Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Drilling for World Peace

Once again, Europe is taking the appeasement approach with an aggressive dictator. In fact, European leaders (?) are saying less to condemn Russia than they did in condemnation of Saddam Hussein.

Of course, that was the entire point of Russia’s power play in the Caspian basin. All but one of the oil pipelines that supply continental Europe run through Russia. The remaining pipeline runs through Georgia. Little wonder then that the notoriously weak-kneed French, Germans, etal. Are soft-selling their objections to the Anschluss currently underway. It’s kinda like expecting a crack-addict prostitute to stand up to her dopedealer-pimp-boyfriend when he betas her. Yeah, she should, but few have that inner strength.

Ah, but if the euros knew they had an alternate source of oil, would they grow a spine? Maybe. They wouldn’t turn into hawks, but maybe they would at least show some support when some one (Uncle Sam to the rescue) steps in to fight tyranny and aggression.

So where is this oil source? You guessed it – right here in the good ole’ U.S of A. We have lots of oil in Alaskan hinterlands and in offshore deposits in the outer continental shelf. We can’t get to it because the eco-nazis want us all to live like Grizzly Adams – never mind that they don’t live what they preach, they expect us to suffer for their ideology.

Oh yeah, and drilling also provides good paying blue collar jobs that we desperately need. That’s probably the biggest reason for liberals to oppose drilling – it would show capitalism at its best, once again.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Feeling the Pinch

Anyone else think that $4/gal is totally nuts? At the risk of sounding like an old fart, I still remember when $1/gal got skipped for being too expensive.

It seems most people like to blame OPEC for not producing enough or the oil companies for charging too much. Nice. It's always fun to point the finger at some one else. Remember mom's little adage 'when you point your finger at someone else, there's always three more pointing back at you'? Never has this statement been more true than America's current energy troubles. We have allowed this to happen, most of us by inaction and silence.

First of all, the pump price of gasoline has as much to do with our domestic refining capacity as it does with the oil supply. Wanna know why oil spiked after Katrina & Rita? Houston and New Orleans represent nearly half of the total refining capacity of the US. Oops. Oh, and since people have been slow to trickle back into the city below sea level, wedged between a lake, a major river and an ocean (oh Lord, don't let me get started on that insanity!!), do ya think maybe the New Orleans refineries aren't back to full capacity yet?

So increasing refining capacity would decrease gas prices. Ah, but we haven't built a new refinery in 40 or 50 years. (This is where Bill O'Reilly blames the oil companies -- duh-- more refineries would mean more profit in the long run, so that dog don't hunt Mr. OReilly). A coalition of eco-freaks and NIMBYs (Not In My Backyard) has used an avalanche of lawsuits to prevent the building of new refineries. At the same time, many states (at eco-freak urging) have adopted laws requiring a number of exotic fuel blends. This effectively reduces our refining capacity further since refining capacity must be dedicated to the additional blends.

So here's an idea -- and a constitutional one at that! Congress should mandate which blends can be required across state boundaries. Under the Constitution, Congress has sole power to regulate interstate commerce. If we limit the number of blends refineries must produce, we effectively increase our refining capacity. This solution can produce noticeable effects in six months to a year (perhaps less, I'm being conservative - go figure). The delay time would depend on how long it takes the refineries to retool. Now, if a state wanted a blend not on the allowed list they can get around it - by having a refinery built in their state. (I love double-barreled solutions).

Of course, we'd have to be careful and deliberate in deciding which blends are on the allowed list. The panel making the recommendations can not be overloaded with politicians or eco-freaks, though it should certainly include these groups. Automotive companies as well as oil companies should have a significant showing at the table since they are the ones who know about refining and using oil. If these groups are marginalized, the recommendations will be trash.

Wow, this already getting long so I'll make the rest short and sweet. We will still need to acquire more oil - preferably from a reliable, secure source. Oh wait, we already have oil we can depend on -- OUR OWN OIL!! Yes, ladies and gentleman, the US has no shortage of crude oil deposits within it's own national boundaries. We have major deposits along the continental shelf, Alaska (Anwar) and the Gulf of Mexico. Much of the off shore sites are along the California coast and the southern east coast (Florida & the Carolinas). Unfortunately again, the NIMBYs and eco-freaks have stopped the utilization of a needed resource. Folks have been trying to drill in Anwar since at least the mid 90's. Even though we can access this vast reserve with a very small facility (due to new innovations that allow horizontal drilling) the eco-freaks have continued their campaign to keep this country dependent on hostile nations. While Congress has severely curtailed domestic oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, China is pedal-to-the-metal exploring and developing this field. Nice. Now, thanks to the eco-freaks, Chinese tanks will be burning oil that should be in American cars. Instead of taking the kids to soccer practice, that oil will be crushing student demonstrators or charging in to neighboring countries.

