Thursday, November 22, 2012
In August, I had an uncle pass away quite unexpectedly. He had apparently been ill for a while, but never shared with the rest of the family just how ill he had been. He had purposely become more estranged from the family to try and keep us from worrying over his condition. At the same time, my grandpa Billy's health was beginning to decline. As it turned out, my uncle's funeral was at the end of August, and four weeks later we were back at the funeral home having services for my grandfather.
Billy was 95 and had led quite a life, and not to discount my uncle's life story, that's what I wanted to spend some time on today. Back in 1986 my real grandfather died from complications of emphysema. Billy, the man who would later become by grandmother's second husband, lost his wife to cancer about the same time, but more on that in a minute.
Billy was a 30 year veteran of the United States Army Air Corps/United States Air Force. He was stationed on Sai Pan in World War II where he was awarded (I believe) the Legion Of Merit. He was a mechanic and the unit he led were critical in their role in keeping aircraft operational. In one 72 hour stretch they serviced, repaired and rearmed planes non-stop for the duration, and their ability to keep planes in the air during this stretch of time was of critical importance to the war effort. If you asked him about it, he would say he was just doing his job, but the letter that accompanied the medal we found in a box in his garage said otherwise. But that's typical of people like Billy. Humility is first amongst their virtues.
He served in Korea and later in Vietnam before retiring from the service in 1971, at which time he went to work for IBM and retired for the second and final time in 1982 at age 65. After losing his wife to cancer he started walking with a seniors group at the mall in town. You could find him there most mornings, walking the perimeter of the mall with other seniors and drinking a cup of coffee after logging his miles. At least, that's where my grandma found him in 1992. A friend of hers forced her to introduce herself to him, and he asked out for date that very night. Those Air Force boys move fast! She said 'yes' and a whirlwind courtship ensued.
They married that year and Billy and Grandma traveled the world. He took her to Australia and Europe, bought her a mobile home and traveled the US, wintering in Florida or Arizona, or where ever she wanted to go. We used to joke that Billy still had his original nickel, because he never spent money on himself (he was angry when we bought him a new 32" TV because the old, 20 inch quasi-color unit still worked fine...but once he saw his first Broncos game on it he stopped complaining). But, though he only ever spent money on what he needed vs. what he wanted, with grandma it was a different story, because he sure didn't think twice about spending money taking care of her. To him she was a need, not a want. We never had to worry about her after they met because we knew he would provide for her.
After a second marriage that lasted longer than most people's first marriages, Grandma buried her second husband in early October. Now 96 years old, she's had more than her share of tragedy, as you might expect from someone who's been on Earth for almost a century. She's outlived her 9 brother's and sisters, and has buried two of her own children (one this August) and 2 husbands (the second in October). In a weak moment, she'll tell me she doesn't know what she's going to do, but she'll catch herself and say "I'll get through it. I'm a tough old bird." She still drives herself to the store, gets her hair styled once a week and gets dressed up when I go have lunch with her (even if we don't go out), and always wears a pair of earrings I got her for Christmas when I was a teenager. After everything she's been through she still pays attention to the little things.
Tragedy has struck again as my wife's grandmother fell and broke her hip and had to have it replaced. She's not recovered from the surgery well and we're now keeping vigil waiting for the inevitable, which we're told will probably come this weekend. My grandma and my wife's were not close friends but always enjoyed each other's company at family get-togethers. So Grandma calls to check in and see if there's anything she can do, and tells us she's praying for her. Even after all she's been through this year, she's not feeling sorry for herself, but rather is worried about my wife and her family. Even though she pays attention to the little things, she still sees the big picture.
So now it's Thanksgiving. Our dinner tomorrow will be a somber one, with long shadows cast over it on both sides of our family. Seats at the table will be empty that have not been in decades, if ever, and my first thought is that I don't have a lot to be thankful for this year, other than it's almost over. But that's not true. Despite the hard times this year, I'm thankful that my grandma had 20 years with Billy. I'm glad that I got to know him. In the end, I knew him longer than my real grandfather. He demonstrated the value of thrift, that hard work is its own reward, that humility and perseverance will carry far in life, and that doing good things makes a difference to people around you. I'm also grateful that all of this has brought me closer to my grandmother. I've learned more from her about my family's history this year than I have in the previous 42. I've reconnected with cousins and made plans for next year with extended family. I've seen my side of our family pull together in the face of multiple losses this year, and now we're going through it all again on my wife's side as we have another loss looming in the near future. So yes, it's hard to be thankful if you dwell on the losses. But when you pay attention to the little things - the lessons left behind, the connections made or re-made, and the big picture things like what lies ahead for the rest of us, and how we can impact the lives of others then yes, there's a lot to be grateful for.
I also know that ours isn't the only family dealing with losses this year, and that our personal tragedies aren't even the worst we could be facing, so that helps put some perspective around it for me. Whatever is going on in your world this year, I hope you have a good Thanksgiving and find much to celebrate. Life can be painful, but life is good.
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
This is the message that we have put at our (legal) gateway into our country, and the ethos by which we have lived for generations. Last night, that message changed. Now it reads:
"Abandon hope, all ye who enter here..."
If you come to America looking for a better life, you will not find it here. You will find only more of the central planning, totalitarian socialist programs that have been destroying ways of life globally for more a hundred years. Oh sure, it's not that bad - yet. But this is how it begins. Government intrusion is going to grow. UN interference in our sovereignty is going increase (and had anything good ever happened with UN intervention?). The things people are trying to escape by coming to America are now taking root on our shores. Our problem is we're playing checkers while the left is playing chess. And face it, conservatives we got played masterfully.
