Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bush-Haters of the World...Unite!

Although not a big fan of the Bush administration, the current MSN and talk radio reaction to and coverage of the Scott McClennan book "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception" it 100 percent predictable.

Of course the White House is going to react negatively about the book. His silence would have been their preference. Of course congress -- the House Judiciary Committee -- is going to want to hold hearings on the matter. Obama is going to support the MSM premise that Bush lied. And not to be out done or made irrelevant, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has seconded McClellan's assertions.

There is a concept here that most people adhere to but McClellan has not: he opted to kiss and tell. Think about anytime you have been placed in a situation that might not have gone as you'd have liked. Maybe it was a employer, a neighbor, or a friend. Most people let by-gones be by-gones and move on. Some people can't leave well-enough alone and have to make themselves feel relevant by making a stink.

No one was holding a gun to his head making him confess the sins of his employer. He has been on record as being opposed to kiss and tell memoirs. He did this for his own self-aggrandizement, his own pocketbook. Loyalty and trust were tossed out the window. The Bush-haters will use him for all they can. He will eventually find himself on the trash heap of political has-beens.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Statistical Analysis of Alcohol-Related Driving Trends, 1982-2005

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released a report (72-page PDF) that explores factors that influenced the historical alcohol-related driving trends from 1982 to 2005.
The number of fatal crashes that involved drivers who had been drinking at the time of the crash has decreased during the past two decades. The proportion of crash fatalities that are alcohol-related – that occurred in crashes where at least one of the drivers and/or non-occupants involved had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or above – decreased at a steady rate from 53 percent in 1982 to 34 percent in 1997. It leveled off for two years and then increased by 1 percent in 2000 and remained at that level for two more years before it decreased to 33 percent in 2005. The proportion of drivers involved in fatal crashes who had BAC of .08 or above decreased from 35 percent in 1982 to 20 percent in 1997 and leveled off thereafter, as shown in Figure 1.
The trend is good but the key is to decrease the number of drunk drivers as a percentage of total driver crashes.

In general, car crash deaths have remained somewhat constant for the past decade -- in the 43,000 per year range, although the number of drivers and miles driven have increased.

In a related story, according to a recent report from AAA, car accidents involving drivers 15 to 17 cost society more than $34 billion in medical expenses, property damage and related costs in 2006. This includes $9.8 billion related to fatal crashes, $20.5 billion connected with non-fatal crashes, and $4.1 billion for property damage losses.

I like this analysis because it looks at cost to society. The problem I have with NHTSA is they base all of their findings and funding on crash deaths; not cost to society. A fatal crash is cheaper to society than a non-fatal crash. Property damage being equal, medical expenses of an injured person is much greater than a person who dies in a crash, provided they die on the scene and not days or weeks later.

In defense of NHTSA, they have done a good job making cars safer. I just wish they'd consider total costs to society as a major metric, as the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has done.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Texas Court Makes the Right FLDS Decision

Here in Utah we get daily if not hourly updates on the FLDS saga that has been transpiring in San Angelo, Texas. From day one, today's out come seemed inevitable.

A Texas appeals court said authorities had no right to seize more than 460 children in a raid on the group's compound last month.

The initial complaint aside -- looking more like a ruse from an ex-member hoping to get back at the group (succeeding) -- marrying girls under the legal marring age, often times against their will, is an issue. But to assume these mothers are carte blanche bad mothers could not be further from the truth. Of all the children seized and moved to foster homes, there were only a handful on teenage girls that fit the reason for the raid.
The Department did not present any evidence of danger to the physical health or safety of any male children or any female children who had not reached puberty.
Their religion does have some questionable elements, mainly due to our legal system. Polygamy is accepted in some societies, just not in America.

I personally find polygamy a tough lot. It breeds jealousy and contention between wives. It has some uncomfortable sexual connotations -- a middle-aged man marrying a 16-18 years old is a bit strange. I am sure the man is fine with it but I doubt the young lady is all that thrilled.

The practice also forces out 3/4s of all the males -- tossed out because they are not needed. If the ratio of male-to-female births is 50:50, and a typical male eventually marries 4 women, there are too many males (lost boys) for the colony. That must be a tough thing for their mothers -- a necessary action in their eyes.

It seems that governments everywhere think they know best...that they know how everyone should be raising their children. Just because a belief system is different than the surrounding norm, does not implicitly assume that FLDS children are placed in physical danger by their parents.

Once this family matters settles, the law suits will be forth coming. With a good legal effort, it seems the odds are in favor of the FLDS. From the broad search warrants to the state's "collect them all" actions, the state of Texas is not looking good. They learned something from the 1993 raid on the Branch Davidians in Waco (don't use armed force), but apparenly not enough. They blew this one.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Isolated Soccer Fan, Terrible Rule

I had the good fortune to have lunch yesterday with a great friend whom I had not seen for many months. He was nice enough to meet me a Hopper's Brew Pub in Midvale. I asked him to meet me here because I wanted to watch the UEFA Champions League Final.

