Saturday, May 31, 2008

Friday, Then Home, Again

Well, the week has ended and we are back at home. The drive was not too bad, except for heavy traffic on I-64 from Hampton to Richmond. We left at 10 a.m. and stopped for lunch in Richmond right after noon at Red, Hot and Blue. We love RH&B, with good blues playing in the background and great barbecue. When traveling I usually like to get a quick lunch and get back on the road, but this was worth the extra time. We pulled into the driveway at 5:45.

Yesterday was a good relaxing day, with some beach time and just hanging out on the porch/deck on a beautiful day. Dinner was at a place called the Board Wok, and featured, as you might have guessed, Asian cuisine. It was decent, but not special.

On the way we reviewed the things we talked about doing, but didn’t do. I think that is always the way it is, at least for us. As much as I liked having the kids with us, they stay up late and get up late, and that shortens the time to do things. We could have made a better effort, though. That just gives us a reason to go back some day.

So, now it’s back to the usual ranting, I guess. Stay tuned.

Friday, May 30, 2008


Thursday was an active day, even with the late start we’ve been getting all week. We got out around noon and went to lunch at Panera Bread, a really, really good sandwich place that has several locations here in the eastern US, and maybe elsewhere, too.

After that we made our way to Norfolk, Va., which is Navy central, with multiple bases in the area, the Norfolk Naval Station, the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, the Little Creek Amphibious Base, the Oceana Naval Air Station, all in the nearby area. There are other military installations here, as well, with three Army bases, and Langley Air Force base, close by.

Norfolk houses Nauticus, a nautical museum that features exhibits and information on area naval activities from the days before the Civil War. It’s a very interesting place, and has the battleship USS Wisconsin on display for touring. We spent more than an hour there before heading to the Virginia Beach boardwalk, which as I said before bears no resemblance to the boardwalk I remember from my Air Force days when my band spent so much time playing in the beach clubs (no remnant of which can be found today).

We then headed to Bella Monte, an Italian place recommended by my high school and college classmate Betty Todd Howes, whom I haven’t seen since 1966. She and her husband Peter, and the five of us had a good dinner and some long-overdue catching up.

Diane had Osso Bucco, lamb shanks in a dark sauce; Ryan had Lobster Ravioli, which he didn’t like; Katherine and Christen had something, but they were at the other end of the table and I don’t know what it was. Me, I had one of the specials, a split lobster tail with crab meat over risotto. This was the best dinner of the week. We got home about 10 p.m.

Friday, we are hoping and expecting to be able to go to the beach for a while without being sliced to ribbons by blowing sand, and the weather forecast give us hope that we can. Saturday morning will be glum, as we have to pack and hit the road for home.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Looking to be Offended

I’m no fan of Hillary Clinton, but this recent flap about her citing Bobby Kennedy’s assassination in June of the campaign season has gotten way more attention and created way more vitriol than it deserves.

Sen. Clinton definitely deserves criticism for making a dumb remark, but charging her with suggesting that Barack Obama might be assassinated, or worse, that he should be, is even dumber than the original remark.

What she should have said, and what she most likely meant, was that anything can happen at any time, and for her to drop out of the race when she is still winning primaries isn’t smart. We can argue with her logic or her estimation of her chances if we like, but we really can’t argue that it just isn’t possible to know what the near-term future holds for either of those candidates. And recent history fully supports that view.

Only a few months ago Clinton was the presumptive nominee from a fairly large field. Then, Obama came out of nowhere to take a substantial lead. Then, Obama’s dopey minister’s racist and anti-America remarks became public, and the Illinois Senator took a hit in the polls. Clinton has made a few gaffs of her own, along the way.

I saw a post somewhere featuring a video of Keith Olberman in a tirade against Clinton that is as good an example as I’ve seen of over-the-edge reactions, which are not at all uncommon these days. I can’t say I was surprised by Olberman’s goofy video; he’s nothing special, in my view, other than especially dopey.

Other examples of hypersensitivity to remarks made by candidates are the reaction to Obama’s reference to his uncle’s revulsion to his visit to Auschwitz in WWII, which, as it turns out was neither his uncle (it was his great uncle) nor Auschwitz (it was another camp). It just isn’t that important that Obama misremembered something from his childhood, at least not this particular “something.”

Another example is the reaction to John McCain’s comment about a US presence in Iraq for “a hundred years.” Complicating that one, however, is the fact that this comment was taken out of context and the meaning deliberately twisted by McCain’s opponent, Obama, and other of McCain’s detractors.

Politics is serious business, and it deserves to be viewed and treated as the serious mechanism that it is for choosing our leaders. These childish, schoolyard reactions and tactics don’t help us figure out which of the imperfect candidates is likely to inflict the least harm on the country.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


One of the reasons this vacation is different is that the kids stay up pretty late and get up pretty late. Di usually hits the sack between 10 and 11, and I stay up a little later watching TV with Ryan, or playing his new PS3 baseball game, which has wonderful graphics. Anyway, that means that we don’t get going as a group until lunch. The wind was even stronger this morning than yesterday and it was in the low 60s and raining, so our options for activities were somewhat limited. Today, even lunch was too early for the kids, so Di and I went out alone to hit the Target nearby and get some lunch.

