Re: Junk Shot

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Is the blog hungry?

Is this synecdoche?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-29-10 10:23 PM
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The blog is rarely hungry on Saturday nights.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-29-10 10:25 PM
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And this one is no exception.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-29-10 10:25 PM
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I am somewhat hungry, moderately drunk, and trying to put together a final draft of a paper, which requires changing small details in code I last touched two and a half months ago. The drunkenness is probably not conducive to getting these details right, btu I don't really give a damn.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-29-10 10:27 PM
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Why were they using those "dispersants"?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-29-10 10:27 PM
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That sure is some prissy shit.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 05-29-10 10:31 PM
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btu

At least get your units of measurement right!


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-29-10 10:35 PM
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That sure is some prissy shit.

The song? Huh. I liked it, but I'm a sucker for pop.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 05-29-10 10:36 PM
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This post made me so hungry that ran to the kitchen and microwaved a pair of frozen White Castle miniburgers. Ymmmm.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-29-10 10:37 PM
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That's pop? Maybe "folk-pop". I don't really call anything pop anymore unless it's 80% electronic.

Don't think it's prissy either. Maybe the lyrics are. Twee, maybe. Good song.

I'm trying to use shorter sentences. End up uttering many sentiments that disagree with each other. Problem? I now may sound like Parsimon.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-29-10 10:48 PM
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10: Well, you are being pretty parsimonious with your words.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-29-10 10:51 PM
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I'm trying to use shorter sentences.

Why?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-29-10 10:55 PM
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Are White Castle miniburgers smaller than regular White Castle burgers? If not, at least get your units of measurement right!


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-29-10 10:57 PM
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"Mini" isn't really a prefix that implies any particular fraction.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-29-10 10:59 PM
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12: Because I had about 25 semicolons edited out of my manuscript recently. The thought occurs: maybe I'm making the perfectly grammatical the enemy of the goodly readable.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-29-10 11:00 PM
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15: I see. I've made occasional efforts to simplify my prose in the same way.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-29-10 11:01 PM
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It applies some smaller proportion than usual, though. Man, I'd love to have a few decagrams of White Castle deciburgers right about now.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-29-10 11:02 PM
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On the other hand, I appear to be recognizable by my syntax.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-29-10 11:03 PM
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Uh, implies. Also 17 to 14.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-29-10 11:03 PM
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Unit conversions: 1 lotaburger = 5 miniburgers.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-29-10 11:03 PM
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You'd think one entire lotaburger would be a convertible unit, but actually it's just the partitive genitive.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-29-10 11:05 PM
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I like twee a lot. THat song didn't have any good anorak qualities, it just sucked.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 05-29-10 11:20 PM
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"Good anorak qualities"? That a fancy way of saying "warmth"?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-29-10 11:38 PM
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glossy fuzzy hot hot trax


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 12:05 AM
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Not really my kinda thing. Sounded like music for grups, afraid to wake little Pearl and Abe in the next room.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 12:47 AM
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Why must you take shots at my junk, Stanley?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 12:49 AM
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Speaking of junk, I've just discovered that there's a pho joint near here that has "noodles with pizzle" on the menu.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 12:53 AM
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Pasta pizzelles?


Posted by: Golem | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 1:00 AM
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8: The song? Huh. I liked it, but I'm a sucker for pop

You pretty consistently link folk music Stanley; acoustic guitars and drums. You link that and hip hop (is hip hop pop?) so that makes me think you need to pioneer the folk-hip hop genre.

m, acoustic dance moves


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 6:56 AM
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pioneer the folk-hip hop genre.

I think he's a couple decades too late for that one.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 7:09 AM
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||

I've made the mistake of wading into a FB comments thread from a distant, childhood neighbor who was complaining about people saying they want to "ban the oil industry". All I said was that I run in a pretty hippy-dippy crowd and I've never heard anyone say that. Lord help me.

|>


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 10:23 AM
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31:Not hippie-dippie enough if you haven't heard "nationalize the energy industry" which is close enough to banning for government work.

Haven't learned much new about the methane, except this:an informed someone at the oildrum was worried about methane bubbles forming suddenly from the frozen hydrates on the sea floor, or coming out of the well. He was worried specifically for the BP repair ships, the bubble would be big enough, that popping at the surface, the ships would simply fall into the hole and disappear. He also said the relief wells, at one mile away, were one mile too close for safety. In that case the bubble would catch a spark and become fire. Dangerous work out there, the BP grunts and engineers deserve gratitude.