For the first time in over 50 years, the match was between two EPL teams, ManU and Chelsea. I don't like either team but I dislike ManU about as much as one can dislike a team.

We ate and visited during the first half. We did witness a couple of nice goals. He has an all-consuming job and had to get back. So I stayed there and watch the remainder of the match on ESPN2.

It was 1-1 at half. After 90 minutes, it remained tied. There was no change after extra time, so they were forced into penalty kicks. Manchester United won 6-5 over a more-deserving Chelsea.

I watched this game completely a grill/sports bar mind you. It shows how little interest there is in America, especially in Utah, for the best soccer in the world. If the UEFA Champions League is like watching Major League Baseball, watching MLS is like watching minor league baseball--fun and okay but lacking world class quality. The UEFA Champions League Final is the equilivant of watching the Super Bowl.

There is one thing that FIFA and the beautiful game lacks: how to end a match that ends in a tie. PKs are the worst way to end a game. It would be like a basketball game ending in a tie and having a half-court shooting contest; or a series of field goals without the both football teams on the field; or a home run hitting contest in baseball. The NHL does it right in the playoffs -- a sudden death 20 minute period (and so on) until a game winner.

At the end of the match, there were a few non-fans watching (who happened to be in the facility) and one Mexican soccer fan from the kitchen just getting off work. There was no one there to talk about the finer points and to complain about about lousy PKs.

My daughter, who happens to be in England, watched the match in a pub in Manchester. To say the least, her experience was much more engaging than mine, something she'll remember her entire life.

Tough to be a fan of the beautiful game as a Yank. That's just our lot.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

New Oil Policy: Blame Oil Executives, Sue OPEC

The price of oil continues to climb -- over $134/barrel today -- and how high is any one's guess. Some suggest $200 in the not-too-distant future.

So our elected leaders, after over thirty years of anti-self-sourcing oil policies, are busy on Capital Hill questioning the oil executives of American oil companies and passing a House bill to bring a lawsuit against OPEC members because they have collectively set the price of oil and limited oil supplies. The 324 yea / 84 ney margin is veto proof. The Senate still needs to act; and thinking the Senate will do the right thing and not do this or vote this down, is wishful thinking. This right on the heals of an idiotic Farm Bill, laden with subsidized and inefficient Ethanol production.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi summed up the majority of our politicians' current thinking on energy by hailing the vote as a way to "hold foreign oil cartels and Big Oil accountable."

If the U.S. can demand that foreign oil producers increase their output, what’s to stop them from demanding that we produce more of what they want?

Oil prices could go down immediately if we created a self-serving energy policy that allows us to exploit our own natural resources -- Gulf of Mexico, Florida's coast, California's coast, Colorado/Utah/BLM's oil shale and tar sands, Alaska's ANWR, etc.

All three presidential candidates are weak-kneed and economically inept. They all want more oil...but from somewhere else. A quote from the leading candidate:
"We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times . . . and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK. That's not leadership. That's not going to happen."
Yea, that's not leadership, that's just stupidity.

BTW, if you go to Singapore, bring your jacket; not for the weather outside (90 degrees F every day) but for indoors where the A/C keeps the rooms (restaurants, hotel, government facilities) at a nice 68 degrees F.

The American people and our nation is being poorly served by our Congress and our White House.

It is time to say that the election in November will based on the "its about energy, stupid" theme.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Farm Bill 2008

The House of Representatives passed the $307 billion, five-year Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 by a vote of 318 to 106 (H.R. 2419). The Senate passed it by a margin of 81 to 15.

In Utah, congressmen Chris Cannon and Jim Matheson (my rep) and Senator Bob Bennett voted against the bill; however Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Rob Bishop. voted for it. I praised Matheson and Bennett but chastised Hatch (needs to retire, switch parties or join McCain's guaranteed-loser-in-November campaign).

This is bad legislation. This is pandering politics and special interest at its finest. There are no-strings handouts to millionaire mega-farmers at a time when many crops are selling at record prices and farm revenues are up a whopping 51 percent over their 10-year average.

The spin the politician and Dept of Agriculture place on this is that it addresses the following important areas:

- Ensuring food security
- Promoting homegrown renewable energy
- Reforming farm programs
- Protecting the environment
- Strengthening international food aid

This legislation has pretty much flew under the radar. I have heard little discussion by the talk radio pundits. The headlines of "high subsidies when food prices and farm profits are at record highs" has just slipped by most. Even the NY times is asking Bush to veto it.

