Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Weekly Column:
Conflicting Scientific Data Fuels Global Warming Debate

Contrary to the preponderance of media coverage, manmade global warming is anything but a scientific certainty. Making policy on scientific uncertainty is a foolish and unsupportable exercise fraught with danger for our way of life.

Read the complete column at American Sentinel.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Obama Facing International Challenges on Day One

Continued sniper-like rocket attacks into Israel have finally pushed the Israelis to the breaking point, triggering retribution with an air attack against Hamas. The BBC reports:

Israeli F-16 bombers have pounded key targets across the Gaza Strip, killing more than 200 people, local medics say.

Most of those killed were policemen in the Hamas militant movement, which controls Gaza, but women and children also died, the Gaza officials said.

About 700 others were wounded, as missiles struck security compounds and militant bases, the officials said.

Israeli PM Ehud Olmert said the operation "may take some time"- but he pledged to avoid a humanitarian crisis.

"It's not going to last a few days,'' he said in a televised statement, flanked by Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

Israel said it was responding to an escalation in rocket attacks from Gaza and would bomb "as long as necessary."

Tensions along the India/Pakistan border have heightened, as Pakistan redeploys thousands of troops there from the tribal areas near Afghanistan, raising tensions fired by the Mumbai terror attacks.

The AP reports:

The move was expected to frustrate the United States, which has been pushing Pakistan to step up its fight against al-Qaida and Taliban militants near the Afghan border.

India has blamed Pakistani-based militants for last month's siege on its financial capital, which killed 164 people and has provoked an increasingly bitter war of words between nuclear-armed neighbors that have fought three wars in 60 years.

Afghanistan, the two officials said. They said elements of the army's 14th Infantry Division were being redeployed to the towns of Kasur and Sialkot, close to the Indian border.

The military began the troop movement Thursday and plans to shift a total of 20,000 soldiers, they said without providing a time frame.

Since both India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons; this situation could get tricky.

Just how Barack Obama will deal with these delicate and dangerous situations is, like Mr. Obama himself, a big question mark. Will he follow through on his pledge to sit down with foreign leaders, and if so, who will he talk to first? Will he continue America’s traditional defense of Israel? How will he respond to Pakistan’s abandoning efforts to stifle terrorist activity in favor of threatening India on the other side of the country?

Many questions exist. The insightful Thomas Sowell comments: “People who are impressed by how many of Barack Obama's advisors have Ivy League degrees seem not to remember how many people with Ivy League degrees mismanaged the Vietnam war and how many people with Ivy League degrees mismanaged economic policy during the Great Depression of the 1930s.”

Mr. Sowell is not apparently persuaded that these advisors understand the problems, or know how to deal with them. And his confidence in the President-to-Be isn’t much comfort, either: “Ronald Reagan had a vision of America. Barack Obama has a vision of Barack Obama,” he wrote.

It is situation like these that make it important that the President has demonstrated an ability to understand them and respond appropriately.

Barack Obama’s rhetorical abilities are useless against the problems in the Middle East. Let’s hope there are other tools in his bag that can be useful.

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SUPCO to Conference on Citizenship Again

Another session scheduled on the Obama citizenship issue.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Weekly Column: UAW a Major Factor in the Big Three’s Problems

Several years ago U.S. automakers were profitable and life was good. But times have changed, and nearly everybody realizes the UAW’s sweet contract is having substantial negative effects on the industry.

Read the entire article at American Sentinel

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Where Not to Be on January 20th

I’m not a fan of Barack Obama, so there is no reason for me to attend the inauguration on January 20, other than the historic nature of inaugurating the first black, or half-black, President of the United States.

But whatever motivation I might have had to attend this historic event has been buried by all the reasons not to, reasons so numerous that Washington, DC and the surrounding environs are nowhere near the top of my list of “Places I’d Like to Be on January 20th,” even though two daughters and five grandchildren live nearby.

The largest crowd to attend an inauguration was 1.2 million in 1965 to see Lyndon Baines Johnson sworn in. The predictions for this one are up to five million, more than four times as many people as attended Johnson’s inaugural.

Only the 240,000 people with tickets will be able to really attend the swearing-in, and will flank the steps of the Capitol to watch Mr. Obama take the oath at around noon eastern time. The other thousands or millions will be crammed into the National Mall.

The Washington Post reported that officials are preparing for far fewer than the five million maximum predicted, expecting only 1.5 million for the parade route and the Mall area, and have ordered only 5,000 porta-potties to handle the crowd. That could be a critical error if the upper predictions are reached. At 1.5 million people, that’s one porta-potty for every 300 people, and at an average of three minutes a visit means that if you are #300 for a porta-potty, you will have a 15-hour wait. Ouch!

Another report said that the District of Columbia is preparing for 2.5 to three million people, and City officials have said they are expecting about 10,000 tour buses to bring groups to the inauguration. Officials may close the Southeast-Southwest Freeway to accommodate bus parking, and that would require the closing of the Roosevelt and 14th Street bridges, major arteries for traffic across the Potomac River between D.C. and Virginia, said City Administrator Dan Tangherlini. Can you spell “gridlock?”

