A rant I agree with

I couldn’t have written this better myself. A h/t goes to DetroitPatriotette for turning me on to the post.

I’ve always wondered what happened to the Humphrey wing of the Democrat party. Look at FDR – he came up with much of what’s considered “big government” today, but he wasn’t afraid to prosecute a war to protect our shores when we were attacked. Many of today’s leftist Democrats make Pat Buchanan look like a member of the Council of Foreign Relations.

Reagan Democrats split away when the Humphrey wing of the party was frozen out of the power structure, and the prevailing mood of the Democrat apparatchik became that of being pro-abortion, anti-gun, anti-military, and anti-God. The Democrats have continued on that course for the last quarter of a century, and it seems to me that the alternative they present is solely to have the federal government do whatever President Bush and the GOP doesn’t want done.

To me, the country really hasn’t moved rightward – the political parties have simply moved leftward and out of touch with the will of the people. Americans still want what they’ve wanted for 200+ years, but few in either party seem to be willing to sacrifice their political power and cede it the the people to allow these things to happen.

Just slightly ahead of my time

On Michelle Malkin’s site I ran across a post regarding suicide bomber threats at NCAA regional basketball or conference tournament sites. Where have I seen that theory before?

Birthday man

Had he lived, today would have been President Ronald Reagan’s 95th birthday. President Reagan was the recipient of the first Presidential vote I ever cast in 1984. In my opinion, despite our current President’s heroic stand on fighting the menace of radical Islamic terror, President Reagan remains the greatest president of my lifetime.

He changed the attitude of an entire country, from the gloomy malaise of the Carter years to a sunny optimism that America could remain the “shining city on the hill.” And his economic policy managed to allow America both guns and butter, as his tax cuts spurred a generation of solid growth that continues to this day. Even if his successors forgot to read their own lips or simply worked as hard as they could without generating a middle-class tax cut, no one has suggested returning tax rates to their pre-Reagan levels.

In honor of Reagan’s birthday, today’s Federalist Patriot, as usual, devoted its entire issue to the words and legacy of President Reagan. This group also maintains a comprehensive website on Reagan conservatism.

On this anniversary of Ronald Wilson Reagan’s birth, both are very good resources on our 40th President.

Disappointments

It was a pretty disappointing week in some political respects for me. I know I’m coming a bit late to the party in reacting to the State of the Union address, but I actually have a life and sometimes it gets in the way of regular blogging. Actually, it wasn’t that bad of an address from what I read (I didn’t want to watch it, figured I can read it a whole lot faster) but there were a few things that I thought should be more taken advantage of.

Every year of my presidency, we’ve reduced the growth of non-security discretionary spending, and last year you passed bills that cut this spending. This year my budget will cut it again, and reduce or eliminate more than 140 programs that are performing poorly or not fulfilling essential priorities. By passing these reforms, we will save the American taxpayer another $14 billion next year, and stay on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009.

Only $14 billion? Out of a $2.6 trillion budget? Here’s what he should have proposed:

“Tonight I call on Congress to fix our budgetary mess. Our deficit spending has two causes: one is the rapid growth of entitlement spending, as by 2030, spending for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid alone will be almost 60 percent of the entire federal budget.

The other cause is a process Congress uses called baseline budgeting. It allows those in the opposition party to call a smaller increase in spending on a program a ‘cut.’ Congress needs to pass legislation to return our country to a true budget. Instead of programs automatically increasing in size, it would help keep the growth of government in check to start from the previous year’s budgetary numbers, and truly make a cut in a program a reduction in spending.” (The italics were from his actual speech.)

I will say that I’m glad he’s going to try to push Social Security reform this year. Of course, my idea of reform would be to sunset it and the FICA tax eventually, but no one has the balls in Congress to propose that. It’s not quite the “third rail” of politics that it used to be, but it’s still a program with a whole lot of votes attached to it – and no one really wants to piss off the AARP lobby. (Another reason I’d never be elected to Congress. But that’s the country’s loss.)

But this “bipartisan commission” crap has got to go. Here’s my idea of a bipartisan commission – find the closest Democrat to the philosophy of Zell Miller, and he’s your one Democrat. Kennedy, Pelosi, Kerry, and Reid need not apply. I seem to recall that the GOP has the majority in both houses of Congress and is in the White House. Do you think if a Democrat was in charge that (s)he would want a bipartisan solution and listen to conservatives? Yeah, right, I have some land in Florida to sell you too.

Our government has a responsibility to provide health care for the poor and the elderly…

Well, really, President Bush, no it doesn’t. That implies health care is a right, and I don’t see that in my copy of the Constitution. Now, if the states want to have a crack at it (as several do) that’s perfectly all right. But that statement just reeks of entitlement, and my view is we need to get rid of as much federal government in that as we can!

So tonight, I announce the Advanced Energy Initiative — a 22-percent increase in clean-energy research — at the Department of Energy…

What is wrong with the private sector doing this kind of research? Why is it up to the government to pick out the most promising programs? Unfortunately, a lot of government research turns out to be stuff like why people can’t sell ice to Eskimos. And wasn’t the Department of Energy something that the Contract with America talked about cutting out?

