Thursday, June 30, 2011

"Shut UP, you Texans!" explained Sen. Boxer in a demonstration of the "new civility"

As a general rule, California Democratic politicians aren't fond of Texas or Texans. But this bit of hyper-partisan hyper-rude behavior from Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) — denying Texas senator John Cornyn an opportunity to participate in a Senate committee hearing on proposed EPA power-plant regulations that directly (and massively) affect Texas — may set a new low in Congressional pettiness, at least since the caning of Sen. Charles Sumner in 1856. (Hat-tip Instapundit).

I'm well acquainted with many people in California who are wracked with frustration over their state's fundamentally unserious and self-destructive politicians, so I'm certainly not imputing Sen. Boxer's pettiness to everyone who lives there. But stunts like this only make the political leaders of once-proud California seem even more pathetic and out-of-touch. In the same way that the Ottoman Empire was once considered the "sick man of Europe," or that sunny Greece has become the modern poster-child for European fiscal fecklessness, California is going to embarrass us all over the next decade — and their situation is sure to get a whole lot worse before it even starts to get better, because they're still ignoring the First Rule of Holes.

Posted by Beldar at 11:41 AM in Congress, Energy, Politics (Texas) | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Beldar quibbles with Krauthammer over Perry and the Texas economy

Dr. Charles Krauthammer said tonight on Fox News, at the tail-end of his comments about the possibility that Texas governor Rick Perry might enter the GOP presidential race for 2012:

I would just add, there's one factor in the Texas story which can't be overlooked: It's got a lot of oil, it's an oil state. And oil has done rather well. Other states don't have that much.

We all occasionally make trite remarks, and Dr. Krauthammer's tendancy to do so is far, far lower than my own. Certainly anyone who's trying to evaluate Texas' relative success compared to some other states, both currently or historically, ought to factor in natural resources.

But the price of oil has varied fairly dramatically over the past three years. Texas is far behind Alaska in crude oil production, and failed-state California is close behind Texas in the number three position.

While there have been new and exciting energy discoveries in Texas in the last few years that have contributed to the statewide economy and have led to local booms in exploration and drilling, most of the value of the energy business to the Texas economy is based now on what's above the ground — people, expertise, and technology — rather than below it.

With due respect to Dr. Krauthammer, then, oil is a factor in Texas' economy and in particular its creation of new jobs — but it's not the most important factor, and it's much less of a factor now than it was 30 years ago.

When he is at his best, Gov. Perry — who is not a humble man by nature — is appropriately humble about his personal role in Texas' relative economic success during these hard times. Rick Perry didn't create that prosperity. No state governor has such power, and certainly not Texas' governor. No American president has such power over the country, either.

Rather, Perry has continued a long tradition that goes back to the days of Stephen F. Austin, when Texas was still part of Mexico. Texans expect government to perform some core functions competently, and then otherwise to get the hell out of their way.

By and large, Gov. Perry has stayed the hell out of the way, just as have his predecessors going back a long, long way. Texas has been a right-to-work state, for example, as long as that term has had meaning. Texas has never had a state income tax, and proposing one has been the political equivalent here of swallowing a dose of cyanide the size of a football. And people still come to Texas because it doesn't matter much who their daddies and mommies were; rather, what matters is what they will accomplish for themselves when they get here and are given a chance.

Holding fast to first principles is easier when you don't have to swim upstream, and in context, it's no knock on Gov. Perry to point out that he hasn't ever had to. And whether he remains a speculative candidate or a more active one, he'd be truthful, and smart in the long run, to point that out himself — aggressively, and indeed reflexively every time someone gives him more credit than due for the Texas economy. Rick Perry is due some considerable credit, mind you, for not screwing up — but he'll earn much more by placing the lion's share of the credit where it's due, which is not on himself or any government official, but on the free market and its Texas participants whom he has had the privilege of representing as a public servant.

Posted by Beldar at 06:31 PM in 2012 Election, Budget/economics, Energy, Politics (2011), Politics (Texas) | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Thursday, April 07, 2011

"How many you have? Ten kids, you say? [Stand-up comic's smirking head-shake & double-take] Well, you definitely need a hybrid van then!"

I have no fault to find, and indeed find much that's praiseworthy, in Barack Obama as a good husband and family man. In the former respect, he's a blessed contrast to the last Democratic president, and in both respects Obama's completely in sync with his immediate predecessor. I stipulate, again, that the Obama children are absolutely adorable, so much so that they're each worth at least a million votes to his ticket again in 2012.

However, regarding Obama's comments this week in response to a voter with 10 children who was pressing him on skyrocketing gas prices and their effects on the voter's family budget — good coverage here, here, and here

It's not so obvious from the transcript, but it's very obvious from the video (at 2:16) that President Obama thinks a family with 10 children must be part of some deviant subspecies of humanity, and certainly can't be as enlightened and cool as he and Michelle are with their politically and demographically correct 2.0 children.

My first thought on watching his smirking superiority: "I wonder how that's gonna play in the various Kennedy households?"

I have four kids. That's considered a "jumbo" family these days, but if things had worked out a little differently, I can easily imagine having had several more. There are few joys of parenthood — or of life — greater than watching your older children interact with, and help rear, your younger ones.

And my four — although each vibrantly different from one another, and each of them absolutely terrific — are as tight with one another, as supportive and loving of one another, as I can possibly imagine. What they do for each other is helping them grow into adults who are capable of raising strong families of their own. And it gives me not only great pleasure to observe, but great comfort: I know they will be there for each other long after my ex and I are gone. Regardless of one's spiritual views and faith, they are our earthly immortality.

There are trade-offs, of course, and I'm not criticizing anyone who chooses a smaller family, or to have no children at all. By why mock someone who has 10 children? Why not instead lead a round of applause for someone with the love and courage to embrace the challenges and joys of a large family?

I have a hard time relating to this man as a human being. Completely apart from politics, I just like him less and less the more I see of him.

Posted by Beldar at 09:54 PM in Energy, Family, Obama, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Bingaman, defending Obama through partisan blinders, is oblivious to his own prescription on energy

From the "'Green' blog" (I question both premises) in today's NYT (h/t InstaPundit) (bold-face mine):

But even while the president was under attack in the House, allies in the Senate rose to the his defense. Most notably, Senator Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico, used a lengthy floor speech to rebut the claims.

Mr. Bingaman, chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources committee, noted that at a hearing earlier in the week, a panel of energy experts collectively dismissed the claims that either climate policy or the pace of offshore oil permitting were driving gas prices higher.

“None of these experts highlighted the administration’s permitting process in the Gulf of Mexico as being a significant factor in world oil markets,” he said.

“Second, any anticipated Environmental Protection Agency regulation of greenhouse gas emissions at refineries was not included in any of the presentations as a driver behind the current increased in prices,” Mr. Bingaman added.

The crucial driver behind the price increase, he said, was the instability of world oil markets in the face of uprisings across the Middle East, particularly in Libya, where a popular revolt has effectively curtailed oil exports.

“When political unrest threatens major choke points in the world oil transit routes, world oil prices react, as they have,” he said. “When a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries stops exporting oil, which has virtually occurred in the case of Libya, world oil markets react.”

“When there are fears that a nearby neighbor and close ally of Saudi Arabia, home to the world’s largest spare oil production capacity, might begin a series of political upheavals in the Persian Gulf region, world oil markets react as well,” Mr. Bingaman continued.

He closed by arguing that only reducing the country’s overall dependence on foreign oil would result in long-term relief at the pump.

Unless "experts" are asked to list all the things that don't exist, but that would reduce oil prices if they did, then their failure to discuss or consider the possible effect of a change in U.S. government energy policies (to something permitting safe but aggressive development) in their price inquiries would be quite predictably meaningless. And Sen. Bingaman should know that.

But what's appalling is how desperate Sen. Bingaman is to ignore what he clearly does know — indeed, what he recites himself in the same speech. "Instability in world oil markets" does indeed make a vast contribution to the rise in the market price of oil, and in the consequent price rises in gasoline and other products refined from oil, including plastics. Threats to international transport systems also raise prices. But U.S. government policies that permit the development of domestic oil, onshore and off-, add supplies to the market that are stable and that are less subject to disruption in a crisis.

Barrels of oil of a like quality (e.g., sweet intermediate crude) are indeed fungible once they're in-hand. But the addition of secure oil supplies reduces the overall volatility of the world market. The addition of new oil supplies that can't be denied to us by some despot or cartel during a world political crisis drives down the current world price of oil more than the addition of the same amount and type of oil supplies from, for instance, a new reservoir in Saudi Arabia or Venezuela.

So yes, changing U.S. government policy to permit development of our own onshore and offshore reserves is essential to reducing our dependence on foreign oil. And reducing dependence on foreign oil in turn reduces market instability and our vulnerability in it.

Moreover, today's oil prices are predicated not only on existing supplies and their sources, but on the market participants' aggregate expectations about oil supply in the future. That's why opening the Strategic Oil Reserves would have only a limited effect on current prices (since its contributions to supply would be small at best and definitely limited in duration). But that's why changing U.S. government policies to permit — not even to encourage, but simply to permit — private development of our onshore and offshore resources, particularly in and around Alaska, would have a more profound immediate impact on current prices: It would tell the market something important about long-term supplies that can be predicted with confidence to become available for year after year in the future, supplies that are not subject to political blackmail or interruption at shipping choke-points.

So the fecklessness of the Obama energy policy will continue to hurt the United States for a long, long time. But it's hurting us today, too — at the gas pump, and at the cash register whenever we buy anything that's made from plastic or transported from a far-off place of manufacture. And the intrinsic indefensibility of Obama's policies is vividly illustrated by the fact that someone normally as plausible as Jeff Bingaman can't mount a defense of it on the Senate floor or in the NYT without immediately contradicting himself and undercutting his entire argument.

Posted by Beldar at 04:23 PM in 2012 Election, Congress, Current Affairs, Energy, Foreign Policy, Obama, Politics (2011) | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Marinucci claims SF Chron didn't report Obama's promise to "bankrupt" coal industry and cause "skyrocketing" electric rates because readers weren't interested

My team lost the election, but in this follow-up guest-post about Obama's promise to bankrupt the coal industry and make electric rates skyrocket over at, I believe I thrashed the San Francisco Chronicle soundly.

I suspect they've gotten over it already, huh?


[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

On Sunday, November 2nd, like many other bloggers, I wrote a long post that included a lengthy quotation from an interview that Sen. Barack Obama gave to the San Francisco Chronicle's editorial board in January 2008, in which Sen. Obama promised that under his cap and trade policy, "if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted." And in that same interview, Obama also promised that "[u]nder my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket."

In the wee small hours of Monday morning, I followed up on that post with another which noted that — in response to a question being raised by Gov. Palin on the campaign trail as to why the tape of this interview was just now surfacing — Chronicle Political Writer Carla Marinucci was righteously asserting that her newspaper had never "hidden" the interview. I pointed out, however, that in neither the front-page news story that Ms. Marinucci had written about the interview on January 18, 2008, nor in a follow-up op-ed about the interview from Chronicle Editorial Page Editor John Diaz, had the Chronicle seen fit to give anyone the slightest hint that buried within the 52 minutes and 336MB of the interview one might find a promise to bankrupt the nation's coal industry or cause national electric rates to skyrocket.

This, I argued, reflected abysmal judgment as to what portions of the interview were newsworthy. I asserted that "anyone working for a junior high school newspaper would have instantly realized the newsworthiness of these quotes if he or she were not completely 'in the tank' for Obama."

After posting my critique, I emailed Ms. Marinucci with a copy of it. I wrote to her that "I’d be pleased to republish any response you might have, or reconsider with any additional facts you believe I’ve missed."

Yesterday afternoon, Ms. Marinucci sent me this reply, which (in a later email) she specifically authorized me to reprint here in its entirety for your thoughtful consideration:

Simple answer. This was an editorial board meeting to decide the endorsement for the Democratic primary in California, at the time a heated contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

There were lots of issues that California voters wanted to hear from these candidates as they made their decision, but coal was not one of them. The industry doesn't exist here. We wrote about what our readers wanted to hear about regarding the choice between Obama and Clinton at that time: their positions on the war, jobs, tech, the environment, etc.

This response, while gracious, is utterly unpersuasive. In fact, it's so preposterous as to be even more damning than her earlier "we didn't hide it" defense.

The last I heard, California still uses electricity — and some 56 percent of America's electricity is generated from coal. Indeed, it was a series of rolling electrical brownouts and blackouts in California from 2001-2003 which led directly to the mid-term removal of Gov. Gray Davis in the special election won by present Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. For Ms. Marinucci to suggest that the Chronicle's readers aren't interested in supplies, sources, and prices of electricity is far beyond ludicrous. It's like suggesting that Boston wasn't interested in taxes on tea in the 1770s.

Moreover, while I can appreciate that there is presently no coal mining industry to speak of in the fabled hills of and around San Francisco, the San Francisco Chronicle — founded in 1865, presently owned by the Hearst Corporation, and still "the largest newspaper in Northern California and the second largest on the West Coast" — aspires to be a national publication. I've listened to the full interview now, and I can assure you that almost none of the questions asked in it were specific and particular to the concerns of San Franciscans or even northern Californians.

