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I am told that today, April 26th is National Pretzel Day. And, National Richter Scale Day. And, yes, also National Hug an Australian Day. My guess is that these days are set aside to help the public to remember that Pretzels exist and that Australians need hugs, too. Why do we need a special day to remember and recognize Charles F. Richter and his scale of earthquake magnitude? I think, at least here on the West Coast, we get regular reminders in the form of earthquakes.
So, do we really need another National Remembrance day? Maybe so.
It seems so rare today to see people exercising common sense that we may need to have a holiday to help us remember that it was once a foundational characteristic of Americans.
Can you imagine a pioneer family on the Oregon Trail not protecting the borders of their wagon train? It was just common sense to send scouts on ahead and to have armed members of the wagon train stationed all around the train. How about the leaders of the wagon train suggesting that the entire convoy be disarmed and just rely on the Federal Government, in the form of an Army Cavalry unit, to protect them from horse rustlers, robbers and natives? It would make no sense at all – would be counter to all common sense. If you have watched our elected government officials in action, you know what I mean.
If we do set aside a National Common Sense Day, I recommend that it be the day before Congress starts its new session. That would have National Common Sense Day typically fall on January 2nd. Why that day? I think it would be the day Members of Congress would be least likely to pass any laws that defy all common sense.
Nike’s famous trade mark, the Swoosh, and its famous motto, “Just Do It” have gone a long way to change a small track shoe manufacturer into one of the largest sporting goods companies in the world. Today it is worth between $45 and 50 Billion Dollars. I would argue that Phil Knight, the founder and Chairman of Nike, has been so successful because he followed his motto.
I think Byron Reese would agree with me. The following video takes 15 minutes. It is a plug for his new book (available here), but it is worth the time. In fact it should probably be viewed by each of us on an annual basis. I plan to save a link to it on my calendar. I hope you enjoy it. Thanks to Corby for forwarding it to me.
Though I have been gone for a couple of weeks on vacation, I did take a break from vacation to watch the super bowl. I am a long-time 49ers fan. Though my Niners lost, it was a very good game and, as per usual, there were quite a few entertaining commercial spots.
By far my favorite commercial during the Super Bowl was the Dodge/Paul Harvey ad, “So God Made a Farmer.” Here it is:
Today I saw my first take-off of that commercial, “So God made a Liberal.” It is not near the class or quality of the original but was entertaining none-the-less. Thought you might like to see it.
Just back from vacation in time to celebrate.
Not much in dollars, the way they are spent by our government agencies, but to me, 750,000 views of this blog is a bit of a milestone. Started in mid-September 2008, in 53 months of presence as a WordPress blog, the average has been over 14,000 views per month or just under 500 views per day. Thanks for reading and especially thanks for your comments.
The article is California Could Be the Next Shale Boom State, by Mark Mills. The short and sweet of the piece is that California has oil reserves in the Monterey Shale Field that are on the order of Saudi Arabia. In a state where environmentalists have put a stop to most drilling and energy exploration, the sad economic state of California’s government may set the stage for development of this amazing asset. Wouldn’t it be interesting if California became a major oil exporter and resolved its economic problems in much the same way as Norway when it found North Sea Oil in the late 70s.
I have been thinking a lot about energy, technology, peak oil, etc. over the past few months. I’ve also been doing a little research for a book I have wanted to write for about 30 years. This has led me to make two statements that I think are key to the discussion of energy, peak oil, and diminishing resources in general.
First Statement: Our resources are only limited by our ability to find and employ the cost effective technology needed to discover and recover those resources we need. We tend to look at our resources as being limited when, actually, it is likely that only our knowledge and technology are limiting us.
