Monday, June 30, 2008

And democratic states weep

Mugabe wins in a landslide.

No surprise there…  and the beat goes on, da da dum de dum…


Friday, June 27, 2008

Here's a thought...

Yesterday I hit a driving range for the first time in probably 5 years.  I didn’t do half bad.


I think, as part of my MBA curriculum, I may take up golf again.



Offshore drilling alone will not solve our energy and emissions problem.  Plug-in electric cars alone will not solve our energy and emissions problem.  What is the problem?  Too much demand on the major sources of fuel for energy (coal, oil, LNG) and not enough 1. Raw materials and 2. Refining facilities to convert the raw materials to finished materials (there is no such thing as a car that runs on oil).

So, address both problems simultaneously.  Add to the supply of finished products in a way that doesn’t increase emissions:  wind, solar, atomic energy.  Reduce the demand of finished products (ie, gas) that doesn’t diminish the productivity (ie, horsepower, KWh) of the end users through either conservation (use less) or increased efficiency (need less).  Once you’re addressing THOSE problems, then start whacking away at the really, really hard problem of increased supply of raw materials.  Otherwise, you’re dumping those raw materials into a wasteful abyss.

So far, I’ve heard exactly one candidate looking at the solution in such a way:  more nuclear power plants, a prize to the designer of a new electric car battery, a $5,000 tax credit for people who buy "zero-emissions" cars, and, finally, overturning the 27-year ban on offshore drilling. 

What do people summarize that as?  Drilling offshore.  No, there’s more.  There’s increased production of finished product using alternative resources (ie, not fossil fuels, but fissile fuels), decreased demand of finished product (more fuel efficiency), and while all that is in the works, work towards increased supply of raw materials.

I would like to know how the other one would like to address these things other than a windfall profits tax or nationalizing Exxon.  Neither of those “solutions” make any sense to someone who thinks.  Punishing a company for doing what a company is supposed to do well is retarded.  Plain, old retarded.


But here’s another thought on the matter.  Beyond the energy issue, what about states’ rights?  Since the Atlantic Coast states aren’t terribly interested in offshore drilling, why not take a stand for states’ rights and put the ultimate decision in the hands of the states.  Here in Texas I don’t care 2 bits if New Jersey decides to drill off their coast or not.  Why should it be a federal decision to limit the options of the states to utilize their resources?  Sure, Florida and Georgia don’t want to drill off the continental shelf, but what about 10 years from now?  Are we just going to kick the decision down the road awhile, or should we simply say “it’s your call, do what you wish with your own resources”?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Alas, Zimbabwe

It seems things cannot get much worse in Zimbabwe.

A seemingly free and fair election (or possibly an election not rigged enough to guarantee the ruling party’s victory) resulted in a victory for the opposition party, but (allegedly) not enough of a victory—the opposition didn’t score 50% plus 1 vote to secure outright victory, according to the election commission run by the ruling party—to prevent a run off.  The runoff was scheduled (again, by the ruling party) with enough lead time to intimidate, brutalize, and generally bully the population and opposition into quitting.  The ruling party even made clear they would prefer civil war (same old song and verse in Africa, unfortunately) to accepting the results of a free and fair election.

And now, the worst has happened.  The opposition is quitting and the rightfully elected leader of Zimbabwe has sought refuge in the Dutch embassy.

Sad, really.

Enough to make you want to take up arms and fight for the freedom of an oppressed people…  if you really thought any good would come of it, that is.  I guess some hope can be taken from knowing that the opposition leader has opted not to fight, that civil war—even for the right reasons—would be destructive than allowing this brutal dictator to continue for a few more years until the weight of sanctions eventually brings him down.  Although, while choosing to stay and fight may usher in “new management, old policies”, choosing not to fight may sink that nation once known as the “Breadbasket of Africa” into still more despair and the old regime will be replaced with an new old regime while the rightfully elected president sits on the sidelines and weeps with the rest of the civilized world.

I’m still hoping right will prevail over might…  but that hope is dwindling with each passing day.

