Archive for April 2008

Why Are Oil Prices So High?

April 30, 2008

The title is imprecise. We know that the answer (in 25 words or less) is [bigvoice enhancement=echo]”The Law of Supply and Demand.” [/bigvoice] The real question is “Why are we so beholden to the Saudis and unable to reduce our dependence on oil?”

In an uncharacteristically lengthy (but characteristically lucid) post, the Instapundit enlightens us. Glenn Reynolds references a story that sheds light on the topic – the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 was modified at the last minute to ensure that cheaper alternatives to Saudi oil would not reach our gas tanks. Quoting the Arab News: “In an interesting tussle, a virtually unnoticed clause was added almost at the least moment to a US energy bill that bars the government, in particular the Department of Defense, from using Alberta crude because it is deemed unconventional and too dirty.” We prohibited ourselves from using Canadian oil in what looks to be a secret deal? Now who would do such a thing? “California Democrat Representative Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and Republican Tom Davis added the clause.”

Gee. I was going to blame George Bush, myself. Not. He goes on:

But I’m sure it’s just a sincere concern for the environment. I had missed this story, and I suspect most people did. Via Jerry Pournelle, who observes:

The easy way to make ethanol is to import sugar from Brazil and use that. Of course we don’t and won’t do that.

The easy way to bring oil prices down is to drill offshore and on the North Slope. Of course we don’t do that.

The easy way to bring electricity prices down (you can make fertilizer with electricity) is to build nuclear power plants, expensive but cheap compared to wars. Of course we won’t do that.

And why won’t we?
UPDATE: Environmentalists are indefatigably trying to block this new source of energy:

I seen the enemy, and it is us.

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More On The Soyuz Landing Mishap

April 30, 2008

Rand Simberg at Transterrestrial Musings leads us to more information about the incident 11 days ago.  He points to the MSNBC report by Alan Boyle.

Three spacefliers are still recuperating from this month’s rough ride back down to Earth from the international space station aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, and the investigation into the glitches that caused the April 19 shake-up is just getting started. But a multiplayer blame game already has begun – with the potential targets ranging from shoddy Russian workmanship, to saboteurs of the space effort, to the entire female sex.

If you’re wondering, it’s the Russians who are blaming the entire female sex.

Initially, Russian space agency chief Anatoly Perminov told reporters that the crew’s bad luck was due to the fact that women were in the majority – and that “in the future, we will work somehow to ensure that the number of women will not surpass” the number of men.

Just thought you should know.

The cause of the mishap is unknown at the moment, or ‘they’re not telling. – and would they tell us anyway?  It is, after all, politicly sensitive and will echo through the decisions to retire the Space Shuttle.

Publications of this kind are designed to disrupt a Russian-U.S. agreement on NASA’s purchases of Progress and Soyuz spacecraft after shuttles stop flying” to the international space station in 2010, he said.

Perminov himself hinted darkly that the rumors were fueled by “people who are interested in destabilization of our relations with the American partners.”

Perhaps he’s talking about me.

Life After College

April 30, 2008

Marty Nemko at The Chronicle of Higher Education:

You could lock the collegebound in a closet for four years, and they’d still go on to earn more than the pool of non-collegebound – they’re brighter, more motivated, and have better family connections.

College graduates do undoubtedly earn more, lifetime, than those who don’t have a college degree. The problem, increasingly, is that over 40% of college freshmen at four year institutions don’t graduate after six years. They’ve spent the money, though.

Also, the past advantage of college graduates in the job market is eroding. Ever more students attend college at the same time as ever more employers are automating and sending offshore ever more professional jobs, and hiring part-time workers. Many college graduates are forced to take some very nonprofessional positions, such as driving a truck or tending bar.

Somehow, when someone asks the question “Where are the men?” I can’t help but think that this is part of the explanation.

The Wright Stiff

April 29, 2008

I’ll admit to being burnt out on politics at the moment – clearly it’s the result of this interminable primary season.  After all, I did spend most of the fall and winter complaining that it was just too early for presidential campaigns.

