Tuesday, February 28, 2012

So where is PETA?

When the president gave a speech in Miami touting $14 million in new grants for algal biofuels, where was the derision? Remember when Bush promoted the use of switchgrass to make ethanol in a state of the union address? The democratic machine blew up saying that the president was determined to promote swithgrass whether anyone was listening or not. Comedy Central and Saturday Night Live were merciless parodying the president as a dolt. ABC news called the idea “goofy”. Well when Obama extolled the virtues of algae, there was only silence from the left. Why isn’t this idea ridiculed? Why isn’t this president a dolt? Predictably Newt Giongrich and Rush Limbaugh had a field day but all seem to have forgotten the switchgrass incident. Of course, it makes sense to burn as fuel something other than our food. Brazil is using sugar cane. But somehow, we Americans are burning up our corn. It is no secret why Obama announced the new grants in Florida. Already, his administration has given $25 million to Algenol Biofuels of Bonita Springs, Florida which is building a biofuel refinery to extract oils from algae to be converted into ethanol. What I want to know is that since algae are a living organism, if Obama is alienating part of his base – the PETA crowd? So the big question is whether the billions of helpless little algae have to give up their lives to put fuel in the tanks of the rapacious humans?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Wither the senate?

I keep hearing some commentators saying that the senate is not fulfilling its constitutional responsibilities by not passing a budget. Having actually read the constitution when I was in school - in those days students actually had to read - I did not recall any such detailing of responsibility. However, I was hopeful. If the senate was in violation of the constitution, then would this be an impeachable offense whereby we could impeach the entire senate? That is such a great idea that I went back and re-read the constitution. Unless I somehow overlooked it, I could find nothing in the document that mandated that the senate pass a budget. There is language that all bills dealing with money must originate with the house of representatives but nothing that says that the senate must pass a budget when it comes over from the house. So either that I missed something or we are missing a golden opportunity to make the senate somewhat useful and relevant.

Speaking of the budget. If the house were serious, instead of passing more and more budgets just to see them wither in the senate, the house would not pass any more continuing resolutions. That would force serious discussions on the budget and the final enactment of one. However, I am not convinced the house is serious either. What is particularly worrisome is that the issue has fallen out of the public's eye. No one talks about the budget, the debt and the deficit anymore. Instead of the republican candidates hammering home this issue and what they would do about it, they are more intent on telling us why not to vote for the other republican rather than why to vote for themselves. Ask yourself if you know a reason to vote for a particular republican rather than voting against Obama? I don't.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Are you a biofool?

Recall that I have written that so much of the so-called green products are harmful and anti-green that if they were conventional products the enviro-lobby would be clamoring for their being banned. We all know that biofuels are wasteful, harmful to the environment and increase food costs. The electric car is a joke. There is a reason why in January Ford sold 38,493 F150s and Chevrolet sold 603 Volts (there were 11,555 Piuses sold). One wonders how many of the Volts were sold to governments. People can't be induced to buy a vehicle that can only go 40 miles on a charge, takes hours to recharge, have to pay $4,000 for a home charger (even if it were given away) and which have a $7500 subsidy that we all have to pay for. Note: Obama's budget proposes to hike the subsidy to $10,000 and to earmark $2.5 billion for alternative energy research, vehicles and biofuels. The man will never learn.

Well there is a new study detailed on UT's website that electric cars may be more harmful than gasoline ones. Go to http://www.utk.edu/tntoday/2012/02/13/researchers-find-ecar-emissions-harmful/.
Here is the story

UT Researchers Find China’s Pollution Related to E-Cars May Be More Harmful than Gasoline Cars’

KNOXVILLE—Electric cars have been heralded as environmentally friendly, but findings from University of Tennessee, Knoxville, researchers show that electric cars in China have an overall impact on pollution that could be more harmful to health than gasoline vehicles.

Chris Cherry, assistant professor in civil and environmental engineering, and graduate student Shuguang Ji, analyzed the emissions and environmental health impacts of five vehicle technologies in 34 major Chinese cities, focusing on dangerous fine particles. What Cherry and his team found defies conventional logic: electric cars cause much more overall harmful particulate matter pollution than gasoline cars.

“An implicit assumption has been that air quality and health impacts are lower for electric vehicles than for conventional vehicles,” Cherry said. “Our findings challenge that by comparing what is emitted by vehicle use to what people are actually exposed to. Prior studies have only examined environmental impacts by comparing emission factors or greenhouse gas emissions.”

Particulate matter includes acids, organic chemicals, metals, and soil or dust particles. It is also generated through the combustion of fossil fuels.

