Friday, February 29, 2008

Congress increased dependence on foreign oil this week

And they rewarded anti-US elected dictator Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Only sophisticated people fall do dumb stuff like this. Congress took away a tax break from our 5 US oil producing companies. But they rewarded Hugo Chavez by leaving the 6 per cent break for Citgo, which he owns. If you want to increase dependence on foreign oil you punish domestic suppliers and reward foreign suppliers. Congress did just that in Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2008 on a vote of 236 to 182. Michelle Malkin reported it. CNS News has the details.
House Republicans criticized energy legislation passed late Wednesday, saying that it would raise taxes on the oil industry but give tax breaks to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the state-run oil company CITGO. ... But Boehner said the "worst" parts of the bill are the provisions on foreign oil. "It actually carves out tax breaks for Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez - courtesy of American taxpayers," said Boehner. "This is unacceptable, and the Democratic leadership is irresponsible for bringing the bill to the House floor." "I am disappointed that the Majority voted down a Republican proposal to eliminate the tax relief for Hugo Chavez and give it to those who need it most: middle-class American families," he said. "The largest tax increase in American history is on the horizon, and House Republicans are committed to stopping it."
Investors Business Daily:
It goes to show that Congress is more willing to empower dictators than to get serious about America's energy supply. On the surface, H.R. 5321 is awful all by itself. Passing 236-182 last week, the bill scrapped the tax deduction routinely given to the major integrated oil companies — Exxon, Chevron, BP, Shell and ConocoPhillips — that helps them explore, extract, refine and market the energy that drives our economy. This will make it $18 billion more costly for those companies to produce oil. To the House this is a good thing, because large oil companies with large market capitalizations already earn too much. ... Don't worry, the $18 billion will still be spent. It'll just be turned into pork for so-called alternatives and renewables that thus far have failed to produce energy in a free market. Congress made this even worse by ensuring that its discrimination against the big oils would benefit Citgo, which happens to be owned by those same companies' worst tormentor abroad — the brutal leftist dictatorship of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. Under this bill, the dictator's oil subsidiary keeps its 6% deduction for U.S. domestic manufacturing — the one the American oil companies lose — because Citgo, technically, buys from Chavez.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

High costs force Chinese firms to outsource

Laws of economics apply to everyone - even China. Chinese companies have to do what is rational. They have to limit themselves to what they do best and outsource to cheaper suppliers. Do they blame George Bush? The Washington Times
Outsourcing has hit the hub of China's Pearl River Delta, with soaring costs pushing the world's longtime workshop for low-cost goods to move its factories overseas. Rising raw material and energy prices, the strengthening of the yuan against the dollar and new business regulations are forcing labor-intensive factories — particularly those in the footwear, toy and clothing industries — to hunt for rock-bottom production costs elsewhere. Many are choosing to move abroad to low-cost countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia, while others are seeking cheaper places to do business in China.

Loss of wind causes Texas power grid emergency Loss of wind causes Texas power grid emergency | U.S. | Reuters

Loss of wind causes Texas power grid emergency HOUSTON (Reuters) - A drop in wind generation late on Tuesday, coupled with colder weather, triggered an electric emergency that caused the Texas grid operator to cut service to some large customers, the grid agency said on Wednesday. Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) said a decline in wind energy production in west Texas occurred at the same time evening electric demand was building as colder temperatures moved into the state. The grid operator went directly to the second stage of an emergency plan at 6:41 PM CST (0041 GMT), ERCOT said in a statement. System operators curtailed power to interruptible customers to shave 1,100 megawatts of demand within 10 minutes, ERCOT said. Interruptible customers are generally large industrial customers who are paid to reduce power use when emergencies occur. No other customers lost power during the emergency, ERCOT said. Interruptible customers were restored in about 90 minutes and the emergency was over in three hours. ERCOT said the grid's frequency dropped suddenly when wind production fell from more than 1,700 megawatts, before the event, to 300 MW when the emergency was declared. In addition, ERCOT said multiple power suppliers fell below the amount of power they were scheduled to produce on Tuesday. That, coupled with the loss of wind generated in West Texas, created problems moving power to the west from North Texas. ERCOT declares a stage 1 emergency when power reserves fall below 2,300 MW. A stage 2 emergency is called when reserves fall below 1,750 MW. At the time of the emergency, ERCOT demand increased from 31,200 MW to a peak of 35,612 MW, about half the total generating capacity in the region, according to the agency's Web site. Texas produces the most wind power of any state and the number of wind farms is expected to increase dramatically as new transmission lines are built to transfer power from the western half of the state to more populated areas in the north. Earlier on Tuesday, grid problems led to a blackout in Florida that cut power to about 1 million electric customers across that state for as much as four hours.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ethiopa opening market for grain trade