Take for example, Gold. First there was gold found in certain streams. As man found and recovered all of the gold in the known gold-bearing streams, he had to look for new, yet undiscovered streams. The limit to the supply of gold was the amount that could be taken from the known gold-bearing streams. Eventually, gold was also found by digging near the gold-bearing streams. This increased the known supply of the resource. But we could only dig so deep so eventually the supply would again be limited to our ability to dig in the known places. Soon, man discovered that there was gold to be dug in places not near the gold-bearing streams. Again the total resource was found to be larger than originally thought. Then man learned to dig and tunnel deeper and mines went to our technological limit of about a mile underground. This again increased the total of the known reserves of gold. Today, the TuaTona mine in South Africa is the world’s deepest gold mining operation at just under 2.5miles deep. It takes nearly an hour for the miners to descend to the working face. The cost to extract an ounce of gold from 2.5 miles down is about $800. But, the value of that ounce of gold is now $1,600 so it makes sense to go that deep. What effect does that have on the known reserves of gold?
TransOcean’s Deepwater Horizon, in 2009, drilled a well over 6 miles deep in the Gulf of Mexico. In 2010, they had problems with that well resulting in loss of life and a huge oil spill. But they proved that we could get oil and gas from deeper than ever before. Again our estimated total of known reserves increased. The only question was not, “Do we have enough oil reserves for man’s energy needs?” It became, “Do we have the technology to recover that energy in a cost effective manner?”
The Kola Superdeep borehole in Russia is just over 7.5 miles (about 40,000 feet) deep. It is currently the deepest penetration of earth that has been made by man. During the drilling, as they approached the 40,000 foot level, heats of over 350 degrees Fahrenheit were encountered. That predicted that to get to over 50,000 feet of depth (the project goal), they would have been seeing temperatures in excess of 500 degrees which would have made drill bits too soft to cut. Do you have any doubt that we will discover and learn to use new materials for drill bits that can survive 500 degrees F. or much more? Do you doubt that our known reserves of crude oil and natural gas will dramatically increase as we bring new technologies to bear on the problem?
This discussion has not even looked at the advances in non-destructive exploration technology. And, it is unlikely that even with our current technology that we have searched the entire earth for these resources.
Now for some perspective. The Earth’s Circumference is approximately 25,000 miles. That means it is about 7950 miles straight through the earth from one side to the other or just under 4,000 miles from any point on the surface to the center of Earth. So we are currently exploring less than 7.5 miles of 4,000 miles, or less than 2 tenths of one percent of the depth of earth. What is to be found in the other 99.8% of that trip to the center?
If we were to drill to the maximum capability of current drilling technology, say 40,000 feet, would we reach a limitless supply of earth at a temperature of at least 350 Deg.F.? Could we use this heat to generate power with steam to convert that to electricity? Would that be sufficient to replace our petroleum energy needs?
Second Statement: As long as demand persists and there is no competing resource at lower cost, the price of any resource will remain high enough to support the cost to discover and recover and deliver the resource.
Do you agree with my two statements? If so or if not, please express your feelings in a comment to this post.
The following article was written by Dr. Barry Fagin, a Professor of Computer Science at the United States Air Force Academy. I do not know Dr. Fagin but he was kind enough to allow me to reprint this article. I particularly like his belief that “Responsibility is better than entitlement.”
FAGIN: Air Force Academy professor sounds off on being ‘better’
“Why are you teaching at a military academy?” For people who are supposed to be smart, professors ask stupid questions.
I’ve presented papers at dozens of academic conferences, and there’s always some condescending academic type who asks me that. It’s always asked with perfect innocence, so that I know they don’t mean to offend.
Let’s agree that my answer does not mean to offend: “Because where I teach is better than where you teach. Our standards are higher, our faculty work harder, and my students are better than yours.” I haven’t actually said this out loud before, but it’s how I feel.
The word “better” has fallen out of fashion in America. It makes people uncomfortable. Ranking some things as better or worse is divisive and controversial. Saying that certain values are better can become a slippery slope to thinking groups of people are better, particularly one’s own. I am sympathetic to these arguments.
But that doesn’t mean “better” and “worse” should be eliminated from national discourse. At our nation’s service academies, such words are used unapologetically. High schools students come to us wanting something better. Faculty come here wanting something better. The American public expects, when they see a newly commissioned lieutenant, that he or she believes the things an American officer stands for are better than those that characterize a less demanding life.
I think my colleagues understand the idea of “better”. Air Force Academy faculty have won the CASE Professor of the Year award nine times, more than 99% of all colleges in America. Even the Ivy League schools have not done better. And I say this having attended one.
