Is America Weighed Down By 'Dead Ideas'? : NPR

Is America Weighed Down By 'Dead Ideas'? : NPR

Is America Weighed Down By 'Dead Ideas'?

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Matt Miller
Salvador Farfan

Matt Miller is a columnist for Fortune and the host of the radio program Left, Right and Center.

'The Tyranny Of Dead Ideas' cover
Salvador Farfan
The Tyranny of Dead Ideas
By Matt Miller
Times Books
Hardcover, 282 pages
List Price: $25

Read an excerpt.

Morning Edition, February 9, 2009 · If an entire culture can be said to be hung up on the past, then author Matt Miller might be the nation's therapist. His message to America: Just let go.

"The problem we're in now as an economy is that we're trapped in old ways of thinking," Miller tells Morning Edition guest host Linda Wertheimer.

In his new book, The Tyranny of Dead Ideas, Miller writes that while many of our current notions of economic and social well-being made sense when they first gained traction 50 years ago, they don't hold much water today. On the list of outmoded beliefs: the ideas that our children will earn more than we do; that free trade is good; that financial markets can regulate themselves; that taxes are bad; and that the company we work for should provide us with health care and pensions.

"Unless we explode the dead ideas I'm talking about in the book, we won't find our way back to a durable prosperity," warns Miller.

Take health care: Miller argues that the current employer-based health care system hurts businesses and leaves too many people uninsured or under-insured. Instead, he believes government should share more of the cost of health care.

"We're the only country that does things this way," he says, referring to the employer-based health care system. "We're going to need to revisit the role of the government versus the role of private corporations in assuring the kind of prosperity we want."

Miller admits that increased government involvement in health care and other services will require a hike in taxes. But, he says, as the baby boom generation retires, taxes are likely to go up anyway. And so now may be the time to "tax ourselves more smartly ... [by] cutting taxes on things like payrolls, which hurt lower-income workers and kill jobs, and raising taxes on dirty energy, which we want to cut back on because of our environmental goals."

While raising taxes is never a popular idea, Miller says the time is right: "People are ready for a more honest conversation on this because they know now how serious the stakes are."

While current thinking about the American economy is hardly monolithic, the individuals who occupy its most influential positions subscribe to certain key premises:

  • our children will earn more than we do
  • free trade is "good" no matter how many people it hurts
  • employers should play a central role in the provision of health coverage
  • taxes hurt the economy
  • "local control" of schools is essential
  • people tend to end up, in economic terms, where they deserve to

The Stimulus Plan: A Detailed List of Spending - ProPublica

Go to link below for itemized list for the Stimulus Plan. --Lee

The Stimulus Plan: A Detailed List of Spending - ProPublica: "The Stimulus Plan: A Detailed List of Spending

by Michael Grabell and Christopher Weaver, ProPublica - February 13, 2009 10:24 am EST"


Ashley Judd slams Sarah Palin for ‘promoting aerial killing of wolves’

You Go Ashley! --Lee
Ashley Judd slams Sarah Palin for 'promoting aerial killing of wolves' | Top News

Ashley Judd
slams Sarah Palin for 'promoting aerial killing of wolves'
Submitted by Kiran Pahwa on Tue, 02/03/2009 - 08:02.

    Ashley Judd slams Sarah Palin for 'promoting aerial killing of wolves'Washington, Feb 03 : Ashley Judd has teamed-up with Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund to launch a Web-based campaign targeting Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's `anti-conservation agenda' and `attack on wolves and bears'.

    The organisation has launched the campaign with a new Website, EyeonPalin. org.

    In a video, the actress condemns Palin for allegedly promoting the aerial killing of wolves in Alaska, and goes so far as to accuse Palin of proposing bounties for severed forelegs of killed wolves.

    "It is time to stop Sarah Palin and stop this senseless savagery," Politico. com quoted Judd, as stating in the ad.

