Sunday, April 06, 2008

Oil idiocy

The latest in the series of pointless gestures that constitute Congressional energy policy came yesterday, when executives from five major oil companies were paraded before Ed Markey's House hearing on global warming. They served as political props for Members to denounce rising gas prices, ventilate Dick Cheney conspiracy theories and otherwise advertise their ignorance of the markets they purportedly oversee.

Democrats, for instance, might rejoice over higher energy costs, which is precisely the eco-policy they've been advocating for years. Until Congress finds a way to abolish the price mechanism, paying more for gasoline is the only signal that will tell Americans to cut their consumption. How exactly do Democrats think a carbon tax or cap-and-trade regime is going to work?

The oil executives performed a public service by pointing out other economic realities. About 70% of the price of gasoline is determined by the global price of crude, which is rising because of world-wide demand and volatility in the commodities markets, not to mention the Federal Reserve's easy-money policy. Congress might also look to its gas mandates and the corset it has laced around domestic production.

It's true that industry profits are at a record high, but oil is a classic boom-and-bust business, which is why billions in capital investments are folded back into exploration and production. Besides, the industry's effective tax rates are in the neighborhood of 40% to 44%. Over the past five years, Exxon Mobil's total U.S. tax bill exceeded its U.S. revenues by some $19 billion.

Mr. Markey also used the occasion to threaten special tax increases, grilling the executives about $18 billion in "subsidies," which are actually a tax deduction that Congress itself extended to all manufacturers, including Big Oil. And he demanded that the companies commit 10% of profits to renewable energy. But as an Exxon vice president put it, fossil fuels are still going to account for at least two-thirds of the world's energy consumption in three decades and whatever scientific progress is made, the practical prospects for alternatives remain "very, very small."

Source. Toon via Dr Sanity



Obama advisor says 60 to 80 thousand troops need to stay in Iraq: "A key adviser to Senator Obama's campaign is recommending in a confidential paper that America keep between 60,000 and 80,000 troops in Iraq as of late 2010, a plan at odds with the public pledge of the Illinois senator to withdraw combat forces from Iraq within 16 months of taking office. The paper, obtained by The New York Sun, was written by Colin Kahl for the center-left Center for a New American Security. In "Stay on Success: A Policy of Conditional Engagement," Mr. Kahl writes that through negotiations with the Iraqi government "the U.S. should aim to transition to a sustainable over-watch posture (of perhaps 60,000-80,000 forces) by the end of 2010 (although the specific timelines should be the byproduct of negotiations and conditions on the ground)." Mr. Kahl is the day-to-day coordinator of the Obama campaign's working group on Iraq"

A new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) is out on Iraq and it shows a lot of progress in Iraq: "A new classified intelligence assessment on Iraq says there has been significant progress in security since the last assessment was delivered in August, a senior military official said. In most ways the new National Intelligence Estimate hews closely to the one delivered nine months ago. That document spoke of security gains since the increase in troop levels began in January 2007, the continued high rate of violence and uneven progress on the part of Iraqi security forces."

Why top Democrats and the media want to Clinton/Obama battle to end: "Clinton is validating all sorts of things Republicans will say about Obama if he's the nominee. For example, she said Obama's not ready to be president "on Day One" or receive emergency 3 a.m. phone calls on Night One. And when the Jeremiah Wright controversy was winding down, Clinton tried to reignite the firestorm by saying that Obama's choice of ministers is fair game. This is a wonderful boon to Republicans. Clinton's criticisms of Obama's foreign-policy inexperience and his association with Wright are both perfectly legitimate. But if she weren't making them, Democrats (and much of the press) would denounce Republicans for saying the same things. If Obama had secured the nomination by now, the Democrats would surely be labeling any criticism over Jeremiah Wright as unfair, racist "swift-boating." That's hard to do when Bill and Hillary Clinton are making this criticism bipartisan.

60 minutes of slime again: "Dana Jill Simpson told "60 Minutes" she called Karl Rove in Virginia to discuss politics. She also said she was at a KKK meeting and that she was working undercover for Rove. Rove says there were no calls to Virginia. He's never lived in Virginia. Every nutty story Dana Jill Simpson told has not panned out including the story that she talked with the crooked Alabama governor... But, this didn't stop "60 Minutes" from running a Rove hit piece based entirely on her testimony."

FAA Inspectors Say Concerns Ignored: "The whistleblowers who exposed maintenance and inspection problems at Southwest Airlines told Congress their jobs were threatened and their reports of noncompliance were ignored for years. Federal Aviation Administration inspector Douglas Peters choked up Thursday at a House hearing and needed a few sips of water to tell lawmakers about how a former manager came into his office, commented on pictures of Peters' family being most important, and then said his job could be jeopardized by his actions. Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., said FAA managers' actions displayed "malfeasance bordering on corruption," adding that if presented to a grand jury, the evidence would result in an indictment."

Time to scrap the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act: "Hoping to be seen to be 'doing something' about the perceived problem of Internet gambling, Congress approved the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in October of 2006. The Act, however, seems unlikely to stop Internet gambling and could even threaten the stable, smooth operation of America's banking system. UIGEA and its currently proposed enabling regulations will undermine the financial privacy of all Americans and reduce the security of their bank accounts. In short, UIGEA makes almost no financial, social, or economic sense. It deserves reexamination."

John Lilburne: The first English libertarian: "The Levellers were a group of political activists in the 17th century, who campaigned for radical change, by writing and distributing pamphlets, petitions and manifestos; and by arranging meetings in taverns to spread their ideas. Among their leading writers and pamphleteers, besides John Lilburne, were Richard Overton, William Walwyn, Thomas Prince, and John Wildman. Probably the most famous document compiled by the Levellers is one entitled An Agreement of the People. The demands listed included regular elections, religious freedom, equality before the law, an end to conscription for war service, equal electoral districts according to population, and universal manhood suffrage."


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A lesson in Australian: When an Australian calls someone a "big-noter", he is saying that the person is a chronic and rather pathetic seeker of admiration -- as in someone who often pulls out "big notes" (e.g. $100.00 bills) to pay for things, thus endeavouring to create the impression that he is rich. The term describes the mentality rather than the actual behavior with money and it aptly describes many Leftists. When they purport to show "compassion" by advocating things that cost themselves nothing (e.g. advocating more taxes on "the rich" to help "the poor"), an Australian might say that the Leftist is "big-noting himself". There is a recent example of the usage here. The term conveys contempt. There is a wise description of Australians generally here

The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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