Category ►►► Energy Woes and Wows
March 27, 2012
Greasing My Spindle Regurgitated
To recap, John Hinderaker at Power Line sporatically adds to a series he calls "slucing my spindle" or "polishing my pole" or somesuch (I forget), wherein he collates several quick hits on newsy items that either don't warrant a full post, or to which he was too lazy to publish in a timelier manner.
Since I'm even lazier than he, I have heisted the concept complete, and now I pretend that it's my own and hope nobody notices. Thus...
A twelve hundred mile reality gap
This one is too delicious to pass up: Trying to "deflect" the ire of Americans over four-dollar gas -- set to rise to five-dollar gas this summer -- President Barack H. "Gas Passer" Obama has finally, if reluctantly, embraced the Keystone pipeline from Canada to Texas. Yazoo, yakima!
Oh, wait; it was the part over which the president has no authority... and he "authorized" only the half of it anyway: Obama is willing to "jump start" the (already scheduled) project to build the southern half of the pipeline... you know, that part that doesn't connect to the oilfields in Canada. So this authorized/unauthorized pipeline can just sit there as a monument to liberalism at its smirkiest:
"Despite numerous attempts by Republicans to compel the president to approve the Keystone permit, Americans are still left with a 1,179-mile (1,897-km) gap between the oil resources and this southern portion of the pipeline," said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, referring to the full Keystone XL project.
Well! Who could argue with that Solomonic compromise? We build half the pipeline -- the half that doesn't connect to anything but an oil storage depot in Cushing, Oklahoma. As the saying goes, a man should not commence vast projects with only half-vast ideas.
I wonder if voters will get the joke.
BFF in the UK
There are some Progressivist ideas that simply scream for a mass "WTF?" Such as:
Teachers are banning schoolkids from having best pals -- so they don't get upset by fall-outs.
Instead, the primary pupils are being encouraged to play in large groups.
Educational psychologist Gaynor Sbuttoni said the policy has been used at schools in Kingston, South West London, and Surrey.
She added: "I have noticed that teachers tell children they shouldn't have a best friend and that everyone should play together.
What could go wrong?
Say, why don't we extend the policy to adults, as well? The British government could ban men and women from falling in love; think how painful it will be if they break up or get divorced!
And of course, they should ban career planning because of the severe shock if employees don't get promoted... or in Britain's case, employed at all.
I love the idea; it's so efficient: Rather than waste time and effort improving one's lot, isn't it better just to reject hope altogether? That way, you'll never be disappointed again.
Eurosocialist Progressivism: Leading the free world in institutionalized despair as public policy!
John Paul III he ain't
Pope Benedict XVI (no relation to Napoleon the XIV, as I understand it) courageously announced today that Communism is no longer working in Cuba:
His remarks on Friday were at least as forthright as any made by his predecessor, John Paul II, on a groundbreaking trip to the country 14 years ago. Answering a question about his visit to Cuba, which has remained a communist bastion for more than 50 years, the pope said: "Today it is evident that Marxist ideology in the way it was conceived no longer corresponds to reality."
Actually, I suspect that Pope John Paul II might have been a skosh more forthright. He might have inquired, after Benedict said Communism was no longer working, when did it ever? Yes, it was working like gangbusters for the first few decades; then something went terribly, terribly wrong!
Or he might have quoted his famous friend and simply left it at, "there you go again!"
Zimmerman's dreadful mistake
The current stories dominating the news the last few days, anent the confrontation between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, hold that it was Martin (the "victim") who first assaulted and then battered Zimmerman (the "assailant") -- rather than the other way around. Zimmerman claims that Martin punched him in the nost hard enough to knock him to the ground, then straddled him and repeatedly banged Zimmerman's head against the sidewalk. It was only then, emerging evidence suggests, that Zimmerman drew and shot Martin at point-blank range.
Aren't we glad that the President of the United States has already weighed in with his support for Trayvon Martin (and subtextual judgment that George Zimmerman is a despicable racist and murderer)?
Assuming the current claims prove correct -- and the police have admitted that the physical evidence seems to back Zimmerman up -- then I would have to say the plain implication is that Zimmerman did indeed make a terrible, and ultimately deadly mistake.
He should have drawn his gun earlier.
Zimmerman should have drawn his concealed pistol as soon as Martin began to approach him in a menacing manner. Had he done so, Zimmerman could have controlled the situation better; it's even possible that Martin would have backed off -- and Trayvon Martin might be alive today.
So the lesson for today is... if you are armed, and if a situation begins to develop that warrants an act of self defense (or defense of another), then earlier is better than later. The longer you wait, the less control you likely have over events.
Hey -- it's just like war! As Winston Churchill noted (paraphrasing Machiavelli), if a nation puts off a war that is inevitable (think Iran), a very likely outcome is that when the war finally comes, it will be significantly harder to win and much more devastating.
Something to think about; even the smallest stone thrown into the most local lake can create ripples of national and even international import. And on that pompous yet sententious note...
October 28, 2009
Barbara Boxer - Thank Goodness for National Poverty!
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA, 100%) is of course shepherding the economy-killing energy bill, Cripple and Tax (sorry, I meant Cap and Trade) through the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which she chairs. Her fellow committee member Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT, 80%) -- who just recently wrote his own Obamacare bill in the Senate Finance Committee, which he chairs -- has decided to write his own energy bill as well; he came out swinging against the Boxer bill... but his objections are all to the specifics; Baucus has no problem with the basic concept of the Obama-Boxer bill:
- Regulate carbon emissions as if they were pollutants (so stop exhaling, you climate traitor!)
- Force industries, farms, utilities, and other businesses to buy "carbon credits" that allow them to pollute the planet -- i.e., feed the plants.
Set a national carbon reduction goal of about 80% by 2050 (!). This is so draconian, it can only be achieved one of two ways: By absolutely crippling American industry to the point where we'd have trouble competing with Albania; or by embarking upon a massive program to build a hundred or more nuclear power plants.
The Democrats have no interest in building a hundred nuclear power plants. Or even one.
- "Fine" businesses and utilities increasingly staggering amounts of money when they're unable to meet that absurdist goal... thus creating the most massive tax the United States has ever levied -- on the evil, unAmerican sin of producing energy.
Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX, 76%) and Kit Bond (R-MO, 75%) conducted a study that found the gasoline tax increase alone would carry a price tag of $3.6 trillion, a cost that would be borne by "families, small businesses, farmers, truckers, & air travelers." I don't believe that even includes energy taxes on other forms of fossil fuel besides gasoline, deisel and jet fuel, such as natural gas, ordinary coal, or clean-coal technology.
But all this is prolog; what really caught my eye was this astonishing suggestion from Boxer:
Mrs. Boxer said that Mr. Baucus told her Friday that he could not back the bill in its current form. Still, she expressed hope that recent declines in U.S. emission levels caused by the economic recession of as much as 8 percent since 2005 would make the 2020 target more palatable for Mr. Baucus and other bill critics.
And there you have it, the essential absurdity of Cripple and Tax: A United States senator hopes that the current recession continues plaguing America, because that would reduce emissions (by reducing industrial production, jobs, and GDP) -- and "make the 2020 [emissions reduction] target more palatable!"
In other words, we'll already be so impoverished by the recession, which Barack H. Obama now "owns" via his counter-economic policies that perpetuate it, that we'll hardly even notice when we become even poorer due to his equally risible energy policy.
At last I understand: It's not true that the One's economic plan is failing; it's succeeding beyond his wildest dreams. We just misunderstand its real goal.
Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...
July 9, 2008
Is "Stupid" the New "Cool" for Democrats?
Good news and bad news from Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL, 95%):
"I'm open to drilling and responsible production," Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin told The Wall Street Journal, adding that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could also support the move.
However, Durbin said his support for opening new areas to drilling was contingent on setting requirements that oil and gas companies begin production within a specified time frame on acreage they have leased from the government.
Reuters helpfully adds this, ensuring we all know who the real villains are:
Democrats say energy companies are producing oil and gas from only about a quarter of the 91.5 million acres currently leased from the government.
Um... how difficult is this concept? Let me lay it out in black and white. (Oops, this is Big Lizards... is brownish-red and parchment-tan)...
- Oil companies do not get to set up rigs and explore for oil before leasing the land they intend to explore. They're allowed to send petroleum geologists to walk around the joint and make an educated guess that this is the kind of geology that often contains oil... but that's it.
- So when the company leases land, it's really buying a pig in a blanket: Geologists don't really know whether it contains oil at all; and even if it does, whether that oil is economically extractable. They're gambling. (It's not a crap shoot, because they have intelligence; think of the company more as a professional poker player... the odds are still against making a hand; but he knows what those odds are, thus he has a good idea whether to raise, call, or fold.)
- So all that Reuters' last graf tells us is that Big Energy wins that bet about 25% of the time; and that 25% produces enough oil for them to show a profit.
- But what about that remaining 75% of lots where they're not pumping oil? Well, one of two things must be true: Either the company has not yet found any oil accessible enough to pump without losing money... or else they have found accessible oil, but they're deliberately not pumping it... and therefore they're committing corporate suicide for some unfathomable reason that we simply cannot -- er -- fathom. After all, their competitors are busily pumping every barrel of oil they can get their rigs on.
Somehow, I think the first option is more likely: They simply haven't found accessible oil on 75% of their leases; they looked and looked, but they came up dry. (Or else they grabbed the lease because it looked promising, but they haven't had a chance to explore yet because they've only had it for a few months -- and they're busy exploring on other leases.) The idea that they're sitting on billions of barrels of oil and deliberately not pumping it, at a time when a barrel of oil sells at an all-time high, is laugh-out-loud ludicrous.
Thus, if we take Durbin's comments seriously (and why should we? it's Dick Durbin), the deal Senate Democrats offer is that they'll graciously allow oil companies to drill where the oil is -- on the outer continental shelf (OCS) -- but only if they agree to also drill where the oil isn't... in the dry holes they're currently leasing.
Democrats: "In your heart, you know they're dolts."
June 16, 2008
McCain Energy Heads-Up: End Moratorium on Offshore Drilling (Details Tuesday)
Today, John McCain gave a small preview of his major energy speech tomorrow:
Sen. John McCain said Monday the federal moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling should be lifted, and individual states given the right to pursue energy exploration in waters near their own coasts.
With gasoline prices rising and the United States chronically dependent on foreign oil, the Republican presidential contender said his proposal would "be very helpful in the short term resolving our energy crisis."
McCain also suggested giving the states incentives, including a greater share of royalties paid by companies that drill for oil, as an incentive to permit exploration.
Asked how far offshore states should be given control of drilling rights, he said that was a matter for negotiation.
He offered no other details for his proposal, which he is expected to describe more fully on Tuesday in an energy speech.
It's not clear yet (tomorrow, I hope) whether McCain distinguishes between drilling "offshore," which he wants to be up to the individual states, and drilling on the outer continental shelf (50 to 200 miles offshore, over the horizon several times over). The idea that individual states can prevent drilling 50 miles offshore, far beyond the territorial waters of the United States (12 nautical miles), is insane. It's within our 200 NM exclusive economic zone; but, per the 1982 Law of the Sea treaty, the EEZ applies to countries, not individual states. Leaving that up to the states is like allowing them to set their own customs and immigration policy.
Astonishingly enough -- and I know you're all going to be stunned to read this -- Barack H. Obama likes the current moratorium and wants it to remain in place in perpetuity. He reverently intoned, via spokesman, the enviro-hippie mantra of Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 93%):
McCain's presidential rival, Sen. Barack Obama, opposes an end to the moratorium, a spokesman said. Hari Sevugan said McCain's "plan to simply drill our way out of our energy crisis is the same misguided approach backed by President Bush that has failed our families for too long and only serves to benefit the big oil companies."
Generic "progressive" Democrats, such as Obama, think it the peak of absurdity to "drill our way out of the energy crisis," and they lose no opportunity to tell us unsophisticated rubes how impossible that is. The preferred plan of the anointed is to tax and conserve our way out of the energy crisis. (Rumors abound that Obama will shortly release a new plan urging the developing world to diet its way out of the world hunger crisis.)