The government's idea of good ag policy is to allow farming mega-companies to switch human food for inefficient ethanol, promote failed farm handouts and expand buyback programs; e.g., sugar. It raises spending 44 percent above last year's level, which was too big then.

Regardless of party affiliation, it is spend, spend, spend -- the Congress, the Presidency. My new motto: never vote for the incumbent.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Beichuan: A Vision of Hell

I asked my children about what their thoughts were on the earthquake in Sichuan province. They had all heard about it but had no idea of the scope of the damage, injury and death.

Thinking of the most recent U.S. disasters, we lost 3000 in New York on 9/11 and we lost nearly 2000 in Hurricane Katrina. They became and will continue to be the topic of conversation for years. How would America react to an event as the Sichuan Chinese are currently experiencing?

It was only three+ years ago that 220,000 people lost their lives in the earthquake-caused Indian Ocean tsunami. It has been two weeks since the Burmese experience a have experienced devastating Cyclone Nargis, with a death toll nearing 80,000 and over 50,000 still missing. Nations the world over have experienced major disasters. To most, if it does not happen to you or your nation, you don't care. As long as the economic impact is not severe, no one really cares [sic]. I guess it comes down to the fact that the event is so remote, that there's nothing you can do anything about.

As I sit here in the comfort of my home office, I cannot get the thoughts of the mother and father who have lost a child, children who are now orphans, people who will be maimed for life, towns that will never get rebuilt, and people whose lives will never be the same.

The Sichuan town of Beichan is a snapshot of one area that will never be the same again. Pictures cannot tell the story of tragedy being experienced by these people.

Broken Federal Energy Policy

So let's all get this straight: our federal government's plan to address the increasing price of oil is to a) stop adding to our Strategic Petroleum Reserve and b) to ask the Saudi's to produce more oil.

The Reserve is 97 percent full, holding 701 million barrels of crude. The Senate passed the "stop adding" bill by a 97-to1 vote; the House approved the bill by a 385-to-25 vote. This is populism at it finest; knowing this is nothing more than a cheap band-aid effort at best; hoping to show to their constituencies that they share their pain.

Why should the Saudis or any oil producing nation, other than our own, produce more oil, just because it is impacting the cost of our transportation and our economy? Why should they cave in to America's short-term whining when they ought to be looking out for their own long-term self-interests?

Obviously our elected officials are willing to wave their hands pretending to be taking the issue seriously. However they are unable to do the serious work of creating sound energy policies that includes exploiting our own known resources while finding new resources.

Oil usage and oil demand are not going to diminish in our lifetime. Alternative sources of energy should be part of our strategic energy plan. Conservation and efficiency also, but to assume they are going to solve our energy problems is naive.

It is unreasonable to hope the price of oil will allow our gasoline prices to drop back to the $2/gallon range, nor is it likely to go back under $3/gal. The world has changed, and it has done so quickly. Global demand has increased and there is no turning back.

There are some real things we can do that will impact the longer-term price of oil, namely: i) drill in our established oil fields (ANWR and off the California), ii) mine oil shale, iii) build new refineries, and iv) build new nuclear power plants. This is taking matter into our own hands -- not depending as much as we do on foreign sources.

Until we create a sane strategic energy plan, void of extreme environmental restrictions, we will continue to pay increasingly higher prices for our energy. We will become more indebted and dependent on foreign entities. And this is what scares me the most -- losing, little by little, our national sovereignty.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Californians Did Not Speak; Just a Few Judges

Today, on a 4-3 margin, the California supreme court ruled that a ban on gay marriage was unlawful.

This is liberalism at it finest. The will of the people be damned, provided they can get four our of seven judges to favor their agenda.

Why shouldn't this important topic be given a fair hearing in public, at the ballot-box? Governor Schwarzenegger supports the ruling and will fight against a public referendum. Why? Because he will lose.

This ruling places special interests over the broader interests of a state or a nation.

The court wrote: "Our state now recognizes that an individual's capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual's sexual orientation."

This could not be further from the truth. It is 100% about sexual orientation. It is not platonic roommates or siblings that share living quarters that are cheering this ruling. This is all about "normalising" homosexuality.

Same-gender attraction advocates are "quick to demand freedom of speech and thought for themselves, but equally quick to criticize those with a different view and, if possible, to silence them by applying labels like 'homophobic.'"

The Biblical position on personal weakness is clear. From 1 Corinthians 10:13: "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."

Everyone has challenges they struggle with. Homosexuality is only one of a host of challenges some people struggle with. Just because someone has same-gender attraction does not launch a forgone conclusion that these tendencies need to be embraced and acted upon as a life defining event and mandatory lifestyle.

The Church's position on this is clear: sexual relations are permitted within the bonds of marriage, between a husband (male) and (his) wife (female), exclusively. Celibacy is expected for anyone that is not married.