Morning visitor

I’m afraid the entire dynamic of my household changed in a fundamental way this morning.

Around 6:30am, about the usual time, we here stirrings upstairs.  The stirring quieted down and our little monkey (presumably) went back to sleep.  That’s about how mornings go in our house.

I get up, get ready for work, kiss the missus goodbye and we comment to each other that we haven’t heard much from upstairs at all.

Then we hear a little jabbering from the general direction of the baby’s room.  I look around the corner and confirm to my lovely wife that the boy is, in fact, not sleeping.

He is, in fact, standing on the stairs grinning from ear to ear at me.


So now our cute little boy who likes to lay in bed reading or jabbering to himself in the morning until mommy comes to get him and bring him downstairs, has decided that he can climb down the stairs all on his own.


Every day an adventure, every day a joy.


I wonder what tomorrow will bring…

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Free Market rules again!

Summer session I is almost over.

Maybe I can get out and exercise some in this splendid heat during my business law classes.


Meanwhile, a little commentary on the world I live in…


Ironic that it takes China to teach the US a lesson in free market economics.

A story in the Wall Street Journal today talks about China raising the price of their fuel (centrally controlled by the government) and the price of oil taking a resulting dive.

No, the government controlling the price of fuel is NOT free market economics (unless you’re a democrat), but the INCREASE in price for a commodity yielding a DECREASE in demand is first year economics stuff—probably even high school economics stuff.  Meanwhile, McCain is talking about a gas-tax holiday (LOWERING the price of fuel) which will result only in an INCREASE in demand and, duh, an increase in price.

Sure, there’s no good reason not to pursue economically viable resources here in our own backyard—as long as it can be done in a responsible manner in the communities most immediately affected.  But if the total sum solution is increase in supply, that’s not going to solve the problem.  If SUPPLY increases, PRICE will surely decrease in the short term.  However, with a DECREASE in price, inevitably an INCREASE in demand will follow unless there is some alternative (fuel) to soak up that demand.  And no, purely electric cars will NOT solve the problem, because electricity has to come from SOMEWHERE…  where, you ask?  Well, today it’s largely fossil fuels because new plants that use fissile fuels have been regulated damn near to death.

So, while China is teaching us that reducing demand will ease up pressures on supply, our politicians are preaching increasing demand, increasing supply, and continuing to limit any alternative that will ease pressure on the supply.  It’s sad, really.  I wish there was one party to blame—then it’d be easy to choose between one or the other.  But both are at fault.  The republicans are hell bent on cheap gas, cheap oil, and unlimited supply (of oil), while the democrats are hell bent on no more oil, but no more proven, efficient, high-yeild power sources, either.  Sure, line the hills with windmills, but what happens when the wind dies down?  (Don’t chortle, according to the CEO of Dynegy there was nearly a brownout here in Texas a few months back because windmills in west Texas stopped spinning for a few minutes.  The bo was averted because the South Texas Nuclear facility had enough capacity to ramp up generation to cover the shortfall.)

So, all in all, it’ll require a little bit of new thinking that we haven’t seen from an executive in awhile.  The million dollar question is, which one, if either at all, will offer that.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

But I WANT to believe...

I’ve said before and I’ll say again:  I’m still not sure the Barak Obama is NOT the guy.  Hell, I want him to be the guy, but he hasn’t convinced me that he IS the guy, either.  Right now November is a long way off and I’m not sure either one of the guys is the guy, but we all know that ONE of those guys will be the guy.


That all said, neither one has eliminated himself yet.


Although Senator Obama is doing everything he can to talk me into thinking he’s not the guy.  And that’s a shame, because I want to believe that he can pull this thing off.

For example, things like the drivel I heard yesterday just bug the ever loving shit out of me.

A woman in Nebraska (where distances are tremendous) loves to teach.  Teaches on an Indian reservation.  Had to quit her job because she couldn’t afford gas any more.


Ok, gas is expensive.  I can understand unplugging the old brain pan and nodding blindly over that.  After all, who hasn’t put more than $50 into a gas tank lately?


