Tuesday, September 27, 2011

September 27, 2011 Morning Grind

Things have cooled off from yesterday, as Senate leaders seemed to have found a way to avert government shutdown, putting today's Foo Alert level at Yellow, or Monkeywrench.

Also showing that we are on the better path to sanity, remember two years ago when everyone was freaking out about how President Obama wanted to speak to school children and encourage them to do well in school and everyone decided it was a socialist plot to indoctrinate our children?  Awwww, it was like the Tea Party's first tooth. Well, President Obama gives the same speech tomorrow and there is not a peep of protest.

Also, in an encouraging sign that people are willing to take back their country, folks were protesting outside a $30,000 a plate fundraiser for Speaker Boehner and a few Central Texas Congressmen. Along with the ongoing protests to occupy Wall St, these are encouraging signs. "Monkeywrench"-type encouraging signs.

Oh, and Ron Paul was on The Daily Show.  The full interview is here.

Meanwhile, College Republicans at UC Berkeley are having their "inherently racist bake sale" which charges white men more for baked goods than women and minorities.  Oh, how clever. How's that working out for you? Being clever? They should just rename it the "We're a bunch of assholes bake sale."

And finally, in what is one of the most hilarious political turns since Alec Baldwin played Rick Perry on SNL, Rick Perry called President Obama's comments on climate change "outrageous" and saying that he was politicizing our recent wildfires, which we covered here.  Yes, yes, OBAMA is politicizing climate change, not the guy who claims scientists are on the take and manipulating data. For the record, Obama said the following about how out of touch Republicans are with America:

"I mean, has anybody been watching the debates lately? You've got a governor whose state is on fire denying climate change... You've got audiences cheering at the prospect of somebody dying because they don't have health care and booing a service member in Iraq because they're gay. That's not reflective of who we are. This is a choice about the fundamental direction of our country. 2008 was an important direction. 2012 is a more important election."

We couldn't agree more.

Monday, September 26, 2011

September 26, 2011 Morning Grind and TPA News Roundup

Yes, after a few days hiatus due to a conference in Atlanta and Fantastic Fest here is Austin, we're back.

Today's Foo alert level is Orange or "The Best of You" because of the continued squabble over the government shutdown.

We'd also like to point out another sign the United States is losing the clean energy economy race.  China is going to invest over $300 billion, and we're still up in arms over Solyndra. Start teaching your kids Mandarin, because our government is controlled by Big Oil.

The Texas Progressive Alliance thinks Alec Baldwin's hair does a pretty decent impersonation of our Governor as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff discusses the latest Texas polling data and what a Rick Perry candidacy might mean for downballot Democrats.

On a night during which both Georgia and Texas put men to death, Letters From Texas visits the moral and practical implications.

Amy Price, the progressive running for Houston's city council at large #4 seat, had a great week of news coverage. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs collected the stories, audio, and video.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson shows how state Sen. Steve Ogden's retirement announcement this week has shaken up the county's politics, The changing election landscape in Williamson County, creating opportunities.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme notes that Rick Perry is having a bad week. Boo hoo.

This week on Left of College Station, Teddy asks how do you support reproductive rights? Left of College Station focuses on reproductive rights all these week as the anti-choice 40 Days for Life Protest begins. From the state of Texas funding so-called crisis pregnancy centers, to the defunding of Planned Parenthood in Texas.

At McBlogger, we take a sniff around LCRA's decision to privatize some of their assets and don't like the smell.

Neil at Texas Liberal noted a new phone app that will show the amount of forced labor used in many of the everyday things that we buy.

Libby Shaw over at TexasKaos brings us up to date on Rick Perry's limelight moment. Called upon to demonstrate his cool under fire before a national audience at the last Republican debate, he showed his true mettle. He melted down. See all the details here: Rick Perry Bombs Presidential Debate.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sep 20, 2011 Morning Grind

Today's Foo Alert level is Blue, or Rope.

That Foo level has been set because of the following developments:

The Foo Fighters had the Westboro "Baptist" "Church" show up at their Kansas City show, and they showed up to protest the protest with some down-home clean living and old-timey music. Read more from our Donny Brooks.