If you aren’t able to stay within walking distance to the goings on, imagine trying to drive in or into the District that Tuesday, or to ride the Metro.

Where are 5,000,000 people going to stay? Or even 1.5 million? It’s hard to find an exact number of hotel rooms in the area, but one source said there were 478 hotels. Assuming each one had 200 rooms, that’s less than 100,000 rooms, and that means that thousands of people will not be staying in hotel rooms or other newly-found rental rooms in and close to DC. They will have to stay as much as an hour or two away, and drive or ride into town, or perhaps become homeless for a few days.

The demands on security forces are horrendous, and there is a long, long list of things people normally carry with them that won’t be allowed, in addition to the predictable items such as firearms, explosives and other weapons. Such things as chairs, umbrellas, jewelry (for security scanning purposes), baby strollers or bicycles, packages, backpacks and duffle bags, suitcases, coolers, thermoses, thermal or glass containers, alcoholic beverages, signs and posters are verboten.

During the ceremonies, those on the Mall are going to be shoulder to shoulder, and moving around won’t be easy. They will have to stand or sit on the ground for hours. Where will they get food? How will they navigate to a porta-potty?

All in all, it sounds pretty unpleasant, and unless you enjoy misery, going to the inauguration of Barack Obama is not on your list, either.

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Labor Unions as Villains

Back in the days when employers abused and took advantage of workers, worker organizations were a necessity. Eventually, labor unions emerged and began representing the interests of workers, equalizing them with their employers.

That occurred a long time ago, and since, and to some degree as a result, labor laws have been written that codify the fair treatment that unions once championed alone.

Over the last 20 or so years participation by workers in labor unions has declined substantially, and with good reason: The price of union membership no longer benefits the worker like it used to, because of improvements in employer attitudes, improvements in labor law, and because many states have laws in effect that allow people to work in union shops without joining a union if they so choose.

So, a good argument can be made that unions have outlived their usefulness; they are dinosaurs of a bygone era. Naturally, union bosses and organizations do not want to admit this, and will not just go silently into the night. But their excesses are becoming increasingly unpopular, and the idiocy of some of their practices is beginning to wear thin on the population at large.

For example, as mechanization moved into the auto industry the United Auto Workers managed to get automakers to agree to a monstrosity called a “jobs bank” to protect the jobs of its members who were no longer needed to build cars. This surreal mechanism pays nearly 15,000 workers to not build cars while receiving wages and benefits that often reach $100,000 or more per worker per year. They show up at the plant, or sometimes do volunteer jobs outside the factory, or even take classes, but they don’t build cars. All of the costs of this absurdity help raise the cost of every vehicle produced by the Big Three automakers, adding hundreds of dollars to the cost of your vehicle(s).

Some of the problems involve what are referred to as “work rules.”

Work rules often, perhaps mostly, are designed for the sole purpose of preserving union jobs and creating even more of them. They are often inefficient and even counter–productive.

Here’s one example: My stepfather-in-law once worked in a unionized chemical firm. He told the story about the repair crews employed there. The crews had a supervisor, a pipefitter, an electrician, a carpenter and one other specialist. When a problem arose, a repair crew was dispatched. Didn’t matter whether it was a plumbing problem, an electrical problem or whatever specific problem might exist, a repair crew was assigned to fix it.

He said that often four of the five crew members sat on their butts while one of the others fixed the problem. Why pay one guy to work when you can pay five for the same work?

When the problem was more than the electrician could handle, if he needed someone to hold wires or handle tools, for example, the others were not allowed to assist, another repair crew was summoned, and the two electricians fixed the problem while eight people twiddled their thumbs.

Another incident reported by a manager told of a situation where his company had neglected to ship 100 screws needed in a shipment. He received the call, and instead of being able to go to the bin where the screws lay in labeled bins, he had to find the supervisor wandering the floor in the 5,000 square foot plant, wait for the supervisor to get around to him, tell him what he needed, wait until the supervisor located someone in the correct labor category for getting screws out of storage bins, wait for the worker to count out the screws, then wait while the supervisor found an employee who was in the correct labor category to package the screws, and then deliver the package not to the supervisor, who was standing there, but to the shipping department, where another employee prepared the package for shipment.

A task the manager could have performed by himself in 20 minutes took three hours and involved five people.

Now, there are situations where people who are knowledgeable about wiring need to be the ones doing wiring work because of safety concerns; and there are situations where a worker who knows one screw from another needs to be the one who gets the right screw for the customer, but not in every instance, and maybe lots of instances. But a work rule is a work rule, and if it keeps nine people hired instead of eight or six, then from the union’s point of view, it is a good rule.

Part of the Big Three’s problems are caused by its union, and along with management inadequacies, this one has to be fixed, too.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

'Tis the Season to Save Money!