But then I started thinking about the math (as I often do)…


Let’s make some assumptions:  gas is $4.00 per gallon, the average gas tank is 20 gallons and a truck gets 13 miles to the gallon.  Based on those assumptions, the following is true:

A tank of gas is $80.

That tank yields 260 miles.

Let’s further assume she makes at least $10 per hour based on a 40 hour week.  That means she makes at least $400 per week, and based on what I know about teachers in Nebraska working on Indian reservations, she makes more than that, but that doesn’t help the Dali Bama’s case.


So, assuming a tank of gas is $80, yields 260 miles, and she makes $400 a week, she would have to drive more than 130 miles—each way—to get to work in order to not be able to afford gas.  To put that in perspective, that would be like driving from Omaha to De Moines every morning (a 2+ hour trip) and then turning around and driving home at night.

Every day.

5 days a week.


But let’s say she’s making closer to $26,000 per year (the salary offered by an Indian reservation to a friend of mine who chose to come to Texas to teach instead).  That would be $500 per week and equivalent to a trip from Omaha to Kansas City and back, EACH DAY.


Forget the complete idiocy of driving nearly 3 hours to and from work each day.  Let’s just set that aside for one second and consider what is being said…


She quit her job, because she couldn’t afford gas.


That means, effectively, she gets up each morning (at 3), climbs into her truck and drives to work 160 miles away.  Works all day, climbs into her truck and drives another 3 hours to get home (at around 8 or so).  At the end of the week, when she deposits her check, her bank balance is less than it was at the beginning of the week, and the only expense on the ledger is gas, because to isolate the cause to the price of gas means that there were no other expenses she couldn’t afford—no food, no clothes, no maintenance, no Starbucks, no nothing.  Those have already been cut out to pay for gas, and gas alone.


And if you make gas $5, it’s still a 100 mile trip at $400 a week, and I’m still not buying it.


Let’s instead assume something more normal…  she lives about 60 miles away from work (which is realistic because you can’t live on the reservation).  That’s about an hour’s commute both ways, which in my esteemed opinion is ridiculous, but people do it.  Not me, but some people, indeed.

For a 60 mile commute, at $10 per hour, making $400 a week, driving a truck that yields 13 miles to the gallon, you’re talking about 2.3 tanks a week, just to get back and forth to work.  In our imaginary truck, that costs $230.77 a week in gas…  to earn $400.  That leaves almost $170 each week—not enough to live comfortably, no.  At $12.50 it’s over $260 a week, or $1100 a month, and enough for a single woman to live on in rural Nebraska... barely.  Getting a different job that pays better is perfectly reasonable—in any circumstance.  But outright quitting and giving up $170 to $270 a week is just preposterous.  “I want to save $140, so please keep the other $250 as well.”  Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.


Now “changed her job because the old one doesn’t pay a living wage” is very VERY different from “quit her job because she can’t afford gas to get to work”.  On the one end you’re arguing for a living wage and improved living conditions.  On the other you’re fictitiously suggesting someone chose to stay home rather than lose money each day on a commute.  That’s merely pandering to the lowest common denominator (not to mention outright lying) and doing what politicians have been doing for ever and ever.  And the beat goes on…


I want to believe.  But drivel like this just makes me shake my head.  And that’s not to say he’s the only one guilty of doing it, but he is the only one guilty of saying “he’s a different kind of candidate” without the credentials to back it up.

Monday, June 16, 2008

European Civil War

About a million years ago in a European Government class I took, I wrote that the EU, as it was then designed, could never effectively work.

They had no executive and every decision had to be made by consensus and eventually the transnational goals of an EU would conflict with the national goals of a small nation such as Denmark or Lithuania (who was not yet a member state, I don’t think) and the whole thing would blow up in their face.  It just didn’t make any sense to this American based on the way the original Confederation of American States blew up prior to the US Constitution’s writing.


10 years later, the EU is still rolling right along.  Maybe I was wrong.


