Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at intelligent and rational individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

"Observe that the 'haves' are those who have freedom, and that it is freedom that the 'have-nots' have not." Ayn Rand

"The virtue involved in helping those one loves is not 'selflessness' or 'sacrifice', but integrity." Ayn Rand

For "a human being, the question 'to be or not to be,' is the question 'to think or not to think.'" Ayn Rand

16 September 2008

Obama Calls for Equal Pay for Women

Senator Barack Obama and his running mate Senator Joe Biden are calling upon the Republicans to back legislation requiring equal pay for equal work, which is supposedly to result in women making as much money as men do on average.

Interestingly, since Obama has a huge Senate office staff and both Sens. Biden and McCain have large Senate office staffs, we can check up on what each of these Senators is providing on average in pay to the men and the women working for them. This has been done at L'Ombre de l'Olivier.

Senator Obama has 27 male and 30 female staff employees and he pays the women an average of 80.0% what he pays the men. This is very close to the percent discrepancy commonly claimed to exist in the general workforce by many of the studies most often cited in the MSM. More careful studies with appropriate corrections for education, time in position, shifts worked, hours worked, etc. show that the differences are actually much smaller. But let us judge these socialists by their own criteria.

Senator Biden pays his 15 male employees very well, but also pays his 25 female employees more than does Obama. However, he pays his female employees only 65.7% what he pays his male employees.

Senator McCain has 17 male and 25 female employees. He pays his female employees 105.1% of what he pays his male employees. Apparently, an Equal Pay for Equal Work Law would require him to reduce the pay of his female employees.

Admittedly, in the above analysis, it is implicitly assumed that with such substantial numbers of employees, these politicians have been as likely to hire women as men for the more responsible and skilled positions on their staffs. Perhaps McCain pays his female employees slightly more on average because more of them are in the more responsible and skilled positions. Perhaps Obama and, even more so, Biden are reluctant to hire women for these higher level positions. But, whichever version is the case, these two Democrat Senators are not living in a manner consistent with their talk. One way or the other, or both, they are discriminating against women. There is clearly a great deal of hypocrisy being exercised by these two Democrat candidates.

Sometimes those who most think a particular piece of legislation is needed are those who examine their own actions and thoughts and find that they will not do the right thing unless they are forced to do so. This results in a love for using force with government as the agent and a considerable victimization of many good people who do not need to be forced to do the right thing.

Thanks to Robert Bidinotto for pointing out the above link.

13 September 2008

Sarah of Wasilla

Sarah of Wasilla leaped into the contiguous United States, a heroine in shining armor, and energized the Republican Party, the conservatives of that party, John McCain, many white women, many blue-collar Americans, and my friend Robert Bidinotto. Clearly many are either smitten or admirers, or both.

Robert Bidinotto has been doing a thorough job of documenting the socialists' attempts to smear and discredit our American heroine, Sarah of Wasilla, at the Bidinotto Blog. Most recently, he has uncovered how Charles Gibson of ABC in his interview with Sarah of Wasilla very selectively edited her responses to his questions to make her look as unprepared and generally uncertain as possible. Often, the most substantive part of her response was edited out! This interview is a travesty of objective journalism and as clearly as is possible shows that the Mainstream Media (MSM) is in Barack Hussein Obama's harem.

I highly recommend that you visit his blog and get a more accurate view of our American heroine.

Are you worried about the US trade deficit?

If you are worried about the US trade deficit, read the article "Another Nonproblem" by Richard W. Rahn, a senior fellow of the Cato Institute and chairman of the Institute for Global Economic Growth. How is it that through most of its history the US has had a trade deficit?

He explains that US citizens hold investment assets in other countries and the people of other countries also hold assets in the US. The difference in the value of these assets has remained steady at 17% of the US GDP for many years, despite the absolute size of our trade deficit increasing. This is because the value of our assets in other countries and of the assets of other countries' people in the US have grown at a rate keeping pace with the trade deficit. The investments of US citizens in other countries yield more income on less money invested on average than do the investments that foreigners make in the US. Foreigners like our higher interest rate government bonds compared to those of their own countries for both the higher rate and the low risk. Americans like the higher rates of return on equity investments in other countries. Equity (stock) investments commonly produce a higher rate of return than do government bonds. The net flow of money is in equilibrium and is likely to remain that way provided the US remains politically and economically more stable than most other countries.

