Saturday, May 31, 2008

Smaller Cars Are Half Of The Answer

This is a repeat of an earlier post. Now that gasoline has gone from $2 to $4 per gallon, perhaps it is time to take a serious look at this:


I've had forum discussions as well as private email exchanges with those who are concerned about CO2 increases in the atmosphere.

Some, but not all, are understanding of the situation enough to admit that the relationship of CO2 to climate change is complex because there are so many other potential factors... and the fact that CO2 increases have, historically, followed temperature increases... not vice versa. And then there is the matter of CO2 concentrations being much higher... as much as 16 times higher... in the past while earth was in cooling phases.

Be that as it may, most of the arguments to reduce CO2 fall into the "risk management" area. We can't afford to not reduce CO2 levels on the chance that it is the primary forcing factor in this climate change.

Fine. If you believe that reducing CO2 production immediately is critical, what should we do... now!

Well, here are some lifestyle changes that we could make:
  • Shut off unused rooms and close the heating vents in those rooms ... we do that now!
  • Replace standard light bulbs with spiral florescent bulbs ... we do that now!
  • Turn water heater temperature to a lower setting ... we do that now!
  • Turn winter heat setting to 67 degrees ... we do that now!
These are simple conservation efforts that we can implement with little effort or expense.

The next level of action becomes a little harder.
Replacing power plants that produce CO2
  • Use nuclear power instead? Well, that's something we can't do now! But conventional power plants are where the greatest CO2 production occurs.
  • Wind power? You all read about those rich, Democrat, environmentalists in Cape Cod who squelched that idea... would spoil the ocean view, you know.
Replace all vehicles with fuel-efficient vehicles:
  • Number of vehicles on the road: over 230 million
  • Median age of all vehicles: almost 9 years
That means it would take about 18 years to remove nearly all of the inefficient vehicles... if we stopped buying them now! Of course, much of the reduction would be offset by population and vehicle increases, but the rate of increase of CO2 production would be decreased gradually.

Replace all home heating and cooling systems with geothermal units.

Who will mandate that one? And they do need electricity from power plants to operate.
So, do we ignore the homeowner/consumer produced CO2, beyond turning down the heat and changing some light bulbs, and place all of the burden on businesses? Since so few of us own or work in businesses, that would work (feel the sarcasm here).

Here is something we can do now!
Contact your Department of Transportation and demand that their traffic engineers synchronize traffic signal progression! Have you ever read the city/highway EPA stickers on new vehicles ... something like 21 mpg city/29 mpg highway. That's because all of those extra hours you give up each week due to poorly timed signals also increases your cost of driving and CO2 production from unnecessary idling and acceleration. This can be corrected now!
If you want to make a big difference now, start raising the roof with your state, county and local Departments of Transportation and Traffic Engineering Departments. Poorly timed traffic lights are the single biggest, unnecesary producer of CO2 in the U.S.

Also see this.


Friday, May 30, 2008

Accidents Abroad


Americans take for granted that if they become ill or are hurt in an accident that they can simply go to a local hospital and receive the care they require. For the most part, that is the case. It's not until they travel to another country that they might become aware of the differences in the way injuries are handled.

Recently, some friends of ours traveled to Portugal. They were touring an old church when the wife stepped backward and lost her balance. She landed on a hard floor and broke her hip in a couple of places. Had the accident happened in the U.S., she would have been taken to a facility where an operation would have inserted plates and screws/pins in her hip bones and secured them so that no further injury would occur and gotten her mobile again very quickly. In Portugal, she was taken to the best hospital in the area where they told our friends that they could only put her in traction for six weeks and then she would need an operation after that.

They opted to have her flown back to the U.S. in a small plane with barely enough room for the stretcher, the medical staff, and some extra gasoline tanks stored inside. After a long an indirect route, they returned to Florida where she had the operation. It's been a just few weeks, but they are here in Michigan opening up their summer cottage for the season.
My daughter-in-law and another young woman who has been her friend for quite awhile took a business trip/vacation to Argentina last week. In the middle of the night, the friend went to the bathroom and slipped on a marble floor. She broke her jaw. The local hospital said they could treat her by wiring her jaw shut, but there could be problems later.
She opted to return to the U.S. for treatment. Fortunately, the hotel covered the emergency return trip in first class... and hopefully she had adequate pain medications because the pressure changes on an airplane can make a broken bone very painful.
It's unusual to be made aware of this issue this way. My wife and I have traveled to Europe and never even thought about it. I'm sure that there are plenty of wonderful hospitals in Europe, just as there are some fairly basic facilities in the U.S. Still, whether one is traveling from or to the U.S., it is probably a good idea to know what your options are if you are injured.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Real or Not-So-Real Climate


Dr. Roger Pielke, Sr. is a bit of a maverick scientist. He likes his suppositions to be validated. So, when he looked at a climate model that contained what he believes to be a basic error and, consequently, could not be confirmed by observations, he suggested a revision to the model.

This is the end of the story:

The challenge to Gavin Schmidt and Ray Pierrehumbert at Real Climate (since Real Climate has presented a bet), therefore, is to answer these questions:

  • what amount of heat in Joules was predicted by the IPCC models to accumulate within the climate system over the last five, ten and twenty years?
  • what is the best estimate of what actually accumulated based on the observations of ocean heat content changes for these three time periods?
  • what magnitude of heat accumulation in Joules in the next five, ten, and twenty years would cause Real Climate to conclude that the IPCC models are “inconsistent” with the observations?

We would be glad to post their reply to these questions as a guest weblog on Climate Science.

Go here to read the beginning.

P.S. It's not written in high-schoolese.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

No Genetic Discrimination


This new law has been widely publicized. Former presidential candidate, Ron Paul, voted against the measure which would be consistent with a position that the government should not interfere in commerce and business contracts.

While I might normally agree with Rep. Paul on this, I believe that insurance is an unusual type of business contract because it is not really between and individual and a corporation. It is a shared contract with millions of others. Whether or not we have an insight into our potential, genetically-triggered, health issues, we must share the actuarial projected costs of all others who have purchased the insurance. In other words, we pay our money and take our chances... with millions of our closest strangers.

