Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ludicrous Obama Song Video

As a seasoned music afficionado I can listen to songs like this and many others whose message I don't agree with. I can even jam to them because they sound good. I'm secure enough with my convictions that no pop star is likely to shake them.

However, if Ludicrous thought he was advancing Obama's cause with this one, he missed the mark by a long shot. Calling people you disagree with irrelevant, gutless, or wishing them paralyzed may make for good rap lyrics, but it's not going to win anybody over. A national election is not a high school party.

Americans want a lot of different things from their president. What they absolutely don't want is a president who seems to have an ax to grind with the majority of the population. This kind of thing feeds exactly that sentiment, whether it actually fits Obama or not.

Oil Inventory numbers and Crude Prices

I can't help but think that most often, the market totally misreads the situation when they get new inventory numbers. When inventories are down that means the price should go up right? Not necessarily.

Market sentiment is the key factor. Just think of how you would behave if you were a purchaser/end user of the product. In a stable price environment, your going to buy what you need. In that case an unexpected rise or fall in inventory would signal an increase or decrease in consumption that's larger than anticipated. That's what happened a couple of weeks ago. The sentiment was that oil was near a short-term high, so you wouldn't expect big increases in inventory. Yet inventories increased, which means buyers overestimated demand. The price came down. Sentiment changed. There were more short positions than long in the futures market for oil. One would expect inventories to decrease. Why stock up today if you believe the price will be lower tomorrow. Today's numbers showed a drop in inventories. The market read this as an increase in demand and oil is up big.

I suspect reality will set in over the next couple of days and oil will be down around $120 or lower by close of business Friday.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Sun is Rising on our Energy Situation

Reducing our dependency on fossil fuels, especially from foreign nations, can seem an insurmountable task. However, it may not be as formidable a challenge as the news often makes it out to be. You have to keep in mind that the oil industry represents a huge source of revenue for millions of people around the globe. A rapid shift away from it is not in their best interest, as far as they can tell, so there is a significant portion of the population that would like to see such a transition delayed as long as possible.

The fact is, the vast majority of the electricity in the United States is not produced using oil. If we were to shift the power source for cars and other devices that currently burn fossil fuels, to electricity, it would not be a matter of developing radical new technology. It would simply be a matter of producing a lot more of the same. We know how to produce electricity, and new technology will make it much easier and less expensive.

The most promising advancements, in my opinion, are coming from thin film photovoltaics. These are flexible, easily integrated solar cells contained in plastics. Various companies are developing the technology including Ascent Solar, Konarka and InnovaLight. It's not quite ready for prime time, but it's close. It holds the promise of reducing the cost of solar cells by a factor of 10 to 20 times.

The real dramatic changes will occur when the technology graduates from the scientist to the entrepreneur. When products produced by these companies get in the hands of the business community, the transformation will be swift and substantial. These materials will allow one to turn ones roof, fence, siding into solar collectors. They are even working on fibers that could conceivably result in power lines that not only transmit, but produce electricity. These same fibers can be used to produce glass that can either be transparent or programmed to dim as they collect light.

The materials are so sensative, they can even produce electricity from indoor lighting. Talk about recycling! The possibilities are endless. Virtually any surface that is exposed to light can be transformed into a power source. I don't know that even the companies working on these products understand the potential. For example, one product I'm sure hasn't yet occurred to them is a pair of glasses, with a memory card embedded in the stem and speakers attached to the ear pieces. The lenses collect and supply the power, and transition to shades in bright light. The memory card contains all your favorite songs which you can enjoy at the touch of a button. The same general idea can be applied to make your glasses function as a camera, a radio, even a cell phone or a combination of all of the above.

You'll first see the technology applied to hand-held mobile devices, probably next year. You will no longer have to charge your cell phone, your camera, your ipod. Just leave them exposed to some light and you've got power. There are already manufacturers of things like awnings and roofing materials getting involved.

The oil patch will not go quietly, but its days are numbered. We'll still use oil for a variety of products and chemicals, but 20 million barrels a day is probably going to be history much sooner than the barons would like to acknowledge.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Internet, The Information Age and Children

Bill O'Reilly is among those who believes the internet and the information explosion in general has presented parents with new challenges that they aren't prepared to deal with and that something should be done about it.