Energy Saving Tips (Courtesy of JVR @ API)

Holiday Travel Tips
(Source fuel saving tips)

• Keep your tires properly inflated. Underinflated tires can decrease fuel economy by up to one mile per gallon.
• Slow down. The faster you drive, the more gasoline your car uses. Driving at 55 miles per hour rather than 65 miles per hour reduces fuel economy by about two miles per gallon.
• Avoid jackrabbit starts. Abrupt starts require about twice as much gasoline as gradual starts.
• Pace your driving. Unnecessary speedups, slowdowns and stops can decrease fuel economy by up to two miles per gallon. Stay alert and drive steadily, not erratically. Keep a reasonable, safe distance from the car ahead of you and anticipate traffic conditions.

Cooking Tips
(Source: California Energy Commission)

• Holiday ham and turkey are usually roasted for hours. Since it’s a long, slow cook, there is no need to preheat your oven, even when the recipe suggests it. In fact, unless you’re baking breads or pastries, you may not need to preheat the oven at all.
• Don’t open the oven door to sneak a peek at what is cooking inside. Instead, use the oven light to check the cooking status through the oven window. Opening the oven door can lower the oven
temperature by as much as 25 degrees, which increases cooking time and wastes energy.
• As long as your oven is on, cook several holiday favorites at the same time.
• When using your stove, match the size of the pan to the heating element. More heat will get to the pan and less will be lost to the surrounding air. Believe it or not, a six-inch pan on an eight-inch burner will waste over 40 percent of the energy!

How to Save Electricity Used by Holiday Lights
(Source : Alliance to Save Energy)

• Turn off your holiday lights before you go to bed, or consider installing timers to reduce the amount of time your holiday lights are on. Just 10 strands lit for 13 hours a day can add more than $50 to a monthly energy bill.
• Use energy-efficient LED holiday lights, which use 10 percent of the energy of mini lights.

Tips to Save Energy with Electronics
(Source : Department of Energy)

• In the average home, 75% of the electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off. This can be avoided by unplugging the appliance or using a power strip and using the switch on the power strip to cut all power to the appliance.
• For new holiday electronics gifts, unplug battery chargers when the batteries are fully charged or the chargers are not in use.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Weekly Column: Distorting History and Current Events for Fun and Profit

Knowing the truth about what goes on in the United States today is difficult because our media is increasingly biased and often dishonest. As it turns out, American history textbooks, both old and new, are inaccurate and biased, too, and some of what we thought we knew is false.

Read the complete column at American Sentinel.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Reality Dawns on Obama

It is interesting to watch Barack Obama as reality sets in.

Even as he creates a new government office, the Office of the President-Elect, and begins delivering weekly addresses to the nation, evidence abounds that the about-to-be-President-Elect—it’s not official until the Electoral College votes Monday, December 15—has changed his perspective on life in the United States.

It may be no more than that Mr. Obama knew all along that his campaign rhetoric was nothing more than, well, campaign rhetoric, and he is now doing what he planned all along to do. Or, it may be that circumstances dictate a different approach to governing than the one he really believes in.

Certainly, with only a few exceptions his appointments to date are not what the liberal base that so strongly supported him expected, and have been so off the liberal course that they have some conservative and Republican support.

No doubt he realizes now that he is in the national security loop just how serious the threats and the circumstances really are. Perhaps he understands that closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility is rife with problems, not least among them what to do with the dangerous terrorists housed there. No doubt he has no desire to be the president that caused them to be released into the United States, or to be put in a position to attack Americans.

Now that the chickens are coming home to roost from his past and present alliances with strange Chicago characters and other oddballs, even his supporters in the mainstream media are not going to be able to ignore these connections.

Things have changed a lot since before November 4.

I think Barack Obama is an intelligent being. His street smarts, however, had been overwhelmed by an enormous ego, magnified still further by millions of fawning fans who think he really is The One. But reality has great sobering powers, and Barack Obama is smart enough to pay attention, I believe, and I hope.

My guess is that reality has taken hold and he understands that governing is a different ballgame than running for office, and he understands that, at least for the foreseeable future, the leftist ideals he espoused in the campaign are off the table.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

BBC: Indian navy captures 23 pirates

It’s good to see these guys starting to get what’s coming to them, as the BBC reports:

The Indian navy says it has arrested 23 Somali and Yemeni pirates who tried to storm a ship in the Gulf of Aden.

A navy spokesman said it had responded to a mayday call from MV Gibe, flying under the Ethiopian flag.

Several countries have warships patrolling the gulf amid growing international concern about piracy.

Meanwhile, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said better intelligence was needed for a land attack on pirate bases to be considered.

Mr Gates, speaking at a security conference in Bahrain, also called for shipping companies to do more to protect their vessels travelling through the Arabian Sean and Indian Ocean.

Piracy in the Gulf is quite lucrative, which is of course why the pirates are there. A concerted effort to take it to the pirates will likely dampen the enthusiasm of at least some of them, and perhaps result in the deaths of the rest.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My Holiday Wish for You

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

And a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year of 2009, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great (not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country or is the only “America” in the Western Hemisphere), and without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith, or sexual preference of the wishee.