I don’t have a problem with the goal of the program, although I think we can do a whole lot to cut our dependence on foreign oil in the short-to-medium term by exploring and getting oil out of the ANWR area. Eventually other technology will supplant oil just as natural gas supplanted coal, which succeeded wood for being the main source for heating the home.

Tonight I announce an American Competitiveness Initiative, to encourage innovation throughout our economy, and to give our nation’s children a firm grounding in math and science.

First, I propose to double the federal commitment to the most critical basic research programs in the physical sciences over the next 10 years. This funding will support the work of America’s most creative minds as they explore promising areas such as nanotechnology, supercomputing, and alternative energy sources.

Second, I propose to make permanent the research and development tax credit to encourage bolder private-sector initiatives in technology. With more research in both the public and private sectors, we will improve our quality of life – and ensure that America will lead the world in opportunity and innovation for decades to come.

Third, we need to encourage children to take more math and science, and to make sure those courses are rigorous enough to compete with other nations. We’ve made a good start in the early grades with the No Child Left Behind Act, which is raising standards and lifting test scores across our country. Tonight I propose to train 70,000 high school teachers to lead advanced-placement courses in math and science, bring 30,000 math and science professionals to teach in classrooms, and give early help to students who struggle with math, so they have a better chance at good, high-wage jobs.

I’m honestly not sure what to make of this. It’s a good idea, but, once again, why has it become a federal responsibility to do this? And where do we get the money to pony up for all this stuff?

I suppose the State of the Union address has just become a speech on how we’re going to spend more of the taxpayers’ hard-earned money on keeping bureaucrats busy granting money to the people who write grant applications the best and suck up to the right people. *sigh* What a disappointment.

Then came the other disappointment this week, as the House voted to elect Rep. John Boehner as House Majority Leader. Many conservatives (including me) were hoping for Rep. John Shadegg to win, but he lost after the first round of voting with just 40 votes. So count me as not sold on this new leadership. But if Boehner can shepherd needed legislation through the House (keeping the moderate RINO’s in line) and puts enough of a new face on the party to minimize the effects from the ethics scandal (now that’s bipartisanship in action!) then he may well turn out to be a good choice.

Maybe he can get some of the things President Bush forgot to mention in the SOTU like getting serious about slowing the growth of government through the House. Then all we need are Senators with some cajones.

Does it ever change? A petition for redress of grievances.

Not so much a post as a rant.

I guess this is one of those days I get tired of the political scene. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the whole Abramoff scandal. The Democrats accuse the Republicans of being the culture of corruption, even though they got almost half the money themselves, not to mention the money they get that’s coerced from union workers who may not agree with their philosophies. The GOP says, all right, we’re going to introduce legislation to combat things like lobbying, then the Democrats pander and say that’s like the farmer closing the barn door after the horse has departed. And the Democrats were where on this issue 6 months ago?

Do you all understand what the REAL problem is? For every man, woman, and child in America, the federal government spends roughly $10,000. The budget is $2.6 trillion.

And there’s 535 people in control of all that money. And those 535 people have to face voters every 2 to 6 years. And the way they see in keeping people voting for them is to keep shoveling money at them.

I keep a pocket copy of the Constitution on my desk. Article 1, Section 8 lays out the duties of Congress. I’m not going to write them all out, I’ll try for a Cliffs Notes version:

Borrow money. They do this quite well.
Regulate commerce among the states and with foreign nations. This is for things like NAFTA.
Establish rules of naturalization. That evolved into the INS, which I think was folded into Homeland Security.
Establish bankruptcy laws. And they established a bankruptcy court too.
Coin money and regulate the value. Thus, a United States mint, and the Federal Reserve.
Establish Post Offices and post roads. Until 1971, the Post Office was a Cabinet-level office. I suppose establishing interstate highways could be construed for the post roads.
Patents and copyrights. Done, although they’ve talked about changing the periods of those.
Constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court. So they have a perfect right to break up the Ninth Circuit Court. Theoretically, they could scrap it all and start over, but I’m sure the next Democrat Congress would do the same.
Declare war, raise and support armies, and provide and maintain a navy. They do that, although I’m not sure the two year limit on appropriations for the Army is being followed.
Make rules for the government and regulation of the armed forces, also call forth and provide for the militia. Part of that is supressing insurrections. Is an al-Qaeda sleeper cell in this country an insurrection? But states appoint officers and train their own militias.

That’s pretty much it. But layer upon layer of law and government, fueled by the desire of bureaucrats to maintain their cushy positions, has added a whole lot of chaff to the wheat that was the Constitution as written.

It actually started fairly early. The only amendment to the Constitution that mentioned Congress until the Civil War was the First, which was a prohibition to Congress: they shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or abridging free speech or a free press, or of the right for people to assemble peacefully and petition the government for a redress of grievances.