Of course, one reason that Bush's plan for resolving the energy crisis -- more drilling and refining -- has utterly failed... is that the Democrats have repeatedly blocked it from being implemented:
- Bush says, "we need to drill for more American oil to keep the cost down, and so that we don't have to buy billions of barrels from the Middle East and Venezuela;"
- Democrats vote against it in lockstep, preventing it from going into effect;
- Then they hoot that the Bush plan has "failed" -- after all, see how expensive gasoline is now?
This is worse than liberal logic... it's teen logic: Your sixteen year old son Barry gets a ticket for drag racing in the street, so you ground him; he can't drive the car for a month. Later, you spot him driving around. His argument? "You said I couldn't drive our car... you never said I couldn't drive Tony's car!"
If we let Barry get away with that, his next example of teen logic will be a real whopper... maybe yanking all the troops out of Iraq on the grounds that "we can't get in the middle of a civil war." By the time you point out that even the Associated Press admits -- very reluctantly, and with a million caveats -- that there is no civil war, and Iraq is calmer and less violent than it has been for years -- the damage is done, and Barry has already moved on to bigger, faster cars to menace more and more innocent bystanders: staggering tax increases, setting all the terrorist detainees free, inviting Iran and Syria into Iraq to take control, opening up legal marriage to any group of people of any size or gender.
It's about time we put our feet down (monkey with the plural of that expression all you want, you know what I mean). It's time to call the Democrats on their risible claim that gasoline scarcity cannot be remedied by producing more gasoline, but only by overtaxing gasoline instead.
Some political policies are so stupid and self destructive, they literally rise to the level of being anti-American.
June 6, 2008
"What's Bad for General Motors Is Good for the DNC!"
Over at Real Clear Politics, Tom Bevan speaks for nearly all pundits, spread across three parties unto the tenth generation, when he writes:
Of course, the worse the economy gets, the better it is politically for Obama...
This is Conventional Wisdom 101. But why? What is the connection?
CW 102 explains CW 101 by postulating the following syllogism:
- Economy heads south;
- Voters decide to blame the "party in charge" and punish them at the polls;
- The elite media always declare that the party in charge is the Republican Party;
- Thus, the voters will inevitably punish the GOP (and the country) in November by voting Democratic. It's elementary!
The truly sad thing is that Democrats actually do believe this; they believe what's bad for America is good for them, because they can play "pin the blame on the elephant" and parlay some terrible catastrophe -- an earthquake, an act of terrorism, an economic challenge -- into furthering their congressional careers.
But there's something kind of weird about this syllogism... for some odd reason, whenever anything bad happens that (we are told) will earn the ire of the electorate against the party in charge -- it always seems to turn out that the responsible party is the Republican Party.
Today the voters will blame the GOP because, while Democrats control Congress, a Republican sits in the White House. But conversely, back in the 1990s, the voters blamed the GOP... after all, while a Democrat sat in the White House, it was the Republicans who controlled Congress!
I understand why the elite media would always blame Republicans for anything bad; they're knee-jerk New Left liberals who vote 93% for Democrats.
I even understand why commentators on the right so often assume voters will blame the Republicans: First, they see all the other pundits around them blaming Republicans, and if they did the opposite, they would experience cognitive dissonance; second, Republicans by their very natures tend to be dour and pessimistic... so much so that they, themselves, reflexively assume that everything that can go wrong will... and even things that can't go wrong will find a way to do so anyway.
You just watch: The closer we slide to the election, the more depressed and apocalyptic will be the Republican and conservative columnists, talking heads, and bloggers, no matter what the facts on the ground may be; the perennial pundits' pessimism and pity parade will once again take over Fox News Channel, the WSJ and the Washington Times, the Weekly Standard and the National Review, and virtually the entire dextrosphere.
In terms of Republican Party temperment (as opposed to policy), Ronald Reagan is the exception; Richard "They're coming to take me away, ha ha!" Nixon is more the rule.
But understanding a bizarre psychological syndrome of conspiracy and defeat is not the same as believing it. Here's a new syllogism that begins from my own core political belief:
- Contrary to what the Left thinks, ordinary voters are not utter fools;
- If the economy goes south, they will want to punish the predators and incompetents who caused it to go south;
- Whichever party is best able to make a logical and rational argument that the economic problems are caused by the policies of the other guys will be rewarded at the polls;
- The biggest economic problem today is the ludicrously high cost of fuel, which is driving up the price of virtually everything else;
- The primary cause of that high cost is legislation preventing us from exploiting our own energy resources;
- The party responsible for that legislation is the Democratic Party, not the GOP;
- Thus if John McCain will actually articulate that argument and run on policies that would significantly increase our energy production -- something that Barack H. Obama will not, cannot do -- McCain has a very good shot at actually being rewarded by voters in November;
- Even better, if the GOP across the board were to run on that platform in congressional, gubernatorial, and other races, it might mitigate by future-policy promises the "bad branding" that threatens to decimate Republicans once again, as it did in 2006.
The only really big "ifs" in this syllogism, I believe, are the last two points, (7) and (8). So far, neither the presumptive Republican nominee nor Republicans running for reelection has embraced the stark difference between the two parties: In general, the GOP defines success through growth and expansion -- while Democrats define their success through contraction, contrition, and condemnation of everything American.
But right now, McCain is still stuck on globaloney hysteria, while Republican congressmen running for reelection stand on the brink of accepting the Devil's bargain that the California GOP bought into long ago: Accepting permanent minority status in exchange for perpetual reelection. This is the basest of bargains: GOP incrumbents get their perks, and we get punked.
You can't recapture Congress by graciously conceding defeat -- months before the election!
Boldness is what we need now: Instead of accepting our political dhimmitude at the hands of Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 85%) and Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 93%, not counting missed votes), we must risk everything on a real campaign to take back the Congress.
The GOP needs a new national strategy, similar in some ways to the Contract With America in 1994; but that contract was entirely procedural and inside-baseball. What we need today is a substantive national strategy.
Obama has his "American Moment" speech; fine. But for those of us who want America to last more than a moment, let's have a strategy based around the theme, Vote For an American Future:
1 - Vote for American energy for America and our friends
America is an energy nation: We use a lot, but we have a lot more reserves than we're allowed by law to tap.