What this legislation does, besides allowing those with potentially debilitating and expensive diseases to join the shared-risk groups, is to enable each of us to identify those potentially debilitating and expensive diseases well in advance of their occurrence and take whatever action is appropriate to eliminate or reduce those risks.

For example, some individuals carry a genetic mutation that could allow excessive iron to build up in their bodies... hemochromatosis... if they have two copies of this mutation. "Hereditary hemochromatosis is an autosomal recessive disorder associated with increased intestinal absorption of iron and deposition of excessive amounts of iron in the liver, pancreas, and other organs."

It is the most common single-gene disorder in the U.S. white population. Approximately one in 250 to 300 white persons is homozygous for the hemochromatosis gene mutation [has two copies of the mutated gene], and at least one in 10 persons is a carrier for the mutation.
This condition may have been a benefit with iron-poor diets of the past, but now many foods are iron-fortified to prevent anemia in some other portion of the population while exacerbating the iron buildup in others [another example of government meaning well... according to U.S. law, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and iron must be added back into refined grain products]. Someone in their twenties who has this condition may not be aware of it until their fifties or sixties when they may begin to suffer premature organ failure... or other problems.
Under the old insurance rules, if a person found out about the condition through genetic testing, insurance companies could refuse to write new policies for that person. That meant that person would not be covered for all other possible health problems... a distinct disincentive to having the testing done. Now that person can be tested for this condition and still get insurance coverage. Would that be unfair to the rest of us? Well, in this instance, it would actually be a benefit to the rest of us.

Why? Because the "treatment" is simply to give blood on a regular basis to keep the level of iron in the blood lower. A pint every two or three months. The person with this potentially debilitation "disease" lives a normal life while possibly saving the lives of many others by donating a half-gallon of blood per year. And... insurances costs are reduced because the person with the condition does not suffer the debilitating side-effects and very costly treatments later in life.
Here's the story:
Congress Passes Bill Barring Genetic Discrimination
Action culminates more than a dozen years of legislative haggling

By Lisa Stein

GENETIC SECRETS: New legislation would bar insurers and employers from discriminating based on genetic information.

The House today passed a measure by a whopping 414-to-1 margin that would prohibit health insurers from canceling or denying coverage or hiking premiums based on a genetic predisposition to a specific disease. The legislation, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), also bars employers from using genetic information to hire, fire, promote or make any other employment-related decisions.

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) was the lone dissenter.

The measure, which unanimously passed the Senate last week, now goes to President Bush, who is expected to sign it into law.

"Since no one is born with perfect genes, we are all potential victims of genetic discrimination. This legislation marks the beginning of a new era in health care where a person's genetic information can no longer be used against them,'' bill sponsor Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said after the legislation sailed through the House. "By prohibiting the improper use of genetic information, Americans will be encouraged to take advantage of the tremendous life-altering potential of genetic research.''

Slaughter, a microbiologist with a Master's degree in Public Health, introduced the first genetic antidiscrimination legislation 13 years ago.

Physicians now have access to more than 1,000 genetic tests that diagnose or assess the risk of developing potentially life-threatening diseases, including breast cancer, diabetes, heart disease and Parkinson's.

Consumer advocates hailed the passage of the package, which they say will close gaps in state laws and encourage Americans to take advantage of potentially lifesaving genetic testing that they may now shun out of fear of being sacked or denied health benefits.

"With the long-awaited federal passage of GINA, researchers and clinicians can now actively encourage Americans to participate in clinical trials without the fear of genetic discrimination,'' said Joann Boughman, executive vice president of the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG). "Furthermore, under the federal protection provided by GINA, health care practitioners will be able to recommend appropriate genetic testing and screening procedures unencumbered by the fear of discrimination based upon the results."

In the 1970s, many blacks were denied jobs and insurance coverage because they carried a gene for sickle-cell anemia, including those who lacked the two copies of a mutation necessary to get sick.

In 1998, it was revealed that Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif., had secretly tested employees from the 1960s to 1993 for sickle-cell anemia, syphilis and pregnancy without their knowledge or consent (they were told that they were undergoing routine cholesterol screening). In 2002, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway company paid three dozen employees $2.2 million to settle a lawsuit they had filed charging that the company had genetically tested them without their knowledge after they submitted work-related injury claims.

"This bill will allow every citizen and their physicians to benefit and participate in the progress the gene therapies provide for all of us in early treatment and the prevention of countless afflictions while maintaining their essential insurance coverage," Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Wis., a physician, said in support of H.R. 493 during the debate.

"Perhaps in the near future, I'll be able to rise here on the House floor and ask that we support legislation to bring an end to all forms of discrimination in health care,'' he added. "After all, our constitutional rights protect us against discrimination and should be applied to the area of health care throughout the industry – not just genetic information, not just skin color, not just body chemistry or the content and structure of one's bones – but to everything in the human condition and every pre-existing condition. Let's begin to put discrimination where it belongs – in the past."

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

James Earl Carter, III


Former President, James Earl Carter, Jr., continues his anti-Israel efforts by revealing information about Israel's nuclear capability. While that information is technically secret, there has been little doubt that Israel had such capabilities. What makes this different is a former government official at the very highest level revealing state secrets.

What makes this expected is J.E. Carter, Jr.'s long history of anti-Israeli bias and incredibly poor judgment when dealing with the Arab world.
We now have another candidate for President who shows alarmingly similar tendencies. I suspect that should Barack Obama become President of the United States, Iran will feel it has an opportunity to take some action[s] that, once again, hold the U.S. hostage.
Will text messages refer to him as JC3... instead of simply BO? Jimmy Carter III.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Memorial Day


This poem, written in 1915, has come to symbolize the spirit of those who died in the military while protecting us:

In Flanders Fields
By John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly.
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Decoration Day, later Memorial Day, was first observed officially on May 30, 1868, although some local observances occurred as early as 1866. Over the course of time, more wars and more deaths have occurred, but the purpose of this holiday remains the honoring of fallen soldiers... and our intention to serve with the same dedication as they did when our country was faced with enemies bent on our destruction.