Corporate Tax Rates by Country

To see how much higher US corporate tax rates are compared to those in other countries, one should read this report. Here is a list of some corporate rates (in %) by country as of 2007:

Japan 39.5%
United States 39.3
Germany 38.9
Italy 37.3
Canada 36.1
France 34.4
Belgium 34.0
New Zealand 33.0
Spain 32.5
Luxembourg 30.4
Australia 30.0
United Kingdom 30.0
Denmark 28.0
Norway 28.0
Sweden 28.0
Mexico 28.0
Korea 27.4
Finland 26.0
Netherlands 25.5
Greece 25.0
Portugal 25.0
Austria 25.0
Czech Republic 24.0
Switzerland 21.3
Turkey 20.0
Poland 19.0
Slovak Republic 19.0
Iceland 18.0
Hungary 16.0
Ireland 12.5

Bravo for Ireland, which is enjoying a very high rate of economic growth! All of these countries reduced the corporate tax rate in either 2006 or 2007, except the United States, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Norway, and Sweden.

It sure is a good thing American workers are so productive. If we were not, we would be hearing a giant sucking sound as all of our jobs went overseas due to our very uncompetitive corporate tax rate.

10 September 2008

US Multinational Companies Prefer Paying Offshore Taxes

The GAO reports that US multinational companies are increasingly reporting their income in other countries to save on taxes. Is this a surprise, given that the US has the second highest taxes in the developed world and that it makes its companies pay taxes abroad where they have an operation and then again on that same income in the US?

US companies are increasing their overseas operations and reporting more income in those countries with the lower tax rates. The larger US companies are the ones most effective in lowering their tax rates by this method.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (Democrat of Montana) is very upset that US companies are shifting operations and income overseas. He believes it is their duty to bring back as many jobs to the US as possible and to report more income in the US.

Domestic income in 2004 was taxed at an average rate of 25.2%. For income reported as earned in other countries, the tax rate paid is less in all but Japan. The largest US companies are then averaging another 4% tax paid to the US on that income reported to and taxed by these other countries. So, it is only favorable to shift income to these other countries when their tax rate is lower than (25.2 - 4)%. In very many other countries, their rate is substantially lower than this threshold rate needed to justify shifting income to them. Of course, when their rates are so low, it also makes sense to shift jobs and capital investment to them also.

The GAO measured US company activities by sales, value added, employment, compensation, physical assets, and net income both in the US and abroad. The GAO concluded that "Most of the countries studied with relatively low effective tax rates have income shares significantly larger than their shares of business measures least likely to be affected by income shifting practices: physical assets, compensation, and employment. The opposite relationship holds for most of the high tax countries studied."

In 2004, the low tax countries included the United Kingdom, China, Switzerland, Singapore, Ireland, Bermuda, and many Caribbean Islands. The high tax countries were Japan, Germany, Italy, Brazil, and Mexico. Of course, only Japan has a corporate tax rate higher than that of the US.

Thanks to Daniel J. Mitchell of the Cato Institute for pointing out the results of this GAO study.

Russian Bombers Train in Venezuela

Hugo Chavez, the socialist leader of Venezuela, invited Russian Tu-160 bombers to train in Venezuela and over international waters. This is the first time since the cold war ended that Russian strategic bombers have landed in the Western Hemisphere. NATO fighters escorted the Russian bombers on their 13-hour flight over the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans to Venezuela. Russia also has plans to send a naval squadron with long-range patrol planes to Venezuela in November for joint military exercises in the Caribbean Sea.

Chavez has sided with Russia over the Russian invasion of Georgia. Chavez has spent large sums of oil money on Russian weapons such as Sukhoi jet fighters, helicopters, and Kalashnikov rifles. He hopes to add Russian submarines to his arsenal. He is having Russia set up an air-defense system with rockets and long-range radar as well. Chavez also claims that he will be buying 24 K-8 light attack aircraft from China.

He has been using a flight simulator in hopes of being allowed to fly one of the Russian bombers. He says he wants to fly low past his friend Fidel Castro.

The American Dream is Slip, Slipping Away - Not

Before every election in which a Republican President holds the reins of the Executive Branch of the Federal Government, the Democrats claim that the American Dream is dying. Both Senators Biden and Obama made the claim that it was "slipping" away. Biden said it directly, while Obama said that many Americans felt that it was slipping away.

