Saturday, May 31, 2008

Obama Leaves Trinity Church

Barak Obama explained why he was leaving Trinity Church today. He said that he didn't want to be accountable for everything said in the church and that it wasn't fair to the church for them to be scrutinized by the press so closely.

He suggested the controversy with the church was due to a "style gap".

This was not an issue of "style". This church regularly incites hatred toward white people to cheering crowds. Obama refers to this as "speaking out against injustice". He seems to see no problem with what's being said, just the fact that it's on TV. He did not consider leaving the church until after the Press Club appearance by Reverend Wright. The hatred was being spewed long before that and evidently, he was comfortable with it then.

Most Americans don't have an issue with a black president. But they don't want a president that feels like he has a score to settle with 75% of America. Maybe there are a number of white Americans who feel the need to be punished for the sins of their forefathers, but they are the minority. When Obama gets trounced in November it wont be because of his race. It will be because of his racism.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Scum that Could Save the World

There's a new hero on the horizon in the war on terror. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's....pond scum.

Actually it's genetically engineered algae from a company called Sapphire Energy. Sapphire is developing the capacity to produce 91 octane gasoline that is fully compatible with existing infrastructure and vehicles, using algae, sunlight and CO2.

Unlike other bio fuels, Sapphire's product does not displace food crops. In fact, because its main components are CO2, sunlight and water that can be very low quality, dirty water, production facilities can be located on some of the most un-sought after real estate on the planet. Also, unlike other alternative fuels, the production is infinitely scalable. That is it can be ramped up to meet demand without limitations based on available land or location of raw materials. One could conceivable build multi-story complexes, even where space is tight.

How does this relate to the war on terror? The jihad is fueled by petrol. We currently send about 600 billion dollars a year overseas to accommodate our energy needs and that doesn't include the money we spend defending our global pipeline. Much of this money winds up in the hands of our enemies. We're financing the war against ourselves. A reliable, renewable, mass produce-able alternative to crude could put an end to all of that.

Sapphire is still in its infancy, but they're moving fast. They have attracted some major venture capital and hope to have their product on the market within 3 years. If they are successful, it wont take that long for their technology to have an impact. If oil's days are numbered, how do you think OPEC will react to a realization that their "100 year supply" of proven oil reserves will only have value for less than a decade?

That brings up the one defense the traditional oil market has: lower prices. Oil producers have shown the capacity to produce and sell their product at $20/barrel or lower. If they were to rapidly adjust prices in a defensive maneuver, they could put a damper on enthusiasm for and investment in alternatives. However, if technologies like Sapphire's are commercially developed before that, they will be able to match such price drops.

The key to the changing landscape has been a trend quietly developing in the scientific and industrial world toward recognizing that microbes are far more efficient than machinery at refining raw materials into usable commodities. With some genetic tweaking by some brilliant human beings, this technology will be applied to fields far beyond energy. It's already being used to produce medicines and the possibilities are immense for other products and commodities.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Home Sales and Gas Prices - The Market is Working

New home sales for April were up 3.3% while prices took a big drop of almost 15%. US Highway miles driven dropped 4.4% in March, the first March deline since 1979.

What does this mean for the economy? It means the market is doing its thing. For home sales to get healthy again, prices are going to have to fall a lot more, perhaps another 15%. Bad news for sellers, great news for buyers.

On the gas front, the numbers show that we are not incapable of cutting back on fuel usage. There is a limit to how much people will spend on fuel. This is a reality the fuel producers are going to have to deal with.

In a free market, the world doesn't come to an end when prices get high. We find work-arounds and alternatives. It can be inconvenient and frustrating, but inconvenience and frustration smells like opportunity to an imaginative entrepreneur. As long as we are free to innovate, we'll be fine.

The main danger looming out there is government "assistance". It is an election year. If politicians can't help mucking with the market for political points, the mechanisms that allow us to adapt can be severely hampered.