But from the 13th Amendment on, Constitutional amendments basically allowed Congress to see fit how each Amendment would be codified. Rather than prohibit Congress from establishing laws, these were encouraged and left vague and open-ended.

Worst among them was the Sixteenth Amendment, which let Congress tax the living crap out of us. Talk about a mistake! It was at that moment that the Congress became a monument to pork.

If I were to ask for a Constitutional convention (allowed under Article V of the Constitution) I would ask that the 16th and 17th Amendments be repealed, and the 28th Amendment be thus:

Congress shall make no law that codifies discrimination for or against any person based on their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. This Amendment shall also be construed to include a prohibition on Congress enacting additional criminal code or punishment solely based on these factors.

The 29th Amendment would go something like this:

Section 1. With the exception of the powers reserved for Congress in Article 1, Section 8 of this document, and items outlined below; funds received by the federal government shall be disbursed to the States in accordance with their population in the latest Census figures. No restriction shall be placed on how the several States use these funds.

Section 2. Outlays for the operation of the offices of the President and other officers who shall be warranted by same shall be submitted by the office of the President to Congress, who shall, without amendment, vote up or down on the expenditures within ten days (excluding Sundays) of receiving this submittal.

Section 3. Outlays for the operation of the Supreme Court and tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court shall be submitted by the Attorney General to Congress, who shall, without amendment except in the case of convening a new tribunal inferior to the Supreme Court, vote up or down on the expenditures within ten days (excluding Sundays) of receiving this submittal.

Section 4. If Congress does not approve the submitted amount, both the President and Attorney General will have ten days (excluding Sundays) to resubmit a budget to Congress. In the event that either a new budget is not submitted by either or both parties, or if the resubmitted budget is not approved by Congress, the budget shall be determined by using the prior year’s figure and adding a sum equal to 3% of that figure.

Section 5. Congress shall not withhold funds from states based on existing state laws.

It’s a start. The key to solving a lot of our problems with ethics, in my opinion, is to take away from Congress the power of the purse as much as possible. More attention should be paid to the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, which places rights properly at the state level and among the people themselves.

 

Hail Mary for al-Qaeda?

Imagine this scenario.

You and some friends are sitting down watching Super Bowl XL, along with 90 million others in the U.S. and tens of millions more globally.

Just as the referee signals touchdown on the first score of the game, several deafening “booms!” are heard and the cheers of the assembled crowd turn to screams of agony and panic as it dawns on the audience both at Ford Field and on television worldwide that four homicide bombers scattered around the arena have blown themselves up and rained the shrapnel of their bombs through a large part of the crowd. Hundreds, maybe thousands, are killed or maimed – even some of the unfortunate players on the field.

Chaos ensues as people try to flee the scene and jam the Ford Field exits. The local trauma centers and emergency rooms are no match for the casualty count. The remainder of Super Bowl XL is cancelled and a shocked NFL, along with the Detroit area and federal law enforcement agencies, is left to wonder how this could have happened despite the heavy security. The break comes when a wounded survivor recalls seeing one of the bombers dressed in the usual garb of a stadium vendor.

A similar event almost happened at a University of Oklahoma game. What if someone trusted by the people around Ford Field had dreamed of a terrorist attack since the awarding of Super Bowl XL to Detroit 3 years ago? That’s not far from the timetable for planning the 9/11 attacks, and a homicide bombing is easier to prepare for than simultaneously hijacking 4 airliners.

Other nightmarish scenarios could involve a surface-to-air missile taking down a inbound airliner to Detroit Metropolitan Airport, leaving it to crash in some populated area, or the ghastly thought of a small nuclear device well-hidden within the bowels of Ford Field or even in its dormant next-door neighbor, Comerica Park. A number dialed to a waiting disposable cel phone could trigger the device. Either scenario could result in thousands of casualties.

There’s several points that have been raised or are known facts that lead me to believe that it’s not totally the impossible doomsday scenario that one might think. Consider these factors:

1. Possibly the largest Arab-American population center in the country is the area around Detroit. According to the Census Bureau, Wayne County, Michigan (Detroit’s home county) has the largest Arab-American percentage of any county in the nation at 2.7 percent. It doesn’t seem like a large number, but think of it this way: where would a member of an al-Qaeda sleeper cell best be able to assimilate into the local population? Additonally, there are many African-Americans who consider themselves Islamic, and the Detroit area has its share of mosques. Quite possibly one there may subscribe to the radical Islam of the Wahhabists. And the entire purpose of a sleeper cell is to get into the local customs and gain the trust of the local population. Perhaps a worker bringing his lunchbag into Ford Field for his day’s work could be working with others to bring materials in.

2. As opposed to a city like Jacksonville last year, Detroit has the unique problem of being a border city. Two major border crossings occur within a short radius of Ford Field. Obviously it’s not prudent to completely seal the borders before the game, as commerce must continue on both sides of the border. But who knows what could be brought across from Canada as traffic increases in the days before the game?