I have posted on aspects of such Democrat claims in these prior posts:
Of these, the "Benefits versus Wages" post is must reading. I have recently come across another very essential commentary on the subject of American worker well-being. James Sherk, Bradley Fellow of Labor Policy at the Heritage Foundation wrote an article called "The American dream lives," which was published on 7 September 2008 in the Washington Times.

Sherk says we are "enduring trying economic times." Gas is expensive, some homeowners have lost considerable home equity, growth has slowed, and there are some job losses. But the American Dream cannot be said to be lost every time the American economy enters a downward business cycle. We should remember how slight today's problems are compared to say the stagflation of the 1970s, which was not enough to end the American Dream.

He says good jobs are easier to find in recent times than they were in the past. Repetitive, brawny work has been replaced with creative, brainy work. "The share of Americans working in what the Census Bureau calls 'professional specialty' jobs (such as nurses or engineers), as well as executive or managerial, and technical or sales positions, has expanded 10 percent since 1980." "Between 1993 and 2006, the median annual earnings of American born workers rose by one-sixth."

By contrast, the Democrats, as in Obama's acceptance speech, like to point out that workers have lost earnings in the last 8 years. This ignores the fact that Americans take a much larger fraction of their compensation as benefits to avoid taxes. It also ignores the affect of many immigrants and many illegal workers, who are commonly paid less than native Americans.

Sherk points out that 401(K)-style defined contribution pensions have freed many workers to make more frequent job changes, which gives them more opportunities to seek jobs at higher pay and that they enjoy. Employees are more than one-third more likely to voluntarily change jobs now than they were in the 1970s. Contrary to the anecdotal claims, employers are much less likely to fire or lay off employees than in the past.

One of the problems often noted today is the rising cost of health care costs. This puts some downward pressure on take-home income as employers pay more for health insurance plans. Despite this pressure, the fraction of the work force receiving company provided health care insurance is the same as in the mid-1990s, provided a correction is made for illegal immigrants.

When the present slow growth moment ends, Americans will have many opportunities to get ahead. It is a sad business to underestimate the long-term strength of the American economy and the productivity of its workers.

09 September 2008

Obama on Earmarks

Barack Obama is now criticizing Sarah Palin for hiring a lobbyist to obtain earmarks for the town of Wasilla when she was its mayor.

She responded that she was surprised that he chose to open this line of criticism, because in his three years in the Senate, Senator Obama authored more than $1 billion worth of earmarks. He managed to produce about $1 million of earmarks a day. This is a very connected man, who no doubt greased many a campaign contribution with an earmark or more. He must have been unusually committed to the earmark game to have produced so many.

According to Obama's Senate website, he has requested 330 earmark projects since joining the Senate in January 2005 through the end of 2007, which total $931.3 million. He has said he is not making any earmark requests this year, but he had apparently already made requests for $91 million worth this year before he stopped making earmark requests. He joined Sens. DeMint and McCain in co-sponsoring an earmark moratorium for the year. The $931.3 million is about $1.2 million per working day, assuming that the Senate actually works 5 days out of every 7 during the year, which it does not. In fact, Sen. Obama has not cast a Senate vote since 9 July.

Senator Joe Biden is still seeking earmarks and has been successful in getting more than $90 million so far this year.

In two years as governor, Palin sought 83 federal earmarks at a cost of $453 million according to the Anchorage Daily News. But, she also vetoed more local projects than any other governor in the state's history. She cut Alaska's federal earmark requests from 52 projects for $256 million in her first year as governor to 31 projects totalling $197 million this year. Alaska has long been addicted to them and Sen. Stevens and Congressman Young have been masterful in delivering them to the state. In March, the Anchorage Daily News reported that "Sen. Ted Stevens is aggravated about what he sees as Gov. Sarah Palin's antagonism toward the earmarks he uses to steer federal money to the state." She also opposed Rep. Don Young by encouraging her Lt. Gov. to run against him in his re-election.