Pain hurts, but it's a necessary symptom to highlight a problem. It goes away when we change our behavior. It's masked and prolonged when we swallow government "pain killers". Hopefully, we'll be well into recovery before the government can "help".

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Libertarian Presidential Debate

I tuned in to the Libertarian debate on CSPAN so I could see what the top candidates are espousing.

There was some very good stuff, and some stuff I thought was way off base. I like the socially tolerant yet fiscally conservative aspect, but there were some inconsistencies and some deal killers.

The deal killer is the national defense policy. They unanimously agreed that we should pull out of not only Iraq, but everywhere we have troops overseas. They equate overseas bases with imperialism and occupation. The fact is, when you have the most prosperous nation on Earth, you're the biggest target. Having defense forces positioned around the globe is just prudent. We are not "occupying" Japan or South Korea, or Germany. It would be neat if the US could step down from the world stage and nobody would step up to fill the void, but that's not reality. If we don't lead, someone else will.

There were also some philosophical inconsistencies. Several candidates mentioned Ayn Rand as a great influencer of their fundamental beliefs, yet one emphasized the importance of "duty" and "sacrifice" for society. Nothing could be more anti-Rand. Another disagreed with Rand's position that one should judge and prepare to be judged. She felt that tolerance means one should not judge. WRONG. Tolerance means that before you act on your judgement you consider "What are my damages?". You can judge someone to be wrong or goofy, or whatever, but if they are doing you no harm, you let them be what they are. That's tolerance. Turning off your brain is not tolerance.

The Libertarian party will not be successful if they don't understand the basis for the positions they take and promote. Individual freedom and limited government stem from the recognition that each individual is the center of their own universe. You reign supreme in your universe. I reign supreme in mine. When our paths cross we respect each others sovereinty. Society is a tool for the benefit of each individual that comprises it. It is not a master to be served.

The Libertarian debate illustrated that no candidate for that party understands any of the above.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Hillary Clinton RFK assassination comment and explanation video

What a gaff!
Hillary referenced the fact that her husband didn't wrap up the nomination until after he won the California primary in June as well as Bobby Kennedy's assassination also in June as reasons that she should stay in the race.

Well the California primary is over, so where does that leave us in terms of this hypothetical? Even if you feel the reasoning is valid, do you really think the Democrat party is going to hand the nomination over to the person that said they're staying in the race in case there's an assassination if one actually occurs?

No, I don't think Hillary's planning or encouraging an assassination attempt. I think this is just another display of utter stupidity on the part of one of the folks running for leader of the world.

Here's the video.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Obama's Portland Oregon Ralley and the Decemberists

The media made quite a fuss about the huge crowd that showed up for his rally in Portland. Estimates were over 70,000. But the major news outlets neglected to mention that his appearance was preceeded by a rare, free, 45-minute concert by a very popular indy band called "The Decemberists".

A shrewd move by the Obama camp to be sure. Nothing draws a crowd like a crowd. But it demonstrates again how much many of the major media outlets are absolutely "in the tank" for Obama. Had a McCain or even Hillary pulled such a stunt, the story would be about how they had to offer free concert tickets to fill the seats: like tying a steak to your kid to get the dog to play with him.

Why McCain Should Consider Race in His VP Choice

As I've said before, Barak Obama is going to be the Democrat nominee for president barring his sudden arrest for something horrendous. However, exit polls among Democrats are showing a disturbing, yet real trend among a significant number of whites who will not vote for a black candidate. If ever there was a time for the Republican party to put the racial straw man to bed, it's now.

No one should be put on the ticket solely based on race. Whoever is the VP needs to be ready, willing and able to assume the presidency on day one. There are many African Americans who fit the bill. McCain should choose one if only to take away any obvious choice for the bigots. Republicans will do their party no favor if it appears the white supremacist vote put them over the top. Take them out of the game entirely. Don't even give them an option. If Condi wont do it, ask Michael Steele, or any number of other qualified candidates.