In fact, the long response from Sen. Obama which contained the promise to bankrupt the coal industry was prompted by a question (at 25:10 in the videotape) that was indeed on one of the specific topics — "the environment" — which Ms. Marinucci acknowledges her paper's readers wanted to hear about:

Q: Senator, you introduced a bill promoting coal-to-liquid fuels, and then you said you'd only support them if they emitted fewer greenhouse gases than gasoline. Now: All the scientific evidence points to coal being dirtier than pretty much anything else. So how are you going to square your support for coal with the need to fight global warming?

Indeed, in the long block-quoted segment in my Sunday post that I obtained from ABC News' Jake Tapper and his Political Punch blog, there was an ellipsis in the transcript. Viewing the video, I've confirmed that what that transcription omitted was a repetition of this question:

OBAMA: ... So what we have to do then is figure out how can we use coal without emitting greenhouse gases and carbon. And how can we sequester that carbon and capture it. If we can’t, then we’re gonna still be working on alternatives. But —

Q: Alternatives including coal?

OBAMA: — let me sort of describe my overall policy. What I’ve said is that we would put a cap and trade policy in place that is as aggressive if not more aggressive than anyone out there....

If there is a place on the globe more fixated on the notion of man-made global warming than San Francisco, I haven't seen or heard of it. These questions about relying on coal to generate electricity certainly reflect that, regardless of whether coal is mined in northern California. And Sen. Obama's answers almost certainly would have been not only of keen interest, but entirely acceptable, to the liberal majority who subscribe to the Chronicle. Could the Chronicle's table-full of writers and editors all have collectively missed that?

No, gentle readers, it is entirely implausible that Ms. Marinucci and the Chronicle failed to recognize the newsworthiness of these promises by Obama — not just to their own readers, but to all Americans (and arguably to the entire world). And that brings us back to the question of why they didn't report something that was so incredibly newsworthy, and why — after it was found and then made much of by others, including the GOP candidates for POTUS and VPOTUS — they've offered such lame excuses.

And there's only one plausible answer left to that question: Carla Marinucci and her fellow writers and editors at the San Francisco Chronicle deliberately buried these quotes because they knew that in other parts of the United States, they would hurt the electoral prospects of Barack Obama — the candidate they wanted to see win not only the Democratic primary, but also the general election. These are "journalists" who've violated their sacred trust. And you simply can't trust them any more, if you ever did.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 05:44 AM in 2008 Election, Energy, Mainstream Media, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

SF Chron insists that buried and unremarked Obama promises to bankrupt coal industry and bring skyrocketing electric rates weren't "hidden," but offers no explanation why they weren't newsworthy

Personally, I felt like this post made the San Francisco Chronicle look like they were totally in the tank for Obama.

It occurs to me now that that's never really been in dispute, though, has it?


[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

On the subject of the bombshell quotes from Barack Obama about "bankrupting" the coal industry and making electric rates "skyrocket" — about which I wrote at my usual tedious length on Sunday evening, and an audio excerpt of which Hugh has since posted separately — the San Francisco Chronicle is now furiously trying to cover its collective fanny in a spectacularly unconvincing fashion.

"Political Writer" Carla Marinucci of the S.F. Chronicle righteously asserts that the audio which contained these quotes has been posted at its website since January 2008, and I have no reason to doubt that. She then offers up the Chronicle's come-back to a question from Gov. Palin on the campaign trail:

''Why is the audiotape just now surfacing?'' Palin asked the crowd, according to a report from CBS News. Someone in the crowd shouted, ''Liberal media!'

Let's be very clear: the Chronicle did not, and has never, hidden any interview, audio or video, of Obama from its readers.

But Ms. Marinucci's firey and "very clear" response is to an accusation that Gov. Palin didn't make, and Ms. Marinucci utterly failed to answer the very clear question which Gov. Palin did ask.

The very clear fact is that Ms. Marinucci, along with staff writer Joe Garofoli, wrote a lengthy news article about the interview on January 18, 2008, in which they and their editors necessarily had to have made the editorial decision not to even mention either Sen. Obama's statement that his plan would "bankrupt" those building new coal-fired plants or that it would cause electric rates to "skyrocket." Ms. Marinucci claims that the Chronicle "promoted" the story of its interview with Obama, and that's true enough — the story she wrote did appear on page A1, where it would make the most favorable impression possible for Barack Obama in his then-fierce battle against Hillary Clinton — but a Google News search of that newspaper for that day reveals six total returns mentioning Obama, exactly none of which also include the words "coal" or "bankrupt" or "skyrocket."

Ms. Marinucci didn't just "bury her lede." Rather, in metaphoric terms, she took it out onto the Golden Gate Bridge, shot it in the back of the head, and pushed it off into an unmarked watery grave in hopes that the corpse would never float to the surface.

Then two days later, editorial page editor John Diaz wrote a puff piece about the interview entitled Obama's Straight-Ahead Style. Its online version did contain a link to the tape (h/t InstaPundit), and it includes this sentence: "He demonstrated depth on an assortment of issues: mortgage securities, coal, California air-pollution laws." What a lovely and informative journalistic choice of words! As Mr. Diaz sees things, a deliberate policy decision to bankrupt an industry and cause electric rates to skyrocket merely demonstrates a candidate's "depth," but is not worthy of further comment. (I would have chosen, I think, a two-word formulation instead, as in: "He demonstrated deep insanity on an assortment of issues ....") Technorati indicates that the Chronicle never again linked to that video, nor to the .mp3 audio version linked today by Ms. Marinucci.

Cumulatively, that constitutes awful, indefensible journalistic judgment — the current national interest in these quotes proves that conclusively, but anyone working for a junior high school newspaper would have instantly realized the newsworthiness of these quotes if he or she were not completely "in the tank" for Obama.

Leaving these quotes buried in a fifty-three minute, 336MB video is not, in my own judgment, quite as bad as the Los Angeles Times' making (and then hiding behind) an unethical promise to a source not to release a videotape of another newsworthy event (the Khalidi dinner). But certainly when we see how the Chronicle's top writers and editors used such pathetic and compromised judgment in picking and choosing what to report as newsworthy from the Obama interview, the public has even more reason to doubt that the LA Times has been forthcoming, fair, and complete in its reporting on the videotape it's still concealing entirely.

Once upon a time (in 1930s, to be a bit more specific), when a pair of comic book authors named Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster needed an identity and a "day job" for the alter ego of their crime-fighting super hero, they dreamed up "Clark Kent," a mild-mannered reporter for the Daily Planet. If they were making such choices today, such idealists would do better to cast Superman's alter ego as a used car salesman, a carnival barker, or even an investment banker than as a reporter for any mainstream media source. "Truth, Justice, and the American Way" has been sacrificed for "Spin, Bias, and Obama's The One." With all too rare exceptions, there's nothing "professional" left in the profession of journalism, folks. Lois Lane would probably be in the tank for Obama — foreshadowing lots of future rescues that are going to be needed if he's elected — but I think Clark Kent might weep for his disgraced profession.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 05:15 AM in 2008 Election, Energy, Mainstream Media, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Obama quotes: "[I]f somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It's just that it will bankrupt them," and electricity rates will "necessarily skyrocket"

You know, you just can't be unhappy that gasoline prices have fallen and that the whole subject of foreign energy dependence seems less urgent as a result. Except that that ended up hurting the McCain-Palin campaign. Energy was the #1 domestic issue in the spring and early summer. Then the Dems started backpedaling on offshore drilling, and the credit markets went into the toilet. By the time anyone figured out that Obama has promised to bankrupt the coal industry, that wasn't nearly as scary as it would have been a few months earlier.

My bet, though, is that the Dems will continue to screw the whole subject of energy up royally, and it will be a fabulous issue for Gov. Palin to run on in 2012!


[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

It has already become painfully clear that Harvard-trained lawyer Barack Obama is even more inclined to lie by parsing words than Yale-trained Bill Clinton was. Clinton, you will recall, famously denied having had "sexual relations" with "that woman, Ms. Lewinsky," based on his secret mental reservation to the effect that anything short of genital-on-genital penetration wasn't "sexual relations." Then he argued that he hadn't lied under oath about that subject because "It depends on what the meaning of 'is' is."

Now Barack Obama has been caught in a very similar and equally sleazy episode of parsing: He's all in favor of using America's vast reserves of coal to help solve our national addiction to foreign oil — so long as we don't actually burn any of it. And anyone who wants can build new clean-coal fired electrical generating plants! It's just that Obama has sworn to tax and fine them into bankruptcy if they do (ellipsis in original, boldface mine; h/t DRJ at Patterico's):

“I voted against the Clear Skies Bill. In fact, I was the deciding vote -- despite the fact that I’m a coal state and that half my state thought that I had thoroughly betrayed them. Because I think clean air is critical and global warming is critical.

“But this notion of no coal, I think, is an illusion. Because the fact of the matter is, is that right now we are getting a lot of our energy from coal. And China is building a coal-powered plant once a week. So what we have to do then is figure out how can we use coal without emitting greenhouse gases and carbon. And how can we sequester that carbon and capture it. If we can’t, then we’re gonna still be working on alternatives.

“But ... let me sort of describe my overall policy. What I’ve said is that we would put a cap and trade policy in place that is as aggressive if not more aggressive than anyone out there. I was the first call for 100 percent auction on the cap and trade system. Which means that every unit of carbon or greenhouse gases that was emitted would be charged to the polluter. That will create a market in which whatever technologies are out there that are being presented, whatever power plants are being built, they would have to meet the rigors of that market and the ratcheted-down caps that are imposed every year.

So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted. That will also generate billions of dollars that we can invest in solar, wind, biodiesel, and other alternative energy approaches. The only thing that I’ve said with respect to coal — I haven’t been some coal booster. What I have said is that for us to take coal off the table as an ideological matter, as opposed to saying if technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, we should pursue it, that I think is the right approach. The same with respect to nuclear. Right now, we don’t know how to store nuclear waste wisely and we don’t know how to deal with some of the safety issues that remain. And so it’s wildly expensive to pursue nuclear energy. But I tell you what, if we could figure out how to store it safely, then I think most of us would say that might be a pretty good deal.

“The point is, if we set rigorous standards for the allowable emissions, then we can allow the market to determine and technology and entrepreneurs to pursue, what the best approach is to take, as opposed to us saying at the outset, here are the winners that we’re picking and maybe we pick wrong and maybe we pick right.”

That long quote comes from ABC News' Jake Tapper, as taken from a January 2008 interview Sen. Obama gave to the San Francisco Chronicle. (Something about being in that city apparently releases some of his inhibitions and permits him to accidentally tell the truth in between his carefully constructed and lawyerly word castles.) You can see a video clip with a recording of Obama's voice along with some pertinent statistics in the video at Gateway Pundit.

Obama is saying as clearly as it's possible to say that the taxes and penalties he's going to slap on both the coal and nuclear industries will bankrupt them based even on their very best current technology. He's only open to those fuels if there are magical new developments which let us release the energy in coal without releasing carbon dioxide or make spent nuclear fuels completely danger-free. That would require rewriting the basic laws of chemistry and physics — and as brilliant as The One is, he hasn't posted his plan to restructure the universe at a sub-atomic level on his website yet.

And contrary to Team Obama's protestations now, Gov. Sarah Palin was not taking Obama's remarks out of context this weekend, but giving them an absolutely fair interpretation — indeed, Gov. Palin was playing a recording of Obama's own words:

Palin told supporters to listen to the audiotape. “You’re going to hear Sen. Obama talk about bankrupting the coal industry,” she said. The Alaska governor also pointed to comments that Democratic vice-presidential candidate Joe Biden made to an environmental activist, promising no more coal-fired power plants in America. Biden was videotaped, likely without his knowledge.

“In an Obama-Biden administration, there would be no use for coal at all, from Wyoming to Colorado, to West Virginia and Ohio,” Palin said.

Tapper was wrong, though: The long quote above is not "the entirety of Obama’s remarks," and indeed, it is far from the only controversial thing Obama said on the subject of coal and energy in that interview. Ed Morrissey at Hot Air has yet another video clip and transcript from that same interview (boldface Ed's):

The problem is not technical, uh, and the problem is not mastery of the legislative intricacies of Washington. The problem is, uh, can you get the American people to say, “This is really important,” and force their representatives to do the right thing? That requires mobilizing a citizenry. That requires them understanding what is at stake. Uh, and climate change is a great example.

You know, when I was asked earlier about the issue of coal, uh, you know — Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket. Even regardless of what I say about whether coal is good or bad. Because I’m capping greenhouse gases, coal power plants, you know, natural gas, you name it — whatever the plants were, whatever the industry was, uh, they would have to retrofit their operations. That will cost money. They will pass that money on to consumers.


They — you — you can already see what the arguments will be during the general election. People will say, “Ah, Obama and Al Gore, these folks, they’re going to destroy the economy, this is going to cost us eight trillion dollars,” or whatever their number is. Um, if you can’t persuade the American people that yes, there is going to be some increase in electricity rates on the front end, but that over the long term, because of combinations of more efficient energy usage, changing lightbulbs and more efficient appliance, but also technology improving how we can produce clean energy, the economy would benefit.

If we can’t make that argument persuasively enough, you — you, uh, can be Lyndon Johnson, you can be the master of Washington. You’re not going to get that done.

