The Daily Gripe

I guess it's a sign that I'm getting old when I start my day by scoffing at the newspaper. Here are the latest things to push my buttons:

1. McCain's idea of the economy. I was happily working in the kitchen the other day, listening to an NPR interview, when it suddenly occurred to me that McCain was repeating the same thing over and over again with only the slightest variation in phrasing. His solution to our current predicament is to A) eliminate unnecessary earmarks and B) lower taxes. This is all fine and noble and good, but I desperately wanted to ask - So, we make our government run at maximum efficiency and we give the citizens more money in their pocket. Then what? The government still needs money to run, especially if McCain wants to keep this war going, and where does the money come from? Right now, we're borrowing heavily from China. Wouldn't it be a lesser evil to tax the snot out of ourselves rather than borrow from another country? And if everyone has more money in their pockets, they will most likely go out and spend it on cheap goods, ie ones coming from outside the country. So we end up borrowing more and increasing our trade deficit further. This is a solution?

Any time I hear McCain say "earmarks" I want to slap the TV/radio/newspaper. The two he frequently cites are the "Bridge to Nowhere" and the DNA study on grizzly bears, which he laughs at as being a paternity suit. The "Bridge to Nowhere," if I'm not mistaken, was a scuttled project to built a bridge between Ketchikan and its island airport. I've ridden the ferry to that island several times, and it's not so bad. A bridge is probably unnecessary, but certainly not unreasonable, especially after you've hauled luggage up and down the ramp to the ferry a few times. As for the DNA study, a bunch of scientists quickly jumped up and said, hey, the grizzly is nearly extinct in the Lower 48 and that study contributed a lot to conservation efforts. (It sounds very much like a study I might have worked on, had things gone differently.) So McCain is off base on both counts.

2. The border fence. Stupidest idea ever. The entire time I've heard people talking about it, I keep asking, "What about the wildlife?" It reminds me of a conference I went to in Belize on the Central American Wildlife Corridor (now called the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor), a cooperative effort between all the countries in Central America to preserve an unbroken strip of wild lands from north to south to allow for the traditional migration of wildlife. The meeting brought together people of all stripes, from researchers to farmers, to try to create this unbroken corridor, and the very act of trying was itself a great source of pride.

The first time I heard about a border fence, I thought about this corridor. Any fence big enough to stop people would stop...pretty much everything else. I've seen coverage about how the fence would affect ranchers (cut them off from their water supply) and towns (cut buildings off from the town), but nothing on wildlife.

Finally, finally yesterday in the paper there was an article on the wildlife. Thank you! And yes, it turns out that the fence would be so disastrous that it would endanger much of the wildlife, and in one instance probably cause the extinction of a rare sub-species of pronghorn. Many of the scientists who work in that area are promising that they will physically lay down in the path of the fence if they try to build it. President Bush, in all his great wisdom, has already granted environmental waivers to the agency building the fence (Homeland Security, or Border Patrol, or something, I forget.) But out of the goodness of their hearts, the agency has offered to pay Fish and Wildlife $800,000 to mitigate the damages.

So, will the F&W use that $800,000 to helicopter the pronghorn back and forth across the fence? Maybe they could use it to cryogenically freeze all the wildlife for a time when there aren't any more fences.

3. Ethanol, the biggest scam of our generation, and yes, I am getting momentum from the recent Time Magazine issue that pretty much said the same thing. But it's much worse than I thought. On the surface, ethanol is just barely more efficient than gasoline, but that's before you factor in the land, water, and fertilizer needed to produce it. On the fertilizer issue, the increased crops of corn in the Midwest have resulted in an increase in fertilizer being washed down the Mississippi, which in turn has caused a widening dead zone in the Gulf that is putting fishermen out of business. On the land issue, many US farmers are switching from soybeans to corn, which increases the soybean demand, which is being answered by South American (mainly Brazil), which has to clear out more rainforest to convert the land to farming. So by using ethanol, we are essentially killing the ocean and the rainforest. Green!

While we're all in a huff trying to fill our gas tanks, much of the world is struggling to fill their stomachs. One tank's worth of ethanol equals enough corn to feed one person for a year. I suppose if we were in dire straights, we could ask, "Do I want to eat for a year, or drive for 400 miles?" What yahoo thought that burning up food for fuel was a good idea to begin with?

Ah, you powerful corn lobby, scourge of dietitians and spawner of conspiracy theories everywhere! I'm referring to conversation I had once upon a time with an oil man I was sitting next to on the plane. We were in Ecuador; he was looking for new oil in the jungle. We started talking corn. He pointed out to me that you hardly ever see corn syrup on the label of foods outside the US. I already knew this. I had learned much earlier that Coke made in the US is sweetened with corn syrup, while in other countries it usually has sugar instead. (I've heard several Coke lovers exclaim, while drinking one abroad, "Hey, this is what it used to taste like!")

But then the oil man insisted that nearly every food in America uses corn syrup, and that I would be hard pressed to find one that didn't. He was right. Nine times out of ten...well, check the label. Is it cheaper? More readily available? Or is the corn lobby an evil entity spun wildly out of control with power? My oil man insisted the latter, and with confidence plainly stated that the reason so many Americans struggle with obesity is because of corn syrup, which is harder for the body to process.

I shrug off that sort of thinking. I'm not one for conspiracy theories anyway. I just don't think people are all that organized. But gradual misguidance, that is something I genuinely fear, and that seems to be where the ethanol debate is right now. Oregon, being a forward-thinking state, has put forth a renewable energy agenda which heavily includes ethanol. (They want to build refineries in the state, shipping in trucks of corn from the Midwest. Intelligent.) Oh...moan...ethanol... And now I can't go to the gas station without tapping into a blend, whether I like it or not.


Insert happy thought here.


Erin said...

You know, you hit on one of the major reasons I'm registered as a Democrat. I believe in paying my taxes. What's more I encourage taxes. How else are we supposed to pay for stuff? After all, if you relied on people to voluntarily donate money, we might actually have enough money to pay our teachers instead of funding "grants" for oil projects, building a gigundo fence and preaching "abstinence only" in family planning clinics...[/rant]

Of course, McCain has to say he wants tax cuts so that the neoconservatives who hate him will have a reason to vote for him in November.

Monster Librarian said...

Rants are good and i hear you! Ugh! I find myself throwing my arms up in the air everyday!!

-W- said...

Have you read "The Omnivore's Dilemma"? Great discussion of King Corn and the evil of the corn lobby.

Things like this make me kind of glad I don't read the paper very often.

Anonymous said...

Hey KT, Adam here

You are more correct when you consider the corn lobby as an evil organisation out of control with power. Have a poke around US farm subsidy bills, and also check out laws restricting importing of sugar to keep a few Floridian cane sugar barons happy.

I'm always slightly freaked out when food shopping in the USA at just how much corn syrup is in packaged food. Next time you go to the supermarket, have a look.

have fun in Alaska!