One of the left's favorite criticisms of Palin is that she is so good at bringing in earmarks that per resident of Alaska the amount of earmark money is much higher than that received in Illinois per resident. This is the revenge that the low population states with two Senators get on the commonly unlimited-government-favoring large population states. The Democrat and more socialist states impose a socialist federal government upon the low-population, more free-market states without thinking through the consequences that come from the equal state representation in the Senate. If government were small, this "unfair" advantage of the low-population states would not matter, but because of the greater pressure for big government from the higher-population states, a disproportionate part of all federal monies goes to the residents of the low-population states. Sarah Palin, whom the Democrats would like to picture as naive and simple, if she is responsible for the Alaska income from the federal budget, is more wily than they are. In reality, Sen. Stevens and Rep. Young, are the primary cause of much federal money going to Alaska.

Gov. Palin was in favor of the bridge from Ketchikan to its airport on Gravina Island which was expected to cost $223 million while campaigning for the governorship, but its cost escalated to $398 million and she reviewed the situation with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and decided that there were better ways to spend the money. Meanwhile the Senate was given the chance to stop the Bridge to Nowhere and transfer it to Katrina rebuilding, but Sens. Obama and Biden voted for the $223 million earmark to go toward building the bridge anyway. We are still waiting for them to apologize for approving that earmark in which they sided with the good ol'boys Senate network.

Obama exposes himself as a simple-minded cookie, while Palin is a sharp cookie cutter.

Of course, we should have principled, limited government which legislates in a considered, open, and rational manner. Our Congress believes in none of this. This is why we have unprincipled, unlimited, ill-considered, hidden, and highly irrational government. In such a hideous environment, the people of a small town will want to get some of their federal tax money sent back their way, however inefficiently and wastefully, by joining the fight for earmarks. This is the cost of unprincipled, unlimited government.

We must all try very hard to demand that every level of government operate to allow the inalienable right of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This is done by limiting the scope of government by applying strictly maintained principles among all voters and government officials. Palin, to her credit, is clearly a much greater champion of this kind of principled government than is Obama. She appears to be moving in the right direction, while he appears to do the right thing only after McCain has put him under pressure to do so and the polls make it clear that the voters are responding to McCain. Note the way Obama keeps backing off slowly on additional taxes, following McCain on foreign policy issues, backing off on his use of earmarks, and lately favoring off-shore oil drilling.

Obama Compares his Executive Experience with Palin's

Obama says, "Well, my understanding is that Governor Palin's town of Wasilla has, I think, 50 employees. We've got 2,500 in this campaign. I think their budget is maybe $12 million a year. You know, we have a budget of about three times that just for the month. So I think that our ability to manage large systems and to execute I think has been made clear over the last couple of years."

Can we count the many ways in which this is a very silly thing for the Obama messiah to say?

  • Is Obama running for President against Gov. Sarah Palin or against Senator John McCain?
  • If he is running against Gov. Sarah Palin, why is he comparing his executive experience against hers when she was the mayor of a small town, instead of when she was governor of a state?
  • If he runs his election campaign poorly by spending huge sums of money and is still losing the election, then his management ability is clearly incompetent. This appears to be exactly what he is doing.
  • He has managed a Senate Office staff for about 3 years, but his actual opponent has managed one about 10 times longer. No one thinks this is the equivalent of managing a private enterprise business, but there is some management expertise needed.
  • Sarah Palin and her husband have managed a private fishing business for many years. This may not be the dream of a Harvard Law School graduate, but it sure beats the management experience of someone who gave contracts to political supporters to build and repair affordable housing no one could live in!
Obama has pointedly neglected the fact that Gov. Sarah Palin managed 17274 Alaska state employees in 2006. The state budget grew greatly in 2007 to $5.5 billion, so there was probably a large increase in the number of state employees in 2007. Is this because Obama is so stupid that he overlooked this? I doubt it. I think he thinks we are too stupid not to think of this. This points to his deeply entrenched elitism. We are all dumb peons who can be led by our noses so long as we are entranced by his sonorous tones and his own sense of absolute self-confidence. It also points to his total lack of a moral compass. If we were so stupid, he should not be so willing to take advantage of that stupidity to become our President. We should be asking for the leadership of a man of strong moral principle and we would need that all the more the more stupid we the people are.