Ethiopia, which suffered through decades of Communist rule with red terror and forced deportations, is opening the market opportunities for its many small farmers by opening a trade exchange for grains. Now small farmers, who grow 90% of Ethiopia's crops, have little or no ability to store and transport their crops, so at harvest they sell to the first trader who comes by their farm or village. The exchange will give them to opportunity to sell to the whole world. And they will know the current prices on world markets. Wall Street Journal:
This country has some of Africa's most fertile land, with fields of wheat and corn stretching to the horizon. Yet a few years ago, 14 million Ethiopians stood at the brink of starvation, saved only by vast international aid. Now Ethiopia has hopes of breaking its deadly cycle of famine. Not with a Green Revolution, but with a market revolution. ... "The biggest revolution of the exchange is that our farmers will start to think national and global instead of local," said Eleni Gabre-Madhin, an economist who is the force behind the exchange. Today, "they think only of their nearest market down the road," she added. But "if they can see that global markets are up, that there is demand for the harvest, they will make better decisions on how much to plant, how much to invest in seeds and fertilizer, when to sell. We'll start seeing bigger gains in agricultural productivity."
Better decisions will help avoid cycles such as caused a disastrous, but unnecessary, crop shortfall in 1973.
Futures and other aspects of the system should help spread the risk of price swings, which until now has been borne solely by Ethiopia's farmers. This is what made a crop shortfall in 2003 far worse than it might have been. The previous two years had produced bumper crops. But farmers -- needing cash to repay planting debts, and having no way to store their surplus -- flooded local markets with produce right after the big harvest. Prices collapsed by as much as 80%. There was no market system to sell and move these surplus crops efficiently to food-short regions in Ethiopia or elsewhere. With prices so low, some farmers didn't even go to the expense of harvesting crops and hauling them to market, leaving 300,000 tons to rot in the fields. Farmers lost not just money but motivation. Unlike U.S. and European growers of certain crops, those in Ethiopia don't receive subsidies that would lead them to plant even if they expect market prices to be low. So the following season, farmers did whatever they could to cut expenses -- reducing fertilizer use, shutting off irrigation systems and simply not planting some fields. Many planted just enough to feed their families.

King County home prices rise - page C4

Seattle Times Newspaper:
Bucking the national trend, King County's median price climbed 4 percent in January, compared with a year earlier, for detached houses and condos combined. January's King County sales were down 30.6 percent compared with a year earlier. However that was an improvement over December's year-over-year sales, which were down 33.1 percent.
Hide the good news on page 4 of the C section. Headline the bad on the front page. Update. The Wall Street Journal has a map showing the areas with the highest value gains (and worst losses) from 2005 to 2007. Seattle-Bellevue-Everett is up 20 per cent over those two years. WSJ Then click on the map "Relative Median Home Price."

