Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The world's dumbest bureaucracy

Israel does none of this stuff so there is an alternative

A THREE-YEAR-OLD boy in a wheelchair was left almost in tears after he was subjected to an invasive pat-down by airport security officers.

The incident occurred at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport as the boy and his family were on their way to Disney World.

Video footage shows the boy trembling with fear despite reassurances from his father that "everything is OK". He asks parents to hold his hand but security officers tell them not to come near or touch the boy during the search.

"My little boy wanted me to come over to hold his hand and give him a hug," the boy's father, Matt Dubiel, wrote in commentary embedded in the video. "He was trembling with fear. Instead, we had to pretend this was 'ok' so he didn't panic."

Mr Dubiel can be heard reassuring his son through the ordeal, which lasted more than three minutes. At one point, the agent swabbed the wheelchair, the child's cast and his hands, and even made the boy lift up his shirt.

"I was livid at this point," Mr Dubiel wrote. "I'm asking myself, 'Why the (expletive) isn't someone with a brain coming over to wave him through?' Someone in a position of authority needs to make the obvious decision this child is not a threat - right? You are swabbing a three-year-old's hands for explosives? Seriously?"

The incident took place in 2010 but Mr Dubiel only uploaded the video to YouTube at the weekend. It has since gone viral, with more than 81,000 views and 2100 comments.

"I didn't think I had the footage," Mr Dubiel said. "They didn't want me to record it with our regular camera. They made me put the cameras away but they allowed me to maintain with my iPhone."

Mr Dubiel said he decided to post the video after he rediscovered the footage over the weekend.

"I watched the video with my 10-year-old and my heart started beating real fast," he said. "I started getting angry - a rash of emotions and then I had to explain to my 10-year-old what was happening and why I allowed it to happen."

A spokesman for Transportation Security Administration said the agency was aware of the video but did not provide a comment. Rules governing searches of passengers under the age of 12 were revised in 2011.



Hunting for Scapegoats Won't Lower Pump Prices

When President Obama took office, regular gasoline cost $1.85 a gallon. Now it’s hit $4.00 per gallon in many cities, and some analysts predict it could reach $5.00 or more this summer. Filling your tank could soon slam you for $75-$90.

Winter was warm. Our economy remains weak. People are driving less, in cars that get better mileage, even with mandatory 10% low-mileage ethanol. Gasoline is plentiful.

Misinformed politicians and pundits say prices should be falling. Our pain at the pump is due to greedy speculators, they claim, and greedier oil companies that are exporting oil and refined products.

Their explanation is superficially plausible – but wrong.

Energy Information Administration (EIA) data show that 76% of what we pay for gasoline is determined by world crude oil prices; 12% is federal and state taxes; 6% is refining; and 6% is marketing and distribution. The price that refiners pay for crude is set by global markets.

World prices are driven by supply and demand, and unstable global politics. That means today’s prices are significantly affected by expectations and fears about tomorrow.

A major factor is Asia’s growing appetite for oil – coupled with America’s refusal to produce more of its own petroleum. Prices are also whipsawed by uncertainty over potential supply disruptions, due to drilling accidents and warfare in Nigeria; disputes over Syria, Yemen and Israeli-Palestinian territories; erroneous reports of a pipeline explosion in Saudi Arabia; concern about attacks on Middle East oil pipelines and processing centers; and new Western sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program and the mullahs’ threats to close the Straits of Hormuz.

Moreover, oil is priced in US dollars, and the Federal Reserve’s easy money, low interest policies – combined with massive US indebtedness – have weakened the dollar’s value. It now costs refineries more dollars to buy a barrel of crude than it did three years ago.

Amid this uncertainty and unrest, speculators try to forecast future prices and price shocks, pay less today for crude oil that could cost more four weeks hence, and get the best possible price for clients who need reliable supplies. When they’re wrong, speculators end up buying high, selling low and losing money.

Oil speculators play a vital role, just as they do in corn and other commodities futures markets.

Basic chemistry dictates that a barrel of crude (42 gallons) cannot be converted entirely into gasoline. Depending on the type of crude, some 140 refineries across the USA transform each barrel into gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, heating oil, asphalt, waxes, petrochemicals and other essential products.

