether your pet groups are being benefitted or hurt.

There are many groups that greatly dislike, for a multitude of reasons, big business, technology, free enterprise, western philosophies, advancements, and superiority, the “current administration,” and a host of other reasons that may not be relevant to you or me in a discussion of energy and such. You would think that if the government passed a law requiring 10% alcohol in automotive fuels that that would be decided mainly upon the weighing of feasibility, air pollution, effect on fuel economy, distribution, maintenance increase of autos and equipment, etc. However, it might have more to depend on farm groups lobbying for greater demand for their product, turning up the heat to politicians to mandate an additional demand for their product. With governmental authority to mandate so many sweeping changes (most outside of their constitutional authority given them, I might add), my default mode is to be suspicious of anything the government wishes to do, regardless of what the publicly announced intentions and goals are. Have I swung too far in my caution? Maybe. However, the more I delve into the behind the scenes workings in government, even into my beloved founding fathers, the more cynical I become of man doing a selfless act for the good of all through government.

Whether you believe in my level of caution, skepticism, or paranoia, please note that it is not random or without basis. Such are most of the beliefs espoused on these blogs. Note also that I am here to learn and fellowship more than teach. A wholly selfish act on my own part I admit.

Prof. Ricardo

9:39 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


Well with that post you and I have a lot of agreement. I totally share your distrust of government. In fact I have written in these pages that a return to “gridlock” inside the beltway would be a good thing. I never saw that as an evil at all because it seemed then, as it does now, that whenever the Government does anything, it is almost never progress these days.

So in a very real sense, I tend to write idealistically. I do not find that wallowing in despair over the dysfunctionality of the Government is productive. Granted, I’m often walking a fine line and I still do that plenty. Your analysis preferring that the Government not get involved is generally one to which on many issues I do in fact ascribe.

The thing about an energy policy is that it isn’t just an ordinary policy discussion in my mind. This is the stuff that can at the low end destroy America and on the high end perhaps bring on Armageddon. And the matter is, of course, tightly coupled with the “War on Terrorism”. I can think of no other policy gaffe to better illustrate the lack of serious commitment to combating terrorism than the administration’s unwillingness to address our energy reliance on the Middle East.

In short, while I may share your suspicions about the Government, a call to action in this arena is just calling for ordinary defense of our nation at a time of great peril.

I would add that I have no doubt your opinions are not developed randomly or haphazardly. That is why I value your contributions. In truth, we have a lot of very thoughtful and substantive people posting here and it is a delight to learn from one another.

10:15 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...


I don't think many of us here think government is working out great... except maybe TC. I also think almost everyone who posts here is concerned for the average, struggling citizen. We just come to different conclusions, given the messed up nature of our government, what are the best odds for that struggling citizen. (Note: you may follow a much "tougher love" approach, but at the end of the day we all care about the little guy). You come to the conclusion that the best bet for all of us is minimum government. I come to the conclusion that THE ONLY CHANCE the little guy has IS THE GOVERNMENT (maybe not our current practice, but it's the little guys only hope that we get government right). I don't believe trickle down covers the need, others do. I guess as long as we are all fighting like crazy to catch those who fall through the cracks in our own way... we still have a chance to figure this out. :)

Prof... only a knowledge absorbing sponge. Nice try. :)

10:17 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Also, from a New York Times forum that Tony pointed out to me... don't know the author... subject was the Social Security private accounts:

"Mr. Radcon writes these words in the context of an on-going critique of alleged socialist tendencies that he believes will destroy the country. He trumpets the virtues of a free market system, one that does not exist and thus cannot be said to be responsible for the unprecedented prosperity this country enjoys. Why, one wonders, does he insist on an ideological construct that flies in the face of human experience? That human experience is that the system that has in fact given us our abundance is a mixed economy with extensive corporate-state partnership, considerable regulation, all manner of incentives and subsidies, some degree of income redistribution, and a significant social safety net. Government, in this system, accounts for about one-third of GDP. No doubt, this system is highly productive; what it is not is a laissez-faire utopia. Nevertheless, despite the unmatched track record of this system, Mr. Radcon and others of his persuasion attack and belittle large parts of it, while claiming credit for its success."

