Monday, December 29, 2008

Post No. 72: Country Seeking New Year Resolutions

© 2008, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Now that the New Year is upon us, we’ve decided, as citizens, to approach it differently. After all, we’re nothing if not eclectic.

Although some suggest that the concerns about the state of our nation (and the world) are much ado about nothing, we’d rather not be lulled into complacency and leave it to our purported leaders to pull us out of this mess.

As stated in our Post No. 71, entitled “Our Responsibility as Citizens,” (http://theviewfromoutsidemytinywindow.blogspot.com/2008/12/post-no-71-our-responsibility-as.html), we believe that each and every one of us can have a significant influence in improving our collective situation.

If we don’t have that belief as citizens, we’re screwed.

And we’ll be left to the devices of the slick, the charlatans, and the cads.

The period in history, which we believe most powerfully reflects the power of individual contribution (at least in a measured way), is WWII. (So was the French Revolution; however, it was not particularly coordinated.)

War bonds, rationing, women lifting riveting machines, dramatic re-tooling of industry, and individual sacrifice, in addition to the men and women fighting on or close to the front line, all contributed to the ultimate success of the Allied forces.

What we’d like for you to do is to come up with a description of something pragmatic and practical, which you are capable of doing in the coming year, as an individual, responsible citizen, which you believe others could emulate. Don’t make it too conceptual.

We all know what we didn’t do during the past 8 years. Now it’s time to stop complaining about the actions of others, and to take charge and do something.

Send what you plan to do to RDGreene@triad.rr.com via e-mail on or before January 1, 2009.

We will review the submissions, and on January 2, 2009, post the Top Ten Actions of Responsible Citizens for 2009 on our blog. We will then take efforts to have them presented to the media and our elected leaders, and go from there.

We look forward to your input.

We’re sure that you’re up for the challenge.

© 2008, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

29 comments:

  1. Three things:

    1. Invest 5% of your money, save 5%, give 5% to charity.

    2. Help someone each time you see a need (this can be anything from picking up a dropped package to helping someone change a tire).

    3. Respond with civility and a smile.

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  2. Well I resolved long before the New Year to help encourage the government to adopt some for of the Pickens Plan. Now that prices at the pump have dropped to 1.50 or less a gallon in much of the nation it seems like the need for energy independence is being swept aside in favor of bailing out any large entity that is in financial distress whether of their own making or not. If you don't think the Pickens Plan has merit than for heavens sake find something that does make sense to you in moving us as a nation from dependence on foreign oil to exporting energy technology around the globe.

    On a more personal note I resolve to reach out to my fellow humans on a daily basis. As Douglas said help whenever you can be of help and do so with a civil tongue and a smile (when you can)
    And as Paul said in 1 Peter 3:8-11
    Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:
    Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.
    For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:
    Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.
    Many other faith have similar teachings but I think it wise to remind myself and others that call themselves Christian that these are some of the core principles of our faith.

    A Merry New Year to you all.

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  3. Good grief ! I wasn't even doing any pre New Year's Eve drinking yet there I was saying Paul wrote those verses in 1 Peter...Yes, they were written by Peter.

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  4. Thanks much Douglas. Sorry for the delay in responding; however, our computer is down and in the shop until after New Year's.

    Very good resolution. We viewed "civility" as a very important aspect of your resolution. Out of curiosity, do some of us need to spend as suggested by President Bush?

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  5. Thanks much June. Sorry for the delay in responding; however, our computer is down and in the shop until after New Year's.

    We believe that beginning a public discussion of the Pickens plan is an excellent area to explore. We saw Mr. Pickens on an energy panel earlier this week, and he indicated that one of the reasons that he put forth his plan was to force our elected leaders to "do something!"

    He structured the plan in such as fashion so that if the politicians disagreed with his plan, or some element thereof, then they would have to propose "something."

    We're now sitting here trying to think of a mechanism by which we as citizens can execute some component of the Pickens Plan ourselves, without waiting on the involvement of big energy corporations, or government. We'll revisit that later.

    Thanks again. Excellent suggestion.

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  6. June: You obviously remember the singing group, Peter, Paul and Mary. Blame it on that! Have a good New Year's celebration.

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  7. Log, we are a consumer driven economy. Either as producers or buyers. So, yes, spending is important but it should be considered to be the rudder for the economy. The consumer is the helmsman. We run into problems when it is the advertiser who is at the helm.

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  8. I'm not as impressed with Mr. Pickens' idea of using massive wind farms for some technical reasons, but I am glad that he is at least trying to get an idea advanced. The biggest issues are the storage of large amounts of electricity (since winds cannot be relied upon to blow at the specific times we need the power) and the transmission of that electricity across long distances (currently we lose roughly 50 to 80% of all electricity generated while it is being transmitted from the generators to the end users). Until those two issues are resolved, windfarms in the center of the US will not be an efficient way to provide power to the bulk of our population along the coasts.