One last note, we are still finding or finding ways to access oil in our own lands. Minnesota has a vast (I mean VAST) oil deposit that we can now get to due to the recent development of horizontal drilling techniques. I think Minnesotans are smart enough to tell the eco-freaks what to kiss if they try to stop development.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Political Middle Class

In my previous post, I delineated my view that small business owners are the middle class. This is of course an economic definition, and while these individuals can weld political power just as any other citizen, there is a middle class built into our political structure.

If you look at how we operate today, there appears to be only two tiers or classes of people - the ruled and the rulers. You are either a citizen or an elected official. In theory of course, this could work as the people elect the officials. Thankfully, our founders were smart enough to set up a system that can work in the real world, not just in theory.

Take a good look at the Constitution. Now everyone is aware that we have three branches of government which share power and are intended to keep each other in check. There are also three different political entities specifically delineated in the Constitution. These are the federal government, the citizens, and the states.

States rights, unfortunately, has become a passe cause since the end of the Civil War. In fact, our teaching of this period in history seems designed to ignore the entire issue of states rights. Let's start with the name a civil war is a conflict in which one group within a nation attempts to wrest power from some other ruling faction. In the Civil War, the southern states attempted to secede from the union. This is not the same as taking over by any stretch of the imagination. This more like a petulant child getting angry with his playmates, collecting up his toys, and going home.

The fact of the matter is that there were two issues at stake during the War of Southern Secession - slavery and states rights. Each side was right on one issue and wrong on the other. To press the point, slavery was already declining in viability during the time leading up to the war. Slavery worked under an agrarian economy, but the time of agrarian-based economies was ending. Much of the world, including the south was developing an industrial base. Most leaders in the south knew the time of slavery was ending. It was a common issue of discussion -- what would the future look like? Further, many of the political leaders in the north where not ardent abolitionists -- they just wanted to press the advantage against the faltering south. In other words, they wanted to kick someone who was already down. I imagine the true believers in abolition were only conditionally happy with the political support they got from these types. It's probably akin to the reaction within those of us who have loved this nation much of our lives have to the people who began wearing flag pins after 9/11.

But enough of the history lesson. The political power retained by the states in the Constitution is intended to be a bulwark against federal hegemony and the degradation of individual rights. The checks placed on states' powers in the Constitution serve two purposes: protect individual rights and protect the small range of powers held exclusively by the federal government.

Then by virtue of their place in the Constitution, the states are the middle class of our political structure. Most people would acknowledge that our economic middle class has been squezzed for the past few decades. An honest view of history shows that our political middle class has been under attack for over a century.

If you truly love the United States of America, if you admire the Constitution of our country as one of the greatest documents crafted by the mind of man, then you must stand up and fight for our political middle class. If you cherish individual rights (the actual rights laid out in the Constitution, not the ones concocted in the fevered imaginings of unelected judges) then you must defend states' rights. If the political middle class is completely subsumed by the federal government, then you can kiss your individual rights away -- they'll be gone eventually.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Muddled Class

Politicians of all stripes have given a lot of lip service to 'protecting the middle class'. In the process, the definition of middle class has been stretched, pulled, tugged and warped. By now, the definition of middle class is snapped - just like the minds of the people running our government (into the ground). So how about a little historical perspective?

For most of human history, there were two classes of people -- the peasants and the nobles. Or more to the point, the ruled and the rulers. (Yes, I know, in most societies there were earls and dukes as well as the king but this is the equivalent of differentiating between Bill Gates and the Hilton family -- rich is rich and nobility is nobility.) But in the period leading up to the Industrial revolution a portion of the peasantry began to distinguish itself from the rest. These people were merchants. They provided an economic benefit to the realm through their services, products and expertise.

As this group grew in size, its members began to acquire the attention of the political leadership. Soon enough, these successful individuals would become a new political class -- the middle class. Between the peasantry / labor class and the nobility / ruling class existed those whose political power devolved from their ability to create new wealth for their nation.

Then an honest definition for the middle class today would be those who have the wherewithal to establish a new company to provide products or services. This would actually be a rather broad definition as it extends from the hairstylist who has been saving her wages for years in order to set up her own beauty parlor to the doctor ready to set up an independent practice. However, these are the individuals who have the skills and the economic power to employ themselves and others. This is the true key. The power of small business is in expanding the number of available jobs, usually the number of well compensated jobs.