The oildrum blog itself is going thru changes, with a great mass of newbie commenters asking stupid questions, or questions already answered. Not me. The newbies are also shocked at how close to the oil industry the oildrum regulars are, probably the majority are former employees.

That so many of the oildrum regulars were geologists, engineers etc might help explain their obsessive focus on oil production and evidence and consequences of Peak Oil.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 11:18 AM
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||

Speaking of FB, an acquaintance posted "Is it okay to give my 1 year old tylenol for her teething?"

She had one response so far, which was "When my children were teething, I used to sing for them. I was offkey, but it worked better than any medicine!"

I hate blowhards.

|>


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 11:19 AM
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Poor Heebie. I'd be happy to sing for you if you think it would make you feel better.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 11:28 AM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 11:29 AM
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31: Didn't Brad DeLong recently (about a month ago) come out in favor of nationalizing the oil industry. I'll try to find that post.

As for the song, I like it. I even like it quite a bit, but I have to say, I feel like it seems like a song that is well suited to youtube in some ways that mildly bug me (that I mentioned here. It's biggest virtue is that it's immediately accessible. Having no introduction other than a random link, it immediately makes sense and is pleasant. I think it's also well written and well performed, but I don't think it's exceptionally well written or performed. I think it very well as a pleasant surprise and interlude, but it doesn't make me want to get really in to it.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 11:40 AM
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Brad DeLong

Nationalize the American Energy Industry. In the 1960s it became very clear that the price of oil in the United States needed to be higher: Because of powerful congestion and pollution externalities, we were overinvesting in the automobile civilization. A larger tax on oil would nudge the economy closer to the social optimum. In the 1970s it became very clear that the price of oil in the United States needed to be even higher: Because of instability in the Middle East, unacceptable geopolitical risks were being generated by our dependence on the Middle East as a source of energy. A larger tax on oil would nudge the economy into a configuration in which this geopolitical danger would be lessened. And at the start of the 1990s it became very clear that the price of carbon energy needed to be higher: global warming.
 Yet it never happened. It never happened because of what Lloyd Bentsen's aides used to call the "ullengaz" industry--"oil and gas." Powerful enough to block desirable public policy regulation and adjustment for nearly fifty years now. In general I am opposed to state-run nationalized industries: that is definitely the private sector's place, not the government. But the interaction of rent-seeking politics with the flaws of America's political system have made me willing to make an exception in the case of America's oil industry: the increased allocative inefficiency that will flow from government ownership and management is, in my judgement, likely to be much less than the increased political efficiency that will flow from no longer having the energy industry able to purchase enough Representatives and Senators to block needed policy moves that it fears will be adverse to its interests. So nationalize--not to expropriate or to penalize the shareholders, but to get this particular selfish and destructive political voice out of American governance.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 11:47 AM
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This seems the appropriate thread for this shot of junk, from the Pres. of the A.E.I. on the 'new culture war between free enterprise and European-style social democracy.'

In fact, no matter how the issue is posed, not more than 30 percent of Americans say they believe we would fare better without free markets at the core of our system. When it comes to support for free enterprise, we are essentially a 70-30 nation.
So here's a puzzle: If we love free enterprise so much, why are the 30 percent who want to change that culture in charge?

Now, lest you think this is nothing more than poll-mongering:

Free enterprise brings happiness; redistribution does not. The reason is that only free enterprise brings earned success.

So I hope you realize what this means:

The irony is that it is the 30 percent coalition, not the 70 percent majority, that is fundamentally materialistic. What do they consider the greatest problem of poor people in America? Insufficient income.

God, that 30 percent coalition are a bunch of dumbasses.



Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 11:51 AM
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33: No matter what parenting problem you are facing, you will always be able to find at least one person who thinks it can be solved by the sheer force of your love and at least one person who thinks it can be solved with the appropriate discipline.