We had lunch at a Mexican restaurant called Señor Fox, which was staffed entirely by Mexicans (as most are) we were seated in a booth near a young family with three little ones (over my left shoulder) and two local white guys (over Diane’s right shoulder). The staff was very attentive and very competent, and our food was delivered unbelievably quickly. It was good, on top of all that.

Along the way, one or more of the young ones let out an ear-piercing scream or two, which is always unpleasant, and at one point one of them was running around the place. They had been there long enough that they left when we were about half way through our meal. We heard one of the local guys talking to one of the staff: “Not all Americans are like that,” he said. The staff person cleaning up the table appeared not to hear him, so he repeated his comment. That caused us to look over at the table. You would not believe how much food, crumbs and other stuff was on the floor around this table.

After hearing our groans about the disgusting mess, the guy said that his mom and dad would have cleaned up a mess on the table, and on the floor, if there was any. I agreed. I commented that the younger generation has been brought up without common levels of manners and consideration for others. He agreed.

Now, I don’t believe that the whole generation is thus poorly reared; I know my four got a heavy dose of “you’d better not do that” along the way. But I think a fair portion of that generation is self-consumed and undisciplined. It’s another example of how our culture is moving slowly (or not so slowly) into the dumper.

I subscribed to a year or so ago to see who of my former schoolmates I could find. I have found quite a few, some of them used to good buddies. One of them lives in Virginia Beach, so I was trying hard to connect up. We have been emailing for the last couple of days and our families are going to get together for dinner tomorrow. This should be interesting, as Betty and I haven’t seen each other since 1966.

Tonight we headed out to dinner with no particular idea in mind, other than Katherine’s objection to going to any restaurant that we have at home, like Chili’s or Outback Steakhouse. We found a place that we hadn’t seen before, a Cuban restaurant called “Havana.” It was the best meal of the week, so far. I had a Paella de Mariscos, which has shrimp, scallops, littleneck clams mussels and fish all sautéed with chorizo and a trio of bell peppers tossed in sofrito rice. I don’t care for mussels or clams, so they left them out and added more scallops and shrimp. It was very good, and the chorizo was highly spicy. Diane had the Filet de la Casa, which is beef tenderloin served over a dark rum and peppercorn sauce served with garlic mashed potatoes and house vegetables. Ryan had Ropa Vieja, which is roasted shredded pork, Manchego cheese, black beans rolled in a flour tortilla and served on sofrito rice and finished with jalapeno queso and green enchilada sauce. Katherine had the Caribbean Mojo Marinated Flank Steak, which is grilled medium rare, thinly sliced and served with a chipotle beurre blanc, garlic mashed potatoes and house vegetables. And Christen had Coconut and Plantain Encrusted Atlantic Salmon, served atop sofrito rice with house vegetables and finished with a guava beurre blanc. There were a couple of appetizers and also desserts. All in all, a great meal.

Summing up: weather – not good; food – great.


Tuesday started early, about 6:50 a.m., reluctantly. I filled the morning with some reading, some writing and some surfing and a little breakfast. Had a bunch of “business” email to deal with. It wasn’t a restful night; up late and up early.

We finally made it to the beach in the afternoon, and even though it was still windy, it was a good, if short, span of relaxation. It was in the mid- upper-80s this afternoon; the sand was hot, but the water was cold. Very cold.You can see some debris on the beach, evidence of some recent stormy weather. We took a short walk on the beach, and that was nice, but the best part was just lying in the sun. There’s something about baking in the sun listening to the surf that just takes all the tension away. About a half-hour or 40 minutes was all of the sand blasting we could take, and then we headed back to the condo, for more reading, writing and surfing.

We hooked up with a former student of the college where Diane works who had been a work/study student. He lives nearby and is working on a masters degree, and he and his fiancé had dinner with the five of us in what is known as “downtown Pungo.” A decent restaurant called Seacrest served up a nice fried seafood platter for me, surf and turf for Ryan, drunken clams for Christen, chopped steak for Kath, and fried shrimp for Di. Good company and decent food.

We headed back to the condo and after a ride along the beach road looking at the beach houses we called it a day.

Today probably sounded like a wasted day, but it was really better than it sounds. But it’s been a little bit of an odd vacation, so far.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Economics of Oil

You regular readers will note that a frequent theme here at Observations is dissatisfaction with the major media, which does a lousy job of informing the public. It does a wonderful job of misinforming the public, however.

Recently, the subject of this institutionalized misinformation is in the realm of economics, including the national economy in general, and the housing market and the price of gasoline in particular.

