Sunday, January 28, 2007

Choose the right

My cousin (who I love very, very much) sent this to me the other day:

Thought you might enjoy this interesting prayer given in Kansas at the opening session of their Senate. It seems prayer still upsets some people. When Minister Joe Wright was asked to open the new session of the Kansas Senate, everyone was expecting the usual generalities, but this is what they heard:

"Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, 'Woe to those who call evil good,' but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values. We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. We have killed our unborn and called it choice. We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable. We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self esteem. We have abused power and called it politics. We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it ambition. We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.

Search us, Oh, God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free.

Amen!"

The response was immediate. A number of legislators walked out during the prayer in protest. In 6 short weeks, Central Christian Church, where Rev. Wright is pastor, logged more than 5,000 phone calls with only 47 of those calls responding negatively. The church is now receiving international requests for copies of this prayer from India, Africa and Korea.

Commentator Paul Harvey aired this prayer on his radio program, "The Rest of the Story," and received a larger response to this program than any other he has
ever aired.

With the Lord's help, may this prayer sweep over our nation and wholeheartedly become our desire so that we again can be called "one nation under God."


While I agree with some of the sentiments expressed (specifically, the comment about the lottery) I'm not sure I like the tone, or the suggestion he's speaking to or for God. Yes, he attacks both liberals and conservatives, but it is obvious from his statements his own feelings would plot on the right of the political number line. I'm reminded of Abraham Lincon's words:
I know that the LORD is always on the side of the right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that this nation should be on the LORD'S side.

I, too, pray we are truly on the Lord's side, and I pray that we will have more charity toward the efforts of those with whom we disagree, trusting that they are also striving to choose the right. I wish more of that charity were evident in the prayer this minister offered. I pray that in the future our prayers will be directed toward God instead of pointed at one another.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Procrastination

Steve Evans, after inviting me to blog over at bcc and then waiting, oh, six months for my first post, asked me why I write so slowly. I type quickly, and I do think a lot, yet my writings are few and far between. The same is true of just about any hobby I have--I love painting, but I only have a few watercolors to my credit; I love writing fiction, too, but only have a few stories written, and none submitted for publication; I love my science, but I am incredibly slow when it comes to writing proposals, reading, or accomplishing my lab work. I care about all of these activities--I love all of these activities, and I especially love the feeling of accomplishment I enjoy when I complete a painting, a story, or finish a lab task. Yet somehow that isn't enough to keep me from surfing the net (most recently daydreaming about owning my own home) or watching TV.

Recently I came across an article about procrastination that really struck a cord with me. From the science daily article:

"Essentially, procrastinators have less confidence in themselves, less expectancy that they can actually complete a task," Steel says. "Perfectionism is not the culprit. In fact, perfectionists actually procrastinate less, but they worry about it more."

Other predictors of procrastination include: task aversiveness, impulsiveness, distractibility, and how much a person is motivated to achieve. Not all delays can be considered procrastination; the key is that a person must believe it would be better to start working on given tasks immediately, but still not start.


That describes me to a T. I have trouble starting things, frequently because I fear I can't do what I've set out to do, or because I think I'll do a bad job. I'll find something else to do--something safer--instead. Once I get into a project I have trouble finishing, often because I get to a point where I'm unsure what direction to take next. Instead of just trying something when I'm faced with a multitide of possibilities, I procrastinate the decision, afraid of making "the wrong choice." My husband pointed out to me the more I care about a thing, the more I procrastinate doing it, which is very true. I want to do a good job, but I think I probably won't, so I don't even try, or find something else "more pressing" or that "I'd rather do" instead of attacking a task I'd rather accomplish.

I recognize this is counterproductive. What I don't recognize is a way to stop.

The Greening of Industry

Today CNN reports the Chief Executives of GE, BP, and the eight other corporations that make up the United States Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) are petitioning Congress in favor of legislation designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Jeff Immelt, Chairman and CEO of GE told reporters today at a press conference "The time has come for constructive action that draws strength equally from business, government, and non-governmental stakeholders." The plan endorsed by USCAP includes a "cap-and-trade" program similar to that used for controlling sulfur dioxide emissions, and similar to the one proposed in the Kyoto protocol.

I wholeheartedly support environmental legislation to cut greenhouse gas emissions. I truly believe we should be taking global warming seriously, and I believe the longer we wait to get started, the more expensive and less effective our actions will be. The cap-and-trade program worked well for cutting sulfur emissions, so it makes some amount of sense to pattern CO2 legislation after an already successful program. However, William Nordhaus notes in this paper that because of the inelasticity of both supply and demand for credits,

"One of the potential concerns with the current structure of the Kyoto Protocol is that it will induce great volatility in the prices of permits. The volatility can be seen in the history of SO2 permit prices, which have been much more volatile than consumer prices or even stock market prices." (After Kyoto: alternative mechanisms to control global warming, p. 30, fig. 7)


In this same paper he lists a number of possible alternatives, arguing most persuasively in favor of a global carbon tax on emissions. He states:

"Our latest estimates in the RICE-2001 model suggest that a carbon tax of $10 per ton carbon (2001 prices) -- rising rapidly over time -- would appropriately balance the costs and benefits of emissions reductions. This number is slightly above the number that would stabilize the concentrations of CO2 at twice the pre-industrial level (that is, at 550 parts per million)."


I am not an economist. I have heard persuasive arguments for both cap-and-trade (basically, we know that they work) and against cap-and-trade (difficulty of parties joining after the initial offering and the massive transfers of capital to poor countries simply because they already produce almost no CO2 emissions) and in favor of taxes (ease of parties joining in at a later time, lower cost volatility). I do think we owe it to ourselves to examine all available mechanisms for instituting and enforcing carbon dioxide controls, and I think we should have a dialogue right now about what to do on a large, national scale. Programs, once formed, are historically difficult to change, and this is something we should work very hard to get right the first time. What do you, with or without economic training, think of the alternatives (cap-and-trade vs. taxes, vs. simple caps a la Montreal Protocol)?