There may come a time when the bulk of the citizens of the nation will favor homosexual marriage (heaven forbid), but that time has not come. Instead, we are seeing radical judges creating laws (not their job), regardless of the will of the people.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Polar Bears Now a Threatened Species

I first heard this while listening to NPR this morning. Today, the Department of Interior issued the following statement:
We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, determine threatened status for the polar bear (Ursus maritimus) under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.) Polar bears evolved to utilize the Arctic sea ice niche and are distributed throughout most ice-covered seas of the Northern Hemisphere. We find, based upon the best available scientific and commercial information, that polar bear habitat—principally sea ice—is declining throughout the species’ range, that this decline is expected to continue for the foreseeable future, and that this loss threatens the species throughout all of its range. Therefore, we find that the polar bear is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all of its range.
The Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne announced that he is accepting the recommendation of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall to list the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Whereas I appreciate the spirit of the need to be a good steward of the environment, a U.S. policy to demand action to protect a species that spans many non-U.S. jurisdictions seems idiotic. Will this cost the American tax payer a single dollar? Of course. Probably hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars.

The environmentalist push will be through the court system, like most liberal policies. It is unlikely Congress will act but some activist judge will.

The more I listen to the man-made global warming crowd, the more ridiculous they seem. (They say the same thing about me.) The earth has warmed and cooled for millennia. Species have come and gone (despite geopolitical barriers). A U.S. law is not going to change that.

Just because many people engage in anthropomorphic behavior, does not mean a nation should enact policy to address a problem it is incapable of addressing (nor should we spend money attempting to address it).

The polar bear will survive or fail on it own ... pure Darwinism (natural selection).

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Out Democrating the Democrats

McCain's strategy for the Presidency is clear: he hopes to out Democratic the Democrats. In Oregon, in a speech on global warming, he outlined his opinions and ideas on the topic.
McCain called for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by mid-century and pledged to take the lead in pressing rising economic powers India and China to cut emissions.

"I will not shirk the mantle of leadership that the United States bears," McCain said, alluding to Bush, who withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol, the international agreement to curtail emissions. "I will not permit eight long years to pass without serious action on serious challenges."

Referring to melting glaciers in the Arctic Ocean and the vanishing habitats of polar bears and walruses, the Arizona senator and presumptive Republican nominee for president said it was time to stop quibbling over the causes of global warming. He pledged to "deal with the central facts of rising temperatures, rising waters and all the endless troubles that global warming will bring."
So for the next six months, we will be hearing how MCain does not go far enough. They will argue over how McCain said 60 percent and Obama said 80 percent (which is better, of course); he opposes a federal mandate on renewable energy and Obama does. Both candidates will continue to reference unvalidated science. Both will encourage carbon credits and exchanges, forcing higher costs on businesses, higher prices on consumers and less money being spent on new sources and technologies.

The more you see these candidates, the more you realize there is very little difference between Obama and McCain. The liberals have certainly won. They nominated both McCain and Obama. From a Conservative's perspective, the difference is negligible. Both will tout failed liberal policies that have been disproved again and again.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Earthquakes in Divers Places

From Mormon 8:29-32:
-Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be heard of fires, and tempests, and vapors of smoke in foreign lands;
-And there shall also be heard of wars, rumors of wars, and earthquakes in divers places.
-Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be great pollutions upon the face of the earth; there shall be murders, and robbing, and lying, and deceivings, and whoredoms, and all manner of abominations;
-Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be churches built up that shall say: Come unto me, and for your money you shall be forgiven of your sins.
Bad things happen. Mother nature is a powerful force. Modern communication technologies make for instantaneous news about a devastating typhoon in Myanmar and earthquake in China as well as political strife in Lebanon, Bolivia, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Nigeria and Congo...the list goes on.

In almost all cases, we see the good mingle with the bad. In Myanmar, we see self-centered leaders controlling aid, directly prolonging and causing death and suffering. In China, like most of the developing world, buildings are constructed with poor oversight -- Tinkertoys ready to fall at just about any above-normal weather or earthquake.

Governments from all of the world, namely nations like the U.S., the U.K. and other developed nations, take an active roll at helping out -- money, food, supplies, doctors and disaster recovery specialists. The Red Cross, CARE and dozens of other humanitarian groups feed and care for thousands throughout the world in trying circumstances. The LDS Church also takes part in humanitarian service all over the world, often in association with other non-denominational foundations.

LDS Philanthropies allow people to make instantaneous contributions to general emergency response funds or specific funds like help for the Burmese. Once can imagine that there will a China earthquake fund and American (OK/MO) tornado fund shortly. Look back on every major disaster or problem from Hurricane Kartina to neonatal resuscitation training, the Church's ability and willingness to help is enormous.