But this new reform package that the Irish voted down seems to address a lot of those concerns by strengthening the executive and actually giving authority for a beefier foreign service and a bunch of other stuff.  Although, just as Maine caused the downfall of the original American Confederation, so too might Ireland cause a serious rethinking of the current Euro Confederacy.  Just think about it, the Irish are thwarting the collective political wills of France and Germany!  Maybe it’s not such a bad plan after all…


All the same, I don’t know as much about the Euro makeup as I did 10 years ago when I was actively studying the imminent downfall of the Euro Confederacy, but I can’t currently say I’m not a fan.  I like what they’re trying to do in establishing what appears to be a perfectly political union that draws in financial (and eventually military?) power into a central collective.


I no longer think the Confederacy will blow up in their faces, though, with one nation wanting out and deciding it won’t go along with Brussels any longer.  I think it’ll blow up in their face when a nation wants in, is denied admission, and takes up arms to FORCE the EU to let them in.  That will be interesting to see, indeed.  Something of a backwards civil war—not a war of succession, but a war of ACCESSION.  Odd, yes.  (This is where you add “leave it to the euros to screw up a war.”)  But there is a tremendous amount of benefit to be gained from subjugating your national sovereignty to the EU and not much to be gained from standing on the outside looking in—unless you’re England with regards to the Euro.  Desperate nations do desperate things, and attacking the EU just might be the only desperate thing they can think of doing.


After all, out of desperation the barbarians did the unthinkable and sacked Rome.  Who’s to say that modern day Goths won’t do the modern day equivalent of sacking the modern day equivalent of the Roman Empire?

Thursday, June 12, 2008


The Obama campaign has launched a new website:

It is intended to, as the title suggests, combat untruths that have surfaced against him during the democratic nominating process and in the recently begun general election fracas.

First item on the list?  The so-called “whitey” tape.  The campaign refers to Rush Limbaugh (that guy is still on the air?), Larry Johnson (?), and “proven GOP sleazemeister” Roger Stone (not that they’re going to be calling names, or anything) citing this video of Michelle Obama at this RainbowPUSH conference at Trinity.  This is the same rumor I referred to a few days back when I heard there was some kind of tape.

The Obama camp’s response?  The tape doesn’t exist.  They go on to say the RainbowPush conference was not a Trinity, but at the Sheraton, and M. Obama was not on any panel.

I still find that to be curious.

I also think that if there is such a tape, it’s not as inflammatory as it’s being made out to be.  Like I said, I prefer “cracker” or “da man” to “whitey”.  Whitey just seems so…  second grade.  But I’ll take what I can get as long as people think I have the ability or means to keep anyone down.  For just a second, it’s kind of flattering to think that people think I’m that powerful (insert evil laugh here), but then it’s sad to think that they think so poorly of themselves that they think little old me can keep them down.  Oh well.

But I also think that if it does exist it’ll be tough for the democratic party to not look like a bunch of hypocrites in light of their demonizing anyone who even tangentially refers to something which may even remotely be considered racist if they try really, really hard to misconstrue the comments, right Senator Lott?


All the same, I STILL don’t think the most interesting thing about this whole mess is whether or not there is some stupid tape (which the Obama camp denies) or whether or not the alleged event happened (which the Obama camp eventually denies, sort of, if you keep reading), but rather the fact that when the story comes out, people think, even for a moment, that it COULD happen.


With the shoe on the other foot, and it’s an alleged tape of Cindy McCain at some kind of panel discussion talking about blacks and black leaders jobbing the system and making babies to get more welfare money and any other thread of racial generalizations (even though apartment complexes known as “welfare baby factories” are not hard to find, we’re just not allowed to talk about it), the immediate reaction would be “no way, prove it”.  On the other hand, when the rumor surfaces of Michelle Obama doing the polar opposite and complaining about “whitey” and blah blah blah…  the initial reaction is “really?  That can’t be good for Barak…  if it happened.”