You see, big business is very competitive for executive jobs, but when it comes to labor jobs or lower management and supervisory positions, the big company has a major advantage in designating pay and other compensation. Small business, on the other hand must offer a bit more to draw quality employees. Small business cannot provide the job guarantee that large corporations can so they must offset the risk an employee accepts by providing better compensation.

The end result is that small business is an engine of wealth generation and job growth. Furthermore, it it is the ability to create wealth that sets apart the middle class. Therefore the middle class is rightly defined as small business owners or those who have the capacity to become small business owners.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Let it Burn

Well the two democratic candidates met and battled last night. Say what you want about who won or lost or how badly. The fact of the matter is that this debate would never have even happened if it were not for Rush Limbaugh's 'Operation Chaos'.

For those not up-to-date on political goings on, since the apparent conclusion of the Republican nomination process, Rush Limbaugh has been urging his listeners to register as Democrats and vote in that primary. The intent is to bolster Senator Hillary Clinton's campaign against the then Senator Obama-mania juggernaut.

The plan has been an apparent success. Sen. Clinton is still 'alive' in the primary and each week a new skeleton comes dancing out of Sen. Obama's closet. (aside: No one has this many kooks and thugs as friends unless they share the sentiments.) This would not be happening if the Clinton war machine was not in the fight. Be honest folks, the Clintons have a dirty tricks task force that makes Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon look like cubscouts (and Hillary ran this 'plumbers unit' when Bill was in office).

At the same time, Sen. Clinton is spinning herself into oblivion as well. Who recalls running from sniper fire when it has never happened? Ok, if she had often landed under sniper fire and this was one of the few times she hadn't I'd understand. Any takers on that bet? On the other hand, it gave Dick Cheney fodder for a good joke.

The results of Operation Chaos are surely paying off for Mr. Limbaugh. But is it a good tactic? Take your pick -- good can be defined as effective or as right. On the measure of effective -- duh. Whether or not it is right -- I would say no. I firmly believe that a party primary should always be a closed affair. The primary is where the party choses who will represent it in the general election. Thus, only party members should be allowed to vote in the primary.

However, Rush may be taking the 'two wrongs make a right' approach here. You see, Democrats have been messing with the Republican primary for quite some time. In fact, this cycle the Democrats where successful. How else do you explain the fact that the Republican nominee is a man whose policy positions (until the past two months) are more liberal than most Republican voters?

Frankly, I'm getting tired of the whole mess. I'd love to say "A pox on both your houses" and find a real third party. Unfortunately we don't really have one. The Libertarians tried to run there guy in the Republican primary (Ron Paul). The Green Party is marginalized, but at least their candidate and members have the cajones to stand up for their beliefs rather than vote for a more 'viable' candidate. (You know what defines a 'viable' candidate -- someone people vote for!!!)

For some time, both parties have been pursuing a 'big tent' strategy -- telling everyone "Oh, we're for you." If you try to please everyone, you wind up please no one and accomplishing nothing. I for one think the American political process would be a lot healthier if we had 4 or 5 parties that stand up for their policy positions. This doesn't mean they never compromise, just that they don't sell out a set of stated core values. Until then, the Democrat's are tearing their house apart. I say let it burn.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Red Herring

Many people in politics love to divert attention from the real issue by throwing out a red herring argument. I just watched a clip of Elton John at a Hillary Clinton fundraiser. He took a breather from singing to extol his view of Senator Clinton's virtues as a prospective president.

All of this is well and good. I'm all for free speech. Individual freedom is one of my big bugaboos. Sir John is certainly welcome to support whom he wants and advocate for his choice to his heart's content. Here's where the problem lies: Elton John then begins to excoriate America at large, laying out his belief that misogyny is behind the lukewarm poll numbers for his treasured candidate.

Time to burst the bubble on Sir John's (and other people's) la-la land. Hillary Clinton is only marginally to the right of Karl Marx (and I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt here). Add to that she runs a dirty tricks machine that makes Nixon look like the most off-key contestant on amateur night. I do not agree with her policies in any way and I find her methods contemptible. Therefore, I am not going to vote for her and would oppose her with every means. The fact that she sits down to pee is irrelevant.

Now, if in the future a female ( or black or latino, etc.) candidate runs on conservative principles and I oppose them, Sir John may trot out the charge of bigotry. Until then, it's just a load of malarky. Or, the more polite version - it's a red herring.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Meme Front, pt II

Sometimes memes are very subtle. Take global warming for example. When you here the words "global warming" what do you think? A) an increase in global average temperature B) the earth is turning into a massive desert as the ice caps melt and the polar bears are drowning and were all gonna die.... C) a totally concocted bunch of nonsense liberals are using to create more taxes and take property.