I agree on the first part anyway. Children are exposed to imagery and ideas, on a daily basis, that many adults, as children, were not exposed to. How do you explain pornography, terrorism, gay rights and child predators to a 5 year old in a manner that's consistent with what they're seeing and hearing? Filters on computers and other media may slow the pace of bombardment for a time, but that will become increasingly difficult, if not impossible as the the availability of information continues to grow. Government deciding which ideas and imagery are permissible for expressing in public is a road we don't want to go down, not even for the children.

Our immersion in information is a very new phenomenon. It's easy to forget that the internet has only been in wide use by the public for about a decade. The pace of advancement in technology continues to accelerate. It's a lot for full grown adults to get their heads around. It's tough to help a child make sense of it all when you've never experienced it from their perspective. The best you can do is the best you can do. Our children and their children will be better qualified to deal with the situation and mentor generations to come.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Government Action on the Economy

There's a lot of hand wringing and finger pointing going on over the state of the economy. Housing is still in trouble as is the banking sector, and business is generally slow across the board.

While it is time for the powers that be to take a good look at what they do and how it effects the markets, they should take some cues from history.

It will be a while before the events of the last few years and the coming couple of years will be carefully and more objectively analyzed. There are still aspects of the 1929 crash and the Great Depression that are vigorously debated today. Still there are a few things to remember.

You seldom see an analysis that says, the thing that pulled us out of the downturn was increased government regulation, or higher taxation, or restricting trade. There's a problem, maybe several, but I'll bet a dollar it has to do with the government trying to control too much, not too little.

I hope government officials can resist the temptation to grab headlines by offering more controls. Freedom is what fuels this train. What we need now is more fuel.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Obama's Civillian National Security Force

The article below does a good job of summing what Obama said in my home town. I was shocked not only to find out about it, but that it didn't make the news here or anywhere else.

Ever hear of the Brown Coats?

From WorldNetDaily

By Joseph Farah

With all the reporters covering the major presidential candidates, it amazes me no one ever seems to ask the right questions.

For several days now, WND has been hounding Barack Obama's campaign about a statement he made July 2 in Colorado Springs – a statement that blew my mind, one that has had me scratching my head ever since.

In talking about his plans to double the size of the Peace Corps and nearly quadruple the size of AmeriCorps and the size of the nation's military services, he made this rather shocking (and chilling) pledge: "We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we've set. We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded."

Now, since I've never heard anyone inside or out of government use the phrase "civilian national security force" before, I was more than a little curious about what he has in mind.

between the lines Joseph Farah Obama's 'civilian national security force'
Posted: July 15, 2008
1:00 am Eastern

© 2008

With all the reporters covering the major presidential candidates, it amazes me no one ever seems to ask the right questions.

For several days now, WND has been hounding Barack Obama's campaign about a statement he made July 2 in Colorado Springs – a statement that blew my mind, one that has had me scratching my head ever since.

In talking about his plans to double the size of the Peace Corps and nearly quadruple the size of AmeriCorps and the size of the nation's military services, he made this rather shocking (and chilling) pledge: "We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we've set. We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded."

Now, since I've never heard anyone inside or out of government use the phrase "civilian national security force" before, I was more than a little curious about what he has in mind.

(Column continues below)

Is it possible I am the only journalist in America who sought clarification on this campaign promise?

What does it mean?

If we're going to create some kind of national police force as big, powerful and well-funded as our combined U.S. military forces, isn't this rather a big deal?

I thought Democrats generally believed the U.S. spent too much on the military. How is it possible their candidate is seeking to create some kind of massive but secret national police force that will be even bigger than the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force put together?

Now, maybe he was misquoted by the Congressional Quarterly and the Chicago Tribune. I guess it's possible. If so, you would think he would want to set the record straight. Maybe he misspoke. That has certainly happened before. Again, why wouldn't the rest of my colleagues show some curiosity about such a major and, frankly, bone-chilling proposition?

Are we talking about creating a police state here?

The U.S. Army alone has nearly 500,000 troops. That doesn't count reserves or National Guard. In 2007, the U.S. Defense budget was $439 billion.

Is Obama serious about creating some kind of domestic security force bigger and more expensive than that?

If not, why did he say it? What did he mean?

So far, despite our attempts to find out, the Obama campaign is not talking.