In a perfect world, race would not be an issue, but clearly it is. The Republican party can send a message that bigots have no home in either party. It's high time to send that message.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Time to Get Serious About Alternative Fuel Sources

For the second time in two years President Bush went to Saudi Arabia to appeal for increased oil production and for the second time in two years Saudi told him to take a flying leap.

Enough with the begging already. Washington talks a good game about alternative fuels, but there seems to be no sense of urgency to back up the rhetoric. I don't like the idea of subsidies to stimulate alternatives because a solution that requires subsidies isn't a real solution. There are other things that can be done however.

There are companies and researchers making great progress on bacteria and algae that produce fuel, including ASU, GM and Mascoma, LS9, and Amyris.

How can the government move things along without subsidies? For starters they could actually contract with one or more of these companies to produce fuel for government vehicles, including the military. The could also work to alleviate the barriers to progress due to intellectual property rights concerns. They could attempt to form a joint venture between these and other firms to fully develop microbe fuel production, with each participant sharing in the licensing rights.

The fuel situation is more than an inconvenience, it's a very real national security concern. We're funding dictators and terrorists and then spending vast amounts of more money to combat them in the field. I was encouraged when the president proposed something on the scale of the "Marshall Plan" for energy independence. Where is it? We don't just need cheaper fuel. We need a different source. Giving our enemies a bit less money is only a bit less stupid than what we're doing today. We need to cut them out of the picture entirely.

John McCain on Saturday Night Live Video, May 17, 2008

John McCain touts his top qualities: Oldness and Stinginess

Here's the video:



Bonus - Here he is later in the show on SNL Update

Friday, May 16, 2008

Why the Wheels May Come off The Democrat Bandwagon

Barak Obama is going to be the Democrat's nominee. He's been doing a lot of responding lately. His supporters, including pundits have been defending him as well. The thing that makes me cringe about it all is the nature of the responses.

If you believe in something, say so. Don't tell me you didn't say what you said, or the words that came out of your mouth aren't what you meant. If you believe we should talk to guys like Ahmadinijad unconditionally, say so. Don't tell me you didn't say it. You did. If you admire and respect the orations of Reverand Wright, say so. Don't tell me you sat in a church listening to the guy and reading his magazine and didn't have a clue where he was coming from. If you think blue collar American's are out of touch with reality, say so. Don't tell me you didn't mean it when you said it.

There's too much recording capacity in the world these days to tell one audience that you've never been proud of your country in your adult life, and then tell another that you didn't say it.

I can respect someone I disagree with. I can't respect someone who changes their tune with every audience. If you're ashamed of what you think, stop thinking it. If you think it's right, proclaim it from the highest hilltop, unapologetically. Show some conviction.

If you think pulling out of Iraq, raising taxes, increasing government programs and nationaling health care will make our lives better, say so. Don't try to trick us into it because you have faith that the ends will justify the means. That's not how this country works.

How do you have a productive, intelligent discussion or debate with someone when you can't believe a word that's coming out of their mouth? How do you hold a meaningful conversation with someone who refuses to be accountable for their own words? How do you reach a valid conclusion when you keep changing the premise?

The refusal of the Democrat party to stand up for their own words will do more damage to them than if they had just honestly laid their hands on the table. If you want a radically different American, tell us, then tell us what your America will look like and we'll decide if it has merit. You want to take the lead, but you're afraid to tell us where you want to go. This is no time for a shot in the dark and that's all the Democrats are offering at the moment.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Giant Douche or Turd Sandwich?

Until now, it had been widely believed that the Giant Douche and Turd Sandwich were mythical creatures born from the minds of the writers at South Park.

However researchers have discovered an actual living, breathing, walking, talking being that is almost certainly either a Giant Douche or a Turd Sandwich.

It lives in a giant cesspool known as the Daily Kos and communicates in a language that brings to mind bloody fingernails on a dirty chalkboard. It seems to have amazingly little brain function for a creature of its size.