    While the launching the anti-Palin campaign, Judd said she is `outraged by Sarah Palin''s promotion of this cruel, unscientific and senseless practice which has no place in modern America.'

    "Because she is apparently determined to continue and expand this horrific program, I am grateful that Defenders will aggressively fight to stop her. I am proud to be a part of that effort," Judd said.

    This isn't the first time Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund, a progressive environmental organization, has taken aim at Palin over the aerial killings.

    During the presidential campaign, Defenders launched a national television ad campaign focused on the topic. (ANI)


    BBC NEWS | Science & Environment | Darwin's twin track: 'Evolution and emancipation

    BBC NEWS | Science & Environment | Darwin's twin track: 'Evolution and emancipation'

    Darwin's twin track: 'Evolution and emancipation'

    What drove Charles Darwin to his extraordinary ideas on evolution and human origins? Adrian Desmond, with co-author James Moore, argue in a new book that the great scientist had a "sacred cause": the abolition of slavery.

    A slave in chains expressing the inhumanity of slavery with the words 'Am I not a man and a brother?'.
    A powerful symbol (Courtesy of the trustees of the Wedgwood Museum)
    "It makes one's blood boil," said Charles Darwin.

    Not much outraged the gentle recluse, but the horrors of slavery could cost him a night's sleep.He was thinking of the whipped house boy and the thumbscrews used by old ladies in South America, atrocities he had witnessed on the Beagle voyage.The screams stayed with him for life, but how much did they influence his life's work?Today you can still read of Darwin's "eureka" moment when he saw the Galapagos finches.Alas, his conversion to evolution wasn't so simple, but it was much more interesting. It didn't occur in the Galapagos, but probably on his arrival home.

    And new evidence suggests that Darwin's unique approach to evolution - relating all races and species by "common descent" - could have been fostered by his anti-slavery beliefs.

    Family feelings

    After circumnavigating the globe (1831-6), Darwin settled in London. Here in 1838 he formulated his theory of "natural selection", after which he became increasingly reclusive, particularly following his move to Down village in Kent.

    He refrained from publishing a word on evolution until 1858 - not even a brief, priority-grabbing paper, as was his way with other projects. His hesitance is understandable. Evolution was execrable to his Cambridge friends.

    Darwin Season 2009

    One naturalist called it "abominable trash vomited" out by revolutionaries; and radicals did, indeed, deploy a self-sustaining evolution to undermine the creationist miracles on which Anglican power rested.

    Darwin's gouty Cambridge professor, Adam Sedgwick, used "contempt, scorn, and ridicule" to trash one "filthy" evolution book in 1844. Darwin, sensitive about his reputation, wisely laid low.

    So why devise such a beastly theory in the first place, if it threatened ignominy? Was there some integral moral gain?

    Consider another question. Why was Darwin's evolution uniquely defined by common descent, the joining of races and species through shared ancestry? Darwin's common descent image is so obvious today that we forget to question where it came from.

    'Man and brother'

    Common descent in Darwin's younger day was ubiquitous in anti-slavery tracts. Consider the words of the famous cameo, depicting a kneeling slave asking "Am I Not a Man and a Brother?" That cameo was in fact the brainchild of the pottery-dynasty founder, Josiah Wedgwood, Darwin's grandfather.

    New evidence shows how indebted Darwin was to this anti-slavery heritage.

    Charles Darwin (Getty Images)
    Darwin knew that going into print would have invited derision

    Darwin's uncle Jos Wedgwood sold the firm's London showroom, and ploughed the proceeds into an anti-slavery society, and in the 1850s (with American slavery still flourishing) the Wedgwoods continued using labels showing the slave under Britannia's banner, which read "God Hath Made of One Blood All Nations of Men".

    The anti-slavery agitator Thomas Clarkson - the man who rode 35,000 miles collecting statistics in the sea ports on the evil trade - was another bankrolled by Josiah Wedgwood.