Obama has also claimed that McCain has no more experience than he does. Does this mean that he is so unaware of his opponent's history that he does not know that Commander John McCain was the commanding officer of a jet squadron during the Vietnam war? Or does it mean that he is so unaware of the nature of the military services that he does not understand that the commanding officer of a unit is both a leader and a manager? Is he so ignorant that he is unaware that the expensive and complicated equipment of an aircraft squadron, with its many logistical needs, makes its management tasks greater than those of many other military units? Or once again, is Obama simply trying to take advantage of the ignorance of the voter in a most unsavory manner? Would this ignorance or this conniving immorality be that of a messiah?

Stupid people get and deserve leaders notable for their stupidity and immorality. If we do not want such leaders, it behooves us not to be stupid and ignorant!

07 September 2008

Sen. John McCain's Nomination Acceptance Speech

Sen. John McCain's acceptance speech for the nomination of his party to run for president shared many calls for service to a higher cause than oneself with that of Sen. Barack Obama. However, where Obama never failed to couple calls for self-sacrifice with the pursuit of one's own goals, McCain's speech implies that it is very American to pursue one's own happiness. Whereas Obama implies that our efforts on behalf of others are performed through government programs, McCain sees much of this effort as being performed privately and voluntarily. Nonetheless, there is a call to unit solidarity in effect in McCain's speech remeniscent of military unit pride and comradery where the unit is America. Fortunately, he notes that Americans are "dedicated to the proposition that all people are created equal and endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights." This is in flat contradiction to Sen. Joe Biden who angrily has claimed that people do not have inalienable rights, despite McCain's claim that we share this cause with Obama and Biden. Perhaps he makes this claim that Obama and Biden share this commitment to individual rights because he cannot understand how one can be an American and not believe in this central principle that makes us Americans.

Obama is probably too smooth an operator to have actually said that he does not believe in inalienable rights, but as a dedicated socialist he cannot be dedicated to the cause of individual inalienable rights. Sen. Joe Biden, another dedicated socialist, has at least been forthright and honest about his opposition to the standing of the individual with rights prior to any act of government and notwithstanding any act of government. He adamantly opposed this idea in Justice Clarence Thomas' confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court. John McCain has the greater, though not always consistent, dedication to the idea of individual inalienable rights. This is a very fundamental difference between McCain and Palin compared to Obama and Biden.

McCain pledges that the Republican Party is "going to recover the people's trust by standing up again for the values Americans admire." He goes on to list some of these values.

They are low taxes, spending discipline, open markets, rewarding hard work and risk-taking, letting people keep the fruits of their labor, strong defense, work, faith, service, a culture of life, personal responsibility, the rule of law, impartial justice, the values of families, neighborhoods and communities, creativity and initiative, personal choice, and government which helps to give us more personal choices.

The emphasis seems to be upon allowing individuals to manage their own lives, choose their own values, exercise creativity and initiative, pursue a positive and happiness-seeking life, and live productively in a society ruled by law with impartial justice. He also speaks of service and of family, neighborhood, and community values, which rather than constraining Americans to acts of self-sacrifice and uniformity as in Obama's case, seem to be offered in a vein of additional personal choices and opportunities in our living our own lives.

Where Obama called for a myriad government service agencies, McCain more admires people acting of their own choice and initiative to identify America's and the world's problems and personally dedicating oneself to solving those problems of special interest to yourself. For instance, he clearly admires Laura Bush and his wife Cindy for their work in helping others. Helping others often is a source of pleasure, so this desire for voluntary service is much less worrisome than is Obama's call for government funded and operated service. But because of McCain's military experience and the fact that he comes from a long-time military family, he does have a tendency to over-emphasize service and to occasionally advocate self-sacrifice. Mostly however, he holds the door open for Americans to choose to serve to the degree they wish and in the way they wish, which differs greatly from Obama's approach to service.

He says "we're going to change Washington and stop leaving our country's problems for some unluckier generation to fix." I hope this means that he intends to do more than just address corruption and reduce so-called discretionary spending. I hope this is a promise to rationalize the Social Security and Medicare programs which are soon going to be transferring huge wealth from the young to the retired Baby Boomers. For reasons I have explained in this post, I do not think he or anyone else will yet succeed in getting these problems addressed, but it is unconscionable not to try.

He contrasts his commitment to low taxes with Obama's to increase taxes, his efforts for increased trade to Obama's efforts to reduce trade, the creation of jobs by tax cuts, rather than their destruction by tax increases, and his opposition to Obama's plan to "force families into a government-run health care system where a bureaucrat stands between you and your doctor."