...and they say there's nothing new under the sun.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Obama's Sermon on the Mount References, 2006 and 2008

Barak Obama made a speech in his Keynote address back in 2006 in which he made brief reference to the "Sermon on the Mount". The point of the speech, which I agree wholeheartedly with, was that although religion is very important in many people's lives and those beliefs should be respected, we are a nation of free individuals. As such, our laws and our governments must pass secular muster. That is, if you believe a tenet of your religion should become law, you must make the logical case for it so that it makes sense to, and applies to everyone.

I did a post with a similar theme recently, but avoided quoting or referring to scripture to make my point. I was trying to practice the theme of the piece while writing it.

Obama, evidently, couldn't resist the temptation to go against his own advice recently when he again referenced the Sermon on the Mount to support his view on gay marriage. I guess he wants to score points with the Christian voters by showing that he knows his Bible. The problem is, as he once said himself, he's not running for minister. Our government is supposed to apply to all individual citizens, regardless of religion or lack thereof. There's nothing wrong with any candidate being very religious and proudly saying so, but when it comes time to explain policy, it should be done in a manner that everyone can relate to. Linking it to a specific religion shuts people out of the debate.

I recently attended a local Republican function at which an invocation was read touting the importance of Christian values and having "Righteous" leaders. Most of the crowd added "Amen"'s and other sounds of approval. It suggested to me that people who didn't share the same religious views as this particular (small) group, were not welcome there. To be fair, a later gathering of a different group of Republicans had no such flavor, and in fact stressed the importance of making everyone feel welcome in a community.

Point being: If we are going to be a country of free individuals, whose freedoms shall include the freedom of religion, government must stay out of the spiritual realm. Government's function is limited to enabling the free association of diverse individuals in peace. It is not our collective guru or mentor, it's our referee. You may apply whatever additional laws and principals to your own life that you wish, but those that apply to everyone should be restricted to what's necessary for peaceful interaction.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Hillary Clinton, Saturday Night Live Video, May 10, 2008

Tina Fey certainly did her part to keep the Hillary campaign alive. For a while, Hillary could be seen as a real trooper, hanging in there against the odds. At this point though, she's becoming more and more, just a joke, oblivious to reality and subject to the same kind of ridicule Mike Huckabee graciously subjected himself to on the show.

The writers at Saturday Night Live couldn't help themselves this week. It's a good sign that the comedians are going for the "funny" rather than the political agenda (unlike Stewart and Colbert and their ilk).

Here's Hillary's three points - why she should be the nominee.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

McCain and Goodyear

Call it the "politics of association", but what's good for the goose is good for the gander.

McCain chose veteran lobbyist Doug Goodyear, founder of DCI Group, to run the Republican National Convention in September. Now it's come to light that back in 2002, Goodyears firm did some work for the military junta that's currently holding up aid distribution and relief efforts in Myanmar. The firm lobbied to arrange meetings aimed at improving relations between the military junta and the U.S.

To be fair Goodyear has characterized the junta's present behavior as "reprehensible", but I've got to wonder how he characterized the behavior of an oppressive military dictatorship in 2002.

Goodyear has resigned from his post regarding the RNC, but the association, like Obama's association with Wright and Ayers conjures up questions about judgment. I'm not a politician, but it doesn't take a political genius to know that lobbyists have connections to just about everyone. Of course there's going to be baggage and unsavory characters in their past. So why would someone running for president of the United States, especially someone who so frequently decries the influence of lobbyists, surround himself with so many lobbyists?

It just doesn't seem very smart from this angle. Not that it'll cause me to suddenly support the socialist agenda of the left, but if it becomes evident that the choice this fall is between tweedle dee and tweedle dum, I may just sleep in that particular Tuesday in November.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Intrade - The Prediction Market

If you're not so good at picking winning stocks, maybe you should try your hand at picking the next American Idol winner, or President, or earthquake. These are all things you can place bets on at Intrade.com.