We need to drill for oil everywhere on American territory where oil is to be found, as well as in international waters; but we'll use American high-technology to drill in an environmentally safe and sound way.. Produce energy for America, while preserving nature's beauty for all Americans.
With oil above $130 per barrel and people feeling the pinch everywhere, we no longer have the luxury of leaving our oil fields and natural gas mines unexplored and untapped. We must drill in the Bakken oil formation, off the two coasts, in ANWR, in the Gulf of Mexico, in international waters in the Caribbean and elsewhere. We mine oil shale and extract the oil. We mine for natural gas. We begin building smaller nuclear reactors using the safest of modern designs... and the federal government should insure them.
2 - Vote for an economy of wealth, not illth
A simple rule that applies universally: You cannot tax yourself into prosperity. We need some form of taxation to pay for things we need; but we don't need taxes to "level the playing field" by crippling successful people so that life's losers don't feel so bad.
Unless we make the tax cuts permanent, they'll expire (the Democrats forced that poison pill on us)... resulting in the largest tax increase in American history. But we need to go farther: We need to eliminate the alternative minimum tax altogether, cut the capital-gains tax to zero, and shift to a "fair tax" flat tax.
And we "pay for" these tax cuts, not with more tax increases, but by actually cutting spending -- reducing entitlements (see 4 below) and trimming unnecessary government departments and agencies -- and by growing the economy, letting Americans keep, spend, and invest more of what they earn.
3 - Vote for security, not surrender
We stand at a tipping point of history: We have it in our power to destroy the Iran/al-Qaeda axis and secure not just America but the West for decades. But we need to mobilize more than just our military, brilliant as it is. This existential struggle cannot be won by bullets and bombs alone.
We need to bring together defense, diplomacy, intelligence, and the ideology of freedom in this world-wide conflict. Americans instinctively distrust "nation building;" but that makes us ideal stewards to help failed states in the "non-integrated gap" to rebuild their own nations -- with our support and know-how.
We must completely rebuild our intelligence agencies from the ground up. They have failed terribly in recent years, but not because of the men and women who work tirelessly to get inside our enemies' heads. They failed because we're asking our intelligence agencies to do things they were never designed to do; they were birthed during the great wars of the twentieth century and raised during the cold war... but this is the twenty-first century, and we're fighting an enemy we've never faced before: A world-wide death cult that wants to destroy the entire modern world and drag us all back to the seventh century.
We fight on behalf of modernity -- so we need modern, up to date, redesigned, and reenergized intelligence agencies to be our eyes and ears.
Finally, the enemy has an ideology of repression, human sacrifice, and slavery. It sounds horrible to us; but to Muslim subjects living under totalitarian tyrants, peasant tribesmen whose world is a nightmare, the promise that, if they'll slaughter the innocent in this world, they'll gain paradise in the next must sound like a bargain.
You can't fight something with nothing: We need to create an ideological counterinsurgency to fight the war of ideas with the Iran/al-Qaeda axis. We need to spread the ideology of freedom, hope, security, stability, and the rights of the individual across the hellholes of the Earth. We must give potential terrorist recruits alternatives to that dreadful path, if we're ever going to be safe ourselves.
4 - Vote for the ownership society
So-called "entitlements" are bleeding us dry. Out of the $3 trillion budget, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security alone account for nearly 50% of spending. This is completely unsustainable; either we find a long-term solution to out of control entitlement programs, or else we give up on America.
The problem is right in the name: "Entitlement" programs are services and money that we've told citizens they're "entitled" to extract from the government, no matter how fiscally catastrophic that is. The amount we pay each recipient increases by more than inflation every year, while the number of recipients grow as we all live longer, due to better medical care, and lead healthier lives. Add those together, and you have a prescription for disaster.
Like the intelligence agencies, entitlement programs were created during a very different era, when people didn't live much past 65. Senior citizens, the disabled, and the poor had very real problems that were going unaddressed; and these three programs and similar ones were created by Democratic Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson out of compassion. But their compassion turned out to be based on extremely bad economics.
We don't live there anymore... so we need a new paradigm to solve the old problems. The solution is to shift retirement planning and health care for the elderly, disabled, and poor from a "hand-out" mentality to an "ownership" mentality: Turn benefits into investments, and let the very people who need them control them.
This saves money two ways: First, when you're living on other people's money, it's easy to slip into the trap of "the sky's the limit;" but when you own your own programs, you have an incentive to avoid waste, fraud, and abuse. Second, owning your own retirement program is more economical in the long run for exactly the same reason that owning your own home is more economical than renting all your life: It's an asset that appreciates.
It would save big money for the country, too. The government invests today's Social Security so badly, it barely earns interest at all; that's because the feds want to be able to loot the money at a moment's notice, so it can't be tied up in anything high-yielding.
The government must pay for every dime of retirement out of current receipts. But in an ownership society, Social Security is like a government-guaranteed 401K that earns most or even all of its own expenditures by interest paid.
So your kids (and grandkids) won't be breaking their backs supporting you; with the same SSI tax you pay now, you'll have an account that could well earn more money per year than you take out of it. Thus, no matter how long you and your spouse live, you won't run out of money... and you can even leave it to your kids as a nest egg.
5 - Vote for Capitalism, not crony liberalism and corruption
Earmarks are the corruption of ruling elite; they're personal budget items stuffed into legislation in the dead of night, often without any other senator or representative even seeing them. They pour money into the pockets of special interests, to the tune of hundreds of thousands, millions, and sometimes even tens of millions of dollars.
The recipient then kicks back some of that money to the reelection campaign of the member who pushed through the earmark. Earmarks as close as you can get to out and out bribery without being arrested.
The Republican Party has tried time and again to get the rest of Congress to eliminate earmarks altogether, but the Democrats won't do it. John McCain has refused to insert earmarks into legislation for many years now -- and his constituents know that and respect him for his principled stand.
But America simply cannot wallow in quasi-legal corruption. It brings our entire government into disrepute. Neither Republicans nor Democrats can resist the temptation to funnel millions of taxpayer dollars for a twine museum or cookbook library in their home districts... or even giving public money to local churches, including the Rev. Michael Pfleger's church in Chicago.