- The media is public enemy number one. They successfully turned Hurricane Sandy from a lesson in FEMA unpreparedness (seriously? 7 years after Katrina and this is the best our government could do?) into an Obama success story (with the help of Chris Fucking Christie).
- In 2010 we were FURIOUS that Obamacare was passed against our will. Remember, some 70% of the population was against the law back then. Had the election been that year, Obama would have been tarred, feathered and rode out of town on a rail. Yes, the DNC took a thrashing in the House, but so what? With the senate in their hands all they have to do is ignore everything the House does, and nothing gets done. That is called 'Republican Obstructionism' by the America hating left, by the way. In 2010 we mocked - MOCKED - Obamacare because it didn't even take effect until 2014! What a folly, we said. No, it was genius. For in 2012 when people were casting their ballots for president, they had forgotten how mad we all were about Obamacare. We tried to make it an issue, but the masses, two years down the road, said "the law was passed and the world didn't end." and they cast their votes for Obama. Yes, we were played.
- Women's issues haunted us still. We lost two senate seats because two candidates said foolish things about abortion and rape while preaching to the converted. Here's a clue for GOP candidates - you do not have to say one word about abortion to get the votes of pro-lifers. They will vote for you because they will NOT vote for a Democrat. Instead, we march forward, high on our moral horse and banging the drum about abortion, and it costs us election after election. We should just get out of the way. It's mostly liberals/leftists having abortions, and this will sound horrible, but if they want to commit societal suicide, why should we stop them? Let God judge them, not us. And government funding of birth control - what is $9 a month paying for birth control if it keeps a liberal from being born and voting for more liberal causes 18 years later? Let's keep raising a generation of conservative thinkers and let them screw and murder themselves out of demographic relevance.
- We let the cult of personality beat us. Despite the fact that the elites in the country - members of the reviled 1% - like Clooney and Streisand and Hanks and Spielberg all live in a world completely different than the rest of America, somehow their support resonated with people. We need to find a way to counteract that. Part of their message, as mentioned above, is 'if it feels good, do it.' That's a cool, easy sell to young people. Churchill had a saying - if you're not liberal when you're 20 you have no heart; if you're not conservative when you're 40 you have no brain. Well, we need to make the 40 year old mindset cool to the 25 year olds.
- The Ministry Of Truth has hooked the country up to an IV drip of lies and propaganda. The truth will never get out as long as they have control of the message. Starve them. Cancel your newspaper subscriptions. Stop watching their shows. Stop going to the movies. Vote with your feet until they listen to reason.
Monday, October 22, 2012
Well, Jimmy, there IS a pretty big question about who won the debate. In the first place, the incumbent President typically has the advantage on the topic of foreign policy as a result of having been practicing daily (or not, as the case may be) for four years. Obama's problem is that his results have been horrible. When people resort to ad hominem attacks, it a sign of a losing argument. They'd rather assault the person rather than the issue, because they cannot win on the issue; and so it was with Obama tonight. If we're counting ad hominem attacks, Obama had more of them so I guess he 'wins' in that category. The tradeoff is he looks petty and condescending, neither of which are traits I like in a President of the United States. He got some good jabs in, no question, but he has been proven wrong about the status of the bayonet in our military. Critically though, in trying to belittle Romney on matters military, Obama exposed himself as the one who can deliver a good line, but has no clue about reality.
Romney was gracious in the debate, giving Obama credit for quite a few things he's done well, but twisting the knife in the process. He gives him credit for taking GM through managed bankruptcy, which is Romney had suggested should happen much earlier. He gave him credit for sanctions on Iran, but said he would have put them in place sooner. He played offense and defense simultaneously, which is really required when facing an incumbent, even one as weak as Obama. Romney was calm and controlled throughout, even when he gave Obama the "just a minute" treatment one of the many times he tried to interrupt Romney and bully the conversation. Romney wasn't having it, but he was respectful about how he shut him down.
Rather than go on about what I thought about the debate, look at the picture at right. I participated in a beta test of a Frank-Lunz-like rating system of the debate (disregard the misspelling of 'Republican' - like I said, it's a beta test) that The Daily has been using for these debates. Since The Daily is a Newscorp publication, I expect a certain conservative bias, but the results were surprising to me, and I hope are indicative of the direction the election is heading. This image is a snapshot taken while Romney was giving his closing statement. It shows MASSIVE agreement that Romney was resonating with ALL voters - Republicans, Democrats and Others. I have about 40 snaps I took during the debate. On almost all issues, the Democrats were at most split when either candidate was talking. They loved Romney's response on China; they were lukewarm on Obama's. They loved Romney's response on Afgahnistan; they did not like Obama's. And on it went.
MY impressions: Obama wants to hire teachers to fix every problem we have. When asked about gun control, he wants to hire teachers. When talking foreign policy, he pivots to hiring more teachers. Romney had a great line that hiring teachers is not going to dig us out of the mess in the Middle East. Obama went all 2008 on us and brought up the 1 trillion dollar deficit he inherited during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression (The Daily Focus group unilaterally hated that bit, by the way). For a guy who's slogan is 'forward', he sure does a lot of looking back. (He also chastened Romney for wanting the foreign policy of the '80s, but then invoked JFK when talking about his handling of Egypt. Romney had a great parry for all of that - he said that he, too, wanted to move forward - because we can't afford to go back to the policies of the last four years. In the end, that is all Obama offered; what he's done, how things SHOULD be (not how they are) and promises to continue down that path.
The other theme Obama hit several times was that 'we're doing all we can' - on Iran, on Syria, on Egypt, on Libya, on the economy...it seemed every time Romney challenged him he replied with "we're doing all we can." All I can say is that if where we are is the result of Obama doing all he can, we need someone who can do more, as this ain't getting the job done.