I'm not sure how much of this is taught to children today. You can read the history here... and pass it on to them. Why Decoration Day?
That's the day dedicated to decorating the graves of the soldiers... the way the living said they had not forgotten the dead... or their sacrifices for us. Have we?


Friday, May 23, 2008

Telling Tall Tales With Trends


We've all heard the case made for global warming: the average temperature over the past 100+ years has had an upward trend of 0.6°C.

In actuality, when you look at the data you see a starting point at a relatively low temperature [and starting points are important for trends]. Then you see a few decades going up, then down, then up, then down, then up... and, most recently, down. There may be a trend in there, but the jury is out about how temperatures have been taken during all of that time. Is it one long trend or a cyclical occurrence of short-term trends?

[illustrative data only]

What is the trend of record high state temperatures?

I could make the case that late April is going to be the warmest period in Michigan this year... based on a trend... with a high starting point [oh, those inconvenient starting points]. Just take a look at how May is progressing.

See that gold line? That's the average temperature trend for the month. I'm just going to put that in my model and see where August is going to be. Get the ice skates sharpened.

Just how long do we have to look at temperatures until we see "climate change?" I guess that's dependent upon how you define climate change. Geologically, swings of 5-10°C probably qualify as significant climate changes. In our human experience, we like to narrow that somewhat... maybe 3-5°C... because that's something that affects our comfort levels... but not necessarily our existence.
Then, if you get an 0.6°C change over a century... starting from a cold point... does that mean anything?
Did we just get climate change in May? The temperatures were supposed to go up and they went down!
You'll have to excuse me now, I have to go play with my models... data models!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

No More Cold Temperature Records


The other day, I received an email from Dr. Roger Pielke, Sr. who thought this might interest me. The linked document discusses the Urban Heat Island effect for Tucson, AZ. As it is 17 pages long, here it is summarized in these two main points:

  • The urban heat island, in the simplest way to describe, is defined as an urban (or metropolitan) area often being warmer than its surroundings. As the size of an urban area (city) grows, there is a corresponding increase in average temperatures with the increase being most noticeable for low temperatures versus high temperatures.
  • The data presented in this paper shows that the likelihood that any of the current all-time daily, monthly and yearly record low minimum temperatures will be broken is slim at best, if not virtually impossible. Other factors that are tied to climate change and or global warming may have influences in Tucson, but were not addressed in this paper.

[click image for larger view]

The point to be made is that much of the argument for global warming is that average recorded temperatures have been increasing. Given the population increases and corresponding alteration of environment around cities, these average temperatures have to increase because more false warmer minimum temperatures are being produced by the encroaching city heat sinks... heat islands.
It is similar to piling rocks around a fire at a campsite. Long after the fire has gone out, the rocks radiate heat into the immediate area, keeping campers warmer during the cold nights. If you measure enough campsites in the forest, you will conclude that the forest has gotten warmer... on average... than before campers started coming to the forest.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

May Weather Late


Everyone has a different weather story. It all depends on how it is "framed." But it is obvious that something is different around Michigan this year. It is still April here.

So far, we've averaged just under 4° below "normal" for the month. Going back to the beginning of February [when I started tracking this level of detail] it's been about 3° below normal. That's a lot of heating needed to keep the house at 67°.

Maybe your weather has been above normal where you live, but this is getting a little old around here.


April Weather Records


While April had some late snowfalls and a lot of cool/warm regional weather, there were no new statewide maximum or minimum temperature records set.

The New York temperature record was a monthly calculated average for one town. The Montana temperature record was an absolute of -8° for one town, but the statewide minimum record for any April is -30°.

All in all, a rather uneventful month... similar to March.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

How The Free Market Doesn't Work


I thought this had to be made up [HT Infidel Bloggers Alliance]. Then I came back to my senses and realized that the U.S. Congress was involved, so the improbable became likely.

By Tom Doggett

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved legislation on Tuesday allowing the Justice Department to sue OPEC members for limiting oil supplies and working together to set crude prices, but the White House threatened to veto the measure.

The bill would subject OPEC oil producers, including Saudi Arabia, Iran and Venezuela, to the same antitrust laws that U.S. companies must follow.

The measure passed in a 324-84 vote, a big enough margin to override a presidential veto.

The legislation also creates a Justice Department task force to aggressively investigate gasoline price gouging and energy market manipulation.

"This bill guarantees that oil prices will reflect supply and demand economic rules, instead of wildly speculative and perhaps illegal activities," said Democratic Rep. Steve Kagen of Wisconsin, who sponsored the legislation.

The lawmaker said Americans "are at the mercy" of OPEC for how much they pay for gasoline, which this week hit a record average of $3.79 a gallon.

The White House opposes the bill, saying that targeting OPEC investment in the United States as a source for damage awards "would likely spur retaliatory action against American interests in those countries and lead to a reduction in oil available to U.S. refiners."

Is this not the same Congress that prevents oil drilling in ANWR and U.S. offshore, and preventing U.S. oil shale development?

So, Congress wants to sue OPEC for not drilling more oil because we have a shortage created by Congress refusing to allow development of domestic oil supplies.
Can stupidity get any more profound?
Well, if that fails, Congress can always sue the automobile manufacturers for making cars that burn gasoline. But let's just limit that suit to domestic manufacturers. We wouldn't want the rest of the world hurting themselves laughing at us.


Simple Cure For Serious Diseases?

MS and Vitamin D

Hayes CE, Cantorna MT, DeLuca HF.

Department of Biochemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison 53706, USA.