3. Another problem for security is that Detroit is a cold-weather city. The mean temperature for Detroit on an average February 5th is 27 degrees. Most people will be wearing coats or other bulky layers of clothing as they wait in the security lines to get in. Not only that, most arriving workers will be as well, and it’s possible they could avert security. A team of accomplices could leave a gate “open” to slip in the necessary items needed on game day, and a person wearing a heavy coat on a 25 degree day is far from suspicious. Plus, someone in a sleeper cell would most likely have a “clean” background check, thus no questions would be raised with any moderately different behavior.

4. Right now there’s plenty of events going on in downtown Detroit where large gatherings would allow people to mix into the crowds and work without as much suspicion. Currently the North American International Auto Show is being held at Cobo Arena in downtown Detroit. Nearby at Joe Louis Arena the Detroit Red Wings have four home games remaining before the Super Bowl, all of which will likely have capacity crowds. Also featured at “the Joe” on the two nights preceding the Super Bowl will be sold-out concerts by Detroit native Kid Rock.

5. Finally, a pattern has been noted in the timing of al-Qaeda videos and subsequent attacks. The last of the latest pair of videos was released January 6, and an earlier e-mail referred to an attack in the “land of the Romans.” Most would point to Italy as the target, especially with the upcoming Winter Olympics, but al-Qaeda’s not known for being obvious, and what’s a known feature about Super Bowls? They’re identified by Roman numerals.

I understand it all sounds like the black helicopter crowd has sucked me in. But I think the security this year needs to be redoubled and extra steps need to be taken, especially in light of all the other events in downtown Detroit and the area’s larger-than-average Islamic makeup. Ford Field and Comerica Park need to be checked out top to bottom on a daily basis from here on out, plus all of the TV trucks and other temporary shelters that come with the Super Bowl.

I pray that this post is completely without merit and none of us gets to see the pagentry of Super Bowl XL turned to tragedy in a manner described above. But nobody expected that when they went to work on September 11, 2001 they’d be witness to the horror perpetrated on lower Manhattan, and the jubilant celebrations that occurred in the Middle East upon hearing the news.

It’s just another reminder that vigilance remains the watchword and the War on Terror doesn’t end until all of al-Qaeda is sent to see their 72 virgins, preferably taking as few good Americans with them as possible.

Energy as a weapon

There were a couple articles I stumbled across in the last week that piqued my interest, and involve two countries who are or were among our biggest enemies. But both have some long-term ramifications for us and our Western allies.

The first article was about the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), more specifically a publicly traded subsidiary that wanted additional rights to purchase overseas assets and compete with its non-public parent company. While it sounds like just another international business deal gone sour, bear in mind that CNOOC was the company who offered over $18 billion to buy out Unocal and enter the United States gasoline market. (After heavy political opposition here, Chevron eventually bought Unocal.)If the deal had gone through though, all the Union 76 stations in the country (there weren’t many but they existed) would have been owned by a country who aims nuclear missiles at us.

Personally, I don’t see this stockholder revolt as much more than a temporary setback to the expansionist dreams of CNOOC, who already partners with Royal Dutch Shell on a $4 billion petrochemical project. A large reason that our oil prices have risen to previously unimagined heights is the continuing demand by China on supplies. Recently China supplanted Italy as the 6th-largest economy in the world, and I think within the decade they’ll pass the three largest Europeans (Great Britain, France, and Germany.) That would place them with us and Japan in the top 3.

Europe has trouble of a different sort to its east. With the Russian bear being a large natural gas supplier to these countries, a spat involving Russia and Ukraine over natural gas prices spilled over to affect Western countries. As of January 1st, Russia enacted a nearly fivefold increase in their price to supply Ukraine. The Ukrainians allegedly countered by siphoning natural gas off pipelines through their territory intended for points west like Hungary, Poland, and Serbia.

So, in the midst of winter, several European nations had a temporary natural gas supply shortage. With some of these countries being onetime Soviet satellites who are still in the early stages of democracy, it’s not out of the question that the Putin regime could certainly extract major concessions from these governments for them to maintain this energy link to their former masters. In the case of the Ukraine, their government has fallen out of favor with their Russian neighbors as they look to Westernize more. With the parliamentary elections in Ukraine occurring this coming spring, some saw this move as a play to prop up opponents of Ukraine president Viktor Yushchenko. He defeated a Russian-backed contender in Ukraine’s 2004 election, a vote claimed by some to be tainted with fraud.

This is another reason that I think the U.S. should be heavily investing in finding their own energy supplies. Having these two incidents occur so close together timewise serves as a reminder that when our economy becomes too dependent on others, one hardly-noticed incident can grow to become a wrecking ball to our economy.

Instead of more regulation and red tape, the federal government needs to step aside and let our energy companies (at least the ones that remain ours) do their work to find energy sources within our borders. Are you listening, opponents of ANWR oil exploration?

New feature

Courtesy of Newsbusters.org, there should be a new daily “Gaggle” cartoon way down at the footer of my blog.

I’m sure I could link to it for free, but I’ll send the Media Research Center a small donation since that’s the parent of Newsbusters. And it’s generally a pretty funny cartoon!