Fine print: By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for her/himself or others, and is void where prohibited by law, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Tuesday Column:
Satisfying future energy needs could also help improve the economy

In 2006 the Energy Information Administration predicted that by 2030 energy needs in the United States will increase by 19 percent, and global needs will increase by 50 percent.

The EIA’s American Energy Outlook says further that even with enormous increases in ethanol (328%) and other biomass fuels (147%) the U.S. still will require more coal, more oil and more natural gas for energy needs over the next 22 years, with more than half of all energy being provided by oil and natural gas. This increased demand will require roughly two million additional barrels of oil per day and an additional one trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year.

Even the most optimistic estimates say it will take years before alternative energy sources can be developed sufficiently to make an appreciable difference in the overall energy picture, so the message being shouted loud and clear by the AEO is that despite all the talk of hope and change during the presidential campaign, the sources we use to produce energy aren’t going to change much anytime soon, so the United States has to find new domestic sources of oil and natural gas to bridge the gap.

According to the EIA, more than 90 percent of the oil and natural gas resources in the Pacific are within 50 miles of the shore, and that area contains enough resources to produce an extra two million barrels per day of oil for 24 years and an extra one trillion cubic feet of natural gas for 76 years, just what the doctor ordered.

Given that information, how does President-Elect Barack Obama’s stated positions on carbon fuel use and the points in his energy policy favoring so-called “green” energy sources square up?

Among those points are the following:

* Cut US oil consumption within 10 years equal to the amount currently imported from the Middle East and Venezuela;

* Require 10 percent of the nation’s electricity to come from renewable energy sources like wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass by 2012, and 25 percent by 2025;

* Establish an economy-wide cap-and-trade program that cuts U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by charging for every ton of carbon dioxide that goes into the sky from coal- and natural gas-fired US power plants.

* Give American taxpayers a $500 rebate check that will be funded by a windfall profits tax on big oil companies.

Even in better financial times, those goals are quite aggressive. Today, they are impractical.

Mr. Obama proposes raising taxes on those making more than $250,000—many of whom are small business owners who provide jobs for many thousands of Americans—so that he can “spread the wealth around” and give others a tax break, shifting more of the tax burden away from middle class earners to the highest income earners.

However, in raising taxes to that group and imposing a windfall profits tax on oil companies, Mr. Obama is targeting the goose that laid the golden egg. Raising taxes on small businesses that earn more than $250,000 provides a disincentive to them, and a windfall profits tax on oil and natural gas companies, at a time when oil and natural gas production must be increased, and also when the U.S. will have to rely on those resources to provide more than half of its energy needs, seems foolish.

Perhaps Mr. Obama knew during the campaign that the far left rhetoric he used on the campaign trail could not be transformed into policy once in office. Or if he didn’t know that, perhaps now that he’s getting the same briefings that President Bush gets he has awakened to the reality that the real world is vastly more complicated and a far more dangerous place than the world of “hope” and “change” he lived in as a candidate.

Taking the EIA’s prediction seriously, it would be a terrible mistake to re-impose the drilling ban or interfere in the development of these resources. While the ban has been lifted in some areas, the Eastern Gulf of Mexico still remains under a ban, preventing an estimated 3.7 billion barrels of oil and 21.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas from being collected. A sensible energy policy demands that when additional oil and natural gas are needed to meet demand, don’t block drilling in areas of known supplies.

Yet, some lawmakers are considering re-imposing the ban or placing arbitrary limits on offshore leasing close to the nation’s coastline.

However, Mr. Obama can kill two birds with one stone if he doesn’t let partisanship and ideology get in the way. The oil and natural gas industry directly employs 1.8 million Americans, with another four million jobs indirectly tied to the industry. And, exploration and production wages in 2006 were more than double the national average, so by opening up additional areas of the Outer Continental Shelf within the 50-mile limit to federal leasing, which will bring in billions of new dollars to the federal treasury, he can create high-paying jobs at a time when unemployment is rising.

New jobs paying good wages. Additional oil and natural gas supplies. That sounds like a winning proposition for the new president.

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Obama a U.S. Citizen? The Answer is Officially: Maybe

A swirling controversy over whether or not Sen. Barack Obama is a natural born citizen of the United States has been closed. Well, the controversy may not have been ended, but the legal challenges are over.

NewsMax reports that “the Supreme Court has turned down an emergency appeal from a New Jersey man who says President-elect Barack Obama is ineligible to be president because he was a British subject at birth. The court did not comment on its order Monday rejecting the call by Leo Donofrio of East Brunswick, N.J., to intervene in the presidential election.”

Perhaps the Court did the appropriate thing by refusing to review the circumstances of Mr. Obama’s birth, but in doing so it leaves open the question that could so easily have been answered by a hearing of the allegations and the facts.

Obama supporters believe those questioning the President-Elect’s citizenship are nutty conspiracy theorists; however the challenge to his citizenship contains some factors that on their face seem legitimate. Unlike the idiocy that the U.S. government engineered the 9-11 attacks, some of these factors have the ring of truth to them, and only a look at the actual Hawaiian birth certificate would satisfy doubters. The Supreme Court could demand that Hawaii make that document public.