Thomas Sowell had a great explanation for why more people do not accept the economist’s explanation for high gasoline prices: It’s because their reaction to the high prices is an emotional one, and an economist’s explanation does not satisfy the emotional need. Unfortunately, the politician’s explanation does satisfy that need, when in the effort to attract votes politicians place blame on the oil companies and the oil futures market, and promise to take care of all your problems if you will just elect them to office. The current Democrat presidential candidates are a case in point. This is the wrong answer to the question of why oil prices are so high, according to Sowell, but it is much more satisfying to blame “someone” for the problem, hence “big oil” is a villain as are greedy oil speculators.

Just to be sure that my instincts were correct about the high price of oil and the effects of speculation in the oil market on that price I did a good bit of research. I don’t claim to be an expert on this phenomenon, but I have been able to determine through reading that while speculators may, and I repeat “may,” have an effect under certain circumstances, that effect is small and other less emotionally satisfying factors have far more to do with the high price of oil. Unsatisfying answers like supply and demand, for instance.

That research produced a couple of interesting pieces, which I have included below. Unfortunately, I managed to somehow lose the sources for these, so while I can’t tell you who wrote them, I can tell you that I didn’t write them, except for a little rewording here and there.

Oil Prices Compared With Personal Income

We hear a lot these days about how gas and oil prices are at historical highs. But what we don't hear much about is how personal income is also at historical highs. Per-capita personal income has almost doubled in the last 15 years, from about $20,000 in March of 1993 to almost $40,000 in March of 2008.

Measured as a percent of per-capita personal income, gas prices through March 2008 aren't even close yet to the historical highs of the early 1980s, when 1,000 gallons of gas cost between 10-13% of per-capita personal income for 36 consecutive months, much higher than the 8.2% of per-capita income in March 2008.

The peak price of gas as a percent of income was in March 1981, when 1,000 gallons of gas cost 13% of per-capita disposable income. Gas today would have to reach a price of about $5.13 per gallon, before it would be an historical high adjusted for income.

Oil Speculation

With oil prices in the range of $120 a barrel, angry politicians are blaming the higher prices on everything from speculators to greedy oil companies. Last week some Democratic Senators demanded “urgent action . . . to adequately investigate whether speculators are driving up prices.”

Democrats are proposing to protect the American people from “greedy oil traders who manipulate the market.” Senator Barack Obama wants price gouging by oil companies to be a federal crime.

Everyone wants lower prices, but many politicians seem unable to understand that speculators actually smooth out wild swings in prices. Speculators make profits by buying oil when the price is low and selling it when it is high, and doing that protects consumers. Tensions rose last week because of Venezuela financing Columbian terrorists. Columbia looked like it might retaliate and send troops into Venezuela, the world’s sixth largest oil exporter.

There was an obvious risk that Venezuela’s oil exports could be stopped. Oil prices increased immediately. They didn’t wait for the war to actually break out. By buying oil now in order to set it aside if supplies are interrupted if the conflict escalates, is good for consumers. Storing oil for then will prevent what would have been even higher prices. Politicians obviously thought speculators were unjustified to start bidding up prices. After all, war might never occur. Yet, if speculators didn’t do that and Venezuela's shipments are halted, the much bigger increase in oil prices would surely cause politicians to really call for the scalps of everyone in the oil business.

The speculators are taking a real risk with their own money. If no war occurs and prices fall, few in congress are going to shed tears over the money that the speculators would lose. If war breaks out and prices only rise a fraction of what they otherwise would have gone up, who is going to thank the speculators for a job well done?

Speculators are actually extremely accurate in predicting the future. But it is not just in oil prices.

Monday, May 26, 2008


Monday wasn’t a special day, at least in terms of our activities. It was special, of course, inasmuch as it was Memorial Day, a day to remember those who have sacrificed their bodies and their lives so the rest of us can live in relative comfort and freedom. Actually, it is to memorialize all military service personnel, but as one who served but did not see action I can say with some authority that the people really deserving of our respect are those that did see action.

The kids got up relatively late and we didn’t hit the road until around noon. We had a decent lunch at a place called the Tiki Seagrille and Bar, where I had a burger with a crab cake on top and some O rings. we headed toward the Virginia Beach strip. Back in the day, that was a place of action, with beach clubs where the bands I was in played. Places like the Peppermint Beach Club and the Top Hat. Believe me when I say that if someone had blindfolded me and dropped me off on Atlantic Avenue, when I took off the blindfold I would have had absolutely no idea where in the world I was. Forty years changes everything. No more beach clubs and quaint hotels. It’s all modern new building without even a trace of the places of the good old days.

We spent the afternoon in a couple of malls. Yeah, I know: that’s sad.

We got back to the condo about 6:30, had some wine on the porch and watched the sun go down. Very pleasant, except for a stiffer-than-desirable breeze, as witnessed by the flag in the photo.