A federal government completely controlled by Pelosi, Reid, and Obama can't change the laws of physics, but it damned sure can and will change the tax code, and it damned sure can — and here's Obama's promise that it will — tax and fine entire industries into bankruptcy. Obama thinks doing that to the coal and nuclear energy industries — as based on what he perceives to be the inadequacies of their very current best technologies — would be a good thing in the "long term." The problem is, friends and neighbors, that our economy can't survive the shocks on the "front end" that Obama admits his program will guarantee.

This, gentle readers, is madness masquerading as policy. This is a millimeter-thin patina of "reasonableness," achieved only by lawyerly word games, and it's being used to disguise a plan to radically transform our entire economy as part of some enviro-utopian pipe-dream.

Your very worst fears and nightmares about Barack Obama's policy ambitions are true. The only "dream" here has been the notion that Obama is any kind of moderate.


UPDATE (Sun Nov 2 @ 10:15 p.m. CST): Hugh has now posted an embedded video above which is the same as what I linked to earlier from Gateway Pundit. And apparently the story of this interview first broke in a post on Newsbusters, an update to which links this San Francisco Chronicle article, based on the interview, as proof that nobody at that most sanctimonious of mainstream media outlets bothered to notice the newsworthiness of, or otherwise bring any attention to, Obama's promise to bankrupt the coal industry as it currently exists.

[Further material originally posted here as another update has now been moved to a new post.]

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 05:05 AM in 2008 Election, Energy, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (0)

In prioritizing economic versus security issues for purposes of casting your vote, keep in mind that the Marines pay more attention to the POTUS than do macro-economic trends

At last, I'm into November. Hoo-rah for file maintenance!

In hindsight, I like this guest-post title at less than I did at the time. Too long, too long. Nevertheless, the premise is correct: Come Inauguration Day, every Marine in Washington will snap perfect salutes to the new Commander in Chief, who will deserve them by virtue of the office he holds. The Dow-Jones average is likely to be less deferential.


[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

Gas station sign in Houston on Oct 31, 2008 (photo: Melissa Phillip/Houston Chronicle)Given the rather startling photograph on the left, why is it that George W. Bush is not being hailed right now — triumphantly by the GOP, reluctantly by the Democrats — as a genius for definitively and dramatically solving the single most acute economic problem that was facing most Americans this past summer, when gasoline prices at the pump were topping $4 per gallon?

The answer any truthful macro-economist will give you is: George W. Bush didn't have anything much to do with that fall in gasoline prices at the pump. And neither did Congress.

The precipitous fall in gasoline prices in September and October was the result of world-wide economic forces outside either of their control and, indeed, mostly explainable even by economists only through guesswork. The simplest classical economic answers can only hint at part of the price change: worldwide demand for refined gasoline, while diminished at the margin by this summer's high prices, hasn't dropped by anything close to half, and worldwide supply, while increased at the margin by those same high prices, hasn't grown to anything close to double either. Although the cumulative long-term decisions made by governments are certainly one factor in such worldwide economic price trends over time, the role played by any government — be it in Washington or Riyadh or Caracas — in this particular pricing spasm was inconsequential over this time-frame.

Friends and neighbors, it's simply a fact that the general public and the popular press give politicians both too much credit and too much blame for both short-term and long-term economic changes. It wasn't FDR and the New Deal who ended the Great Depression, it was World War 2. It wasn't Bill Clinton who grew the gross domestic product in the 1990s and thereby swelled tax revenues to balance the budget briefly, it was the integration into the national and world economy of the information revolution most clearly symbolized by the personal computer on which you're reading this internet blog post.

I'm not saying that governments don't affect economies. They do, especially at the margin and over long periods of time. Only bad and thoroughly intrusive governmental policy applied across a wide number of variables over a period of decades could have screwed up our health care system to its current point of ridiculousness, to pick a prominent example. The current economic crisis in the housing market, to cite another example, is an acute problem — like a mutli-hundred-billion-dollar bowel inflammation — which was directly caused by well-intended but stupid government attempts to legislate away basic economic laws by pretending that people who really can't afford expensive home mortgages could actually afford them if we just tweaked the terms of their adjustable rate mortgages enough and the real estate market always kept booming. (Yes, it was a government-run Ponzi scheme.)

And really bad government — a government that taxes its most productive people and their capital at confiscatory marginal rates, for example, of the sort we had by the conclusion of the fiasco known as the Carter Administration — can really screw things up. Indeed, the single thing at which government is most effective is taking away money from law-abiding, tax-paying citizens.

So by all means, in deciding how to cast your own vote, or in discussing with undecided friends how they ought to cast theirs, factor in whatever economic concerns you may have for what they're worth. They are important.

But as you do that, just keep in mind that photograph above and to the left. And if you're unwilling to give George W. Bush and/or the Pelosi-Reid Congress credit for that dramatic drop in gas prices at the pump — and indeed they don't deserve that credit — then discount, too, the economic wonders that you expect your preferred political ticket to accomplish if elected.

Gentle readers, if we're not safe on American soil from the sort of suicide bombings that are routine in much of the middle east, it doesn't matter nearly so much what the latest LIBOR index is. If instead of the leader of the free world and its only remaining superpower, America becomes a vacation cruise ship of touchy-feely cultural relativism drifting from Kum-bay-yah recital to recital, while our enemies infiltrate us and exterminate our allies like Israel, then it doesn't matter whose health insurance legislation you think you like better.

I earnestly commend to you Fred Kagan's op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal, entitled Security Should Be the Deciding Issue.

And I remind you that just like our current one, our next commander-in-chief, whoever he turns out to be, is virtually certain to get immediate and vigorous compliance with the orders he snaps off to his military adjutants, whereas those gasoline price signs and a whole lot of other important economic facts of life are mostly, at least in the short and middle terms, going to do exactly what they were already gonna do anyway.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 04:46 AM in 2008 Election, Current Affairs, Energy, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 07, 2008

A respectful suggestion to the McCain-Palin campaign: Change your slogans

In 2006, when Sarah Palin and Sean Parnell ran for governor and lieutenant governor in Alaska, their campaign slogan was "New Energy for Alaska."

I think there is a lot of truth to Sarah Palin's one-liner, during her acceptance speech at the GOP convention, to the effect that the presidency is not supposed to be a voyage of self-discovery. Before delivering that line, she ought to have warned everyone who's read Barack Obama's first book not to be mid-gulp of any beverage.

But Obama's self-absorption and messianic status aside, I am not a fan of the McCain campaign's slogan, "Country First," which pre-dated the Palin announcement.

In his own mind, Barack Obama thinks he would be the best choice for the country, and tens of millions of people agree with him. They find this slogan to be presumptuous and offensive. The slogan lets Obama righteously thunder, "I've got news for you, John McCain, we all put country first." And even though that's not true, there's no reason for McCain to let his own campaign slogan furnish his opponent with such a plausible come-back.

The McCain campaign's secondary slogan, "Reform * Prosperity * Peace," could be used by any politician who's ever run for office. They excite no one. The campaign might just as well go with "Mom * Apple Pie * Kittens."

Look at this amazing photograph (h/t PrestoPundit), taken at the McCain-Palin rally in Colorado Springs yesterday, which shows more powerfully and certainly more concisely than all the thousands and thousands of words all the pundits have written in the past ten days just how the race has changed:

McCain-Palin campaign rally in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on September 6, 2008 (AP photo)

I respectfully suggest that the McCain-Palin campaign announce — simultaneously with Sen. McCain's carefuly considered change of position on drilling in ANWR, preferably from some of the mud flats there so that camera crews can capture their bleak ordinariness — the change in their campaign slogan to: "McCain-Palin: New Energy for America."

Energy is their best, simplest, strongest domestic issue. The "new energy" slogan is broad enough, however, to cover their entire reform agenda. And if there's one thing that everyone already knows about John McCain, it's that he's a warrior: His name is worth more in foreign policy/national security credibility than any slogan ever crafted.

Posted by Beldar at 01:27 PM in 2008 Election, Energy, McCain, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (44)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Palin knows being pro-production doesn't mean being in the oil companies' pocket

Saturday's Houston Chronicle has a superb, insightful article by staff reporter Tom Fowler which quotes independent but knowledgeable energy industry experts who are familiar with Gov. Sarah Palin's record. It's packed with specific facts about that record, and the quoted experts ably draw a set of important distinctions. The article starts with a bang (boldface mine):

In an election where energy has moved to the top of the agenda, Republican vice-presidential pick Sarah Palin arguably brings more credibility on the topic than anyone else on the two major tickets.

She's the governor of Alaska, where close to 85 percent of the budget comes from oil revenue. It's second only to Texas among the states in oil production.

She's the previous head of the state's Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and is married to a North Slope oil production engineer.

Since taking office in 2006 she has thrown out the previous administration's plans for a North Slope natural gas pipeline, which had been criticized as too generous to oil producers, and has bolstered state coffers through an overhaul of the state's oil and gas tax structure.

"Between Biden, Obama and McCain, Palin is the only one who can spell 'energy.' The rest of these guys are completely clueless," said David Pursell, an analyst with Houston-based Tudor Pickering Holt & Co., an energy investment and research firm.

So does industry knowledge translate into closeness? To the contrary:

Bruce Bullock, director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said Palin knows the energy industry, "warts and all," and understands the importance of energy policy.

"She has shown an independent streak and has been anything but a patsy in dealing with the oil industry in Alaska," Bullock said.

The article notes that doctrinaire liberal interest groups (my characterization) insist that Palin is a puppet of the industry, which is also how they've characterized Bush and Cheney. At least with respect to Palin, however, that's just hogwash, say candid Alaska Democrats who actually know:

But Mike Doogan, a Democrat in Alaska's House of Representatives, said he's not so sure about Palin's chumminess with the industry.

"They don't have big color pictures of Sarah Palin in the board rooms of BP, ConocoPhillips or Exxon," Doogan said. "If she's in the pocket of big oil, she's kept it a pretty good secret."

(This is wry understatement. If ExxonMobil has Sarah Palin's picture up in its boardroom, it's tacked to a dart-board.)

Doogan said he agrees with Palin's oil and gas policies, as do many in the state where the state budget and economy rely on oil production. But the partnership between state government and the industry is not necessarily a happy one, he said.

"It's a good partnership if you consider having to sue your partner constantly to pay you a good thing," Doogan said, referring to frequent litigation between the state and industry over taxes and other issues.

The article runs through the conspicuous energy policy successes she's had despite her short tenure, often after vigorous "head-knocking" of the major oil companies, and always with complete public transparency (in contrast to her predecessors).

Amy Myers Jaffe, an energy fellow at Rice University's James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, said Palin represents a departure from past Alaskan politicians in how she has motivated the oil industry.

"She's taken much more of a 'knocking-heads' approach," Jaffe said. "She has stood up to the big players when she didn't like the process, and I don't think it's played well with the industry."

But there's no doubt Palin is clearly pro-oil production, said Robin West, chairman of energy strategy firm PFC Energy.

But her record, however, also suggests that being pro-production doesn't necessarily mean she's reliably pro-industry, West said.

"The agenda of Alaska and the agenda of Exxon are not always the same," West said. "They may both want more production but it may not be under the same terms."

There is no magic pony. My kids will be parents, and maybe grandparents, before we're wholly weaned from fossil fuels. We need to conserve; we need alternative sources.

But in the meantime, we still need to drill now, drill here, and drill smartly. Sarah Palin gets this. Better yet, she will make it happen — which in large part means "letting it happen," but in a smart way, making the market forces work for the taxpaying public and keeping everything thoroughly disinfected with the sunshine of public scrutiny.

Beldar's plea to Sen. McCain for the coming week: In your acceptance speech, use that multi-media capability to show video, plus maps, that will make abundantly clear to everyone watching just what a tiny portion of unexceptional mudflats will be disturbed when we drill in ANWR. Explain that your fabulous and knowledgeable running mate has opened your eyes to the fact that "pristine" doesn't always mean "precious," and that responsible development doesn't mean "plunder." And then announce that for the rest of the campaign and then from Day 1 forward of the McCain-Palin administration, Sarah Palin will be your energy czar, pounding on congressional doors to make this happen as part of an overall multi-faceted energy plan.

Posted by Beldar at 07:12 AM in 2008 Election, Energy, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (3)

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Palin family's energy bona fides versus the Democrats' big talk

When Barack Obama or Nancy Pelosi religiously intone, yet again, with serene and bleak confidence that "We can't drill our way out of this," I can't help wondering if either of them could tell the difference at a glance between a drillbit, a pumpjack, a derrick, and a blowout preventer.

By contrast, for most of the last 20 years or so, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's husband Todd has worked on or around Alaska's North Slope with job titles like "production operator." Now, that's a very blue collar job that can involve getting one's hands very dirty, but it's a job in which requires serious training. Slow-witted folks are quickly separated from finger-tips or worse, and the equipment one uses can cost tens of millions to replace, if you can get a replacement at any price any time soon, which right now you probably can't.

Which is to say, I don't think the notion of drilling for oil and gas is nearly so hypothetical to the Palin family as it is to either Barack Obama or Nancy Pelosi. I'd place a large wager on the likelihood that the Palin family washer and drier combo has dealt with its share of grease and drilling mud over the years, whereas the Obama and Pelosi households have fewer challenging stains and, indeed, rely a lot on dry cleaning.

