Saturday, April 12, 2008

Paper, Plastic or Neither

The mayor of Seattle and the city council president recently announced a plan to impose a 20-cent-per-bag "green fee" tax on paper and plastic bags distributed at grocery, convenience and drug stores. This tax is supposed to be an effort reduce garbage and encourage people to use reusable cloth bags when they do their shopping. The revenue from the tax is supposed to go to "to administer and enforce the rules, to buy and promote reusable bags, and to expand recycling, environmental education and waste prevention programs."

I am very much in favor of people using cloth bags to do their shopping. I also feel a tax or fee is a good way to encourage the uses of cloth or other reusable bags as long as the revenue is REALLY used for environmental programs. I am concerned that the revenue will just get siphoned off into the general fund and the program will just turn into a revenue generator like 2 MPH over the speed limit speeding tickets and picking one guy out of a crowd jay walking tickets. Just call me paranoid I guess.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Aftermarket LEGO parts- Gun, Grenades and "Bandits"

Aftermarket LEGOs Accessories - Guns, Grenades and "Bandits"

I'll admit that I own a lot of LEGOs. I used to be a LEGO addict until, like many addicts, price made me go cold turkey. I love the castle sets, the Star Wars sets (you'll never see me with a LEGO Jar Jar though), and best of the the big old box of miscellaneous bricks in every shape, size and color.

When I was a kid my brother and I used to spend hours making demolition derby cars and smashing them against each other. LEGO bricks would fly, and be reassembled into new designs to see what would be best to withstand the impact. I also used to make fleets of space ships to save the galaxy from evil invaders and LEGO blasters to shoot Storm Troopers and other bad guys.

The most fun I had with LEGOs was making forts and terrain to use with my army men. You know the old green and gray plastic guys with the not-to-scale tanks and cannons. Hours passed while I fought and re-fought battles where the good guys always won and the bad guys got their just deserts.

Of course thinking about those days long past makes me feel old and out of touch. Now you can buy aftermarket LEGO WW II Marines, US Army Soldiers, German Army Soldiers, Space Marines, and more from Brick Arms. They come with a dizzying array of fairly accurately modeled machine guns, hand grenades, blaster rifles and even an Uzi concealed in a briefcase for "Bond Spy." If you want to outfit your regular LEGO guys with guns well you can buy those individually or in sets. The Black Knight doesn't stand a chance if you outfit the good guys with a case of hand grenades.

The little kid in me thinks this stuff is amazing and pretty damn cool. The adult in me thinks they are just a little bit disturbing especially the middle eastern terrorist looking "Bandit." I guess that it hits a little too close to reality for my LEGO enjoyment.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Why Tuesday?

Why Tuesday?

I listen to Air America quite a bit. I mostly listen to Thom Hartmann and Rachael Maddow, but I will have it on the in background just to break the silence. I tend to absorb interesting information and trivia through osmosis even when I'm not really LISTENING per se.

Lately a couple of different shows have had on people from Why Tuesday? on to discuss their organization. Why Tuesday? is and organization dedicated to improving our democracy by increasing voter participation. (The United States is ranked in the bottom third of all industrialized countries in voter participation.) One of the avenues they are pursuing to increase voter turnout is to get a discussion going on why we still have elections on Tuesdays.

Apparently the reason we started having elections on the first Tuesday in November was it was the end of harvest season and people would be free to travel to the polling locations. This obviously isn't a relevant reason in modern America because not only are we an increasingly urban society, modern farmers have the ability to jump in their truck and drive to their poling location without too much bother.

So Why Tuesday? The most benign reason I can think of is simply tradition. We have had our elections on Tuesday for so long people don't even think about it. If this is the case then it should be fairly simple to change the day to a weekend to help increase voter participation. A less benign reason is that there is a conscious effort to suppress voter participation by making it inconvenient to vote. Surpressing voter participation would not only benefit the more conservative elements of government (check out this video) but also would probably to favor ANY incumbent. This would be a reason why more liberal lawmakers might be against moving Election Day.

One objection to moving Election Day to the weekend is that people might blow off voting for their regular weekend leisure activities. I think this argument may have some merit. I know I tend to sleep in and relax on weekends, so it might be worthwhile exploring another alternative. Making Election Day a National Holiday.

Making Election Day a national holiday would cut many people free from work and giving them more time to make it to the polls. I suppose an argument could be made that having a holiday would have a similar effect to moving Election Day to a weekend, but I think it wouldn't because people wouldn't be used to slacking off on a weekday even if it was a holiday (as long as they didn't move it to a Monday to get the 3-day weekend.) There would of course be the same conservative/incumbant push against the holiday. But, the advantage of making Election Day a holiday is that it would probably be an easier sell to people than moving it in the face of the inertia of tradition and heck who doesn't want another holiday.

Why Tuesday? is leading an effort to improve voter turnout by challenging what really amounts to government tradition. I think we really need to be doing more of this kind of thing. The government shouldn't do thing because its the way we have always done it. That is a good way to keep our country hidebound, and at only 230 years old we are way to young for that.