However, Jeremiah Wright has thrust this campaign season right to the center square of this blog (or, at least one of them) – the intersection of religion and politics.  It’s a big square.

I realized that the reverend represented a major controversy for the Obama campaign, but to be honest, I thought the storm would be over in two or three news cycles (that’s days in the normal universe).  That didn’t happen.  The storm continues stronger than ever.  Words like “train wreck” and “implosion” are being used, and Machiavellian conspiracies are being invoked to explain the media blitz we witnessed yesterday.

From Hugh Hewitt:

Unless Senator Obama moves quickly and decisively to completely repudiate Reverend Wright, his fall campaign will be doomed. (And even a complete repudiation of Wright may not save the nomination if Hillary Clinton stays to her own course and begins to talk about Michelle Obama’s vision of America for the rest of the primary season.)

And from The Anchoress:

I thought of Wright as a simple exhibitionist unable to resist the lure of bright lights and headlines – a guy wanting to breath the rarefied air of “power and influence” currently enjoyed by those stale-but-still-strutting barnyard cocks, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

But now, it seems like perhaps Wright really has been bought and paid for; Obama’s team says they had no warning about this media-blitz, and that Wright has actually rebuffed them. It seems the coup is in fact, Clintonian.

The question is – does Obama have the guts and the cujones to make that charge against the Clinton campaign – that they’re exploiting the vast weaknesses of his father-figure for their own gain, and have apparently promised him the barnyard?

Is it really so bad for Sen. Obama? I mean, is it really so awful that he attended a church for twenty years that espoused that the Creator had (or should, or would, depending on your interpretation) damn America? – or who ‘honors’ Nation of Islam Leader (and anti-semite) Louis Farrakhan, or who states publicly that the US invented AIDS as a weapon of genocide against minorities?  Yes, it is that bad.  After all, you don’t need a weatherman.

As of today, he’s still the odds-on favorite to win the Democratic nomination, and by September people will be asking themselves “Didn’t we have that election already?  Why is he still around?”  And if you’re thinking that there’s plenty of time for him to recover, you should know that there’s another shoe to drop – and Sen. Clinton is not going to be the one to drop it – Tony Rezko.

So yes, this primary season just got very, very interesting.  Will the Democrats dare to deny him the nomination?  If they do, ask anyone in Washington this summer what time it is.  The only right answer is “It’s 1968.”

Update: From Hot AirSen. Addresses the issue in a presser.  Wright.  Bus.  Splat.  “Rich Lowry speculates that Obama’s team must have some awfully bad polling numbers on Wright to warrant this spectacle today.”

Heretic

April 29, 2008

For the second time in a week, I’m struck by the religious fervor and passion of those who are truly committed to their goals.  But let us speak of the mixing of science and religion.  Question the beliefs of the true believer and you are labelled a heretic!

By pioneering the science of seasonal hurricane forecasting and teaching 70 graduate students who now populate the National Hurricane Center and other research outposts, William Gray turned a city far from the stormy seas into a hurricane research mecca.

But now the institution in Fort Collins, Colo., where he has worked for nearly half a century, has told Gray it may end its support of his seasonal forecasting.

As he enters his 25th year of predicting hurricane season activity, Colorado State University officials say handling media inquiries related to Gray’s forecasting requires too much time and detracts from efforts to promote other professors’ work.

But Gray, a highly visible and sometimes acerbic skeptic of climate change, says that’s a “flimsy excuse” for the real motivation — a desire to push him aside because of his global warming criticism.

Among other comments, Gray has said global warming scientists are “brainwashing our children.”

Well, that’s harsh.

“This is obviously a flimsy excuse and seems to me to be a cover for the Department’s capitulation to the desires of some (in their own interest) who want to reign (sic) in my global warming and global warming-hurricane criticisms,” Gray wrote to Dick Johnson, head of CSU’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences, and others.

Wait, wait!  Are we to understand that some unknown academic who sits and looks at charts all day is in the news because he’s got some beef with his school?  Not exactly.  If you don’t know the man’s name, I guarantee that your local channel 4 weatherman does.