Are these the signs of the times or just normal patterns? I'll leave that to the doctrinal speculators. What I do know is that disasters will occur and people will need help. It is our duty to help, regardless of politics and personal behaviour in the effected region.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

EPL 2007-08 Seasons Comes to a Close

It started in August and ended today. Manchester United defeated Wigan during week 38 to claim its 17th English Premier League title (one behind Liverpool).

ManU was followed by Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool (all qualifying for the next UEFA Champions League) and Everton (qualifying for the next UEFA Cup)

I watched matches every week on the Fox Soccer Channel. I was able to see one match in person (my first) on 5 April between Man City (0) and Chelsea (2) at the City of Manchester Stadium.

I also played a full years of Fantasy Premier League -- my second year at it. Out of 1,701,961 total players, I finished with 2084 total points and in 70,535th place (~5%). It did not take much time and was fun; helping me stay abreast of the the players and their productivity.

My team for week 38 was Green (GK); Dunne, Wheater, Lescott, McCartney (D); Hunt, Ballack, Ronaldo, Essien (M); Santa Cruz, Agbonlahor (F); Gordon, Adebayor, Butt, Scharner on my bench. Other players I have had and transfered throughout the year include Petrov, Gerrard, N'Zogbia, Dempsey, Hahnemann, Anelka, Ingimarsson, Kapo, Hreidarsson, Taylor, Granqvist, Harper, Carsley, Rosenior, Sibierski, Jones, Howard, Drogba, Primus, Scharner, Boyce, and Campo.

Luckily, there are three final matches to entertain us fans: this week's UEFA Cup Championship in Manchester between Glasgow Rangers and St. Petersburg's Zenit, the FA Cup Final between Cardiff City and Portsmouth, and next week's UEFA Champions League final in Moscow between ManU and Chelsea.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Sovereignty and Energy Independence

A sovereign state is one which governs itself independently of any foreign power. It is supreme authority within a territory. The energy situation America finds itself in is an example of how we are losing some of our sovereignty. We have allowed certain oil-rich nations in the Middle East, Russia, Nigeria and Venezuela to take an upper hand in our way of life.

As the price oil continues to increase, people and businesses will adjust. Energy demand will decrease. We will think twice about taking certain trips, from scout leaders planning their camp-outs and schools scheduling games against other schools to family vacations requiring extensive air and road travel and businesses no longer giving their sales and management teams unbridled travel leeway. We'll see the volume of SUVs and trucks being sold by GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota and Nissan diminish drastically -- the American companies taking the bigger hit.

As we dedicate a greater portion of our income to food and fuel, fewer will dine out. As disposable income decreases, tickets to ball games, motor races, movies, out-of-town marathons/triathlons/bike rides/races, ski resorts and golf courses will decrease, as will all associated equipment.

The U.S.A is an energy dependent economy. Everything we do depends on "affordable" fuel. Yet our elected officials have done nothing to encourage or obtain energy independence. Everything they do encourages dependency on foreign suppliers. These foreign suppliers are the ones that take our money and invest it into their ventures (domestic and foreign). These investment come with ties, as they try to protect and increase the value of those investments.

Our elected officials, as well as every one of us (as their constituencies), should be encouraging energy-independent policies. Instead of making the energy companies, namely the oil companies, the bad guys, policies should exist to encourage their success. Instead of wanting to tax them into submission, we should be giving them tax breaks for investing into new sources and technologies.

America sits on a huge supply of coal, comparable in scope to the Middle East's oil reserves. We have our own supply of untapped oil reserves. We have ample opportunities for alternative energy supplies from geothermal and wind to productive bio fuels -- not corn-based Ethanol and without impacting productive farmland. It is our elected officials, being held hostage by special interest environmental groups, that are limiting us from protecting our sovereignty and gaining energy independence.

There are ways to regain our sovereignty but it requires a compromise on all sides. Environmentalists can't just say no to new drilling and hope to live in a modern society. Energy companies can't just "cut and burn" their way to prosperity. How about a wind turbine for every home (that has a regular supply of wind)?

The days of affordable fuel are history. The gas lines of the late 70s, although painful (I was a college student driving a motor cycle and riding a bicycle in So. Cal), were short term. Economics did not motivate change. Cheap oil quickly became the norm. Thirty years later, gas lines are replaced by high prices, as there seem to be plenty of supply. We'll adjust to $5/gallon gas. We'll adjust to $10/gallon gas. But what do we need to give up in order to do so?

One thing we have lacked for years are politicians that have a vision. None are able to inspire (sorry you Obama lovers...but his hope messages is as empty as it gets). We spend billions every day on a war in Iraq. We spend billions on useless government programs. What would really happen if we just cut in half the Departments of Education, Labor, Housing & Urban Development, Interior and Commerce? Why not inspire Energy and Agriculture -- both public and private entities -- to achieve energy independence with using our renewable and non-renewable resources?

