How will the hyperpower end?

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The US is currently a hyperpower according to most metrics. It controls a large empire but not in the traditional sense. Hyperpowers can control external entities with the implied threat of military action as well as through economic means.

But, we all know that empires eventually fall. Here’s an interesting look at the current situation vs. the fall of the British empire: Rule America?

This situation is definitely different. It seems unlikely the US will be unseated through military means (although that also seemed unlikely to Britain at the time too.) So what will it be? Emergence of another superpower like China? Loss of economic influence? Loss of social influence?

I’m not at all saying I want the US to crumble, just trying to look at it objectively through the eyes of history. I do think the US wields it’s hyperpower status badly in some cases, but not all. Perhaps not even most, it’s just that the bad ones seem to effect more people and/or get more press.

Saving the environment with beer

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This is awesome, and the exact kind of thinking we need these days: Fill ‘er up — with beer?

Coors has been using it’s waste from the beer-making process to produce Ethanol. Ethanol is widely used as a fuel additive.

One of the best quotes from the article: “We’ve basically taken a waste stream and turned it into a revenue stream”.

This sounds similar to how Biodiesel can be produced with the non-food portions of grains.

Good for the environment and good for Coors. Now we just have to get Coors to make a decent beer.

The Colbert Report

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It’s been here for a full week now and I’ve been impressed so far. Similarly to the daily show, it’s such a good combo: real news mixed with satirical commentary on the media and society. It just wouldn’t work if it was all made up. Also, the “real news” base for the comedy makes you feel like you’re not wasting time watching some silly comedy show.

Here’s an article about the show:
Life, the Docudrama

I especially like the segment “the word.” The text showing up on the right during the commentary feels very adult-swim-ish.

Go yell it from the mountaintops. Or, at least, over the radio.

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This seems pretty sketchy. Apparently a high-schools radio frequency has been “seized” by a network of Christian broadcasting stations. The FCC ruled this a better use of the airwaves.

Divine intervention axes school station

I’m trying hard not to take the cynical view of this, but it’s difficult. Application of the criteria “better use” is obviously very subjective. When will someone at the FCC decide that the lies and distortions of Fox News is not a “best use” of cable bandwidth? Do I really need to hear Jack Van Imp declare that each new week is the “real” evidence of the coming rapture and I should therefore repent and send his organization $1000 to ensure my rightful place in heaven?

A move of contrasts

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My wife and I will shortly be moving back to Ontario after living in Austin, Texas for three years. I never would have believed how attached I would become to a city in Texas, but I’ll definitely miss our friends, the music scene and the weather.

Yet, I just read an article that somewhat lessens the pain. Texas is about to pass a constitutional amendment banning not just gay marriage but civil unions as well: Same-sex marriage ban going to voters: Senate passes amendment that would prohibit any gay unions

So, their argument that they’re “protecting the institution of marriage”, which is total garbage anyways, now completely flys out the window. Yes, they are homophobic. I can’t describe in words how absolutely furious this kind of discrimination makes me.

I’m glad to be moving back to a country that, in my absense, has strengthened their stance on human rights, not succumbed to further biggotry.

Bill Moyers on the environmental movement

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Really interesting speech by Bill Moyers on the state of the environmental movement and how journalism has/can affect it.

A Question for Journalists: How Do We Cover Penguins and the Politics of Denial?

This is an especially choice quote and hits the nail on the head about global warming:
“The President’s contempt for science – for evidence that mounts everyday – is mind boggling. Here is a man who was quick to launch a ‘preventative war’ against Iraq on faulty intelligence and premature judgment but who refuses to take preventive action against a truly global menace about which the scientific evidence is overwhelming.”

The US is apparently still being punished for “putting up with” gay people

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It seems like the idiots I posted about here are back at it again. These were the folks that think it’s a great idea to protest at the funeral of soldiers to let the grieving family know that their god killed the soldier because the US willingly harbours gay people.

VFW motorcycles drown out protestors

If I lived in Kansas I’d protest outside these morons homes at 2am to let them know they’re idiots.

Oil is the new political currency

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An article about the increasing boldness of oil-rich states in the global political arena: Oil-rich countries tap into new political power

The parts that were new to me, and don’t get much media attention here, were the developments in South America with Venezuela.