So when Barack Obama waves his hands in the air in front of his teleprompter and says that he's going to create five million "green-collar jobs" out of nowhere when he becomes president, I wouldn't blame the younger Palin children if they began to look around for the magic pony. I mean, if you have a magic pony who can ride over the rainbows, or maybe a unicorn, you can probably do that. If you actually want to keep gasoline in the retail pump stations, though — and no, that's not the same thing as a pumpjack — somebody needs to still be doing that blue-collar work.

And if you want to deal with the various regulatory agencies and energy companies and environmental groups and tax policy think-tanks and all the rest of that stuff — well, now you're talking the kind of job that falls within Gov. Palin's bailiwick. Indeed, she's had a striking series of legislative successes in her first two years as governor, accomplishing far more on energy policy than the U.S. Congress has in the last 10 years. Not empty promises — but actual results. Results that translate into tax revenues; results that translate into transparent and open free-market negotiations, with energy companies competing against one another for the chance to serve the public interest; results that will turn into actual drillbits and pumpjacks and derricks and blowout preventers and pipelines and compressor stations and oil tankers and offshore platforms and the whole nine yards.

A regular reader, a fellow west Texan, emailed me this link to a story in a newspaper from San Angelo, Texas, which notes that the extended Palin family has ties to Texas too: Sarah Palin's maternal uncle Michael Sheeran and his wife Billie moved there "from Washington state nine years ago. Billie Sheeran is a hospital inspector and Michael Sheeran is retired from the nuclear industry, where he was involved in fuel design and nuclear reactors." This doesn't surprise me.

And the San Angelo area is smack-dab in the booming Texas wind-energy corridor, as I discussed last summer after driving from Houston to my home-town past dozens of giant windmills, working and under construction. My guess is that Todd and Michael could probably take one of those apart and put it back together, too, and ditto for the broken pumpjack over in the next pasture.

I like practical people with real-world solutions, both on energy and other important stuff. We don't need pie in the sky, we need drill pipe in the ground (including the ANWR mud flats and the "ground" offshore) — plus some reactors on the ground and some windmills in the sky. I like people who've actually done stuff, because they usually have the best ideas about how to do more. I like people who understand that the government damn near never makes or discovers anything — that at best, it can facilitate private industry doing that, and then its most important role is usually to get the hell out of the way.

The Palin family strikes me as these kind of people. Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi do not.

Posted by Beldar at 10:16 PM in 2008 Election, Energy, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (2)

Don't be misled into thinking that Gov. Palin has championed the same sort of "windfall profits taxes" on oil companies that Obama has

Stephen Spruiell was generous and self-critical enough to link today on The Corner a comment I wrote to one of my own Palin posts in which I took issue with a post by my excellent friend Ed Morrissey (formerly of Captain's Quarters) at Hot Air. Basically, I thought Ed (and, inferentially, Mr. Spruiell) had been taken in by a hatchet job from a Seattle newspaper which was carefully calculated to argue that Sarah Palin is a fan of windfall profits taxes on oil companies, just like Barack Obama.

That's not so. Palin has stood up to the major oil companies, and has made utterly transparent the State of Alaska's dealings with them, but she is neither in their pocket nor a rabble-rouser who unfairly demonizes them. She's dealt with them like a responsible public servant, not a class warrior. I'll reprint here the comment Mr. Spruiell kindly referenced, along with a subsequent one on the same post describing my emails to Ed (again, without blockquotes, and with slight editing):


What the article you linked to is discussing is a severance tax. State severance taxes charged on production of oil and gas and minerals are common throughout the United States. Also sometimes called "production taxes," they're charged by the state from beneath whose land valuable resources are extracted, and they're designed not to punish the energy companies, but to recompense the state for its loss of a non-replaceable resource — one that must be quantified and taxed upon removal, if it is ever to be taxed at all. Severance taxes are therefore based on production from within the state, not on profits earned by the company extracting that production — even though the production may be measured in, and the tax assessed upon, the market value or gross revenues (as measured in dollars) received for that production, rather than an "in kind" delivery to the state in barrels or cubic feet as such. See, e.g., Tex. Tax Code §§ 201.051 & 202.051 (Texas production taxes on gas and oil respectively).

Indeed, I once represented Conoco in a Houston lawsuit against Mobil over how to allocate the severance tax they jointly owed based on jointly owned oil and gas leases in Idaho. There's actually a fair amount of competing case-law from different states over whether severance taxes are more properly characterized as "property taxes" or "income taxes" — if for some reason (e.g., interpreting a sloppy contract) you have to put them into one of those two categories or the other. But in any event, severance taxes are in no way premised on the notion that energy companies are making unconscionable or excessive profits.

Alaska's previous version of its severance tax had been negotiated behind closed doors by defeated Gov. Frank Murkowski, a few top state legislators (some of whom are now in prison for corruption), and energy lobbyists. One of the campaign planks upon which Gov. Palin ran for office was replacing that tax with one negotiated in the open with full transparency; and the resulting tax was, indeed, slightly more favorable to the State of Alaska. The article you linked tells some of this anti-corruption history on the part of Gov. Palin. But just because the newspaper headline writers and some of the people the article quoted used the word "windfall," don't be fooled into thinking that the tax in question is the same thing Barack Obama and the Democrats are now promoting at a national level.

Rather, what Obama and the Dems are promoting is nothing less than selective government confiscation of the property of a particular industry, on the theory that such industry's profits are "excessive." That's a repugnant rabble-rousing scheme, populism turned into class warfare and carried to its excessive worst. It's completely unjustifiable either morally or economically. Its short-term victims are going to be energy-company shareholders (which include huge numbers of pension plans in which ordinary Americans have investments), but its long-term victims will be all Americans (who will suffer as our own energy companies are put at an increasing competitive disadvantage compared to others in the world, and whose national security interests will be further harmed as we become even more dependent on foreign sources of fossil-fuel energy).


I hadn't seen Cap'n Ed's post at Hot Air, but I've sent him the following email:


I’m pretty sure your post on Gov. Palin supposedly having supported a “windfall profits” tax in Alaska is badly misinformed. I think you’ve been suckered by taking the Seattle newspaper article at face value. I would not be surprised if this article is a plant by Dems who are terrified that McCain MIGHT pick Palin.

The tax in question is Alaska’s SEVERANCE tax, which is not a general corporate income tax, but a one-time tax that most states impose on the extraction of non-renewable resources that otherwise would escape taxation. I’m not an expert on tax law, but I have had a prior case involving state severance taxes, and I discuss the difference in a comment on my blog: link.

You also need to understand the context: The prior severance tax was negotiated behind closed doors between the three big oil companies who (to the exclusion of others) dominate existing production — ExxonMobil, BP, and ConocoPhillips — and the corrupt former legislators (some of whom are now in prison) and discredited administration of former Gov. Frank Murkowski (whom Palin defeated). Palin insisted on renegotiating the severance tax in open meetings with complete transparency. The result was indeed a slight increase — but only from a base rate of 22.5% to 25%. link

In other words, Palin brought SUNSHINE to the process. That did indeed upset those three big oil companies, who were happier in the dark. They’re also pissed because she’s championing an open-bidding process for a new natural gas pipeline that will bring affordable energy to Alaskans as well as making its natural gas reserves eventually available to the lower 48 states. (A Canadian-based company won that bid after ExxonMobil, BP, and ConocoPhillips refused to participate, but they’re promoting their own alternative deal. The Alaska legislature’s in special session to sort things out.)

Gov. Palin’s constituents, however, follow this stuff closely because it is so integral to the state’s entire budget and governing processes. Gov. Palin’s approval ratings are still at 80% as of the end of July.

The quote adding in royalty payments to the tax burden is extremely misleading. Producers pay royalty payments wherever they extract oil, gas & minerals. If you check, I think you’ll find that the royalty payments actually go to the federal government, not the Alaska state government, under the terms of the deal reached when Alaska became a state.

Costs of living are dramatically higher in Alaska than elsewhere. The local state tax burden is already comparatively low, however. Because of current energy prices — not specifically because of this modest increase in the severance tax — Alaska is in a position to rebate government money to its citizens. They’re choosing to do so by direct payments rather than cutting taxes. But since their entire state budget is already (and has long been) based on the development of Alaska’s energy reserves, it’s not at all fair to compare that rebate program to the confiscate-and-giveaway class warfare that Obama is proposing.

I write this to encourage you to actually research this more thoroughly, perhaps by contacting someone who IS a state tax expert and knows the state history better than I do. I don’t have time to do a more thorough analysis today or tomorrow, but if you choose not to, I’ll try to do so later this week. If you want to quote (with or without attribution) anything from this email in the meantime, feel free, but please be sure to include my statement that this is a “top of my head” reaction.

- Beldar

And I followed that with this email:


Re-reading what I just sent, I’m particularly uncertain about royalty rights. It may be that they’re divided in some proportion between the state and federal governments. So that paragraph in particular probably ought not be quoted without some further inquiry. But it is fair to say that oil companies pay royalties to SOMEONE on essentially all production, and it’s not fair to characterize those royalties as being part of anyone’s “windfall profits tax.”

- Beldar

What's next is from the description from the universally respected CCH looseleaf tax service, as linked in my first email, of the legislation in question:

The base tax rate is increased from 22.5% to 25% of the annual production tax value of taxable oil and gas. When a producer's average monthly production tax value per BTU equivalent barrel of taxable oil and gas is between $30 and $92.50, an additional tax of 0.4% is imposed on the difference between the average monthly production tax value and $30. Formerly, the additional tax was 0.25%. When a producer's average monthly production tax value exceeds $92.50, the additional tax is 0.1% of the difference between the monthly production tax value and $92.50. The new tax rates are effective July 1, 2007.

That's not remotely consistent with what the Seattle newspaper article says, but I'd put my money on CCH.

Posted by Beldar at 07:28 PM in 2008 Election, Energy, Law (2008), McCain, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Why Obama's conventional Veep choice should free McCain to make an unconventional one (Palin or Jindal)

Barack Obama, who is at least superficially a very unconventional presidential candidate, has now picked an exceptionally conventional vice-presidential running mate in Joe Biden. Biden was born in 1942; he was first elected to the Senate in 1972, when Obama was 11 years old, and Biden has been there ever since. Biden got zero traction among voters in his own party in either of his own two presidential bids. For those who can't distinguish between seniority and experience, Biden might appear to be a "safe" choice, one whose long Senate tenure arguably balances Obama's own brief and thin list of accomplishments. But the one thing that Biden has proven himself to be — both as a presidential candidate and as a senator — is a self-absorbed gaffe machine. My only question is not whether, but the relative degree to which, by November, Biden will have proved himself to be an embarrassment to the Obama campaign. And that depends not only on how many gaffes Biden makes, but how many Obama and McCain make during the same period (since theirs would likely overshadow Biden's).

I am confident that in between his gaffes, however, Joe Biden will endlessly and enthusiastically repeat the Obama campaign's talking points. Already-committed voters for either side may pay brief attention to his gaffes (defending or ridiculing them, depending on their already existing preferences), but other than that, they will mostly ignore him. As for undecided voters, or potential voters whose real decision is whether to show up at the polls or not, I do not believe that Biden is capable of connecting with them in any powerful (subconscious or emotional) way. He is more plastic, and less inspiring, than either Obama or McCain.

So what does Obama's choice of Biden mean for McCain's own Veep selection? Does it mean that McCain ought also play it safe? Or does this create a new and unique opportunity for McCain to exploit? I presume you've read the title of this post, so you already know what I think the answer to this question should be. But here's my reasoning behind the recommendation:


For starters, one thing is absolutely clear now: Whatever else, Obama's choice of Biden didn't bring something to the Democratic ticket that McCain himself can't already counter in spades. Indeed, Biden was obviously chosen by Obama to try to match some of McCain's strengths — long Senate service, particularly with respect to foreign policy matters — but Biden's addition to the ticket doesn't require that McCain pick someone else, in addition to himself, who shares those qualities.

And because Biden's only in the second slot, no amount of perceived experience on his part can completely overcome Obama's own short and thin record. Indeed, since both parties' presidential nominees became clear, we've always known that when it comes to experience, the GOP ticket would be superior to the Democratic ticket — and that's true regardless of who either nominee picks for the Veep slot. For voters who value experience highly, the GOP ticket is already the superior choice. Long years of service are therefore a less important qualification for the McCain ticket's second slot because he need not worry about having to play catch-up on that count. And voters normally expect a Veep nominee to be the less experienced of the two.

Biden is also very much a known quantity. The odds of America becoming suddenly infatuated with Joe Biden, and that rubbing off on Barack Obama, are zero. McCain now knows that Obama's conventional choice is not going to somehow unexpectedly morph into a brilliant choice. He doesn't bring any battleground state definitely into the Democratic fold. And, frankly, the likelihood that Biden will be a gaffe-free Veen nominee is also about zero. Compared to where it might have been if Obama had announced that, for example, Sam Nunn or Hillary Clinton were his choice, the bar has been set fairly low.


I've read several conservative pundits whose opinions I respect argue that Obama's selection of Biden means McCain ought to pick Mitt Romney. So far, however, I haven't seen anyone make a compelling, specific argument as to why Romney would be a better choice now than he would have been had Obama picked, say, Hillary Clinton or Bill Richardson. Instead, their arguments seem to be fairly generic ones, a restatement of the reasons why they like Romney anyway.