The Empire writes back

Been sitting on this letter for a week or so as other items I see in and out of the news took precedence. But a week ago Saturday I got my reply to my letter to Congressman Gilchrest. I was shocked that it wasn’t a form letter, to be honest. It did look like he took the time to read it and understand my arguments to some extent.

So, to place it in context, I’ll put my letter in first. I’m surprised I didn’t put in on ttrwc, but I would have wanted to reshow it anyway with the changeover.

November 10, 2005

To: Congressman Wayne T. Gilchrest

Re: HR 4241, Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 – provision for ANWR drilling

Congressman Gilchrest:

I was disappointed to read that you were one of 25 “moderate” Republicans who have threatened to hold up a bill that would begin a much-needed process of cutting federal spending because of its provision to begin drilling for oil in a small portion of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge.

It is only a short-sighted few who are opposed to beginning the process of oil exploration and recovery in this area. Meanwhile, a broad coalition of native Alaskans, energy experts, union workers, and a large swath of the general public frustrated with the rising cost of gasoline support taking advantage of a domestic oil supply. While the stocks of oil in ANWR certainly won’t be enough to fulfill all of our energy needs, it can serve as a bridge to a time when we will find alternative sources of energy. Your support of HR 6 earlier this year, while unpopular with a vocal minority of constituents, was a step in this direction.

However, the reality is, even with measures you’ve supported (such as raising the fuel economy standards for automakers) America finds itself in the dangerous position of having foreign oil producers supply a growing portion of the market. While Canada is a steady friend, the rest of our top 5 suppliers (Mexico, Venezuela, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia) contain anywhere from an unofficial to state-sponsored disdain of American policies and values.

Personally, I would like to see more done in the way of extracting oil from shale domestically and using more nuclear power to generate our electricity rather than a growing dependence on natural gas. For the foreseeable future, though, we are in a position where oil is the lifeblood of our economy. Thus, I urge that you rethink your opposition to ANWR drilling as part of a balanced and forward-looking total energy policy.

Additionally, I hope I can count on you to support the aim of the overall bill, which is to cut federal spending to reallocate those resources to victims of this year’s hurricanes. It is a prudent thing to cut the unnecessary to fund the priorities – hopefully it will also spur a look at where our priorities are set.

Sincerely,

Michael Swartz
Salisbury

And he wrote back:

December 6, 2005

Dear Mr. Swartz:

Thank you for your interest in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, HR 4241. This bill is commonly referred to as the “budget reconciliation” bill and was passed on the House floor on November 18, 2005.

I opposed the inclusion of language in HR 4241 authorizing oil and gas development in ANWR, in part, because ANWR is the largest area of unspoiled wilderness in the US. Among other wildlife species, it is home to the Porcupine caribou herd, and provides critical calving habitat for them. Exact oil reserves available on the refuge are unknown, but the median expectation projected by the US Geological Survey is about 10.3 billion barrels of oil. While this would imcrease US domestic production of oil, market analysts predict it could have only a minute impact on US energy prices.

This is because the US is the largest consumer of petroleum products in the world, using fully a quarter of annual globa supplies. Yet, we own only about 3 percent of total global oil reserves. In addition, many market analysts and geophysicists tell me the US either has or will soon peak in its available supply for oil production – meaning that supplies on the downside of that peak will never be able to meet emergency needs for oil in the future. The US currently imports 60% of its oil, and our demand for oil is projected to increase over 30% in 2025, especially in the transportation sector. Therefore, it seems unlikely that domestic oil production can meet even a small fraction of US oil demand in 7-12 years – when ANWR supplies may be available should development begin now. Our thirst for oil and the very small portion we own will continue to sustain significant oil imports and volatile prices until we can meaningfully replace it with renewable and alternative energy sources.

We will likely never again find a product so diverse and flexible – for energy and many other uses – than petroleum. The US must seriously invest in development and delivery of affordable, reliable energy from more diverse sources and must reserve its small supply of oil for the many other applications for which it is now or may be used – including roads, plastics, chemicals, and other products. I will continue to do all I can toward progressive energy policy that supports a wide range of alternative energy sources.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

Sincerely,

Wayne T. Gilchrest
Member of Congress

Now, I did a little research on oil awhile back for a ttrwc post. By the time ANWR comes online, we’ll probably be consuming about 23 million barrels a day.

If you assume that ANWR does have the 10.3 billion barrels Rep. Gilchrest cited, that works out to 447 days’ worth of oil. I think this is the figure the anti-ANWR people cite. There are two problems with this assumption though. Number one is that it’s not a given that ANWR would be our sole source of oil. If I go under the assumption that the ANWR reserves per day would be depleted at the rate we import from our largest current foreign supplier (Canada’s 1.616 million barrels per day) then the figures grow to 6,374 days (or about 17 1/2 years.)

The second faulty assumption is that there’s only 10.3 billion barrels of oil in ANWR. We have no way of knowing this without further exploration. The current “best guess” ranges up to 16 billion barrels of oil that’s recoverable under current technology. There’s certainly nothing to indicate that the ANWR oil can’t be double or even triple this best guess – at best case it could last 40 years.