He notes that low taxes help small businesses grow and create new jobs. Rather than using tax credits to reward companies keeping jobs in America or tax increases to punish those that send jobs abroad, he wants to cut our corporate tax rate, which is the second highest in the world, in the understanding that doing so will allow companies to keep and create more jobs in America. He understands that competing in the global market is the best way to make America prosperous and that it challenges us to think. He promises to reduce government spending and failed programs so we will keep more of our own money to save, spend, and invest as we see fit.

He addresses our many failed schools as the principal civil rights issue of this century. He is partially right here, though there really is also a failure of families to value education in many of the communities with the worst schools. He plans to "shake up failed school bureaucracies with competition, to empower parents with choice, remove barriers to qualified instructors, attract and reward good teachers, and help bad teachers find another line of work." It is not clear how he will be able to do this as President, but at least he is on the right side of a huge problem. Sen. Obama is on the other side and simply wants to give the union-controlled monopoly schools more money to spend. McCain wants schools to answer to parents and students, exactly who they would have to answer to if we had a free-market educational system.

He also addressed energy availability and said we are going to stop spending $700 billion a year with countries that do not like us very much by drilling new wells offshore, building more nuclear power plants, developing clean coal technology, increasing the use of wind, tide, solar, and natural gas, and developing and using flex fuel, hybrid, and electric cars. Unlike Obama, he would have us pursue a broader range of energy-producing options to include more drilling and building more nuclear power plants. No details on how this would be done were given. At least, for a change, he did not say we would achieve energy independence. We would not, but we can achieve more energy choices with increased energy availability and reduced costs. Of course, we would still be sending the better part of $700 billion a year to other countries and some of them would still not like us very much. This contrasts with Obama's ridiculous claim that in 10 years he would achieve energy independence by pursuing increased wind and solar energy output, while ignoring substantially more drilling and the building of nuclear power plants.

McCain says "The constant partisan rancor that stops us from solving these problems isn't a cause, it's a symptom. It's what happens when people go to Washington to work for themselves and not you." He is partially right here. But, the reason politicians are sent to Washington who are not working for us is because neither we the voters nor the politicians understand clearly enough that their function is supposed to be to limit government to those powers strictly delineated in the Constitution, while performing them in a manner consistent with the General Welfare. The general welfare is provided for when government recognizes that the individual American has an inalienable right to his life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The individual exercise of these rights is maximized when government consistently leaves as many options as possible to the individual and allows the individual to manage his own life.

McCain partially understands this, while Obama does not. Unfortunately, we know that McCain is sometimes confused by the very general lack of understanding by the politicians and bureaucrats he has been surrounded by for more than 30 years. While he is something of a maverick, the Washington political culture has nonetheless seeped into his bones even as he rails against it. Sometimes, his viewpoint is also affected by his commitment to military service, which has evolved into a commitment to public service. He understands the need for productive and creative work, building the economy, seeking personal happiness, and taking care of one's family, but he still views sacrificing oneself and family for the happiness of others as a higher value. He is a basically good man who is confused by a confused culture. He knows we have an American purpose and cause, but he can only approximately name it. His approximation is at least much more correct than is Obama's or Biden's.

McCain finishes his speech with a request that we join him in his fight for the American cause. He asks us to:

"Fight for the ideals and character of a free people."

"Fight for our children's future."

"Fight for justice and opportunity for all."

"Stand up to defend our country from its enemies."

I have long been in this fight and I see Senator McCain as something of a bumbling helper. I hope that as he has to explain why he is seeking the office of the President that he will learn more clearly what the American cause really is. Sometimes we learn best when we try to teach others and to his credit, he appears to be trying to teach Americans what the American cause is. At the least, he is likely to throw a number of the political scalawags off their game of taking advantage of the American people.

When the Republican controlled Congress was voting to spend $190 billion on the 2002 farm bill, he voted against it. He voted against the ($783 billion through 2018) 2003 Medicare drug entitlement bill. Through 2082 it is expected to cost $8.4 trillion, though such estimates always prove to be too low. He also voted against the 2005 highway bill for $286 billion. McCain clearly understands that government does not have unlimited resources and cannot call upon the people for taxes to support every project on every politician's wish list. He has also shown this by not requesting earmarks, which in 2005 reached a high water mark of 13,996 earmarks by other members of Congress. He roundly scolded the Republican Party for participating in the earmark debacle and for reckless spending in his speech.

