Pie in the Sky

Something doesn’t quite add up for Mark Kennedy:

Rep. Mark Kennedy, a Republican on the committee from Minnesota has said, “It’s irresponsible to spend $27 million on bike paths when we have families stuck in traffic all over the metro area and many unsafe rural roads,” said Kennedy. “It’s time for Washington to set and stick to some spending priorities.”

Yeah, if only there were some way to get people out of congested traffic and off unsafe rural roads… Ah, but that’s just crazy talk. We need to get real and put a stop to this bike path nonsense.

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From a NYTImes story:

Health officials in Oklahoma are reminding residents not to leave children in closed, parked cars as the temperature rises above 90.

There are two things wrong with that statement. First, it’s wrong that they should even need to say it. Second, it’s missing the bit where if you are found to have done it your children get taken away from you because you’re not fit to raise watercress.

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The West Wing

I watched an old episode of The West Wing last night. It got me wondering what the next season would look like, as I believe it will include the election of the next (pretend) President. That, in turn, had me speculating on what the show would look like if the writers decided on a Republican victor.

The current show is based on the idea that Democrats want to help people. They are kept from this at times by evil Republicans (though mostly they are shown more as political opponents rather than nasty caricatures), or by political realities, and often just by the turn of events. I think there is plenty wrong with the Democratic party, but this does seem to be a core value; at times they are spectacularly bad at it, and much too often they are distracted by politics and elections, but I think the majority are actually trying to help people.

I imagine a similar principle would apply to a Republican version, with the qualification that rather than helping people, Republicans will want to create the conditions in which people can help themselves. That’s a very reasonable viewpoint (both sides want people to do well, it’s just a question of how best to achieve that aim). But for a TV show it falls down on two counts.

1. It’s not very, erm, exciting. “Hey, we cut marginal rates on certain fixed-asset depreciation schedules by two percentage points, which should in turn free up valuable funds that should trickle down to market-based initiatives to deal with inner-city delinquency.” That may be good economics, but it’s hardly gripping TV.
2. They are staggeringly bad at it, even when compared to Democrats. A Democrat may allocate money to a program that doesn’t do what was intended, and might even do the exact opposite, but they were taking positive action to affect change. A Republican’s primary task is to add small amounts to certain key programs, while more than balancing these increases with large, even total, cuts to everything else. AND THEY DON”T DO IT! Discretionary spending goes up and up, even when they try to disguise it in military spending. It’s the principal lever they have to pull, and they’re pushing it!

And so I got to wondering what they actually do in Congress and the White House, given that they don’t seem able to do this central thing. Do they sit around hatching evil schemes to deprive people of their liberties/money/contraceptives? Do they roll around naked all day in big piles of dollar bills, prior to raining it down on their oil company buddies in secret ceremonies deep underneath the White House? Do they, in short, do what all the Democrat conspiracy-theorists think they do? And if not (and I don’t think that they do), what are they doing?

Scotty and Me

James Doohan, the actor who played Star Trek’s Scotty, has died In reading the story I learned that we had something in common; like the average person we have/had less than 10 fingers. There are a couple of small differences; I’m missing the tip of my right index finger, whereas he was missing his right middle finger; and he lost his on Juno beach during D-Day, while I lost mine sitting on the step outside the toilet. But there’s a connection there, even so.

Le Tour

Here’s an account of an amateur cyclist doing a mountain stage of the Tour de France. I particularly like this bit, while he is cycling up the Col d’Aubisque:

At times I was going so slowly my computer stopped registering my speed

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