Recently, it has been clearly demonstrated that exogenous 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3, the hormonal form of vitamin D3, can completely prevent experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), a widely accepted mouse model of human multiple sclerosis (MS). This finding has focused attention on the possible relationship of this disease to vitamin D. Although genetic traits certainly contribute to MS susceptibility, an environmental factor is also clearly involved. It is our hypothesis that one crucial environmental factor is the degree of sunlight exposure catalyzing the production of vitamin D3 in skin, and, further, that the hormonal form of vitamin D3 is a selective immune system regulator inhibiting this autoimmune disease. Thus, under low-sunlight conditions, insufficient vitamin D3 is produced, limiting production of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3, providing a risk for MS. Although the evidence that vitamin D3 is a protective environmental factor against MS is circumstantial, it is compelling. This theory can explain the striking geographic distribution of MS, which is nearly zero in equatorial regions and increases dramatically with latitude in both hemispheres. It can also explain two peculiar geographic anomalies, one in Switzerland with high MS rates at low altitudes and low MS rates at high altitudes, and one in Norway with a high MS prevalence inland and a lower MS prevalence along the coast. Ultraviolet (UV) light intensity is higher at high altitudes, resulting in a greater vitamin D3 synthetic rate, thereby accounting for low MS rates at higher altitudes. On the Norwegian coast, fish is consumed at high rates and fish oils are rich in vitamin D3. Further, experimental work on EAE provides strong support for the importance of vitamin D3 in reducing the risk and susceptibility for MS. If this hypothesis is correct, then 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 or its analogs may have great therapeutic potential in patients with MS. More importantly, current research together with data from migration studies opens the possibility that MS may be preventable in genetically susceptible individuals with early intervention strategies that provide adequate levels of hormonally active 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 or its analogs.

Cancer and Other Diseases and Vitamin D
Cells that are dividing rapidly are said to be proliferating. Differentiation results in the specialization of cells for specific functions. In general, differentiation of cells leads to a decrease in proliferation. While cellular proliferation is essential for growth and wound healing, uncontrolled proliferation of cells with certain mutations may lead to diseases like cancer. The active form of vitamin D, 1,25(OH)2D, inhibits proliferation and stimulates the differentiation of cells (1).

Risk Factors for Vitamin D Deficiency

  • Exclusively breast-fed infants: Infants who are exclusively breast-fed and do not receive vitamin D supplementation are at high risk of vitamin D deficiency, particularly if they have dark skin and/or receive little sun exposure (20). Human milk generally provides 25 IU of vitamin D per liter, which is not enough for an infant if it is the sole source of vitamin D. Older infants and toddlers exclusively fed milk substitutes and weaning foods that are not vitamin D fortified are also at risk of vitamin D deficiency (19). The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all infants that are not consuming at least 500 ml (16 ounces) of vitamin D fortified formula or milk be given a vitamin D supplement of 200 IU/day (20).
  • Dark skin: People with dark-colored skin synthesize less vitamin D on exposure to sunlight than those with light-colored skin (1). The risk of vitamin D deficiency is particularly high in dark-skinned people who live far from the equator. One U.S. study reported that 42% of African American women between 15 and 49 years of age were vitamin D deficient compared to 4% of White women (25).
  • Aging: The elderly have reduced capacity to synthesize vitamin D in skin when exposed to UVB radiation, and the elderly are more likely to stay indoors or use sunscreen, which blocks vitamin D synthesis. Institutionalized adults who are not supplemented with vitamin D are at extremely high risk of vitamin D deficiency (26, 27).
  • Covering all exposed skin or using sunscreen whenever outside: Osteomalacia has been documented in women who cover all of their skin whenever they are outside for religious or cultural reasons (28, 29). The application of sunscreen with an SPF factor of 8 reduces production of vitamin D by 95% (1).
  • Fat malabsorption syndromes: Cystic fibrosis and cholestatic liver disease impair the absorption of dietary vitamin D (30).
  • Inflammatory bowel disease: People with inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s disease appear to be at increased risk of vitamin D deficiency, especially those who have had small bowel resections (31).
  • Obesity: Obesity increases the risk of vitamin D deficiency (32). Once vitamin D is synthesized in the skin or ingested, it is deposited in body fat stores, making it less bioavailable to people with large stores of body fat.
The Canadian Cancer Society recommends taking at least 1,000 IU [international units] of vitamin D each day. Most people don't even think about such supplements; most people are somewhat deficient in vitamin D if they live north or south of 40° latitude or eat a diet low in fish.




You can get one of these neat stickers, too. Just call the number shown.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Whatever Happened To Iraq?


Lost in the domestic economic issues is the war in Iraq. It gets passing mention now and then, but aside from John McCain, few are saying much.

For example, here are the current "World" items from Google:

Top Stories
Sirens, horns wail across China as country mourns earthquake victims - International Herald Tribune
AP BEIJING: Construction workers put down their tools, drivers stopped suddenly in the street, and rescuers briefly paused in their increasingly vain search for survivors amid the rubble of China's earthquake devastation.
Myanmar to let Asean neighbors help to coordinate aid - International Herald Tribune
By Seth Mydans BANGKOK: Myanmar agreed Monday to let its Southeast Asian neighbors help coordinate foreign relief assistance for cyclone victims, bending to international pressure to allow in aid, said George Yeo, foreign minister of Singapore.
Zimbabwe opposition accuses military over leader assassination plot - CNN International
(CNN) -- Zimbabwe's main opposition party has accused the government of President Robert Mugabe of orchestrating a plot to assassinate its leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
So. Africa fights anti-foreigner attacks - The Associated Press
REIGER PARK, South Africa (AP) - Police fired rubber bullets and made arrests Monday to try to quell outbursts of anti-foreigner violence in and around Johannesburg, and said the death toll had reached 22.
Bush’s Speech Prods Middle East Leaders - New York Times
By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG SHARM EL SHEIKH, Egypt - After basking in a showy celebration of America’s close ties with Israel, President Bush criticized other Middle East leaders on Sunday, prodding them to expand their economies, offer equal opportunity to ...
Iraq party: Punish US soldier who shot at Quran - CNN International
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq's most powerful Sunni Arab political party on Monday said a US soldier's desecration of the
The only thing about Iraq is a story about a soldier who is supposed to have used the Quran as a target. Hardly stuff of world-consequence.