I actually found myself shouting obscenities at some bikers today. Those blasted things are louder than anything reasonable; just plain obnoxious, breaking the serenity of the area with that absurd racket. Maybe I just don’t understand bikes, but it seems to me that you ought to be able to have a fine machine that gives you the pleasure you seek without deafening those poor souls with the misfortune to be nearby when you decide to head off into the wind.

My first encounter with a motorcycle was when I was pretty young, about 8 or 10, or maybe 12. The guy who lived up the alley had a green Indian that suitably impressed us youngsters. Bill was his name, and he was a good guy. I don’t remember his bike being deafeningly loud. The next encounter involved three guys in high school, Tommy, Bobby and Freddy. Two of them had Harley Hummers and the third one that had a Zundapp. It was a German bike. None of them was loud, even the Harleys, but the Zundapp just kind of purred. I hitched a ride with those guys a time or two.

When I was in the Air force, my friend Jim had a Honda 425 (I think), and I actually rode that one by myself. It was quite a kick.

For dinner, we walked across the street to the Baja Restaurant, where a pretty good dinner was had by all. My choice: Sea food au gratin, green beans and roasted red potatoes. Diane had BBQ ribs, Ryan had crabbed flounder, Kath had the Thai chicken skewer, and Christen had just some chowder (she is tiny and has a small apetite). Good fare for all.

Hopefully, tomorrow is a beach day.


Sunday was a kind of “lay-around” day. We just looked around the place, and Diane and the kids went driving and looked at some model homes. Not that we are looking to buy anything, but just to look.

They have a bunch of Viking grills on the premises, really nice grills, and we had bought some ribeyes and chicken breasts for dinner, so we fixed those for dinner.

The owner of the condo dropped by to check on some irregularities that we had discovered in talking with him. He's VERY concerned about his place and how people who get paid to take care of it are doing. A great fellow.

We had a better view of the sunset this day, but it wasn't substantially better than Saturday.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Ah! Vacation!

After that very busy few days last week we had scheduled a week away, and it may be the last one the four of us will have together, since the kids are getting to the point where they are headed in different directions than we are, and in different directions than each other. It is increasingly difficult to find something that the four of us all want to do that lasts more than a day at a time.

So, the four of us and Katherine’s friend Christen set out for Virginia Beach Saturday. That’s where I spent a lot of time playing in bands while I was stationed at Langley AFB a few years ago. Actually, it was about 40 years ago. Back then, Sandbridge was a deserted beach; today it is covered with beach houses and one big condo complex.

The trip down wasn’t too bad, until we got to I-64 south from Richmond. The traffic was pretty heavy, and the speed was up and down a lot, with no apparent cause, other than the inability of people to know how to drive on the Interstate. Then, we got to the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, and that was a royal pain. It took about 45 minutes to go three miles to the HRBT, and another few minutes to get across/through the thing. But when we finally got to the destination on Sandpiper Road about an hour later, things were much better.

The place we are staying is fantastic. It’s belongs to a couple who already live nearby and bought this place, but haven’t been able to sell their home, and are renting this out until they can sell the house. The unit we are in faces the Back Bay rather than the ocean, but that is just fine.

After unloading the car and getting somewhat settled, we headed out to get some dinner and go to the grocery store. There was some information about a pizza place in the materials furnished with the condo, so we went there. D and I had a Portuguese Pizza, which was very good, with tomatoes, onion, peppers and garlic with an oil based white sauce. K and C had some kind of wrap, and Ryan had fish and chips. Made as quick a trip as possible so we could get back for the sunset, which was pretty much over by that time.

Diane and I were not too far from here not too long ago for a wedding, and we spent a little time looking around at the old haunts, but not enough. My goal: relax, and spend some time looking at the places where I spent four years of my life. Try to get on Langley, which we weren’t allowed to do last time; find the old apartment and house where I lived, which we did do last time, but didn’t have time to really get a good look; find the old places where we played; find an old schoolmate who lives here, and see if any of the guys in the bands are still here. I guess we’ll go to the beach today, if only to look at it. It’s still a little cool in the mornings—it’s about 65 now—and this afternoon promises only about 71.

Friday, May 23, 2008

New Funnies!

There are a couple of new entries on A Little Levity that you may enjoy.

It’s Time for Good, Old-Fashioned Impeachment

The US Constitution sets up a government of, for and by the people, and state constitutions are modeled after it. The recent decision by the California Supreme Court to overturn a ban on homosexual marriage challenges this paradigm.

Homosexual marriage does not appear in the California constitution, because if it did someone would have discovered it before now. Where, one might justifiably ask, did the California Supreme Court find this right?

Californians have consistently expressed their opposition to and voted against recognizing the idea of homosexual marriages. No Congress or state legislature has ever voted to declare homosexual unions a marriage, an idea that has also been universally rejected at the ballot box. In the 13 states where it was on the ballot in 2004, it was defeated by at least 58 percent of the voters, and by 85 percent of them in one state.