Of course, nothing will satisfy some, but most people would be content if the Supreme Court settled the matter.

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Saturday, December 06, 2008

Email (lack of) Wisdom

I got this email today, as I’m certain others of you did, also.

“John Smith started the day early, having set his alarm clock (made in Japan) for 6 a.m. While his coffeepot (made in China) was perking, he shaved with his electric razor (made in Hong Kong). He put on a dress shirt (made in Sri Lanka), designer jeans (made in Singapore) and tennis shoes (made in Korea). After cooking his breakfast in his new electric skillet (made in India), he sat down with his calculator (made in Mexico) to see how much he could spend today. After setting his watch (made in Taiwan) to the radio (made in India), he got in his car (made in Germany), filled it with gas (from Saudi Arabia) and continued his search for a good paying job. At the end of yet another discouraging and fruitless day checking his computer (made in Malaysia), Joe decided to relax for a while. He put on his sandals (made in Brazil), poured himself a glass of wine (from France), and turned on his TV (made in Indonesia), and then wondered why he can't find a good paying job In America.”

There are dozens of similar emails floating around that in one way or another point out some shortcoming of the United States, the purpose of which is to cast blame at one segment of our society or another. This one implies that American businesses have abandoned the American worker in favor of cheaper foreign labor.

These messages are aimed at eliciting an emotional response, and deliberately ignore legitimate reasons for why Joe’s scenario is true.

For example, Joe made a conscious decision to buy a German car, choosing one of them over an American auto. Why did Joe do that? Maybe it’s because other countries are better at some things than America; German automobiles are some of the best in the world.

Joe also bought French wine instead of one of the hundreds of fine American wines.

Fault the writer of the email for faulty logic.

Maybe the reason we don’t make many of these products here any more is that we can’t make them economically any longer. After all, one thing Americans want is the lowest prices they can find, and businesses, in order to remain competitive must keep costs low.

The labor rate of many emerging economies is vastly lower than in the U.S. In Sri Lanka, for example, an assembly line worker may be thrilled to make $1 an hour, where in the U.S. by law a worker doing the same job must be paid at least $6.55 and hour, and if that worker belongs to a union, the rate would be substantially higher. Union workers make on average 12 percent more than workers doing the same work who are not unionized.

People seem not to realize that if businesses pay higher wages the price of their product has to go up commensurately. They also focus on the idea that all jobs should pay a “livable” wage, whatever that is.

But the economics of business operations turns that argument on its head. A job has a value that has nothing to do with the price of food, shelter and clothing; wages are based upon the value of the work done. Sweeping floors does not pay as much as brain surgery. Filing papers does not pay as much as designing a new computer chip. A person who runs a shift of carpenters does not earn as much as the person who runs the home building company.

Each business has to determine what it can afford to pay for different types of work, what it can afford to pay for raw materials, what it can afford to provide in the way of benefits and other factors, and still be able to price its product or service competitively, and still have something left over for investors.

Workers have the option to not take or keep a job if they believe they are underpaid or just don’t make enough to live on.

Businesses will try to find the best people to perform the various work they need. If a business pays low wages in all or some jobs, eventually they won’t be able to hire enough people, or good enough people to get the work done and will either have to pay more, or go out of business.

But if the American consumer is going to enjoy low- or acceptably-priced goods and services, businesses must be allowed to find the least expensive competent labor they can, even if that means going outside the U.S.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Weekly Published Column - A poorly informed electorate is dangerous to our democratic form of government

In a previous column I alluded to the pitiful lack of knowledge of some American voters about our government and how it works, and also of important campaign issues. I used as examples people who supported or voted for Barack Obama. I chose to highlight Obama supporters mostly because there were far more examples from them than McCain supporters.

For example, Zogby International, a respected professional polling organization, conducted a post-election poll of Obama voters, and two different programs broadcast examples which were picked by Internet sites and easily available to anyone looking for them. With the great enthusiasm for Mr. Obama in the media, one would expect to find plenty of similar examples about McCain supporters, but despite an honest effort, I have been unable to find similar examples of McCain supporters, with the exception of the woman who insisted that Mr. Obama was an Arab.

That said, and to be fair, ignorance about candidates and issues in elections, and basic knowledge of government and how it works is rampant within all ideological and political groups.

This statement is supported by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI), which surveyed college students in 2006 and 2007 to determine their level of civic learning. The ISI reported that “each year, approximately 14,000 freshmen and seniors at 50 schools nationwide were given a 60-question, multiple-choice exam on basic knowledge of America’s heritage. Both years, the students failed. The average freshman scored 51.7 percent the first year and 51.4 percent the next. The average senior scored 53.2 percent, then 54.2 percent. After all the time, effort, and money spent on college, students emerge no better off in understanding the fundamental features of American self-government.”

This year, in its third major study titled “Our Fading Heritage: Americans Fail a Basic Test on Their History and Institutions,” ISI broadened the survey to learn how this collegiate failure affects the general population. The survey posed 33 questions on things that high school graduates and new citizens are expected to know to a random sample of more than 2,500 American adults of all backgrounds. Respondents were also asked about their participation in civic life and about their attitudes toward issues of governance and other aspects of civic literacy.