Let's see, here is something from 3 months ago:

It has taken nine bloody and difficult months, but the deployment of 30,000 additional U.S. troops appears at last to have brought not just a lull in the sectarian fighting in Iraq, but the first tangible steps toward genuine political reconciliation.

Last week, the parliament passed a crucial package of legislation that reflects real compromise among the many factions on three of the thorniest issues that have bedeviled Iraq. First, a law requires that provincial elections be held by Oct. 1, and requires that a law spelling out the details on conducting the election be passed within 90 days.
Could it be that Nancy and Harry were just plain wrong? Could it be that George was just plain right? Horrors!

Was Iraq a convenient political distraction until something closer to home came up? Now we have the oil price issue... and refusal to allow more oil drilling and talk about new windfall profit taxes and restriction of the free market through mileage mandates.

Can it be that one party's agenda is simply to be against something until they get power?


Drive Oil Prices Up


Which of these is not a cause of high oil prices [you can pick more than one]?

  • Weak dollar from trade imbalances
  • Weak dollar from Federal Reserve lowering interest rates too far
  • Government restricting development of new domestic oil sources
  • Government process to approve building new domestic refineries
  • Political instability in oil producing countries
  • Commodity speculation
  • Failure to punitively tax oil companies
  • Automobile companies selling more SUVs [last decade]
  • Automobile companies selling less SUVs [this decade]
  • Customers buying more or less SUVs
  • Absence of a coherent energy policy
  • The competitive global marketplace
  • The absence of an economically viable alternative to oil
No, I'm not going to tell you.


We Have $4 ... Do We Hear $5


The way gasoline prices have risen, it is almost as if Sotheby's was setting them.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Armed Forces Day


Too often the "voices of reason"... the Code Pinks... forget one truth: our democracy and freedom exist because we have a military that allows it to exist. Sure, you can point to the Constitution and our laws and the foresight of our Founding Fathers, but in the end that Constitution, those laws, and our Founding Fathers would have vanished off the face of this earth without the dedication and sacrifice of our military.

Having once been a part of the mission above and having friends who were participants in other military organizations, Armed Forces Day remains a special day... even after more than 35 years. Yesterday, as I watched military helicopters and jets flying above our lake cottage in preparation for and participating in ceremonies, I knew that 35 years from now some other men and women will have similar thoughts.


Great Lakes Water


Friday afternoon, I went fishing on Lake Erie. We caught a lot of fish, just not the fish we wanted. But I was surprised what I saw when we got to Sterling State Park where the launch ramps were.

The water levels were back to normal. A couple of years ago, faced with the reality of man-made global warming, Lake Erie was about to dry up. The water was at least two feet below normal and the lake was inaccessible to some shoreline homes because the little water that was left was not navigable. The lake was doomed; the fish were doomed; only the polar bears were safe because they did not live in the area.

Then one of those "oops" things happened. The Pacific Ocean circulation changed. The sun became eerily quiet. Snow covered the Great Lakes area in near-record amounts. Global warming went away for awhile... despite the best effort of the models to keep it here. We've had a cold, miserable spring for the most part. Friday was nice and pleasant, but still cooler than normal... sweatshirts covered by jackets weather. The debate was over, but the climate wasn't going along with the "winners."

So, Lake Erie came back; the fish were not doomed; only the polar bears were threatened... and now their growing population is protected by a designation that doesn't mean much of anything to anyone.

All is well with the world... except we didn't catch the fish we wanted.

There's always Costco.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Associated Press Snarky Reporting Of The Day


Liz Sidoti / Associated Press

Republican John McCain declared for the first time Thursday that he believes the Iraq war can be won by 2013.

The Republican presidential contender, in a mystical speech in Columbus, Ohio, also envisioned Osama bin Laden dead or captured, and Americans with the choice of paying a simple flat tax or following their standard 1040 form.
Mystical? Maybe "improbable" or "hopeful for change," but I'm not sure where the mystical part comes from. Perhaps the forum was dimly lit with candles.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Rejecting Even More Increases In The Supply Of Oil


Our Democrat-led Congress is going to protect us from those evil oil companies that are causing so much economic pain from high gasoline prices.

Wednesday, I posted an email from Sen. Levin [D-MI] outlining the four steps that he recommends, as well as an article about how the Democrat-led Senate rejected a plan to expand drilling for oil offshore. Now the Democrats have shot down a proposal to allow development of vast tracts of oil shale. [HT]

Senate panel retains oil-shale moratorium
By M.E. Sprengelmeyer, Rocky Mountain News (Contact)
Originally published 03:20 p.m., May 15, 2008
Updated 03:21 p.m., May 15, 2008

The Senate Appropriations Committee today narrowly defeated Sen. Wayne Allard's attempt to end a moratorium related to oil shale development in Colorado.

It was a big day for Colorado energy issues on Capitol Hill as Gov. Bill Ritter testified before a senate committee asking lawmakers to move cautiously on oil-shale development until more is known about the environmental impact and other issues.

Meanwhile downstairs, the appropriations committee was considering a massive Emergency Supplemental Spending Bill. Allard, a member of the committee, attempted to insert an amendment that would reverse the moratorium that lawmakers approved late last year.

The moratorium prevents the Department of Interior from issuing regulations so that oil companies can move forward on oil-shale projects in Colorado and Utah. Allard said the moratorium has left uncertainties at a time when companies need to move forward and in the long term make the United States more energy independent.

"If we are really serious about reducing pain at the pump, this is a vote that would make a difference in people's lives," Allard argued.

But in a 14-15 vote, the committee spilt strictly on party lines and rejected the amendment.

One of the key votes was from Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who said Sen. Ken Salazar had urged her to reject the amendment even though she personally thinks the moratorium on oil-shale development is unjust.

Landrieu vowed to try to lift the moratorium when the large appropriations bill reaches the floor of the U.S. Senate in coming weeks.