Senator McCain does not have a basic philosophical approach to ethics and government and he sometimes falls into populism and calls for self-sacrifice, but he believes basically in the rights of the individual, in limited government, and when he calls for self-sacrifice, he usually does so in a context of voluntary choice. This makes him a much more ethical and less dangerous man than is Senator Obama.

If only we could get him to repudiate the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 that unconstitutionally limits the freedom of speech before elections! We also need to hope that Sarah Palin will be useful in persuading him that anthropomorphic global warming is unproven, pointless to spend money on, and not necessarily even a bad thing. At least he did not discuss global warming and the environment in his speech. We should also hope that she persuades him to allow more oil and gas drilling in Alaska and on other federal lands.

05 September 2008

Congressional Spending Chaos

Over the last 25 years, it has been hard to reign in the spending of Congress no matter which party controls it. As John McCain pointed out in his speech accepting the nomination of the Republican Party to run for the Presidency, when the Republicans had control of Congress and the Presidency, they lost the trust of the American people by going on a spending binge. From time to time, it is pointed out that if Congress is controlled by one party, then it is better for the purpose of controlling the size of government that the President be of the other party. But, even better, Richard Rahn points out is a divided Congress, since it is Congress that makes the laws and creates new taxes and new agencies. He has written an article called "The Economy and the Congress," which was published in the Washington Times on 4 September and provides interesting data on this issue.

His principal points are:
  • The economy grew best when the Democrats controlled the House and the Republicans the Senate in the middle Reagan years and when the Republicans controlled both the House and the Senate in the last six Clinton years.
  • The deficit was lowest and a surplus even occurred when the Republicans controlled the Congress under Clinton.
  • In the 5 years between 1983 and 2007 when Congress was divided, the economy grew at a 4.1% annual rate, when the Republicans controlled Congress for 11 of those years the growth rate was lower at 3.3%, and when the Democrats controlled Congress for 9 of those years the economy grew still more slowly at a rate of 2.8%.
  • When Congress was divided, the deficit decreased as a % of GDP by 4.2%, while it decreased under Democrat control by 3.4%, and only by 1.0% when Congress was controlled by the Republicans.
One of the things McCain promised tonight was that he would veto pork-barrel bills passed by Congress. On the other hand, Obama has promised to hugely expand the service agencies of government and to create many, many new spending programs. Despite the fact that Congress is held in lower esteem than is President Bush, it is likely to remain in the control of the Democrats. So, it will clearly be much better for the country if McCain wins the presidential election and reigns in what would otherwise be an out-of-control Congress.

01 September 2008

Coal Liquefaction

An interesting commentary on coal liquefaction by E. Ralph Hostetter appeared in the 31 August 2008 Washington Times. Coal can be converted into liquid gasoline and diesel fuel using hot water under pressure to form a mixture of hydrogen gas and carbon monoxide. In the presence of heat, pressure, and a suitable catalyst, such as iron, this mixture will form long hydrocarbon chains.

The United States mines more than 1 billion tons of coal a year. We have 275 billion tons of recoverable coal, 1/4th of the world's estimated coal reserves. American Clean Coal Fuels in Illinois is developing a 30,000 barrel per day biomass and coal-to-liquid operation. Baard Energy is building a 53,000 barrels per day coal and biomass to liquid facility on the Ohio River. Rentech is building a facility in Natchez, Mississippi to produce 29,000 barrels per day. DKRW is constructing a 20,000 barrel per day plant in Medicine Bow, Wyoming. The U. S. Dept. of Energy is predicting 3.7 million barrels per day of liquid from coal by 2030. About 1.25 barrels of oil can be formed from each ton of coal. If the U. S. mined another 1 billion tons of coal a day and converted it into liquid fuels, we could reduce crude oil imports by 15% and decrease import costs by $100 billion per year.

Mischief of US Climate Change Science Project

Dr. Patrick Michaels is a research professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia and is senior fellow in environmental studies at the Cato Institute. In a commentary published on 31 August in the Washington Times, he writes about having reviewed a report called Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program. This report concluded that "Aggressive near-term actions would be required to alter the future path of human-induced warming." The "product lead" is Tom Karl, who heads the Commerce Department's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. and Michaels says he is a very politically savvy guy.