The results are reason for serious concern:

Seventy-one percent of Americans failed the test, with an overall average score of 49 percent. Liberals scored 49 percent; conservatives scored 48 percent. Republicans scored 52 percent; Democrats scored 45 percent. And, believe it or not, fewer than half of all Americans can name all three branches of government.

Somewhat predictably, given the results of the 2006 and 2007 surveys, a college degree does not improve things much, as respondents with a bachelor’s degree scored on average only 57 percent, which is a failing grade, and is only 13 percentage points higher than those with only a high school diploma. And, only one college graduate in four knew that the First Amendment prohibits establishing an official religion for the United States.

To make a bad situation worse, the study revealed that certain activities tend to diminish a respondents civic literacy, such things as talking on the phone, watching owned or rented movies, and monitoring TV news broadcasts and documentaries.

However, the study also showed that other activities tended to increase civic knowledge, such as engaging in frequent conversations about public affairs, reading about current events and history, and participating in more involved civic activities. These relatively inexpensive activities produced a greater gain in civic knowledge than was produced from getting an expensive bachelor’s degree.

The reality of this pitifully low the level of civic knowledge of college students and the general public ought to shock you. But if that doesn’t get your attention, how about this: Officeholders typically have less civic knowledge than the general public, scoring five percentage points lower than non-officeholders. “Thirty percent of elected officials,” the study showed, “do not know that ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ are the inalienable rights referred to in the Declaration of Independence.”

Using civics knowledge as the measure, both K-12 and higher education have done a miserable job of providing young people with vital information about their country and its government, making sure they know that information, and that they understand their role as citizens.

This level of ignorance isn’t a problem in dictatorships and other forms of government where the people have little or nothing to say about how their government operates. But in the United States, where citizen involvement in government is a duty, it is a serious issue.

Democracy is a fragile flower whose life depends on knowledgeable citizens who understand how it works and why it is important. We have seen how liberalism has eroded our country’s traditions and socialistic ideals have crept into our system over the last four decades. To what degree that is a result of a citizenry that increasingly knows less and less about its country, its foundations, and its ideals is hard to judge.

If we do not take steps to insure that the United States has an informed electorate, democracy as it was established here will not survive.

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Making sport while a foe can

By Wesley Pruden

Writing the obituary of a mortal enemy is cheap fun, but only the foolish man indulges such fantasy. He who laughs loudest rarely laughs last. This is a needed caution for some of our European friends who are eager to write us off before bad news turns good again.

Igor Panarin is an amusing professor and political "analyst" at something called the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and he thinks America is doomed, exhausted, and about to go the way of Atlantis, or at least France. Some of his colleagues take him seriously.

"The American economy is already collapsing," he writes in the Moscow newspaper Izvestia. "Due to the financial crisis three of the largest and oldest banks on Wall Street have already ceased to exist, and two are barely surviving. Their losses are the biggest in history. Now what we will see is a change in the regulatory system on a global scale: America will no longer be the world's financial regulator."

Here’s the rest of Pruden’s column

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Obama’s Arrogance is Troubling

As he puts together his administration in the days following the election, President-Elect Barack Obama’s political opponents have commented on his choices, which is normal and expected. Perhaps the commentary is harsher and more finely focused than many think it ought to be, and if that is so, perhaps it is because Mr. Obama’s flamboyant style and enormous ego have made him a vastly more tempting target than usual.

That Barack Obama has a high opinion of himself is neither a secret nor particularly unusual; politicians are most often ego-maniacs to some degree. But Sen. Obama takes the cake; he has taken the art of ego to an entirely new level.

A list of evidentiary items supports this position, among which are:

**He called his campaign plane “O Force One”

**He created a faux Great Seal with his name on it

**He took a “world tour” normally reserved for sitting presidents, and before he had actually accomplished anything other than declaring his candidacy

**Though he hasn’t been sworn in, or even officially elected yet, he has already created a more government—the Office of the President-Elect

All of the foregoing belies that Mr. Obama was so cock-sure of his eventual election to the highest office in the land—or was it that he was entitled to it?—that he took on the trappings of the office even before he won his party’s nomination.

His “soaring rhetoric” during the campaign suggested that merely being elected would represent a moment of the grandest, most transformative kind. When he actually accomplished something, winning the Democrat nomination, Sen. Ego spent a small fortune to recreate the Acropolis at Mile High Stadium, because accepting the Democrat Party nomination in the modest confines of the Pepsi Center, as the mere mortals who preceded him, was not nearly grand enough.

And then he declared it a great turning point in history: “Generations from now we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment.” “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” he bragged (the use of the royal “we” did not go unnoticed).

In his mind he has already achieved success as president by merely running for office, by winning the nomination, and winning the election. Don’t trouble The One with unimportant details such as what he will do in his four or eight years to benefit America.