So with all due deference to James Carville and the whole gang at the Ministry Of Truth (aka MSNBC), I think Obama's performance in this debate is VERY MUCH in question, and the election is even more so. With 15 days left, 70% of some states using mail-in balloting, and early voting starting in earnest this week, Romney picked a great time to look Presidential. Now, get out and VOTE!!
Friday, October 12, 2012
Overall, I was disappointed by the debate. Biden got away with too much antagonism and has re-energized the Democrat base. He also got away with lying his ass off while accusing Ryan of doing the same. Right from the outset when he said "not a single thing he just said is true" he was on shaky ground, as is anyone who speaks in absolutes as an absolute is easily disprovable - but then again, someone has to go back and disprove it and the MSM will not do that. His lies are cataloged here, here and I'm sure elsewhere as well, but I'll wager you won't see them on NBC (though you probably will see a thorough breakdown of everything Ryan said). Paul Ryan made the comment last night that the Obama campaign has adopted a strategy of "attack, blame and defame" and that is the truth. The Obama/Biden/DNC strategy is "a lie makes it halfway around the world before the truth catches up." They also know that the lie gets printed on page one, the correction on page 30. On TV the correction never gets aired unless it's become so well known that the network has to mention it to given themselves a semblance of credibility.
I would have liked Ryan to say something to this effect last night: "Joe, you can keep interrupting me and throwing out numbers and statistics all you want, but it won't change the fact that you've failed as a leader, your policies have failed, and Americans are smart enough to see through your smokescreen of noise and funny faces." Beyond his grimaces, that's all Biden did - he was able to denigrate Ryan for not providing specifics on the Romney plan to cut taxes, while avoiding providing any specifics himself by dumping a truckload of numbers on the public, and the 'moderator' let him get away with it. Despite all the talking Biden did, all the throwing out of numbers, all the bluster, he did not provide anything that amounted to a policy or a plan to accelerate the recovery. No one in the media is going to call him on it, either, and Ryan missed his chance.
For the debate next week, Romney needs to shut Obama down. We've seen the DNC blueprint last night. Obama is going to be more animated and he'll be on the attack. But he's not good at extemporaneous speaking. I would like Romney to focus on the Obama failures and lies, and when confronted with a new lie to call it out and refute it on the spot. He has the ability to do so without looking like a deranged mental patient like Biden.
In the end, I think people who watched the debate saw Biden either laughing at Americans being killed in Libya, or mocking his opponent - these are the only two options available, and neither of which is a good thing for a sitting vice president to be doing. On that alone, I think Biden lost this debate, but it wasn't because Ryan performed overwhelmingly better than Biden. Still, while the Democrat base is energized by last night, everyone else, notably women and independents, were turned off by Biden's antics, and that is a big f'ing deal.
Friday, September 14, 2012
"For more than 200 years America has been a place where people from around the world are welcomed and opinions and values from all walks of life are given the freedom to be voiced. It's the first and most important of our Constitutional amendments. Where people have the ability to speak freely, the government is at their mercy. This is a cornerstone of a free and civilized society.
Unfortunately, this means at times people will say or do things that large swaths of society find disagreeable. This is the price of freedom. A free society does NOT use violence to try to intimidate it's fellow citizens into silence; nor will violence presented by the citizens of another nation intimidate us to censor our citizens."
Following this I would send this message to leaders of every nation where islamic themed riots could threaten our diplomats:
"Esteemed __________, I understand there are elements of your society upset by this short movie that has been posted to YouTube. It is incumbent upon you as the leader of your nation to protect the embassies of other nations. Please understand that if you are unable to protect our interests in your nation, the staff at my Embassy will meet force with force, including the use of live ammunition. I also have drones at the ready and should my staff be unable to repel the crowds, I will authorize the use of drones to repel any crowds that have broken the boundary of our Embassy. This will ONLY happen if you fail to provide adequate protection. If these terms are not acceptable to you, I will close our Embassy, stop all US based travel to your nation and stop all monetary aid. I implore you to act and not let such a situation come to pass.
Yours in good health,
President Coyote Rich"
Back to reality. I can't believe the lengths to which our leaders are going to cow-tow to these thugs. Islamofascism exists because the leaders of these nations WANT it to exist, not because of a horribly shitty movie made in America (if that were the case, the world would have rioted when Bill Maher's 'Religilous' came out.). Islam is not, as Hillary puts it, a 'great religion' - it is an arrow in the quiver of despots and tyrants. Moral equivicators on the left always say "but Christianity is just as violent." Bullcrap. It WAS used as pretext for a lot of conflict in the past. But not today. Every religion except Islam has modernized, and within Islam that is even a conscious choice. Take a look at Turkey - it is a Muslim nation and you do not see this kind of activity. Why? Because the military will not tolerate it. The political leaders and military leaders are on equal footing, and if the politicos attempt to turn Turkey into a theocracy, the military will take over. Turkey, for their part, wants very badly to be admitted into the European Union, and they know that if they have religious instability like Egypt that it will never happen. Amazing what the carrot of economic prosperity can do, isn't it?
That's at the root of what is happening here. Egypt has a very high unemployment rate. Last year it was around 12% and for those under 24 it was closer to 25%. I work with people in Egypt, and they tell me it's gotten worse since then. The folks I work with went to extraordinary lengths to ensure they could get their work done without interruption during the 'Arab Spring.' When the curfews were put in place, they each packed two suitcases; one full of food, one with clothes, and moved to the work site for the week. They set up two conference rooms as dorm rooms, one for the men and one for the women. The cafeteria became a rec center where they would go and read, surf the web (we had a private network connection that was not affected by the internet blackout) and play table games. The central courtyard became a soccer field. And, by the way, 20 of the 35 folks we have there are Muslim, 15 are Christian. Religious differences have never become an issue for this team because their unifying purpose is to get their work done. The HAVE jobs, and they want very much to KEEP them.
