NOV 12
2009
I read this article in the New York Times last week on stiffer British penalties for texting while driving. I like Britain's approach although I think the driver in the case discussed in the article got off too lightly! She got a much bigger penalty than she would have gotten in the U.S., though.

Wanting to see how stiff Oregon's new cell phone penalties would be when they go into effect in January, I found a site, Driving Laws, that had links to Oregon's House Bill 2377 which says:

The offense described in this section, operating a motor vehicle while using a mobile communication device, is a Class D traffic violation.

A Class D traffic violation? Is this a joke?! That carries a penalty of $97. To put it in perspective, here are some other Class D traffic violations:

  • Driving 1 to 10 miles over the speed limit
  • Protruding into a pedestrian crosswalk at a stop light
  • Blocking traffic by temporarily stopping or driving too slowly

This is way too lenient in my opinion! I would think Class A or B would be more appropriate. Because talking on the cell phone puts other people's safety at risk, it should be compared to something like "reckless endangerment of a highway worker" (Class A) or "careless driving" (Class B).

For those readers in denial who say, "I can talk on my cell (or text) perfectly safely while driving", please refer to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute report that found that texting increased collision risk by 23 times. That same article cites a study that found a 4 times increase in collision risk caused by talking on the cell phone (regardless of whether hands-free mode is used).

One thing is for sure: the federal government isn't looking out for us. I'm still trying to figure out why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration buried data showing the mobile phone use dangerously distracts drivers.

I'm going to write my Oregon state legislative representative (Ginny Burdick) and see about getting the penalties increased. Not that I'm optimistic that anything will change. But at least it's a start...

That, and a personal plea to the intelligent readers of my blog to never text while driving and to limit talking on the cell phone to absolute emergencies!

tags: cell-phone politics
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OCT 10
2008
Want to understand the current economic crisis threatening to blow up the civilized world as we know it? Two very well produced This American Life episodes can help.

By now, everybody knows that the catalyst was the sub-prime mortgage meltdown. To understand that, listen to The Giant Pool of Money.

Once you've gotten your head around sub-prime, continue on to Another Frightening Show About the Economy. (This is the better of the two shows in my opinion.)

In return for a two-hour time investment, you should get a pretty good understanding of how we got here.

tags: economics politics
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OCT 6
2008
Great entry on electoral-vote.com today on the Comparative Election Turnouts Among Countries: "While Americans like to think of the U.S. as the world's best example of a democracy, if one uses voter turnout as the metric, the data show a different picture."

This saddens me greatly. When I was on jury duty earlier this year, the judge who welcomed us at juror check-in gave an impassioned speech on how serving on a jury is the only requirement our country places on women and one of only two requirements (in addition to possibly being drafted) that are placed on men.

I would add voting to the list of things "required" of a good citizens. This quote from Elie Wiesel says it all: "Take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."

Unfortunately, as the table shows, far too many people (like my friend J.S.) sit on the sidelines and skirt their responsibilities, both in elections and jury service!

I'm not sure my little rant here will change anything, but it felt good to get that off my chest :)

tags: politics
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SEP 25
2008
As one of the "suckers" described in the article, I found this Motley Fool article on Bailout: The Sucker Punch to be spot on.
tags: economics politics
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SEP 23
2008
I got a chuckle out of Matt Damon's comments on Sarah Palin: "Does she really think that dinosaurs were here 4,000 years ago? Because she's gonna have the nuclear codes..." (time offset 1:20)
tags: politics
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SEP 15
2008
Electoral-vote.com: I loved this site in 2004. Now it's back to track the 2008 elections!
tags: politics
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SEP 13
2008
Good video from my friend Pete on the housing market collapse... Stop the Bailouts.
tags: economics politics
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AUG 6
2008
This is great: Paris Hilton Responds to McCain Ad -- "I'll see you at the debates, bitches!"
tags: politics humor
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DEC 15
2007
Last month, I had a debate with my friend J.S. about China's increasing role in polluting the world. For the purposes of this discussion, we focused solely on electric power consumption. Since most electric power is generated by coal plants, the consumption of electricity is directly proportional to greenhouse gas emissions. And regardless of your position on whether humans are responsible for the current greenhouse gas levels, hopefully we can all agree that we should try to reduce our emissions as much as possible so that we don't aggravate the problem.

My position is that the future of global pollution control lies solely in China and India. In order to fuel their economic ascendency, these countries are trashing the environment. A New York Times article entitled Pollution From Chinese Coal Casts a Global Shadow is over a year old but still provides a good summary of the situation.