A professor of public relations at Boston University, Donald Wright, questioned why the university would want to pull back its support for Gray now, after he has published his forecasts for a quarter-century.

“It’s seems peculiar that this is happening now,” Wright said. “Given the national reputation that these reports have, you would think the university would want to continue to promote these forecasts.”

Gray, he said, seems to deliver a lot of publicity bang for the buck. The seasonal forecasts are printed in newspapers around the country and splashed across the World Wide Web.

There also seems to be little question that prominent climate scientists have complained to CSU about Gray’s vocal skepticism. The head of CSU’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Dick Johnson, said he has received many comments during recent years about Gray — some supportive, and some not.

The complaints have come as Gray became increasingly involved in the global warming debate. His comments toward adversaries often are biting and adversarial.

You know.  Sort of like John the Baptist.

Hat tip to the Instapundit for the link.

Annie’s Song. Leibovitz, That Is

April 28, 2008

15 year old Miley Cyrus has apologized for “artistic” photographs taken of her by renown photographer Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair.  Um… Why?  She’s not a responsible adult, and I can think of at least three others around her who are supposed to be; her father, singer Billy Ray Cyrus, is not ignorant of how the industry works.

Disney, for whom Cyrus makes a lot of money as “Hannah Montana”, was also critical, but seems to be closer to the truth.

“Unfortunately, as the article suggests, a situation was created to deliberately manipulate a 15-year-old in order to sell magazines,” a network statement said.

Annie Leibovitz says she’s sorry you took her wrong.

“I’m sorry that my portrait of Miley has been misinterpreted,” Leibovitz said in a statement released by Vanity Fair. “Miley and I looked at fashion photographs together and we discussed the picture in that context before we shot it. The photograph is a simple, classic portrait, shot with very little makeup, and I think it is very beautiful.”

I was almost ready to give Leibovitz the benefit of the doubt here (eye of the beholder, and all that).  But this non-apology pushes her over the line.  Technically, what she’s done is used (manipulated) a child to sell magazines by turning her into a sex object.  By calling it “art”, she’s sacrificed innocence for expediency, and for someone of her reputation, it was not necessary for Leibovitz to do that.

Linux

April 27, 2008

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged about my Linux experience.  That’s because my experience has been everything that it should be – no unpleasant surprises, no glaring deficiencies, no disappointments…

Almost any flavor of Linux available now makes any version of Windows look – um – archaic – now.  We’re talking clay tablets and chisels here.  Besides, I’m a bit of a tinkerer, and Linux lets me tinker.

And right now there are two new versions of Linux – Mandriva’s latest and Ubuntu’s latest – that have been getting good reviews, both of which provide more functionality and power for the user, not to mention reliability, stability and security.

Both feature desktops that resemble what you’re used to – KDE (Windows-like) and Gnome (Mac-like), the latest versions of Firefox, and drivers that provide full functionality with most hardware.  Optionally provided are the soon to be released (but still officially beta) versions of Firefox 3, and the KDE 4 (which is being touted as the next generation desktop).  The problems getting drivers for wireless PCI and adapter cards for laptops have been resolved, because hardware manufacturers have, for the most part, agreed to publish their specs.  And if you’re not sure about your hardware, both versions offer “live” versions, that let you try then out by booting them from the CD-ROM.  No installation, or writing to your hard drive, required.

By way of comparison, it took me a full day to re-install the AstroWife’s Win2k system for the umteenth time.  (You see, it’s sort-of a requirement that you wipe the disk and start over fresh every six months or so, unless you never add software or update the drivers much – but I’m sure you know that).  It took half an hour to install and configure Mandriva.  And better, I didn’t install it because I had to.  I installed it because I wanted to.

The downside?  The Linux “Open Office” is not 100% fully compatible with Windows Office – only 99% compatible.  Then again, it’s free.  Also, that darn, long awaited KDE 4 isn’t released yet.  I’ll have to install that separately later, or wait a whole six months for the next Mandriva release.

And did I mention that it’s free?