For the people who are rioting, it's a different story. They are largely unemployed. This year, as opposed to last year, they are largely uneducated. Thanks to high commodity prices (thank you ethanol!) they have a hard time even putting food on the table. They're angry, they're desperate, and they're easy prey for people like the Muslim Brotherhood. Much like the awakening of Nazi Germany, the leaders are able to blame their problems on a convenient scapegoat - Israel and her protector, the United States. These leaders do not WANT the economics to improve, because if they do they lose their iron grip on power and they lose their willing participant in these riots.
What Obama has clearly failed to learn from history is that appeasement doesn't work. When someone is fueling their power base with the hatred of everything you stand for, apologizing for being great serves to make the enemy more angry. An apology to a despot is like blood in the water for a shark. It only makes them crazier.
How do we move forward? Well, if we had a president who was looking out for the nation and not his ideology, we would have been drilling for oil & natural gas, updating our pipeline infrastructure, converting civil fleets to CNG and improving our refining capability over the last four years. We'd be in a position to tell the middle east to go to hell, we don't need you or your stinkin' oil any longer. Withdraw our petrodollars and our tourism dollars and let them waste away.
But we haven't had that president, those things haven't happened, so our best solution at this point is to elect a president who will focus on our energy policy and will have the balls to say "America is great; get over it. Quit fighting in the street and you can be great too. Oh, and by the way, punch me in the face or poke me in the eye, and I'm hitting back."
In other words, we need to elect Romney. He understands peace through strength, he gets the economics of energy policy changes, and he doesn't apologize for greatness. He's not the best choice for every individual, but he's the best choice for the nation.
Thursday, August 2, 2012
Friday, March 23, 2012
If you've not been paying attention, the high level details are this:
- 17 year old Trayvon Martin (who is black) and his father were visiting his father's fiance in a gated community
- Martin walked to the local store to buy some snacks. When he was walking back, it started raining, so he put up the hood of his sweatshirt.
- He was talking to his girlfriend on his cell phone using an earpiece.
- A local neighborhood watch captain (the press has been calling him 'self appointed', whatever that means; he either is or he isn't) named George Zimmerman saw Martin and thought he looked suspicious.
- Zimmerman began following Martin, and an altercation ensued.
- The altercation ended when Zimmerman shot Martin once with a 9mm pistol, killing the young man.
Trayvon was unarmed; the 28-year-old white male shooter claimed self-defense and so far has not been charged. [emphasis mine]
This is one example of how the pen can cause people to use the sword, as Zimmerman has received death threats and had to move out of his house. Al Sharpton is even on the case, saying:
"We are tired of going to jail for nothing and others going home for something. Zimmerman should have been arrested that night"
Presente.Org is sending out emails asking for support for Trayvon (I wonder if they know the assailant is Hispanic...if so, good for them). The case is now being tried in the media, presumptions of Zimmerman's guilt are legion, and the media is misrepresenting this as a white-on-black, racially motivated crime.
According to a CNN.com article , his father, Robert Zimmerman, published a letter in the Orlando Sentinal where he said "George is a Spanish-speaking minority with many black family members and friends. He would be the last to discriminate for any reason whatsoever."
On the other side, the family and millions of other people on-line have already convicted Zimmerman based on their belief the shooting was racially motivated. A 'million hoodie march' was held in New York Wednesday, promoted by on-line advertisements that said "A black person in a hoodie isn't automatically suspicious. Let's put an end to racial profiling." (I disagree - ANYONE in a hoodie is suspicious. You can thank the unibomber and Bill Bellichick for that.)
Based on what I can see from the sometimes grossly biased, sometimes very fair reporting on this situation is that Zimmerman was overzealous in his desire to be of service to his neighborhood. As a concealed carry permit holder, I can tell you I would not have done what he did. The three "E's" (Escape; Evade; Engage - if it's reasonable for you to escape or evade the situation, you should; if your life (or someone else's) is threatened and escape or evasion are not options, then you engage) were not followed; when Zimmerman told the 911 dispatcher he was going after Martin, he was told 'we don't need you to do that.' At that point it is conceivable that he became the aggressor; but based on lack of evidence the that he did not act in self defense, the police chose not to arrest him. And there began the controversy.
I am surprised he was not arrested. Based on my training for my permit, I fully expect that if I ever have to defend myself with a gun (or a knife, or whatever) that I will be arrested and investigated. That's why you don't act unless your life is in danger. The rule of thumb is that your choice is to be judged by 12 or carried by 6. But I am not going to Monday morning quarterback the police either. I am not close enough, nor do I know enough of the facts, to pass judgement on the situation.
But that's exactly what people are doing across the country, including president Obama, who today said:
"...when I think about this boy, I think about my own kids. And I thinkevery parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this, and that everybody pulls together -- federal, state and local -- to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened.