It usually doesn't take me long to find folks saying what I've been trying to say... but about 100% better. :(

10:31 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

I guess he reads my blog: Shrub for nukes.

4:16 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

I heard some of Shrub this afternoon. I think he plagiarized your blog. I don't blame him, you are definitely smarter than he is. Not sure that's much of a compliment though... I think a lot of us are smarter than he is. I was thinking about creating a tshirt that said "I am smarter than our president".

Hey Sergeant of Arms lurker... run that over to the oval office.

4:42 PM  
Blogger Randy P said...

Hey Tony,

I assume (there I go again) when you choice not to try and bring moral reform to the platform of political agendas this is where you are coming from.

Commemoration of Peter Chanel, Religious, Missionary in
the South Pacific, Martyr, 1841

The missionary goes out to men of other faiths and of no
faith, not to argue, not to make comparisons, never to claim a
superior knowledge or revelation, but to tell of a glorious
deed, of the New Creation that has occurred and of the New
Being that has appeared and into which men may enter. This is
testimony, the apostolic testimony, and this, with the energy
of love, is the missionary motive. The insistent task of
missionary education and responsibility is to engender this
motive throughout the Church, a task that can only be
accomplished as men are confronted anew with the message of
the Bible and with its supreme and central story, the story of
the cross.
... Douglas Webster (b.1920), Local Church and World
Mission [1964]

9:50 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


That quote gets at the heart of my thinking on the subject. But it goes farther than that simple truth. I think Christians today have a serious communication problem. We live in a post-modern world but our language is from another era entirely. We are wildly out of touch with not just what people are thinking, but how they think.

I have credited Francis Schaeffer and Daniel Boorstin for shaping my thoughts in this area many times. Honestly, I do think that The Image should be required reading for every American and How Shall We Then Live for every Christian. These books in particular really turned the light bulbs on for this Curmudgeon. I actually think what they say is more profound because they wrote so far in the past, and you can see how their observations have continued to play out.

But the point is that we are not doing our part of the Great Commission if we are not attempting to communicate. Communication is a difficult thing. What people hear when we speak is seldom what is meant. When people listen to many of the “prominent” Christian voices, they do not hear a message of love. They do not hear the Good News of Grace.

I believe this problem is compounded by tying ourselves to base political factions. Those standing outside the body of Christ look at these ties with a very jaundiced eye. They see the hypocrisy of the politicians and assess the value of Christianity, in part, on our attitude toward these very public figures. Politics is a very seedy and slimy business and we should distance ourselves from it at every opportunity. And if we do that, we will have a much better chance of having our life changing message heard and accepted by the society as a whole.

10:16 AM  
Blogger Randy P said...

I guess I will have to read those, I did see myself starting to feel that way over the last several years. I still fight with morality and how it would better serve the nation as a whole instead of this do-it if it feels good attitude that is prevolent, in christians as well as society. The problem with if it feels good do it, is no matter what you are doing to feel good you are hurting someone. Maybe a drastic shift in laws and policies would change some of that, but I only see the vision of a free nation spiralling downward swiftly.

10:56 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


I can not speak highly enough of The Image and
How Shall We Then Live.

I stumbled on the Image about ten years ago. I became a Boorstin fan because of his writings on history and had already read his stuff extensively when I happened on the Image in the University of Pennsylvania bookstore. I loved it immediately because he really connected the dots of several things which were on my mind at that time. If you want to understand how the media works in the contemporary mindset, this is a starting place. His concept of pseudo-events has been recognized by scholars on both the left and right as foundational.

Schaeffer is simply essential reading for Christians. I’d also say that Schaeffer should be read by non-Christians who want to understand the thoughtful Christian’s perspective on modern belief systems. Schaeffer certainly doesn’t speak for all Christians, but I don’t think he is far off the mark for most. How Shall We Then Live is one of his later works that kind of sums up what he had written before and is a bit lighter than his other books. Schaeffer, if you don’t know, had a passion for reaching young people. Back in the 50s and 60s he was concerned about young people and the philosophical stuff they were picking up in Universities. He and his wife founded a boarding house in Switzerland for young people seeking Truth. All that said, his works are far from just pure intellectual stuff and How Shall We Then Live is very user friendly.