    I think in the long run we'll need to transition to a variety of alternatives to oil. Different parts of the world will find different solutions best serve their needs. Most will likely revolve around the generation, storage and transmission of electricity, which will allow us the standardize the use, if not the source of the power. But again the issues of efficient storage and long-distance transmission need to be resolved.

    Unfortunately, with oil prices declining I suspect that interest in alternatives will start to fade, as they did after the oil price shocks of the 1970s faded. While it's a harsh way to change public habits, about the only thing that has managed to get the US (or world) public to change their energy habits has been a significant increase in price. When prices are low, consumers have time and again agreed they need to makes changes to conserve resources, yet repeatedly failed to do so.

    And investors follow the same patterns. When energy prices are relatively low, investment in alternative ways to generate energy drops off precipitously. When prices go up and they can see a profit to be made, the investors rush to fling money at programs that sometimes have dubious chances of success.

    As unpopular as it would be, I think the government should gradually increase the taxes on conventional energy resources (gasoline, etc.) to encourage both conservation and investment in alternatives, which should not be taxed in this fashion to encourage their development and acceptance. That is probably the only thing that would actually get people to do more than give lipservice to conservation and development of alternatives.

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  9. The issue of energy production is going to become more and more important. There is a strong movement toward making electric cars. Sounds great, no pollution, no having to buy gas, clean and quiet. But where is the electricity going to come from to recharge those cars? What is going to happen when even 10% of the cars driven every day are electric? We already have had problems with brownouts at peak times when people get home, kick up the AC (or the heat in winter), turn on the electric stoves to cook dinner, take showers, turn on TVs, etc. What happens when a million or more cars get plugged in for recharge?

    I think we need to consider the consequences of decisions we make, all the possible consequences.

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  10. Pls accept our apologies for our delay in responding to your comments and e-mails. We have been experiencing technical difficulties with our computer, and consequently placed it in the shop. It will continue to be there into next week.

    As a result, we ask that you continue to provide us with your society-based, collective benefit resolutions, and once we resolve our computer problems, we will assemble the top 10 resolutions. Thanks for your patience.

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  11. I think one of the largest problems in getting everyday Joe to turn to alternative energy resources is the cost:

    About 5 years ago, here in California, the state provided a program to pay 50% of the installation cost for homeowner’s that choose to avail their homes with solar panels. Sounded like a great deal. ‘No more light bill!’

    I had just purchased an all electric home and was in the process of refurbishing. I desperately wanted to go solar. Even with the state paying half the cost- I was stunned to find the installation was so absurdly expensive, it wasn’t viable. Multiplying what my household electric bill was(even adding a 3% increase annually), I wouldn’t have seen a return on the solar panel investment for 30 years.

    I’m not in a position to put out that kind of money without a practical return. I don’t think to many people are.
    ______
    BTW, I loved Douglas' list: The only thing I’d add is:

    #4. Be tolerant of each other.

    Vikki

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  12. Is it me or does Reggie now sound like a recorded announcement? "We're sorry, all our operators are busy right now but please stay on the line, your call is important."

    Vikki, I suspect the solar panel people immediately jacked up the price upon hearing about that bill... or maybe they authored it. Just the cynic in me, I guess. I am not sure your #4 is possible. I mean we all try now, don't we? And then somebody jumps on that parking spot we were heading for... (just kidding, it's a good suggestion)

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  13. Douglas: Many would suggest that we are not realistic in suggesting this approach, howevever, we believe that we, as citizens, can not sit around and wait for others to do things to drive the economy. As we have often said in public forums, if you do not know an inventor, a scientist, or an entrepreneur in your neighborhood, there are potential problems lurking down the road.

    All of us should be striving to create something new, something different, something innovative. When the masses sit around waiting for others to initiate change, the masses generally get screwed.

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  14. Robert: We appreciate you bringing into the mix, the issue of storage and transmission of electricity over long distances, since most advocate fail to mention those pragmatic factors.

    We, like you, feel that Mr. Pickens should at least be thanked for suggesting a thoughtful plan, even though there may be aspects of it with which we disagree.

    Unfortunately, we suspect that we can not leave things to the "market" since consumers will generally not do what is in the long-term, positive interests of our nation. We are too "personal desire" driven. As Dan Perrin recently suggested, we are beginning to rely more and more on government to address problematic issues in our society, while at the same time telling government to "stay out of our lives." We can't have it both ways.

    We as a nation have to decide whether we want some semblance of a national, coordinated approach, or a haphazard, market driven approach and let the chips fall where they may.