I predict that the next person posting to your acquaintance's feed will suggest that if the baby were properly Ferberized, she wouldn't cry because of teething pain, but would be able to "self sooth" her way through the pain.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 11:56 AM
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This seems the appropriate thread for this shot of junk

Read that, did you? I read it last week... whee! Break out the Ayn Rand and preach the virtue of selfishness and poverty for the suckers! You must choose: the 1880's or communism.

m, i choose to laugh out loud


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 12:18 PM
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"When my baby had pneumonia, I used to write epic poetry for her. It didn't scan, but it worked better than any antibiotics."


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 12:21 PM
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38.last is fucking funny.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 12:31 PM
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Read that, did you?

It was too fascinating to put down. Frank Rich linked to it in today's NYT. I realize this is an idiotic question, but what is wrong with the Washington Post? They're so last week!

Where's Emerson when you need him to decry the state of our major media today?

Plus, then I read the first 20 comments in the AEI piece, and realized: people who can't spell bother me.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 12:35 PM
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I have seen a few people I know on FB stumping for nationalizing BP, but then a big chunk of my FB friends are anarchist-communists who'd be happy to dismantle capitalism completely. Sadly, I don't think our ideas actually have 30% of the country's support. Yet.

Had a pretty good time yesterday at the twin "Day of Action Against SB1070"/"Take Down The Fort" demonstration at Fort Snelling, even though I got sunburned. It was really inspiring to see people showing so much solidarity across race and class and nationality lines. One of the tragedies of having such an atomized and alienated left here is that there are so many great activists that you never get to meet in the normal course of things.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 1:03 PM
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It would probably be rather tricky for the US government to nationalize British Petroleum.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 1:04 PM
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Not exactly FB trollery, but last night my BFF's husband felt compelled to share with me a recording on his phone that starts with a clip of Obama introducing himself. And then ends abruptly with the sound of gunshots an shells dropping to the floor.

Good god I hate her fucking husband and pray, pray, pray for an eventual divorce.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 1:08 PM
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46: Huh. Did you tell him that was deeply offensive and uncool?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 1:15 PM
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43: I realize this is an idiotic question, but what is wrong with the Washington Post? They're so last week!

They are the voice of the neo-con wing of the Republican party. To their right are the Tea baggers and to their left is everyone else in the world. John McCain speaks for them. The Washington Times is everyone to the right of the post. The NYT is broadly the centrists and some of the left (like Rich and Herbert).

m, thanks heavens for rich and herbert


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 1:18 PM
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45: Not if we invaded the UK and seized BP's assets first. Think big, teo.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 1:21 PM
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48: I know. But I should think they (the Post) would be embarrassed about it.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 1:31 PM
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36

Didn't Brad DeLong recently (about a month ago) come out in favor of nationalizing the oil industry. I'll try to find that post.

Because that has worked so well for Mexico?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 1:56 PM
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37

A remarkably dumb argument. If politicians want higher energy prices it would be simple to enact the appropriate taxes. Nationalizing the oil industry would make it harder not easier for politicians to raise gas prices.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 2:00 PM
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How has it not worked for Mexico?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 2:01 PM
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50: But I should think they (the Post) would be embarrassed about it.

As near as I can tell, 'responsible adults' were giddy with in anticipation in 2003 over Iraq, and they also like to see the poor suffer. And they still are. See Kathleen Parker's WaPo column today. And see krauthammer's columns this week.

m, they're over being embarrassed


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 2:01 PM
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[A]nd they also like to see the poor suffer.

Maybe if the poor weren't so surly....


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 2:05 PM
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Maybe we wouldn't be so surly, Flip, if you'd just stop pelting us with apple cores from the roof of your Fifth Ave. mansion. Sheesh.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 2:44 PM
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52

See for example this article from 2008 about Americans in border states crossing the border to buy subsidized Mexican gasoline.

The price differential is currently less but it appears Mexican gas is still cheaper. See here or here .

Of course Venezuela is a much more extreme example of
subsidized prices.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 2:49 PM
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56: "We"?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 2:59 PM
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Sheerer is right. At least about nationalizing the oil industry.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 3:09 PM
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58: Flip doesn't actually have a Fifth Ave. mansion. At least I don't think so.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 3:14 PM
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Sheerer is right. At least about nationalizing the oil industry.

That's what surprised me about he Brad DeLong post. The idea that the government would nationalize the oil companies as a way to raise prices seems completely unlikely. But DeLong is neither stupid nor politically naive so I have to conclude that either he is just saying that for rhetorical purposes or he thinks that nationalization, while unlikely to be a short term solution to the problems he worries about, would have sufficient long term benefits to be worth it.