J.S.'s position is that it's hypocritical to judge China and India when we in the United States are flagrant abusers of electricity. Further, we are tacitly implicated since our addiction to low-cost imports from China provides the demand that fuels their consumption.

Recent numbers on global electricity generation from the Energy Information Administration do support J.S.'s claim. In 2004, the United States produced 3.979 trillion kWh of energy for 303 million people, or 13,405 kWh annually per capita. Europe's population of 492 million people consumed 3.443 trillion kWh, or 7,089 kWh annually per capita. Which means that Europeans use about half the power of Americans per capita. And at 1,795 kWh annually per capita (2.080 trillion kWh for 1.320 billion people), China uses about one-seventh the power that the U.S. does per capita.

But none of this math really matters. In the US and Europe, both the population and manufacturing base are well established, stable, and slow-growing. This means that power consumption won't grow much either. And while it may be hypocritical to tell others that they need to curtail their power consumption while not following that same advice, it doesn't change the calculus. If China and India don't change their plans, then what the US and Europe do is irrelevant.

So what do we do about it? The NY Times article makes some suggestions. Subsidizing coal scrubbers and more efficient power plants in China and India is a good place to start. Nuclear power is an oft-overlooked but balanced solution that unfortunately will probably fall victim to politics. A tariff on imports from countries with poor energy generation practices would certainly be controversial. Certainly reducing our own per capita energy consumption in the US as a symbolic gesture wouldn't hurt.

But we do need to start the conversation... soon!

tags: environment politics
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JUL 17
2005
Open letter to the Kansas school board and the origins of the universe according to the Flying Spaghetti Monster theory.
tags: politics humor creationism
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JUN 28
2005
"We are a nation of minorities and in a nation of minorities, it is important that you don't cherry pick rights. A right is a right and that is what this vote tonight is all about." I like that. It's what Canada's prime minister said today after Canada's parliament voted to approve same-sex marriages.
tags: politics
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MAY 14
2005
Interesting political typology quiz. I scored as a "liberal" (along with 19% of the population). They have a full list of all of their types as well.
tags: politics
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FEB 8
2005
Dave told me about this great animation from True Majority Action: Oreos and the Federal Budget.
tags: politics
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JAN 29
2005
Carl mentioned this hilarious video clip of a woman from Vanity Fair turning the tables on FOX News with regards to Bush's indulgent inaugural celebration. I have another idea for a better use of the $40 million dollars spent on the party: How about donating it to the tsunami victims? I don't really know much about how inaugural parties are funded, I certainly hope tax payer money isn't being used.
tags: politics
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JAN 25
2005
US government budget deficit projected to grow to $427 billion in 2005, the worst level ever. Good job, Bushie.
tags: politics
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JAN 22
2005
The Smoking Gun has a hilarious collection of letters to the FCC opposing their overly puritanical enforcements of late.
tags: politics
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NOV 7
2004
Hmmm.... How would we ever know?
tags: politics
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OCT 6
2004
Electoral-vote.com has a good explanation of issues concerning the electoral college. An interesting take-away: The current system is biased in favor of republicans (i.e., states that would lose power by changing the system are all Republican). Possible fixes to the system are discussed, including a non-winner-take-all system, instant runoffs (a subject which I wrote to congress about, but which I should have sent to the Oregon state legislature instead), and increasing the size of the House of Representatives.
tags: politics
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SEP 10
2004
Vote Or Not is giving away prizes to encourage people to vote. Commit to vote and you could win $100,000!
tags: politics
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JUL 31
2004
I just finished watching Outfoxed, a documentary on the Fox "News" Network and its extreme right balance. This is a very important movie for everybody to see. It demonstrates how easy it is for the public to be manipulated by the media and the need for reform with respect to political media coverage.

I have never cared for Fox News, but after watching this, I am seriously considering boycotting anything related to Fox and/or Robert Murdoch (movies, entertainment shows, etc.). I sincerely hope that nobody I know actually watches Fox News -- if you do, please contact me as I would be interested in discussing it with you! Also, let me know if you want to borrow the "Outfoxed" documentary.

tags: politics
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DEC 20
2003
I just learned that Oregon residents can get a tax credit of up to $50 a year for political donations. Wow. I can't believe I didn't know about this before. A completely "free" way to make political donations. My money this year is going to stoporegontax.com. Why? Multnomah County is already charging its residents an additional 1.25% income tax. If this new Oregon tax passes, the total tax increase for Multnomah County residents will be over 20% in a single year! I would gladly vote "yes" for a sales tax, but no more income tax increases!
tags: politics
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