Earmarks to a politician are like whiskey to an alcoholic: He can't have "just one drink." The only solution is that we must do away with earmarks, root and branch. Every expenditure in a piece of legislation must go through the regular process, with all senators and representatives getting a chance to vote up or down.
When no member of Congress has the power to sneak your tax money to his own favorite business (the one that supports his reelection most heavily); when you can look on the internet and find where every dollar of your tax money went; then the citizens can regain control of their government once more.
E pluribus unum
Democrats have controlled Congress for the past two years, and they had significant veto power even before the 2006 elections. The president is not a dictator; he can only sign the bills he's sent... he can't simply make up legislation and put it into effect by decree. There is no reason to assume from the outset that everybody in America thinks every bad thing that happens is all Bush's fault -- or that every Republican running is a Bush "mini-me." Voters are not stupid; they're you and me and that feller behind the tree.
Politically, an economic downturn is going to hurt whichever party is perceived as not having a clue how to grow the economy again. The only plan the Democrats have for growing the economy is to tax us all to death.
It shouldn't be too hard to show voters that we Republicans have a better plan than "taxicide." But we have to be unified. I want to see the party develop some sort of "Vote for an American Future" contract with voters: This is what we stand for; this is where we're miles ahead of the Democrats; this is what we will do if elected. Then each GOP candidate should flesh out what exactly these points mean in terms that resonate with his own constituents.
If we do that, we'll very quickly "rebrand" the Republican Party... and we might lose hardly any seats at all.
Heck, we could conceivably even gain seats; it wouldn't take much to flip either the House or Senate back to GOP control. But if Republicans stubbornly refuse to unite; if they don't support the Republican nominee for president; if they try to run as "diet liberals," then we're going to get kicked in the stomach by Jubilation T. Jackass.
May 12, 2008
When Harry Met Nancy
A funny thing happened on the way to the fact checker...
AP distributed a very illuminating article today. They compared the major energy proposals of both Democrats and Republicans, in each case reciting the "spin" from proponents -- then following with the "facts," as defined by said checker of said facts.
Here is where illumination sets in: For every single proposal in the Democrats' plan, the "facts" discovered by AP completely contradicts the "spin" from the Democrats. Viz.:
THE DEMOCRATIC PROPOSALS.
_Enact a windfall profits tax on oil companies.
SPIN: Oil companies are making too much money, earning $123 billion last year while motorists faced soaring gasoline costs. Imposing a 25 percent windfall profits tax on the five largest oil companies and repealing $17 billion in tax breaks could help the shift away from fossil fuels toward alternatives. Taxes could be avoided if profits are used for refinery expansion or development of wind, solar or biomass projects.
FACT: Profits are large because the companies are huge, and oil now sells for well over $120 a barrel. The taxes could spur some new alternative energy projects, but economists say they also could reduce investments in oil and gas exploration, and are unlikely to affect prices. They could do more harm than good, says Robert Hansen, senior associate dean at Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business. "Anytime you put in a tax you create an incentive to avoid it," says Hansen.
And so forth. All in all, here are the proposed Democratic policies and AP's reaction to them:
- "Windfall profits" tax: AP finds that the oil company profits are entirely legitimate and that such a tax would probably backfire;
- Make energy "price gouging" illegal: Nobody can define "gouging," which means the law will end up being de facto "price controls;"
- "Stand up" to OPEC: With the world oil market (and especially with both India and Red China ramping up industrial production), we can't force OPEC to pump more oil or lower the price... but we can prompt them to retaliate against us even trying.
But then the elite media turns its gimlet eye to the (cue scary music) Republican policies. Here, the "fact checker" seems to have found a very different pattern: For every single proposal in the Republicans' plan, AP finds that Democrats in Congress plan to block it from floor action.
In other words, All the Democrats' proposals are stupid and unworkable; and the GOP proposals cannot pass a Democratic Congress!
Case in point:
THE REPUBLICAN PROPOSALS....
_Develop vast amounts of oil and natural gas in offshore waters now off limits.
SPIN: For a quarter century, energy development has been blocked in more than 80 percent of U.S. coastal waters, depriving the country of vast oil and gas resources. States should be allowed waivers to the moratoria and get some of the revenues from development.
FACT: Most areas of federal offshore waters outside the western Gulf of Mexico and off much of Alaska have been placed off limits to drilling by a succession of presidential orders and congressional action to protect tourist industries and avoid the risk of spills and environmental damage. The House has twice approved giving states the right to opt out of the federal ban.
Let's run through the Republican proposals and AP's "fact checking" anent them...
- Pump oil from ANWR: Democrats in the House and Senate and President Clinton have always opposed this, and there's no indication they'll accept it now. Besides, while it's undisputed that we can get billions of barrels of oil from ANWR, it's still a small amount compared to the total world supply (but a large percent of the American supply);
- Drill in the Gulf and other offshore locations: Stubborn Democrats refuse to allow this, too;
- Build new refineries: Because of the ethanol mandate, oil executives don't expect much growth in oil demand; so they prefer to expand existing refineries rather than build new ones;
- Coal-based diesel: Runs afoul of liberal global-warming policy to reduce greenhouse gases. (While John McCain supports doing something about "Anthropogenic global climate change," his plan is nowhere near as draconian as either Hillary Clinton's or Barack Obama's.)
So the problem with the Democratic proposals is that they simply won't work as advertised... and the real problem with the Republican proposals is the absurd politicization of the House and Senate Energy Committees by vindictive and "world-saving" Democrats, as personified by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 85%) and Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 65%).
This analysis sounds so even-handed and mature, I'm shocked, shocked to see it come from the drive-by media.
December 18, 2007
Lame Duck Crushes Christmas Turkeys
I started this post last Thursday; but then I decided to hold it until I saw whether the predictions by the Washington Post and the New York Times would hold. They came through today... so here's the hodgepodge result combining the ancient past (Thursday the 13th of December) and the distant present (Tuesday the 18th). You'll take it, and you'll like it, by God and my right arm!
President George W. Bush -- dubbed irrelevant by congressional Democrats after they won a massive 15-seat majority in the House and an even more massive 2-seat majority in the Senate in 2006 -- has just won his 2,337th confrontation with the hapless Democrats this year. This time, it was on the Democrats' tax and spend and tax bill:
House Democratic leaders yesterday [that is, last Wednesday the 12th] agreed to meet President Bush's bottom-line spending limit on a sprawling, half-trillion-dollar domestic spending bill, dropping their demands for as much as $22 billion in additional spending but vowing to shift funds from the president's priorities to theirs.
