Monthly Archives: August 2012

Peak Oil


The Jubilee Field in Ghana is estimated to contain 1.8 billion barrels of crude. Tullow Oil discovered the field in 2007 and is now working to develop its potential. In 2011 it produced 66,000 barrels a day.

The Chicontepec Basin in Mexico is estimated to contain 10 billion barrels of crude.

The Kashagan Field in Kazakhstan is estimated to contain 11 billion barrels of crude.

The unnamed fields in the southwest of Iraq are estimated to contain 45-100 billion barrels of crude oil.

The Santos and Campos Basins in Brazil are estimated to contain 123 billion barrels of crude.

The Orinoco Belt in Venezuela is estimated to contain 513 billion barrels of oil.


I found this to be very funny:

Lynn Raskin, a Washington D.C. realtor, and her husband, Marcus, a cofounder of the Institute for Policy Studies, have routinely contributed to progressive candidates in tight congressional races during this election cycle. They’ve donated to Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), and Elizabeth Warren, the Democrat running for Senate in Massachusetts. They’ve also given money to Sen. Sherrod Brown(D-Ohio).

Late Saturday evening, Raskin typed “Sherrod Brown” into Google to make another campaign contribution. She clicked the first link populating her search results, a Google ad that took her to an innocuous-looking campaign fundraising page. She entered her Visa digits, hit submit, and just like that, she’d forked over $50 to a Republican in one of this season’s most hotly contested Senate races: Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts.

Raskin realized her mistake the next day when she read the automated thank-you email from Scott Brown’s campaign. She says she takes “full responsibility for not paying attention” when she clicked on Scott Brown’s Google ad, but she still feels like she was duped. After all, why should a search for Sherrod Brown, Ohio Democrat, bring up an ad for Scott Brown, Massachusetts Republican?



I often and vigorously bash unions for the coercive techniques they use to gain membership and then take money.  All in the name of political power for democrats.

While it’s true that I dislike unions for this, among other, reasons, I also don’t like the practice when used by a corporation:

The Pepper Pike company that owns the Century Mine told workers that attending the Aug. 14 Romney event would be both mandatory and unpaid, a top company official said Monday morning in a West Virginia radio interview.

A group of employees who feared they’d be fired if they didn’t attend the campaign rally in Beallsville, Ohio, complained about it to WWVA radio station talk show host David Blomquist. Blomquist discussed their beefs on the air Monday with Murray Energy Chief Financial Officer Rob Moore.

Moore told Blomquist that managers “communicated to our workforce that the attendance at the Romney event was mandatory, but no one was forced to attend.” He said the company did not penalize no-shows.



The State Of “College Material”

I love me some Jack Chambless.  Dr. Chambless is an economics professor at Valencia College.  He’s a relentless champion of Libertarian ideas.
His most recent post is classic.  In it he describes his tradition at the start of every term:

I start the first day with some sort of essay question designed to uncover socialist thinking among my students.  Over the years I have asked people to comment on everything from Joe Montana selling his mansion for $49 million while others are homeless to their opinion on what the government should do to help them achieve the American Dream.

This week I asked my students – approximately 110 of them – to answer this question:”What one specific thing has President Obama done to make the American economy stronger?”

The responses are awesome:

 “Obama has made taxes according to a households income/class.  He made things stronger for every class by doing that.”

Obviously the income tax has long been progressive.

“President Obama has created jobs since he got elected in 2008.  Before him, the economy was suffering, especially middle class families. His campaign was focused alot on creating jobs. This accomplishment has benefited the economy greatly.”

Even Obama isn’t running on his jobs record.

“President Obama has made it so that everyone must pay taxes and people who are more wealthy pays the most taxes.”

Except, of course, Obama is making it so that fewer people pay taxes.  Though to be fair, he IS trying to make the rich make up for that.

“He has raised taxes on the rich and lowered taxes on the middle class.   Also, he has cut military funding.”


“He has offered more financial incentives to the American family with his Cash for Clunkers campaign.  This lead for the American family to upgrade to a new car & supply buisness to the failing America car market.”

The Cash For Clunkers program was a wild failure.  The larger concept of the auto bailout’s is more debatable but a reasonable response is that those bailouts only might have helped Detroit.  But this can only be true by acknowledging that it prevented expansion in other areas that would have made up for the demand.

“the Government, under Obama, has slowed the rate our countries US dollar was inflating at the end of Bush’s terms.”

“One specific thing that Obama has done to make this economy stronger is giving jobs all across the U.S. for the middle class.”

“President Obama’s stimulation package.”