One other issue I have with Rep. Gilchrest’s logic regards the pristine environment, calving habitat, etc. When exploration is only going to take a small fraction of ANWR’s total area (the reserve occupies basically the entire northeast quadrant of Alaska) I think the caribou can find many a place to have little caribou. To hear environmentalists talk, oil drilling in ANWR would place derricks as far as the eye can see, and that’s simply untrue. For those of you familiar with Maryland, think of something that takes up the area of 2 of the 23 counties and imagine how small of an area that really is compared to the state as a whole. That’s at the high end of estimates for the oil industry impacted area.

As I stated in my letter to Rep. Gilchrest, we do need to explore other avenues of filling our energy needs. I’ve cited a couple that, while they’re not strictly renewable, they are certainly plentiful or very efficient given the amount of material used. There’s merit to continuing research into hydropower, wind, and solar energy, but I believe that research into those avenues are best conducted by private entities. The X Prize is one example – the incentive of $10 million to develop a renewable space vehicle was a very good one, and one that is evolving into other areas.

Once again, capitalism at work – it’s a beautiful thing! So let’s get to work in ANWR and continue to fuel the engine until we can use our ingenuity to figure out a better way.

Late edit: Here’s a photo of the ANWR area.

Isn’t that majestic scenery beautiful? Look at all the caribou!

For the Sheehan-lovers…

this one’s for you.

Yes, you too, Dan.

News digest #1

It’s a potpourri of stuff tonight. A bunch of stuff that piqued my interest in the last week, mostly culled from CNS News and AgapePress via www.gopusa.com. Basically, GOPUSA is a sort of internet newspaper with conservative news and commentary. And it’s upfront about it – the tagline states “Bringing the conservative message to America.”

News item: ADF battles Georgia county’s ‘Christmas’ ban in schools. ADF is the Alliance Defense Fund.

Money phrase: ADF attorney David Cortman says Jackson County officials have completely eradicated Christmas from the public school system.

“Teachers are not allowed to say ‘Merry Christmas’ [and] they’re not allowed to wear any pins or angels or crosses or clothing that has any religious connotation or affiliation,” Cortman explains. “They can’t have a Christmas party — they have to call it a ‘winter party.’ They can’t sing religious songs. In fact … they actually censored the word ‘God’ from the song.”

Now I cited this because there was a comment I left on Crallspace where he talked about the “so-called war on Christmas.” Just more proof that anything Christian in schools is being eliminated. Tyranny of the minority.

Here’s a link to that story, by Jim Brown of AgapePress.

News item: Kyoto Protocol declared ‘dead’ at UN climate conference.

Money phrases: “Kyoto is absolutely dead,” said David Ridenour, vice president of the D.C.-based conservative group, National Center for Public Policy Research.

Ridenour, who questions the alarmist scientific basis behind Kyoto, accused the industrialized nations that ratified the protocol of hypocrisy, for only verbally supporting the emission reduction goals.

“They’re hypocrites, those countries who say ‘we have to have the [Kyoto emission] targets, but we are not going to meet them.’ You have 11 out of 15 of the E.U. (European Union) nations that had increases in CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions. So whether they admit it or not, Kyoto is dead,” Ridenour said.

Not surprisingly, seeing their dreams go up in smoke, environmentalists deny this:

“Kyoto is alive and well, thank you very much,” said Catherine Pearce, the international climate campaigner for Friends of the Earth International.

“These kinds of comments just come from the United States actually and it’s driven by the White House who actually wants to see this process die,” Pearce told Cybercast News Service.

And:

“Kyoto is alive and kicking. This conference is proof of that,” said Kaisa Kosonen, the energy campaigner for the European-based Nordic division of Greenpeace.

“I still have high hopes,” Kosonen added, while warning that the U.S. was playing a destructive role at the conference.

“The U.S. has done its best to sabotage everything. [But] you have to differentiate the Bush administration from the United States,” she said, noting the many U.S.-based groups in attendance critical of the Bush administration’s climate policies.

All you need to know about the Kyoto Protocol is that 11 of the 15 EU countries increased their emissions, and the goal of Kyoto was to restore the pollutants to 1990 levels. Ain’t gonna happen, unless all industry and progress in Europe cease. Even our Senate knew this was a turkey, which is why they rejected it on the order of 97-0.

The link to the story, by Marc Morano of CNS News, is here.

And if you don’t believe the whole global warming scare isn’t just a ploy to extract wealth from the industrialized countries to the forces of global governance, read this.

News item: ‘Are you better off this holiday?’, Democrats ask.

Money phrase: (House Minority Leader Nancy) Pelosi promises that a Democrat-controlled House will offer a “real energy plan that focuses on lowering high energy costs and developing new, cleaner technologies like hybrids, conservation, and renewable resources.”