He says the report implies that only bad results come from global warming. This is not the case. Growing seasons become longer and higher CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere cause plants to grow better. Americans like warmer climates so much, they often choose to move to warmer areas of the country. It claims that the elderly are especially vulnerable to extreme heat, but Phoenix and Tampa have many elderly inhabitants and very few heat-related deaths. Generally, the report is very unscientific according to Michaels.

This is not surprising. The senior editor is Susan J. Hassol, who wrote the HBO global warming documentary "Too Hot Not to Handle," and is not a climate scientist. The executive producer is Laurie David, who orchestrated Al Gore's inconveniently false "An Inconvenient Truth." She was also the executive producer of the HBO documentary. With these two producing this document, it is hardly surprising that it is science fiction.

Very Little Sunspot Activity Recently

There has been very little sunspot activity since the most recent solar cycle 24 began in January. The last sunspot activity was on 20 July. Before that, there was a long stretch with no sunspots also. Measurements of solar irradiance over the last three months have also been very low.

The Little Ice Age had two parts. The second part corresponded to an extensive time of very few observances of sunspots, called the Maunder Minimum.

The Earth's Favorite Average Temperature

During the last 600 million years, the earth's favorite average temperature has been about 22C or about 72F. The average temperature has come down from this temperature a number of times, but it usually stays near this very warm temperature. When the temperature drops, it for comparatively short times and it sometimes drops a lot. About 600 million years ago, the average temperature was about 23C and it stayed at the high temperature for more than 160 million years. About 440 million years ago, the average temperature dropped to about 12C or about 54F. It quickly rose back up to 23C and then dropped to about 20C from 375 to 310 million years ago. From 300 to about 270 million years ago, it was about 12C again. Then it shot up to about 22C until it dipped down for a short time to about 16C about 140 million years ago. It quickly returned to 22C and stayed there until about 35 million years ago when it started to decrease. Once again, it fell until it reached about 12C. It has since risen a bit, so at this time the average temperature is about 14C, which is much cooler than the most common average temperature of 22C.

Farmer's Almanac Expects Global Cooling

The Farmer's Almanac expects global cooling based upon a change of sun spot activity. The sun's sunspot activity just transitioned from Cycle 23 to Cycle 24 in January 2008. Cycle 23 was 25% cooler than the prior cycle, which has caused the cooling of the Earth's average temperature since 2000. Cycle 24 started late. The Farmer's Almanac examined the sunspot activity of the last 88 years and beyond and believes that Cycle 24 will be a cool cycle. The worst is yet to come according to the Farmer's Almanac:

"Doug Hathaway, a solar physicist at NASA, believes that solar activity has diminished and will continue to do so for decades. In 2006, he predicted, based on observations of the slowing of the plasma flow on the Sun, that cycle 25 could be the quietest—thus, the coolest—in centuries. Also in that year, Khabibullo Abdusamatov, head of research for the Russian Academy of Sciences, issued an imminent mini-ice age warning based on expectations of a quieter Sun over the next 50 years. Our long-range forecasts also point toward cooling conditions."

At the present time the Pacific Ocean is also cooling. So, the world's biggest ocean and the expected solar sunspot activity over several cycles are expected to be cooler. If there is any effect of CO2 in warming the earth, it may be very welcome. Unfortunately, the record looking back seems to show that natural forces have played the dominant role and will continue to do so.

Meanwhile, the principal candidates for the presidency are both advocates of taking drastic actions to reduce CO2 emissions by forcing carbon-based fuels to become more expensive and by forcing us to use less energy. Whichever is elected will combine with a Democrat Congress to pass draconian legislation which will cost every American considerable money and hardship, even as it should be clear that we should more likely be preparing for a several decades long colder spell.

As I have noted many times before, warmer is usually better for mankind than cooler is. Cooler gives us a shorter growing season and could make it much more difficult to feed the more than 6 billion people now on earth. Cooler tends to create more violent storms. Cooler is harder on older people than warmer is. Of course, if a few billion people were to starve, many environmentalists would rejoice. After all, they think humans are the enemy of the planet.