    With a Wedgwood wife and mother, Darwin saw abolition as a "sacred cause" too, and in his culminating work, the Descent of Man (1871), he placed Clarkson at the moral apex of humanity and called slavery a "great sin".

    Such family feelings explain why, as a 16-year-old at Edinburgh University in 1826 (in a period often dismissed by historians), Darwin could spend 40 extra-curricular hours with a freed slave from Guyana studying taxidermy and become his "intimate" friend.

    And this when many visiting Americans saw any black/white friendship as "revolting".

    Torture accounts

    Darwin witnessed slavery everywhere in South America. The Beagle's own supply ship on her previous trip had originally been a slaver, and, once sold, it reverted to slaving. While Darwin was on the continent, it was again disgorging chained Africans.

    Darwin's journal of the voyage (1845) gives a damning account of the tortures he saw or heard of; but of all the "heart-sickening atrocities", the worst for him were the stories of masters threatening to sell the children of disobedient slaves.

    Circa 1750, An iron mask and collar used by slaveholders to keep field workers from running away.
    Darwin was appalled at the treatment handed out to slaves

    As an outsider, he was "powerless as a child even to remonstrate". But within weeks of the Beagle's return, he developed a science which undercut the slave-master's notions.

    Many plantation owners considered slaves a separate species, an animal to be exploited as such. Blacks and whites shared no joint ancestry.

    Yet the Darwin-Wedgwood maxim made the slave a "Man and a Brother". Darwin opened his first evolution notebook in 1837, damned slave-holders for their separate species view, then pushed common parentage to the zoological limit.

    Since species were only extended races, they too must share an ancestry. He moved from talking of the common "father" of mankind to an "opossum"-like fossil as the father of all mammals.

    Human genealogy became the model for his famous "tree of life".

    Fossil evidence

    None of this minimizes the importance of Darwin's Galapagos and Pampas observations. The giant tortoises, mockingbirds and finches varied from island to island, and this became clearer to Darwin after London Zoo's bird expert John Gould analysed his finches in January 1837.

    Then Richard Owen (the man shortly to give the world the "dinosaurs") diagnosed Darwin's fossils. Darwin thought that some were "rhinos" (Old World mammals), yet Owen showed that they were indigenous giant armadillos, sloths and anteaters.

    So extinct animals were being succeeded by related living types. This evidence remains crucial, but it was the way Darwin marshalled it that concerns us. Assuming the tacit truth of racial "brotherhood" allowed him to join the bloodlines into a common descent configuration.

    And he did so in 1837-8, just as the West Indies slaves were being released (technically freed in 1833, they were forced to serve an "apprenticeship" which effectively kept them in bondage till 1838).

    This freedom filled Darwin with a sense of pride and he declared that "we... have made a greater sacrifice, than ever made by any nation, to expiate our sin". He certainly had.

    All too clear

    His common descent imagery was unknown elsewhere in natural history, beyond racially unifying works such as James Cowles Prichard's Researches into the Physical History of Mankind. That book traced animal races to common ancestors in order to prove that all humans could have descended from Adam.

    Darwin's Sacred Cause book cover (Allen)

    Darwin, preparing to write the Origin of Species, scribbled inside his copy of Prichard: "How like my Book all this will be". It wasn't so. He remained a worried man and in the later 1850s dropped humans from his publishing plans because the subject was "so surrounded with prejudices".

    But even though the Origin of Species (1859) skirted people, no one doubted that they remained at its core.

    Darwin's "bulldog" T.H. Huxley, who took over the fight for human evolution, said that when it came to uniting black and white ancestries, he "was pleased to be able to show that Mr Darwin was for once on the side of orthodoxy".

    Darwin could have wished for no more.

    Adrian Desmond is an Honorary Research Fellow in the Biology Department at University College London. He is co-author with James Moore of Darwin's Sacred Cause (Allen Lane)

    The Clean Coal Myth

    A villager from Mae Moh joins the protest at the heavily guarded  entrance of the APEC Clean Coal meeting venue in Lampang province, 600  kms north of Bangkok.