The government has stood in the way of American ingenuity. We can solve our energy problems within 10-20 years. We just need leadership, which has been lacking for a couple of decades. It is not going to come from Obama or McCain. It needs to come from Congress, namely through its grassroot constituencies.

If we do not take matters into our own hand, we will be giving up more and more of our sovereignty.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Eliminating Earmarks Will Not Save Federal Dollars

Yesterday, I received a letter from Senator Robert Bennett in reply to a message I sent him a while back dealing with federal earmarks. I was complaining to him about his roll as one of the nation's bigger abusers, despite the fact that his pork is targeted at his constituency.
Earmarks are funds provided by the Congress for projects or programs where the congressional direction (in bill or report language) circumvents the merit-based or competitive allocation process, or specifies the location or recipient, or otherwise curtails the ability of the Executive Branch to properly manage funds. Congress includes earmarks in appropriation bills - the annual spending bills that Congress enacts to allocate discretionary spending - and also in authorization bills.
In his response, he said that "while it is true that in some cases, earmarked funding can be wasteful, eliminating earmarks would not save federal dollars. The funding for earmarks would still be spent, only the decision on where to spend it would be determined by a federal bureaucrat."

Why must the money be spent? Why not return the money to the taxpayers? Why not reduce the tax? Congress, namely the Appropriations Committees, is caught up in a "spend it or lose it" scenario.

It does not matter which side of the aisle, this is one more example of Congressional corruption.

Al Gore -- Poster Boy for Phonies -- Rises Again

Cyclone Nargis has devastated Myanmar and appears to have taken the lives of nearly 100,000 people and impaction the daily lives of one million.

It only took a couple of days for Algore to spring into action, appearing on NPR's Fresh Air, blaming the cyclone on man-made global warming.

He is silent when in snows at one of the global warming summits in April but as soon as normal weather patterns occur, he is quick to blame.

How can we have an open, reasonable discussion about climate change with Algore being the centerpiece? What a phony.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Nominees and Likely November Outcome

Obama won in North Carolina by 14 percent over Mrs. Clinton -- a significant margin. In Indiana, she won by 2 percent -- much small than expected. This certainly is a boost to Obama’s claim on the Democratic nomination.

Mrs. Clinton will not quit. She will do everything in her power to win the nomination, from seating the Florida and Michigan delegates (who were tossed out do to rule-breaking Democrat party chiefs in those states) to whatever, remembering the the Clintons will do ANYTHING for power. In the Al Gore spirit, a lawsuit is likely.

One wonders why the battle between him and her was so great. Their politics are nearly identical. The difference, and what voters are voting on, is personality. She is loathsome, conniving, and downright nasty. He is naive, inexperienced but not yet loathsome.

The Democrat Party nomination process is a shame. There is nothing democratic about its process. Everything the Party has stood for has proven faulty. Ignorance rains supreme in their constituency. Look at the African-American voters: they vote Democrat again and again, for the same failed policies from FDR, Truman and Johnson.

People are populists, regardless of nationality. They think the government is there for their benefit, their well-being. Too many associate their personal well-being is determined by what the government can do for them. It is not the government's role rather each has been endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This year's election is the Democrats to lose. In the eyes of the electorate, Bush has been a disaster, just like his father. McCain is just Bush v3. He is a token candidate, like Bob Dole was in 1998. The best candidate the Republicans can put up is John McCain? Scary.

I cannot stand Obama or Clinton. Their politics are based on proven, failed principles. But that's not how the bulk of electorate will see the Democrat candidate.

To the masses, McCain is old school, Obama is new school. The masses do not vote on ideology; they vote on personality. The typical non-policial voter says "I vote for the man, not the party." Obama's liberalism will be a disaster for the country. But so will McCain.

The only real reason to even consider McCain, from a conservative perspective, is for the judges, including the possibility of one or more Supreme Court nominations that may come up in the next four years.

Too many hard core Republicans say we must vote for McCain because he is our candidate; that he is the best alternative. The lesser of two evils is still evil. Too many say we need to stay in the Party and change the Party from within; i.e., nominate candidates and platforms that are closer to the original core, conservative values. This has not worked.

For years, the Republican Party has shifted left. The Party has moved too far away from its core principles. Unless it comes back to its core, it will have a tough time winning a majority of votes in any election -- federal or state.

Proven conservative principles is what will save this union, not liberal politics that have failed again and again.

Although many Republican and conservative voices think Obama will lose in November, because of his liberal politics, his inexperience and his inability to garner the white, middle class voter. I cannot see McCain being a strong enough candidate to offer people the better alternative.

