25 June 2008

Differing Worldviews

In our "Religious Generosity" post of a few days ago, we posited a philosophical difference between conservatives and liberals that we believe persists in this election.

Namely, we see conservatives, with their focus on individual giving, contrasting sharply with liberals who want to institutionalize every native, generous impulse. Then, they create confiscatory tax policy that unfairly taxes the rich simply because they're rich.

This they do to fund their behemoth federal bureaucracies and programs--bureaucracies and programs which too often fit the old maxim about the cure being worse than the disease.

We wrote about one example of this a few weeks ago.

And we know we're a little late to the game with this example, but Barack Obama's speech to the graduates at Wesleyan perfectly exemplifies the difference in worldview between conservatives and liberals. To wit:
But during my first two years of college, perhaps because the values my mother had taught me —hard work, honesty, empathy — had resurfaced after a long hibernation.

. . .

I wrote letters to every organization in the country I could think of. And one day, a small group of churches on the South Side of Chicago offered me a job to come work as a community organizer in neighborhoods that had been devastated by steel plant closings. My mother and grandparents wanted me to go to law school. My friends were applying to jobs on Wall Street. Meanwhile, this organization offered me $12,000 a year plus $2,000 for an old, beat-up car.

And I said yes.
Wow. Blatant self congratulation aside, other observers have noted that $14k/year was pretty average for college grads in the early 80's--not the pittance it seems today. And last year, he and Michelle took in $4.2 million--less than the Clintons, but far more than most Americans.

In all his talk of service to country and the world, you might expect to find a graph or even a throwaway sentence acknowledging service in the military.

You're going to be disappointed. There's nothing--not a word.

Certainly public service is important and admirable, but it is the dynamism of capitalism and the American economy--all those selfish people working their selfish jobs to give their families a better life--that make it possible for America to do anything remotely philanthropic anywhere. And obviously military service plays a large role here. Without a strong military and economy, we would have zero influence and power to "do good." Obama's view of America is one in which people in the Peace Corps are the only ones with souls and the rest of us are just out there to get ours.

*UPDATE 26 June 1:51pm: Dennis Prager sums up the attitude of many of today's progressive leftists--an attitude embodied by Obama's comments above and his repeated campaign boilerplate that "we (meaning he and his ilk) are the change we have been waiting for" or the other version "we are the ones we have been waiting for." Prager:
The modern secular liberal knows that he is not only morally superior to conservatives; he is morally superior to virtually everyone who ever lived before him.
Utopia? Yes We Can!

(commence self-immolation)

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24 June 2008

More Superficial Drivel

[ed. note: we originally titled this "Answers To Your Questions." That was before we wrote the post. Once finished, we decided on this, more appropriate title.]

First off (though we don't know why we even have to clarify this), we have never pretended to be a moderate/centrist/non-partisan/post-partisan/bi-partisan blog. We're conservative first. This often leads us to support Republican candidates. How is this a surprise to anyone? We try to be fair and reasonable, but we know enough about bias to understand that objectivity is a pipe dream. Plus, this is an opinion blog, not a reporting blog. We've got no reason to even make a failing attempt at 'just the facts, please ma'am' reporting a la The New York Times. So, please, quit faulting us for not being something we never claimed to be in the first place.

When we bash what seems to our readers to be a far-left opinion. Don't take it personally. We very rarely pick on those precious few of you who choose to read and respond to our posts. We get that none of you advocate the ridiculous things we pan here at OL&L. Most of our readers are conservatives. Most of you who reply are moderate to liberal. To our knowledge, none of you fall into the extreme left camp we frequently lampoon. So, when we go after whacked out leftist/environmentalist ideas or whatever, don't take it personally. We're usually responding to something we read over at the Seattle PI or maybe our bi-weekly scan of the Daily Kos or Huffington Post--not your comments.

We like the idea of drilling independent of its political ramifications. The fact that it could be used politically to help get people we like elected is simply a happy coincidence. Our support of drilling is not so myopic or narrow as some of you seem to believe. We have repeated here (every time we talk about energy issues. check our archive.) that we support drilling along with a carbon tax, nuclear power, and increased R&D funding. What more do you want? We are wary of the economic cost to Americans and American businesses if we attempt large scale transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. It will hinder us competitively in relation to other countries and is an environmental burden we should not bear alone.

