Peak China

I’m traveling to Beijing this Thursday, so I need to write this blog entry…

First there was peak oil, the idea that has fascinated many since the 1970s that oil production was about to peak and then collapse, leaving our economy crippled.  Then there was “peak everything” as it has been called, the regular doomsaying that everything from clean water to the ingredients of computer chips are running out.

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Defund Guantanamo

In Doctor Strangelove, the Russians develop a nuclear doomsday device that will destroy the world if they are attacked.  The perfect deterrent, except they keep the device top secret.  Woops!  Republicans have now developed the same thing in reverse: a threat that isn’t a threat, according to them.  Having threatened to do the unthinkable (cause default on US debt) if they don’t get their way, they now say default wouldn’t be that bad.

If that’s the way Republican thinking is evolving, we may be headed for default after all.  Or, at least, we’re headed for a situation where President Obama may have to make some tough decisions.  If, as Republicans say, the US can pay the obligations it really needs to and defer the rest, then it would be up to the executive branch (i.e. the President) to decide what to defer funding on.  The President says you can’t just pick and choose what parts of the government to fund.  But in case he has to, I have some suggestions that he may like:

1) Defund Guantanamo.  Military bases maintained in hostile territory are always expensive, so this will save quite a bit of money.  Just put all the people there on a ship and get them out overnight.  The Cubans will occupy it the next day, and there would be no way we could ever go back.  (And terminate the lease to be sure of that.)  Guantanamo shut down, money saved, international festering sore instantly healed.

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So you drive on the left, but where do you park?

The British drive on the left, as Americans and Europeans know, making driving there daunting for right-side drivers. But driving on the opposite side is only the beginning of troubles for Americans visiting Britain.

One big challenge for Americans is the size of the roads.  We’re used to wide roads of consistent width and free from obstacles.  British roads are often narrow, with parked cars on both sides, leaving only enough room for one car to pass at a time.  Oncoming cars regularly cross the center line in order to go around parked cars and the driver must be prepared for this to happen without warning.

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Immigration Reform Thoughts

I was rereading my earlier post on how immigration reform doesn’t require amnesty, and had a few more thoughts.

I had written that immigration of low-skilled workers could be based on employment, just like it is for highly skilled workers.  But in addition, we need to recognize that in the long term, immigration should depend on other factors as well, and should allow periods of unemployment because these are understandable.

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Recall Elections

The recent recall election in Colorado unseated two Democratic lawmakers who had voted for moderate state gun control measures, chilling the climate for gun control there and arguably nationwide.  How do recall elections work, and how could increasing use of recalls affect politics?

The states have different laws regarding whether and how recalls are allowed.  Most states do not authorize recall elections, while nineteen states do.  In Colorado, along with California, a petition to recall an officeholder that gathers enough valid signatures triggers a recall election with a two-part ballot.  Part 1 asks if the officeholder should be removed from office, and Part 2 contains a choice of candidates to replace them.  All voters may mark Part 2 no matter how they vote in Part 1.  However, the incumbent officeholder may not appear on Part 2.

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