At this point all I can do is enlist your help – and the help of every other journalist who still thinks the American people have a right to know the specifics about a presidential candidate's biggest and boldest initiatives before the election. I also want to ask radio talk-show hosts across America to start asking this same question. I have a feeling if others join our quest, we might yet get clarification on this proposal from Obama.

Who will Obama appoint to administer this new "civilian national security force"? Where will the money come from? Where in the Constitution does he see justification for the federal government creating such a domestic army?

The questions are endless.

But before we can hope to get to the specifics, we need much more in the way of generalizations from Obama.

Certainly there have been initiatives like this elsewhere – Cuba, the Soviet Union, China, Venezuela, North Korea. But has anything like this ever been proposed in a free country?

I have a feeling there would be more questions from the press if I myself had proposed the creation of something as preposterous as a "civilian national security force" than there has been about this proposal by the presidential candidate currently leading in most of the polls. I'm quite sure I would be hung out to dry as some kind of Nazi thug. Meanwhile, Obama makes this wild suggestion and it is met with a collective yawn from the watchdogs.

Help me out here. What am I missing?

Can I get a hand?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Jesse Jackson, The View and the N Word, Video

the report that Jesse Jackson was caught on mike and on tape using the N word has sparked a frenzied debate about the subject. This video from the view is a good example. You'll hear a lot of talk in coming days from linguists and social scientists about how the word has evolved as a response to oppression, to become a word of indearment or comraderee within the black community.

At one point Hasselback says to Whoopie that "we all live in the same world" to which Whoopie replies "no we don't, that's just the way it is."

The point is we want to live in one world. We're trying to establish a free marketplace for individuals. Creating and maintaining symbols and language that are commonplace in one culture and forbidden in another is an unnecessary barrier.

Quit analyzing and just find a new word.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Cake in the Rain - Lyrics analysis

It may have been a commercial, maybe a bit of bumper music, I don't know. Somewhere I heard that ridiculous song "Someone Left the Cake Out in the Rain" a few weeks back and it keeps popping into my head on and off. Naturally, I decided a critical analysis of the lyrics was in order.

The premise is that there was this super fantastic, delicious cake and it was ruined in a rainstorm. The baker blames "someone" for the oversight and claims it took a long time to create and that they'll "never have that recipe again".

Let's look at the facts. First of all, if you're baking something that takes that much time and effort, how much additional time would it take to write down the recipe? Where did the baker get the recipe? Was someone standing there reciting it? If so, where is the keeper of the recipe now?

As for the finished cake, there are only two possibilities: People, or at least one person, had a chance to try some of the cake before it rained, or nobody tried the cake before it rained. If the former is true and it was truly a delicious, super-fantastic cake, it would have been commented on, talked about, seconds would have been requested. In short, people would have been very aware of the cake and someone surely would have said "Don't forget the cake" at the first sign of rain. That clearly didn't happen. So, if someone had tried the cake, and it still got left in the rain, it couldn't have been that good. If the latter is true and nobody had tried the cake before it got ruined, how do we know it was that great anyway? If the baker will "never have that recipe again" we can assume he/she didn't have it before. Why all the misery over the loss of a cake nobody ever tasted? In either case, the overall quality and therefore value of the cake in question was either grossly overstated or completely fabricated.

Finally there's the accountability issue. The baker of the cake; author of the song, is obviously very broken up about its loss. Yet, they refer to the person who left it out only as "someone". This indicates that he/she doesn't know who was responsible for the cake, or that nobody was assigned responsibility for the cake. The cake was clearly not as important to anyone else. Nobody else wrote and performed a song about it. If anyone should have taken responsibility for the care of the cake, it's the baker/author. The song should be "I left my cake out in the rain". Future cake loss for this baker/author can not be avoided until he/she is ready to take full responsibility for cake placement and storage.

Lessons learned? If you make something good, write down the recipe and back it up. If you can't delegate responsibility for cake safety, take it upon yourself. If a cake catastrophe does occur, don't whine about it. Go to the store and get another one. Maybe it wont be as good as the original, but I'm sure your guests will appreciate a mediocre cake much more than they'll appreciate listening to you go on about the loss of the first one.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Pickens Plan - Revolutionary, even without the oil

You can debate the merits of The Pickens Plan all day. The revolutionary aspect is that somebody finally figured out you don't have to be a politician to advance ideas.

