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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Smack Talkin' Mama!

My mother, lovely lady that she is, has been talking a lot of smack lately. Saturday, it will come to a head!

That's right folks, it's that time of year again, The LeRoy Butler Foundation's annual Camping for a Cure Chili Cook Off is this Saturday, and I'll be competing against my mother. I love the lady, but in this contest she's going down like an anchor.

The truth is, my Dad has his name on the entry form, but Mom made the chili, and she's doing the talking about how she's going to wipe the floor with me. Ha! I hope she wins the best decorated booth contest, because her chili won't come in better than second place!

This years concoction consists of Ground Chuck, grilled chuck steak, hot chile beans, chipotle chiles, japanese red chiles, diced green chiles, adobe sauce, pureed spiced tomatos, onoins, shallots, celery, garlic, lime juice and plenty of seasoning. There's just enough heat to make the devil sweat bullets.

Last year I mentioned that I was disappointed in the judges they had for the cook off. I've been assured that this year the judges actually like spicy food, and understand what chili should taste like. All the better for me.

If Mom does place better than me, I will hand over an extra $25 to the Foundation, as payment for talking smack about her.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Too Much Stuff....

Just reading through the "breaking headlines" tonight and realize there is a lot of stuff out there that would be bloggable.

The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 show of common sense, decided that the 180 days to file a job discrimination suit as written into Title VII means you have 180 days to file the suit, not whenever you feel up to it. Ruth is outraged, but then again, when isn't she.

Barack Obama, like John Edwards, introduced his Universal Health Care Fallacy... Ooops, I mean Policy. Like Edwards, Saint Barack believes that for only $50 billion a year we can cover 45 million uninsured Americans. Which means we'll cover 50% more than are on medicare for 80% less.... Hmmmm I'm not a math major, but I think someone from Enron is doing his books.

Cindy Sheehan is quitting as protester in chief.... Hadn't heard anything about her in so long I thought she already had. Her five acres in Crawford, Texas are up for sale. If I were GWB I think I'd put a blind bid in on the property, just for kicks.

The President is pushing for the immigration compromise bill. Unfortunately for him it's an uphill battle and ideologues on both sides of the issue will kill it, instead of giving us any type of reform... Then they'll proceed to blame someone else for not having any policy.

EJ Dionne, in my opinion gets it wrong (on the immigration bill) when he says "...My hunch is that the politics of opportunity have a slight advantage over whatever agony may be called forth by this imperfect compromise." He forgets the squeaky wheels get grease, and the biggest squeaking is coming from the wheels that hate this bill.

Russia supposedly has developed the "unstoppable ICBM". As a guy who spent years studying Soviet and Chinese weapons one thing I learned, the harder they tout it, the less likely it is to be what they are saying. The "state of the art" MIG 25 with it's tube radio transmitters was just one of many examples I saw.

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Explaining Eugene

Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post actually has some pretty good insights into the current presidential race today. Usually I don't agree with him, but I do today on almost everything he says.

However, he never actually gets to the point in "Losing Focus"; why candidates for an election that is 18 months away are being fuzzy about where they stand. The reason is easy, the election is 18 months away.

You see, as a candidate you can't back yourself into an ideological corner too quickly, with election season starting so early. It only hurts you in primary elections where your own party's members will beat you for not being a good party member (Read comments on Rudy G. or Joe Lieberman around the blogosphere).

Then, if you survive the onslaught of 9 members of your own group and win the nomination, you've given 12 months of sound bites to be turned into accusations of flip flopping on issues during the summer and fall.

So, with a few exceptions, most candidates find easy, non-committal answers to tough questions, hoping they get just enough substance in them to make it look like they have a plan. McCain has taken a different route on Iraq, and it could cost him. Romney has already got the flipper label due to his stances on abortion and gays that seem to change depending on what office he's running for.

On the left Barack Obama has become the poster child for soundbites without substance. Today he'll give another snippet view of his health care plan, but with no real details, just a sound bite about making employers take care of employees.

Hillary Clinton and John Edwards are committed to a few causes each, poverty and health care, but neither of them has given a plan that is either concrete, or workable on either case. Instead they are murky looks at what will supposedly be a better future.... As long as you don't want a lot of details.

You can pretty well bet that none of the candidates on either side, or at least any with much of a chance, will be putting big plans out with details and diagrams until late November, at the earliest. Otherwise they might actually get asked questions that need answers that they don't want to give.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

How to Lower Gas Prices

I laugh when I get the e-mails on how we can "not buy gas on tuesday" to lower prices, anyone knows that won't work, you'll need it again wednesday.

The latestest, supposedly from a former Coca Cola executive and Haliburton guy is this one:

For the rest of this year, DON'T purchase ANY gasoline from the two biggest companies (which now are one), EXXON and MOBIL. If they are not selling any gas, they will be inclined to reduce their prices. If they reduce their prices, the other companies will have to follow suit.