The final legislation, still under negotiation, will be shorn of funding for the war in Iraq when it reaches the House floor, possibly on Friday. But Democratic leadership aides concede that the Senate will probably add those funds. A proposal to strip the bill of spending provisions for lawmakers' home districts was shelved after a bipartisan revolt, but Democrats say the number and size of those earmarks will be scaled back....
The agreement signaled that congressional Democrats are ready to give in to many of the White House's demands as they try to finish the session before they break for Christmas -- a political victory for the president, who has refused to compromise on the spending measures.
That bill was passed, but not last Friday as expected; the Democrats had to put out some intramural brush fires first. They passed the same legislation today... minus the Iraq-war funding, as the Post predicted:
Lawmakers then voted 206-201 to add $31 billion for military operations in Afghanistan, but the bill includes no money for the war in Iraq. The Senate, as early as today, is expected to add $40 billion for Iraq. The bill would then return a final time to the House.
But here is my favorite part of the Los Angeles Times story... where Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD, 90%) complains about being whipsawed by the president:
"In the face of an intransigent president and his allies in Congress, this legislation is the best we can do for the American people," said House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.).
Thank God for intransigence!
Strangely, President Bush has more clout today, with a Democratic congress, than he did in 2004-2006 with a Republican one. But there is actually a very good explanation for that oddity.
When the Republicans were running Congress, Bush was constrained against using his most potent weapon, the veto: Bush, far more than congressional Republicans, follows Ronald Reagan's 11th commandment -- "Thou shalt not speak ill of fellow Republicans" -- and it would be a terrible insult for a Republican president to veto legislation approved by a GOP Congress.
This was unfortunate and politically catastrophic, because spending under the 109th Congress, and the 108th before them, rose out of control -- though not as fast as if the Democratic proposals had been adopted instead. I believe this was even more the cause of the 2006 defeat than the Iraq war, probably second only to the hot e-mails to pages by former Rep. Mark Foley of Florida.
A threat by a Republican president to veto Republican legislation would have produced a miracle of financial rectitude: As much as Bush did not want to humiliate them, they were even more anxious not to be humiliated. Thus, the mere threat could possibly have reined in the spending... and possibly even saved the GOP majority.
In another example of how the power of the veto can win friends and influence members of Congress, Senate Democrats -- desperate to get out of town before Christmas to do some campaigning, fundraising, and heavy partying -- gave away the store on the energy bill:
The legislation still includes a landmark increase in fuel-economy standards for vehicles and a huge boost for alternative fuels. But a $13 billion tax increase on oil companies and a requirement that utilities nationwide produce 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources were left on the floor to secure Republican votes for the package.
The tax measure and the renewable electricity mandate were included in an energy bill that easily passed the House of Representatives last week. But industry lobbyists focused their attention on Republican members of the Senate and on the White House, which repeatedly threatened to veto the bill if the offending sections were not removed. Earlier in the week, Senate leaders agreed to drop the renewable electricity section.
And on Thursday, after a failed effort to cut off debate on the bill, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, announced that he would reluctantly remove the tax provisions as well, clearing the way for passage by a vote of 86 to 8.
That same bill was also passed by a wide margin (314-100) in the House today, having already been passed by the Senate; and it goes now to the president's desk. (The reason that both majorities are veto proof, of course, is that Bush himself approved the compromise.)
The only disappointment was that the Democrats managed to strip all support for new nuclear power plants from the energy bill:
Nearly half of House Republicans, meanwhile, condemned the legislation as a " No Energy Bill," because it lacked expanded access to new oil and gas exploration and failed to include incentives for development of coal or nuclear energy.
"For all the conventional energy sources that fuel this great nation, this is basically a no-energy bill," said ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas.
But even there, Bush beat them like naughty children... because support for the nuclear industry has instead been inserted into the House omnibus spending bill just passed:
But they were not the only ones unhappy with the final product. In their struggle to meet White House demands while preserving some of their priorities, Democratic leaders made changes to their initial spending bills that seemed to anger everyone. Environmentalists were annoyed by a provision allowing the Energy Department to guarantee loans to energy companies for the development of liquid coal and nuclear projects that otherwise could not receive bank financing.
"This is the mother of all gift cards to the nuclear and coal industry," said Anna Aurilio, Washington director of Environment America.
Last, but not least in the least, the Democrats have finally caved on the awful expansion of SCHIP, the State Children's Health Insurance Program. SCHIP was originally intended, when enacted in 1997, to offer health insurance to impoverished children; and it was sunsetted to expire in ten years... which means in less than two weeks.
But rather than simply reauthorize it, the Democrats boldly chose to vastly expand it (from $25 billion to $60 billion over the next five years) -- and also to extend the program to middle middle- and upper middle-income kids who already have private insurance, but would likely switch to the cheaper government-subsidized plan; and even to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Plan to upper middle-income adults. This would have been a "great leap forward" to government-run health care, and it will certainly be the cornerstone of a Hillary Clinton campaign, should she win the nomination.
Bush vetoed the legislation; the veto was overridden in the Senate, but the House failed by 13 votes, even though 44 Republicans joined with the Democrats. In response, the Democrats made some cosmetic changes and repassed essentially the same bill (only Yog Sothoth, the Lurker at the Threshold, knows what they were thinking).
But when Bush vetoed the bill for a second time (couldn't see that coming!), House and Senate Democratic leaders chose not to try to override: They knew it would fail by an identical margin, since it was essentially the same bill. Instead, they have dropped their planned expansion and accepted a 15-month extension of the current program:
But Democrats fell just short of a veto override [the first time], and as the end of the session [and Christmas] approaches, they have agreed to an 15 month extension of the existing program, with extra money added only to cover state budget shortfalls, according to House and Senate aides. If the deal holds, the Senate would vote first on the program's extension, followed by the House.
Even with this long-term extension, Democrats aren't letting go of SCHIP as a political issue. They are planning a Jan. 23 veto override vote -- just days before President Bush gives his final State of the Union address.