In our system of government the people determine how their country will function through their elected representatives. This point seems lost on four members of the California Supreme Court: Chief Justice George, and Justices Kennard, Werdegar, and Moreno. These four justices created the right of gay marriage out of thin air, and in doing so overturned the expressed will of the people.

In her dissent, Justice Corrigan said: “In my view, Californians should allow our gay and lesbian neighbors to call their unions marriages. But I, and this court, must acknowledge that a majority of Californians hold a different view, and have explicitly said so by their vote. This court can overrule a vote of the people only if the Constitution compels us to do so. Here, the Constitution does not.” Justice Corrigan gets it, and deserves to be applauded for adhering to judicial restraint, putting her personal desires behind her duty to uphold the state constitution. Justices Baxter and Chin also dissented.

This is not about whether anyone approves or disapproves of homosexuality, whether it is right or wrong, whether it is a sin or not, or whether it is a natural part of mankind. This is about government officials—judges in this instance—using their positions to impose their ideals on the rest of us. That is wrong, and cannot be ignored.

When judges violate the will of the people, and mangle the governing document in doing so, they must be removed from office. To restore the California Supreme Court to its proper role, Justices George, Kennard, Werdegar and Moreno should be removed from the bench by the people of California.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Oil Company Profits: Fallacy and Reality

There is so much misinformation, misunderstanding and ill will surrounding the price of gasoline these days that some clarity is demanded.

The first point is that the primary reason gas costs so much is that there is more demand than supply, and the increase in demand comes from the expanding economies of China and India. OPEC could produce more oil, but it isn’t in its interest to do so.

The second point is that the U.S. has no one to blame but itself for its idiotic opposition to drilling for domestic oil, building new refineries, and failing to develop other sources of energy.

Perhaps the worst and most dishonest aspect of all of this is the condemnation being heaped on the oil companies, claiming they are making indecent profits. Hogwash! If you understand how businesses operate, you realize this is just so much foolishness. The trouble is, however, that most people do not understand how business works, and politicians trying to get elected and the media that helps them seize upon that ignorance to demagogue the issue and produce votes. Truth be told, many politicians and journalists also don’t have a clue how business works. Businesses—corporations—exist for one purpose only: to make a profit. Without a profit, a business cannot continue to operate and produce whatever it produces, food, medicine, clothing, music, energy products, etc., and it also cannot continue to provide jobs for its employees.

When talking about profits context is critical. What matters is how much money a business gets to keep for every dollar of sales it has, and that is called the profit margin. For oil companies, 90.4 cents of every dollar of sales goes to cover costs, and 9.6 cents is profit for the company’s shareholders; a 9.6 percent profit margin. As businesses go, 9.6 percent isn’t very high. To wit:

Publishing and periodicals: 34.9 percent

Application Software: 22.3 percent

Retail: 20.3 percent

Tobacco Products: 19 percent

Banks: 10.8 – 14.7 percent

Railroads: 13.9 percent

Hotel-Motel: 10.6 percent

Everyone got all excited about Exxon-Mobile’s $40 billion profit in 2007. But looking just at the amount of the profit—the number of dollars—doesn’t provide you with enough information to discuss the issue of whether that profit is “indecent.” In order to have made $40 billion (that’s $40,000,000,000) in profits, Exxon-Mobile needed revenues of more than $404.5 billion (that’s $404,500,000,000), of which $334 billion ($334,000,000,000) goes to cover costs. By the way, Exxon-Mobile paid about $30 billion ($30,000,000,000) in taxes in 2007.

Oil company profit margins haven’t increased above their modest level recently. What has increased is the cost of buying crude oil, which increases the cost of gas at the pump and also increases the number of dollars of profit. Translation: Oil companies aren’t making any more money on their investment now than in the past.

The greenies and other liberals try to make the oil companies look like the bad guys on the price of gasoline, when in fact it is primarily their fault that gas prices are as high as they are. Drilling domestic reserves and increasing refining capacity would have increased the amount of crude oil and refined petroleum products in the hands of US oil companies, and that would have kept prices lower. But heavy regulation and an outright ban on drilling for our own oil, courtesy of Congressional Democrats, have prevented that.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Progress Toward Getting This Week Over With

I'm halfway through this demanding week, which is good, but the most difficult is still ahead, which is not good.

I have lots of ideas, just no time to deal with them.

In place of real ideas, I have posted some more "Levity" for your weekend enjoyment.

Empty Nest Syndrome

A few days ago when I looked out the patio door up at the spot where Mama Duck sat so stoically every day, I noticed that I couldn’t see her head. So, I ventured up there to take a closer look, and sure enough, she was gone. I ruffled the leaves a little, looking for eggs or broken shells, and found neither. A little later I saw that she had returned.

The last couple of days have been extremely busy, and I didn’t get many chances to check out whether she was there or not, but I did see her once or twice.