Sorry, that won't work either. You see, gas prices work on supply and demand and a healthy dose of commodity traders. There is an open wholesale market for gas. So, if you decided to boycott Exxon Mobile, and only buy from BP or Chevron you actually won't have much effect on Exxon Mobile.

What will happen is as their inventories rise (and the others fall because of their increased demand) they will just sell the gas for the wholesale price on the commodity market, as opposed to the retail price at the pump.

In fact, because they won't be having to import gas (since they don't refine enough here) they'll probably make a bigger profit on what they produce on their own.

While you are thinking "But Bob, they make that huge profit at the pump", the truth is, it's less of a profit per gallon than you think. The wholesale price of gasoline on NYMEX this morning is $2.37 per gallon. You have to add to that the cost of blending, which is adding government required, and industry desired additives to each gallon.

Then you add transport costs, of the gasoline. At that point you are around $2.67 per gallon. Now add 18.4 cents federal tax, and the average of 21 cents per gallon state taxes, that has the price at 3.03 per gallon.

Add the normal (average) retail markup of 5% (except in Wisconsin where the law requires a 9% markup) and you have gas costing about 3.17 per gallon. That means the evil oil company made about $0.12-0.17 per gallon on it with the retail price averaging 3.29. Notice, that amount is less than both the federal and state gas taxes! If it's "self refined" gasoline that profit does go up to between a quarter and thirty cents a gallon, still less than many states gas tax, and lower by at least a quarter than the total tax on that gallon of go-go juice.

So, how do you get the price of gas down? Well, that's easy. Quit driving so much, nimrod! (based on my own job I know it's not totally practical for everyone, but even I can cut down some).

Gasoline is a supply and demand commodity, and contrary to popular belief, the US is not the only demander of it. China's gas market is expanding twice as fast as ours, yet world wide supply over the last few years hasn't expanded at nearly the rate of use.

By reducing use (demand) we'll increase supply here, lowering prices but it has to be long term reduction, not a feel good "no gas Tuesday".

Because of growth in the third world and China, we'd have to cut it a lot. So increasing supply is also important, though tough here since congress doesn't want to allow drilling new wells anywhere.

Increasing the use of ethanol helps, but not as much as you think price wise. Ethanol futures on the Chicago Board of Trade are around $1.80 per gallon right now, and rising. So E-85 is a cheaper alternative, but as demand increases, it's price will go up.

And, while some states have reduced, or eliminated gas taxes on E-85 to spur it's use, there will be a point when they quit with that, jacking up the price further. Do you really think politicians are going to leave anything in your wallet, it's a great sound bite and holy picture to say they aren't taxing a renewable energy source. But when it pinches their pet projects too much, you bet that tax is coming back.

So, lets review, you pay more per gallon in taxes on gas than oil companies make in profit per gallon(by about 100%).

The legislators who bitch about high oil prices are the same one's who've blocked efforts to increase the domestic supply of oil and gas.

E-85 is a reasonable, but not totally perfect alternative. And it's price is going to go up as use (demand) rises and supply falls.

And, finally, if you want gas prices to come down, use less of it, over a long period of time. Get rid of the Tahoe and F-250, use public transportation, and eliminate needless trips.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Immigration Plan

I'm still not quite sure what I think about the compromise immigration plan that's in the Senate right now. I think it's got more holes than a swiss cheese factory, but also plugs a few than need to be fixed. On some parts I think it goes to far, on others it's not going far enough.

The two major arguments against the bill are that it is basically providing amnesty (from the right), and that it's too cold hearted (from the left).

Neither arguement is 100% true or false, which is what happens when you have a compromise. Those arguements though are easier for folks to digest, as the Washington Post notes, than the actual 300 pages of legislation that the bill contains.

The right is angry over the "amnesty" portion of the bill, which really doesn't exist as amnest from what I've read so far. To be eligible to stay here you first have to leave, then reapply to come back, and pay a $5000 fine. After that it's about an 8 year path to a permanent resident green card, and five more to citizenship.

As today's Wall Street Journal points out, anyone following that path will become INELIGIBLE for many federal benefits that some critics are claiming they'll suck up immediately at the expense of others.

The other side argues that this plan is too mean spirited, by using skill sets instead of family status to decide who can come back when they leave and reapply for legal entry. The problem being that children born to illegals are legal citizens; so if Mom or Dad doesn't have a skill needed on the new VISA list, the family could be busted in half. The up side is that the bill concentrates on getting workers that we are actually short of as opposed to opening the gates to anyone.

Both arguements are reasonable, but again, narrowly focused at one part of a big bill. I don't like amnesty programs, I think that they have done nothing but encourage more illegals to come here when we've used them before. And ripping families apart appeals to no one. However, I don't think either provision is removable without killing the whole bill, and leaving us with no immigration policy, again.