She said Democrats will offer a “real prescription drug benefit that lowers out-of-pocket expenses and guarantees benefits, not one written by the pharmaceutical companies,” and she said Democrats will challenge the Bush administration’s “incompetent and dishonest foreign policy.”

Pelosi notes that Democrats need only 15 seats to regain a majority in the House: “Then the People’s House will be a place that is truly befitting of the holiday spirit — where we care for all people, and do the things necessary to make us stronger today and in future generations.”

Oh, such fun with this one!

Nancy, your idea of lowering high energy costs would be a freeze on gas prices and windfall profit taxes on oil companies. Then, when supplies dry up and there’s long gas lines because the oil companies can’t make money on their product, you’ll blame them for creating shortages in the market. Not only that, oil supplies that are tappable and refinable sit unused because of moratoriums on additional exploration (such as in ANWR) and the building of new refineries.

High energy costs are cyclical in some respects as markets fluctuate and stabilize. This also covers some of the “new, cleaner technologies” – if not for the governmental subsidies on some of those, they would never see the light of day. Just naturally build a market for it – if it’s as good as advertised, entrepreneurs will come. Oh yeah, Democrats don’t believe in personal initiative, just engorged government.

Bloated government will also be their “solution” to the “problem” of prescription drug access. I think it was a huge mistake to add prescription drug benefits to Medicare. The system of private insurance and subsidies by drug companies to poorer patients wasn’t broken, so no “fix” was necessary. Again, the Democrats’ solution will likely either drive up taxpayer costs or drive down pharmaceutical company profits, with a lack of new research being one possible effect.

Incompetent and dishonest foreign policy? That’s code for pulling out of Iraq. Nancy, I know it and you know it, quit bullshitting us and just say it. It’s easy, you can even do this in San Francisco, where they’ll cheer and throw flowers at you. Just walk to a microphone, get the network news cameras rolling, and say, “I want us to abandon our Iraqi mission and let the insurgents retake the country. Let Saddam Hussein reclaim what was rightfully his until we took it by force. In fact, we owe him compensation for killing both of his sons.”

We know you want to, grow a pair and do it.

And I liked the fact that the word “Christmas” did not once escape her lips. She’s into the “holiday” spirit as well, and I don’t mean that in a good way.

She did say one true thing. Read the phrase again, “Then the People’s House will be a place that is truly befitting of the holiday spirit — where we care for all people, and do the things necessary to make us stronger today and in future generations.”

The People’s House? Is that like the People’s Republic of China, or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (what we know as North Korea)?

Where we care for all people? Is that to read, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need”?

By “us” does she mean Americans, or the Democrat party? We already had a president or two who came up with hundreds of government programs that maybe were well-meant at the time but have become like a pack of rats – ugly, pesky, and damn hard to kill off one at a time. They’ve already trumped up charges to get rid of the exterminator that’s in Washington, and a renewal of the Democrat-controlled Congress will be like giving fresh garbage to those rats who are always looking for the easy meal.

Here’s a link to that story by Susan Jones of CNS News.

I hate it when this happens. I had one more item in mind, but the link doesn’t work. Oh well, it’s a blog post for another day. This item bears some relation to the environmentalist items I led off with, but on a personal level. So I suppose I’ll stop here with this post, I have another post to write tonight since something VERY interesting came in the mail for me today.

Late edit (12:20 a.m.) The second post will keep until tomorrow, or actually, later today.

Caveat emptor, part 2

It seems to me that sometimes we as consumers have become way too driven by price. In and of itself, that’s not a bad thing, but cheap needs to be good too.

I was talking to a friend of mine last night about where she works. The company she works for is a rather large, publicly traded company that manufactures various items for the healthcare field. One thing she’s had to do is watch as component production is being sent away from Ohio to factories in Mexico and China (mainly China.)

Now, I’m as much a free trader as anyone. I do think having free trade will help everyone in the long run. But one of her complaints about the factory in China is that they do not produce the quality of items needed to manufacture the items they assemble here in the U.S. So there’s a percentage of the items that have to be rejected. The problem she noted is that you just can’t get money back from China (for their rejected product)…what they offered is a slightly larger production for the same price. So basically you’ll get more crappy items from them in the hopes that the increase in sheer numbers will make enough product that meets standards.

It’s a problem that I see becoming worse, not just her company specifically, but in general. Her company is already suffering as their sales projections are down to what they were three years ago. The company’s stock is taking a beating too – in an era of rising prices and the Dow flirting with an all-time high, their shares are down almost 35% from their 52-week high. While they manufacture a product that should be very popular, I wonder perhaps if people have noticed the lack of quality in their product and begun to shy away from it.

I’ll set aside my mistrust of China as a trading partner for the moment to argue along another avenue. Consider the true cost of cheap and unskilled labor. Unskilled labor is fine for making and doing many simple things. But when you have a product that depends both on stability of structure and electronic components working properly, perhaps a little higher skill level is demanded.