I'm honestly not sure which is more likely (of course, as a practical matter, calling for the nationalization of the oil companies is a rhetorical move, since it won't happen, but I could believe that DeLong genuinely believes it would be a good idea).


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 3:20 PM
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59: I think you mean "at most"


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 3:22 PM
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Delong is arguing that the oil industry is a malign political force that has made it impossible to raise the price. Thus, nationalization.
Of course, nationalization is likely even harder.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 3:39 PM
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63.1 was my understanding.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 3:42 PM
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I would argue for nationalization because fuck those guys.
I admit my governing principles are also unlikely to be enacted.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 3:43 PM
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61: while unlikely to be a short term solution to the problems he worries about, would have sufficient long term benefits to be worth it.

He's arguing that the oil industry is so bad for the economic and political health of the country that it makes nationalization acceptable, no matter how bad that would be. It's a rhetorical move... and the truth. I only half agree... but I get his point and if we had to, I would go there.

m, pemex isn't that bad


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 3:57 PM
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55: Maybe if the poor weren't so surly...

... then the tea baggers would still hate them.

m, see a. rand


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 3:58 PM
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Well, look, it's never going to happen -- nationalization of the oil and gas industry -- so my mood is such that I have to utter an admittedly dismissive "Whatevs".

DeLong as quoted upthread:

In general I am opposed to state-run nationalized industries: that is definitely the private sector's place, not the government. But the interaction of rent-seeking politics with the flaws of America's political system have made me willing to make an exception in the case of America's oil industry

What kind of apologetics is that? It's the fault of either, and both, politicians and the political system itself that things are not working as they should? Does Brad ever delve deeper? Perhaps he does. I only read him when he's linked here.

It's not going to happen, though I suppose it doesn't hurt to continue to raise the question.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 4:23 PM
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In what sense is it the private sector's place to run nationalized industries? Or does he rather think that the state should run private rather than nationalized industries?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 4:28 PM
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neb, grant the man a couple of elided commas, to wit:

"In general I am opposed to state-run. nationalized, industries"

It's actually a pretty sweet slip, though, to the extent that the private sector may be said to run the government.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 4:43 PM
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It looks like one of my commas up there is actually a period. Dammit! Specks on the screen; you know how it is. Nonetheless.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 4:53 PM
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70 addresses neb's second question, but not his first.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 4:57 PM
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63

Delong is arguing that the oil industry is a malign political force that has made it impossible to raise the price. ...

Because the American people really want higher gas prices and it's only evil industry machinations that are keeping prices low? Isn't it usually the other way around? As I said a remarkably dumb argument.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 5:04 PM
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Because government agencies have, paradoxically, much less influence over congress than government agencies, James, you unrepentant goofball.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 5:09 PM
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Hey that didn't work at all.

Substitute "private industry" for "government agencies" in that second case, won't you?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 5:10 PM
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72: Well, Okay, Then:

"In general I am opposed to state-run, nationalized, industries: those are definitely the private sector's place"

Jeez, it's like you guys are having trouble understanding what Brad's on about.

[The sentence is unfixable as constructed.]


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 5:11 PM
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74: Because the American people really want higher gas prices and it's only evil industry machinations that are keeping prices low?
Shearer, surely you've heard of an unpriced externality? If not, I suggest you go and scoop some up off the Louisiana coast.


Posted by: Mirounga | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 5:14 PM
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I take it that DeLong means that "industries" are the private sector's place, and that government should be involved in whatever industries are. It is hard to see that as anything but an expression of ideology, though.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 5:14 PM
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Er, 77 to 73 (not 74). Sorry about that.


Posted by: Mirounga | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 5:14 PM
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that government should NOT be involved, etc.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 5:16 PM
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78: Well, yes (with the inclusion of the "not"). That's DeLong's deal, or position. He's probably provided arguments for that view; they just don't appear in the passage quoted upthread.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 5:24 PM
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DeLong argued for the natrionalization of the oil inudstry (coal as well, I think). Surprised the hell out of me, but he meant it since it was part of his argument for four things to do about global warming. So he means taking over/nationalizing private industry, nothin' else.