A few changes that could, and should be made though, are common sense. Yesterday a funeral was held in Kenosha, Wi. for Frank Fabiano Jr., a deputy sherriff gunned down by an illegal, with 6 different ID's and Social Security numbers and half a dozen previous arrests and misdemeanor convictions in various states. A conviction during the naturalization process that has a (possible) penalty of a year or more in jail should result in deportation immediately after the jail portion of the sentence is served.

There is no political will for the other change that needs to be made; a federal law ending birthright citizenship. The idea was floated last year in the House, but didn't gain any traction even with a Republican majority. Getting it through with Democrats in charge would be even tougher. It would also lead to a long court fight over it's Constitutionality, which no one wants to deal with. Unfortunately, it would be one of the biggest deterrents to illegal immigration, but has no chance of getting into law.

Overall, I guess I'd have to agree with both the Post and WSJ, with all it's flaws, this is probably the best compromise we'll get any time soon. Warts and all it's better than the status quo. Neither side of the debate is going to get everything they want, that's why it's a compromise, but neither should scuttle it because they didn't.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Caving In

Democrats caved in yesterday on the idea of a timeline for surrender in Iraq, at least in the current funding proposal for that war and Afghanistan.

Make no mistake, it's a huge cave in for Democrats, who's leader Nancy Pelosi was making the talk show circuit just last weekend complaining that President Bush has a "tin ear" when it comes to Iraq. As late as Sunday she was demanding that he accept the pull out date as part of the bill. Now, just a few days later she's getting ready to present a bill absent that date. To her credit she's said she won't personally vote for it.

I don't actually disagree with her tin ear assessment of the President. However, I do differ on the idea that it's a bad thing. One of the problems Speaker Pelosi and others have with George Bush is that unlike his predecessor in office he doesn't seem to believe in leadership by polls.

Pelosi and the rest of the Democrats got used to the idea from 1992 to 2000 that when shown a poll that wasn't good for him, the leader would flip and do what the polls said was right. They came to view that as leadership, which it isn't by any means.

What they've run into now is a President who believes that leadership is doing the right thing, even if it isn't popular. While many have been balking at that idea over the last few years, the truth is it's an essential form of leadership for a representative republic form of government.

We don't elect leaders to do what the polls say is popular, we elect them to do what they believe is in the best interest of the country.

History provides a few lessons on that, both good and bad. In the late 1930's Congress nearly voted to disband the military, because the idea of another war was so unpopular, and events in Europe had people thinking we'd end up there. Roosevelt calmed enough on Capital Hill down to get rid of what would have been a disasterous plan.

On the other side during the hostage crisis in Iran Jimmy Carter decided that, because so many people were looking for a rescue misison that one should be staged. It was a popular idea that ended in disaster because of poor planning, and a rush to take action.

Back to the current bill, I'm not crazy that it's still stuffed with $20 billion in pork to buy votes, or that the minimum wage increase is being tied to it. However, the final form hasn't been decided and the domestic spending portion of it may possibly be broken off into a separate bill. That hasn't been decided yet, but probably will be by the end of the day.

If it is broken into two, I think that the President should accept the Iraq portion, and veto the domestic spending bill. My gut feeling is it will stay as one bill, Democrats realizing that the pork portion won't have much of a chance without Iraq attached to it.

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Hello, I'm Still Alive

Hey All, a quick note to let the 25 or so folks who still show up every day know that I am still alive.

One of the downsides of my job is the amount of travel I've been doing lately. 2500 miles of driving in the last 11 work days, which evidently caught up with my truck yesterday as the water pump decided it should start leaking, 200 miles from home. So here I sit in a hotel waiting for a dealer to call and tell me when the thing will be fixed. Since I'm scheduled solid for the next couple of weeks it's becoming tough to reschedule missed appointments in a way that keeps me sane and customers happy, add a lost day for the breakdown and now I'll really be having fun trying to make sense of my calendar.

On the bright side of things, I'm not paying for the hotel or food while I wait to get my vehicle back on the road.

Anyway, shortly I'll actually put a meaningful (I hope) post later today.
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Wednesday, May 02, 2007


I know, I said I was taking a break, but that kind of changed as I was driving toward St. Louis today. I was getting ready to listen to the Brewers Cardinals game when the play by play man for Milwaukee made note of the fact that Charlie Sykes mother, Katherine "Kay" Sykes had been killed in a house fire today.

For those who've read me for a while, you know Charlie has been a huge influence on me. In his talk show, blog, and TV appearances he has always struck me as "a common sense conservative"; the kind we need more of.

So, tonight I take a break from my break to send my heart felt condolences to Charlie and his family in this tough time. Know that your listeners, readers, and viewers hearts are heavy for you, and those close to you. You are in our prayers and thoughts.

Kay, as you enter God's Home, please know that you have touched more people that you can imagine. You gave your son a good moral compass, and an excellent set of values and a great dose of common sense that he's been sharing with many of us for a long time. Thank you , and may you rest in peace.

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I'm taking a break folks. Not sure when I'll be back, could be this weekend, could be next month, but you'll know when I am.
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