The end of Don't Ask Don't Tell at midnight last night will make the US safer, as gay members of the military can serve openly without fear of court martial. Congrats, gays, and congrats heteros for finally pulling our collective heads out.

The Texas drought is taking its toll on another victim-- this time, innocent schoolchildren.  (Won't someone PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!?!?!?!?) The drought is causing untold damage to school facilities inclding foundation cracks, and increased maintenance and grounds upkeep. Once again showing the myriad ways NOT dealing with climate change will end up costing everyone.

Speaking of dealing with climate change, a new study has found that home loans to increase energy efficiency have a default rate of less than 3%, even in this crazy housing bubble. So, take out a loan, put in insulation, ductwork, new efficient appliances, save yourself monthly on your electric bill, so you can afford the loan payments. Well duh they're going to be low risk. And it's an easy way to cut your energy usage.

The Department of Justice has rejected Republican-drawn Texas redistricting maps because they target minorites and don't give them enough representation.  This and other unsurprising facts will be released later this month in "A-doy: Things you already knew but needed the government to tell you."Democrats are going after turncoat Aaron Pena, who claimed on the House floor he had nothing to do with gerrymandering his district. Well, turns out he did. Liar, liarpants.

And finally, Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd was detained for trying to bring in a suspicious liquid to the United States. Turns out it was vegemite. So, it seems the TSA is actually doing their job, as I cannot imagine a more noxious substance being allowed into our country outside of gagh..

Thanks, and see you folks later.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Foo Fighters Protest Westboro Baptist A$$holes

This is why Foo Fighters are the greatest band out there today.

by Donny Brooks

Who doesn't love the Foo Fighters? We do, so much so that we adopted them as our mascots for Darth Politico's own Homeland Security warning system. Who doesn't love them? The assholes at the Westboro "Baptist" "Church"- who obviously couldn't find a soldier's funderal to protest at this weekend, so instead tried to go the Foo Fighters concert in Kansas City.

Ok, listen up, Westboro-- you seem to have forgotten, that when you go to a concert, you actually go in and listen to the music, maybe dance a little, maybe have some liquid or herbal refreshment, buy a t-shirt, and generally chillax.

But the Foos know how to deal with uptight angry a$$holes, which is to make fun of them. And so they showed up to protest the protest.

Thinly disguised in wigs, beards, and costumes, they proceeded to play a song called "Keepin it Clean" whose chorus goes "Driving all night, got a hankering for something/Think I'm in the mood for some hot-man muffins/Mmmm, sounds so fine, yes indeed." They ended their song with a patriotic "God Bless America." Indeed, Foos, Indeed.

The getup was leftover from a video shoot promoting their US tour which features the Foos showering together in a truck stop shower while Queen's "Body Language" plays.  Ummm, the homoeroticism cup runneth over. Then they get into their trucks as "Bridges Burning" starts playing.  RAWK!!!!

Also, this is not the first time the Foos have intervened. Remember this gem from a couple months ago when Dave Grohl tosses an asshole "fan" out of the show?

If they keep going like this, the Foo Fighters are going to savage Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas so badly that they'll have to declare peace between Israel and Palestine. Dave Grohl for Nobel Peace Prize?  Well. . .they gave one to Obama, didn't they?

The Foo Fighters are the greatest band currently making music today. Disagree? Wanna fight about it? Go for it. But i leave you with this as more evidence:

Netflix CEO: "I messed up"; Netflix DVD to become "Qwikster"

Either Netflix's blog got hacked, or hold on to your red envelopes.

By CitizenBot, courtesy BigShinyRobot!

Via their blog, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings offered the following apology:
I messed up. I owe everyone an explanation.

It is clear from the feedback over the past two months that many members felt we lacked respect and humility in the way we announced the separation of DVD and streaming, and the price changes. That was certainly not our intent, and I offer my sincere apology.
Wow. Humility from an American CEO. Next thing you know, George Lucas will apologize for the "Nooooo!!!!" he added in Jedi and Greedo shooting first.

