18 June 2008

Thoughts for the Nation

I'm back. Just spent the past few weeks refactoring the JavaScript that computes Christian, Hebrew, Islamic and Baha'i calendars for dogchurch.org. The code is now 15% shorter and does more, including computing and displaying holidays, prayer times, and prayer direction for these major religions.

But to the business at hand. Friend Kay G. has sent a link to this 9-minute video from Joe American, on America's pathetic lack of an energy policy.

It's not the only policy we lack. For all its belligerence, the Bush Administration has yet to articulate a policy regarding nuclear weapons. Considering that America is one of the two largest holders of nuclear weapons on the planet, this is a serious omission.

What do we get instead? Mars.

I'm not buying it. Until we can get people and cargo from the ground to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and back for US $20 per pound, there is nothing up there that will ever be commercially viable. Which means that only governments will dabble in space, without any major impact on the survivability of the human species. Heck, the airlines are charging about $20 per pound, and are struggling to make a profit, because even when the destination is on earth (where we know its worth going) people can scarcely afford that much.

So, I would redirect NASA to research and fund efforts to achieve LEO affordability, and table wider manned space exploration until they succeed. The major national effort I would launch is toward US energy independence in the near term (say 10 years) and petroleum independence in the longer term (say 20 years). What Joe American says is pointing in the right direction, even though the situation in Iraq is more complicated than I think he realizes.

I also have another few radical proposals:

(1) Make peace on the Korean peninsula. It is shameful that the Truce of 1953 has yet to turn into an actual Peace - after 55 years! The major parties to the peace would need to be North and South Korea, of course, with the US and China as mostly silent partners to the negotiations. The goal would be to achieve unhindered movement of people between North and South. Perhaps the Demilitarized Zone could be converted to the world's largest wildlife refuge and made into a major money-making tourist attraction to help fund development of the North. Then, what do you think would happen to North Korea's nuclear weapons program? I doubt it would long survive in actual peacetime.

(2) Try a new solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instead of two states, how about two states, one capital? Both parties want Jerusalem as a capital for religious reasons, so why not share it? Not only the same city, but the same capitol building complex. That way, if one party gets blown up, so does the other. Kind of like the patient who grabs the dentist by the groin and says, "Now, we aren't going to hurt each other, are we?"

(3) To start on the problem of health care insurance, create an assigned risk pool, state by state, just like we do for auto insurance. Don't let any company write policies in any state unless they contribute their fair share to that state's assigned risk pool. Everyone gets some coverage, and we still have capitalism. What a concept. Better yet, we all need to force Congress to use the same kinds of health insurance and the same kinds of health providers the rest of us get.

(4) Make the federal government delegate power, money, and responsibility back to the state and local governments. Nobody reads all of the federal budget or the funding bills, or most of the new laws enacted, because there are too many of them and they are too long. This is because the federal government has taken on more than it can manage. It has done so by arrogating powers that used to belong to state and local governments, or even to private citizens. The feds have bitten off more than they can chew. They are drowning in, choking on, too much stuff to do. Any business would delegate authority downward so that it could do its job more efficiently. Let's see some delegation. If the government wants to apply the business model to what it funds, let it apply it to itself first and foremost.

Yeah. I know it's a risk. Since there are so many laws and regulations on the books, it is now impossible to live without accidentally falling afoul of one or more of them. All it takes is for some government bureaucrat to capriciously enforce a few of them to get any chosen target. In other words, the principal guarantor of your liberty (if you are an American) is that the government is just too choked up to get to you. But it's our government. According to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, we own it. Making it delegate back powers is a necessary part of making it work for us rather than just for itself.

Well, that's enough ranting for tonight.

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