Yesterday, I noticed that Mama appeared to be gone, but it was raining most of the time I had a chance to go look. This morning, I ventured up there to find eggs that are broken open, and no sign of little ones. I guess I just missed the big events, hatching and hours later the march to the water. I hope the family is doing okay.

I’ll check out the nest more closely when I get a chance.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

What is it About May?

It seems like May is destined to be the busiest month in my life. Last year was frantic, and this year is perhaps a little more so.

Enough whining, though. I haven't been able to put anything on Observations lately, but I did find time to put a funny up on A Little Levity that you might enjoy.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Fools Rush In

People are always making predictions, some of which are accurate, and some that are not. Let's review some environmentalist predictions through the years, courtesy of Walter Williams:

At the first Earth Day celebration, in 1969, environmentalist Nigel Calder warned, "The threat of a new ice age must now stand alongside nuclear war as a likely source of wholesale death and misery for mankind."

C.C. Wallen of the World Meteorological Organization said, "The cooling since 1940 has been large enough and consistent enough that it will not soon be reversed."

In 1968, Professor Paul Ehrlich predicted there would be a major food shortage in the U.S. and "in the 1970s ... hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death," Ehrlich forecasted that 65 million Americans would die of starvation between 1980 and 1989, and by 1999 the U.S. population would have declined to 22.6 million. Ehrlich's predictions about England were gloomier: "If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000."

In 1972, a report was written for the Club of Rome warning the world would run out of gold by 1981, mercury and silver by 1985, tin by 1987 and petroleum, copper, lead and natural gas by 1992.

Gordon Taylor, in his 1970 book "The Doomsday Book," said Americans were using 50 percent of the world's resources and "by 2000 they [Americans] will, if permitted, be using all of them."

In 1975, the Environmental Fund took out full-page ads warning, "The World as we know it will likely be ruined by the year 2000."

Harvard University biologist George Wald in 1970 warned, "... civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind."

That was the same year that Sen. Gaylord Nelson warned, in Look Magazine, that by 1995 "... somewhere between 75 and 85 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct."

Williams went on to point out that these grossly inaccurate and alarmist statements starting in the 60s are actually not all that unique, citing older foolishness:

It's not just latter-day doomsayers who have been wrong; doomsayers have always been wrong.

In 1885, the U.S. Geological Survey announced there was "little or no chance" of oil being discovered in California, and a few years later they said the same about Kansas and Texas. In 1939, the U.S. Department of the Interior said American oil supplies would last only another 13 years. In 1949, the Secretary of the Interior said the end of U.S. oil supplies was in sight. Having learned nothing from its earlier erroneous claims, in 1974 the U.S. Geological Survey advised us that the U.S. had only a 10-year supply of natural gas. The fact of the matter, according to the American Gas Association, there's a 1,000 to 2,500 year supply.

Williams then asks some probing and important questions:

In 1970, when environmentalists were making predictions of manmade global cooling and the threat of an ice age and millions of Americans starving to death, what kind of government policy should we have undertaken to prevent such a calamity? When Ehrlich predicted that England would not exist in the year 2000, what steps should the British Parliament have taken in 1970 to prevent such a dire outcome? In 1939, when the U.S. Department of the Interior warned that we only had oil supplies for another 13 years, what actions should President Roosevelt have taken? Finally, what makes us think that environmental alarmism is any more correct now that they have switched their tune to manmade global warming?

And he wraps it all up with a few relevant facts:

Over 95 percent of the greenhouse effect is the result of water vapor in Earth's atmosphere. Without the greenhouse effect, Earth's average temperature would be zero degrees Fahrenheit. Most climate change is a result of the orbital eccentricities of Earth and variations in the sun's output. On top of that, natural wetlands produce more greenhouse gas contributions annually than all human sources combined.

Of course, the true believers in the “man causes global warming” theory and the idea that we are facing the most serious problem since Eve bit into that apple won’t be persuaded by anything so basic as logic, but it behooves us to objectively analyze both sides of this important but unsettled issue before we follow Al Gore’s lead into one of the biggest mistakes man has yet made.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

A patron saint for George W.

May 6, 2008

By Wesley Pruden - Davy Crockett is the patron saint of every politician who ever left Washington with a bruised ego and a broken heart. When he was bounced out of Congress in 1830, Davy told the folks on the banks of the Nolichucky River in Tennessee: "I'm going to Texas, and the rest of you can go to hell."

Departing presidents have left town nursing similar sentiments but avoided saying them out loud. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, continuing their endless rassling match today in Indiana and North Carolina, could take Davy Crockett's benediction as a caution. George W. Bush surely feels like Crockett is kin, and there's the fantasy of a speech floating across the Internet that George W. could but never would deliver. But if he had only the self-discipline of his critics, this is what he might say:

"If the polls are right, more than half of you don't regard yourselves as 'my fellow Americans," so I'll cut right to the chase. I'm getting out of Dodge. Before anyone gets in a lather about me quitting to avoid impeachment, let me assure you that no laws were broken, the Constitution is intact. I'm quitting because I'm fed up with you people. You have no interest in what's actually going on in the world. Most of you are too lazy to do your homework and figure it out.