But in the vein of "that's awesome. . .   whaaaaaAA?!?!!" in the same blog post Hastings announced the seperation of Netflix's business into two seperate services.  Netflix will become a streaming-only service. If you want your DVDs and Blu-rays in those little red envelopes, you'll be using their new service Qwikster.

Qwikster, aside from being a stupid name that sounds like a rejected character from The Phantom Menace, will offerns fans something they've wanted for a long time: video games! So, if you don't already use Gamefly or Redbox, then you can get your games from
Qwikster too.

This is obviously an attempt to stop the bleeding on their ailing stock price, which has slid over 20% since they announced last week that they were downgrading their expectations of how many subscribers they would have.

For full disclosure's sake, as I write this I sit here watching Star Trek on Netflix instant streaming. When Netflix announced they were separating their charges for DVDs and streaming, I was actually happy. It saves me money every month, since I cancelled my DVDS. I think in a year and a half of dvds by mail, I had rented exactly four movies: Avatar on Blu-ray, 8: The Mormon Proposition, MI:5, Season 5, disc 1 (before it became available on streaming) and Gasland. That's it. Meanwhile, we cancelled our cable and got a Roku Box specifically for streaming.

What I mean by this, in my opinion, is that streaming is the future for Netflix. They ought to focus on this, and renewing their partnerships with Starz or other media outlets, if they want to stay relevant and not become merely a source of junk films and tv shows that few people want to watch.

Although as long as they keep Dora, Diego, The Backyardigans, Phineas and Ferb, and Yo Gabba Gabba for the kids, Star Trek and Arrested Development for me, and The Young Riders, MI:5, and Robin Hood for my wife, we will continue to subscribe.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Solyndra, Solyndra- What this "Scandal" is and isn't

A pair of posts about Solyndra and what this means and doesn't mean.  Stick around and read all of it-- there's a Three Stooges video at the end if make it there.

The first on
Why Solyndra is a Big Deal, just not the Big Deal Republicans are making of it.

California solar energy company Solyndra had its offices raided last week by federal agents as part of an ongoing investigation into their bankruptcy and federal loan guarantees they'd received form the Department of Energy. Some critics have cried foul, trying to show how federal money spent on emerging technology is a waste. Others have tried to disparage solar energy itself, trying to show the industry is not ready for prime time. In fact, these allegations couldn't be further from the truth.

However, it does bring up important questions about the Obama administration, ethics, and the influence of campaign contributions. This is entirely a self-inflicted wound, a bone-headed mistake if not an ethical problem, and is the type of landmine the White House needs to avoid. There is another, similar trap they need to avoid touching in the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, where Big Oil's big money tendrils and the revolving door are even more frightening than those from Solyndra.

The first charge against Solyndra is the wastefulness of the federal loan guarantees that it received and the loan guarantee program in general. Well, if solar was the only industry getting this aid, that might be something. But given the incredibly large amounts given in federal subsidies to fossil fuels compared to solar, that is not the case. Indeed, direct subsidies for nuclear in recent energy legislation adds up to over 13 billion (that's with a b, kids) and recent loan guarantees for nuclear construction are over $60 billion, $18 billion of which have already been allocated in Georgia. This amounts to a pre-emptive bailout of the nuclear industry, especially since the CBO estimates those loans will have a 50% default rate.

Other critics have gone after Solyndra because they say solar isn't ready for prime time-- while, in fact, it shows the opposite. Solyndra was pioneering a new method of making photovoltaic cells and got buried under the onslaught of cheap solar imports from China. Their process, which you can see below, courtesy BusinessWire, is very different from traditional photvoltaic arrays.

Their technology just didn't get cheap quickly enough compared to traditional PV manufacturing, largely from Chinese imports. But in the silver lining to that otherwise not as nice cloud, those same cheap Chinese imports have meant a huge boon to American manufacturing who provide many of the materials and heavy equipment needed to manufacture PV.

Meanwhile, because of that change, solar has reached grid parity in terms of its costs. Grid parity means that the cost of producing electricity through a pv cell is less than or equal to the average cost of electricity. Other companies are making huge solar breakthroughs. Solyndra, unfortunately, was not one of them. But this is market economics, and this is what we expect, nay, desire from our entrepreneurs.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Why I (reluctantly) cancelled my pre-order for the Star Wars Blu-rays

By Citizenbot, courtesy BigShinyRobot!