The links above will get you to Amazon where you can find used copies at very reasonable prices.

11:19 AM  
Blogger Randy P said...

OK got four books yesterday, 2 from Boorstin, one from Schaeffer, and Issaccson's Frankilin book. I used to read so much, I would devour books. I was much younger then and my choices were not educational or insipartional, just good reading. Now they don't seem to interest me much, and I went through a dry spell and probably didn't read four books a year for the last three years. Terrible I know, I am getting back into it now, and have five books this year already and plan on putting away another ten to tweleve by December.

Christian Quotation of the Day

April 29, 2005

Feast of Catherine of Siena, Mystic, Teacher, 1380

It seems to me to be the best proof of an evangelical
disposition, that persons are not angry when reproached, and
have a Christian charity for those that ill deserve it.
... The Colloquies of Erasmus (1466?-1536)

It is still amazing me that with all these men of Christianity that seemed to be saying the right thing, no one has gotten it in hundreds....nay thousands of years.

Who wants to start a pool on the out come of Delay

7:33 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


I think the fact that so few get it is nothing more than the redeemed man’s two natures. But I think more than a few get it. Even some of the bigger name evangelists seem to get it and are starting to talk about it at times. I’ve head Alistair Begg and Chuck Swindoll both address this issue in different ways.

It is so very hard to criticize evangelists as an evangelical Christian because of the words of Christ. I am painfully aware when I’m critical that “there but for the grace of God go I”. I’m prone to the same fits of human arrogance as those who I criticize. But then nobody said the Christian walk was an easy walk, especially not Jesus. When I get into this arena publicly, it is my prayer that I approach things in a way of which Christ would approve. This is why I like to talk more about how the political activism affects our witness than the apparent hypocrisy of prominent evangelists. Besides, I do not know the heart of people involved in the unholy union of Church and politics and that is between them and God. But I do know I seem some fruits that do not appear to be fruits of the spirit.

Good luck with your reading. Those are all great books. I’m working on the Issacson Franklin biography now myself. I don’t think it is quite as great as advertised, but it is very good. If you are interested in biographies of that era, you can’t beat the McCullough biography of John Adams. And it is my prayer that Schaeffer can mean even half as much to you as he has meant to me, though I know he isn’t for everybody.

7:52 AM  
Blogger Randy P said...

Anybody read Sean Hannity's "Deliver us from evil"

12:27 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...


I haven't read Hannity's book. I'm like you... I went for a long time without reading much, and now I've been on a reading frenzy for a couple of years.

If you are looking for ideas, I got a lot out of the following:

1) Wealth and Democracy
2) The Right Nation
3) Perfectly Legal
4) Why Lincoln Still Matters
5) Saving Capitalism From The Capitalist
6) American Dynasty

6:06 PM  
Blogger Randy P said...

Yeah CG,

You want me to type perfectly legal into google?

6:51 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...


I always start with Amazon (you can read the reviews before you buy). For you, I will provide the links. Don't say liberals aren't good for something every now and then. :)

I didn't put my entire reading list up because I figure it would bore the Curmsters... but I guess this blog has pretty much died it's natural death. Most of my reading list is included at the bottom of this post. You can find most of them at amazon.com. If any of them peaks your interest, just ask about them.

Perfectly Legal, The Right Nation, Why Lincoln Matters, Wealth and Democracy, American Dynasty, Saving Capitalism from the Capitalist

---- CG self-study program :) ----

> history, philosophy, bio's - bios mainly books on tape:
> James Madison
> John Adams
> Churchill
> Lincoln
> Benjamin Franklin (Issacson) - just finished... really enjoyed it.
> The Federalist Papers
> Thomas Paine (Common Sense, Rights of Man, Age of Reason)
> Plato's Republic
> The Prince

> Economics
> Wealth and Democracy - Kevin Phillips - excellent
> Saving Capitalism from the Capitalist
> Perfectly Legal - all tax payers should read