The summary is that the countries now getting more and more money from oil are proving more assertive. Iran has been less willing to budge on it’s nuclear issue and Venezuela has been giving the US the finger for a while. Russia is no longer dependent on Western handouts so can take it’s own path.

It all makes sense though, and shouldn’t be a shocker. These countries are gaining independence from the major US lever in applying political pressure. The US has been maintaining control of most of the world, where it hasn’t had a physical military presence, through economics. This isn’t some crazy “leftist” theory – I’d love to hear any attempts at disproving it. Every country in the world is afraid of the US in one of two ways: a) fear of military action, or b) losing access to US markets, and/or other markets due to US pressure. Most countries will jump at anything President Bush says, most often due to the economic issue.

What else could a country in a position like that ask for than an abundance of a product that has essentially unlimited demand, low risk of losing customers, and whose price can be adjusted by the seller? Venezuela doesn’t care if they piss of the US. Bush could stop buying Venezuelan oil and unless he convinced every other country to do so, it wouldn’t shut down their economy. Bush would only be hurting himself in that situation because the price of oil would rise.

Plus, the countries and oil cartels that provided the terrorists for 9/11 are reaping larger profits than ever. (I’m not supposing you could blame a country for the actions of a few citizens, in the absense of any real evidence, but if you can invade a country based on the same premise, this should hold as well)

Given this situation, what would you do? Advise your citizens to keep using more oil? Brilliant! I really think not striving for oil independence in the “West” over the last 30 years has been one of the biggest political mistakes ever. Look where it’s gotten us already, and just imagine how much farther it will go.

Energy cost comparisons

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Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the cost of energy and how much the choices we make affect us. I couldn’t easily find any great concise comparisons online, so here we go…

The calculations of energy cost are pretty easy. You need to know the number of watts the appliance you’re comparing uses and the cost per kilowatt hour you pay for electricity. Here I’ll assume a cost of $.13/KWH since that’s what a large portion of the North American population pays (New England and California).

The calculation is as follows:
Kilowatts x hours used/day x $/KWH x 365 = Energy cost per year

Example (350W appliance @ $.13/KWH and 8 hours/day)
.35KW x 8 x $.13 x 365 = $132.86/year

Also, you can figure out the pollution created in the creation of the electricity you’re using. Each KWH produces approximately 1.68 pounds of CO2, among other things (see Electric Power Pollution Calculator)

Another assumption used below is that the average American household watches over 8 hours of television per day (see Nielsen reports US TV viewership at record high)

Appliance Energy Use Yearly Energy Cost Yearly Pollution
Televisions (assuming 8 hours/day)
42″ Plasma TV 350W $132.86 1717lbs CO2
46″ HDTV DLP TV 230W $86.11 1128lbs CO2
27″ Tube TV 180W $67.39 883lbs CO2
Light bulbs (if on all the time)
Conventional Bulb 100W $112.32 1472lbs CO2
Fluorescent Bulb 18W $20.21 265lbs CO2
Computer Monitors (assuming 10 hours/day at work)
19″ CRT Monitor 100W $47.45 613lbs CO2
19″ LCD Monitor 35W $16.61 215lbs CO2

This made me realize that even though the LCD monitor is more expensive up front, it’s actually about $75 cheaper (total cost) over 5 years.

Also, the lightbulb example is really striking. I’m sure most of us leave on enough lightbulbs all the time, that are unnecessary, to equal about 24 hours a day, every day. I’d bet it’s even more like 2 or 3. Just that one light is making almost 1500 lbs of CO2 emissions in one year! Plus, the difference vs. the fluorescent is amazing. When we’re at the store buying a lightbulb and we balk at the efficient lights because they cost $4 each instead of $2, we don’t realize how insignificant that is. That extra $2 could save you up to $80 a year!

Germany as an economic model?

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Here in the US I often hear rhetoric about how European countries with heavy social systems are dying. The usual refrain is that they will be bankrupt in a few years and there’s nothing they can do about it.

Here’s another interesting view: The Germans: A Lot Like Us

He’s not refuting that their economy has big problems but he’s pointing out the positives as well, which don’t get echoed here very often.

A few interesting points:
- In the last 5 years only Germany and China have gained in their share of global exports
- Germany is now the worlds largest exporter of goods
- Germany’s workforce is as productive as the US
- Germany’s unit labour costs are less than the US

Something to think about…

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