I'm not generally one for hyperbole. No matter my misgivings about the Star Wars Special Editions or prequels I don't think George Lucas raped my childhood. I don't think I was even minorly diddled. But, in response to Swankmotron's excellent piece How I learned to stop worrying and love the changes to Star Wars, (nice title homage, btw) I just can't agree.

After seeing the changes made, especially to Return of the Jedi, something kept gnawing at me from the inside. "This is wrong." Like Luke nearing the cave on Dagobah, I felt cold. It was if millions of fanboys simultaneously cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. All Labor Day weekend long it worked at me.  And Tuesday morning in a moment of clarity I cancelled my pre-order from Amazon.

Swank is ultimately right. The essence of the films is still going to be in place, and there are a ton of special features that I'm sure are worth watching.  And I realized that insanely, sickly, I was more excited to get retouched prequels that included switching the Yoda puppet for CG, hi-definition podracing and General Grevious and Kit Fisto. . . .and that was weird.  So, what was it that was the final straw?

It was the much-maligned and mocked "Nooooo!" from Vader.

Let me explain. Even as a little kid, I could see flaws in Return of the Jedi. Especially as a teenager, even though I nearly wore those THX-edition tapes out, I knew "Yub Nub" was not cool.  I hated the 26 second cutaway when ONE nameless Ewok dies compared to the tens of thousands of deaths when the Death Star or Executor exploded. BUT, I could always point to that throne room scene. Despite the silliness of teddy bears aiding in overthrowing the Empire on Endor, what took place between Luke, Vader, and the Emperor was the ultimate tale of seduction, a good person almost giving into their baser instincts to exact revenge, and the ultimate redemptive moment. Anakin's redemption is THE seminal moment of the ENTIRE STAR WARS SERIES.

And just like jazz music, as important as the notes that are being played is the subtext-- "listen to the notes he's not playing" is the aphorism. A monster in a plastic and metal visor and mask emoted more by saying nothing and watching his master torture his son, reach an epiphany that he could no longer be enslaved by the Dark Side, and toss off those shackles in a very literal sense. It's an emotional journey, made all the more powerful because Vader stays silent. Sometimes silence says more than words do.

Words can't express the pain, conflict, and resolution that a heroic and monstrous character like the duality of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader feel as he finally frees himself of his inner demons. Words shouldn't try to express it. And, barring something so beautiful and profound it could have come from the pen of Keats, Donne, Wordsworth, Shakespeare, Milton, Steinbeck, Faulkner, or another master practitioner of the English language, it should not be something as hackneyed and obvious as "No."

"No" is what my three year old says as he throws a fit. No is a terse, knee-jerk response to something that you don't want that is relatively inconsequential. "Do you want fries with that?" "No."

For years, Lucas explained that he was making the changes because the technology didn't exist when he made the films to achieve his vision. OK. But you certainly had the technology to make Vader say "Noooo!" in Return of the Jedi if you'd wanted to.  Vader didn't say "No."  I know because I never heard it when I saw Jedi in theaters as a kid, I didn't hear it on my VHS as a kid, I didn't even hear it on the DVDs that came out a few years ago. And yes, I know you're trying to tie it to the "Noooo!" moment in Revenge of the Sith-- but that script was written, that film was almost done being made when you released those DVDs. You sure could edit in Hayden Christensen, but the world wasn't ready for the "Noo!!!" yet?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

More evidence that Mitt Romney is a Cylon: He has a Plan.

 By Donny Brooks
The Cylons were created by man. They evolved. They rebelled. There are many copies. And they have a plan.
And so, too, does Mitt Romney, in his apparent affirmation of his true Cylon nature. In fact, he has 59 plans for the economy, released yesterday in a 160 page economic tome, complete with 137 footnotes, that will test even the most caffeinated reader not to be induced into a boredom coma. Even the WSJ is turning up their noses at it.