"Let's start local. The politicians and pundits have persuaded you that the economy is in the tank. That's despite record numbers of homeowners, including record numbers of minority homeowners. Minority business ownership is at record levels, too. Our unemployment rate is as low as it ever was during the Clinton administration. The stock market has rebounded to record levels and more Americans than ever own stocks. But all you can do is whine about gasoline prices, and most of you are too dumb to realize that the price of gasoline is high because the Chinese and the Indians are driving cars now, and because Al Gore and a handful of wacko greenheads are more worried about polar bears and their beachfront property than they are about you.

"I'm tired of this 'blood for oil" crap. If I were trading blood for oil, I would have seized Iraq's oil fields a long time ago. And don't give me this 'Bush lied, people died' crap, either. I could have planted chemical weapons planted all over Iraq to be 'discovered.' Instead, I owned up to the fact that the intelligence was faulty. The rest of the world thought Saddam Hussein had the goods, too, same as me.

"Fools don't understand that we face a unique enemy. The 'soldiers' of our new enemy, unlike our old Soviet enemies, are actually eager to die. That's OK with me, and good riddance, as long as they aren't trying to take as many of you with them as they can. But they want to kill you in the name of what I generously called 'the religion of peace' (not that I ever believed it any more than you do). You all should be grateful that the Islamists haven't killed more of us here in the United States since September 11, but you're not. That's because you've got no idea how hard a small number of intelligence, military, law enforcement and homeland security people have worked to make sure of that.

"I warned you that this would be a long and difficult fight, but most of you think 'a long and difficult fight' amounts to a single season of 'Survivor.' You won't look through the long lens of history, the way our enemies do.

"The facts are easy enough to find. They're all over the Internet, along with a lot of stuff that ain't true. You have to pay attention and sort it out, but most of you would rather watch 'American Idol'. I could say more about your idiotic belief that government, not your own wallet, is where money comes from. But it would sail right over your heads.

"So I'm going back to Crawford. I've got an energy-efficient house down there that Al Gore could only dream of. Oh, and by the way, Cheney's quitting too. That means Nancy Pelosi will be your new president. God bless what's left of America. Some of you know what I mean. The rest of you can kiss my you know what."

We might well think he wants to say all that. But of course presidents would never say such things.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Momma Duck Update

I have been checking on Momma Duck periodically to see if we have a family in the nest yet, and as of today we do not. Momma is patiently sitting in the nest, but there is no sign of little ones as of this evening.

I have noticed pairs of Mallards in the neighborhood, and I reported a while back that there was a male and a female together in our driveway several days ago, and thought the female was Momma. More recently, there was a female on the porch steps, and I have concluded that neither of those females was Momma. Or, perhaps, it might have been Momma, and another female was sitting on the nest.

I don’t know anything about how ducks handle this situation, but Momma has to get food and water sometime, somehow.

Maybe Jules can enlighten us.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

CHOICES: A Program to Aid Young People in Finding Their Way

An organization of which I am a member is participating in the CHOICES program to talk with 9th grade students for about an hour on two successive days about their future. So, on the night of the North Carolina and Indiana Democrat primary elections, I am studying how to present this material to these young people the next two days.

I attended the training session on Monday, expecting to have at least a week before I was thrust before these young people. But, as fate would have it, I ended up with only two days to get ready, and really only one day, as I found out today that tomorrow is the day. Since I am trained as a teacher, I suppose I have a couple of steps on someone who hasn’t had that experience, so I guess I ought to quit complaining and get busy reviewing the materials.

I am looking forward to this experience, and I think it will be a positive thing, both for the students and for me, but I really wish I had more prep time.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

All Hands On Deck!

Well, tonight was the first Deck Night of the season. We did some yardwork this afternoon, getting rid of shrubs that had outlived their usefulness and were causing problems, still fighting the leaves of fall, and then got ready to fix dinner. We grilled some nice, thick pork chops treated with a Calphalon Steak and Chop rub, had some asparagus, corn on the cob and ciabatta toast, and, of course, some wine.

We have spent a little time on the front porch, just sitting there talking and taking in the out of doors, but tonight was the first Deck Night of the season. We pulled out the cushions, cleaned off a small table, dusted off the chair frames, and had dinner on a plate in our lap on the deck. It wasn’t the full scale deal, with the big table and taking the stereo out there, but it was still very relaxing and comfortable.

The back deck is mostly private, blocked off from the street to the south and no neighbors within sight to the north. The house is to the east and the only possible “spy” is the lady that lives on the hill above the tiered back area to the west; you know the one, the one that collects all the leaves in the fall. The lady that lives up there—the house is about 30 feet away and 20 higher than the deck—is elderly and we never see her in the yard, so she isn’t a factor. So, we can sit out there and enjoy the birds and the trees and whatever else is going on without human interference. The photo is from two years ago; we haven't gotten this far yet this year.