“President Obama has made bigger percentages of taxes that people have to pay for their money.”

“He has tried to make America have more equal classes rather than the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer and eventually diminishing the middle class.”

“He has funded programs for the research of new alternative energy proving thousands of people job opportunities, and the possibility of the creation of a new type of energy market.”

“President Obama has allow all ages to go back to school.”

“Health care benefits has improved.”

“Obama has made the country stronger by giving his best to try to stabilize the economy.”

“Obama, in his early presidency, verbally excited Americans by the idea of change and this encouraged slight economic growth.”

“One thing I believe President Obama did to make the country stronger is the stimulus check act.”

“Tax cuts to overseas businesses to entice them to bring their work stateside.”

“One thing Obama help improve the economy is to provide more jobs for the unemployed people.”

In my heart I hope that we can beat Obama this fall, in my head, I don’t think we have a chance.  Which is to say that I agree with Dr. Chambliss’ observation:

These are only a sampling of what is rattling around in the brains of our college students.  Imagine what even more ignorant Americans are probably thinking.

President Obama can take great comfort in knowing that we are a nation of economically-illiterate human beings armed with voter registration cards.  He will win in November.  No one wants to hear any sensible economics from Romney or Ryan.

January 20, 2017 – that seems like a long way off….

Tolerance For You Bigotry For Me

This has always bugged me:

Mitt Romney’s been engaging in illegal activity — playing the rock tune “Panic Switch” on the campaign trail without permission from the band Silversun Pickups — this according to the band which fired off a cease and desist letter to the candidate today.

According to the band’s frontman Brian Aubert, Romney has been using their 2009 hit … even though no one ever asked them for permission, but it’s pretty clear he wouldn’t have gotten it even if he asked.

So, let’s be clear.  The same folks who would erupt in righteous indignation if a corporation took a stance on marriage, or refuse service to someone based on race or creed or sexual orientation are somehow secure in the moral stance that they can refuse service based on someone’s political persuasion?

Can you imagine the outrage if a sign maker refused service just because someone was gay?

Last Monday, Mike Reis and his partner, Mark Hurst, placed a 2,500-flier order with Kent-based company Access Printed Media, which advertises “business and promotional printing you can rely on.” The flyers would announce the grand opening of Diesel, a new bear barslated to open later this summer on 14th Avenue. The couple planned on handing out the flyers—which depict the silhouette of a man leaning against a ’50s-style gas pump—during Gay Pride weekend. “We chose Access Printed Media because we wanted to support another local business and we knew a woman who worked there,” says Reis.
But on Tuesday, they received an email from the printer. “I have some bad news. :/,” wrote Sarah Wheeler, an employee with Access Printed Media. “Not that we’re against homosexuals at all, but because knowing that our printed products will be advertising and promoting the kind of lifestyle that goes against our morals is something that [the owner] can’t bring himself to do… :/

“We were horrified when we got the email,” says Reis. “I felt sickened, furious, humiliated. Obviously, they do have a problem with homosexuals, but they couldn’t even pick up the phone and call us. You’d expect this kind of close-mindedness somewhere else—out of the state or east of the mountains. Not here.”

Sub homosexuals with republicans in the paragraph above.  Still agree with BOTH Silversun Pickups and Mike and Mark?

But the ACLU of WA says the printer can’t legally turn down the job. “The print shop’s refusal to provide services violated state law,” states ACLU spokesman Doug Honig. “The Washington Law Against Discrimination… bars discrimination based on sexual orientation and require[s] businesses open to the general public to serve all customers equally. The bar owner can file a complaint with the WA Human Rights Commission. The ACLU would be glad to hear from the bar owner and provide assistance if he wishes to pursue the matter.”

I wonder if the ACLU would be willing to provide assistance if Mitt Romney called?


When A Society Wants To Care For Itself

It takes a village.

A theme more or less explored in our politics in general.  And sometimes in specific.  For example, President Obama touched on it during his now famous firehouse stop in Virgina.  There, on the stump, Obama extolled the crowd that successful folks are successful in large part, some part, to those that have come before.  Their success is due, in some measure, to those who’ve built the infrastructure.  Therefore, the logic goes, it is now up to those successful individuals to “give back” and embrace a higher tax burden.

The central idea being that we’re all part of this thing and we all need to contribute.

It takes a village.

Further, this is a concept I resonate with and embrace.  We DO rely on each other.  It’s the volunteer firefighter that makes sure our homes are safe.  It’s the teacher that slaves away tirelessly at 10:00 at night.  There’s the pastor watching over the kids during summer break.  I love the fact that my son’s karate teacher watches him as he walks down the block to the dance studio to wait for his sister.