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

2008 International Conference on Climate Change * New York City * March 2-4, 2008

The debate over whether human activity is responsible for some or all of the modern warming, and then what to do if our presence on Earth is indeed affecting the global climate, has enormous consequences for everyone in virtually all parts of the globe. Proposals to drive down human greenhouse gas emissions by raising energy costs or imposing draconian caps could dramatically affect the quality of life of people in developed countries, and, due to globalization, the lives of people in less-developed countries too. The global warming debate that the public and policymakers usually see is one-sided, dominated by government scientists and government organizations agenda-driven to find data that suggest a human impact on climate and to call for immediate government action, if only to fund their own continued research, but often to achieve political agendas entirely unrelated to the science of climate change. There is another side, but in recent years it has been denied a platform from which to speak. The 2008 International Conference on Climate Change promises to be an exciting event and the point of departure for future conferences, publications, and educational campaigns to present both sides of this important topic. 2008 International Conference on Climate Change * New York City * March 2-4, 2008:

The 2008 International Conference on Climate Change

Sponsored by The Heartland Institute

March 2 - March 4, 2008 Marriott New York Marquis Times Square Hotel 1535 Broadway New York City, NY U.S.A.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Hillary loses it: Shame Video

Video - Breaking News Videos from Clinton to Obama: Shame on you 1:32 An angry Sen. Hillary Clinton rips Democratic opponent Sen. Barack Obama over campaign mailin

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Castro's Legacy - Hungry People

In the news today. In Cuba people spend their time and energy worrying about having enough food to eat. NY Daily News Many Cubans here are fond of saying, "Things are not meant to be understood." After a couple of days, you get a sense of what they're talking about.
Havana is a city of contrasts and contradictions, a place where the most spectacularly restored colonial building can stand near two crumbling structures held in place by wooden planks. ... A place where an egg can cost 15 cents, 90 cents or $1.50 - depending on where it is purchased. ... Each Cuban receives a monthly allowance of food, referred to as the libreta, or food from the bodega. It includes 6 pounds of rice, 10 ounces of two different types of beans, 10 eggs, chicken parts, sugar, salt and oil. Cubans pay for these items, but at a subsidized price. The rest of the produce comes from the agros. There are two kinds of agros, operating next to each other: the subsidized, state-run agros and the independent ones. The results can confuse even the best mathematician. For example, at the bodega, a pound of rice is 25 cents but at the agro it's more than 10 times that. Cubans can get only 10 eggs per month through the libreta. The first eight eggs are 15 cents each through the libreta; the last two are 90 cents each. A Cuban who wants more than 10 must go to independent sellers, where they cost the equivalent of $1.50 each. "People who say they can live on the libreta are lying to themselves," Dieguez Tamayo said.
Castro's big failure: for 50 years he didn't allow the people of Cuba to grow and market food to feed themselves. His Communist system left them hungry.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Your national wealth

Your share of the national wealth is larger than your share of the national debt. You are in the black. Your wealth is $300,000 per person = 1.2 million for a family of four. Your debt is 160,000. So your net worth share is $140,000. You are doing OK. Charlie Martin found the data.

Nanny state will control you

Did you drive less this year than last? They are watching. Sound Politics

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


My favorite description of life in Communist Cuba, reportedly by the people of Cuba: "The three big successes of Communist Cuba are education, health care and labor relations. The three big failures are breakfast, lunch and dinner." It's that bad.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

My travel map

My travel map at Trip Advisor shows where I have been. I still have some gaps, but Here it is, so far.

Feed your people: ignore the experts

Malawi in Africa was dependent on food aid. But now Malawi feeds all its people. How? They stopped listening to the experts and started using fertilizer. Fertilizer! New York Times:
Over the past 20 years, the World Bank and some rich nations Malawi depends on for aid have periodically pressed this small, landlocked country to adhere to free market policies and cut back or eliminate fertilizer subsidies, even as the United States and Europe extensively subsidized their own farmers. But after the 2005 harvest, the worst in a decade, Bingu wa Mutharika, Malawi’s newly elected president, decided to follow what the West practiced, not what it preached. Stung by the humiliation of pleading for charity, he led the way to reinstating and deepening fertilizer subsidies despite a skeptical reception from the United States and Britain. Malawi’s soil, like that across sub-Saharan Africa, is gravely depleted, and many, if not most, of its farmers are too poor to afford fertilizer at market prices. “As long as I’m president, I don’t want to be going to other capitals begging for food,” Mr. Mutharika declared.
They did what the West practices, rather than what it preaches.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Gone to Maui and back