Better still, I have my students: Those who have taken on the challenge of computer science, and those who have sought the rigor of the Academy Scholars Program. These young men and women are a college professor’s dream. They are hungry to learn, always prepared, and passionate in their search for truth. They will become America’s future leaders. Who wouldn’t want to teach them?
Yes, we are not perfect. We have high standards. When we meet them, it’s expected. When we don’t, it’s news. That is how it should be. And when the ship of idealism founders on the rocks of reality, cynicism takes root. All of us who work with young people have seen it. We deal with it as best we can.
But abandoning ship is not an option. I will not give up on “better”.
I believe that learning is better than ignorance. Right answers are better than wrong ones. Thoughtful engagement is better than unquestioning belief, and genuine understanding is better than blind regurgitation.
I believe reality exists independent of our perception of it. Critical thinking and the scientific method are the best ways humanity has to uncover its secrets.
I believe people have lived with great minds and great ideas. We are better for knowing them.
I believe running a mile in nine minutes is better than running it in 10. Running a mile in 15 minutes is better than not running one at all.
I believe hard work is better than sloth. Kindness is better than selfishness. Freedom is better than slavery. Duty is better than purposelessness. Responsibility is better than entitlement. Truth is better than mendacity. Flourishing is better than misery. Hope is better than despair.
Some values are better than others and, dare I say, no one creed or group has an exclusive claim to them. They are part of our human nature. They belong to everyone.
How many of us can say that where we work and what we do aspires to these ideals on a regular basis? I can. I do. I am proud of it.
Barry Fagin was named Colorado Professor of the Year this week by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education in Washington, DC. He is Professor of Computer Science at the U.S. Air Force Academy, and is a regular Gazette opinion columnist. He is speaking here on behalf of himself only. Readers can write to Dr. Fagin at email@example.com.
If you have read the ‘About’ page on this blog, you are aware that I was fortunate enough to attend and graduate from the United States Air Force Academy. I am proud to have been selected to have such an opportunity and very thankful for the chance to associate with talented fellow students and excellent professors who actually teach.
At most institutions of higher learning today, a student has about an equal chance of being instructed by a post graduate student as by the professor who, in theory only, teaches the class. For example, prior to her recent election to the Senate from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren was a full-time professor at Harvard. It is reported that she taught a single class. At the Air Force Academy, Professors teach, period. From my experience, they teach many classes and it is a full time job, which they do quite well. They are not figureheads.
I was interested to learn that Dr. Fagin received his B.A. in Engineering from Brown University in 1982, his M.S. and Ph.D. from U.C., Berkeley in 1984 and 1987 respectively. He was a Fulbright Scholar to the St. Petersburg Technical State University, Russia, and is the co-inventor of the Crandall/Fagin Algorithm which was used to discover the largest known prime number.
By the way….
“How many of us can say that where we work and what we do aspires to these ideals on a regular basis? I can. I do. I am proud of it.”
I’ve not posted in quite a few days. I’ve been struggling with a post of an “Open Letter to Obama ’08 Voters.” As I try, to date unsuccessfully, to come up with arguments that Liberals and folks who were taken in by Obamamania in ’08 can’t instantly reject as ‘right-wing, I have let the blog go dormant.
So today, I was saved by my Brother-in-Law in Florida who sent me the following article by John Stossel with a reply/comment from Trevor Grant Thomas. I highly recommend both.
There Ought Not to Be a Law
John Stossel Aug 15, 2012
I’m a libertarian in part because I see a false choice offered by the political left and right: government control of the economy — or government control of our personal lives.
People on both sides think of themselves as freedom lovers. The left thinks government can lessen income inequality. The right thinks government can make Americans more virtuous. I say we’re best off if neither side attempts to advance its agenda via government.
Let both argue about things like drug use and poverty, but let no one be coerced by government unless he steals or attacks someone. Beyond the small amount needed to fund a highly limited government, let no one forcibly take other people’s money. When in doubt, leave it out — or rather, leave it to the market and other voluntary institutions.