Part of the reason he thinks that should be done is because the oil industry buys its way out of political trouble. So you stop that with nationalization.

m, see?


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 5:43 PM
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Yes, DeLong advocates the right action for the wrong reasons.

The best reason is that after the salaries, the costs of equipment, the exploration and research. after all those costs which will create jobs on the other side of the ledger in any case, there remain the annual billions in net profits which belong to the people, especially from an extractive industry.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 5:57 PM
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That's where I switch sides and say, well, what about efficiency and bribery? Surely any corruption will be worse in a public entity and profits much smaller.

m, knife's edge


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 6:01 PM
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The second best reason is that the commanding heights, and industries or sectors that are absolutely ao essential to the general welfare that they cannot be allowed to fail or perform inadequately due to excess focus on profits, should be controlled by the Soviets worker's councils government.

Finance, healthcare, transportation, energy.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 6:02 PM
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82: Yes! He'd normally insist on private enterprise and ownership, because that's just the most efficient way to do things, but things are a mess now, so he's reluctantly conceding that nationalization might be the only way to go. Hence what I called the apologetics (for the "increased allocative inefficiency that will flow from government ownership and management") involved in the quoted passage upthread.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 6:03 PM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 6:05 PM
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Presumably Brad doesn't think nationalization in and of itself will raise prices, since as several people have pointed out that's totally wrong. He seems to be arguing that nationalization will give the government more control over the industry in general and more ability to enact and enforce laws on a variety of issues that affect energy, which is clearly correct. It's rather odd that he puts so much emphasis on prices.

(Of course, nationalization would also give the government a direct monetary incentive to favor higher prices, but how that would play out in practice would depend on a variety of political factors that are hard to predict.)


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 6:05 PM
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bob is right in 83 and 85.

As far as DeLong's general stance that the private sector is clearly and inevitably more efficient than the public goes: hogwash.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 6:14 PM
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DeLong's an economist, and a very mainstream one, so it's hardly surprising that he would buy into the idea that industry should be left to the private sector.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 6:18 PM
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Agreed. Comity!


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 6:25 PM
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teo what's your shoe size?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 6:28 PM
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I'm not surprised.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 6:36 PM
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92: 10.5, usually, but it tends to vary a bit depending on the type of shoe.

93: I didn't say you were.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 6:40 PM
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88

(Of course, nationalization would also give the government a direct monetary incentive to favor higher prices, but how that would play out in practice would depend on a variety of political factors that are hard to predict.)

Currently the government has a direct monetary incentive to raise energy taxes. Even more so than from higher prices with a nationalized energy sector because the government would collect higher taxes from all producers foreign and domestic whereas revenue from higher prices would only accrue from domestic production.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 6:47 PM
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Currently the government has a direct monetary incentive to raise energy taxes.

Right, which is why I said you can't predict how monetary incentives will affect government decisions.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 6:50 PM
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This thread seems like the right place for two energy-related questions I've been puzzling over.

1. A young gentleman this morning at Meeting talked at some length about how he wanted to "boycott oil" and reduce his dependency due to the disaster in the Gulf, so he was going to finish the current tank of gas in his car and then try not to drive.

Although conservation and awareness seem like good goals, I was a little confused by the conflation of oil with gasoline. I was under the impression that plastic is a petroleum-based product, and we all have hundreds of dealings a day with plastic products, some of which we can control our use of, some not -- if my office orders me a new chair and it comes swaddled in plastic, not much I can do.

But I don't have any real sense of the percentages. Is automobile use the primary way that an individual is using oil? (Or home heating oil, if they live in a cold climate and have oil heat?) Are plastic products such a minuscule percentage of our consumer-level oil use that it's not worth focusing on conserving them?

2. Pennsylvania's electricity rate caps are expiring soonish. We've been getting warning notices and lots of tips for setting up payment plans, help for elderly or poor customers, etc. But I'm genuinely confused as to what this actually means, and the mailings from the electric company do not clarify.

As far as I can figure out, what happens when rates are capped is that the utility companies have to go ask permission from a public regulatory board when they want to raise them, and justify their reasons (e.g. the supply is costing them more, they have to invest in infrastructure, etc.).

This takes time and effort, so they don't bother to do it as often as (presumably) they would if they were totally independent private companies who could set their own prices.