And if you think about it in the greater context, it’s not an unreasonable reaction.  For nearly 30 years we’ve seen the Al Sharptons and Jesse Jacksons (and even the Lou Farakhans) complaining about how white America excludes black America from everything and all we want to do is keep them poor and stupid.  The racial discourse in this country for nearly 30 years was one of power and victimization.  That has changed considerably over the last several years, but certainly when I was growing up (and the generation that represents the Jacksons and Sharptons of the world) frames things in just that light.  It’s the sort of framing that will have a guy be fired for saying something stupid on a radio station, but will still be unapologetic after all these years over demonizing a perfectly innocent cop.


This speaks to that “two Americas” thing I mentioned several days back.  This is the challenge before Barak Obama.  Where is he?  Is he in the America that was?  The America that is?  And speaking of that “America that is”, in the great mishmash of the struggle to overcome the past to realize the future, which does he think is winning?  When I look at the “America that is” I see the future winning out over the past, but when I look back to the late 70’s I don’t see that hopefulness in America, and Pres. Carter didn’t either (as evidenced by his “malaise” speech).  There is a large segment of America that looks forward and only sees what’s been left behind, as evidenced by Rev. Wrights speeches and sermons when he seems to suggest that I, because of my skin color and not the content of my character, would have him in chains if I could (“Louis Farakhan isn’t my enemy, he didn’t have me in chains”).  Or that because of the events that transpired 80 years ago in Tuskegee, Alabama, the plague that is raging across Africa and the world today could have been caused by the US Government.


There are 2 Americas.  There is the one that looks forward and sees tomorrow, and the one that looks forward and sees yesterday.  The one sees hope of tomorrow winning out over the struggles of the past.  The other still fights to open doors that were kicked in 30 or 40 (or 100) years ago rather than ushering people through those doors to a new tomorrow.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Global warming, conservation, and other stuff

Other stuff first:  bike is scheduled to be out of the shop this weekend.  I’ll likely get one of those kiddie trailers and drag my kid around for the second half of the summer (post vacation biking).  Maybe he’ll be a big enough boy to come with me to Corpus Christi in October.  That’d be a fun father-son trip.  Plus, I can blame him and his dead weight for a crappy ride, not the big fat roll on my gut.


Global warming:  I’m what you’d call an agnostic.  Sure, I see the severe weather and what some could consider to be erratic weather patterns, but I only see them within the scope of a few years or months.  Just like I don’t believe that little white blonde girls are being preyed upon across the country just because the news readers are focusing their reporting on that particular soup of the day, I can’t buy into the “fact” that the weather is changing just because the news readers are gearing all of their stories to suggest that climate change is the root cause of everything.  “Ship Sinks due to Climate Change”.  No…  “Tornadoes Smash the Mid West due to Climate Change”…  technically, every weather pattern is tied to climate change.  I’m not buying it.  I also don’t believe what Al Gore says that every smart person believes global warming is a fact.  I think he has a tremendous economic stake in a future Kyoto-esque economic system and he’s trying to bring that about by alternative means since the treaty collapsed.  Every smart person should know that he’s got several commas at stake with the investment he’s made.

That’s not to say that I don’t think the climate COULD be changing.  I just think that periodically the climate changes and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  After all, the great state of Texas that I live in (and most of the central states) used to be under water.  Most people would agree that it’s not such a bad thing that the climate changed all those many years ago.  And if it’s just a natural swing of the climate we’d be desperately trying to swim against geological and atmospheric currents by trying to reverse or stem that change.  In short, the research has not convinced me that man is solely at fault, especially since the climate has changed before man was pumping garbage into the atmosphere.  Could we be having some impact?  Sure, maybe, possibly, I could even go as far as certainly.  But the scope and severity of that impact is debatable.


Conservation:  that brings me to conservation.  Assuming we are having some impact, even if it’s a small one, there is no good reason not to try to mitigate that impact.  Driving through Pasa-get-down-dena on a hot summer day should be evidence enough that the stuff we put into the air is bad for us.  Breathing deeply should not cause your lungs to burn and constant coughing attacks.  Breathing should be an inherent, God given right, that shouldn’t be taken away in pursuit of the almighty dollar.  You can commit suicide by locking yourself in the garage and running your car.  Can you honestly say that stuff isn’t bad for you?