> Politics
> Why Lincoln Still Matters - Mario Cuomo - excellent
> The Right Nation (most excellent)
> American Dynasty (Bush dyansty) - Kevin Phillips
> Price of Loyalty - Paul O'Neill
> Against all Enemies - Richard Clarke
> Plan of Attack - Bob Woodward
> Lies and the Lying Liars.... Al Franken ... LOL.
> Thieves in High Places - Jim Hightower - good rant

> Fiction
> Teeth of the Tiger - Clancy - he's not as good anymore
> Birds of Prey - Wilbur Smith - excellent

> Other
> Longitudes and Attitudes - Thomas Friedman
> The Gospels
> Two O'Reilly books - pretty much a waste

> Bought, but not read yet:
> The Adams Jefferson Letters
> Monsoon - sequel to Birds of Prey
> Atlas Shrugged
> Das Kapital - Marx (started to read, and then my eyes glazed over)
> Under the Banner of Heaven

7:34 PM  
Blogger yoshitownsend said...

"Anybody read Sean Hannity's 'Deliver us from evil?'"

I look at that book sometimes for fun. My grandma has it; it's reading at a fifth grade level. It should go on the bookshelf next to the biography of Hulk Hogan. Sean Hannity is what I call "pop" politics, half news, half entertainment, like TIME magazine or Newsweek. It's for people who want a really thin perspective on what's happening in the world. Again, Time and Newsweek are for 5th graders.

Consider real books. Check out Thomas Friedman's new book: The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century

or Jeffrey Sachs: The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time

9:06 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Hey Yoshi,

Friedman has been everywhere selling his new book. I caught quite a bit of his 3 hour interview on C-Span2 over the weekend. I just made a comment on his NYTimes forum regarding his "flat world" thesis. You know I'm a huge fan of his, but I think he blows right past the problem of a potential wage race to the bottom. He sings the out-compete and better education lyrics very well, but seems almost oblivious to the fact you can't out-compete 1/10th the wage. I'm siding with Tony on this one... we can and we should slow down the inevitable globalization and the effect on our middle class. That's not protectionism... it's just survival.

I'm commongood4 on the NYTimes forum

10:28 PM  
Blogger Randy P said...


Let me get this straight. You want me to get a book called perfectly legal, does your wife know you look at this stuff. I could put it on the coffee table and let all the neighbors know what I am up to. And then after my wife leaves me for looking at that junk, you want me to read Das Kapital and get put on the FBI watch list, which will look really good when they use the patriot act to get into my house and see that I have things like perfectly legal sitting on my coffee table. Thanks

But seriously, I copied all those, and Freidmans for future purchases.

And Yoshi, if your Grandma is reading Hannity they least you can do is read it to discuss it with her. The thing that stands out to me in his book is his rationalization of the Dems loss in 2004. He points out that the major problem with the platform was, no answers. Kerry kept talking his trash about Bush, and could not back anything up with a "This is what I will do". It was always "I wouldn't do it that way, and just not doing it that way is the right way". Kinda a bunch of hogwash if you ask me. And they are still doing it, no answers, nothing on the table to counter, just "nope, ain't gonna do it that way". I wish we had a two party system, I don't think we even have that. I think we have one party and a bunch of anti-parrots, not copying what is being said, but only saying the opposite.

Even if you just boldfaced don't like Hannity, you should check it out and see what the Reps think about the Dems. The best way to defeat the enemy is to know how he is thinking.

7:27 AM  
Blogger Randy P said...


Started "how shall we then live" last night, very interesting.

On another note, I am so glad that global warming is keeping our temps in the high 60's. I don't know what I would do if it were not for all these rising temps and melting ice caps.

7:29 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...


I hope you enjoy Schaeffer. If you like it, I have to tell you that How Shall We Then Live is not his best book. But what I have found is that it wets people’s appetites for more of his work. How Shall We Then Live sounds kind of dated at the very end. It is a shame that Schaeffer cannot update the work because I think it would be fascinating. My favorite of his is The God Who Is There, which most people read back to back with Escape From Reason. All great books.

Schaeffer actually wrote an entire book on the communication thing, but its title escapes me at the moment. If you like the book and want more, I’d encourage you to just get one of the volumes of his Complete Works because it will save you energy hunting down the others.