That's where my knowledge falls down. Why do we have caps in the first place? Does everyone have them? Is the board corrupt captured like other regulators already anyway? And why does the board's consumer guide to expiring rate caps not explain any of this?

Links and/or explanations welcome.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 7:33 PM
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Oh, and I meant to say that 46 sounds horrible. Di, my devout sympathies.

How did you handle it? I probably wouldn't have been able to stop myself from looking at him wide-eyed and saying, "Wow, I'm amazed your friend felt comfortable sending that, given how seriously the Secret Service takes this sort of thing."


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 7:37 PM
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Meeting? Is Witt a, uh, Friend? Was this known? Is this curiosity unseemly?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 7:37 PM
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But I don't have any real sense of the percentages. Is automobile use the primary way that an individual is using oil? (Or home heating oil, if they live in a cold climate and have oil heat?) Are plastic products such a minuscule percentage of our consumer-level oil use that it's not worth focusing on conserving them?

Yes, yes, and not for the moment, no.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 7:38 PM
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Yes, yes, and not for the moment, no.

The later one is good news for those of us with small children or injection molding plants.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 7:41 PM
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I think it should be "not for the moment", without the "no", but I think Moby's relief on behalf of his bisphenolery still apply.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 7:45 PM
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Isn't agricultural use of petrochemicals non-trivial?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 7:46 PM
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103: It is if you're a corn stalk that wants to get bigger.

But, I'm guessing that much of an individual's oil consumption happens outside of that individual's direct control during the manufacture and transportation of nearly everything you buy. I don't think buying less plastic shit would be much better at reducing your oil consumption than just generally buying less stuff.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 7:50 PM
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Is Witt a, uh, Friend? Was this known? Is this curiosity unseemly?

If I'm not mistaken: yes, yes, and not for the moment, no.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 7:51 PM
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But I don't have any real sense of the percentages. Is automobile use the primary way that an individual is using oil? (Or home heating oil, if they live in a cold climate and have oil heat?) Are plastic products such a minuscule percentage of our consumer-level oil use that it's not worth focusing on conserving them?

I don't have a good sense of where plastic fits in, although most plastics are indeed made from oil. Here is some data on the outputs of refining. You can see that it's mostly gas, but fuel oil is a substantial portion.

Why do we have caps in the first place? Does everyone have them? Is the board captured like other regulators already anyway? And why does the board's consumer guide to expiring rate caps not explain any of this?

We have caps because utilities are regulated monopolies. They're monopolies because it's the sort of sector known as a "natural monopoly," where the fixed costs up front are so huge that competition isn't really possible. (If two firms try to compete they'll just drive each other out of business because neither can charge enough to cover their costs.) The problem is that an unregulated monopoly maximizes its profits by setting production much lower than demand and driving up prices, which is socially suboptimal, so governments set up boards to regulate utilities and set the rates they can charge to maximize social benefit while keeping the utility in business. The companies agree to this because in exchange they get a monopoly. Costs change over time, though, so the rates that the board sets at one point aren't necessarily going to be profitable forever, so from time to time the utilities petition to change the rates, but this has to be approved to the board.

This isn't the only way to do this; some places just have the government provide these services directly. Historically, though, most electric and gas companies were private, and so this is how the system evolved in most parts of the US.

As for whether the boards are captured, I don't know. It probably varies from place to place. Rates are generally a political hot button, though, so it would be hard for the board to just give away the store without the politicians (who appoint the board) noticing.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 7:52 PM
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104: right, but given all that, isn't the best way to reduce oil consumption (1) driving less and (2) improving your home efficiency? Everything else is collective and Idunnowhat.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 7:53 PM
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More on natural monopolies.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 7:55 PM
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107: Yes. I was taking those as given if driving less is taken to include driving more efficient vehicles also.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 7:56 PM
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Hm, okay, thanks. But this part still has me confused:

The problem is that an unregulated monopoly maximizes its profits by setting production much lower than demand and driving up prices, which is socially suboptimal, so governments set up boards to regulate utilities and set the rates they can charge to maximize social benefit while keeping the utility in business.

The rate caps here are expiring. So we're about to have this situation that you described? Or does "caps" not mean what I think it does? Or maybe "expiring"?

This is the part where board's explanation is just beyond useless.