So I'm glad that not only is the Justice Department looking into it, I understand now that the governor of the state of Florida has formed a task force to investigate what's taking place. I think all of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how does something like this happen. "
My first question when I heard this was "why is the Justice Department involved in this?" While I do have sincere sympathy for Martin's parents, I think the president dipping his toe in this water is not called for. This is not a federal issue. No crime has been charged, no one is under arrest, nothing here invites the federal government into this issue. I can understand that would be beyond frustrating for the victim's family, but we are a nation of laws, and we must follow them, even if we don't like where they lead. And this is precisely why it's so important for those who want Zimmerman to fry that this be a racially motivated shooting - because then, under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010) the prerequisite that the victim be engaging in a federally protected activity was dropped. So any crime, anywhere, at any time, if it's racially motivated (or motivated by gender bias, religious bias, etc....fortunately for liberals, non-union status isn't a criteria) the Feds can step in and take over.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
The shortest answer is that the free market, without a political bias, will automatically work toward the most effective solution. This is typically based on demand for a product that is affordable for people to buy, works reliably, and creates a profit for the producer. In other words, everyone benefits from the exchange. The market is a profit driven organism, and could not care about which political ideology gets it there. If the most effective solution to the rising price of gas was an electric car, you would see nothing but Nissan Leafs on the road. But it isn't, and even with a $7500 subsidy and a gas hybrid engine, there's no market for the Chevy Volt (probably because the people who are in that target market already own a Prius). The problems with the 'if you build it, the market will come' method is that there are too many less costly options out there that people want (or need) to justify a a product with no demand. Using my example from part 2 of this series, it will cost me less to keep my car and pay higher fuel prices than it will to replace it, so why bother? The Volt has a 40 mile range on electric power, and since my commute is 22 miles round trip, and I live 2 miles from the grocery store, the electric capacity would be fine for me for 90% of my driving. The other 10%, however (you know - the part of my life that does NOT involve going to or from work or running errands around town, which I like to call my 'real life'), involves longer trips, often cross country, and frequent needs to have the cargo space of an SUV. As such, the Volt is not well suited to my overall lifestyle. And there's the rub - for Obama's strategy to work, people have to change their lifestyle to fit his vision. It's like Jimmy Carter telling everyone to wear sweaters and turn down their thermostat in the winter, except Obama is saying, change your entire lifestyle (where you go, how you get there, what you can haul. etc) to fit within the confines of this admin's designs.
Central to Obama's plan is the concept that the oil companies are inherently evil and will not make the move to alternate fuels unless they experience what economists call a 'negative externality.' An externality is something that one party does, and that another party has to pay for without having agreed to pay for it. An example from the book Superfreakonomics is a person using the Club to secure his steering wheel in his car. A thief comes by and wants to steal his car, but the Club deters him. The thief then steals his neighbors car, not because it's the one he wanted to steal, but rather because of the $30 Club the person purchased, the neighbors car becomes a more attractive target. The neighbor has experienced a negative externality.
For Obama, the removal of the subsidies for the oil companies is supposed to show how he's tough on the oil companies and sympathetic to 'clean' energy companies, who will somehow be able to solve the problems that 'big oil' has been unable to solve to date despite spending billions each year on research and development. To buy into this logic you have to suspend belief in capitalism completely (no stretch for Obama). First, you have to believe that a company that has made it's business model on a technology for which there is no market can thrive in the absence of that market, if only given enough taxpayer money (Solyndra!?). Second, you have to believe that companies that make their living delivering energy products to market have no interest in adding additional revenue streams to their portfolio. Third, you have to believe that somehow the oil industry is in competition with the utility companies that produce electricity (I am still not clear why taking money from oil companies and giving it to unprofitable solar companies helps people why buy gas for the purpose of driving to work). Fourth, you have to believe that the oil companies, who, again, spend billions on research and development, are not trying to find solutions to the problems that face the industry when it is very much in their own interest to do so. Fifth, you have to believe that some of these companies have solutions developed - but they want them to sit on the shelf unused, generating no return on their investment, simply to spite the world. If you can believe in these things, you probably support Obama's 'clean energy' agenda.
I, however, believe that if solar power could be produced at a cost near that of coal fired power, or that a 50 MPG engine existed for an SUV, or that bio-diesel could solve long haul trucking's issues, the energy companies and auto industry would be rushing them to market with ferocity before the competition could snatch the market share. Can you imagine if Chevy could release a Silverado that was as capable as a Ford F-150 (which rules truck sales), but got three times the mileage? What a boon that would be for them! But these solutions aren't viable. Gas and diesel fuel rule the roads for one reason; they're cheaper to produce than the alternatives, they're proven, and there are fewer limits. You can refuel a regular car in minutes, where an electric car has a shorter range and takes hours to recharge. Coal fired electricity costs about 5 cents per kilowatt; solar costs about 20 cents, and wind costs about 12. Even nuclear energy costs about 8 cents per KW. Gas fired plants produce at about 6 cents per KW. And nuclear, gas and coal can run 24x7, while the wind doesn't always blow and the sun doesn't always shine. Why would you use anything else other than the proven technologies that are both reliable and cheaper?
That brings us back to the negative externality concept. It's all stick and no carrot. Obama's policies that are helping drive up oil prices are a negative externality that you and I have to pay for. So is cap and trade legislation. Since we can't bring solar power down to 5 cents per kilowatt, let's bring oil and gas fired electricity up to 20 cents per kilowatt. Now solar doesn't look as bad by comparison, right? It's this inverted economics that provides the strongest argument to let the free market work. You cannot legislate technologies into existence.
A Free Market Solution
You can't legislate advances in technology, but you can innovate them into existence. I promised to show an example of how the free market can do a better job at this than the government can. The main gating factors for solar power effectiveness is the conversion rate of solar power into electricity, and the land available for use. At current conversion rates (10%) a square meter of photovoltaic cell will produce about 180 KWh per year (on an average of 1800 hours of usable sunshine; will vary depending on how much sunshine your area gets). An average home uses 10,365KWh per year, which would require 60 square meters of PV to meet those needs. My roof only has about 60 square meters of southern exposure, so 100% of my usable roof would have to be PV cells. At a cost (installation + materials) of about $8 per watt, we're talking more than $80,000! Not very attractive, is it?