I actually just received Schaeffer’s Christian Manifesto. Hopefully I can crack that within the next few months.

And the cool weather is just awesome. I love it. I'm wearing long-sleeves in May in Dallas. I would've never believed it could happen.

7:46 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...


Yeah... it's been frickin cold in TTown. I had the same thought about global warming. LOL.


It took a very long time for Das Kapital to get shipped. I told Tony at the time I must be on some watch list. The way I figure it is, if I'm friends with the Curmudgeon, I'm already on all of the lists. :)

Randy, you said:

"He points out that the major problem with the platform was, no answers."

I'm not going to defend the Dems. I think they have no backbone, and the battle cry "let's move to the middle, or try and relate more with the religious zealots" doesn't work for me. You came on the scene here late. Several of us would have voted for Ronald McDonald or Lassie instead of vote for Shrub... so nobody was feeling a lot of love for Kerry.

All of that said... this election wasn't about "relating". IMO, it was about two main things. 1) As Tony points out... FEAR. Fear of terrorism and an ongoing war made the public want to keep riding the same horse (why, I can't tell you). 2) Gay bashing in the name of God and religion. As part of the election, we actually had a dozen states actually put their gay bashing in writing on their ballots. Nice... really Jesus-like, wouldn't you say. I'm sure Jesus would be a big fan of the Theocracy led intolerance and the Money changers control of the plutocracy.

Other than that... yeah, it was because the Dems can't relate. Reading the book "The Right Nation" was about studying the enemy for me.

btw... you sound like you will be very disappointed in "Perfectly Legal"... it's about taxes. :)

9:52 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

The problem with the Dems is the same as with the Republicans: no soul. The GOP has found a set of rhetorical devices that get people going. The Democrats have not done that, hence a failure to “relate” their “message”. This is why I think the time is right for real third parties. If anyone of sufficient stature stands up and leads the charge, people will respond to an agenda with soul. That is the reason why Ross Perot did so well. Cast a public figure, such as the ones from my well-castigated list of ideas a few months back, in the role that Perot tried to perform, and a tidal wave of support could be had. Perot was only limited by his own megalomania.

10:53 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

The only "soul" I need from the Dems is to live by one rule. In case of a tie between collective good and the individual, vote for the collective good. We already have a party that votes for corporations regardless of the merits. The poor Dems can't even stick to that. Like Molly said, 18 Dem senators actually voted for that evil Bankruptcy bill. What more to you need to know?

Don't confuse that with "both parties being equal". The Dems are weak.. the Reps are evil. :)

12:52 PM  
Blogger Randy P said...

It is so weird, I can take all the places of Dems and Reps that you have in both of your posts and switch them, and that is how I feel.


"The GOP has found a set of rhetorical devices that get people going"

I feel the same way about the Dems, although I classify it as "special interest groups". You get several groups of people to believe their rights are being violated, or that they have rights that do not really exist, and you beat them into a frenzy, thow in a few liberal type that think anything is good as long as it feels good and "{poof}" You have the Dem party, all a bunch of (at the moment) whinners IMO.


"Gay bashing in the name of God and religion".

OK, first, defining marraige as a union between a man and a woman is not "bashing" just setting the recoed straight. I know this, because before I found Jesus, I did a little "gay bashing", it was a long time ago, and I am a very different person. I would also like to say, if you are gay, and were on the southern east coast in the late eighties and early ninties, sincerly I am sorry.

I have in recent years, found Jesus and also come to the realization that I can not control, well....anyone. So I have little problem with people engaging in the gay life style. It is their choice and even in my opinion God gave them the free will to choose. Just as he did the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. There is a difference between "Theocracy led intolerance" and what we have, and where we are headed. Actually it is rather insulting that you would state it in this way, and it seems that is just the "special interest" band wagon that I am talking about. To say the the marraige ammendment is "gay bashing" is to completly over look all of the recent additions of laws that now view any minority as being worthy of greater protectionunder the law than average "white folk". It has been a steady decline in this nation over many years, but the white male is vastly being beat down with feminist movements, racism from before the last two generations, and it is all the banner of Dems to make people feel like it is not their fault that they have not tried to climb out of the hole and make better lives for their children and themselves. They have fed off the fears of these individuals for decades, and now you want to say that the Rep platform was built off fear and gay bashing....hog-wash. Rhetoric from the left.