It DOES take that symbolic village.

Which makes this and this all the more frustrating:

A woman may be fined $600 for each day she provided free food to children in a poor Philadelphia neighborhood for the past few months.

Angela Prattis, 41, of Chester Township has been distributing free healthy lunches in a neighborhood that has a per capita income of $19,000 a year.

Prattis made no money from the meal distribution, and gave out food provided by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The “lunch lady” ran the charity out of her garage, to which about 60 children came, five days a week.

After the city council was alerted of the free lunches, it ruled that she would have to acquire a variance to give away food next summer – or pay a fine of $600 a day. The council considers Prattis’ deed a zoning violation. Three months of distributing food would instigate a fine of more than $50,000.

60 kids, 5 days a week.  Free.

PHOENIX –  The city of Phoenix is facing a possible lawsuit after a woman claimed a city worker told her she could not pass out free water in the Arizona heat without a permit.

Dana Crow-Smith tells ABC 15 she was passing out water bottles in the 112-degree heat along with others in an attempt to share their Christian beliefs with people attending a festival downtown last month, when a city worker ordered them to stop. She said the worker told the group they would be cited if they continued passing out the water because they did not have a permit.

Admittedly, the second case may not involve city officials in real authority, but the point remains that there is this idea that the city has these regulations.

It’s important to remember that the villagers created the village.  Not the other way around.

Government Can Make It All Better

I generally resent the idea that the government can do things better.  In many, if not most things, the government does them worse, not at all better, than if left to someone else to do.

However, in some cases it’s even worse.  The government does it worse than if it were just left alone:

Tree sections are stacked floor to ceiling. They’re like rounds chopped from a carrot, the carrot being a tree trunk. They’re the size of dinner plates. When the football team scores, they rattle on their shelves.

Growth rings tell how old the sectioned tree was. But when Swetnam holds up one, he points to something else: fire scars. They’re black marks, about the size of a fingernail clipping, left by fires.

“The first time here, back in the 1600s, it looks like, and it created a wound there. Basically the fire was hot enough to burn through the bark,” he says. But the fire wasn’t hot enough to kill the tree. So the next few rings show normal growth.

“Until the next fire occurs, and it creates another scar,” he says. “And another, and another, and another, and another, and another.”

Scars from thousands of sections show how often fires burned in the Southwest. It was every five or 10 years, mostly — small fires that consumed grass and shrubs and small seedlings, but left the big Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir just fine. This was the norm.

Then something happened.

“Around 1890 or 1900, it stops,” Swetnam says. “We call it the Smokey Bear effect.”

Settlers brought livestock that ate the grass, so fires had little fuel. Then when the U.S. Forest Service was formed, its marching orders were “no fires.”

And it was the experts who approved the all-out ban on fires in the Southwest. They got it wrong.

That’s the view of fire historian Stephen Pyne.

“The irony here is that the argument for setting these areas aside as national forests and parks was, to a large extent, to protect them from fire,” Pyne says. “Instead, over time they became the major habitat for free-burning fire.”

So instead of a few dozen trees per acre, the Southwestern mountains of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah are now choked with trees of all sizes, and grass and shrubs. Essentially, it’s fuel.

And now fires are burning bigger and hotter. They’re not just damaging forests — they’re wiping them out. Last year, more than 74,000 wildfires burned over 8.7 million acres in the U.S.

That included the huge Wallow fire in Arizona.

“It burned more than 40,000 acres in the first eight hours,” says Swetnam, the tree ring expert. “A tornado of fire.”

Fires in the Southwest have been getting bigger and bigger over the past two decades.

“Now the fire behaviors are just off the charts,” Swetnam says. “I mean, they are extraordinary. Actually, I think in some cases, they’re fire behavior that probably these forests haven’t seen in millennia or maybe even tens of thousands of years.”

Over the past several years, even as fewer fires have struck the Southwest, they’ve burned more land. The U.S. Forest Service now spends about half its budget on firefighting.


If We Try Very Hard We Too Can Be Italy

This guys is serious.  He’s honestly making the case that the United States doesn’t pay enough in taxes and that if we only paid more, we could enjoy the benefits of Italy:

Italy may be in a funk, with a shrinking economy and a high unemployment rate, but the United States can learn a lot from it, and not just about the benefits of public health care. Italians live longer. Their poverty rate is much lower than ours. If they lose their jobs or suffer some other misfortune, they can turn to a more generous social safety net.

