The times I’ve driven in a Prius, I’ve been totally impressed by the spooky silence of the hybrid engine. But apparently there’s some concern that hybrids are dangerously quiet and could strike people unawares. In Japan, it seems there’s going to be a panel to consider the issue of whether regulators should mandate a noise-making device be incorporated into the cars. Thinking about it, it’s definitely true that as a cyclist I wouldn’t be thrilled about the idea of lots of cars silently sneaking up past me from behind.
I thought this chart from Calculated Risk looking at the past 25 years of oil prices was interesting:
At any rate, as you can see here it doesn’t just seem like the past few years worth of oil price activity has been crazy, it’s really been crazy. And note that we’re in the midst of a pretty remarkable increase in prices considering that there’s no economic growth.
If you’re looking to ruin your 4th of July fun, look no further that this helpful video from Grist about ecologically sound grilling:
President Obama devotes his address this week to remembering the “indomitable spirit of the first American citizens” who built this country and the lessons we can apply to the current challenges:
That is the spirit we are called to show once more. We are facing an array of challenges on a scale unseen in our time. We are waging two wars. We are battling a deep recession. And our economy – and our nation itself – are endangered by festering problems we have kicked down the road for far too long: spiraling health care costs; inadequate schools; and a dependence on foreign oil. [...]
These are some of the challenges that our generation has been called to meet. And yet, there are those who would have us try what has already failed; who would defend the status quo. They argue that our health care system is fine the way it is and that a clean energy economy can wait. They say we are trying to do too much, that we are moving too quickly, and that we all ought to just take a deep breath and scale back our goals.
These naysayers have short memories. They forget that we, as a people, did not get here by standing pat in a time of change. We did not get here by doing what was easy. That is not how a cluster of 13 colonies became the United States of America.
I went to see Public Enemies last night. It’s pretty good. Stylish, elegant, well-acted, but a bit on the dull side—for some reason Michael Mann seems obsessed with trying to drain the excitement out of pitched gun battles. But even that wouldn’t be such a problem if not for the fact that the movie just seems way too long.
This is, it seems to me, a surprisingly common problem with would-be summer blockbusters. And it’s a problem I have a lot of trouble understanding. After all, movie studios would seem to have a strong incentive to make movies shorter. With a shorter movie, you should be able to pack more showings into a given day and sell more tickets and popcorn and such. And yet I feel like it’s way more common to walk out of a theater feeling that a movie was too long than to walk out feeling like I wished there’d been 15 more minutes. I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling. So what’s going on?
When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Okay, the Declaration of Interdependence sounds a lot like the Declaration of Independence.
By saying that it is a self-evident that all humans are created equal and that our inalienable rights include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, our Founding Fathers were telling us that we are all in this together, that we are interdependent, that we have a moral duty to protect these inalienable rights for all humans. President Lincoln, perhaps above all others, was instrumental in making clear that the second sentence of the Declaration was “a moral standard for which the United States should strive,” as Wikipedia puts it.
Scientists are increasingly worried that the beautiful fireworks millions of Americans will be watching this Independence Day contain toxic chemicals that may pose a threat to the environment. A particular focus is perchlorate, which helps “create the combustion reaction needed for the explosion.” According to a 2009 article in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, “the amount of perchlorate in nearby bodies of water could increase by anywhere from 24 to 1,068 times the amount present before the fireworks, and that it takes 20 to 80 days for the chemical levels to subside.” When ingested, perchlorate can hinder the thyroid’s production of growth hormones. In response, some chemists are looking for other solutions, including cleaner-burning fireworks that use nitrate-based oxidants.
Phoebe Connelly says what’s on everyone’s mind: “But really, isn’t the real takeaway that Palin doesn’t want to give the press freedom to enjoy a patriotic 4th merrily grilling without the distraction of our Blackberries?”
I think this is the aspect of Palin’s career that I respect most. Politicians whining about media elites are a dime a dozen, especially on the right, but Palin really put her money where her mouth is and found a way to disrupt a whole bunch of people’s vacations. It’s a pretty solid plan.
It looks like Hedo Turkoglu’s not going to Portland after all. Instead, he’ll sign with Toronto. I wasn’t in love with the idea of that deal for Portland, so I think this could be for the best. If they can snag Andre Miller on a reasonable contract, that could be better for them. And since there are no other real prospective bidders out there I don’t see why they couldn’t snag Andre Miller on a reasonable contract. I also think Paul Millsap and David Lee, both of whom are on the market, are better than the somewhat overrated LaMarcus Aldridge.
The other option available to them is just to do nothing. The CW is that Portland needs to use its $9 million in cap space because it won’t be available next summer when extensions for Aldridge and Brandon Roy kick in. That’s true, but the possession of cap room during the season would make them a very appealing trade partner for a team that decides it needs to shed salary. Oftentimes the most one-sided deals out there are this in-season salary dumbs (think Pau Gasol to LA or Kevin Garnett to Boston) so being in a position to be the partner in that kind of deal could be very valuable.
Felix Salmon reports on a fascinating effort to quantify the externalities associated with driving into the Manhattan Central Business District:
Being a cyclist, I’m acutely aware of the issue of externalities — it generally costs you nothing to blindly step off the sidewalk and into the bike lane, or to open your taxi door without looking behind you, but it can affect me greatly. Komanoff’s a cyclist too, but he’s concentrating in this spreadsheet mainly on vehicular traffic. After crunching the numbers, he calculates that on a weekday, the average car driving south of 60th Street in Manhattan causes a total of 3.26 hours of delays to everybody else. (At weekends, the equivalent number is just over 2 hours.) No one car is likely to suffer excess delays of more than a few seconds, of course, but if you add up all those seconds, it comes to a significant amount of time.
Many of those hours are very valuable things, especially when you consider big trucks, staffed with two or three professionals, just idling in traffic. Komanoff calculates (check out the “Value of Time” tab) that the average vehicle has 1.97 people in it, and that the value of an hour of saved vehicule time south of 60th Street in Manhattan on a weekday is $48.89. Which means, basically, that driving a car into Manhattan on a weekday causes about $160 of negative externalities to everybody else.
This suggests, of course, that the only real problem with the Bloomberg administration’s controversial congestion pricing plan from last year was that the proposed price was far too low. Of course it still doesn’t follow from this that $160 is the appropriate congestion fee, since if you had a lower congestion fee that would reduce the number of cars on the street and thus reduce the marginal impact of additional vehicles.
People seem to be unaware of this, but the evidence suggests that traffic congestion costs the country tends of billions of dollars a year in lost economic activity:
If we implemented congestion pricing in those metropolitan areas suffering from chronic congestion and then gathered up all the revenue and lit it on fire, we would swiftly find ourselves living in a more prosperous society. And if we gathered up the revenue and did something else with it, we’d be even better off.