Here's where innovation comes in. A company started in California is monetizing solar energy, and they're partnering with large corporations like Wal-Mart to do it. The CEO is a young woman, and her plan goes like this: she gets Wal-mart to let her use their roof space for free and in return, she installs the solar array for free. She then sells them the electricity a rate that is competitive with (but slightly more than) traditional energy. Walmart wins because they get electricity at a guaranteed price for the terms of the contract, avoiding the fluctuations typically seen in the market, and allowing them to therefore forecast operating costs with much greater accuracy. (this is called a POSITIVE externality - or the carrot, not the stick). The solar company wins, because they produce about 600,000 KWh MORE electricity (enough to power about 60 typical US homes for a year) than Walmart will use, which they can then sell on the open market, all without having to buy the land upon which the array resides, thus reducing their operating cost and increasing profits. Think about the number of strip malls and stores (and government buildings!) with large, flat roofs that are ripe for a solar array, and there is a tremendous amount of power that can be generated. It's the kind of symbiotic relationship that only the free market can provide, and this solar company has acquired more than $400,000,000 in PRIVATE venture capital based on this business model. It's success is not proven, but they're using free market solutions to solve a problem for a customer, and are not using taxpayer money to do it (though to be fair, I am sure they get some tax benefits, but at least that is something that they get after conducting their business, not something they get to KEEP them in business!). Since a 5% improvement in solar panel conversion to electricity yields a 35% increase in space efficiency meaning more power generated in the same space), bright things (no pun intended) lie ahead for companies that can identify these kinds of symbiosis.
To make this argument complete, you have to tie it back to our demand for oil. If you can reduce the amount of natural gas needed for electricity production, the demand and hence the price for it will drop. The natural gas producer need to find something to fill that void - hey, how about the automobile!!??. More so than electric cars, natural gas powered cars are already in use extensively in commercial fleet vehicles for municipal governments and small and large businesses. If your house can have the refueling equipment installed (and why couldn't it?) you would never have to go to a gas station, unless you were on a road trip - and then there aren't many fueling options available, but that will change as the FREE MARKET demands it. You can see how the symbiosis of the solar, natural gas and automobile industries could help relieve our dependence on foreign oil - if the government would get out of the way. Instead we keep pumping money into companies that fail all in a Quixotic belief that the government can do it better, when time and again it demonstrates that it can't.
The Economic Wasteland
If you haven't heard, we're in the middle of a massive recovery in America! The 'recovery' Obama and his lackeys in the Ministry Of Truth (aka the mainstream media) is as real as the effects of a Hollywood blockbuster. It looks good, but it's not made of anything real. I call it Obama's "greenscreen" recovery - where he provides the talking points and the background numbers are changed and altered at will to suit the purpose. In February 227,000 jobs were created, but unemployment rates did not change. Why? Because 300,000 people 'previously discouraged' began looking for work again. This is how Obama has dealt with the unemployment rate...as people become 'discouraged' the government just quits counting them, masking the real unemployment rate, which is somewhere around 11%.
So while the 'recovery' (and any time you use that word, you must use quotes) is largely an illusion, Obama's energy strategy, if it pans out, is going to destroy any hope of real recovery. As costs of oil continue to rise, the costs of everything will rise. This will only affect people who have to drive from one place to another, buy goods that are brought to market by a vehicle, or eat foods produced with the help of tractors, harvesters, and then brought to market in a truck. If you aren't one of those people, you'll be fine!
Of course, as companies see their operating expenses increase, some of the cost gets passed on to their workers so they can attempt to keep their products prices down. This means lower, or no, pay increases. Smaller annual bonuses. More layoffs. In turn, this will drive consumer spending down, which further hurts the companies and expands the destruction. Stock prices will fall. More people will lose their homes, and we're back in November/December 2008. The high gas prices in the summer of 2008 were a contributing factor to the speed of the economic meltdown, and this go-round, the economy is already on crutches and will not take much to topple into the abyss. The good news for Obama is that if we're all reduced to subsistence farming and eating Soylant Green, he can at least say he leveled the playing field...all the way down to the ground.
Monday, March 12, 2012
What is the solution?
Obama's answer is for us to 'embrace cleaner fuel technology.' Let play along and do the math.
I drive a midsize SUV. It's eight years old, and has been paid for for seven years so my only operating expenses are gasoline, insurance, registration and routine maintenance (oil changes, new tires, new brakes, etc). It runs well, looks good, is clean inside and out and I have zero need to replace it.
Over the last two years (per my iPad's Pocket Garage app) I know that I've averaged 16 MPG* and gas has cost me $3.00 per gallon (Colorado has had relatively low gas prices compared to the rest of the nation). If, as Energy Secretary Stephen Chu and Obama would like, gas went to $9 per gallon and I didn't change my driving habits, I would spend about $4,000 more on gas over the next year than if gas remained at historical norms. Ouch!
So lets say I decide to be a good little boy and do like Obama says - I buy a Chevy Volt. After trade in (Kelley Blue Book Value) and sales tax, the Volt would cost me just over $30,000 to buy (since I tend to keep my vehicles for a long time I don't lease them). I have excellent credit so let's assume I get 0% financing. Between registration and car payments (I'm assuming my insurance rates stay the same), my first year costs are going to be about $7,500. I'm also assuming that about 4500 miles of my annual 11,000 will not use any gasoline because my drive to and from work is within the Volt's 40 mile electric range. Of the remaining 6500 miles, I am assuming that 60% will require gas, so add another $900 to the operating costs. What you find is that by buying the Volt I would spend $4,400 (110%!!!) more than if I just paid the $9 for gas and kept my SUV (which, again, I have no need to replace).