Mr. Porter makes this case with what I can only assume is a straight face.  What he calls a “funk” is really an economy that is one of the worst in Europe, perhaps only behind Greece.  And he’s actually trying to make the case that we, the United States, can learn a lot from Italy.

We can.  But not in the way that the author is trying to point out.  What we have to learn from Italy is what NOT to do.  Certainly not WHAT to do.


No wonder we can’t afford to keep more children alive. In 2007, the most recent year for which figures are available, the United States government spent about 16 percent of its output on social programs — things like public health, food and housing for the poor. In Italy, that figure was 25 percent.

Here again, Porter is lamenting the fact that the United States spends “only” 16%  of our output, GDP[?], while Italy spends 25%.  Yet no mention that Italy is deeply in debt and failing to grow its way out of the danger zone.

In short, the government has spent too much money.  So much so that Italy is deeply in danger of economic catastrophe.  Hardly a fair price to pay for  extended unemployment benefits.

It’s safe to say that when presented an argument that we need to raise taxes in order to emulate Italy you are dealing with a deeply partisan statist.


One Possible Reason Why Education Won’t Innovate

Two teachers in Chapel Hill, North Carolina have been reassigned to another school in the district.  They haven’t lost their jobs.  They haven’t had a reduction in pay.

They simply have been assigned another work location.

And finally, today, they have dropped a lawsuit brought against the Orange County Schools:

CHAPEL HILL — Two teachers say they will end their fight to stay at Chapel Hill High after a judge denied requests to delay their forced transfers to other schools.

Anne Thompson and Bert Wartski said it would not make sense to keep challenging Superintendent Thomas Forcella’s removing them from the school they’ve taught at a combined 45 years.

If you believe that schools in America are in horrible shape, and some don’t, this is a leading reason why:

Soo countered that some coworkers saw Thompson, who taught at Chapel Hill High for 26 years, and Wartski, who taught there for 19 years, as the “old guard” standing in the way of change.

Organizations require flexibility in order to meet new challenges.  Systems need to be developed and implemented so that new technologies, techniques and innovations can be leveraged.

Employees entrenched with a fixation on “how things have always worked” often lead to delays in such innovations.  New ideas require adaptable personalities.

Now, to be very sure, this doesn’t imply that a simple embrace of new things is more desirable than years of experience.  26 and 19 years in place is an extraordinary amount of very valuable experience.  However, the need to adapt can often be more of a driving need than expertise in an obsolete method.


The Middle Class: Definition and Status

For a long time now, and especially since the recession of 2008, there has been discussion surrounding the the middle class.  Specifically how that group of Americans are doing.  I admit that I’m late to the game, but I have been very interested in this topic.

One of the most frustrating aspects to looking at this subject is that there isn’t a clear and definite definition of what the middle class is.  Who’s in, who’s out.

For a number of people the middle class represents an idea.  The idea that you can own your own home, send your kids to college and put a little bit away for retirement.  If that sounds familiar, it should.  This is how the president carves out his vision of the middle class.  And while I don’t necessarily disagree with this campy, it doesn’t satisfy my desire for a hard definition.

I think I’ve finally found one:

The middle-income tier—defined in this Pew Research analysis as all adults whose annual household income is two-thirds to double the national median.

In dollars and sense, this comes out to:

The new study reviewed 2010 data from the Census Bureau and Federal Reserve, defining “middle class” as the tier of adults whose household income falls between two-thirds and double the national median income, or $39,418 to $118,255 in 2010 for a family of three.

Note the definition includes household size.  In this case, the household size is 3.  This would include both configurations; two adults and one child or one adult with two children.

As expected, the Pew Report paints a depressing view from the middle:

Since 2000, the middle class has shrunk in size, fallen backward in income and wealth, and shed some—but by no means all—of its characteristic faith in the future.

Is this really true?

I haven’t taken the time yet to read the report, it came out only today, but I’m very interested to see how they ran the numbers and came to their conclusion.  For example, the Associated Press article makes this point:

By this definition, “middle class” makes up about 51 percent of U.S. adults, down from 61 percent in 1971.

However, no attempt has been made, that I’ve yet seen in my scanning, that would take into account a possible morphing of that middle class family structure.  In other words, how many families in 1971 fit into the 2 adults 1 child version of the family of three and how many fit into the 1 and 2 version?  Clearly a family consisting of 2 working aged adults is going to have a higher income than a family consisting of only one such adult with not one, but two children to care for.  Daycare alone is going to be double if even the two parent family has daycare expenses.

Good stuff.