105 is very funny, and very nearly true. (I am not officially a member because I never wrote my letter and had a discussion with the Clearness Committee. But I've been an attender for a decade or so, and they let me sit on committees and stuff.)


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 7:57 PM
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As far as DeLong's general stance that the private sector is clearly and inevitably more efficient than the public goes: hogwash.

Not so sure about that. Utilities, natural monopolies, health care, goods for which the government is the only client, and extractive industries are the only ones where I'd consider government control. And in my experience the public sector's ability to provide retail goods and services sucks.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 7:58 PM
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That article does say that regulatory capture is likely with regulated monopolies. So there's that.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 7:59 PM
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110: If it makes you feel better, I don't understand all stuff in the paper about the caps either. I try to read the articles, but I can't make my brain stick with it. I recall one headline saying that prices were going to increase by 5%, which seemed too concrete to be true.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 8:00 PM
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The rate caps here are expiring. So we're about to have this situation that you described? Or does "caps" not mean what I think it does? Or maybe "expiring"?

Hm, here my knowledge starts to fray, but I would say what's probably happening is that the board set a rates at a certain level for a defined period, which is ending, and now they're changing the rates.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 8:01 PM
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111: And in my experience the public sector's ability to provide retail goods and services sucks.

I agree. I think I've said this before, but it is worth saying again. Fuck the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and its State Stores.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 8:02 PM
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Virginia's ABC stores aren't that annoying. They're ubiquitous, and open until 9pm (but not on Sundays). I think they're even open tomorrow until 6pm or something. PA (and MA), as we've discussed before, are particularly weird on blue laws.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 8:06 PM
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Ah, okay. Thiis seems to be the document in question.

Basically what's going on here is that Pennsylvania, like many other states, is moving to a partially deregulated system for electricity. The natural monopoly issue arises with electricity distribution, but not necessarily with electricity generation. So in the future you'll still pay your local electric company for the cost of delivering your electricity at rates set by the board, but you'll also pay for the generation of your electricity, and you'll have a choice of different companies for that. The cost of generation will vary depending on what sorts of plants the generation companies use.

In the interim, though, it looks like the board imposed temporary caps on overall electric rates (apparently to cushion the blow or something), and it's those that are expiring. It's kind of weird that they did that, but that's what's happening.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 8:09 PM
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Actually, it looks like deregulation took effect a while ago and it's just the rate caps that are expiring.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 8:24 PM
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You know more about my utilities than I do. I'm sure if you keep looking, you'll find the bank account number I use for auto-pay on the electric bill.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 8:52 PM
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Sorry, neb.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 9:00 PM
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47: Oh, I'm quite certain he knew it would be deeply offensive and uncool to me. That was undoubtedly the point of sharing it with me. He hates me as much as I hate him, I am fairly sure.

98: I proceeded to say goodbye to everyone else and leave, as had been my original intent anyway. The point about the secret service would have been good -- maybe I'll send my friend an email and mention that. Out of loving concern, of course. Or maybe I'll call the FBI (out of civic duty) and hope they really would drag him off to prison.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 9:42 PM
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If you have his e-mail, just go sign him up for mailing lists you know he wouldn't like. Quicker than the FBI and less likely to irk your BFF, who would probably have to find bail/lawyer money.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 9:57 PM
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They have a single, shared email.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 10:01 PM
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Are they 60? I've got seven e-mail accounts myself.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 10:03 PM
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Well, we wouldn't want her getting private emails or anything.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 10:10 PM
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Eek.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 10:11 PM
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124: I'll get to those soon enough. Meanwhile, thanks for the tip about your bank account. Would you mind making a deposit? Your balance earlier wasn't enough to clear out my Amazon wish list.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 10:12 PM
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xkcd's been pretty terrible lately, but I like this one.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 10:23 PM
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That one's pretty terrible too.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 10:33 PM
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Maybe it just looks good in comparison to the others.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 10:34 PM
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I mean, this? Much worse.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 10:35 PM
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Christ, what an asshole.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 10:35 PM
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131 has retroactively made every xkcd terrible, even the good terrible few, and condemned all future ones to be terrible too.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 10:42 PM
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Fuck the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and its State Stores.

I didn't know Pennsylvania had a Liquor Control Board, actually.

