Random Walk: On Yucca, NICE, Locavores, Sarah and John, Etc.

Ross Mackenzie
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Posted: Sep 10, 2009 12:01 AM
Random Walk: On Yucca, NICE, Locavores, Sarah and John, Etc.

Comments on a summer-garden variety of issues in the news....

In a Washington Post op/ed, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin opposed a cap-and-trade energy tax on energy, economic, environmental, and national security grounds. Massachusetts Senator John Kerry went ballistic -- blogging: "Governor Palin need look no further than the view from her front porch in Alaska" to see global warming's devastation. His was peculiar phrasing by a senator who opposed a Cape Cod wind-energy project because it might spoil the view from...his front porch.

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Would President Obama's proposed commission of expert doctors and bureaucrats ration health care -- particularly for the elderly? Britain's does. Britain's dismal National Health Service boasts something called the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). It's role? Through cost-utility analysis based on "quality adjusted life-years," to rank patients according to those most and least deserving of medical care. Nice.

Culture of Corruption by Michelle Malkin FREE

Obama wants a medical plan that would extend insurance coverage to 50 million Americans, increase the quality of care, and reduce costs. So a study by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), hardly a right-wing nut group, is particularly shattering on the subject of cost reduction. CBO chief Douglas Elmendorf wrote that regarding the House health care bill, a CBO analysis finds "the probability is high that no savings would be realized."

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Remember when the Italian navy was deemed a laughingstock akin to Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore because it had more admirals than ships? Consider, please, today's U.S. Navy -- with reportedly about 278 ships and about 350 line, staff, and reserve admirals.

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Vouchers were first conceived by Milton Friedman, the late Nobel economist, as a way inexpensively to raise the quality of education, especially for the economically disadvantaged. The left views them with dread -- and a threat to union-monopoly public schools, especially in urban areas where poverty tends to be highest and teacher's-union power strongest. Bulletin: The Washington D.C. Council has petitioned the U.S. Secretary of Education "to stand with us in supporting" D.C.'s voucher program, currently providing improved educations to 1,700 impoverished Washington children.

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What games are deficit-ridden states playing supposedly to improve their economic footing? Four dubious examples among many: (1) Georgia has adopted a measure to raise $23 million through an additional $200 fine on drivers for speeds exceeding 85 mph. (2) A Michigan state senator, eying the state's 83 registered strip-joints, has proposed a bill imposing a $250 fee on strippers. (3) New York is weighing proposals to put ads on garbage trucks and an 18 percent tax on sugary drinks. The state's governor wants to raise wine taxes by 58 percent. (4) A Las Vegas state senator suggested -- to insufficient support -- a $5 tax on prostitute tricks.

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And speaking of Nevada, the Senate has bowed to Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada by killing the long-proposed waste repository for spent nuclear fuel inside the state's Yucca Mountain. Reid didn't want it because he's a NIMBYist, given the creeps by the very notion of nuclear waste inside a mountain in the Nevada desert. Reid also fought the Yucca site because he opposes -- with President Obama and most Democrats -- the expansion of nuclear power in the U.S.

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Nuclear power is, of course, the cleanest and safest form of power generation. And -- with 104 operating reactors in the country -- it comprises just 19.6 percent of the nation's power-generation mix (but 70 percent of all carbon-free electricity). Building more reactors (the last one was licensed in 1979) is the only seriously productive path to energy independence. Yet on this subject so crucial to the nation's future, those running things in Washington just don't seem to get it -- or maybe they get it too well.

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Finally, food. Item: If you're a locavore, you believe generally that buying local reduces the distance food travels -- and thereby helps save the planet. Texas State Professor James McWilliams, author of "Just Food," offers some food for contrary thought. "To choose a locally grown apple over an apple trucked in from across the country might seem easy," he says. "But the decision ignores economies of scale....A shipper sending a truck with 2,000 apples over 2,000 miles would consume the same amount of fuel per apple as a local farmer who takes a pickup 50 miles to sell 50 apples at his stall at the green market. The critical measure here is not food miles but apples per gallon."

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Item: Maybe you missed it, but in the largest study of its kind ever, the British government's Food Standards Agency has analyzed 50 years of research into organic food. The principal finding, according to one of the lead researchers -- writing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "There is currently no evidence to support the selection of organically over conventionally produced foods on the basis of nutritional superiority." But it's a safe bet that for grocery shoppers everywhere, food carrying the "organic" label -- or cachet -- will demand more of the green stuff known as dollars.