Obviously this is a strategic move, which couldn't come at a better time with Romney losing his front-runner status to fellow Cylon Rick Perry. (PS-- you can tell they're fracking skinjobs by noticing how well-coifed their hair is. John Edwards? Also a toaster.) 

While obviously long in the works, this is being released right on schedule to show everyone that Mitt knows how to have a plan-- a big, detailed plan!-- and nobody is going to have a bigger or better one. Perry's retort is just "Well, look at my record of job creation in Texas. . . . just not too closely or you'll see that I had nothing to do with real job creation and most of the new jobs in Texas are either minimum wage or public sector (evil, evil government!) jobs." Mitt's plan is obviously to take his plan and turn it into twenty seven eight-by-ten color glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was.

But Mitt has The Plan.

Good luck with that. 

I mean, seriously. Obama won on Hope and Change, not detailed policy proposals. (And what policies he did have he immediately caved on when negotiating with Congress)  George W. Bush had a three point plan for EVERYTHING, and that was it. 3 points. Bill Clinton in 1992 had a campaign mantra: "It's the economy, stupid. Change vs. more of the same, and Don't forget Health Care." Boom, that was it. 

And this is not just a product of our modern shortened political attention span. FDR's Four Freedoms speech. Truman's inaugural with the Four Points. The Gettysburg Address- which is shorter than this blog post. This is what Americans like. Terseness. Moral clarity. 

You know what they don't like? Reading. Remembering more than a few things. Ross Perot and his charts and half-hour infomercials, Woodrow Wilson's 14 Points, as great as they may have been, were rejected by the American public and gave Wilson a stroke as he tried to whistle-stop across America selling it to the people. And this was in 1917, waaay before people could be distracted by Netflix, Jersey Shore, Angry Birds, and internet pornography. 

K.I.S.S.-- Keep it Simple, Stupid. Lay off the 59 points. Mitt, you might be able to beat Obama**. But first you have to beat Perry. And burying him in paper may have shown how smart you were when you worked at Bain Capital as a corporate raider, but not these days, and not against a guy like Perry. You want to bury him in substance? He will bury you in NON-SUBSTANCE

**== Let me clarify "might". Americans might be able to accept a Latter-Day Saint president. Might.  But it's going to be a tough sell as both a Mormon and a Cylon.

All of this has happened before, and it will all happen again.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Why Does Rice play Texas?: climate change, EPA smog rules, TarSands pipeline, drought/fires edition

Bastrop Texas wildfires
Wildfires rage over Labor Day near Bastrop, TX, southeast of Austin

Our hearts, prayers and thoughts go out to the people currently evacuated and who have lost their homes this holiday weekend. I, myself, having gone through losing a home to fire I send my best to all of you affected, and have already contacting folks via our church to find out how we can help. I’ll post links as soon as I can get them to give directly to disaster relief.

This puts into focus several things that have been ruminating in my head all weekend, and it all comes back to this one question– Why does Rice play Texas? This weekend, two of our nation’s best universities met on the football field. And while both Rice and University of Texas can duke it out on relatively equal footing on the basis of academics, Rice is. . . shall we say, not the athletic powerhouse that Texas is. So, why does Rice always begin its football season with a drubbing of 34-9 (hey, tip of the hat for getting 9 points on the scoreboard– I guarantee there will be teas that do less this year), with the Owls now having lost 41 games out of the last 42 meetings to the Longhorns? And here the answer lies with the other goings-on of this long weekend.

It started with a bang and whimper as our Caver-in-Chief, President Obama, announced he would overrule both the Supreme Court in Whitman v American Trucking Associations and the EPA in pulling back on the agency’s interstate smog rule that has been in the works since the Bush Administration. As Prof of Law Lisa Heinzerling points out in an excellent post over at Grist called Ozone Madness, this decision is wrong based on the law, the science, the economics, and the transparency.