What Barack Obama does not seem to understand is that giving a speech before the Brandenburg Gate is something you earn not just by being a black man running for president, but by being a president with who has accomplished something more than being elected.

During the campaign objective observers found themselves wondering just who is Barack Obama? But that question has been replaced with a more important one: Who does Barack Obama think he is?

Clearly, he is possessed by an ego-centrism that is as transcendent as Mr. Obama thinks he is, and that should truly be of concern.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Amazing "Pilobolus"

This is a very neat video, Pilobolus appearing on Conan O'Brien.

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Mr. Jefferson would be appalled at the size and scope of today’s government

When the Founders of our great nation put their lives on the line to escape the oppressive rule of the British Crown, they had in mind a government large enough to provide only basic services to the people who empowered it, a revolutionary concept for the mid-18th century.

They would be shocked at what has happened to their ideals and to the historic system they designed over the intervening 232 years.

Thomas Jefferson’s own words tell us the story:

"With all [our] blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow citizens--a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities." --Thomas Jefferson: 1st Inaugural, 1801.

"[Some] seem to think that [civilization's] advance has brought on too complicated a state of society, and that we should gain in happiness by treading back our steps a little way. I think, myself, that we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious. I believe it might be much simplified to the relief of those who maintain it." --Thomas Jefferson to William Ludlow, 1824.

"Government as well as religion has furnished its schisms, its persecutions, and its devices for fattening idleness on the earnings of the people." --Thomas Jefferson to Charles Clay, 1815.

"When we consider that this government is charged with the external and mutual relations only of these States; that the States themselves have principal care of our persons, our property and our reputation, constituting the great field of human concerns, we may well doubt whether our organization is not too complicated, too expensive; whether offices and officers have not been multiplied unnecessarily and sometimes injuriously to the service they were meant to promote." --Thomas Jefferson: 1st Annual Message, 1801.

"It is not by the consolidation, or concentration of powers, but by their distribution, that good government is effected." --Thomas Jefferson: Autobiography, 1821. ME 1:122

"Were we directed from Washington when to sow and when to reap, we should soon want bread." --Thomas Jefferson: Autobiography, 1821.

"I own I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive. It places the governors indeed more at their ease, at the expense of the people." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1787.

"A... chief [executive] strictly limited, the right of war vested in the legislative body, a rigid economy of the public contributions and absolute interdiction of all useless expenses will go far towards keeping the government honest and unoppressive." --Thomas Jefferson to Lafayette, 1823.

"A noiseless course, not meddling with the affairs of others, unattractive of notice, is a mark that society is going on in happiness. If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them, they must become happy." --Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Cooper, 1802.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Weekly Published Column - United States energy policy remains a critical economic issue

Even though our attention for the last couple of months has been focused on the banking and auto industry crises, U.S. energy policy still looms as a critical issue.

Everybody except the Democrats in Congress understands that while we are trying to develop a sensible and effective energy policy, we have to avail ourselves of domestic supplies of oil and natural gas and get the United States out from under dependence upon foreign supplies controlled by OPEC.

Congressional Democrats have steadfastly refused to do the sensible thing, which is opening the offshore areas to drilling now and getting the development of the substantial oil and natural gas resources that belong to the U.S. underway.

In contrast to the Congressional leaderships’ previous position is a statement from Maryland 5th district Congressman Steny Hoyer, the House Majority Leader, who told the Washington Times that his party will not push to reinstate a ban on offshore oil and natural gas drilling next year.

“I don’t think there is any intent at this point in time ... to return to the same position we where in” before the ban was lifted, Mr. Hoyer said. That’s a different position than enunciated as recently as September when the ban was lifted, at which time Congressional Democrats said they would work with the new administration to reinstate the ban after the new Congress convenes in January.

The American Petroleum Institute supports Congressman Hoyer’s position, saying that “the American public has made clear its strong support for increased access to untapped domestic oil and natural gas resources. At least two-thirds of Americans in recent exit polling said they supported offshore drilling.

Neither Congress nor the next administration should set unreasonable, arbitrary limits on leasing because such restrictions could remove some of the nation’s most promising oil and natural gas prospects for development, and the industry has proven it can develop these resources in an environmentally safe manner.”

The position Mr. Hoyer voiced is certainly a step in the right direction, but many details are left unaddressed, such as whether the Democrats will at long last let go of the obstructionist demand for oil and gas companies to drill first in the existing leased areas, where there is scant data indicating that oil or gas even exist, and also how near to coastal areas drilling will be allowed.

However, Mr. Hoyer also said that global warming is on the agenda in the near term which, combined with the fact that President-Elect Barack Obama unfortunately clings to a proposed cap-and-trade system, does not bode well for either economic recovery or a sensible energy policy.

Cap-and-trade measures work by setting a limit, or cap, on carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel use. Businesses such as utilities and manufacturing companies that are able to emit less carbon dioxide than their cap could sell the excess emission levels to facilities that exceed their cap, which is the trade part of cap-and-trade. Those facilities that exceed their cap will suffer penalties. Over time, the cap would be lowered, requiring greater cuts in emissions.