When it comes down to it, both Parties are not overly optimistic about their chances in November because both Parties have unappealing nominees. Although I will never vote for Obama (or any Democrat for that matter), I have not made up my mind if I will vote for McCain, because of my general dislike for him.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

2008 Traffic Safety Culture Index

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has released a report (70-page PDF) that examines the results of a survey designed to identify the attitudes, opinions, behaviors, and experiences of the American public related to traffic safety. The report also explores information gathered during the survey in terms of future research, educational outreach, and a potential dialogue on the nation's traffic safety culture.

The key findings (beginning on page 18) are based on weighted data in its aggregate format.

• While traffic safety and public health professionals may be fully aware of the number of traffic related fatalities in the U.S. each year, the American public is almost totally unaware of these numbers. When asked for their best estimate of the number of motor vehicle traffic fatalities last year, fully one in four respondents said they didn’t know and made no attempt to estimate a number. According to official statistics, the actual total has been between 39,000 and 45,000 every single year since 1990.

• When compared to other current issues, concern about road safety ranked in the middle of the ten items tested. Of the issues raised, the issue that elicited the highest ratings of concern was the price of gas at the pumps, as compared to 41 percent indicating that they were extremely concerned about road safety.

• Respondents expressed a mid-range amount of confidence (the highest sited) in the government’s ability to improve improve road safety, reduce the threat of a terrorist attack, improve airline safety and fight crime.

• In an open-ended question seeking peoples’ top-of-mind ideas regarding what could be done to prevent serious crashes, the top four types of responses were: improving driver awareness or reducing distracted driving, reducing use of cell phones, reducing speeds or speeding, and reducing or stopping drinking and driving.

• When asked to rate the seriousness of a variety of traffic safety problems, drinking drivers were rated as the most serious problem, followed by drivers using cell phones, distracted drivers, aggressive drivers, speeding drivers, and drivers who run red lights.

• When asked to rate how acceptable a variety of driving behaviors were, respondents expressed that speeding up to get through a yellow light and speeding on the highway were the most acceptable of the items listed. The behaviors rated as least acceptable were not wearing a seat belt and running a red light on purpose. When asked to report their own recent driving behaviors, the behaviors that the greatest percentages of respondents admitted to were becoming extremely angry at something another driver did and talking on their cell phone while driving.

• Respondents were asked to rate their level of support or opposition for a variety of traffic safety measures, most of which received high levels of support and relatively little opposition. The most strongly supported measures were requiring all new teenage drivers to complete a state-approved driver’s education course and laws requiring all vehicle occupants to wear seat belts. The measures receiving the least support were using cameras to ticket speeding drivers automatically, and requiring all drivers to use equipment that would test them for alcohol before starting their cars. Interesting, nearly 1/3 of drivers have ever taken a formal driver training course.

The number one cause of death in American for people between 3-34 is car crashes; it is the third overall cause for all ages, behind heart disease and cancer. Yet, it is an area little think about and little money spent at addressing. Think about how much money is spent on homeland security, give the likelihood of an incident and the probability of losing one's life in a terrorist attack. It proves that people -- from state and federal regulators and the average Joe and Jane -- do a poor job at understanding and managing risk.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Extra Tax on Oil Companies?

Mrs. Clinton recently said:
Senator Obama wants the consumers to pay the gas taxes this summer; I want the oil companies to pay it out of their excess profits.

I really believe that this difference of opinion over the gas tax is critical. Because I think you've got to have a leader willing to take on the oil companies, starting now. I know that Senator Obama doesn't agree with me. I know that Senator McCain is willing to lift the gas tax but not pay for it. I'm willing to figure out a way to get the gas tax paid this summer out of the record profits of the oil companies. That is the beginning of trying to stand up to the oil companies, which is something we need to do.
The price of crude oil is not determined by Chevron, Exxon, or any one oil company. Energy demand is global. The U.S. oil production is declining. We are forced to compete with other countries for the importation of our increasing demand for oil.

According to Chevron CEO David O'Reilly (WSJ, 1 May 2008), Chevron produces 1.5 million barrels a day, out of 88 million barrels a day globally ... ~2 percent of the total global volume.

American oil companies already pay huge taxes on their profits -- the more profits they make, the more taxes they pay. Mrs. Clinton does not think that is enough. She wants to call out one industry and have a different taxation policy on it because of present economic issues.

So if she takes on the oil companies, how will this decrease the price of oil? It will not. If shows how ignorant she is on economics. The good news is her desired policy (as well as McCain's or Obama's) will never get enacted; Congress would never pass it.

From the Executive Summary of the National Petroleum Council's July 2007 report Facing the Hard Truths about Energy (380 pages; 15 Mb):
According to the The United States and the world face hard truths about the global energy future over the next 25 years:

Coal, oil, and natural gas will remain indispensable to meeting total projected energy demand growth.