While the President is trying to, I’d assume, take what he sees as the high ground and compromise with those people who claim that these regulations kill jobs, the opposite is, in fact, true. These National Ambient Air Quality Standards, or NAAQS, are set by the Clean Air Act and, defined by the Supreme Court, are to be based on the best available science about what levels of pollutants are healthy for human beings (people like you and me) to breathe. Tea partiers and some of their corporate paymasters in the fossil fuel industry have been caterwauling that these rules will be “too expensive” to implement, and therefore shut down a lot of old, dirty power plants.

coal smokestacks pollute
Ummmm.. . . yes, please? Couldn’t we, nay, shouldn’t we shut them down? Our best available science tells us these pollution sources are making us sick. We need these life-saving regulations to help all of the sick children, the elderly, and just the plain folks who suffer from asthma and other respiratory disease. Count up the missed school days, the missed work days, the premature deaths– count how they hobble our economy. How can children compete in a global economy if they are missing days from school sick because they can’t breathe? How much work is done not on time? How much lost productivity have we hamstrung our economic engine with to cater to people who don’t know how to compete in a modern energy economy against cleaner forms of production? Because the new EPA rules won’t shut down all power plants, only those who can’t compete, who can’t run cleanly. And since there is also good evidence to show that these sorts of life-enhancing regulations actually help, not hurt, the economy. It also rebuts the White House’s own stated position that they posted just one. day. earlier. that clean air helps the economy, preventing in this year alone:
  • 160,000 premature deaths;
  • More than 80,000 emergency room visits;
  • Millions of cases of respiratory problems;
  • Millions of lost workdays, increasing productivity;
  • Millions of lost school days due to respiratory illness and other diseases caused or exacerbated by air pollution.
So aside from the doublespeak and the just plain bad policy, it looked like the Obama Administration is also taking early steps to signal that they will approve the Keystone XL pipeline to bring the world’s dirtiest and most carbon-intensive source of oil on the planet to Texas Gulf Coast refineries, despite weeks of protests involving thousands of people and hundreds of arrests.

The impact on the climate if this is approved? Well, according to Jim Hanson, one of our top climate scientists, he called it “essentially game over.” Or, as Bill Paxton in Aliens put it: (WARNING: NSFW for swearsies, including the dreaded f-dash-dash-dash word)

Ok, well, all kidding aside because this is deathly serious, as in the fate of the planet’s climate, THIS is what Jim Hanson told climate protesters outside the White House just before he was arrested for his part in the protest.

Bill McKibben, environmental activist and one of the ringleaders of the several weeks long protest event, said this on Friday about how this is not the end of the protests, it’s only the beginning:

These are serious stakes. “Game Over” stakes. What does that mean? Well, for climate, if you’ve liked the record-breaking heat this year in Texas, you’re in luck, as this could easily become the new normal with climate change. And with the heat, we’ve got the huge economic impacts of the drought. For farmers and ranchers, the Dallas Morning News is reporting a 5 billion dollar loss. Thats Billion with a B, folks.

So next time someone starts talking about how it’s “too expensive” to deal with climate change, do what the Violent Femmes say to do and “Add it Up.” (warning:song lyrics also NSFW because of those darn swearsies) Loss from hurricanes like Irene, loss from drought, loss from wildfires, loss to the economy from dirty air (since hotter temperatures mean worse smog), and tell me that just continuing to do nothing and just putting more carbon into the atmosphere is potentially the most expensive thing we can do.

JFK speaking at Rice University

So, what does this have to do with Rice vs Texas? Well, what we have here is political expediency and taking the easy path instead of fighting for what is right. Regulations, regardless of their impact on a multinational corporation’s bottom line, save lives, and improve lives. This is what Ralph Nader fought for when he wrote Unsafe at Any Speed. Corporate whining and their record-breaking profits are not more important than people, and people’s’ rights to breathe clean air, or live in a stable climate. I, for one, am not willing to give up on Central Texas, and let this become the new normal for climate. When I first came to Austin, my literal first impression of the area was “I now understand why people were willing to die at The Alamo to protect this land.”

Decades ago, another President came to Texas to challenge a nation to go to the moon before the end of the decade, and asked an assembled crowd at Rice University the magic question.
“Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, “Because it is there.” … But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?
President Kennedy answered his own question:
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”
Climate change is the same challenge, which I previously hit on in another blog post where I also used this quote. It is certainly one we must be willing to accept, unwilling to postpone, and which we intend to win.