Recent Congressional efforts to pass cap-and-trade legislation broke down because of concern over how much the program would cost, and which sectors of the economy would be most affected by it.

Mr. Obama recently said his presidency “will mark a new chapter in America’s leadership on climate change that will strengthen our security and create millions of new jobs in the process. That will start with a federal cap-and-trade system.”

Overall, the effect of a cap-and-trade system will be to impose rationing of coal, oil, and natural gas on the American economy, according to the Heritage Foundation, and given the position stated by Barack Obama and Joe Biden during the campaign, West Virginia’s coal industry will be negatively affected by the Obama energy policy.

Two factors are at work against the American people and their economy. First is a group of politicians in the U.S. Congress who believe that they know more about running businesses than those who actually run them. What results from these efforts to micro-manage business and the economy can be seen at its worst in the banking and auto industry crises.

Second is a headlong politically correct rush to reduce carbon emissions in the face of substantial credible studies that show doing so will make little if any difference in the global environment.

Reducing carbon emissions is a noble goal; as a matter of simple logic it makes sense to clean up manufacturing processes that produce pollution. However, what is noble is not always necessary or even sensible.

As time passes, evidence mounts that carbon emissions are not sufficient to bring about the end of life as we know it, as the environmental extremists keep screaming at us, and in fact is not even sufficient to warrant dramatic changes in the use of carbon fuels.

Environmentalism has taken on all the characteristics of a religion, and even has its fundamentalist, fanatical fringe which will do just about anything to turn people to its cause, even deliberately exaggerating the threat.

We cannot afford to be intimidated or conned into making foolish decisions about energy use.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Watching as America’s freedoms disappear

Thomas Jefferson once said that "the natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground." He could have been looking into a crystal ball focused on 21st century America.

He would have seen a government that has grown past what he and the others who worked so diligently to establish a nation dedicated to personal freedom to a degree that would have sickened him.

He would have seen a government with its dirty fingers jammed deeply in the pockets of the citizens it was established to serve, taking their money and using it to the benefit of other citizens, and which has grown so far beyond its intended limits that it controls how children are educated and how businesses operate, and has created a sub-class of citizens who have been taught to depend upon government for their very subsistence.

Another thoughtful American president, John F. Kennedy, noted before his life was cut short by an assassin that "every time that we try to lift a problem from our own shoulders, and shift that problem to the hands of the government, to the same extent we are sacrificing the liberties of our people."

Why is it that so many Americans do not recognize what was so clear to Jefferson more than 200 years ago and to Kennedy 40 years ago?

The government of the United States over the years has inserted itself into the business of business so far that it bears significant responsibility for the debacles of the mortgage banking industry and the Big Three automakers.

Trying to legislate home ownership for people who could not afford to own a home set the stage for the excesses of mortgage bank and GSO executives.

Siding with labor unions and through over-stringent OSHA standards, environmental laws and fuel efficiency standards, and high corporate taxes, the government put extreme pressures on the domestic auto industry.

And now we have elected a President who openly wants to “spread the wealth around,” and who in concert with a heavily Democrat-controlled Congress will seek to give tax breaks to 40 percent of Americans, increase taxes on businesses and the most productive Americans, impose additional restrictions on carbon-based fuel use, impose a government-run health system, and a long list of other horrors that will give us even more government intervention in our daily lives than we already have.

Jefferson and Kennedy must be spinning in their graves, and wondering how much longer can the Great Nation survive?

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Confusion on California College Campuses About the First Amendment

The following story posted on OneNewsNow raises eyebrows and curiosity about the quality of leadership at Yuba Community College District in Marysville, CA, and just how badly students may be misinformed by attending the school.

Court to decide whether campus evangelism a crime

The so-called "free-speech code" of Yuba Community College District is under federal court scrutiny.

California student, Ryan Dozier, decided to spend some time on campus sharing his faith and handing out tracts to fellow students, generating conversations about Christianity. Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) attorney Heather Hacker comments on the situation.

"A campus police officer came over and told him that if he continued to do so without a permit that he would be possibly expelled or arrested, and so Ryan stopped immediately," she explains.

Hacker says Dozier thought the case was closed, but he was apparently mistaken. "Three weeks later he got a certified letter from the president of the college stating that his actions were the subject of a campus crime report," she adds. "Last time I checked, sharing your faith on a public college campus was not a crime."

But the letter informed him he could face expulsion if he shared his faith on campus again. ADF filed suit, and a federal judge has ordered the college to suspend enforcement of its highly restricted free speech policies until the lawsuit is resolved.

The President of Yuba Community College District is Mr. Paul V. Mendoza. Mr. Mendoza might ought to review what the United States Constitution says about freedom of speech and freedom of religion. For those who need a refresher, here’s the text of the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Unless Yuba is not subject to the U.S. Constitution or the Bill of Rights, it’s pretty clear that Mr. Dozier has broken no legitimate law.

What part of the First Amendment do you not understand, Mr. Mendez?

And, what about the Federal Court? Can the judges there be confused on this issue?

It is California, after all.

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