We talked about her looking for a new car. One that she’s not going to consider was one that she drove for awhile, and that was a Kia. She just didn’t think Korean cars were made as well, but there were design elements she did like in them. I also have some experience with Kia, but my car was a Ford Festiva (which Kia actually made under the Ford name.) For the first 50,000 miles we loved that car – in fact my wife and I bought another one used as a second car when my old Chevy Sprint gave out. She drove the white one (an ’89) we bought used and I drove the red one (an ’88) that we bought new.

But the last 49,500 miles I had that Festiva were really hard on it. Three times the plastic door handles broke. The mechanism holding the driver’s side mirror in place broke after I bumped it one too many times walking by. The gasketing on the sunroof got loose and soon the handle broke. Brakes and muffler rusted out. I will say that the engine and transmission were fairly decent in it but it got to a point where the car wouldn’t start on damp and cool days. Plenty of those on Ohio.

I understand that it was a relatively inexpensive car. But one would think that a company wanted to have a product that was made inexpensively, but well. (By the way, we traded the other Festiva in for a Jeep Cherokee. Bought it new in 1994, my stepdaughter finally totaled it a year ago. Not her fault, it was the deer’s. The Jeep was falling apart as well, but the car was over 160,000 miles.)

It seems to me that sometimes we as consumers have become way too driven by price. In and of itself, that’s not a bad thing, but cheap needs to be good too. How many of you have had a product made by a company that you associated with quality and you end up throwing it out after two years because it’s stopped working? And how many times was it “Made in China”? Sometimes you don’t have a lot of choice, but do you ever stop and think why that is?

Let’s go back and examine the case of my friend. Somewhere along the line, the buyers and beancounters at her company found that it was cheaper for a plant in China to make their components and ship them across the Pacific than it was to make them in Ohio or even another state. Obviously, it was a price-driven thing. But it seems like the quality of the work suffers. Honestly, a worker in China is most likely not very educated or skilled with the exception of making whatever widgets the state-backed factory is putting out.

More importantly, what incentive does this factory have to create a quality product? They know that a Chinese worker is going to take his meager wages and not complain, for fear that either another willing worker will come along, or worse, he might be sent to a labor camp and work at the point of a gun. So it’s obvious that they can supply Americans with all the cheap products they’ll ever want to buy (and do, like it or not.) All Americans seem to want is a cheap product – almost so cheap that they don’t care about tossing it out a couple years later, then buying yet another one and the cycle starts over. It used to be called “planned obsolescence”, now it’s called “modern life.”

So where are the craftsmen? Unfortunately, they don’t seem to exist here either. The work ethic isn’t being handed down from generation to generation like it once was. Seeing a man who loves his craft is more and more rare. Seeing a man who has no compunction with putting in an honest day’s effort and working hard to move up the ladder of success is rarer still. Today’s workplace is more in line with the Dilbert Principle.

Now, I’m not tooting my own horn here, but I do take some pride in my work. It’s discouraging to me to see a contractor mess it up. It really pisses me off when it’s my fault, like I forgot a dimension someplace. We do look out for each other’s work at my company, but sometimes there’s things overlooked. I do get lectured from time to time about checking over stuff and not guessing or using “standard” details. So I learn a bit every so often.

I just wish that people would do more of that in the stuff they buy. Not just big ticket items like cars, but some of the little stuff. Your TV should last more than 5 years. That digital camera you buy for $99 – if it doesn’t work in a year, you can go out and buy a new one, just pay attention to who made it and where it was made. Don’t repeat the same mistakes if you can.

Ford used to say “Quality is Job 1.” It seems like a hollow slogan sometimes when yet another of their cars is recalled. The other thing I noticed in the news lately is that when Saturns were first made, they were considered one of the better quality cars in America, and their plant was noted for its culture and not being like every other car plant. But GM recently decided to pull the plug on one of the plant’s assembly lines anyway.

My last observation is this. Once again, imagine the Chinese factory. It runs constantly, belching out who-knows-what types of pollutants, unencumbered by such things as safety regulations and minimum wage laws. Obviously, the American factory that is shuttered won’t pollute, nor will they see any workers injured on the job. But their minimum wage is now zero as they have closed due to foreign competition – a Chinese factory that can’t match theirs in the quality of work, but kills them in price.

But if we could free ourselves from the shackles of excessive regulation and put an attitude back in the American people that values quality as much as price, perhaps we can find an entrepreneur willing to work hard and get his hands dirty in restoring a valuable company name. Maybe we can get back workers who give a damn about the things they make, won’t accept any less than the best, and are genuinely pissed off when they find out what they made was defective. But making an honest mistake would be grounds for the company to be more careful with the products they make, not grounds for a lawsuit-happy trial lawyer to encourage a few people who claim to be harmed by the product to make their attempt at winning life’s lottery and extorting millions out of the company (of course, the shyster gets his cut too!)

Recently, some unions dropped out of the AFL-CIO and formed what they termed the “Change to Win Coalition.” I hope one of the changes that they make is being a little more willing to work with corporations on getting some of the onerous regulations the labor movement has sponsored and created off the books so we can change to win. I know we can compete with the cheap Chinese if Americans can promise quality and prove why it’s better to be good than cheap.