But this is not how most people think. Most people see a world full of problems that can be solved by laws. They assume it’s just the laziness, stupidity or indifference of politicians that keeps them from solving our problems. But government is force — and inefficient.
That’s why I argue in “No, They Can’t: Why Government Fails — but Individuals Succeed” that it’s better if government didn’t try to address most of life’s problems.
People tend to believe that “government can!” When problems arise, they say, “There ought to be a law!”
Even the collapse of the Soviet Union, caused by the appalling results of central planning, didn’t shock the world into abandoning big government. Europe began talking about some sort of “market socialism.” Politicians in the United States dreamt of a “third way” between capitalism and socialism, and of “managed capitalism” — where politicians often replace the invisible hand.
George W. Bush ran for president promising a “lean” government, but he decided to create a $50 billion per year prescription drug entitlement and build a new bureaucracy called No Child Left Behind. Under Bush, Republicans doubled discretionary spending (the greatest increase since LBJ), expanded the drug war and hired 90,000 new regulators.
Bush’s increases in regulation didn’t mollify the media’s demand for still more.
Then came Barack Obama and spending big enough to bankrupt all our children. That fueled the tea party and the 2010 elections.
The tea party gave me hope, but I was fooled again. Within months, the new “fiscally conservative” Republicans voted to preserve farm subsidies, vowed to “protect” Medicare and cringed when Romney’s future veep choice, Rep. Paul Ryan, proposed his mild deficit plan.
It is unfortunate that the United States, founded partly on libertarian principles, cannot admit that government has gotten too big. East Asian countries embraced markets and flourished. Sweden and Germany liberalized their labor markets and saw their economies improve.
But we keep passing new rules.
The enemy here is human intuition. Amid the dazzling bounty of the marketplace, it’s easy to take the benefits of markets for granted. I can go to a foreign country and stick a piece of plastic in the wall, and cash will come out. I can give that same piece of plastic to a stranger who doesn’t even speak my language — and he’ll rent me a car for a week. When I get home, Visa or MasterCard will send me the accounting — correct to the penny. We take such things for granted.
Government, by contrast, can’t even count votes accurately.
Yet whenever there are problems, people turn to government. Despite the central planners’ long record of failure, few of us like to think that the government which sits atop us, taking credit for everything, could really be all that rotten.
The great 20th-century libertarian H.L. Mencken lamented, “A government at bottom is nothing more than a group of men, and as a practical matter most of them are inferior men. … Yet these nonentities, by the intellectual laziness of men in general … are generally obeyed as a matter of duty (and) assumed to have a kind of wisdom that is superior to ordinary wisdom.”
There is nothing government can do that we cannot do better as free individuals — and as groups of individuals working freely together.
Without big government, our possibilities are limitless.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2012
What Libertarians (Like John Stossel) Get Wrong
John Stossel’s recent column, “There Ought Not to Be a Law” reveals many of the shortcomings when it comes to Libertarian orthodoxy. Stossel begins by proposing a false dichotomy. He declares that he is a libertarian because he sees “a false choice offered by the political left and right: government control of the economy — or government control of our personal lives.”
Denigrating both the right and the left, Stossel declares, “The left thinks government can lessen income inequality. The right thinks government can make Americans more virtuous. I say we’re best off if neither side attempts to advance its agenda via government.”
A common charge leveled against conservatives is that, through our “social agenda” we are “legislating morality,” or attempting to “make Americans more virtuous” as Stossel puts it. While it is true that conservatives are “legislating morality,”—because every law is rooted in some morality—no sound-thinking conservative believes that we can legislate our fellow citizens into a virtuous lifestyle. That has never been the aim of conservatism.
However, what is a part of conservatism is the fact that religion is an indispensible pillar of liberty. Of course, as far as religions go, in the United States of America, the Christian religion has by far been the most influential. It has been this way from our founding.
Touring the young United States to discover why the representative democracy present in America was so successful here while failing in so many other places, French social philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville declared that, “the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention.”