The Pickens Plan is basically a call to immediate action on the foreign oil dependency front, and specifically advocates more wind and natural gas use. Of course Pickens would benefit financially from such a move. He's positioned himself accordingly, one might say, putting his money where his mouth is. Pickens financial interests are not a secret, and they only illustrate that he believes in what he's advocating.

The approach is very like Ronald Reagan's in that he went around the media and the lobbyists and the politicians and went directly to the American public. The difference is that T. Boone Pickens is a private citizen. His plan is not partisan. It's a specific approach to a specific and narrowly defined issue. It's something anyone in either party could get behind or not without putting their party credentials in question. There is no appearance of back door deals. All Picken's deals are on public display and the public is his target. To indict the mechanics of the negotiation or debate you'd have to indict the American public.

I hope more celebrities and well-to-do Americans come to realize they don't have to be salespeople for an entire package, or philosophy or political party or candidate. One can advance one idea at a time, and one doesn't have to run for office to do it. There is financial reward at stake as well. It's great PR to be associated with a good idea without the baggage of being associated with an entire party or organization. The one caution: Pick your ideas wisely and don't try to "fool" the public. They don't mind being informed and influenced, but they don't want to be played.

The New Yorker Obama Cover

It was meant to satire the ridiculous image a lot of folks have of Barak Obama. The rumors that he's actually a Muslim, that he's not patriotic, that he's soft on terrorism, that he hates America.

The cover is a tease for a story that deals with mistakes the Obama camp has made, one of which is the failure to adequately dismiss these images.

When people on the right and the left complained about the tastelessness of the imagery, the New Yorker responded that their readers were sophisticated enough to get the joke. That may be, but the millions of other Americans who will be viewing it are probably not going to be quite as amused.

Ironically, the spotlight has been placed on the various scare mongering rumors, not by Obama's opponents, but by his supporters. The rumors don't come from any party headquarters. They usually start as some email crank, then get picked up by somebody on the left that finds it outrageous and plastered all over the news while they denounce it.

The Obama camp has done a lousy job of dealing with it. Whether it's been an organized strategy or just bad luck, the Obama campaign has been consumed with denying, denouncing and refuting rather than being focused on their message. They've been "Gingriched", a term I coined to describe the tactic that has run many a politician (including Gingrich) out of office.

Executive Order on Offshore Drilling Ban Lifted - Shocking!

President Bush today lifted a long-standing ban on offshore drilling that has been in place by executive order since 1990.

The thing that shocked me was learning that there was still an executive order in place since 1990.

If it took this long for GW to come around, how long do we have to wait ffor Harry Reid to see the light?

Does everyone in DC have oil stock?

Got Your Crash Helmets On?

Oil is still hovering around its all time high. Gold, Silver, Copper, other commodities still going strong.

Money has come out of equities and into commodities, which, ironically, will eventually depress demand for those commodities.

How does the market usually wind down such a situation? Well, money doesn't just have to come off the table or shift into different sectors. It has to go to "money heaven".

Before a significant turn-around takes place, look for the market to make up its mind that there's no good money to be had anywhere. The commodity bubble must finally burst. Stocks, oil, gold, silver, copper, all coming down substantially at the same time. All those accounting entries listed as "cash or cash equivalent" being dramatically reduced without an offsetting entry in another asset column.

Housing held up unusually long before that bubble finally burst. Commodities have done the same. The length of the cycle may have changed, but the nature hasn't. The contrarian thing to do would be to go into cash and wait for the inevitable capitulation. Experts will tell you the dollar is down and there's no reason to think it's going up any time soon. I think, given what I believe will happen to the dollar's alternatives soon, cash will be king again. Be in a position to take advantage of the bargains.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Jackson - Obama Video "I'm wanna cut his what off?"

Jesse Jackson was recently caught on mike and on camera (unbeknownst to him at the time) confiding that he wants to "cut his n#$ts off" because Obama is "talking down to black people, with the Faith Based....".

Translation: Jesse wants to take Barak down a few pegs. He has of course, apologized profusely since the videos airing and Barak has accepted. Ironically, exactly the situation Jackson never wanted to see.