Careful there Democrats, one of your own is trying to express some honesty in this whole oil production/gas prices issue.
But it appears the Democrats are safe: you can fool enough people enough of the time.
It appears they are more concerned about polar bears than humans.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

University Model High School


At the end of January and the beginning of February, I wrote a series about smaller schools and the concept of a "university model" for high schools.

In McNeil, Texas... a suburb of Austin... there is a newer, larger high school that has a small engineering "college" and a health science "college" within the larger high school "university." This is what I was proposing, although my proposal was more extensive; the entire high school would be composed of these "colleges."

Click on this link to read about what McNeil has done. Then click on "School Info" when you are at the site.
I guess Texas must be one of those few places where U.S. kids still want to be engineers instead of importers or working in the "service industry."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008



The same political thinking that says increasing the supply of oil will not impact the cost of oil has now run amok and says that despite an increasing polar bear population, the bears are "threatened."

It seems that despite the fact that even though NASA pointed out that the fluke melting of the northern polar ice was due to unusual winds and not global warming, politicians chose to believe it was caused by global warming. It seems that despite the fact that global polar ice has returned to "normal" levels, politicians believe the bears are somehow threatened by those abnormal winds from the past. It seems that despite the fact that global temperatures have been declining for a decade that politicians believe the opposite has happened.

Taken together, these collective beliefs form the basis of the new polar bear mythology.
Could it be that politicians are getting their information from the same place that led a certain candidate for president to believe there are 57 states? Certainly, one of them is the state of confusion. [Okay, I'll guess that he was trying to say... "I've been to fifty... forty-seven states..." and just "mis-spoke."]

I guess "mis-speaking" is better than "mis-thinking."
The one good thing that may come of this is that polar bears can continue to eat all of those cute seal pups so that the Canadians don't have to go out on all of that cold ice and club those critters to death to keep the seal population under control. And it may be better for the seals to be eaten by a bear or killer whale. We should have a Congressional study on that.

Notice all of that ice melting in the background? Must be the poor bear's last supper.


Increasing Supply Of Oil Rejected


The following email and news article may give you an idea of what we are facing when politicians decide that the government should fiddle with the economic law of supply and demand.

From Sen. Carl Levin:

I want to share with you a speech I gave in the Senate today regarding soaring energy prices. Record high gas and diesel prices have reverberated throughout our economy, hitting the pocketbooks of ordinary Americans and inflating the price of everything from food to manufactured goods. Action is clearly needed to combat these skyrocketing energy prices which are a threat to our economic and national security.

During the past few years, both as Chairman and as Ranking Member and of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), I have led a number of investigations examining U.S. energy markets and rapidly rising oil and gasoline prices. As a result of these investigations, I have been advocating a number of measures to address the rampant speculation and lack of regulation of energy markets, which have greatly contributed to the recent run-up in fuel prices.
Four specific policies should be immediately adopted to combat the absurd prices Americans are paying at the pump. These policies are contained in the Consumer-First Energy Act of 2008 (S.2991), which was introduced by Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) on May 7, 2008. I am an original cosponsor of this important legislation.

First, we need to put a cop back on the beat in all energy markets that affect the U.S. in order to prevent the excessive speculation and price manipulation that drives up the price of a barrel of oil. The trading of contracts for the future delivery of oil and gas has increased six-fold since 2001. Much of this increase can be attributed to speculators, who buy and sell futures contracts for crude oil and leverage them just to make a profit, creating an artificial “paper demand” that does not accurately reflect actual market conditions. While the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the main federal regulator charged with policing U.S. energy commodity markets, has the authority to regulate certain commodity markets, it cannot police one of the biggest energy markets due to the “Enron loophole,” a provision in law that exempts electronic energy exchanges from government oversight. In September 2007, I introduced legislation (S.2058) that would close the Enron loophole and regulate electronic energy markets. In December 2007, I was able to successfully work with my colleagues to insert language from S.2058 into the Farm Bill that was passed by the Senate on December 14, 2007 (H.R.2419). Last week, the House and Senate conferees on the Farm Bill reached agreement to include our legislation in the final Farm Bill. I am hopeful that Congress will finally pass this important legislation – and the President will sign it – shortly.

The Consumer-First Energy Act contains a provision to close another loophole in the regulation of our energy markets. One of the key energy commodity markets for U.S. crude oil, gasoline, and heating oil is now located in London, outside the reach of U.S. regulators. This means that traders can avoid our government’s limits on speculation and reporting requirements by using the London exchange. The Consumer-First Energy Act includes a provision to stop rampant speculation and increase our access to timely and important trading information and ensure that there is adequate market oversight of the trading of U.S. energy commodities no matter where the trading occurs. This provision is so important that I have introduced this provision as a separate bill, S. 2995.

Another policy that should be implemented to help alleviate some of the upward pressure on oil prices is
the suspension of the filling of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). In 2003, the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released a report showing that the Bush Administration’s policy of placing large deposits of oil into the SPR was increasing prices but not overall U.S. energy security. For the past few years, over repeated objections from its own experts at the Department of Energy (DOE), the Administration has continued to fill the SPR regardless of the price of oil or market conditions. Given the fact that the SPR is more than 95 percent full, it makes little sense to be filling the SPR when the price of a barrel of oil is hitting record highs on a daily basis. That is why I have co-sponsored a bill (S.2598) to suspend the SPR fill for one year, or until prices fall to more acceptable levels, whichever comes first. Passing this legislation will save the taxpayers money and relieve some of the pressure on the oil markets that is driving prices relentlessly higher.

While closing the Enron loophole and temporarily stopping the filling of the SPR will help lower energy prices in the near-term, we need to develop a long-term, comprehensive energy plan to decrease our reliance on oil. By
investing in new technologies and alternative energy sources, we will significantly reduce our dependence on foreign oil. I have long been a supporter of advanced automotive technologies such as hybrid electric, advanced batteries, hydrogen and fuel cells and promoted development of these technologies through federal research and development and through joint government-industry partnerships. The federal government must do its part first to develop these technologies so that they will then in turn be within reach of the American public.