The world is not running out of energy resources, but there are accumulating risks to continuing expansion of oil and natural gas production from
the conventional sources relied upon historically. These risks create significant challenges to meeting projected energy demand.

To mitigate these risks, expansion of all economic energy sources will be required, including coal, nuclear, renewables, and unconventional oil and natural gas. Each of these sources faces significant challenges—including safety, environmental, political, or economic hurdles—and imposes infrastructure requirements for development and delivery.

“Energy Independence” should not be confused with strengthening energy security. The concept of energy independence is not realistic in the foreseeable future, whereas U.S. energy security can be enhanced by moderating demand, expanding and diversifying domestic energy supplies, and strengthening global energy trade and investment. There can be no U.S. energy security without global energy security.

A majority of the U.S. energy sector workforce, including skilled scientists and engineers, is eligible to retire within the next decade. The workforce must be replenished and trained.

Policies aimed at curbing CO2 emissions will alter the energy mix, increase energy-related costs, and require reductions in demand growth.
Mrs. Clinton (as well as Obama and to a certain extent, McCain) are pander populists which continue to paint big oil as evil. She even called OPEC a monopoly.

According to the U/S.'s Energy Information Administration (EIA), in Feb 2008, we imported 365,509,000 barrels of oil (down from 418 million in January 2008). Of this, 169,659,000 came from the 12-nation OPEC cartel; 195,850,000 from non-OPEC nations including Canada and Mexico. Hence, despite many Democrats' opinions, the oil industry is not a monopoly.

Oil is one part of the broader energy industry. Energy has a direct impact to our economics, of freedoms, our way of life; but adding a sur-tax onto of the highest tax paying industries in our history is not prudent policy.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Gas Tax Holiday - Dumb Idea

McCain started it; Mrs. Clinton seconded it; Obama rejected it. The federal gas tax holiday is not only a stupid idea, it once again shows how populist-based politicians are ill-qualified to lead the greatest nation in the world.

My concept of an average person/vehicle and their fuel usage is they fill-up once a week, put in 15 gallons of gas, and get 20 miles per gallon. Over the three month summer quarter, the "average" driver will save $32.50 (12 weeks x 15 gallons/week x $0.18 federal tax/gallon). As the price of gas increases, the federal tax is a decreasing percentage of the total.

I am all for lower taxes but a policy like a federal gas tax holiday will tempt people to drive more, thus raising gas demands and leading to even higher gas prices.

The politicians in favor seem to think you can cut taxes without cutting spending. McCain says the impact to road and bridge safety and repair will not be impacted because the cuts will come from other places. There is no magic, despite all of their hand waving and populist posturing.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

A Champions League Semi-Final for the Ages

Yesterday's UEFA Champion's League semi-final, second leg, between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge was one for the ages.

Chelsea won the game in extra time 3-2 and the draw on a 4-3 aggregate. They have moved on for the first time to Moscow for the UEFA Champion's League Final on 21 May. They will face Manchester United in the first all-English final, who beat Barcelona in two rather boring matches to earn their Finals spot.

I am a passionate Liverpool fan. The loss, although painful, was expected. Chelsea is a better team this year, despite Liverpool historical success in Europe. They played better. On the bright side, Liverpool did score their first goal at Stamford Bridge in over 800 minutes of playing time, since the 1990s.

Chelsea's win was long coming, having been knocked out of the competition at this stage three times in the last four years, including twice by Liverpool in 2005 and 2007.

The match was hard fought. The officiating was fair. Drogba just got the best of the Liverpool defense on two occasions. Makelele did a good job containing Gerard. Cech did a good enough job defending his goal.

This was not to be Liverpool year in Europe (nor in the Premier League, again) as it has been so many times in the past. Ironically, it is sweet to see Avram Grant take Chelsea to the finals after his controversial predecessor Jose Marinho could not.

I do not like ManU nor Chelsea, but I will watch the Russian final, expecting to see an excellent match.

Democrat Math Does Not Add Up

According to a current AP story:
Obama now leads in the delegate count overall 1735.5 to 1597.5 for Clinton. A candidate needs 2,025 delegates to win the nomination. About 230 superdelegates remain undecided, and about 60 more will be selected at state party conventions and meetings throughout the spring.
Hence, there are 290 delegates/superdelegate still to be awarded. The problem is that Obama needs 289.5 votes to win the Democratic nomination and Mrs. Clinton needs 427.5. There's no way Obama is gong to win all the delegates/superdelegates and there are not enough there for Mrs. Clinton to win the nomination.

In order for either to win, a large number of superdelegates are going to need to switch sides. The math points to a brokered convention in Denver.