If you look at gas prices alone, the savings over my existing car would take more than 6 years to provide a return on the investment. Not bad...as I said, I tend to keep my cars for a long time. But, that's at $9 per gallon gas. The more realistic price will be somewhere in the $4-5 range (unless Iran shuts off Hormuz or nukes Israel) in which case the payback would be in the 10-12 year range. If gas prices drop in the fall, as they normally do, the payoff could extend as far as 20 years. In any case, buying a new car specifically to avoid paying higher gas prices is a case that just doesn't close. If you're going to buy a car anyway, maybe it works for you. The more likely scenario is that people will just drive less, carpool more and reduced demand will eventually drive the prices back down.
A couple points to consider - electric cars use batteries that operate well within a specific temperature. In Colorado, where I live, the temperature in the winter routinely drops below zero. It often gets cold enough to turn diesel fuel into gel. Any hybrid vehicle's electric range is going to reduced somewhat by temperature fluctuations. And - since the usable live of the batteries in these cars is around 7 years - good luck on your trade in!
Maybe this helps explain why the Volt needs a $7500 subsidy to sell, and even then the market has been sluggish. Proof that 'If you build it, they will come" may work in Hollywood, but not in the real world.
The President's Irony: His War Against The Oil Companies Lines Their Pockets At The Expense Of the Working Class Poor
Obama often talks about the oil companies like their executives all sit in a room in giant black leather chairs, petting their white cats and drinking the blood of children while their minions round up baby seals and make sealburgers for them, all the while going "MWA-HA HA HA HA!" in their best impression of cartoonish villainy. "They" are making record profits off of the backs of the people, he'll say. He wants to level the playing field, he says. Well, taking money away from the oil companies is a shitty way to help the people.
The average person uses 1000 gallons of gas per year. At Chu's target price, that's $9000 per year, an increase of about 300 percent. That's an additional $6000 the average American will spend on gas that could have been spent on...healthcare, contraception, college tuition - you know, all those things that Obama says people can't pay for to begin with. So his solution is to make people pay more money he claims they don't have to get where they need to go, which, in effect, puts more money...into...the pockets of....the evil...oil companies. Who wants a sealburger?!
It's a double whammy on the poor, though. At my place of business, there are a lot of people making $10 per hour, and a few that make more. I some cases, much more. Many of those $10 per hour workers cannot afford to live in Boulder, which is about 5 miles away. Rent in Boulder is simply too high, so many of these people live as far away as Aurora or Greeley to be able to afford a decent apartment, both of which are about 45 miles away from our site. This means they spend up to an hour on the road EACH WAY to get to and from work. They make the least, live the farthest away, and as a consequence they will get crushed by the kinds of gas prices that Chu and Obama are talking about.
Here's the thing about tech parks; they have a high concentration of jobs, great potential for upward mobility, and very expensive real estate the closer you get to them. Check real estate prices in San Jose, California for a glimpse into this reality. For these young people in entry level positions, a $10 per hour call center job can lead to a $12 per hour supervisor role, which can lead to a $15 per hour job as a manager. $20 per hour once they get an industry certification. And so on. But if they can't afford the drive to this job, they're going to have to get a job close to where they live, which in all likelihood doesn't have the same concentration or types of opportunities, or they would have worked there in the first place. People who already have money, on the other hand, can afford to live closer to the work site and therefore feel the pain of gas prices at a much lower rate. I average about 680 gallons of gas per year because I live closer to the work site than many of my peers. That's a 32% reduction against the average fuel usage in America, or about $2900 dollars in my pocket and not in the gas tank. If I put that money in a ROTH IRA instead of my tank, I am going to be WAY better off down the line than someone who had to spend that money. And after all this, Obama laments the fact that the gap between the poor and the wealthy is widening - when it is his policies that are driving it!! To that end, I expect to see the Government Assisted Supplemental Relief Extended to Lower Income Earners, Finally! (GAS RELIEF) act pushed by Democrats where in addition to welfare and food stamp cards, poor people are given gas cards to help ease their (government created) problems. It is an election year, after all - so if it becomes a reality, you heard it here first.
Tomorrow's conclusion: the free market saves the day - and maybe makes green technology work? It can't be!!!
*For ease of explanation, I've rounded slightly
Sunday, March 11, 2012
Drilling now will not help the current gas prices, this much is true. We needed to be drilling two, three years ago to have enough production today to effect a price reduction, and Obama has already made his stance on drilling clear. The current spike in prices is due primarily to unrest in the middle east, which Obama has steadfastly encouraged. Whether it was by NOT supporting the popular rebellion in Iran after their elections, allowing hard line Islamists to remain in power, or supporting chaos in Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere, thereby letting hard line Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood gain a toe-hold, Obama's foreign policy has helped keep oil prices at record highs despite reduced demand resulting from the recession. Even without new permits (more on that later) US oil production is slated to increase by 2 million barrels per day. This is primarily due to the 10-year permits issued by the Bush administration for drilling on federal lands (which makes me wonder - why doesn't Obama publicize his 'inheritance' of increased oil production?). If we can get approval to complete the Keystone pipeline, that will add another 1 million barrels per day from Canada. Combined, these 3 million barrels per day would allow us to stop imports from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Russia and Algeria, thus removing much of the uncertainty about our sources of oil, and hence the ability of speculation to drive the price.