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  15. my attention was captured in a comment on Boomer Musings, I was reading through your profile, I tried reading Atlas Shrugged once, got a quarter into and didn't really fit my liking, I did however read Anthem and enjoyed it (I am a Rush fan and many of their songs fit the writings of that book) *Anthem (fly by night) 2112 (same name) Closer to the Heart (farewell to kings)

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  16. Personal responsibility should be practiced by all. Some examples:

    1. Save energy by doing little things like turning off unused lights, unplug phone chargers (they use juice whether they're plugged into a phone or not, sane with other wall chargers), reduce unnecessary driving, caulk your house & put plastic over your windows, etc.

    2. Treat your fellow humans with decency. Avoid road rage, say hello to strangers, give a helping hand when needed.

    3. Get involved. Join a political party if it suits you. Write your congressman, include money if possible. (Did I say that?)

    4. Write a blog.

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  17. Log, in your reply to Robert, you state that we cannot trust the market because the consumer is unlikely to do what is in the best interests of the country. I disagree. But I am a market oriented person. I believe that the market expresses the will of the people. That means that whatever way the economy, and the country, goes is the way that the people want it to go. It is truly "democracy in action" in a capitalist society. It may not be the way you or I may think the country should go but that does not mean it is the wrong way. If we accept the concept of majority rule, if we reject rule by the elite, then we need to accept the rule of the majority.

    The idea is not to direct the country in a particular way, to manage society's future, but to influence society in legitimate ways (within the context of our societal structure) so that it follows your conception of what's best. And, above all, accepting the results when they do not turn out the way you wish. That is what freedom is all about, it is what a democratic republic with a capitalist economy is all about.

    When we start thinking that some ruling authority, or (to quote the Bell Curve people) a Cognitive Elite, knows what's "best" then we have lost our way.

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  18. Pls accept our apologies for not responding responsibly to your various comments and resolutions. We are still dealing with computer problems, and may simply have to have another one built.

    In the mean time, pls keep providing us with your comments and resolutions, and pass on our original post to others so that they might also contribute.

    By the way, last evening, Turner Classic Movies aired one of our all-time favorite movies, "Meet John Doe." Upon viewing it again, we were reminded of how the character played by Gary Cooper unwittingly motivated common folks to come up with pragmatic ways in which they could become better citizens and rely less on the government. It is a film well worth viewing.
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0033891/
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meet_John_Doe

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  19. Article today in USA Today by Greg Toppo: "One in Seven U.S. Adults Unable to Read This Story."

    Results of findings of long-awaited federal study can be found at: http://www.nces.ed.gov/naal/estimates/index.aspx

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  20. Neo: Coming back at you with an "Atlas Shrugged" article later today.

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  21. Douglas, we agree with you that the market expresses the "will" of the people in certain way, but only to some extent, and to varying degrees.

    It may express the will of 10%, 35%, 67%, or 89% depending on the issue.

    Do you think that the vast majority of the citizens want to hear crime stories back to back on the evening news? Do you think that the manufacture of big screen TVs reflects the will of the people? Do you think that the importation of melanin tainted milk products from China reflects the will of the people?

    Forget the prod or the motivating force right now, whether it be the market or some other force? Share with us some other instances of conduct or decisions on the part of the citizenry which results in doing what is "in the best interests of the country" however that is defined. Are you suggesting that we do not need goal-oriented tax policy in this country? If there were no requirement to pay a certain portion of one's taxes to the government, could our nation survive on an honor system leaving it up to each individual citizen to pay their "appropriate" amount?

    Going back to the media, does what appears on television and in our movie theaters now reflect what we as consumers and citizens want, or what the corporate media types feed to us which we in turn consume, to varying degrees?

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  22. Douglas, in thinking further about your earlier comment to the effect that, "The consumer is the helmsman for the economy... [and] [w]e run into problems when it is the advertiser who is at the helm...", are you suggesting that consumers unwittingly or involuntarily purchase goods when they should not? As an ad man once said, "Advertising is just an invitation to the dance."

    Although advertising is obvioulsy designed to persuade, are consumers misled by most advertising?

    Back to the issue of what drives the economy, we differ somewhat on the driver. We believe that it is innovation, initiated by inventors, scientists, engineers, and new social mechanism thinkers and organizers, including an occasional civic leader.

    One person or a small group can generate an exponential consequential societal impact. Individual consumers only add up to an arithmetic increase, one by one by one. The science / revolution of agriculture is the best example of this concept.

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  23. Douglas, in response to your comment inquiring into the potential source of the electric power used to charge the batteries in electric cars, what alternatives would you suggest to the electric cars, or suggestions which you have for the generation of the electric power? From what we understand, the electrical power is not difficult to generate per se in a relative sense, but that we will need a transmission infrastructure to utilize the power generated. (For example, to get it from the wind farms in the relatively rural Mid-West, and other regions, to more densely populated areas where the power demand is greater.)