After the weather got good at Kona we flew to Maui to join our good friends George and Ann and another couple. Oh, did we see whales. We have been there many times and seen multiple whales every time we have been there in season - December to April or May - though I am not sure we saw any during an early December trip about 5 years ago. For the first time in about 20 visits we didn't stay at Sugar Beach Resort in sunny Kihei. We stayed at Sands of Kahana, a beautiful resort 4 miles north of Ka'anapali. It had a beach walk of 400 or 500 yards, a nice walk, but short compared to Sugar Beach's 4 miles! Nice grounds. We saw whales many times from the unit and the complex grounds. Never very close. (We have seen them within 50 yards at Sugar Beach.) And we went on a 2-hour whale-watching cruise on Safari Tours. We saw two full breaches within 100 yards. That's the huge humpback whale leaping entirely out of the water! We also traveled with a group of 30 spinner dolphins for 10 or 15 minutes. I snorkeled twice and saw green sea turtles both times; very graceful. The two guys with me saw a Hawaiian Monk seal the second time out; they are rare. Gini missed a day with the flu, so we stayed an extra day so she wouldn't be sick on our flight home. Stuck in Maui! Who feels sorry for us? Then I came down sick just before going to the airport and was sick all the way home plus two days.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Paul Allen at Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii

On a snorkeling trip at the Big Island Friday we saw a huge yacht with a helecopter taking off from it. I wondered if it were Octopus, Paul Allen's yacht that was the largest private yacht in the world when built. I was right. It's 417 feet long, has a full-time crew of 60, 7 boats - and a submarine! This was just off Kealakekua Bay, where Captain Cook was killed. A beautiful spot. I found a site where the locals are posting photos - and complaints - at Flickr

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Sudan celebrates its genocide in Darfur

President Omar al-Bashir is celebrating his success at continuing the genocide in Darfur. He is now promoting the leader. Turkey hosted Bashir on a state visit. Does Turkey support the genocide? Nat Hentoff at Jewish World Review
To further show his dancing contempt of the United Nations and George W. Bush — the first world leader to call the mass murders and rapes in Darfur "genocide" — Bashir has appointed (Jan. 16), as a special advisor, Musa Hilal, the chief leader and planner of Bashir's monstrous militia, the Janjaweed. As Human Rights Watch reports: "Scores of victims, witnesses to attacks and even members of the Sudanese armed forces have named Hilal as the top commander of government-backed Janjaweed militias responsible for numerous atrocities in Darfur." Moreover, Hilal, also involved with training camps for those rapists and killers, was specifically named, adds Human Rights Watch, "in a government document ... ordering all Sudanese 'security units to allow the activities' of the components of the Janjaweed 'under the command of Sheikh Musa Hilal.'"
And Turkey is hosting al-Bashir:
Blithely countering criticism of his appointment of what Human Rights Watch rightly calls "the poster child" of the burning of Black African villages in Darfur, including the tossing of babies into the flames, Al-Bashir, during an official visit to Turkey, actually celebrated Hilal: "Having contributed greatly to stability and security in the region, we in Sudan believe that those accusations against Mr. Hilal are untrue" (New York Times, Jan. 22).
Why did the government of Turkey choose to sully its reputation by inviting this master of human-rights crimes?

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Hello, Kona

It's great to escape the cold, rain and snow we have had this winter. Interstate 90 was closed most of 4 days this week over Snoqualmie Pass 50 miles east of Seattle! And closed for over 5 hours today Hello, Kona. We spent Saturday afternoon waiting out a long connection in a garden at Honolulu airport, talking with a great couple from Ottawa, Canada. It wasn't that sunny, but nice enough to enjoy sitting outside for over two hours. We are at Kona Reef condos, which is just south of Kailua town, 7 minutes walk to Hard Rock Cafe. But there are no beach walks here, which we are used to on Maui. At Sugar Beach Resort we could walk the beach for over 3 miles to the west and a mile to the east, probably farther, never tried - no rocks, just a little coral on the beach to get across. Kona is overcast with 40% chance of rain. Weather Underground - Hilo is raining and flooding.