I used to work as a cashier for the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario). Union wages! and time and a half for overtime. I have to admit, the standards for employees were rather low: I was considered something of a prodigy for always balancing my cash, and for never being out by even one penny. Which was not at all hard to do, but I managed to gain a reputation for unusual efficiency.

One of my fellow cashiers had a boyfriend at Kingston Pen (the Dominion Penitentiary at Kingston). Apparently he had killed someone with an icepick, and was serving a long-ish sentence. She pretended to be nice, but I never believed her, and I knew she was stealing money from the till (though I never told anyone, because I believed myself to be something of a marxist, or perhaps a marxist-feminist, at the time, and had also recently read Proudhon on how all property is theft). But that gal was one tough cookie. The men were all afraid of her, or perhaps of her icepick-killer boyfriend.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 10:44 PM
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134: but I managed to gain a reputation for unusual efficiency

Please tell me that you would at least down tools the exact second your break began, even if you were in the middle of a transaction. People fought and died for those breaks!


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 10:58 PM
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116: PA (and MA), as we've discussed before, are particularly weird on blue laws.

What's weird about MA's blue laws?


Posted by: the Other Paul | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 11:24 PM
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135: I used to help a fellow employee by the name of Tommy (I can't remember his last name, though I can still his face) staple the bills together and then staple them to an envelope (which we weren't supposed to do), when we handled bank deposits. Just to make it a little more difficult for the people at the bank. "I fucking hate the banks," said Tommy, and I agreed. But, you know, our small act of sabotage only made things more difficult for lowly bank tellers, so was basically stupid and pointless. But we did it anyway, because we were young and stupid and had no other tools at our disposal.

No, I wouldn't drop everything at the sound of the bell, but I would insist on time paid for minutes beyond the regular shift. And time and a half for overtime, of course. I was well aware of the struggles for fair payment, and so was everyone else I worked with, actually.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 11:28 PM
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"can still his face" s/b "can still see his face"


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 11:29 PM
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What's weird about MA's blue laws?

Last I recall, wine and the hard stuff was sold separate from beer. I may have that wrong, though.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 11:32 PM
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That's the case in a lot of states.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 11:35 PM
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Actually, I quite like the comics linked in 128 and 132. But then 133 gets it exactly right.

I also enjoyed the song from the OP. Especially the beginning bit before the pop kicks in; something about the vocals reminds me of Jeffrey Lewis.


Posted by: persistently visible | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 11:37 PM
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140: Yeah, it's the "wine" part that's weird to me. I was unclear.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 11:39 PM
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Are liquor boards/stores good examples of the government's ability to provide retail services? I mean, isn't part of the point to not do better than the private market would in terms of distributing the good in question?


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 11:53 PM
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I can't imagine liking someone who likes the comic linked in 132. I mean, really.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 11:53 PM
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Are liquor boards/stores good examples of the government's ability to provide retail services? I mean, isn't part of the point to not do better than the private market would in terms of distributing the good in question?

Not necessarily, at least now. Originally that may have been the point, but these days I think governments mostly see them as a source of revenue and/or opportunity for patronage.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-30-10 11:54 PM
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How governments see them and how they are actually set up, institutionally-speaking, are not the same thing. And just the fact that some states' laws are more restrictive than others, drawing regular complaints from various commenters, suggests that the government stores aren't simply trying to generate revenue in the way that non-state run liquor stores are in other states.

Of course, since I don't drink, I have no experiential idea of what I'm talking about. But that shouldn't be a barrier to commenting.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-31-10 1:38 AM
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97

Are plastic products such a minuscule percentage of our consumer-level oil use that it's not worth focusing on conserving them?

Yes, as others have said, but plastic does have its own very bad side effects as well. Very very not biodegradable, much of it ends up in the oceans, especially the pacific where there are now huge patches of floating plastic garbage slowly being worn down into minute pellets, still dangerous to wildlife and such. One of those problems everybody has sort of become aware of but that are damned hard to do something about as an individual, as you get so much throwaway plastic junk shoved your way every day.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 05-31-10 2:37 AM
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I always assumed that the various state liquor monopolies started in the post-Prohibition era when liquor was seen as tolerable but still inherently evil and needing strict supervision - not really economic arguments, though everything can be shoehorned into being an externality.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 05-31-10 6:07 AM
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