“No Man’s life liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session”.

- attributed to NY State Judge Gideon Tucker

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Russia-Georgia Affair Helps McCain & Hurts The Rookie

It's as if Russia started a shooting war with Georgia over it's province of Ossetia just to help John McCain's candidacy.

Judging from remarks from both US Presidential candidates, this event has handed McCain the kind of issue that he can ride to the Oval Office.

While the rookie Senator from Illinois, on vacation, mouthed meaningless platitudes about talking, McCain threatened exiling Russia from the G8. Which is exactly the type of action required.

And the type of action which will alert the American voters to the looming danger of Russia in the energy markets- both financial and physical.

McCain's military background of discipline and familiarity with combat gives one the reassurance that he does not take invasions, or the necessary reactions, lightly.

One imagines Obama suing for peace with the Russians at whatever cost- probably using the UN as his negotiator.

With the Russian invasion of Ossetia in the news this month, it looks like McCain has some major tailwinds for his campaign now.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

John Edwards' Little Campaign Spending Problem

Someone bought John Edwards' mistress (and her baby) and her baby's reputed father expensive, multi-million dollar homes in Santa Barbara.

Where did the money come from? Who paid, and why?

It looks like Federal campaign finance laws have been violated by Edwards' moves to hush up this scandal over the past two years.

From what I've read and heard so far, Edwards' campaign finance chief wrote the checks for these homes from the campaign's funds.

Unfortunately for John-boy, that makes the purchases of those homes a potential violation of Federal campaign finance laws, because no campaign activity was performed pursuant to the purchases.

It's not a big stretch to imagine the deal Edwards offered his mistress. It may have been something like,

'I'll get you out of North Carolina and buy a very nice home for you and your/my/our baby, plus provide you with a form of regular child support. In return, you are never to take a paternity test for the baby. If you do, the deal is off, and will be unwound.'

The other home? Probably to provide plausible evidence for the cover story that a campaign aide fathered the mistress' child.

But Edwards has a problem, if this is remotely close to the truth. If his mistress did have a paternity test taken, and the baby proved to be Edwards', then pulling the trigger on the arrangement makes him look heartless. He'd be putting his own child out on the curb in Santa Barbara.

On the other hand, if his mistress had the test administered, and it was negative for Edwards, then he might renege on the deal, as he bore substantially less public ignominy if he was clearly not the woman's baby's father.

Suffice to say, John Edwards' web of deceit is growing more and more tangled and potentially dangerous to him by the day.

But for prominent members and Presidential candidates of the Democratic party, it seems to be pretty much par for their behavior.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The $10Billion Question: Why Are Conservatives Always More Optimistic Than Liberals?

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal featured a fascinating editorial "on how to best allocate scarce resources to solve the world's problems."

Piggybacking on a recent piece by noted environmental issues expert Bjorn Lomborg in the Journal, Newt Gingrich and Jerry "Governor Moonbeam" Brown each provided their responses to the question of how to spend $10 billion of US resources over the next four years to "help improve the state of the world."

Here are the salient points in their replies. First, Gingrich's list:

Here are seven prizes, the first three at $2 billion tax free and the last four at $1 billion each tax free (tax free because not paying taxes makes these prizes psychologically worth much more):

1) A low-cost vaccine or preventive intervention for malaria -- possibly the single biggest potential improvement in the quality of life in poor tropical countries.
2) A modestly priced, mass-manufacturable hydrogen engine for cars, which would be the biggest single contribution to reducing carbon loading of the atmosphere and reducing subsidies through high oil prices to dictatorships.
3) A cheap method for turning large quantities of seawater into fresh water.
4) A reusable system that could get people into space at 10% of the current cost, thus enabling genuine space tourism and launching an age of exploration.
5) The first privately financed permanent lunar base.
6) A method for reusing nuclear waste to make Yucca Mountain, Nevada unnecessary as a repository.
7) A method of learning math and science that kids like, and that enables us to leapfrog India and China by breaking out of our unionized, bureaucratic curriculum. This would enable us to replace "No Child Left Behind" with a more effective education model that could be called "Every American Gets Ahead."

Then, "Moonbeam" Brown's:

I propose that we take the $10 billion and invest it in curbing our energy appetite through efficiency programs and incentives. The efficiency I envision would allow us to enhance our quality of life, but do so in ways that reduce the huge quantities of oil, gas and coal that we now consume.

California has kept its per capita electrical consumption flat for the past 25 years -- in significant part through appliance and buildings standards and incentives to adopt ways that get more work out of less energy. I am not talking about some collective hair shirt, but rather about a wide variety of new technologies and designs.

The world is facing a triple threat of unprecedented dimensions: First, the loss of cheap and easily discovered oil; second, explosive energy demand from China, India and other emerging countries as they rapidly improve their standard of living; and third, the climate disruptions caused by CO2 and other greenhouse gases. None of the three will go away. In fact, each will get progressively worse unless we take decisive action, without delay. America must take the lead in dealing with global energy and climate challenges, and at the same time vastly strengthen its own economy and security.

The next president should engage the appliance and equipment manufacturers and provide the kind of leadership that has so far been totally lacking.

Next, the federal government should establish a financial grant program, encouraging the states to craft efficiency standards for new buildings. Again, the example of California is instructive. Its detailed and regional building standards have saved Californians tens of billions of dollars in lower energy bills. A significant part of the proposed $10 billion could be spent on this type of effort. Each state would be asked to craft their own rules in response to the differing conditions found in various regions of the country.

A third type of program could be modeled on California's current system of rebates, tax credits and other incentives that encourage businesses and consumers to adopt efficiency measures that exceed the mandatory standards. This program is financed through the investor-owned utilities and established under the authority of the state utilities commission.

America is at a crossroads. Total U.S. financial and nonfinancial debt rose to $44.7 trillion in 2006, from $2.4 trillion in 1974. This does not even count longer-term liabilities such as Social Security and Medicare. Oil and gas are consuming more and more of our national wealth. It is time for our political and business leaders to tap into America's unspent creativity and entrepreneurial genius. Many times $10 billion will be needed. But it can be done. It must be done.

The first thing I notice about the two different replies is that Gingrich, as a typical conservative, optimistically believes that, given sufficient motivation, individuals will solve a wide range of problems which directly affect people living in the third world. This stems directly from Lomborg's earlier editorial and work with global leaders which demonstrated that the biggest 'bang for the buck' in improving life on our planet is to bring the poorest humans up on the socio-economic ladder, not to focus on rich country 'problems.'

In contrast, Moonbeam Brown immediately inserted his own liberal agenda into the situation. And, being a typical liberal, Brown sees disaster and 'crossroads' everywhere.

Ignoring his state's slide into economic chaos in the past decade, Brown mistakenly promotes California as the model which the rest of the planet should emulate.

Further, Brown, who is not an economist, engages in completely erroneous 'logic' to declare that, because Americans spend a lot on energy to generate economic value- more than any other country on the planet- energy must, therefore, be a 'problem.' A commodity whose usage must be curbed!

Viewed from a step back, it's clear that Brown's agenda is fraught with the usual liberal hand-wringing over imminent disasters from which we will only be saved by government intervention.

Yes, a bunch of unmotivated, retired-in-place civil servants who can't cut it in the private sector will be rescuing us from global environmental disaster.

Instead of this pipe dream, Gingrich wisely offers prizes which the most motivated, intelligent and creative humans may claim by simply solving the problems described.

Quite a stark, simple contrast between the optimistic conservative viewpoint, and the gloomy, distrustful liberal one, when it comes to life and human nature and creativity.