Noting the direct influence of religion upon politics in America, de Tocqueville concluded that “In the United States the sovereign authority is religious…there is no country in the whole world in which the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America, and there can be no greater proof of its utility, and of its conformity to human nature, than that its influence is most powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation of the earth…The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to make them conceive the one without the other.”
For most modern conservatives, it is still impossible to “conceive the one without the other.” Most of today’s conservatives also understand well that the influence Christianity has had in America is by no means an accident. America’s “Schoolmaster” Noah Webster bears this out in his 1832 History of the United States when he wrote that “our citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correct republican principles is the Bible, particularly the New Testament or the Christian religion.” Webster added, “The religion which has introduced civil liberty is the religion of Christ and His apostles…to this we owe our free Constitutions of Government.”
In other words, the liberty that libertarians love in America is implicitly linked to Christianity. Certainly our Constitution would not exist without it. Having legislation that reflects Christian morality is no detriment to liberty.
The true threat to liberty is the godlessness that is pervasive in today’s liberalism, which has, of course, taken over the Democratic Party. With its devotion to killing children in the womb, removing prayer, the Commandments, and the Bible from the public arena, and its support of sexual immorality and the redefinition of marriage, I always knew that the Democratic Party was the party of the godless. The recent Democratic National Convention just confirmed this.
Revealing the true nature of modern liberalism, the DNC removed a reference to God in the party platform, along with a reference to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. After conservatives pointed this out to Americans, embarrassed Democrat party leaders were forced to take action. On Wednesday of their convention, an amendment was proposed to reinsert God and Jerusalem into the platform. The ensuing voice vote was an even greater embarrassment.
Amidst boos, jeers, and raised fists, Los Angeles Mayor and convention chairman Antonio Villaraigosa had to take three voice votes before he weakly and deceptively declared that the two-thirds majority necessary was achieved. After his pronouncement, the boos grew even louder. Such is the state of today’s Democratic Party.
It is little wonder that a party so hostile to God and His Word has become an anathema to liberty. True liberty only exists in a society where God is revered. Our founding documents made this clear when they Declared, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among them are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Only a culture that operates under the premise that they are to be free because they were created to be free by a God whose wisdom guides good government can enjoy true liberty. Libertarians would do well to remember this as they weigh the “social agenda” of the right against the Big Government agenda of the left.
Copyright 2012, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason
Seth Godin did a 20 minute talk in 2006 discussing things that are broken in our society. It follows this paragraph. It is 20 minutes but it goes fast and is very entertaining. If you don’t want to take the time to view it, I’ll summarize: Many things in this world are broken and often it is because those who break them have no world view, no experience, or don’t care. Here it is:
Though I don’t agree with all that Godin says in his talk, it strikes me as a given that if it is broken, we should want it fixed. If it is broken, we will not want to use it. If it’s broken, it will not perform or do the task for which it was chosen or designed.
So my question is, “If our Government is Broken, why would anyone want to keep it going, led by the same leaders, and doing what it is doing?” In other words, why would you vote for an incumbent? Specifically, why would anyone, not related to him, vote for Mr. Obama to be reelected to continue to break down America?
So what is broken and why do I say we need to fire Mr. Obama and fix things? First an analogy – professional football. If you are a fan of the NFL, you will be able to identify with this. Let’s assume that your team has a long tradition of winning. Take my favorite team, the San Francisco 49ers. At one time, they were the true gold standard of pro football. Then they had a few leaders who underperformed and they were not the best team or even close for many years. The team owners want to win. When a team underperforms, they have two choices. They can get a new leader (coach) or the can get a new team. Invariably they choose to fire the coach and get a new one. The old coach can argue all he wants. ”But I was stuck with the players chosen by the old coach and management.” ”Not all the players wanted me as coach so they worked against me.” Or, my favorite, “All I can do is draw up the plays and schedule the practice time. If they can’t make it work, that’s their fault. I can’t run the plays for them.” The owners don’t listen to arguments like those. They know that the guy at the top is responsible to work with the team he is dealt and make it a winner. Complaining that his predecessor chose the wrong players or didn’t properly train them does nothing to help the team perform. Saying, “All I can do is draw up the plays….” is not leadership. That’s being a bureaucrat, a functionary. It is a symptom of one of Seth Godin’s main reasons why things are broken – the “It’s Not My Job” syndrome. Only true leadership will get the players to realize their strengths and make the most of them. In the history of the NFL, arguably the most successful professional sporting organization in history, no coach has ever been given four more years to fix problems he couldn’t fix in his first four.