He was never my first choice, but based on their respective policies, I also preferred Romney to McCain during the GOP primaries, and by the end of them I ended up liking Romney substantially more than I did when they began. I won't be horribly dismayed now if McCain were to pick Romney. And there are, by sharp contrast, quite a few other names being bounced around whose selection would indeed dismay me deeply.

But except for his LDS religious faith, Romney would also be an extremely conventional Veep selection. He's as plastic and uninspiring as Biden, and just as unlikely to connect powerfully with the undecided or swing voters who presumably will decide the election.

To me, Obama's cautious and conventional choice ought simply highlights the strategic advantage that McCain could seize by going unconventional. With no need to directly counter Obama's choice, then instead of mirroring it, McCain ought to exploit it — to seize upon it as a chance to engage in asymmetric political warfare. Obama's hunkering down and digging in, so now is the time to get behind his lines. Or in football terms: Obama has stacked the box, assuming that McCain is going to run the ball up the middle, and he's already fully committed to that formation, so now is the very best time to call an audible and go deep.

That means Sarah Palin or Bobby Jindal.


If McCain picks Romney, or someone else fairly conventional (e.g., Pawlenty or Portman), I know I'm going to have to set my DVR to record the vice presidential debate because I can't be certain in advance that I won't fall asleep during the middle of it. But oh, how I — and, I think, how all of America — would relish watching either Palin or Jindal take on Joe Biden!

The Dems would expect it to be Quayle versus Bentsen all over again, but Joe Biden is no Lloyd Bentsen — silver hair-plugs do not translate into genuine gravitas. Because Quayle was a traditional, privileged white male, there was no potential backlash when the Dems mocked him for his youth and seeming shallowness; Dems would find it less easy, or more risky, to mock either Palin or Jindal. And either Palin or Jindal are far better at thinking and speaking on their feet than Dan Quayle was. Quayle wasn't as bad as his reputation eventually became, but neither was he ever the genuine hope for the future of his party that Poppy Bush seemed to think he'd be. Palin and Jindal are the real deal.

The vice presidential debate almost certainly won't be won on substantive debating points, however — on their merits, Quayle's answers weren't that bad and Bentsen's weren't that great. What very well could "win" the VP debate — and more importantly, what could even affect the outcome of the election — is the flavor, tone, and the visuals of the event. That includes identity politics of the sort that I usually deplore, but that can't be ignored, especially when one's trying to figure out how to capture undecided and swing voters who are seeking a visceral connection of some sort with either campaign.

Sarah Palin or Bobby Jindal standing at the GOP's lectern at the vice presidential debate — especially across from Democrat Joe Biden, as stereotypical an old-school politician as has ever lived and breathed — would transform the Republican Party's image in the minds of literally millions of voters who presently associate it exclusively with rich, white, old men. And that's something no amount of television advertising buys or direct mail brochures could do. And it's true almost no matter what anyone actually says at the debate.

By picking Joe Biden, Barack Obama has handed that visual to John McCain and the GOP on a silver platter. Should that gift be squandered?

Even though I'm a big fan of Gov. Jindal, I still am more enthusiastic about Gov. Palin for this particular race at this particular time, and it's for two reasons, each of which can each be summarized in a single word. The first word is "Energy." And the second word is "Hillary." The first is the best domestic issue for the GOP, on which Gov. Palin is uniquely qualified as both a symbol and a spokesperson. The second is the source of a whole lot of disaffected woulda-been Democratic voters who are looking for an excuse to rebound in a way that secretly (but very satisfyingly) shoots the finger at Barack Obama.


At the beginning of this post, I described Obama himself as "at least superficially a very unconventional presidential candidate." But in fact, the lesson of the entire 2008 presidential campaign so far — a lesson again re-affirmed by his pick of Biden — is that Obama is a very conventional politician who's running a disciplined, almost constipated campaign. He's far better at that than Hillary Clinton or, for that matter, Joe Biden gave him early credit for, which is why he beat them. And it wasn't until Hillary loosened up and started taking chances — a change that, in hindsight, came too late — that she started getting real traction against him.

I don't think McCain is naturally risk-averse, and I suspect he will indeed go with his own gut, rather than let his advisers push him into a choice he otherwise might not have made. But I fear that McCain will show his maverick streak — poke his thumb in the eye of the GOP establishment and its conservative base — by picking a Tom Ridge or a Lindsey Graham. So if there are any Republican angels out there who can whisper my words into the grumpy old man's ear as he sleeps, please whisper these:

"You're not Bob Dole, and you've never wanted to be. Yes, be unconventional, my friend, but not in a way that makes your would-be supporters despondent. Give them firm cause to back you, and a pleasant surprise, by choosing someone who's unquestionably conservative. Give all America inspiration by choosing someone who's fresh and energetic and emblematic of the new century, instead of the one just past. You're the candidate who already connects with practical voters who value security and honor; now bolster your ticket's appeal with someone who can connect with romantic voters who most prize hope and progress. Go deep, John McCain: Pick Palin!"

Posted by Beldar at 03:36 AM in 2008 Election, Energy, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (20)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Windfall profits taxes on energy companies?

Here's a current affairs multiple choice question that is dirt simple:

For the second quarter of 2008, two highly pertinent financial figures reported by ExxonMobil were its net income (as calculated according to U.S. GAAP, i.e., generally accepted accounting principles) and the taxes it paid. Which of the following statements is true?

  1. ExxonMobile's net income was $32.4 billion. It paid income taxes and other taxes totaling $11.7 billion.

  2. ExxonMobil's net income was $11.7 billion. It paid income taxes and other taxes totaling $32.4 billion.

Statement No. 2 is true, and Statement No. 1 is false. In fact, as an American corporation that therefore is already burdened with one of the highest corporate income tax rates among its global competitors, ExxonMobil paid $10.5 billion in income taxes alone.

If you don't understand that ExxonMobil is already paying roughly three times as much in taxes as it makes in profits, then you're very likely to be suckered by stories like this one in the New York Times, which only reports on the record-setting profits, and not on the record-setting taxes. And you're also very likely to be suckered by political candidates who call for "windfall profits taxes," as if politicians — politicians! — are oh so very much smarter than the market, such that they can decide which industries are enjoying "windfalls" that can be taxed without ill effect on either them or the national economy.

We call that kind of politician a "commissar," by the way.

An American windfall profits tax on energy companies, however, will guarantee certain results: American energy companies will be penalized compared to their foreign competitors, many of whom are already heavily subsidized by their own countries. And American energy companies will have less incentive and less ability to invest, whether in finding new sources of fossil fuel energy upon which we can rely if there are future embargoes or in helping develop alternative energy sources.

Posted by Beldar at 12:31 AM in 2008 Election, Current Affairs, Energy, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (9)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Beldar to Lowry, for the benefit of McCain, on ANWR

Rich Lowry, the editor of the National Review, asks a question on The Corner today that I don't think he means to be rhetorical (bold-face mine):

Drilling is, of course, the best domestic issue Republicans and McCain have going for them. Can you imagine what the debate would look like if McCain hadn't changed his position on off-shore drilling a few weeks ago? Now, with the Democrats and Obama beginning to buckle, it's no time to let up on the pressure, as we argue here. McCain probably needs to go farther and support drilling in ANWR. It will augment his "all of the above" position; it will prompt howls from the left and environmentalists—which is a good thing given how this debate is shaping up; and it will keep him in a place on the issue where Obama can't go, or can go only with great difficulty. How can McCain make this change? That's a tougher question. He's going to have to live down the "Grand Canyon" nonsense, but maybe he can find a way to get some cover (arguing for drilling on the one hand, but expanding the size of ANWR on the other?). Or maybe he can just go the straight-talk route, "My friends, I've looked at this more closely in light of $4-a-gallon gas, and I realize I was wrong. But I will swallow my pride and gladly admit error if it means helping lift the burden of high energy costs on American consumers." Or something like that.

The obvious answer that Mr. Lowry is seeking but inexplicably missing: McCain should tour both the proposed drilling area within ANWR, the rest of the Reserve, and other developed and developing sites in Alaska — in the natural and knowledgeable company of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

McCain can then explain how his understandable prejudice in favor of the "pristine," like the Grand Canyon, was forced to give way when confronted by facts on the ground — indeed, facts about the ground. Barren mudflats plus articulate advocacy by Gov. Palin can certainly persuade a receptive America, along with McCain, that responsible drilling in ANWR is an idea whose time has certainly come.

Of course, my preference, often expressed on this blog, would be that he combine that trip with an announcement of Gov. Palin as his Veep nominee. But even if he delays that announcement, or (sigh) goes in a more conventional and boring direction for his Veep, he ought to make good use of Gov. Palin's on-site expertise and persuasive powers.

Posted by Beldar at 06:15 PM in 2008 Election, Energy, McCain, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (5)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Under the most favorable characterization, Obama displays the stupidity of youth in urging the tapping of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve

Depending on the circumstances, sometimes only a few years' difference in life experience can translate into an enormous gap in wisdom.

I was born in November 1957, at the tail-end of the Baby Boom. Teens from small towns in the west Texas prairies learned to drive early in those days. I'd actually been driving when I ought not, with my parents' knowledge and consent but without lawful authority, for quite some time. But I got my full-fledged drivers license — to replace the provisional "hardship" license I'd previously held, which allowed me to drive to and from work in daylight hours — in November 1973, when I turned 16 during my junior year in high school. By then, I had family spread across the State of Texas, and whether to visit them or for extra-curricular events and college interviews, I had frequent need to take cross-state driving trips in which I'd be the one paying to fill my own gas tank.

Gas station lines like these weren't just common, but universal, during late 1973-early 1974 But as it happened, 1973 was a momentous year in world history far beyond the prairies of west Texas. The Israeli armed forces had bounced back from their initial losses to a combined sneak attack of Arab countries on Yom Kippur, October 6, 1973, and by October 24th — with the essential support of the United States — they had inflicted even more humiliating losses on Egypt and Syria that are still reflected in the maps of today's Middle East. In sympathy with their Arab brethren, and in retaliation against the United States, Saudi Arabia, Libya, and other Arab states began a total oil embargo against America on October 19, 1973.

President Nixon did the right thing in backing up Israel. But ordinary Americans, from the top to bottom of society and across our entire nation, paid a price — and not just in dollars! Gasoline didn't just become more expensive, it became unavailable. There was nationwide, mandatory gasoline rationing in late 1973 and early 1974: Drivers could only buy gasoline, if they could find it at all, after waiting in long lines on either odd- or even-numbered days of the month (depending on the last digit of their license plates). Driving from, say, Lamesa to Austin suddenly became an exercise in strategic planning, scrounging, and guesswork about which towns en route might have open stations, especially if (as I was obliged to do) you were traveling on a weekend. Gas stations open on Sundays became rarer than hens' teeth.

The dislocation of the American lifestyle and economy was vastly greater than anything America had experienced since World War 2, and vastly greater than anything America has experienced since then — including the first Gulf War, the Iraq War, and the current sharp rise in world-wide oil and refined gasoline prices.

Legislation passed in 1975 to create America's Strategic Petroleum Reserve was the direct result of this crisis. It's not much, but it's better than nothing, and it gives us a little flexibility, for a little while, if the fit hits the shan again and we can't count on any OPEC country delivering another barrel of oil to us at any price.

Barack Obama, however, was born on August 4, 1961. During the 1973-1974 oil embargo, Obama was 12 years old, living with his grandparents in Honululu. I feel pretty safe in assuming that he wasn't planning any cross-state or cross-country automobile trips, or trying to fill up his grandparents' gasoline tank, during that crisis.

That complete blank spot in his personal experience — plus the politician's normal desire to pander, and the Democratic Party's utter failure to come up with anything remotely resembling a responsible energy policy — together make up the only conceivable explanation for his monumentally, colossally, inexcusably STUPID proposal that we tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve today.

1973-1974: Gas rationing, often no gas at allIt's one thing to stop making further purchases, and to stop the continued filling of the reserve, during times when crude oil prices are high and crude oil supply is tight. That's always been part of the plan for the Reserve, and it simply makes market sense. The whole point of the reserve is to buy gradually, especially when oil is comparatively cheap and plentiful, and then to hold it for a crisis.

But it's simply inconceivable to me how anyone who had a drivers license in 1973-1974 and lived through that genuine crisis could think our present situation — in which gasoline is expensive, but universally available — is even remotely the kind of circumstances for which the Strategic Petroleum Reserve ought to be tapped. We're many, many times more vulnerable to an embargo now than we were in the mid-1970s; our need for a strategic reserve is therefore many times greater. And our current high gasoline prices — while awful if you're on the margin in a business particularly dependent on gasoline prices, and while unpleasant and unhealthy for the economy as a whole — cannot realistically be described as a national strategic crisis by anyone who understands either the word "strategic" or "crisis." Finally, the resulting drop in gas prices would be even more fleeting and insubstantial than that which would result from McCain's proposed gasoline "tax holiday" (which, as Obama has consistently argued and a genuine, near-universal consensus of energy economists have agreed, is also a campaign gimmick and a very stupid idea).