But, most importantly, he notes that “But this city of Houston, this state of Texas, this country of the United States was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them. This country was conquered by those who moved forward.”

Let me take liberty with JFK’s speech where he talks about the need to build a space industry and replace it with a clean energy economy. “If this capsule history of our progress teaches us anything, it is that man, in his quest for knowledge and progress, is determined and cannot be deterred. The [creation of a clean energy economy] will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for [clean energy]. Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolution, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of [energy]. We mean to be a part of it—we mean to lead it.

Our economic torpor, our environmental problems, and yes, our hurricanes and droughts and wildfires, are ALL things we can solve if we are willing to take this same leadership role. Surely there will be pollution in the future, there will be recessions, there will be storms and droughts and fires– but they will NOT be supercharged by an ever-increasing blanket of carbon making our planet warmer and warmer. We must stop doing the same things over and over, relying on fossil fuels, and expecting different results. We must put our courage to the sticking place, and say that we will not allow the voices of a few, economically powerful and well-connected industries to wreak untold havoc on us and our neighborhoods.

You’ll notice, in JFK’s speech, he talks about the costs that a trip to the moon will require. He advocates not spending money recklessly, but in spending a large amount of money to win this challenge.
To be sure, all this costs us all a good deal of money. This year’s space budget is three times what it was in January 1961, and it is greater than the space budget of the previous eight years combined. That budget now stands at 5 billion 400 million dollars a year—a staggering sum, though somewhat less than we pay for cigarettes and cigars every year. Space expenditures will soon rise some more, from 40 cents per person per week to more than 50 cents a week for every man, woman and child in the United States, for we have given this program a high national priority—even though I realize that this is in some measure an act of faith and vision, for we do not now know what benefits await us. But if I were to say, my fellow citizens, that we shall send to the moon, 240 thousand miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented, capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better than the finest watch, carrying all the equipment needed for propulsion, guidance, control, communications, food and survival, on an untried mission, to an unknown celestial body, and then return it safely to earth, re-entering the atmosphere at speeds of over 25 thousand miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the temperature of the sun—almost as hot as it is here today—and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out—then we must be bold
However, I think we’re going to do it, and I think that we must pay what needs to be paid. I don’t think we ought to waste any money, but I think we ought to do the job.”
President Obama will be giving a speech on jobs later this week. In it, I’d love to hear even a smidgen of the boldness and realism of Kennedy. I’d love for him to recant his statement on the EPA smog rule, and say that he will stop the Keystone XL pipeline, as it will only increase our dependence on oil when we need to be quitting it. But I doubt it.

But, it could be worse. We could be realistically thinking about electing as President of the United States someone who believes climate change is a hoax, that climate scientists are in it for the money, and the best way to run a state is to slash the budget of the Forest Service, the agency responsible for fighting fires in Texas, by $34 million– almost one-third of its budget– on the eve of one of the most destructive fire seasons ever. It is worth noting that during the sunset hearings on the Texas Forest Service I testified as to the need of the Forest Service to engage in extra forecasting as to what a climate-change-fueled fire season would look like and be prepared to fight it, so this is a little bit of a personal issue for me.

Apologies for the political birdwalk and the sniping at the two likely major-party candidates for the Presidency. What is clear is what JFK was talking about: we must do things like fight climate change not because they are easy, but because they are hard, and because they are a challenge we are willing to accept and unwilling to postpone. It is a fight we must win, it is a fight for our very existence as we know it here in Texas.

This Saturday my alma mater will be coming to Austin to play Texas, and as my BYU Cougars sit as 4.5 point underdogs against the Longhorns, they and we must remember that this is why Rice plays Texas. This is why BYU plays Texas. To challenge ourselves, and organize our best efforts to make us better. That is why Rice plays Texas. And that is ultimately why we must get our head in the game on clean energy and quit our addictions to fossil fuels and their campaign contributions.


For updates on where exactly wildfires are raging in Texas, please visit http://ticc.tamu.edu/Response/FireActivity/

Originally posted at TexasVox.