    Let's not forget about hydroelectric power also. Still the issue appears to be transmission.

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  24. Thanks Vikki. We are in agreement with you that "one of the largest problems in getting everyday Joe to turn to alternative energy resources is the cost."

    It's been the case with technology throughout history. Additionally, it is a two part problem. First the creator, innovator, or engineer must be able to produce the technology and make some type of a profit, and second, it takes time for the price to come down to make it available to the average consumer.

    When I was an elementary school kid in the 1950's, I recall seeing in "The Weekly Reader," a story on collision avoidance systems on highways, which prevented cars from hitting one another, and from crashing when drivers fell asleep. However, it required an extensive retrofitting of sensors to be placed in the pavement of the highways.

    We've had decent solar panels since the 1970's. My best friend from graduate school and I, because of our engineering backgrounds, considered forming a solar panel retail business in the late 1970's. The technology has been around for quite some time, but not exactly profitable in nature.

    As much as we claim that industry is short-sighted and inflexible, the same applies to the consumer. The story of the EV-1 is instructive. At the end, General Motors almost could not give them away. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Motors_EV1.] The value of anything is what the public is willing to pay for it. Remember when tulips were almost as valuable as gold?

    Many complain about the high cost of prescription drugs, particularly new ones. However, we doubt that anyone of the complainers could specify the amount of R & D dollars required to create the drug. We also doubt that very few of those complaining are biologist, biochemists, or some other type of scientist capable of actuallyu inventing something. We're just complainers standing on the periphery of invention. Just another talking head.

    Finally, another important factor? In many of our competitor industrialized nations, there is a partnership between industry and government, because the government thinks that it is in the best interests of society that the corporations survive and succeed. (Consider most foreign airlines.)

    In this country, with the exception of a few major companies during the past 9 months, and a few more over the past 40 years, we generally let our corporations fend for themselves and fail, even though there are admittedly some governmental subsidies and tax incentives. That's very different from a government/corporate partnership. Electricity would have never been provided to those covered by the TVA without government involvement. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tennessee_Valley_Authority

    Good contribution Vikki. Thanks.

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  25. For those of you who have not yet sent in your New Year resolutions for 2009, please do so at RDGreene@triad.rr.com. We're still collecting them, and will assemble them before the end of the month.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Neo: Coming back at you with an "Atlas Shrugged" article later today.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Is it me or does Reggie now sound like a recorded announcement? "We're sorry, all our operators are busy right now but please stay on the line, your call is important."

    Vikki, I suspect the solar panel people immediately jacked up the price upon hearing about that bill... or maybe they authored it. Just the cynic in me, I guess. I am not sure your #4 is possible. I mean we all try now, don't we? And then somebody jumps on that parking spot we were heading for... (just kidding, it's a good suggestion)

    ReplyDelete
  28. Log, we are a consumer driven economy. Either as producers or buyers. So, yes, spending is important but it should be considered to be the rudder for the economy. The consumer is the helmsman. We run into problems when it is the advertiser who is at the helm.

    ReplyDelete
  29. I'm not as impressed with Mr. Pickens' idea of using massive wind farms for some technical reasons, but I am glad that he is at least trying to get an idea advanced. The biggest issues are the storage of large amounts of electricity (since winds cannot be relied upon to blow at the specific times we need the power) and the transmission of that electricity across long distances (currently we lose roughly 50 to 80% of all electricity generated while it is being transmitted from the generators to the end users). Until those two issues are resolved, windfarms in the center of the US will not be an efficient way to provide power to the bulk of our population along the coasts.

    I think in the long run we'll need to transition to a variety of alternatives to oil. Different parts of the world will find different solutions best serve their needs. Most will likely revolve around the generation, storage and transmission of electricity, which will allow us the standardize the use, if not the source of the power. But again the issues of efficient storage and long-distance transmission need to be resolved.

    Unfortunately, with oil prices declining I suspect that interest in alternatives will start to fade, as they did after the oil price shocks of the 1970s faded. While it's a harsh way to change public habits, about the only thing that has managed to get the US (or world) public to change their energy habits has been a significant increase in price. When prices are low, consumers have time and again agreed they need to makes changes to conserve resources, yet repeatedly failed to do so.

    And investors follow the same patterns. When energy prices are relatively low, investment in alternative ways to generate energy drops off precipitously. When prices go up and they can see a profit to be made, the investors rush to fling money at programs that sometimes have dubious chances of success.

    As unpopular as it would be, I think the government should gradually increase the taxes on conventional energy resources (gasoline, etc.) to encourage both conservation and investment in alternatives, which should not be taxed in this fashion to encourage their development and acceptance. That is probably the only thing that would actually get people to do more than give lipservice to conservation and development of alternatives.

    ReplyDelete

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