Finally, while the American consumer is increasingly burdened by record prices at the pump, major oil companies have been reporting record-breaking profits. Instead of utilizing these windfall profits to develop new technologies or boost production, these companies have been buying back shares to inflate their earnings and reap further profits.
I have supported windfall profits taxes in the past, and I will continue to support them in order to encourage the sensible use of oil company resources.

These four common sense policies could do a great deal to lower energy prices and alleviate some of the pressure the average American is feeling in this difficult economy. If you would like to learn more about the Consumer-First Energy Act, or view my statement on actions we should take to lower oil and gas prices, I encourage you to click on the following link <>.

Carl Levin

Let me summarize the four policy points proposed by the senator:
  1. Increase regulation on oil trading
  2. Suspend filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve
  3. Focus on alternative energy
  4. Implement a windfall profits tax
Now let's look at a UPI article:
WASHINGTON, May 13 (UPI) -- The U.S. Senate Tuesday rejected an attempt to expand offshore oil and gas drilling to allow the states to generate revenue.

The Republican-backed proposal would have allowed states to drill off their coasts and share revenues with the federal government, the (Newport News, Va.) Daily Press reported.

The amendment would have amended a federal ban prohibiting offshore drilling along most coastal states, the newspaper said.

The state proposal was packaged with other controversial measures, including drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The amendment was rejected on a mostly party-line vote of 42 to 56.

Sen. David Vitter, R-La., urged his colleagues to support the measure, noting that his home state of Louisiana has profited from offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

"We need to expand on that policy to dramatically increase our domestic energy production," he said.

But Democrats said an expansion of offshore drilling would do little to reduce Americans' dependence on foreign oil.

"We can't drill our way out of this problem," said Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill. "We can't drill our way to lower gas prices."

[HT Redneck's Revenge]

Let me summarize that for you:
  1. A proposal to increase the supply of domestic oil and allowing states to benefit from that was rejected along political party lines.
  2. Democrats view increasing the supply of oil as irrelevant to the price of gasoline.
Now, let me interpret that for you:
  1. The government must rigidly control the actions of the marketplace
  2. The government must rigidly control supply
I seem to recall a similar statement of political philosophy from the past.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

John McCain Supports The Idea That Climate Variation Is Bad


Forget that John McCain has accepted the idea the human activity is creating global climate variation... the correct term... variation. Forget the economic consequences of limiting our energy supplies and use as populations increase. Forget the absurdities of the "cap and trade" scam for CO2 where no real reduction of CO2 actually occurs. Forget the reality that cold kills far more humans than heat.

John McCain has decided to jump on the "Change Is Bad" bandwagon.
If earth's climate should warm up somewhat, what will happen is:
  • There will be fewer deaths from cold and cold-related illnesses [which are far more than heat and heat-related illnesses]
  • Growing seasons and ranges for crops will expand over significant portions of the earth
  • Habitable ranges for most species will expand
  • Less energy will be expended to heat homes and businesses along with a significant reduction [although an unimportant one] in CO2 production
And, should CO2 actually continue to increase, a significant benefit will accrue to most plant life.

What will not happen is:
  • Immediate melting of the polar ice caps [most of the ice is in Antarctica which will hardly notice the difference between -100° and -98°] resulting in the inundation of coastal areas
  • Loss of medical knowledge to treat warmth-related illnesses
  • Loss of technical knowledge to run air-conditioning systems for a slightly longer period
John McCain has shown that he is no more a clear and in-depth thinker on this issue than either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. John McCain has shown that he is clearly a political thinker who will jump on what he perceives to be a popular bandwagon in the hopes of garnering a few more votes.
Let's just say if choosing the next president came down to the position taken on climate variation, my vote would be "none of the above."
Fortunately, there may be a few other issues to find someone for whom to vote.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Gasoline Tax Irrationality


One of the few rational taxes is that placed on gasoline to fund building and maintenance of public highways and bridges... as long as those funds are not diverted elsewhere.

Politicians, however, like to play fast and loose with laws, taxes, regulations, and mandates. When economic realities come home to roost, like dying chickens, politicians see an opportunity to play the sly fox and pick off some of those economic realities as political opportunities.

Here in Michigan and in Washington, D.C., our politicians see the economic reality of high gasoline prices as an opportunity to score some political points by offering to sacrifice the gasoline tax "chicken" for the summer. People are uncomfortable with the results of political policies that have restricted oil drilling and refinery building ... higher gasoline prices, so let's pretend that we are doing something to solve the problem created by those policies.
Politicians love to have it both ways. They want to prove their worth by passing laws, taxes, regulations and mandates... and then they want to prove their worth by "helping" their constituents avoid the economic penalties of their manipulations.

The real world doesn't work that way.


Family Values


The political issue of family values usually conjures the image of uptight, white, conservatives who are homophobic and racist... at least in the minds of some people. But Detroit's mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, shows that family values are something everyone can share. Read more.

Doesn't that just warm your heart?


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Much Hotter Than Normal April... Somewhere


I submit two charts for your examination:

According to the top chart, temperatures in southeastern Michigan were about 4° F above normal. Yet, tracking the month for this suburban Detroit location revealed a variance of plus 1.6°.

I'm not complaining about the weather we had, especially after the really nasty February and March.

But these inconsistencies continue to confuse me. Perhaps the weather monitoring station NOAA uses for this area is next to the jet tarmac at Metro Airport.


Happy Mothers Day


My mother soon will be 91 and my wife's mother is 86. That means that we have only a few years left to express our appreciation directly to them. We don't wait for a special day to let them know that we love them. But it is always nice to have another excuse to send them a gift and a card.

No one really can know how much our mothers have contributed to our lives, how much they have sacrificed, how much they have done. Yet, being a parent makes one understand that mothers never think about that. Their children are their lives and future and nothing is more important to them.

Children appreciate and love their mothers, but the relationship can never be equal or totally reciprocal... nature never designed it to be that way.

We give special honor to our mothers this day. By our actions, we can honor them every day.


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Automobile Companies' Mandates To Government


Suppose automobile companies had the opportunity to establish mandates that the Federal government had to follow and fund without recourse. What might these mandates be?