Choice A is merely the strict meaning of the two words. B&C are the memes associated with the phrase "global warming". When speaking scientifically, A is true - its proven that there has been an increase in global average temperature. Politically, a lot of people fall for choice B or C. Yet B is only valid for goofy movies and C is just this side of paranoid (then again, paranoids do have enemies).

I'll be posting on global warming in the future. Since I am a scientist, I will be including hard facts and references. Right now, I am gathering those references. For now, I'm just asking you to think about what you think about when you hear certain words.

The Meme Front

I once had a rather painful encounter with a shovel. As the shovel descended towards the earth to increase the size of the hole it was creating, it intersected my foot. Specifically, it struck at the joint connecting my big toe to my right foot. (Luckily I was wearing appropriate footwear and suffered no injury.) While no evil intent existed, neither did the shovel apologize for the (inadvertent) assault. Why?

Because the shovel is just a tool! In this particular instance a tool being swung by my own, momentarily clumsy, hand. Unfortunately in today's culture it has become common to anthropomorphize tools and thereby lay the blame for an offense on an inanimate object rather than the person wielding it.

My focus in this blog (not this individual post but the blog) will be combating inaccurate memes in current use. A meme is an idea or concept, usually one that is not the technical meaning of a word or phrase, but an undercurrent associated with what is spoken. Memes are often adopted by mere repetition rather than frank evaluation and acceptance as true. When a given movement desires to push it's vision forward, but cannot make traction in a straight-forward debate, they can use propaganda to blanket the populace with their memes. Once the debate is framed in the desired context, the weaker argument of the movement is shielded from frank assessment and is accepted. I intend to shoot darts at these hot air balloons and bring the debate back down to earth.

What has this got to do with the above story? Let me ask you a question: When a criminal shoots a person, who is to blame, the gun or the crook? ..... Then why do we always get calls for more gun bans after a shooting incident? Gun bans only keep guns out of the hands of law abiding citizens -- making the criminals safer! This applies not only to gun ownership, but gun use. Did you know that when citizens are allowed to carry weapons, crimes against persons drops? If the petty thief doesn't know who might have a gun, he won't risk snatching a purse or holding someone up at the ATM. Rapists are less likely to attack if there's a chance the lady might have a gun to defend herself. We don't need fewer guns, we need more guns in the hands of law abiding citizens.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Quantum Toddler

As a dad, I'm always happy to see my young son achieving milestones of physical or mental prowess. Being human, I am particularly delighted when his accomplishments bear on my vocation. (I have a Master's in Physics and am currently seeking employment as an instructor at local community colleges).

Yesterday was one such lovely event. I had put his favorite movie in the DVD player so that daddy could get some work done. He promptly cuddled into his mother's reclining chair (having already mastered this device) and began asking for his "tigit banket".

I was puzzled, since my toddler-to-adult translation matrix produced from this request 'Target blanket'. Unfortunately, he has no blanket purchased from Target. I was stuck, and he was insistent, so I finally grabbed one of two favored blankets -- an nice fuzzy blanket with an image of Thomas the Tank engine. This was okay for approximately 5 seconds. This should have been a clue, but I had misplaced my thinking cap.

I finally asked him to show me what he wanted, whereupon he rushed to his crib and pointed at the blanket I had left behind earlier. This blanket was essentially the same, just a different character on it. My wife and I have always identified this one as the Pooh blanket, since it has Winnie the Pooh on it. However, the images of Piglet and Tigger are also on this treasured, cuddly source of warmth. AHA! Apparently "tigit"is a new form of the toddlerese "tiga" or the adult word 'Tigger' (also known as 'tee eye double guh ER!).

With my beaming offspring nestled comfortably into a cozy chair, clutching his desired blanket and watching the world's favorite movie, I should at this point be free to return the incorrectly fetched blanket to the crib. But no! Lo, the wailing that began as a fiendish daddy carried away the unasked for blanket. Stupidly, I thought this meant he wanted both blankets and moved to return the Thomas blanket. Muted cries of no! again erupted.

I stood puzzled for a moment. Either he wants the blanket or he doesn't. Then I finally understood what had happened. My scientist/daddy heart melted as I realized my 2 &1/2 year old son had mastered the basic principle of quantum mechanics. He expected the blanket to exist in neither state A (away) nor state B (nearby). Rather, this scientifically sophisticated tot instinctively knew that to properly reflect the probabilistic nature of the universe, the blanket must somehow exist in both states (or neither) simultaneously.

Then again, my usually easy-going son may have just been having a toddler moment.