Do not be misled by double-talk of Obama aides:

His proposal comes a month after Obama said he would consider using oil from the reserves only in a "genuine emergency," such as "terrorist acts." Aides said the plan is not a reversal because he would replace light crude oil in the reserves with less-expensive heavy crude. They also noted that the senator from Illinois last week described the country's economic conditions as an "emergency."

Use your common sense: Why do you think heavy crude is less expensive? It's filled with more sulfur and other contaminants that, in turn, require more expensive refining processes that are less widely available. Anyone who tells you that a barrel of heavy crude and a barrel of light, sweet crude are fungible is a damned liar, and they're taking you for a fool to boot. This is like saying, "I'm not depleting the funds in my emergency cash stash by removing the $20 bills; why, for every $20 bill I'm taking out, I'm putting a $10 bill back in, so there's no depletion at all!"

Those who are too young to have experienced the 1973-1974 crisis, who can't remember it at all or can't remember it as vividly as I do, and who haven't learned about it in their study of American and world history, I can forgive if they're not running for president. But for someone purportedly as smart as Barack Obama, with prestigious degrees from Ivy League universities, who's making grand plans to utterly transform the American energy economy, there is no forgiveness available. Anyone in those circumstances who's making this argument is either an utter fool or a craven traitor to America's long-term interests, or both.

Either way, Obama is proposing to sell out America's long-term strategic energy interests in order to get elected. It's exactly that simple.

Posted by Beldar at 04:26 AM in 2008 Election, Energy, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (14)

Friday, July 11, 2008

McCain should say: "I shall go to Alaska! (And I will take along the press!)"

I tend to agree with Hugh Hewitt's characterization of Richard Baehr's opinion piece entitled How McCain Could Win as "best column of the day." In particular, regular readers will recognize some of these same arguments as having previously appeared on this blog, among other places, but Baehr stitches them cogently and concisely (boldface mine):

So who would help the ticket most as a VP selection? One interesting choice would be Alaska's very popular Governor, Sarah Palin. She would be an immediate media sensation and rob the Obama campaign of its monopoly of saturation media infatuation. Given the way the media was perceived to have ganged up on Hillary Clinton, there might be much greater care about avoiding doing it again with Palin. Of course Palin would be challenged for her youth and inexperience in foreign policy matters. But the reality is that Palin, unlike almost all US Senators (including Barack Obama), has actually run something, and with 84% approval for her job as Governor, seems to be running it well. Jimmy Carter, Michael Dukakis and Bill Clinton all ran for President directly from service as Governor. Raising the experience issue with Palin would be a risky strategy for the Obama campaign. After all, Palin would only be running for the #2 spot, and Obama, with arguably less of a track record, is running for the top spot. Palin would also be very effective in helping focus the energy issue, and the need to explore and drill for what we have in this country. [Gov. Palin] could take McCain to ANWR and give him reason to shift on that issue.

I want to re-emphasize and expand quite a bit on that last point. (Included is a map, and another picture of the photogenic Gov. Palin.)


Remember that in 1952, Dwight Eisenhower's entirely successful campaign position on the then-raging Korean War, and indeed on Cold War foreign policy generally, boiled down to one sentence in one famous speech: "I shall go to Korea."

So campaign travel, or even campaign promises to travel, can be awfully important. Now, of course, Sen. McCain has already been to Iraq many times since the 2003 toppling of Saddam's regime. But there's speculation that Barack Obama will use his upcoming trip to Iraq as a basis for pivoting, or at least swiveling somewhat, on his previous hard-line "out of Iraq in 16 months" campaign promises. He'll say that he's returned to the U.S. with a better appreciation for the "situation on the ground" in Iraq, by which he'll really mean he's finally paid attention to experts like Gen. Petraeus (whose presentations and evaluations he's previously scorned when given in their Senate testimony here).

I believe Sen. McCain should likewise travel to Alaska, where he can not only be tutored by experts like Gov. Palin, but he can also assess both the "situation on the ground" and the actual, literal ground.


Now, I don't know how much time, if any, Sen. McCain has spent in Alaska. Simply getting anywhere there by air from anywhere in the Lower 48 will impress upon the traveler how remote it our 49th state actually is, and how vast. Once across the state line, however, surely he'd want to be hosted by the state's governor, so he and his press entourage should naturally stop in Juneau or Anchorage to pick up Gov. Palin.

CLICK TO ENLARGE: ANWR proposed development area To travel from either of those cities to the southern border of the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (pictured right: click to enlarge, because the to-scale red rectangle that represents the proposed development area is comparatively tiny), Sen. McCain, Gov. Palin, and the press corps would still have to cross even vaster territory that is still mostly unpopulated and undeveloped. En route, Gov. Palin could help Sen. McCain and the press corps acquire an education about, and overfly examples of, environmentally sensitive energy development already being done in other parts of Alaska. They certainly could see plenty of Alaska's still undeveloped and magnificent natural beauty.

And even after they crossed into ANWR, they'd still have to travel quite a long way to get to the northern coastal areas that are under discussion for potential energy development. And when they finally get there (probably having switched to much smaller aircraft en route), John McCain and the press will have had a first-hand chance to compare those almost lifeless and mosquito-infested mudflats to the rest of the magnificent Alaskan wilderness they'd seen previously.

At that point, Sen. McCain, and perhaps members of the press, may be suddenly struck with an epiphany (as was Jonah Goldberg when he also went there; check out his photos, too): Just because something is "pristine" doesn't mean that it's "precious" or "delicate," and these particular mudflats are neither.

Let Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin then hold a joint, televised press conference — during the Continental 48's prime time, because it will still be nice and bright there in July near the Arctic Circle, with no TV lights needed. Then and there from the ANWR mud flats, let Sen. McCain announce himself as Convert No. 1 in new GOP Vice Presidential Nominee Palin's campaign to explain to Americans how we can choose not be victims in the present-day energy market. Let him promise that among her other roles, she'll be the energy czar in a McCain-Palin Administration.

Then let him sit down, and let Sarah talk.

Governor Palin delivers her 2008 State of the State address before a joint legislative body on January 15, 2008

Let her explain to the public — in the simple, vivid language of a smart, practical hockey-mom turned state governor — how we can help solve our future and our current energy problems by making intelligent, prudent decisions to expand onshore and offshore drilling in and around the U.S., including in Alaska and ANWR. Let her explain how that's only part of the solution; you also have to clear away unnecessary and unreasonable barriers to transportation of existing types of energy, and to encourage research into new types of alternative energy sources so the market can work there too.

Let her explain how, by contrast, the Obama campaign's energy "program," such as it is, is all about victimology. (Obama's energy themes: We're victims of the bad oil companies, who need to be taxed; we're victims of global warming, so we need to cap our lifestyles and tax ourselves more heavily; we were victims of reckless resource exploitation in the past, so we must be frugal victims, falling behind growing economies like China's and India's, as we prohibit even responsible development today.)

Let her explain how, as a life-long hiker, camper, hunter, and fisher in Alaska, she rejects the false choice between being a good steward of the environment and making responsible use of the resources contained in our own vast, rich nation.

And then let the Obama campaign spin in small, sputtering circles, wondering how they lost their mojo and why the number of hyperventilation cases at his rock concerts campaign appearances is dropping so rapidly.

Posted by Beldar at 01:48 AM in 2008 Election, Energy, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (4)

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Brilliant idiocy on energy from Democratic über-policymaker Robert Reich

A short piece entitled "Short Straw Economics" in today's NYT Magazine (h/t Althouse) contains questions to and answers from Robert Reich. Reich was Secretary of Labor for the Clinton Administration. He's currently in exile from government as a professor of public policy at UC Berkeley. And the odds are good that he'd show up as a cabinet member again in an Obama Administration. Here's what Reich has to say on the most timely topics of public energy policy today (boldface in this blockquote, as in the original, indicates the NYT reporter's questions):

What do you make of the argument that the only way to lessen our dependence on foreign oil is to tap more oil wells here — in Alaska and off the coasts of Florida and California? When you consider that the oil we pump goes into a global oil market, offshore drilling makes no sense. We take the environmental risk, but we’d have to share the negligible price gains with Chinese consumers and every other user around the world.

Then why do you think President Bush asked Congress last month to lift the longtime ban on offshore oil drilling? If I had to guess, I would say that President Bush is very close to the oil companies and wants whatever they want.

And what they want is license to drill? I think they would like as many licenses and permits as possible granted during the Bush administration. They know they would have a harder time with a Democratic White House.

That first answer tickles the hell out of me.

He's correct that because of the world-wide energy market, in which barrels of oil are fungible as long as the market is operating with a reasonable degree of freedom, Americans would indeed share  with the rest of the consuming world the lower resulting costs from decisions made now to drill ASAP onshore and offshore in America. In other words, Americans would become to the rest of the world the way that Texans and Louisianans are now to Californians and Floridians — i.e., exploited. ¡Qué lástima!

(We Texans and Louisianans try to use that word "exploited" in a good way, though: offshore drilling, done responsibly, brings not only energy to America but jobs and economic benefits to the adjacent onshore states, which is one reason the Texas economy right now looks a hell of a lot better than the California economy. We invite Californians and Floridians to join us in the responsible exploitation of all our coastlines, which is only fair, instead of continuing to get a free ride at our expense.)

What this very smart man is ignoring in his first very glib answer, though, is something so huge that he can't have just forgotten about it. And only by ignoring it can he so cheerfully lie to you through his teeth in his second and third answers.

Short of invading and occupying all or at least most of the nations in OPEC by military force, we can't dictate their production and pricing decisions. And OPEC is a cartel whose existence confirms its member countries' fervent desires to control the supply, and therefore the price, of oil to the extent they can get away with it. It has not, historically, been a totally successful cartel, however, precisely because there are non-OPEC sources of oil — among which is, and always has been, the United States of America.

Reich's policy — and all of the Democrats' policy, including their presidential nominee Barack Obama — will continue to restrict American competition to OPEC. In their preferred future world, as our existing resources dwindle, OPEC's market share will grow. With that growing market share will also grow OPEC's power to be a successful cartel.

And as we saw in the early 1970s, the foreign policies of OPEC members (and for that matter, non-OPEC producing countries that are as friendly to us as Canada and Mexico right now) emphatically does not track our own. If there's a sudden political crisis that again turns today's merely painful energy prices into an actual international energy unavailability, the degree to which we're hosed (and forced to compromise our national sovereignty as a result) will be inversely proportional to the amount of domestic onshore and offshore production then available from the United States and its territorial waters.

Until Reich and his comrades actually succeed in vesting power in the People's Republic of Berkeley and then the Sovereign Soviet Republic of California, however, the State of California, at least in theory, doesn't have a foreign policy that deviates from the United States' own. And until then, domestic production from offshore California would translate directly into domestic security from those who might suddenly wish us (or our friends like Israel) ill.

Our energy policy isn't, or ought not be, just about prices at the pump. It's about, or should be about, national security as well.

Reich knows all this. Indeed, he cleverly reinterpreted the question, which asked about "dependence on foreign oil," into being a question about lowering prices at the pump. Only with the question thus recast could he ignore the "dependence on foreign [countries]" aspect.

He relies upon his readers being either too stupid or (more likely) too partisan to figure this out, though. And for many of Reich's and the NYT's readers, unfortunately, he's right. They'll blithely buy into his song and dance about corrupt Dubya and the evil American oil companies (he'll be intentionally blurry about companies like BP and Shell). They'll rejoice with him when the Democrats ride to the rescue on America's energy problems by driving evil Dubya and the Rethuglicans out of the White House. In fact, Reich and the Dems — who have no actual energy policy except taxation and suffering — are counting on short, stupid sound bites like these to soothe Americans' energy worries and get Obama into 1600 Pennsylvania, whence all other Democratic Party jobs will then flow like mana from heaven, even if domestic oil and gas production more and more flows like cement during those years.

Being, metaphorically, a self-created and -preferred urban eunuch himself, Robert Reich will cheerfully counsel his Democratic masters to put my testicles or yours (or your other sensitive metaphorical bits, if you're not testicularly fortitudinous like me and Hillary Clinton) into OPEC's vise. His ideal population is docile, and they ride on mass transit anyway, where their movements can be monitored and controlled by people like him, who know best. Not that Reich or his buddies still have a complex about being short, by the way. Not at all.

(I can't resist a final comment: In any kind of public debate, Sarah Palin could eat Robert Reich's lunch on these issues. Hell, she could take away the little twerp's lunch money and drink his milkshake to boot.)

Posted by Beldar at 11:46 PM in 2008 Election, Current Affairs, Energy, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (9)

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Why committing now to begin drilling ASAP will indeed affect the oil price now

I wrote last week, without bothering to do any online research or include any links, about why under basic economic principles, what we do now (or choose not to do now) affects present expectations about the future supply of oil, and why those expectations do indeed affect the current price of oil.

Now Martin Feldstein — a Harvard economics professor who was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Reagan — has an essay in the Wall Street Journal making exactly the same points in commendably simple language.

This really is basic economics. It's intuitive. It's entirely within the potential grasp of the average voter who's even moderately interested in testing the validity of the Dems' insistence that "we can't drill our way out of this."

How much of an impact on today's prices we can have by changing the market's expectations about supply and demand in the future — well, that is in large part a question of how definitive and credible the changes are that we make today. Half-measures aren't going to make very significant changes in those expectations. But bold ones will.