I don't think Jackson's problem with Obama is so much about policy as popularity. He didn't want to see his own stature wane as Barak's rose. Now we actually have Jackson making very public and frequent apologies to Obama, just as many others have come to apologize to Jackson over the years. If there was ever a symbolic passing of the torch, that was it.

Monday, July 7, 2008

RNC Welcoming Committee - Organized Chaos?

A group of anarchists calling themselves the RNC Welcoming Committee, is planning to disrupt the upcoming Republican National Convention. This is a real head-scratcher. Isn't the formation of an organization, complete with leadership and spokespeople, anti-anarchist?

A successful demonstration of this magnitude requires discipline, organization, communication, coordination, none of which are anarchist strong points. Three of the groups spokespeople went on a local radio station in Minnesota and decried Republicans as money grubbing, war-mongering, racists who hate clean air and clean water and are "not nice people". Their call is sure to inspire lots of meth-heads in the area to come out and get themselves arrested while most citizens and business owners of all political stripes take advantage of the increased traffic of money-spending individuals who may or may not share their personal philosophies.

It should make for some good YouTube footage anyway.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Obama 2.0

I had previously said that I thought the Republicans would face a tougher opponent in Hillary than Barak because Hillary's positions tend to change with the polls, while, I thought Barak was more likely to stick to the policies he outlined during the primaries.

Boy was I wrong. He's now indicating flexibility on offshore drilling and tax hikes, but the most notable shift is in Iraq policy. While he still says he favors a 16 month timetable for pulling out our troops he has revised his stance to say that actual timetables and troop levels will be determined by the facts on the ground and the commanders in the field. Where have we heard that before?

While this isn't going to earn him my vote,(after all it still makes more sense to vote for the guy who says he wont raise your taxes than the guy who says he will but probably wont) it does make me a little less worried about the prospect of an Obama victory. Bill Clinton had some massive spending programs and agendas that looked like horrible ideas. Fortunately, none of them passed. Bill was also a shape-changer. He was dogmatic when it suited him, but could change his position on a dime and make the audience think he was going that way the whole time.

Obama is looking much more old-school than new-politics. In the case of someone who doesn't support your views, old-school is good. It means he's more interested in gaining acceptance than advancing an agenda. It's bad news for those who do support his previously stated agenda. You're about to be cast aside like a free-market, limited government Republican.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Birthday America

Tis the season to reflect on what it means to be an American. What is it we’re so proud of? What makes this country unique in the world?

Is it our “shared values”? That hardly seems possible since we so often and so vehemently disagree on so many of them. Is it capitalism, democracy? No, those are great things, but not unique to America.

So what can we point to and say “That’s what being an American is all about.” I would submit that America’s greatest asset is not its capacity to induce conformity to a common way of thinking, but its capacity to enable hundreds of millions of individuals with a wide variety of opinions, viewpoints, perspectives and values to live, work and play together in relative peace. Our uniquely American common value is the recognition that so long as we agree to a few fundamentals rules of engagement among individuals, we don’t need to all have the same values.

When I see political opponents going at it tooth and nail one minute and making fun of themselves and each other the next, that’s America. When I look around the grocery store and see whites, blacks, hispanics, asians, and arabs browsing and greeting each other and nobody’s throwing rocks or blowing anything up, that’s America. When I’m at a social gathering and an openly gay person is debating a fundamentalist Christian about gay rights and they agree to disagree just before moving on to discussion of the Bronco’s prospects for next year, that’s America.

In other countries around the world discontent and dissent are expressed with violence and a seeming urgency that if one group’s view doesn’t win out over the other group’s view, life as we know it will come to an end. The emphasis is on the group, whether it be a political party, a religion an ethnicity or some other entitity that has been raised above the individual.

What has made the American experiment a success is the recognition that the core of independence, the foundation of freedom, is the individual. That doesn’t mean we all agree with each other. It doesn’t mean we all accept the validity of other’s choices. In fact the word “tolerance” has become widely misused and misunderstood. If you agree with or accept something, you’re not tolerating it. When you disagree with something or someone, but allow them to be as wrong as they want to be so long as they do you no harm, that’s tolerance.

It’s an odd dynamic. We are a diverse group held together by the will to preserve our individuality. That’s what makes us strong. That’s America. That’s what our men and women in uniform put themselves in harm’s way to protect and preserve every day.

I hope we never lose sight of that. Happy Independence Day!