What is broken in America under Mr. Obama’s watch, you ask:
1. Arguably 15% of our working age population is unemployed or underemployed.
2. The value of our currency vs. that of our major trading partners, Canada, Japan, and China has dropped dramatically since Mr. Obama was inaugurated. Only against the Euro has the dollar looked okay and that is due to the European problems, not anything we have done right.
3. In four years the number of people in the U.S. getting food stamps has risen from under 30% to over 45%.
4. The National Debt has risen from $10.6 Trillion to over $16 Trillion since Mr. Obama took office.
5. Mr. Obama hasn’t even been able to get a Senate, controlled by his own party, to pass a budget since he’s been in office. Show me a public business without a budget and I’ll show you a fired Chief Executive Officer.
6. The average household makes about $4,000 less per year now than when Mr. Obama took office. In buying power (inflation corrected) it feels like about $6,500 (over $500 a month) less income. Yet our government is spending over a Trillion Dollars more than it takes in each year. How is that not broken?
7. The price of fuel is more than twice what it was in January, 2009.
8. … and the list goes on and on.
Can any of these problems be at least partially the fault of government action prior to Mr. Obama taking office? Of course. Many of the problems started with Mr. Bush and/or Ms. Pelosi’s Congress. Many started well before. But, blaming today’s problems on yesterdays’s leaders does not un-break things. It doesn’t make them better. It may make Mr. Obama feel better and might even convince those who voted for him 4 years ago that they did not make a mistake. But, they did make a mistake, and, amazingly, it looks like many of them will make it again.
In my view, those who will vote a second time for Mr. Obama are either:
1. Too proud to admit a mistake;
2. Getting a very good deal from the Democrats controlling the government and are just selfish enough to not worry about the rest of the country;
3. Part of a minority group like government union members, gays, blacks, hispanics, muslims, etc. who either like the way our government favors them over members of the majority or fear the loss of their special privileges should Republicans control the government;
4. Just don’t understand the importance of self reliance and responsibility to the fabric of the culture that built America.
5. Think spending other people’s money against their wishes is just fine as long as it is not theirs.
6. Those who honestly believe that if Republicans run Washington, D.C. they will make government cuts so fast and deep as to destroy our current system. I would only hope that would be true, but, our current Republican party is too much like the Democrats. It has too much invested in the current system and unlike so many individuals in our country, lacks the ability to look at consequences past the next election.
First, let’s look at those who say “What’s In It For Me?” People who are staunch Union members will vote for Mr. Obama. When Mr. Romney says he thinks unions have too much power, it’s a pretty easy choice for a union member. Feminists will vote for Mr. Obama because they believe he will protect their ‘reproductive rights’ and give them preferences under the law. Blacks will vote for him because they are proud to have elected the first black President and don’t want to suffer the shame of his failure. Trial lawyers will vote for him because they fear Mr. Romney will be more likely to push for tort reform. People on Federally funded welfare programs will vote for Mr. Obama because they think he works for them and will continue to fund their government benefits. We are getting very close to the point where the majority of the population will be receiving some government largesse and will vote to maintain that. As Margaret Thatcher said, “The problem with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”
In my list above, I was going to add number 7 - “People who are Insane.” As Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.” The only problem is that this group of people is not insane. These people want the same results and hope to get them by reelecting Mr. Obama again. That is selfishness and greed, an inability to see the long term consequences of four more years of Mr. Obama’s failed leadership, not insanity.
In my view we would be better off if the majority voted agains all incumbents.
First, let's be clear. Government normally creates jobs that create nothing. Real jobs are ones that add value and pay taxes from that added value. Most jobs created by government fail that test. So, the thought of Government creating jobs is one that must be understood as not actually creating jobs, but doing things that will encourage the creation of jobs in the private sector.