Darth Cheney says that conservation is an admirable personal quality, but shouldn’t be regulated.  That’s probably true.  I’m not convinced that running up the price of oil or gas is necessarily a good thing, nor is artificially driving down the cost of hydrogen or other alternatives without organizing the finances in such a way to make them permanently viable (and tax credits and give aways are not symptoms of “permanently viable”).  In the 70, during the fuel crisis, conservation was promoted heavily.  Why not now?  Why (other than cheap oil) did that go out of favor?  Sure, recycling programs cost money, but the government shouldn’t be in the game of making money—they should be in the game of spending as little as possible to get as much done as possible.   And if a recycling program (that includes glass, a very recyclable product) costs a buck here, but saves a buck at the landfill (or air quality, or water quality, or soil quality), does it really cost a buck?  The problem, I guess, is that actual conservation will require a bit of reordering our lives and civil infrastructure.  Closed-loop water systems that utilize very little fresh water because the water in the system is continually recycled costs a lot of money.  Separate potable and non-potable water systems are also risky, though pouring drinking water into a bucket to wash your car doesn’t make a lot of sense.  Growing vegetables in the yard isn’t for everyone and getting into the habit of tossing recyclables in one bin, compostables in another, and still real garbage into a third is a hard habit to get into.  So too is home generated power (windmills, thermal exchange, etc).  It’s so much easier to just sit back and let someone else generate the power, let someone else grow vegetables, let someone else recycle, or compost, or pretty much make decisions that affect our life directly because, you know…  whatever.  Seinfeld reruns are on, which means for the next hour and a half, I don’t have to think. 

I have my priorities, you know.

Friday, June 06, 2008

I can't help but wonder...

There’s always the possibility that Hill is a sore loser and a bitter partisan, junk-yard dog type fighter who really thinks that the vote of the people and will of the electorate should be subverted by back-room party decisions.  That could be why she’s dragging her feet en-route to acknowledging what everybody else has known for weeks now.  (The irony of trying to hijack rules and subvert votes in the nomination fight, in light of the bitter protests from 2000, is just too delicious.)


But there’s also another possibility.


What if she KNOWS something.  You know, what if she KNOWS something about Obama that’s been, until now, kept from the public eye.  A string of illegitimate children, or a gay relationship, or the baggie of coke he has in his suit pocket, or a dead hooker(which reminds me of the SNL Eliot Spitzer skit), or two, or his wife’s lesbian lover, or an affiliation with the Black Panthers or Nation of Islam, or some other horrid, heinous revelation that she and her crew have dug up and are just waiting for the press to find out, too.  What if THAT’S why she’s dragging her feet, not conceding the race just yet, so that when it finally comes to light she can say “See!  I told you so, untested and unvetted he’s embarrassed the party.  Good thing I didn’t quit, isn’t it?!?”


I wonder if there’s any history of a party changing candidates post primary, pre-election (with the acknowledgement that the notable event in 1963 being post election and pre-inauguration, and not really a change in candidate, just a succession of elected officials), or if they just fold up shop after the basement full of dead hookers is revealed?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Time warp

Ok, so I’m totally digging K.T. Tunstall’s music right now.  Does that mean I’m really a chick?  Or simply stuck in 2005?

The bus full of nuns

I mentioned in casual conversation a few weeks (months?) back when the first real big push to get Hillary out of the race that she should stay in for the long term because at any point during this process Obama could smash his car into a bus full of nuns and completely ruin his chances to be elected.

He’s hit several buses, but none have been full of nuns.

That is, none until now, if the rumors are true.


Word is that there is some video with his wife on a panel with Louis Farrakhan sponsored by Rev. Wright at their (old) church.  During this particular video clip, the hopeful first lady is railing against “Whitey”.  Personally, I prefer to be called a cracker, but I’ll go with Whitey or even Da Man.  All the same, and if the rumor is true, because he can’t keep his racist, radical wife quiet, Mr. Obama may have finally come across that bus full of nuns.