Here's how it works. You buy "shares" in specific outcomes of events such as "Tina Fey wins an Emmy". The price is determined by how many other people, out of all the people betting on the event, buy into the same prediction. If you're right, Intrade pays you $1 per share. For example, John McCain is pretty much a lock for the Republican nomination. Buying shares in "John McCain" to win the Republican nomination will currently cost you around 95 cents. Why not $1? Is there any doubt? There's always doubt. He could get hit by a bus tomorrow. If so, you lose.

The site is run out of Ireland. Internet gambling is illegal in the U.S. The government once toyed with the idea of using the same methodology though. It was thought it might be helpful in determining the timing and location of the next terror attack. The idea was eventually deemed to repulsive to actually go ahead with.

The difference between this type of collective thinking and consensus by committee is that all bets are placed by isolated individuals. Each uses their own set of input, reasoning and experience to come to an individual conclusion. The result is the cumulative effect of individual decisions rather than a group decision which may have been arrived at through the persuasive efforts of one or two strong individuals. It has proven to be a very effective means of prediction.

So why would the government not put such a system to use. At first glance it seems a no-brainer. But, then you have to realize that the same thing that makes it effective, makes it dangerous. People may choose to invest in a candidate that they aren't going to vote for because, even if they don't like them, they believe they are going to win. That's what makes it accurate. When there's money on the table, emotions get set aside. However, money on the table can also be an incentive to influence the outcome of an event you've bet on. The stock market and currency markets can be manipulated. So can the predictions market. Thousands of people with a vested interest in seeing someone succeed, or not, is a market ripe for the pickin's of unscrupulous mercenaries.

Still, as I said, the same is true for the stock market, the currency market, and the corn futures market for that matter. We haven't outlawed those and they are just as prone to manipulation.

I guess Intrade should put another trading vehicle up on the board - If/When the "powers that be" will shut them down.

McCain Mothers Day Ad Video

It's a nice change from your typical political commercial, but franky, I was hoping for something funnier. Next time, hire some comedy writers.

For what it's worth, here it is:

Thursday, May 8, 2008

More on Zero Point Energy

Geek Break

In a post I did last December I hypothesized a bit about zero point energy and what the mechanics of it might be. I've got a couple of more new thoughts on the subject:

First of all, you have to accept the premise that "empty space" is not really empty, but comprised of particles or entities much smaller than anything we've as yet been able to directly detect. Now let's get very close to an atom and slow things way down.

From our vantage point the orbit of an electron is a ring. That is, we don't know where it is at any given time in relation to the nucleus. But if you get small and slow it down, the electron is at times on one side of the nucleus, and at other times on the other. This would make the atom either positively charged, negatively charged or relatively neutral with respect to a very close, very small particle at any given time depending on where the electron was in its orbit. Outside the electrons orbit, the stuff of empty space would drawn toward then repelled from the atom as the electron gets farther away, then closer to the "stuff". Inside the orbit of the electron you have the same dynamic. Imagine a bunch of very tiny particles trying to shoot the gaps as the electron orbits. Some succeed, some don't. This would be how energy flows through an atom. Some "stuff" finds its way inside the orbit of the electron and gets trapped (at least for a time) while some stuff escapes from within the orbit back to the outside world. An equilibrium point is reached where roughly the same amount of stuff gets in as gets out.

Naturally, we'd want to find a way to muck this up. That's how we change the behavior of atoms and their constituent parts and manipulate things to our advantage. I'll leave that to the geniuses with the expensive toys, but it could lead to new forms or sources of energy as well as manufacturing techniques.

Get on it. My flying car is way overdue.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Indiana, North Carolina Primary Results - Somebody Tell Hillary She's Done

No news was made yesterday as Obama won NC and Indiana was nearly a tie. The Democrat primary race has been over for some time. (that's not to say the continuing antics aren't fun to watch)

The Hillary campaign reminds me of an old Twilight Zone episode. An old man dies, but refuses to acknoledge it. The family is too polite to say anything as the dead man continues to show up for dinner each night, a bit more decayed each time. The old man is finally forced to face reality when his little grandaughter slips some pepper into his napkin, causing him to literally sneeze his nose off.