For electric vehicles, combustion emissions occur where electricity is generated rather than where the vehicle is used. In China, 85 percent of electricity production is from fossil fuels, about 90 percent of that is from coal. The authors discovered that the power generated in China to operate electric vehicles emit fine particles at a much higher rate than gasoline vehicles. However, because the emissions related to the electric vehicles often come from power plants located away from population centers, people breathe in the emissions a lower rate than they do emissions from conventional vehicles.

Still, the rate isn’t low enough to level the playing field between the vehicles. In terms of air pollution impacts, electric cars are more harmful to public health per kilometer traveled in China than conventional vehicles.

“The study emphasizes that electric vehicles are attractive if they are powered by a clean energy source,” Cherry said.”In China and elsewhere, it is important to focus on deploying electric vehicles in cities with cleaner electricity generation and focusing on improving emissions controls in higher polluting power sectors.”
Chris Cherry

Chris Cherry

The researchers estimated health impacts in China using overall emission data and emission rates from literature for five vehicle types—gasoline and diesel cars, diesel buses, e-bikes and e-cars—and then calculated the proportion of emissions inhaled by the population.

E-cars’ impact was lower than diesel cars but equal to diesel buses. E-bikes yielded the lowest environmental health impacts per passenger per kilometer.

“Our calculations show that an increase in electric bike usage improves air quality and environmental health by displacing the use of other more polluting modes of transportation,” Cherry said. “E-bikes, which are battery-powered, continue to be an environmentally friendly and efficient mode of transportation.”

The findings also highlight the importance of considering exposures and the proximity of emissions to people when evaluating environmental health impacts for electric vehicles. They also illuminate the distributional impact of moving pollution out of cities. For electric vehicles, about half of the urban emissions are inhaled by rural populations, who generally have lower incomes.

The findings are published in the journal “Environmental Science and Technology” here.

Cherry worked with Matthew Bechle and Julian Marshall from the University of Minnesota and Ye Wu from Tsinghua University in Beijing. The scientists conducted their study in China because of the popularity of e-bikes and e-cars and the country’s rapid growth. Electric vehicles in China outnumber conventional vehicles 2:1. E-bikes in China are the single largest adoption of alternative fuel vehicles in history, with over 100 million vehicles purchased in the past decade, more than all other countries combined.

Class envy in spades

Obama's latest budget proposal will be like the last - dead on arrival. Isn't that what the dems always said about Bush's budgets? But unlike the last which did not get a single vote in the democrat controlled senate, this one likely will not be allowed to come to the floor by Harry Reid. It is a campaign document that officially for the first time lays out Obama's reelection strategy of pitting Americans against Americans. It proposes raising the taxes for those earning over $250,000 imploring them to pay their "fair share" even though they pay the vast majority of federal taxes already. It also raises taxes on capital gains, further discouraging investing. Obama even continues to say that Warren Buffett's secretary pays more in taxes than Buffett himself even though this is an obvious lie. Buffett obviously pays more dollars in taxes and although his income is from capital gains, it is taxed twice. Why Buffett continues to be let his name used so is open to speculation. But Obama assumes that instead of Americans wanting to be rich, they are so full of hatred against the wealthy that they will vote to punish the rich by re-electing him. My father used to say "Don't to be envious of anyone since it was non-productive. Rather become someone that others envy". Obama says his budget is not class warfare, it is common sense. Of course this is also a lie. Obama has figured out that there are more voters earning less than $250,000 than over. He knows that such a budget will lower productivity, lower investment and move more jobs and capital offshore. But those are secondary to his re-election. If this strategy of class envy is successful it will be a dark day for America - no pun intended.

Obama's new mortgage proposal: This could only come out of Washington

The president is fond of meaningless showboating. Perhaps it comes from his love of basketball. Regardless, the latest mortgage foreclosure prevention initiative is devoid of meaning and is more likely an election year ploy. Its main feature is to have the banks pay for it. This means that the republicans will reject it and then the president can campaign saying that the republicans love the banks more than they love the people. On a more basic level, his previous proposal was a dismal failure. Of course he blamed the banks for the slow processing of the applications. But in reality, the paperwork burden and its costs slowed the processing to a crawl. The original program was supposed to prevent 4 million foreclosures but less than 200,000 loan modifications occurred. The reason is that the program was destined to fail. It was written by bureaucrats who had no idea what they were doing. Consider the following:
1. People with negative equity do not qualify for modification.
2. To qualify for refinancing, homeowners must possess at least 20 percent equity in their homes, have a mortgage owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, and have not missed a mortgage payment in the last 12 months.
3. The owner must have a loan that originated on or before January 1, 2009; have a principal balance less than $729,750 and use the home in question as a primary residence.
4.The Treasury will offer mortgage-servicing companies upfront incentive payments of $1,000 for every loan they modify and additional payments of $1,000 a year for the first three years if the borrower remains current. The Treasury will also chip in $1,000 a year to directly reduce the borrower’s loan amount, if the borrower stays up to date on payments.
5. If the lender reduced the borrower’s monthly housing payment to 38 percent of the household’s gross monthly income, the Treasury Department would match, dollar for dollar, the lender’s cost in reducing payments down to 31 percent of monthly household income.
The key to determining whether a person receives help will be a net present value calculation by the mortgage company. The lender will first have to calculate how much it would cost to reduce a person’s monthly payments to an “affordable” range, 31 to 38 percent of the borrower’s monthly income.
6. If the calculation shows that the lender’s cost in modifying the loan, after receiving the taxpayer subsidy, would be lower than the cost of foreclosing, the lender would be required to offer a borrower the new deal. If the estimated cost of the concessions appeared to be higher than the cost of foreclosure, the decision would be voluntary.
7.Borrowers cannot be charged any modification fees, the Treasury Department said. Lenders will have to bear the administrative expense of reviewing the loans and making their cost estimates.