The deck is one of my favorite places to spend time. I sometimes take the laptop out there and work on the Web pages I manage, or write the newsletter that I edit, and do other tasks. It ain’t fancy, but it sure is comfortable, and I’m glad that it’s that time of year again.

The Politics of Gasoline Prices

Of the three people who potentially could be President of the United States, two of them favor a suspension of the 18.4 cent/gallon federal tax on gasoline for the summer driving season. Both Democrat Senator Hillary Clinton and Republican Senator John McCain favor this action to help make gasoline less expensive while Democrat Senator Barack Obama opposes the plan. Obama called the idea a political stunt. "It's a shell game,” he said. "This is a plan that would save you pennies a day for the summer months.”

He’s right about the amount of savings. A person driving 30 miles a day for the 92 days of June, July and August would use 138 gallons of gasoline in a vehicle that gets 20 miles per gallon. The federal tax on 138 gallons of gas is $25.39, and that works out to a savings of 28 cents per day. But if all taxes are removed, the savings approaches 50 cents per gallon, nearly tripling the savings through the summer months.

But what Obama is missing is that you either believe gas prices are too high, or you believe they aren’t. If you believe they are too high, then reducing the price is desirable, the cutting a gallon of gas by 18 cents has to be a positive, and cutting a gallon of gas by 50 cents is even better. So, what difference does it make whether that is done through removing the federal tax on gas, or lowering the price per gallon by some other means?

Obama fears the effects of the loss of tax revenue, and that is a factor. However, any other way that government employs to reduce the price of gas will also have an effect, although the fallacious concept of “windfall profits” as something sinister and greedy has convinced many people that punishing oil companies is acceptable, and even good.

The real problem with any of these ideas is that it requires government to directly intervene in lowering the price of gasoline, and that is wrong.

High gasoline prices are the result of a few factors, primary among which are the amount of oil for sale, the amount of oil needed, the fact that the United States does not drill for and collect its domestic reserves, and the fact that the U.S. has insufficient refining capacity, and has made building new refineries so expensive that the oil companies can’t do it.

There is a greater demand for crude oil than there is the supply to fill it, which drives up the cost of crude oil, and crude oil is by far the largest factor in the price of gasoline. If environmentalists had not opposed allowing U.S. oil companies to drill in the Gulf, off the California coast and in ANWR, there would be more oil on the market, thus lowering crude oil prices, and American companies would own the crude oil they drilled.

If environmentalists had not opposed the building of new refineries and supported regulations that made building refineries too expensive, refining costs would be lower, more oil would be refined in the U.S., there would be more gasoline available, and the price at the pump would be lower.

Essentially, we have caused our own problem. As Jeremiah Wright might say, “Our chickens have come home to roost.”

Democrats are the primary opponents of both domestic drilling and refinery building, and now Democrats propose as solutions for high gasoline prices putting a windfall profits tax on oil companies, who would gladly have done the things necessary to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and keep prices down if only the Democrats had allowed them to, and whose profits have grown precisely because the Democrats didn’t allow them to drill and build refineries, and forced them to buy more oil for foreign sources at much higher prices.

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

New Chuckles

"A Little Levity" has been updated with some new jokes.

Stop by and get yourself a laugh or two.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Sense and Nonsense

Two Republicans made public statements today. One of them was right, and one of them was wrong.

President George Bush said today that gasoline prices are high because Democrats have consistently opposed efforts to drill for domestic oil and build new refineries, which is true, that worldwide demand is up but supplies are static, which is also true, and that when demand for something exceeds supply, prices go up, and that, too, is true. He also said he expects the economy to rebound, and the data tends to support that, as well. The quarterly productivity number was positive, not negative as the definition of “recession” requires, job losses were lower than last month, and unemployment fell back to 5.0 percent, which is defined as full employment.

Senator John McCain, on the campaign trail, told his audience that he will strive to make the U.S. energy independent by developing alternative energy methods, which is a good goal, but he said that this would make it unnecessary for the U.S. to ever send military personnel to the Middle East again. The clear implication from McCain’s comment is that we are in Iraq for oil. That is nonsense, and McCain knows it. If we had gone to Iraq for its oil, we would be bringing Iraqi oil to the U.S., reducing the amount we have to purchase from OPEC, et al. But even if McCain was correct, who’s to say that something else might pop up over there requiring military action, like, for example, a nuclear-ized Iran, or Arab aggression against Israel, etc.?

Watching Democrat candidates get hammered for skirting the truth apparently hasn’t sunk in on John McCain. The road to the White House is by talking straight with the American people. “Straight talk” used to be McCain’s byword. Let’s hope he wakes up and smells the coffee, and gets back to that real soon.

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