Somebody pass Hillary the pepper.

Feeling Chilly? Blame Global Warming, Please ignore the cooling trend.

There may be more objective sources for this information, but This One is more entertaining.

I've been watching Al Gore tour the world on his "sky is falling" campaign while wondering if anyone was going to notice how cold it's been in Colorado for the past couple of years. In the 20+ years I've lived here it's never been this consistently cool...and wet.

Now the global warming cult has had to address the lower temperatures. Indeed they predict the cooling trend to continue for perhaps 10 years, maybe more. But, fear not, they claim that in the end, global warming will take hold. That's very bold. I can make an equally enlightening prediction: At some point over the course of the rest of my life, the stock market will trend upward. Take heed.

So why would so many top, respected scientists, with half the alphabet after their names cling to a theory that doesn't remotely resemble the facts in the field? Here's how the game is played: First of all, you don't get grant money to study things that aren't problems, so step one - find a problem. Step two - sell the problem. Once the problem gains popularity, up and comers in your field will lend their support because, after all, they want to be accepted by their peers more than they want to be right. Step 3 - ignore and even denounce any evidence that does not support the notion of the ever increasing problem. Death to the infidels! Step -4 promote solutions to the problem that involve a lot more research over a very long time. Step 5 - apply for and receive said grant money. Step 6 - return to Step 2.

To be fair, not all phony baloney "scientists" are in it for the money. Some just like to be in charge. The feeling of power that comes from being able to direct resources that don't belong to you is very intoxicating to the feeble brained. (BTW IQ score and education levels are not indicators brain feebleness or lack thereof.)

If it seems as though this issue really chaps my hide - it does. I'm a big fan of objective truth and reality. I've watched the truth being sacrificed on the altar of global warming for years. Now there's hard evidence that the theory that man is causing a global climate shift, is just not true. Instead of objectively evaluating the data, the guardians of the cult have chosen to engage in mental gymnastics to explain why their warming trend is resulting in lower temperatures.

The world's climate will change. That's a given. It would be helpful to understand how and why this happens, if only to have some heads up so we can adapt. The cult of global warming does nothing to further our understanding of reality.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Barack Obama Top Ten on Letterman, Video 5/1/08

Comedy Break:

Hillary Clinton recently went where other liberal candidates fear to tread: The ORielly Factor.

Barack chose a more friendly venue, once again delivering the Top Ten, pre-recorded by satelite on the David Letterman show.

Of course they're in different situations. Hillary needs a miracle, so preaching to the choir isn't going to do her much good. Barack just needs to not get arrested between now and June and he's got the nomination. I guess it makes sense for him to keep his head low.

For what it's worth, here's the video:

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Shareholder Benefits from Higher Fuel Prices

Okay, I'm not among those who would like the government to start mucking around with market forces to deal with higher fuel costs. But, I must respond to the ridiculous notion put forth by many pundits that consumers actually benefit from higher prices and profits because 41% of Exxon stock, for example, is held by 401k's.

Let's do some math.

Suppose you own a fund in your 401K that has 10% of its value in oil stocks. Exxon was able to raise its dividend by 17% (about 24 cents/share) annually. 24 cents times 10% = 2.4 cents/mutual fund share. Now, lets suppose you own 1,000 shares of this fund. The increase in dividends amounts to $24 annually. The price of gas is up well over $1/gallon, not to mention other energy costs. How long will it take you to totally obliterate the dividend increase in higher fuel expenses? Two weeks?

High energy costs are a net negative for consumers by a long shot. Again, I'd like to see the market take care of it as opposed to the government, but don't let those extra few nickels in your mutual fund stop you from seeking alternatives to petrol.