Tuesday, August 30, 2005

If Your Home Utility Bill Is Zero, Is It Still a Bill?

A friend asked me a while ago what I was doing about the rising cost of gasoline. I'll write about gasoline after a while, but first wanted to share this practical piece from the New York Times about saving on home utility costs. (If you're not a Times user, you may need to register. No cost, last time I checked.)

Quick fixes recommended in the Times sidebar:
. Consider buying a water heater wrap (about $10) to keep heat from escaping, or a programmable thermostat (about $25) ... to save energy at certain hours.

. Replace most incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent ones (about $3 each).

. Seal every hole and crack in your home.

. Plant a tree in front of the western windows of your home.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Work for willing hands, if society will cooperate

The radio station that stirred up a fuss about the job center in the Washington suburb of Herndon, Va., did nobody any favors. Here, though, is a serious piece in the Los Angeles Times (registration required) about the spots where men and women assemble and wait to be hired for work, usually a day at a time. These job corners, by the way, have been part of Southern life for many decades. Maybe they're common in the North as well. The shame of the Herndon controversy is that it will make it harder for needy workers there to earn a living.

More on this presently.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Can Democracy Stop Terrorism?

You've heard it over and over, from pols at every point along the political spectrum: If we could seed democracy in the world's most dangerous places, we'd have a lot less terrorism to cope with. Well, maybe it's time to give up that optimistic thought. Here's how professor F. Gregory Gause III reasons on that topic, in Foreign Affairs. It's worth your time. Then tell me what you think, won't you?

An important part of his discussion:
The emphasis on electoral democracy will not, however, serve immediate U.S. interests either in the war on terrorism or in other important Middle East policies.

It is thus time to rethink the U.S. emphasis on democracy promotion in the Arab world. Rather than push for quick elections, the United States should instead focus its energy on encouraging the development of secular, nationalist, and liberal political organizations that could compete on an equal footing with Islamist parties. Only by doing so can Washington help ensure that when elections finally do occur, the results are more in line with U.S. interests.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Blogs rule (not!)

A note from Forbes.com: Blogging To Parliament : "Lynne Featherstone credits her online diary -- a blog -- with helping her overturn a hefty Labour majority in the May election to capture a key seat in the capital for the Liberal Democrats."