    A villager from Mae Moh joins the protest at the heavily guarded entrance of the APEC Clean Coal meeting venue in Lampang province, 600 kms north of Bangkok.

    Enlarge Image

    “Clean coal” is an attempt by the coal industry to try and make itself relevant in the age of renewables.

    What is (so-called) “clean coal”?

    Coal is a highly polluting energy source. It emits much more carbon per unit of energy than oil, and natural gas. CO2 represents the major portion of greenhouse gases. It is, therefore, one of the leading contributors to climate change. From mine to sky, from extraction to combustion -- coal pollutes every step of the way. The huge environmental and social costs associated with coal usage make it an expensive option for developing countries. From acid drainage from coal mines, polluting rivers and streams, to the release of mercury and other toxins when it is burned, as well as climate-destroying gases and fine particulates that wreak havoc on human health, COAL is unquestionably, a DIRTY BUSINESS.

    It is a major contributor to climate change – the biggest environmental threat we face. It is the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel, emitting 29% more than oil, 80% more carbon dioxide (the main driver of climate change) per unit of energy than gas.

    Mercury is a particular problem. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), mercury and its compounds are highly toxic and pose a ‘global environmental threat to humans and wildlife.’ Coal-fired power and heat production are the largest single source of atmospheric mercury emissions. There are no commercially available technologies to prevent mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.

    “Clean coal” is the industry’s attempt to “clean up” its dirty image – the industry’s greenwash buzzword. It is not a new type of coal.

    “Clean coal” technology (CCT) refers to technologies intended to reduce pollution. But no coal-fired power plants are truly ‘clean’.

    “Clean coal” methods only move pollutants from one waste stream to another which are then still released into the environment. Any time coal is burnt, contaminants are released and they have to go somewhere. They can be released via the fly ash, the gaseous air emissions, water outflow or the ash left at the bottom after burning. Ultimately, they still end up polluting the environment.

    “Clean coal” methods only move pollutants from one waste stream to another.

    Communities after communities have lamented the hosting of coal-fired plants. They are often ignored due to governments' preference for polluting power plants yet they often bear the burden of adversely altered lives.

    Despite over 10 years of research and $5.2 billion of investment in the US alone , scientists are still unable to make coal clean. The Australian government spends A$0.5 million annually to promote Australia’s ‘clean coal’ to the Asia Pacific region. “Clean coal” technologies are expensive and do nothing to mitigate the environmental effects of coal mining or the devastating effects of global warming. Furthermore, clean coal research risks diverting investment away from renewable energy, which is available to reduce greenhouse gas emissions now.

    The first CCT programs were set up in the late 1980s in response to concerns over acid rain. The programs focused on reducing emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and oxides of nitrogen (NOX), the primary causes of acid rain. Now the elusive promise of “clean coal” technology is being used to promote coal as an energy source.

    A price worth paying?

    Many of the ‘clean coal’ technologies being promoted by the coal industry are still in the development stage and will take hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars and many more years before they are commercially available. “Clean coal” technologies are also extremely expensive in terms of day to day running costs. The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates the capital costs of a typical IGCC plant (an experimental low-emission coal power station) to be US$1,383/kW, $2,088/kW with carbon sequestration. This compares with US$1,015/kW for a typical wind farm.


    “Clean coal” is an attempt by the coal industry to try and make itself relevant in the age of renewables. Existing CCTs do nothing to mitigate the environmental effects of coal mining or the devastating effects of global warming. Coal is the dirtiest fuel there is and belongs in the past. Much higher emission cuts can be made using currently available natural gas, wind and modern biomass that are already in widespread use. Clean, inexpensive. This is where investment should be directed, rather than squandering valuable resources on a dirty dinosaur.

    Visit the links below to read more about 'clean coal':