The Democrats may get a shock on January 23rd. The two primary purposes for Democrats to vote for the SCHIP expansion were first, to push us towards government-run health care, and second, to embarass the president and conservative Republicans by making them appear to vote against healthy kids. Thus, it makes perfect sense to them to try to override the second veto in January ("just days before President Bush gives his final State of the Union address"!)
Contrariwise, the primary reason that many Republicans voted with the Democrats to override the veto was the fear of being painted as anti-child if they allowed SCHIP to die. I doubt that most thought the expansion was a good idea, even while they voted for it.
But in January, when the Democrats try to override again, GOP members of Congress will have no incentive to join them... because a deal will already have been struck to ensure that poor kids continue to get health insurance past the next election.
Contrariwise, Republicans will have every reason to oppose a purely symbolic vote whose only purpose is to embarass their fellow Republicans, whose support will be needed in November. I suspect this veto-override attempt will attract a lot fewer Republicans than the last one did, when the future of the SCHIP program itself was on the line; and it will be the Democrats, not the Republicans, who are humbled: The vote in January will be purely a vote to expand SCHIP, not to continue it; the veto override may well get no Republican votes at all.
So first the Democrats caved two or three hundred times on Iraq; then they caved on the huge spending increases they wanted; now they cave on the draconian tax increases they wanted to slap onto the "excess profits" of the oil industry; and they're just about to fully cave on their latest foray into government-run health care. Bush just ran the table.
As the title says, the "lame duck" president crushed the Democratic Congress so anxious to get the hell out of Dodge in time to raise money, run for reelection, and party like it's (still) 1999 (generally, Democrats manage to combine all three into a single event). The power of the presidency -- and the genius of the Founding Fathers' demand for a strong executive -- is thus reaffirmed.
April 19, 2006
The Perfect Swarm
Captain Ed has up a fascinating post on an issue near and dear to our reptillian hearts: the future of energy production.
The good captain quotes from an article by Anne Applebaum at the WaPo, as we in “the business” call the Washington Post (actually, I’m not in “the business;” but the Post has given me the business many times). She notes an interesting phenomenon: anti-nuclear, anti-coal, and anti-oil activists appear to have merged and metastisized into generic anti-energy fanatics... so much so that they now attack even alternative sources of energy: solar, biomass or biofuels, indeed everything that could possibly make any physical object move, shake, or create anything.
Even wind power, which used to be the ultimate dream of "environmentalists." Her clever title, "Tilting At Windmills," perfectly encapsulates both the insanity and futility of the New Luddites.
One “wind-power executive” has even coined a new term to describe this rage against the machine -- any machine. Riffing off the well-known “NIMBY” (Not In My Back Yard), the exec calls this new madness BANANAism: Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything.
It’s a fit acronym, as it no longer seems to matter what sort of energy-producing facility one proposes or where it is to be built; activists will swarm in to attack from all four corners of the globe (in their flat-Earth, “globes” have corners).
Captain Ed, as usual, does a bravura job of covering the substance, those who reflexively oppose any form of generating energy... though he focuses on power generation itself. There are other aspects that also deserve mention: the motivation behind the Luddites, alternative solutions that could be pursued, and of especial interest to Big Lizards, how it all plays out in the electoral arena half a year hence.
So let's dive right in.
Motivation of the BANANAmites
This is actually the easiest question to answer, because it hasn't really changed since dim Ned Ludd was appropriated by the Luddites as a pretext to smash the looms.
Technological advance means change. The prospect of change produces raw terror in many people.
Robert Anton Wilson divides the entire world into neophobes and neophiles; the former, those who fear the new, can become Luddites at the extremes: people who attempt to destroy technology in order to arrest Time. We've all known people who are afraid to touch a computer, for example; every technological advance -- cars, telephones, microwave ovens -- is fought by some of the more extreme neophobes.
However, starting in the late 1960s, the New Left allied itself with the environmentalist movement sparked by such fearmongers as Ralph Nader, Barry Commoner, Rachel Carson, and so forth.
Some of this anti-technology activism was probably driven by a phobic fear of nuclear catastrophe left over from the 1950s... "phobic" because it found expression in irrational ways, such as demanding unconditional American surrender, unilateral disarmament (same thing), or in a wild example from my own alma mater, UC Santa Cruz, student followers of Dr. Helen Caldicott who demanded that the university stock enough suicide pills for the entire student body.
UCSC was supposed to dispense these suicide pills to anyone who asked (student, staff, faculty), in the event some terrible calamity occured that drove simpletons to believe that nuclear attack was imminent -- such as the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 for example (after which, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved its "doomsday clock" hands to one minute before midnight). After all, in such a dreaded nuclear exchange, "the survivors would envy the dead!"
But in the late 1960s, the wacko environmentalists lay with the Neo-Stalinist Left of Tom Hayden, Jerry Rubin, and that lot; the fruit of that unnatural congress was a Democratic Party almost pathologically opposed to any new technology. Especially energy production, which the New Environmentalist Left rightly understood to underpin all technology. They turned the planet into a goddess, Gaea/Gaia, and literally began worshipping Her.
(The neopagan movement took off about this same time, ten years or so after Gerald Gardner invented or revived Wicca and around the time the Reformed Druids of North America were formed.)
That is where we're at now: even Democrats who have drifted back towards the center -- after their halcyon university days, when they were screaming in the streets -- are made terribly uncomfortable by even the thought of energy production of any kind. They envision a pastoral Eden, where everyone lives in the back of the woods, and little, furry animals hop up and munch granola out of the Democrats' hands. It is a mythical world where there is no industry at all -- but where the fruits of such industry are omnipresent.
It's all very Randroid, as Ayn Rand described (and decried) in Atlas Shrugged. You should read it; it pretty much covers the whole "motivation" topic better than I can (among other reasons, because even I can't write a 300,000-word blogpost!) Instead, we move on to....
Aggressively high-tech conservationism
While we completely support increased power generation -- pumping more domestic oil, more refineries, more nuclear plants, even such long-term goals as orbital solar-power satellites, which is the ultimate solution -- there is another tack to take while fighting against the New Luddites: that is to aggressively develop methods of dramatic energy savings, using our advanced technological edge over the rest of the world.