"The Dems are weak.. the Reps are evil"

That is how I feel about the Reps, seems like the Dems go around spouting off about how bad the Reps are and the Reps just take it. There are plenty of cases and instances where Dems have taken things from lobbiests and had questionable flights or vacations.

Now as it seems you are probably as dis-heartened with Dems as I am with the Reps. One thing we can both agree on is that both sides have agendas, and we both focus on a few of those that get us throught the rough times and makes us feel like even though we do not agree with them, the do cover a couple issues that concern us better than the opposing party.

Did I state that fairly?

7:54 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

"Actually it is rather insulting that you would state it in this way...

That's my job in Curmland, in case you haven't noticed.

It has been a steady decline in this nation over many years, but the white male is vastly being beat down with feminist movements, racism from before the last two generations, and it is all the banner of Dems to make people feel like it is not their fault that they have not tried to climb out of the hole and make better lives for their children and themselves.

Sure... the two most endangered species in America is the white man and the fundamentalist Christian. Just a bastion of persecution and white beatings. As you can tell from my reading list, I have pretty familiar with the history of our nation. I'm not sure after revisiting our nation's history that a century of white beatings may not be very well in order. That's not based on Dem or Rep ideology... just conscience. I changed my voter registration from Republican to Democrat before the 2004 election. I attended appearances by Wes Clark and John Edwards in Tulsa. This middle aged white guy found himself surrounded by a lot of black faces. I have never felt better about myself and that decision. You don't get it... it isn't about anti-white. It's about removing the blind spot and finally saying... enough is enough... too much greed and ignoring those in need, too much continued racism that prevents a level playing field. If you think a white man in this country has suddenly become the repressed, you really need to get out more. On top of all of that, we have a new form of racism now that is color neutral... and that's a racism againt the poor led full steam ahead by the Republican party. Randy, just think about it. They just cut $10 billion in Medicaid, and approved $100+ billion tax breaks to the rich. These are the kind of choices the Republicans are making... under the banner of economic stimulus, too much rich soaking in the past (you know,those guys with second homes and airplanes), a "ownership society", we have to cut spending so it's better to take grandma's surgery away rather than Paris Hilton not be able to buy some new shoes. Calling the Republicans (current brand of it... because a conservative voice can be positive) evil is going a little to easy on them.

They have fed off the fears of these individuals for decades, and now you want to say that the Rep platform was built off fear and gay bashing....

Actually, I said Shrub won the election through the use of gay bashing. He slid into his second term by playing to the homophobes that feel entitled to define the rights of others based on their relationship with Jesus. Hey, it's an age old honored tradition in this country and others... choose someone to hold out as inferior. By definition, you become superior if you define others as inferior. Protect the sanctity of marriage?... you mean that institution that fails constantly at about 50%. Ironically, I find your pre-Jesus gay bashing to be much more honest than the gay bashing cloaked under the banner of "your god is telling you to do this".

9:57 AM  
Blogger Randy P said...

I do not gay bash under a cloak of Christianity, didn’t when I was young and do not now. I have a close family friend that we always called “uncle” that is gay, and I work with gay people. I do not have a problem with gay people they are nice and generally respectful, until you disagree and say “I don’t think you are born gay, and I think it is a choice you make that is wrong”. Coincidentally I find it to be wrong on more fronts than Christian teachings, it is also un-natural. And yet again I do not denigrate this life style. My problem comes when they now have great protection under our criminal law, and California schools are forced to teach it as a life style as an opposing view to heterosexual health education. I find this to be wrong, and that it is the left forcing things and swinging the pendulum way to far. That is what I see bringing most of this RR vs. left wing to a head and drawing so many lines in the sand. I also want to go on record as saying we can uphold marriage and give a civil union to same sex couples. I have not problem with this. It is a free country and everyone should be penalized the same way. I also do not believe in common law marriage. Maybe that is for another time. Co-habitation in the privacy of one’s home is one’s business and should be left that way, on both sides, hetero, and same sex.

1:18 PM  

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