Posted by Beldar at 04:15 AM in 2008 Election, Current Affairs, Energy, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Palin would give voters grounds to consider the 2008 GOP Veep nominee on more than the three traditional occasions

Writing in the New York Observer, Steve Kornacki methodically disputes the purported benefits that Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty might bring to the second slot behind McCain on the GOP's 2008 ticket. I came away with a better impression of Gov. Pawlenty's appearance last Sunday on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" than Kornacki did — Kornacki says his repetition of McCain talking points was "utterly formulaic," and that "on television Pawlenty looks, sounds and acts like a generic, uninspiring and thoroughly forgettable politician" — but then again, my more positive impression may have been mostly the product of my extreme distaste for that most slippery and slimy of Democratic talking heads who was appearing opposite him, Rep. Rahm Emmanuel (D-IL).

One of Kornacki's observations, though, jumped out at me — and indeed, struck me as being a mostly valid piece of conventional wisdom that may nevertheless not be true of all of McCain's potential Veep nominees:

Most voters will probably think about McCain’s vice presidential candidate only three times: when McCain announces his choice, when the VP candidate addresses the Republican convention, and during the VP debate in the fall.

I think those are indeed the three occasions on which most Veep nominees do get the most public attention and thought. And the corresponding piece of conventional wisdom, as a corollary to this one, is that the guiding principle of Veep selections should be to avoid a major blunder. Conventional wisdom, in other words, is very much in keeping with the opinion of FDR's one-time vice president John Nance Garner of Texas, to the general effect that the vice presidency is not worth a "warm bucket of [spit]."

But is this really true? Does it have to be true forever?

Maybe so. As things have actually turned out during my own lifetime, vice presidential nominees haven't ended up counting for much. John Edwards, picked by John Kerry as an utterly conventional choice to help carry southern states, couldn't even carry his home state in 2004 and, if anything, drove up the Democratic ticket's negatives in ways that helped produce an all-time record GOP turn-out. A recession that, with the benefit of hindsight, we now know had already ended by Election Day and the third-party candidacy of political kook Ross Perot did far more to defeat George H.W. Bush's reelection than either his own re-nomination of widely (if unfairly) lampooned Dan Quayle or Bill Clinton's pick of the cataclysmically dull Al Gore in 1992. And the Reagan-Bush ticket in 1984 would doubtless have swamped Walter Mondale even if he hadn't picked, in an obvious political ploy, a poorly vetted and objectively unqualified Geraldine Ferraro as his Veep nominee. Even as razor-close as the 2000 election was, few think that it was influenced in any meaningful way by the Cheney versus Lieberman match-up.

But maybe not. I'm thinking that all that history, and the conventional wisdom that attends it, could be overturned if McCain makes a bold choice this year. And yes, gentle readers, I'm talking of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin — again. (My past pro-Palin posts, with many pix, are here, here, and here.)

Governor Sarah Palin with her new baby boy, Trig, listens to Senator Lesil McGuire (center right) discuss SB 265 Omnibus Crime bill just before the signing on June 5, 2008

Unlike Mondale's selection of Ferraro — a congresswoman from New York whose only distinguishing credential besides her lack of a Y-chromosome was her husband's shady real estate dealings — McCain's selection of Palin can be easily justified on grounds other than political pandering to identity politics. Simply put, Palin is one of the rising stars of the GOP without regard to her gender, but based instead on her record as a capable and articulate state chief executive — especially with respect to energy matters, which promises to be the number one domestic issue of 2008.

Palin's positions on energy have been central to her rapid advancement in Alaska, but they're also pitch-perfect for a national audience: Demonstrably pro-environment (with the credibility of an avid and lifelong hunter and fisher). Demonstrably pro-development (with the credibility of someone who's spouse has actually been a blue collar production operator on the North Slope). Demonstrably pro-competition and independent (with the credibility of someone who's also tweaked the major oil companies' noses and set them to competing against one another in transparent public bid processes). And demonstrably anti-corruption (with the credibility of someone who rose to office by exposing the too-cozy good old boys of her own party and then beating them at the polls like rented mules).

Even as I'm writing this, Gov. Palin has half the Alaska Legislature meeting in special session in remote Barrow, Alaska, the actual source of the oil revenues that fund 90% of Alaska's state budget. They're holding hearings on her natural gas pipeline proposal that would increase competition among the big oil companies doing business there and permit Alaska's own major population centers, along with the Lower 48 states, to benefit more directly from its energy resources. Simultaneously, she's acting with the governors of California, Oregon, Washington State, and the premiere of British Columbia Province to form the Pacific Coast Collaborative for cooperation on environmental matters.

In short, she can credibly claim to have done more even just this week to address the need for more domestic energy supplies, without environmental betrayals, than Barack Obama has in his entire lifetime.

(As far as I know, the only specific energy proposal Obama's made has been to impose a windfall profits tax on American energy companies, which would cripple them in world-wide competition; and he's also vaguely suggested that we should submit the American economy and American lifestyle to some sort of referendum among the very foreign countries who'd quite literally kill to achieve American-type economies and lifestyles.)

Hoover Institute research fellow Bill Whelan makes a persuasive case for Palin, as quoted in Investor's Business Daily:

Whelan says McCain faces a balancing act in trying to appeal to each of his "three constituencies: conservatives, independents and the political press corps."

His job is made harder by the public's low regard for congressional Republicans and the party's few experienced big-state governors.

While he doesn't see any perfect fit, Whalen does see logic in naming Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

If Obama doesn't pick Hillary Clinton or another woman as his running mate, a Palin pick would be "mud in your eye to Democrats," Whalen said.

A former basketball star and mother of five who has strong reform credentials, Palin "is a People magazine story waiting to happen," Whalen said.

While I don't advocate that McCain pick Palin mainly or even in large part because of her gender, there surely can be no doubt that the nomination of a major-party vice presidential candidate who's a woman, but who's been chosen primarily on meritorious grounds irrespective of her gender, would be an historic and thrilling moment.

In short: If McCain wants a Veep nominee who's a real asset to the ticket, and who will explode Kornacki's conventional wisdom about the three times voters will focus on his vice presidential pick, then I think Sarah Palin's just the dynamite to do that.


UPDATE (Tue Jul 1 @ 11:50pm): I was too flip in my earlier description of Obama's energy policy. If you look at his campaign webpage on energy matters, you'll see that he doesn't just want to raise taxes on energy companies. No, indeed, there's more to his plan that just that. He also wants to issue dozens of new federal decrees (m.p.g. mandates to the automobile companies, for example), establish new government bureaucratic programs, have lots of meetings at the United Nations (because, of course, developing nations like China and India will decide to match American sacrifices and curtail their development just because Obama asks them nicely, and he's not, after all, named George W. Bush), and generally throw hundreds of billions of federal tax dollars at government-favored technologies (yeah, look how well that's working out with ethanol).

Now, I'm not saying Barack Obama's a communist. But he is a big-government liberal, and this is exactly the sort of unrealistic, idealistic, and anti-capitalistic "command economy" nonsense that drove the Soviet Union into extinction. For the most part, Washington is the problem, not the solution, to our energy problems. The market will provide practical solutions that actually work, if only Washington will get the hell out of the way. Obama's "energy policy" is among the most vaporous and unrealistic of his many, many big-government programs, and it's one that can be effectively exposed as claptrap if but only if the GOP can counter it through an articulate spokesperson. If there's a better candidate for that role than Sarah Palin, I don't know who it would be.

Posted by Beldar at 06:41 PM in 2008 Election, Energy, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (4)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Review: Kaylene Johnson's "Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska's Political Establishment Upside Down"

Kaylene Johnson's 'Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska's Political Establishment Upside Down' Enthusiasm for reform-minded, fiscally prudent, and socially conservative Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has moved beyond the "buzz" stage to the point where it's now rolling thunder.

On June 8th, after finishing several hours of internet research, I posted a long essay (with many photographs) entitled Would Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin be a grand slam as McCain's Veep? I'm not claiming any causal relationship, mind you, but consider the following events since then (in addition to my own short follow-up post on June 18th):

  • On June 9th, Real Clear Politics reported that among her own constituents in Alaska, Gov. Palin "enjoys an incredible 82% positive rating, while just 10% don't see her in a good light."

  • On June 22nd, included Gov. Palin as one of "Three women who could join [the] GOP ticket," noting that "it’s her personal biography, which excites social conservatives, and reformist background that might most appeal to McCain."

  • In a June 23rd letter, Gov. Palin directly confronted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on the federal government's boneheaded refusal to consider drilling for oil and gas on a tiny portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve.

  • On June 24th, Rush Limbaugh played contrasting sound clips from Gov. Palin and Democratic nominee-presumptive Sen. Barack Obama in order to highlight the fact that Gov. Palin whips Obama hands-down on this issue, and that the Dems essentially have no energy plan other than to "Just say no!" Quote Limbaugh: "Amen! Here is a female Republican who is willing to gut it up!"

  • On June 25th, Gov. Palin gave an extended interview to economist and CNBC pundit Larry Kudlow in which she confirmed herself as a thoughtful and articulate leader on national energy issues.

  • And from his regular slot as a panelist on "Fox News Sunday" this morning, Bill Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, was positively ebullient about the possibility of Gov. Palin being chosen as John McCain's vice presidential running mate:

    Republicans are much more open to strong women, and that's why McCain is going to put Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska, on the ticket as vice president.... She's fantastic! You know, she was the point guard on the Alaska state championship high school basketball team in 1982. She could take Obama one-on-one on the court. It'd be fantastic! Anyway, I do think — I actually think that Sarah Palin would be a great vice presidential pick, and it would be interesting to have a woman on the Republican ticket after Hillary Clinton has come so close and failed on the Democratic side.

There's no denying that Gov. Palin is a hot new talent on the national political scene. But is there substance behind the sizzle?

In search of further details in order to answer to that question, I turned to Kaylene Johnson's just-released biography, "Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska's Political Establishment Upside Down." After finishing it, I'm even more firmly aboard the Sarah Palin for Veep bandwagon.

Two-year-old Sarah clutches live shrimp caught in her father's shrimp pot in Skagway, Alaska As a long-time Alaskan writer and quite literally a neighbor of the Palins — the jacket cover informs us that she "makes her home on a small farm outside Wasilla," a suburban community north of Anchorage — Johnson has done a timely and competent service to the political junkies among us who hunger for basic factual information on our leading political figures.

To read this book, I set aside another biography that I'd almost finished, one that is also much in the news these days — Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, about which I'll blog at greater length between now and Election Day. Suffice it to say, for now, that although both books purport to cover the early lives of these two young politicians, Johnson's book contains more in the way of objective facts, pertinent anecdotes, and relevant information in 137 pages (plus a fine set of source notes and a serviceable index) than Obama managed to do for himself in 442 pages of vague, breezy, touchy-feely, and wholly unsourced (indeed, admittedly sometimes fictionalized) narrative.

Given the choice between brisk and factual, on the one hand, and deep and muddled on the other, I'll take brisk and factual any time.

Johnson's writing is blessedly free of angst and existential philosophizing. She doesn't need that — for she has, in Sarah Palin, a compelling tale to tell that's based on the remarkable accomplishments of a remarkably normal person. Indeed, although they're products of, respectively, the forty-ninth and fiftieth American states and both grew up outside the continental 48, Sarah Palin's personal history is as familiarly American as Barack Obama's is exotic and strange. And Johnson serves it up without mysticism or manufactured romance:

Born in Sandpoint, Idaho, on February 11, 1964, Sarah Louise was the third of four children born in rapid succession to Chuck and Sally Heath. The family moved to Alaska when Sarah was two months old. Chuck took a teaching job in Skagway. Her older brother, Chuck Jr., was two years old. Heather had just turned one, and Molly was soon to come. Chuck Jr. vividly remembers the days in Skagway when he and his dad ran a trapline, put out crab pots, and hunted mountain goats and seals. The family spent time hiking up to alpine lakes and looking for artifacts left behind during the Klondike Gold Rush....

In 1969, the Heaths moved to southcentral Alaska, living for a short time with friends in Anchorage, then for two years in Eagle River before finally settling in Wasilla. The family lived frugally. To help make ends meet, Chuck Heath moonlighted as a hunting and fishing guide and as a bartender, and even worked on the Alaska Railroad for a time. Sally worked as a school secretary and ran their busy household.

It's basically the Ward and June Cleaver family, albeit transplanted to the last American frontier. Sarah Palin didn't need to indulge in intercontinental travel and cosmic soul-searching to find out who her father was, or where her roots were, or where she fit into her own family and community. She knew where she and her family fit in. In an appendix, Johnson reproduces Gov. Palin's inaugural address, which included this simple but moving tribute:

I believe in public education. I'm proud of my family's many, many years working in our schools. I hope my claim to fame, believe it or not, is never that I'm Alaska's first female governor. I hope it continues to be, "You're Mr. Heath's daughter." My dad for years has been teaching in the schools and even today he's inspiring students across the state. So many students around this land came up to me not saying, "Oh, you're Sarah Palin ... you're running for office ... you're the governor." No, it's been, "Sarah Palin, wow! Mr. Heath's been my favorite teacher of all time."