We've already been doing this. Computers use far less energy now than they did twenty or thirty years ago. This trend should continue as smaller and smaller chips are used... or even some computing medium other than silicon.
But we need to do the same for larger types of machinery. For example, we've already talked here about switching from the internal combusion engine (both in cars and in electrical generators) to a high-temperature ceramic engine that would burn gasoline at 5,000ºF, rather than the paltry 1,350ºF the typical ICE uses now. That could result in a huge increase in gasoline mileage without any corresponding drop in available power and acceleration. See The Wishing Ring, part 2 and Wanted: High-Efficiency Gasoline Engine X-Prize.
Other techniques include some sort of flywheel to absorb and "store" the forward momentum of a car: as the car brakes, much of the decelerative force comes from spinning up the flywheel, rather than applying brake pads. The linear momentum is transferred to angular momentum, rather than being dissipated as waste heat. When the light turns green and you start out again, much of your acceleration is imparted from the flywheel, spinning it back down again.
The result is to significantly mitigate the gigantic energy loss that occurs in stop-and-go driving, where you just build up a good head of steam (rather, gasoline vapor), and then at the next intersection, you have to throw it all out the window. Tailpipe, whatever; you know what I mean. Less waste means more efficiency; more efficiency means more MPG.
Heat is also wasted in industrial applications. In fact, most heat is waste. Unless the heat is actually used -- to warm food or the consumers thereof, or melt metal, or something -- it's just energy in its most entropic state, energy that could have been used to move, shake, or create.
But heat can be reconverted into useful form (with a loss, of course, but less than 100%). Every factory, power plant, and transportation system should be designed to channel waste heat into some form of power-generating "rebreather"... a gas turbine, say.
We also need much better battery technology. Our current batteries are pathetic. We need batteries that weigh about what a normal car batter weighs, but which could power a vehicle at Ferrari speeds for several hundred miles (however much electricity it would take to do that). That requires fundamental physics breakthroughs in battery technology. Get cracking!
There are many other such ideas floating around:
- Better jet transport technology;
- Artificially intelligent cars that drive themselves faster and more efficiently;
- Star-Trek-like "replicator" technology (which is already in progress) to manufacture material items with less wasted energy -- it takes a lot of energy to melt steel;
- Shifting more of manufacturing to information -- a really readable, portable electronic book, for example;
- Nanotechnology, and so forth.
Each of these requires a lot of government investment, or corporate investment with government tax incentives, because the developmental technology is expensive and the projects require years of basic scientific research. So let's pour some money into it.
And that brings us to....
The politics of it all
The rise of BANANAism within the Democratic Party has the potential to hand the election to Republicans on a silver oil-barrel. The basic political formula runs as follows:
- Conservative Republicans and pro-energy Democrats caucus together and come up with four or five good ideas for energy production, plus some basic research for aggressive, high-tech conservationism.
For example, increased domestic oil drilling, building more refineries, building modern, safe nuclear power plants, some shale-oil plants -- and specifically exempting these projects from the decades of environmental gridlock that are normally used to obliterate any new power plant.
- Republicans need to move them through committee to the floor, even if some have to be sent without recommendation.
We can't let them get bogged down by RINOs; they must go to the floor with all or nearly all the committee Republicans backing them, along with the Republican leadership. Consult with the "dirty dozen," the handful of prominent liberal Republicans and even moderate Democrats who have sometimes approved of power generation or are particularly close to industry. Make it clear this is going to the floor... where it will either be voted on or filibustered by the Democrats.
The House tends to be better about passing controversial legislation than the Senate; the Republicans in the Committee on Energy and Commercehave a six-seat majority; and one of those GOP committee members is Majority Whip Roy Blunt... the man specifically responsible for keeping Republicans in line. Presumably he would be even more effective in that task for his fellow committee members. I think the package could be pushed through committee in the House.
The Republicans on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources have a 12-10 advantage; but in addition, two of the Democrats on that committee are in tough re-election fights this year: Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and appointee Robert Menendez (D-NJ). One or both might join in a vote for energy independence, worried about being tagged as a wacko environmentalist. I think the same package could be pushed through the Senate committee, too.
- Then on the floor, every Republican who supports energy production gets up and denounce every Democrat voting against the package as being in thrall to "foreign oil," opposed to American industry, opposed to union workers, and wanting American drivers and consumers to be forced to pay higher prices as a way of forcing conservation by deprivation.
This especially goes for Cantwell and Menendez: if they oppose the energy bill in committee or on the floor, go after them hammer and tong: make them out to be hypocrites and spoilers. Maybe we can defeat one or both at the polls!
Fight hard to get to cloture; but even if a measure (or the whole bill) gets filibustered, that's politically all right too... so long as the ringleaders of the filibuster are clearly seen to be Democrats. We can run against them in November on that very issue.
Remind everyone of the endless gas lines of the 1970s, "odd and even days," and note that the Democrats voting against energy production want to bring those days back.
Make the election about energy production; that's an issue supported by a very healthy majority of Americans. Bring up all the stories showing that the same people who oppose gasoline refineries and nuclear power plants also oppose solar power, geothermal power, and even windmills! (You like how I neatly tied that all up?) Paint them not as "environmentalists" but as people who want America to just dry up and blow away.
And then remind voters of China... which is massively industrializing at the same time these Democrats want America to de-industrialize. Ask the Democrats, "who do you want to be the economic powerhouse of the twenty-first century: America or China?" Ask them how high they want gas prices to rise -- how much of a "tax on driving" is enough? Appeal to teamsters, manufacturers, farmers, and to soccer moms driving the carpool to school.
Make the election about energy, in addition to being about judges and about whether we're going to win in Iraq, or just call off the game and run home, like the Democrats want. Energy is something that hits home to everyone; we all use it, want it, need it. The Republicans must paint the Democrats as the the men standing in the power-plant door, saying "no, you can't have any! Go away!"
It worked in California in 2003 to oust "Grayout" Davis; there is no reason it would not work equally well in 2006. New Environmentalist Leftism is on the wane; it's time we recognized that and made energy production an integral part of the Republican campaigns for 2006 and 2008.
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