No wonder many have complained that the program is a bureaucratic nightmare. What lender in its right mind would agree to these terms? Also aren't those with negative equity the ones with the most incentive to default? So why exclude them?

So here comes the new proposal where the government will triple the financial incentives for private lenders to reduce the principal amount of mortgages for homeowners deemed at risk of losing their homes. And for the first time, the government will offer incentives for principal reductions to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Finally, Obama can say that this will not increase the deficit since the banks will pay for it by adding a fee to monthly mortgage payments (some estimate that this could add hundreds to the payments) and by imposing a tax on large banks. Does the former make any sense to you? If people cannot pay their mortgage, the government is now saying that those payments will be reduced on the one hand and then increased on the other. Whoever thought of this nonsense should be fired and the embracing of it by the president means that he should be fired as well.

Monday, February 13, 2012

What Constitution?

I thought Obama was a constitutional lawyer. Its strange that no one points this out. Maybe this is why he ignores the constitution - because he knows how to skirt it. Case in point is his telling the insurance companies that they have to provide birth control services for free. Does the "health care" act say that the president can mandate unilaterally what private companies must provide and must charge? Certainly that isn't constitutional. Another case in point are the recess appointments made when the senate was still in session. I don't understand how the president gets away with this. Don't the politicians care anymore about the usurpation of power by the executive? So I was wondering what happens if the insurance companies refuse to pay for the birth control services? Certainly it would be a constitutional test. But of course they will pay since they actually favor the new law in that it mandates that all purchase policies for the said same companies. What gets me is that the president said with a straight face that the services would be "free". If there was a howl of derision, I missed it. No one believes that they will be free. Or do they? Regardless, both the mandate of "free" services and the recess appointments appear to be unconstitutional, yet I do not see either being vigorously opposed on those grounds.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


When I was in graduate school I had a fellow student named Landt. I said that if she married Cary Grant, got divorced and married Calvin Coolidge, she would be a Landt Grant Collidge.

This is a true story: When I was at the University of Georgia, there was a gorgeous woman named Barbara Vann. One day I was asked if I would tutor someone in economics and I say who? “Barbara Vann”. Of course I said yes. So freshly showered with my most stylish clothes I waited in anticipation and heard a tap tap tap. It was a blind kid who came into the room and said “Is Harold Black here”. Yes who are you? “Bob Ravan”.

Have you ever thought about people in professions who had names that either fit or conflicted? Like a fisherman named Fischer or a hunting guide named Hunter of a priest named Bishop. How about a soldier named Coward? Well there is a doctor I know named Payne. Which is better than another doctor in Arkansas named Dedman – which also is the name of a medical center in Dallas. Does Carlos Boozer drink? Are Bob Veal or Jack Hamm vegetarians? Wasn’t Barry Bonds the glue that held the San Francisco Giants together? Is my neighbor Nick Cook a chef? I am not going to speculate about Hugh Jackman. Did you know that the TSA administrator is John Pistole?

When someone made fun of my name while I was at the University of Georgia, I remarked that there were 7 blacks in my class but I was the only one that was.

When I was at the University of Florida, a student in class made a snide remark about my name, since his name was Condon I told him I was going to exercise discretion.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

More random thoughts

One of the things that bothers me about Newt Gingrich is his wife’s hair. That is, I am presuming that the woman who is always next to him in every shot is his wife. Have you noticed that it (her hair) never moves? It looks like a blonde helmet.

Would someone explain to me why Newt is considered to be a conservative?

Also please explain to me why a photo ID is discriminatory. Seems to me that it is only discriminatory against vampires.