With short exceptions for college stays in Hawaii and Idaho, Alaska forms the backdrop for most of Palin's story, but Johnson neither minimizes nor overplays its role. Growing up there meant that Sarah participated in hunting, fishing, hiking, skiing, and the like — but for the most part, her experiences could have just as easily been in any of countless small towns scattered across America.

'Miss Wasilla 1984' then became first runner-up in the Miss Alaska competition. As Bill Kristol noted today, she was a high school basketball player (and also ran track). "Sarah Barracuda," they called her for her competitiveness on the court — but Johnson gives us Palin's real life story in an entirely plausible account, rather than a Cinderella story crafted or staged by someone consciously trying to build or burnish a political résumé.

Indeed, until her senior year in high school, Palin was frustrated at being relegated to the junior varsity; she was a team captain, but not one of the team's two top scorers; and an ankle injury kept her out of most of the second half of that championship game. Her coach put her back into the lineup to seal the win against a heavily favored Anchorage team — whereupon she drew a foul and hit a free-throw to score the game's final point.

She startled friends and family when she decided to compete in the local beauty pageant, but for her, becoming "Miss Wasilla" in 1984 was all about snagging some college scholarship money. And Palin put her 1987 bachelor's degree in journalism (with a minor in political science) from the University of Idaho to work as a weekend sportscaster in Anchorage.

When Palin married her high-school beau, Todd Palin, in 1988, they eloped — snagging two residents of a nearby nursing home to serve as their witnesses for the civil ceremony at the courthouse in Palmer, Alaska. They started their family about the same time Todd took a blue-collar job with British Petroleum on the North Slope:

The Palins named their first child, a boy, Track, after the track and field season in which he was born. Sarah's father jokingly asked what they would have named their son if he had been born during the basketball season. Without hesitating Sarah answered "Hoop."

But by 1992, Palin "felt a yearning to try to make a difference in her community. Like her years playing basketball," writes Johnson, "she wasn't interested in sitting on the sidelines."

So did she become a "community organizer"?

Johnson doesn't use that term, and I doubt either the term or the notion ever occurred to Sarah Palin. Instead, she ran for the Wasilla city council, going "door to door pulling a wagon with four-year-old son Track and two-year-old daughter Bristol." The existing political establishment had expected a passive homemaker who'd support the status quo, but that was not to be:

After taking office, Sarah was dumbfounded by the inner workings of the city government. "Right away I saw that it was a good old boys network," she said. "Mayor Stein and [Councilman] Nick Carney told me, 'You'll learn quick, just listen to us.' Well, they didn't know how I was wired."

Within weeks, Palin had upset the status quo by voting against a pay raise for the mayor and an exclusive city-wide garbage pickup contract with Carney's company. But during her second term, she became convinced that she needed to throw the good-old-boy network out entirely — so she decided to run for mayor herself in 1996, and she whipped the long-time incumbent handily.

Sarah Heath and Todd Palin a few months before their August 1988 marriage. As mayor, Palin took a voluntary pay cut from $68,000 to $64,200, cut real property taxes and eliminated taxes on personal property and business inventory, and sponsored a $5.5 million road and sewer bond to promote new commercial development. In 1999, Stein ran against her again, but she whipped him by an even larger margin than the first time. By then, she was attracting state-wide attention, which resulted in her being elected president of the Alaska Conference of Mayors.

Former U.S. Senator Frank Murkowski was returning to Alaska to run for governor in 2002, and he encouraged Palin to run for lieutenant governor. She did, but the race quickly became a crowded one when three other well-established GOP state politicians who'd been considering running for governor instead opted to seek the second seat. Although she was outspent by the eventual winner by more than four to one, she finished a strong second, coming within 2000 votes and three percentage points of victory.

New governor Murkowski promptly appointed her to chair the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission — and there begins the tale of Palin as a reformer on a statewide stage. Johnson recounts how Palin tried, without success, to force fellow Commissioner Randy Ruedrich to comply with statutory ethics reporting requirements. Ruedrich, who was also the chair of the Alaskan Republican Party, apparently felt himself to be exempt from such concerns, and he also felt no qualms about billing his Commission expense account for political traveling or using Commission personnel and material to do party work. Moreover, rather than looking out for the public interest, he effectively turned himself into a lobbyist and public spokesman for a company that had secretly leased from the state certain underground rights to extract natural gas from coal seams under private property. Palin's written and oral complaints to Alaska's attorney general, Gregg Renkes, eventually forced Ruedrich's resignation from the Commission, but Renkes' office ordered her to stay mum and stonewall the press. Her further complaints to Murkowski were also ignored.

Frustrated, Palin resigned from the Commission. She was partially vindicated in the public's eyes, however, when Ruedrich negotiated a settlement of the ethics claims against him in which he admitted to three out of four alleged violations and paid a $12,000 fine. Palin then continued to speak out against what she perceived as ethical lapses on the part of both Attorney General Renkes and Governor Murkowski. Murkowski complained that Palin was trying to "create a sideshow" to further her own political ambitions. But as Johnson writes:

In her toe-to-toe face-off with the governor, Sarah once again refused to back down. She fired off a guest-opinion piece to the [Anchorage] Daily News. "It's said the only difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull is lipstick," she wrote. "So, with lipstick on, the gloves come off in answering administration accusations."

After slamming Murkowski for "hiring his own counsel, paid for by the state, to investigate his long-time friend, confidant, and campaign manager [Renkes]," Sarah concluded by writing, "Despite those in Juneau who think otherwise, it's healthy for democracy to ask questions. And I'll bet there are hockey moms and housewives all across this great state who agree."

Two months later, Renkes resigned.

That meant two down, one to go. Based on reservations harbored by her oldest son, Palin passed up a 2004 opportunity to challenge Lisa Murkowski, whom her father, the governor, had named (in an act of unbridled nepotism) to fill an open U.S. Senate seat. But in 2005, she decided to challenge Frank Murkowski himself in the 2006 GOP gubernatorial primary. 

Johnson's biography is at its best in relating the granular details of Palin's underdog state-wide campaigns — first in the GOP primary, and then in a closely contested general election — as a reformer who'd impose fiscal conservatism and return ethics to state government. After winning the GOP primary without a run-off by capturing 51% of the vote (compared to Murkowski's 19%), Palin went on to win a three-way general election, garnering 48% of the vote to defeat Democrat Tony Knowles' 41% showing.

Sarah Palin relaxes after hauling in salmon nets aboard her husband's commercial fishing boatGetting oneself nominated, and then elected, to public office is one type of accomplishment. Indeed, it's about the only sort of accomplishment that Barack Obama can claim. But just as she did while she was a city mayor, during her first two years as governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin has actually demonstrated an ability to govern.

Some acts were symbolic: Among her first decisions in office was to list the corporate jet that her predecessor had acquired for sale on eBay, and she fired the executive chef from the Governor's Mansion because she and "First Dude" Todd believe they're perfectly capable of cooking for their own family.

But Johnson reports that Gov. Palin has also been successful in pushing through substantive reform legislation. At her urging, for example, the Alaska Legislature has repealed an oil and gas severance taxation system that Murkowski had negotiated behind closed doors with BP, ExxonMobil, and ConocoPhillips, replacing it with a slightly higher tax structure negotiated transparently and at arms' length. Gov. Palin has also worked with the legislature to encourage these three big oil companies — and others who are not already so heavily invested in Alaska — to compete in developing a natural gas pipeline that will bring cheaper and more reliable energy to Alaska's own consumers and eventually permit cheap export of natural gas to the Lower 48 states. Palin has shown herself to be simultaneously pro-environment, pro-development, pro-competition, and emphatically outside the pockets of either the corporate powers-that-be or their traditional politician allies.

Johnson's straight-forward writing style complements her subject's own style. And if there is a dark side to Sarah Palin, this book doesn't tell it. However competitive she was on the high school basketball courts, one can't help but infer from the facts related in the book that Sarah Palin has left bruised ribs in her political wake. But her chief victims seem to have been the complacent, the spendthrift, and the ethically challenged members of her own political party, and they're laying low.

Neither in this book, nor in the many video clips I've watched her in, does Gov. Palin give any sense of being grumpy or vindictive, but Johnson's book includes an admission regarding one of McCain's defining characteristics that Sarah Palin does share — "what her father calls an unbending, unapologetic streak of stubbornness":

"The rest of the kids, I could force them to do something," Chuck Sr. said. "But with Sarah, there was no way. From a young age she had a mind of her own. Once she made up her mind, she didn't change it." ...

Later on, Sarah's father would enlist the help of people Sarah respected — especially coaches and teachers — to persuade her to see things his way. Yet he concedes Sarah was persuasive in her arguments and often correct. Later, when his daughter became governor, Chuck found it immensely amusing that acquaintances asked him to sway Sarah on particular issues. He says he lost that leverage before she was two...

... From the moment she began making her mark in politics, she was criticized for being too young, too inexperienced, and too naive.

Yet, time after time over the years, underestimating Sarah always proved to be a big mistake.

"New energy for Alaska" was Gov. Palin's gubernatorial campaign slogan. After reading Johnson's biography of her, I'm going to have to work hard to summon up new energy to return to the last few dozen pages of Barack Obama's autobiography. He is, without doubt, a complex figure — and I say that with worry, not admiration, because that complexity often translates into a troublesome slipperiness even in the portrait he carefully crafts of himself. By contrast, Johnson's book makes me more confident that with Sarah Palin, as with John McCain, what you see is pretty much what you'll get. That's rare in politics, but we need more of it. And I'm increasingly convinced that I would like to see her as the GOP's candidate for vice president this fall.

(Photographs from the book, as reprinted here with the generous, express written permission of Epicenter Press, are all copyright 2008 by Chris and Sally Heath, except the last one, which is copyright 2008 by Chris Miller/CSM, and those parties reserve all rights to these photographs; please don't republish them elsewhere on the internet without obtaining their express permission in advance.)

Posted by Beldar at 08:29 PM in 2008 Election, Books, Energy, McCain, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink | Comments (10)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Hold oil speculators accountable while driving down the prices of crude oil and gasoline

This isn't rocket science. Instead, it's quite literally Economics 101.

Dems, including both Congressional leaders and their party's presidential candidate, Barack Obama, are all about "investigating" the role of "speculators" in the oil futures markets who, they claim, are responsible for driving up the cost of oil and, thus, the cost of gasoline at the pump.

Hearings are being scheduled and held. Legislation has been proposed.

This is worse than useless, because there is already in place a devastatingly efficient mechanism to punish any who've artificially inflated the current price of oil by reckless, collusive, or abusive trading in oil futures. It's a two-step mechanism:

(1) Start in a serious way to do what we can do to both reduce demand (i.e., conserve) and increase supply (i.e., drill and promote alternative energy sources).

(2) Let the market work.

The fundamentals of market economics will then cause the current price of oil to drop. Yes, it will drop today even if the oil whose production that Congress approves now from the outer continental shelf offshore and from the Arctic National Wildlife Preserves won't actually be produced for years yet. When the opportunities are opened up and the commitments are made, the market will indeed react based on its anticipation of future results. Only an economic idiot or a Democratic congressman can't understand that the market is reacting now to the absence of those future opportunities and commitments.

When the price drops, the wagers made by the speculators — who are heavily invested in the success of the do-nothing Democratic Congress — will come up snake-eyes. Those who've speculated will lose their shirts. Their leveraged purchases will bite them with a multi-fold and righteous vengeance. There's no need for hearings, no need for lawsuits, no need for citations or fines or newspaper exposes.

Just the brutal efficiency of the market, which — when permitted to function properly — punishes those who abuse its processes.

We don't know for sure how many market manipulators there are, or who they are, or how much of the current high prices are the result of their manipulation. Nor are we likely to track them down: Crooks hide their tracks, and the difference between a crook and an entrepreneur is often purely a matter of subjective judgment.

The market doesn't care; the market doesn't need tracks. The market passes its relentless judgments automatically, inexorably, and with the closest thing to perfect justice we're likely to see in our lifetimes — if, but only if, it's allowed by government to function normally, i.e., freed from government interference.

You want to purge the market of manipulative speculators? Let the markets work. Permit and encourage conservation to reduce demand; permit and encourage development (both drilling and alternative sources) to increase supply; and drive the price down using basic laws of economics that are more powerful than even Barack Obama on his best day when he's got a full gospel choir and both chambers of Congress singing with him in harmony.

Posted by Beldar at 12:13 AM in Current Affairs, Energy | Permalink | Comments (13)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Beldar on WaPo on Houston

Okay, I'm a Houston booster. Houston has been berry, berry good to me, and I admit to having a chip on my shoulder about how unfairly it's usually portrayed by the national media. (To Hollywood, it simply hasn't existed since Terms of Endearment, Urban Cowboy, or Apollo 13.)

So when I read this WaPo article about how Houston is faring in the age of $4+/gallon gasoline, I was prepared to find something to bristle at and denounce. Maybe it's just that if you live and work in Washington, D.C., you don't have much room to complain about humidity and mosquitoes; and surely the WaPo writers are used to people with healthy, even over-sized, egos. But in any event, I found nothing in particular to get mad about.

Now if only they could apply that same objectivity to Barack Obama!

Posted by Beldar at 06:31 AM in Energy, Film/TV/Stage, Mainstream Media | Permalink | Comments (9)