  • Government must fund all research required to meet government mandates
  • Government must make any technological advances, that allow government mandates to be met, available without licensing fees or restrictions regardless of patents or other legal protections
  • Governments must delay the implementation of any mandate if it conflicts with another mandate due to lack of implementable technologies
  • Government must guarantee the supply of components, used in the technologies required to meet government mandates, will be available to meet the demand
  • Government must guarantee that each vehicle built to meet government mandates can be sold at a profit
  • Government must guarantee that once a technology is used to meet government mandates there will be complete legal protection for the automobile companies for the use of that technology
You can probably come up with several of your own.
The government now expects the automobile companies to meet government mandates at no cost to the government, no risk to the government, and to pay taxes to the government if any profits are made. The point is that if the mandate process were reversed, automobile companies would have no burden for meeting government mandates, incur no risk for the use of technologies needed to meet government mandates, and would be guaranteed reasonable profits for producing the vehicles that meet government mandates.
But that's unreasonable. Nowhere does a free market provide such protection and guarantees.
Who said anything about a free market?

Can"t Find It?

Use the SEARCH BLOG feature at the upper left. For example, try "Global Warming".

You can also use the "LABELS" below or at the end of each post to find related posts.

Blog Archive

Cost of Gasoline - Enter Your Zipcode or Click on Map

CO2 Cap and Trade

There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.
Henry Louis Mencken (1880–1956)
“The Divine Afflatus,” A Mencken Chrestomathy, chapter 25, p. 443 (1949)
... and one could add "not all human problems really are."
It was beautiful and simple, as truly great swindles are.
- O. Henry
... The Government is on course for an embarrassing showdown with the European Union, business groups and environmental charities after refusing to guarantee that billions of pounds of revenue it stands to earn from carbon-permit trading will be spent on combating climate change.
The Independent (UK)

Tracking Interest Rates

Tracking Interest Rates


SEARCH BLOG: FEDERAL RESERVE for full versions... or use the Blog Archive pulldown menu.

February 3, 2006
Go back to 1999-2000 and see what the Fed did. They are following the same pattern for 2005-06. If it ain't broke, the Fed will fix it... and good!
August 29, 2006 The Federal Reserve always acts on old information... and is the only cause of U.S. recessions.
December 5, 2006 Last spring I wrote about what I saw to be a sharp downturn in the economy in the "rustbelt" states, particularly Michigan.
March 28, 2007
The Federal Reserve sees no need to cut interest rates in the light of adverse recent economic data, Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday.
The Fed chairman said ”to date, the incoming data have supported the view that the current stance of policy is likely to foster sustainable economic growth and a gradual ebbing in core inflation”.

July 21, 2007 My guess is that if there is an interest rate change, a cut is more likely than an increase. The key variables to be watching at this point are real estate prices and the inventory of unsold homes.
August 11, 2007 I suspect that within 6 months the Federal Reserve will be forced to lower interest rates before housing becomes a black hole.
September 11, 2007 It only means that the overall process has flaws guaranteeing it will be slow in responding to changes in the economy... and tend to over-react as a result.
September 18, 2007 I think a 4% rate is really what is needed to turn the economy back on the right course. The rate may not get there, but more cuts will be needed with employment rates down and foreclosure rates up.
October 25, 2007 How long will it be before I will be able to write: "The Federal Reserve lowered its lending rate to 4% in response to the collapse of the U.S. housing market and massive numbers of foreclosures that threaten the banking and mortgage sectors."
"Should the elevated turbulence persist, it would increase the possibility of further tightening in financial conditions for households and businesses," he said.

"Uncertainties about the economic outlook are unusually high right now," he said. "These uncertainties require flexible and pragmatic policymaking -- nimble is the adjective I used a few weeks ago."

December 11, 2007 Somehow the Fed misses the obvious.
[Image from:]
December 13, 2007 [from The Christian Science Monitor]
"The odds of a recession are now above 50 percent," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's "We are right on the edge of a recession in part because of the Fed's reluctance to reduce interest rates more aggressively." [see my comments of September 11]
January 7, 2008 The real problem now is that consumers can't rescue the economy and manufacturing, which is already weakening, will continue to weaken. We've gutted the forces that could avoid a downturn. The question is not whether there will be a recession, but can it be dampened sufficiently so that it is very short.
January 11, 2008 This is death by a thousand cuts.
January 13, 2008 [N.Y. Times]
“The question is not whether we will have a recession, but how deep and prolonged it will be,” said David Rosenberg, the chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch. “Even if the Fed’s moves are going to work, it will not show up until the later part of 2008 or 2009.
January 17, 2008 A few days ago, Anna Schwartz, nonagenarian economist, implicated the Federal Reserve as the cause of the present lending crisis [from the Telegraph - UK]:
The high priestess of US monetarism - a revered figure at the Fed - says the central bank is itself the chief cause of the credit bubble, and now seems stunned as the consequences of its own actions engulf the financial system. "The new group at the Fed is not equal to the problem that faces it," she says, daring to utter a thought that fellow critics mostly utter sotto voce.
January 22, 2008 The cut has become infected and a limb is in danger. Ben Bernanke is panicking and the Fed has its emergency triage team cutting rates... this time by 3/4%. ...

What should the Federal Reserve do now? Step back... and don't be so anxious to raise rates at the first sign of economic improvement.
Individuals and businesses need stability in their financial cost structures so that they can plan effectively and keep their ships afloat. Wildly fluctuating rates... regardless of what the absolute levels are... create problems. Either too much spending or too much fear. It's just not that difficult to comprehend. Why has it been so difficult for the Fed?

About Me

My photo
Michigan, United States
Air Force (SAC) captain 1968-72. Retired after 35 years of business and logistical planning, including running a small business. Two sons with advanced degrees; one with a business and pre-law degree. Beautiful wife who has put up with me for 4 decades. Education: B.A. (Sociology major; minors in philosopy, English literature, and German) M.S. Operations Management (like a mixture of an MBA with logistical planning)