A democratic PAC is running an ad saying that Obama policies have led to a decrease in the US’ dependence on foreign oil. Really? What policy is that other than high prices? They didn’t say but the truth is that the percentage of oil imports has declined since 2005. Anyway only 18% of our oil comes from the Persian Gulf and that could be eliminated if we fully utilized our own resources and opened the Keystone pipeline.

Rick Santorum is the only presidential candidate who hasn’t bought into global warming. Ron Paul has alternated on calling it a hoax and then saying it had some valid points. On how to prevent it, he has said by decreasing foreign oil imports, not going to war over oil, and yet not subsidizing alternative fuels. And this is a presidential candidate?

Ben Bernanke just testified before the Senate Budget Committee and said that we should transition into changes in taxes – naming the phasing out of the Bush tax cuts and the forthcoming Obama proposal to increase taxes on the “wealthy”. So tell me why Bernanke – rather than Tim Geithner - is testifying before the Budget committee? Did the senate decide that since he apparently knows so little about the deleterious effect of discretionary monetary policy that he might know something about taxes?

Speaking of monetary policy, what would monetary policy be under a gold standard? Gingrich has called for establishing a commission to study the gold standard. Romney appears to be against it arguing that any standard would be ineffective so long as congress would have the right to alter the conversion rate between the dollar and gold (on this he is correct). And of course Ron Paul simply wants to get rid of the Fed and denationalize money (go read your Friedrich von Hayek).

Speaking of the gold standard, you probably know that India is now buying oil from Iran using gold rather than dollars. This not because of the decrease in the value of the dollar but rather due to the sanctions imposed on Iran that do not allow transactions in dollars. China is making noises of doing the same thing. If you want to make Bernanke and the Fed get religion and stop their debasing of dollars, then you should want more countries leaving the dollar and for Russia to come through on its musings about making the ruble gold based. Now if India, Brazil, China and Korea did the same, then we would finally see some monetary discipline from the Fed.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Random thoughts

All the hucksters out there selling gold makes one wonder that if the price is going to keep going up, why anyone is selling it? Remember in order for you to buy it someone has to sell it.
Gold has gotten into the greater fool territory as in “I know it is overpriced, but I’ll buy it anyway because there is a fool out there greater than me who will pay more”.

The Social Security Administration has said that the maximum monthly payment to recipients is around $2,500. I know because I am there. What is ironic is that my mother who retired in 1988 from the Atlanta Public schools never made more than $24,000 and yet she receives from their pension plan $1,200 more per month than I do and I have maxed out my "contributions" for the last 20 years. Why? The public school teachers’ plan was independent of social security and like the famed Galveston (TX) plan generates actual returns rather than the bogus “returns” from social security.

Has the great divide in American politics gotten greater with the advent of Barack Obama’s presidency? Or has it just come into greater focus? Regardless, I was looking up the "accomplishments" of Obama during these three years and saw several lists. One is at http://planetpov.com/2011/02/13/a-short-list-of-pres-obamas-accomplishments/. Although touted as a “short list” it is anything but. The question is whether you can find more than two that you consider to be positive.

One wag wrote that the one significant achievement made during this administration is that there are fewer people who consider themselves to be democrats.

I retired last year. Everyone I have met who have retired seems happier now that they are not working. The prevailing feeling is that even after working even at something you love, when you leave, you don’t miss it.

I had the worse deer season ever. I thought that with retirement I could scout, put out trail cameras, and go with my dogs camping for a solid week. Well I scouted, put out cameras, and went camping. It’s a good thing I like to camp (in a modern RV with all the amenities of home, thank you) and sitting in the woods because I only saw two deer worth taking and I missed the biggest one. I did however work through my stack of Sunday Times crosswords and caught up on my reading.

Speaking of which, whoever invented the Kindle deserves the Nobel prize – was it Al Gore? Even if it weren’t, he probably claims credit.

Has any grant-receiving alternative energy company made money? Sure Solyndra and Ener1 have gotten all the press but what about the Chevy Volt boondoggle? Given all the Federal and state monies, we may be looking at a trillion dollars down the drain. Again, I am not against private investors taking the risk and using their money. But the sucker’s game is to get someone else to pay for your experiments. That sucker is the government (and ultimately us).

Pop quiz: Name the four largest exporters of oil to the United States. Most people will only guess Saudi Arabia (#3). They are in order, Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.

Speaking of Canada, remember Harold Black’s first law? Its “any law worth circumventing will be.” We may see this with the Keystone pipeline, nixed by Obama on Hillary Clinton’s recommendation. Presumably State had to opine since the pipeline crosses an international border. Now Keystone is saying that it and build the US pipeline first – which doesn’t require presidential approval and then hook it up with the Canadian part later (presumably in 2013 when there is a different president).