This manufacturing process leaves them with excess diesel fuel, because American vehicles consume less diesel than refineries produce – due to air pollution laws that limit diesel use. US refineries export that excess diesel to Europe, which uses more diesel than gasoline, and Europeans ship their surplus gasoline to mostly East Coast consumers. US refineries also sell excess inventories of other manufactured products to overseas markets, but diesel is by far their principal export.

America exports $180 billion in finished products every month – $2.2 trillion annually in corn, wheat, cars, tractors, appliances, airplanes, pharmaceuticals and much more.

Last year, for the first time since 1949, America was a net exporter of fuel and other petroleum products. Those exports injected $107 billion into our economy and sustained thousands of refinery and other jobs that otherwise might have been lost, as refineries also struggled in our stagnant economy.

Farm and factory jobs would evaporate if we made exporting their products illegal. Prohibiting fuel exports, and demanding that refineries manufacture only what we need here in the States, would have the same effects on our employment, economy and living standards.

The USA has 1.4 trillion barrels of technically recoverable conventional oil, the EIA and other experts estimate, and enormous additional supplies in shale and tight sand deposits. The best way to keep prices down is to produce more of this American oil, and import more from secure, friendly, nearby suppliers like Canada.

However, our government prohibits leasing and drilling on nearly 95% of the onshore and offshore lands it controls. It is dragging its feet on leases and permits for the remaining 5% and over-regulating production on private lands. It vetoed the Canada-to-US Keystone XL pipeline. It is imposing layers of costly and unnecessary new regulations on every aspect of energy production it does not simply reject.

We are losing billions of dollars in bonus, rent, royalty and tax receipts, killing countless jobs, and impairing Americans’ living standards, health and welfare.

“More exports mean more jobs,” President Obama said recently. “We need to strengthen American manufacturing. We need to invest in American-made energy and new skills for American workers.”

His words ring hollow. Above all, President Obama and his environmentalist and congressional allies want to end our “addiction” to oil, “fundamentally transform” America, and “invest” billions of dollars (borrowed from us and our children and grandchildren) subsidizing efforts to turn corn, switchgrass, algae and pond scum into fuel.

Generating billions of dollars and millions of real jobs by producing American oil and manufacturing American oil products doesn’t fit this agenda. Even though one of every ten jobs created in the last three years has been in oil and gas, when it comes to petroleum, Team Obama wants to punish success, and reward failures like Solyndra, Fisker and the Chevy Volt.

To paraphrase a recent White House jab at Republicans who want more drilling and fewer obstructionist regulations: Every time prices start to go up, President Obama heads down to the local pond or cornfield, makes sure a few cameras are following him, and starts acting like he can wave a magic wand, throw a few more billions around, and have cheap, eco-friendly biofuels forever.

Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Steven Chu has made it abundantly clear that he wants to “boost gasoline prices to European levels” – $8 to $10 per gallon! He’s already half way to his goal.

Those prices would certainly force Americans to drive less, and “hope” the hype about “changing” to algae-gas becomes reality in less than twenty or thirty years.

Meanwhile, skyrocketing fuel prices will certainly “boost” the cost of transporting people, raw materials, food and products by wheels, wings and waterways; manufacturing anything still made in America; and preserving jobs, family and business budgets, and dreams that depend on affordable energy.

Hunting for scapegoats won’t lower pump prices. Reality-based energy policies will.



Firm sells solar panels - to itself, taxpayers pay

A heavily subsidized solar company received a U.S. taxpayer loan guarantee to sell solar panels to itself.

First Solar is the company. The subsidy came from the Export-Import Bank, which President Obama and Harry Reid are currently fighting to extend and expand. The underlying issue is how Obama's insistence on green-energy subsidies and export subsidies manifests itself as rank corporate welfare.

Here's the road of subsidies these solar panels followed from Perrysburg, Ohio, to St. Clair, Ontario.

First Solar is an Arizona-based manufacturer of solar panels. In 2010, the Obama administration awarded the company $16.3 million to expand its factory in Ohio -- a subsidy Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland touted in his failed re-election bid that year.

Five weeks before the 2010 election, Strickland announced more than a million dollars in job training grants to First Solar. The Ohio Department of Development also lent First Solar $5 million, and the state's Air Quality Development Authority gave the company an additional $10 million loan.