When it comes to policy recommendations, we are political realists. We like the idea of a carbon tax, but the likelihood of enacting one by itself is very slim. Coupling it with a reduction in income and corporate taxes improves its chances, but still makes it tough politically. This is why we half-heartedly endorsed McCain's $300 million initiative to award individuals or corporations who developed better battery technology. It's not the broad, market based solution we hoped for and RD mocked, but if McCain is elected President, it has a far better chance of passing Congress than his and our preferred carbon tax.

And all of these things have a better chance of passing if they are lumped together with increased drilling--a policy supported by a significant majority of Americans.

Part of the reason we disagree with some of you about drilling is that we do not entirely agree with the assumptions on which you base your conclusions.

We get the idea of "peak oil." We understand the price distorting effect of a cartel like OPEC. But we think some of these things are overblown. OPEC's influence has been overstated since the trade embargoes of 1979. Since then, their influence has diminished and with the increased supply coming from Canada's oil sands (our largest single supplier), they have been diminished even further. This isn't to say they have no or little effect, simply that their influence is less than you think because it's easy to demonize and hate the terrorist/oil producing countries.

Regarding peak oil and how that plays into this conversation, RD and some of the rest of you don't like the idea of drilling because it prolongs the influence and control OPEC has on the price of oil and therefore the American economy, national security, and our international interest. We don't like the idea of funding Saudi Wahabbists anymore than the rest of you. However, we believe that between the outer continental shelf, ANWR, and non-traditional supplies of oil found in shale-oil and Canada's oil sands, the increased supply will both decrease the price of oil in the long run and the price influence (what is the technical term? control of marginal supply?) of the OPEC cartel. Some estimate that shale-oil and other non-traditional oil reserves are actually several times greater than the oil reserves of OPEC nations. Again, accessing these resources would significantly diminish OPEC's cartel influence.

We are optimistic about oil because we believe that higher prices will drive the market to find more sources of oil like thermal depolymerization which could potentially manufacture oil indefinitely from things like garbage, sewage, and agricultural waste. We also believe that improvements in technology will make more oil more accessible. Higher prices and technology led to large oil field finds in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Brazil and of course drove the development of Canada's oil sands. We do not foresee a peak oil collapse in the near or even mid-term because of these factors. Heck, our faith in the markets is such that we think prices will eventually drive a near-seamless transition from fossil fuel to some other, perhaps yet-to-be discovered energy source. This is what our study of history has shown us.

Within the general framework we outlined the other day, we are of course open to new and different ideas. Hopefully our drilling fetish makes sense to you when considered in light of our assumptions about supply, demand, OPEC, peak oil and the other things we've written about in this post. Or, you could do as Krauthammer suggested Congress was doing (h/t: S. Lybbert) with some of their recent legislative posturing--repealing first the law of supply and then the law of demand because, of course, they're laws so they must have been put in place by some other idiot Congress--probably a Republican one.

The truth is, we blame most of the rising cost of gasoline on the weak dollar. Greenspan, the guy who seems like he wishes we was still in the game, is largely responsible for cutting rates to far and leaving them their too long. If Bernanke follows through on his commitment to raise interest rates and strengthen the dollar, we expect gas prices to fall accordingly.

[cue Raisin's predictable mocking impersonation]

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23 June 2008

Incentives You Can Believe In

You'd think there were some sort of backchannel communication and advisement going on between OL&L and the McCain campaign.

There isn't.

Though we have participated in a few blogger conference calls, we can't take credit for McCain's latest policy proposal (h/t: Matt Lybbert)--"a $300 million prize for whoever can develop a better automobile battery, and $5k tax credits for consumers who buy new zero-emission vehicles."

We like the first part better than the last part and we'd like that part even more if it were broader in its incentive to create more cost effective clean technology. That said, we're told by those who watch the tech industry closely that overcoming battery issues is one of the biggest hurdles to harnessing clean technology. As every competition needs a clearly definable finish line, we suppose the battery thing will do.