To that end, according to Peter Morici, former chief economist at the US International Trade Commission, the oil produced domestically is $17 per barrel less than oil produced elsewhere. This indicates that the North American oil market is detaching from the global market, and increased drilling coupled with the completion of the Keystone pipeline will have a significant impact on gas prices. This can point to only onbe conclusion:
Gas Prices Are Purposely Being Driven Up
It's interesting that we have an incumbent president who cares so little about re-election that he's purposely driving gas prices higher, but there it is. Every time you pay more at the pump, it's because Obama wants you to. Four years ago, Democrats in Congress were livid about gas prices, demanding that George Bush do something about it. Today, they keep repeating the canard that the President can't affect prices, but as we reviewed above, Obama has taken direct action (or inaction, depending) to destabilize the middle east, has directly stopped drilling, and though he says he has lifted the moratorium on drilling, the issuance of permits is down 57% from before the moratorium. When the Bush admin's 10 year permits expire, domestic production will plummet.
But perhaps most damning is this quote: "Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe." This was from Stephen Chu in 2008. It's an important quote, because in January 2009, Chu became Obama's Secretary of Energy. So not only is Obama's 'diplomacy' driving up gas prices, his guy behind the scenes has been overtly rooting for higher gas prices for the last four years, and since this summer is looking to be a record setter in terms price levels, it looks like he is going to get his wish.
To help in this gouging of the American public, Chu is calling for an end to more than $10 billion in oil company subsidies, while pumping more and more money into alternative energy companies like Solyndra, which then frequently go bankrupt. He's also pushing vehicles like the Chevy Volt (with a $7500 per car government subsidy) despite the fact that there is no demand for the product (as evidenced by GMs recent furlough of 1300 workers while they idle the Volt's production line due to lackluster sales). It seems that even when engaged in meddling with the market and picking winners and losers, the government's winners ARE losers.
Chu's methods are necessary to get a market for alternative fuels off of the ground. The only way to make alternatives fuels and AF vehicles attractive is to make, well, all the decisions this administration has been making. Encouraging unrest in the middle east, saying 'no' to the Keystone pipeline, placing moratoriums on drilling (not approving permits when the moratoriums have been lifted is really the same as having a moratorium), and enforcing year long reviews of any energy projects on federal lands; every step of the way, there's more red tape, there's more delay, and there's more cost. Obama wasn't lying years ago when he said "under my energy plan, costs would necessarily skyrocket."
What is the solution? I'll get into this in part 2 tomorrow!
Friday, March 2, 2012
These were the words staring at me this morning as I went through the comments on CNN.com's story about the death of Andrew Breitbart. But I'll get to that in a minute.
First I would like to say that Andrew Breitbart was a hero to me. He went to college, had a blast partying, imbibing, and wandering aimlessly before finding his true calling. When he found it, he had the courage to go after it full throttle, without regard for the feelings of his targets, his opponents or his allies. He went for the truth; unvarnished, raw and pure. While most of us go to work each day to push our widgets, Andrew Breitbart went to work to fight and bring down those who do damage to our nation. He made a difference, he made a lot of enemies, and he made a lot of people start taking notice of the events around them and report what they see. In this way, we are all Andrew Breitbart, and I can think of no greater legacy for the man or his work than for us to continue to fight this fight.
On CNN.com today the hatred toward Andrew Breitbart was laid bare for all to see as a number of people, rather than expressing sympathy for his widow and fatherless children were openly celebrating the death of a conservative blogger. Based on some of the comments you would think that Hitler himself had just died. The most common threads were:
- He's a liar, so he deserved to die.
- He's a bigot, so he deserved to die.
- He was full of hate and that is what killed him (karma/what goes around, etc).
- And my favorite, in a sudden display of religious furor, God struck Breitbart down because he was evil (and hating someone because they're evil is not wrong).
Of course, none of these people have posted links to their sources as evidence for their claims. For the feisty few who spoke out against the hateful comments, the responses were:
- Stop feigning indignation, you conservatives have been acting this way for 20 years so don't get pissy when we do it.
- Go back to Faux News Forums with the rest of your hate mongers.
Some commenters weren't content to merely limit their attacks on the deceased. In addition to the comment that became the title of this piece, 'tyranosaurus' (yes, s/he spelled it wrong) said "if only all conservatives could meet that fate." So deep is this person's hatred for conservatives, s/he wishes tens (hundreds?) of millions of us would die. 'IanA1' (note the theme of not identifying themselves) says "Republicans everywhere are in mourning, crying in their Pabst Blue Ribbon, lowering their Fox News flags to half staff, and putting off their book burning till tomorrow." Yep, in the eyes of a liberal we are all uneducated, bargain beer drinking, tool of the establishment drones.
Patrick Weber (note he used his name - no need to be ashamed if you're not saying vulgar, hateful things) posted "Sad day. My prayers go out to his family. Thank you, Mr. Breitbart for all you did." In contrast, 'Wozz' replied "His family is another bunch of Socialist fatties living on our health premiums. Hope they all die quickly and save our tax dollars."
'Wozz' went on to say "Death of this fatty is good lesson for all conservtards."
A Facebook page has been started called OneMillionBreitbarts. I think it is a fitting honor to the man to like the page, and keep pushing the front of the battle. As evidenced by their comments, a huge swath of liberals cannot just limit their anger to the man himself, they want his family and all conservatives to die. If this doesn't convince people that we're in a culture war, nothing will.
Ann Coulter said that if you don't leave a liberal in an impotent, stuttering rage you aren't doing it right. Well, Breitbart did it right. Now it's up to us to carry that torch forward. I AM ANDREW BREITBART!!!