After First Solar pocketed this $17.3 million in government grants and $15 million in government loans, Ex-Im entered the scene.

In September 2011, Ex-Im approved $455.7 million in loan guarantees to subsidize the sale of solar panels to two solar farms in Canada. That means if the solar farm ever defaults, the taxpayers pick up the tab, ensuring First Solar gets paid.

But the buyer, in this case, was First Solar.

A small corporation called St. Clair Solar owned the solar farm and was the Canadian company buying First Solar's panels. But St. Clair Solar was a wholly owned subsidiary of First Solar. So, basically, First Solar was shipping its own solar panels from Ohio to a solar farm it owned in Canada, and the U.S. taxpayers were subsidizing this "export."

First Solar spokesman Alan Bernheimer defended this maneuver, saying this really was an export, pointing out that First Solar paid sales taxes on the transaction.

But this subsidy undermines the arguments for Ex-Im's existence. Ex-Im, whose authorization expires May 31, is supposed to be a job creator, helping U.S. manufacturers beat foreign manufacturers by having U.S. taxpayers backstop the financing.

"It is critical that we encourage more American companies to compete in the global marketplace," Ex-Im Chairman Fred Hochberg said about the First Solar deal, saying the subsidy "will boost Ohio's economy, create hundreds of local jobs and move us closer to President Obama's goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014."

The implication here is that First Solar was "competing" with foreign solar panel makers in order to sell solar panels -- to First Solar.

This isn't the first time Ex-Im has subsidized companies selling to themselves. In late 2000, for instance, the ill-fated power giant Enron won a $132 million direct-loan package from Ex-Im (that is, from the taxpayers) in order to sell "engineering services & process equipment" to a Venezuelan power company owned 49.25 percent by Enron. Enron was both the buyer and the seller in a 1995 sale to Turkey that Ex-Im financed through a $250 million loan.

Enron's healthy feedings at Ex-Im's trough before its bankruptcy also help poke holes in another Ex-Im defense: that it operates at no cost to taxpayers.

Sure, as long as the foreign buyer pays off the debt, then Ex-Im's loans and guarantees don't increase the deficit. But Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were profitable for years, too, before they failed and taxpayers had to bail them out. Once foreign governments and foreign companies start defaulting, taxpayers pick up the tab. At least one Enron deal resulted in U.S. taxpayers contributing to the Enron bankruptcy fund. Also, Ex-Im has ended up owning a 747 after Air Nauru failed to make its payments because the island nation's economy -- dependent on seagull droppings -- went under.

This week, First Solar unloaded its St. Clair solar farm to NextEra Energy, and so First Solar's financial troubles don't threaten to put the taxpayer on the hook for this deal. But the Ex-Im subsidy itself was a great case in point as to how national industrial policy pitched in the name of helping the U.S. economy often does nothing to help the broader economy, instead helping only those companies lucky -- or politically connected -- enough to get the handouts.

Obama, Reid and most of the Republican leadership want to reauthorize Ex-Im this month and boost the amount of debt it can have outstanding. The lobbyists at Boeing, the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers agree. They'll claim Ex-Im is crucial to prosperity. And for a few companies, it is.




Manufacturing an economic myth: "Barack Obama and Rick Santorum probably couldn't agree that August falls in summer, but on one important issue they are closer than the Winklevoss twins. Both regard manufacturing as precious beyond words, and both think the federal government should be making special efforts to promote it."

Expanding Ex-Im’s mandate is a big mistake: "Throughout its history, the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) has limited its activities mostly to financing and guaranteeing U.S. export transactions. But in anticipation of Ex-Im's charter expiry on May 31, 2012, the Obama administration has called for a massive and unprecedented new role for the Ex-Im Bank: to finance U.S. corporations' domestic sales, as well."

“I’m smarter than everyone else”: "'It’s a sickness,' said a friend of mine who until recently was an elected official in our city. 'It sets in after you’re elected the first time, or maybe even when you’re running for office.' That sickness is 'thinking you’re smarter than everyone else.' My friend made this statement after reading in our local paper that a newly elected member of the city council had questioned an entrepreneur’s decision to open a new outdoor multi-unit storage facility in our town. The councilman, a Republican, said that according to his 'investigation,' the facility is not needed in that neighborhood"



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1 comment: said...

Obama gas prices:

The buck passes here.