At least, until RD or someone else can come up with a better one.

*UPDATE 24 June 11:40am EST: Our man Charles Krauthammer on John McCain and his recent energy policy proposals: "McCain is a lot of things, but the man who opposed ethanol in Iowa — as Obama shamelessly endorsed the most abysmally stupid of our energy policies — is no patsy of the energy producers. Americans know that increased production is needed to complement reduced consumption as the only way to get us out from oil shocks, high prices and national security blackmail"

Refusing to even explore--let alone drill--the Outer Continental Shelf, ANWR, and develop our shale-oil deposits is bad, bad policy.

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22 June 2008

Re: Drilling, A Few Points of Clarification

After reading a few of your comments, we figured the discussion on this blog would benefit from a little issue elucidation.

- First off, though we endorse a carbon tax, we do not believe that it is realistic to expect one in our lifetime. Americans would probably throw the president and party who enacted such legislation out on their posteriors. The only way this works is if it is coupled with a cut in income taxes and corporate taxes as we suggested in our last post. Even then, passage of of a carbon tax remains an extremely long shot.

- Let drilling be part of a comprehensive plan. The global warming fetishists also happen to be the same people who have been anti-nuclear and in our neck of the woods (Washington State) anti-hydropower. Of the alternatives to fossil fuels in providing electricity to Americans, nuclear power is the only one even close to having proven capacity to produce. All the other "alternative" energy options combined produce something like 0.5% of all the energy consumed in this country. And this, even after the huge subsidy to their production and the high price of oil.

- All of which brings us to our point about R&D (research & development, to the uninitiated). Spend money on R&D, but do so in a cost effective fashion. We'd like to see a competition with a $100 million prize to the team or corporation or university or whoever was able to come up with the cleanest most viable alternative energy source. It does no good to simply throw money at wind or solar or whatever when the "solution" (though we doubt there will ever be just one OR that we'll ever truly go away from fossil fuels) may be something that has not ever been discovered yet.

A command and control solution to our energy problem will not solve the problem. We guarantee that the cure will be worse than the disease. For those of you who doubt this guarantee, we point, once again, to the ethanol debacle. Mandate ethanol, starve the already poor and starving in lesser developed countries.

- We agree with Lomborg and the consensus conference of earlier this year. The money being expended trying to cool the earth could be better spent in other areas. And, efforts to curb global warming, which studies show will have little to no impact, will hinder economic development that would, in the future, enable us to develop the technology necessary to actually do something.

Want to do some good in this world? Good that would actually save lives and make them better--make the world a better place?

Per the consensus, the most cost-effective ways to help the world's poor:

1. Vitamin A & zinc supplements
2. Doha trade round
3. Iron supplements and salt iodization
4. Expanded youth immunization
5. Biofortification of seed stocks

Those of you who click through to the article will find global warming-related initiatives at the bottom of the list. Even global warming R&D is near the bottom of the list. But then, we don't really care about developing new energy sources because of the environment. We don't think it's as serious a problem as the GW fetishists.

- Re: the millions less miles Americans drive today versus a few years ago: this is due far more to the price of gasoline than to any efforts of the GWF's.

- Drilling off the coasts is only part of the solution. And admittedly, not a short term one. We hope only to derive short term political gain from the issue, but we believe, and there is reason to do so, that drilling could help America's long term issues with energy dependence. Banning development of domestic oil and shale-oil is a stupid policy and stupid Democrat Party "article of faith." If they want to hold to it, they should be punished at the polls. But in addition to drilling off-shore and in ANWR, we think Congress should open up America's shale-oil supply to development and production. The numbers we've read--1.5-2.6 trillion barrels--that could potentially come from those sources are huge. They could be and would be developed and produce oil the same way as the Canadian tar sands. Coal liquefaction is another fossil fuel alternative.

There is energy to be had on American soil. And it can be extracted cost effectively. We should free American corporations to get at it. Fossil fuels will always be part of the American energy picture because they are there and they are cheap--far cheaper than the "alternatives." And, as they dwindle, market forces will drive innovation that will bring other energy alternatives online--the same way we went from whale oil to light sweet crude.

- For those of you religiously opposed to fossil fuels, your next alternative should be nuclear power. It is proven and it is clean. Call on your local representatives to do what is necessary to free the American nuclear industry from onerous regulations and frivolous lawsuits. In the nuclear sense, we should follow the example of the French, whose energy needs are satisfied in large measure by their extensive nuclear power program.

Our comprehensive energy/environment policy recommendations:
- open American coastlines, ANWR to traditional oil drilling.
- permit development of shale-oil extraction.
- enact a carbon tax combined with a cut in income and corporate tax.
- expand nuclear power plant construction.
- introduce cost effective, competitive R&D legislation
- start worldwide campaign to divert money now being spent on ineffective global warming policy towards the Top 5 cost-effective ways to help the world's poor.

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20 June 2008

Drill! Drill! Drill!

We return from our 2 week (or so) blogging sabbatical to advocate for drilling anywhere and everywhere--including ANWR. We also endorse enactment of some sort of carbon tax. However, we would only embrace said tax if it were matched by a concurrent cut in corporate and individual income taxes such that there be no net increase in taxes.

A few notes:

- Technology has improved in the last 20 years (since the coasts were placed off-limits) to the point at which drilling can be done safely and with minimal environmental impact. This is a non-issue.

- We understand that drilling will have no short-run impact on prices. We don't care. We only hope that the current furor over prices drives policy in a direction we like: towards expanded drilling.

- Though it won't eliminate the need for importing oil from the middle east, expanded use of domestic oil supplies (including the estimated 1.5-2.6 trillion barrels to be derived from shale-oil) will lessen our dependence on middle eastern oil.

- This issue could be a winner for John McCain. The Rasmussen poll we saw tonight said that 62% of Americans agree that we should drill domestically. Obama may be leaving behind Bill Clinton's centrist ideals, but he should not forget that Presidential politics are almost always all about the economy. We almost feel sorry for poor global warming fetishists whose green utopia has run headlong into economic reality.

This is one of those few, happy instances when the popular policy is also the right one.

All that remains is for high gas prices to hold long enough to bully Democrats in Congress into passing domestic drilling legislation OR give McCain and congressional Republicans an election-breaking issue come November.

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03 June 2008

The Democrat Party

When Democrats took the House and Senate in 2006, they pledged to lower gas prices/fix the economy (somehow) and bring the troops home.

Uh, failure on both counts.

The reason for the latter failure is that cooler heads in the party prevailed and they realized the folly of allying themselves with America's enemies. Thank you, Joe Lieberman. Of course, General Petraeus' resounding success in executing President Bush's The Surge kind of took the wind out of the sails of extreme left of The Democrat Party.

On the former, Democrats, allied by a few compliant Ag-state Republicans, created a ridiculous federal program designed to reduce our reliance on foreign oil. The net result, however, has been to burn food (corn) in our gas tanks which has, along with a few other contributing factors, driven up food prices. This is fine for rich, San Francisco Democrats, but kind of sucks for those living in lesser developed countries.

Let's not forget another hoped-for benefit of Congress' command and control tendencies--specifically, that burning ethanol would be better for the environment than gas. True to the law of unintended consequences, the carbon cost of putting additional ethanol in America's gas tanks exceeds the original carbon cost of burning pure, clean gasoline.

For all the climate change fetishists, this colossal disaster (maybe not for the SF dems, but certainly for the growing ranks of the world's starving) should serve as a cautionary tale: "solve" climate change at your own risk.

But that's the problem, isn't it? Those who bring this craptastic legislation into being and those who advocate for it never have to bear the burden of its failure.

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02 June 2008

Kelsey's Kitchen

Image link

Are you or have you ever been a fan of the Food Network? If so, be sure to tune into The Next Food Network Star every Sunday evening on, what else, the Food Network. Our friend, Kelsey Nixon, is one of the contestants. You can catch re-runs of last night's show--the first in the series--all week.

Additionally, please take the time to vote for Kelsey as your "favorite finalist." This can be done every day and holds the extra perk of entering you for some cooking implements, or something.

*UPDATE 2:51PST: There's a link to Kelsey's blog--Kelsey's Kitchen--in the right toolbar. Check it out.

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