Archive for June 2013

Farm Bill Revolt   2 comments

Explain to me why we subsidize farms? Explain to me why our government gives farmers money not to grow food when our food prices have increased incredibly in just the last few years? The law of supply and demand states that if supply is good, price are low, but our government pays farmers not to grow food and then promises them a price support if the price of commodities still goes down.

Oh, my! It’s enough to make you dizzy.

America is broke, but politicians in Washington DC contrived another piece of Rube Goldberg legislation that is nothing more than a cynical merger of food-stamp and agricultural subsidies designed to garner enough votes to hide the lunacy of both programs.

The House defeated the latest farm subsidy bill last week, thanks to a band of fiscal conservatives, including House Budget Chair Paul Ryan. It was the usual product of shameless logrolling. Direct payments to farmers would have ended, but Congress then expanded a program of subsidized crop insurance in which farmers pay a fraction of the premiums. We pay the rest.

The farm bills now before Congress… attest, if nothing else, to the inertia of politics. There is no “public interest” (a phrase often meaningless in Washington) in having government subsidize farmers. Food would be produced without subsidies. Robert Samuelson, author and economics journalist

Samuelson, an economist at Iowa State University, argues that the crop insurance program is more like “a farm income support program”. Farmers’ premiums cover only 40% of the costs. You and I pay the rest. The CBO estimates the 10-year cost at $89 billion.

Meanwhile, farmers, on average, have incomes higher than most Americans. The majority of farms are big corporate operations run from distant city financial districts. Many others are “hobby farmers” – doctors, lawyers and investors who are basically absentee owners. I know a psychiatrist who owns a fairly large farm in Kansas. For years he’s spent about five months of his year there hanging out with his manager pretending to farm and the rest of the time he’s worked in the medical field. Now that he is retiring, he is going back to his roots as a farmer (Dad was a farmer and the nucleus of his farm is Dad’s old farmstead), but he doesn’t need subsidies and is in fact opposed to them and says he’s never taken any, though the government offers strenuously and often.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal editorial page ran a great rant entitled “The Farm Bill Revolt“. Commenting on the stunning defeat of nearly $1 trillion farm-subsidy-and-food-stamp bill, the Journal hoped that the vote indicated a decoupling of the long alliance between Democrats who support food stamps and the rural Republicans dependent on crop subsidies. It looked to me more like some liberal Democrats voted against a bill that gave too little money to food stamps and some conservative Republicans voted against a bill that spent too much period. It was a happy convergence of radically different goals, but the outcome was a good one.

The defeated bill continued ridiculous milk and sugar price supports, extended price support guarantees at no lower than 85% of current levels (a sweet deal since commodities prices are at record highs), and maintained subsidies for high-income agribusinesses and wealthy “farmers”.

Hundreds of millions of dollars were earmarked for such indispensables as… sheep and goat herder “marketing” subsidies, price controls on olive oil, and the promotion of “healthy plants.” Of course, true conservatives hated it.

Conservatives have supported smart reforms to farm policy for a while now, advocating to separated the food stamp program into a nutrition bill or sending food-stamp money back to the states to let them innovate and also considering a long overdue reform to commodity programs. This bill had none of that. It was a big giveaway, crafted by farm-state Republicans to continue to buy off their constituents. It too closely mirrored the bill passed by the Democratic Senate. The conservatives sank it, oddly with the help of liberal Democrats.

The good news, said the Journal, is that “The farm revolt suggests that these are the kinds of politically productive battles to fight.” Congressman Marlin Stutzman from rural Indiana agrees, saying his rural constituents “care more about out-of-control spending and the debt than they do about farm subsidies.”

Robert Samuelson believes that the survival of farm subsidies is “emblematic” of a much larger problem, that America’s priorities are completely out of whack, as evidenced by our failure to reform runaway entitlement spending and rationalize the tax code, both individual and corporate:

Government is biased toward the past. Old programs, tax breaks and regulatory practices develop strong constituencies and mindsets that frustrate change, even when earlier justifications for their existence have been overtaken by events. It’s no longer possible to argue that ag subsidies will prevent the loss of small family farms, because millions have already disappeared.

It is no longer possible to argue that subsidies are needed for food production, because one major agricultural sector — meat production — lacks subsidies and meat is still produced. 

So diehard GOP voters, conservatives who insist that the only option is the Republican Party – when will you admit that the Republican Party has not acted on your principles and this is the first sign in decades that they intend to stand up to the farm lobby against subsidy-driven overspending?

This time the conservative wing of the Republican Party had accidental Democratic help in doing the sensible thing, but next time …?

Pebble Economic Analysis   1 comment

The proposed Pebble copper/gold mine near Iliamna is very controversial and is emblematic of what Alaska faces in trying to develop our resources and a grown-up economy like the rest of the states. There’s plenty of fear-mongering about the watershed and some of it is valid. It’s a seismically active area, but Fort Knox – an active gold mine in the Fairbanks area – is also in a seismically active area. The containment dam there held up just fine during the 7.9 magnitude Denali Quake in 2002. The engineering exists to overcome the seismic risks. The Pebble Partnership continues to conduct actual scientific studies in advance of filing an environmental impact statement, but the EPA has already issued a ruling, based on a historical analysis of mining history around the world rather than the real-life current proposed project, that indicates Pebble hasn’t got a snow ball’s chance in hell of even getting a fair hearing before permitting.

If built, Pebble would generate substantial employment in Alaska and revenues to the local, state and federal governments, according to an economic analysis of the proposed mine by IHS Global Insight, an Englewood, Colo. consulting firm.

The study was done by IHS for the Pebble Limited Partnership, the consortium of Anglo American and Northern Dynasty Minerals working on development of the mine, so of course, the environmentalists and NIMBY/BANANAs will insist that it’s not a valid study.

IHS estimated that the mine would pay between $136 million and $180 million in annual state taxes and mining royalties, or $3.4 – 4.5 billion over the first 25 years of its operating life. Clearly, the State of Alaska cannot be trusted to permit the mine because their loyalty can be bought.

In addition, $29 – 33 million in annual revenues, or $725 – 825 million over 25 years, would be paid to the Lake and Peninsula Borough, the regional municipal government that includes the area proposed for the mine. Obviously, they’re bias by the money in favor of the mine too – well, actually …

Payments to the federal government are estimated to $340 – 395 million per year, or $8.5 – 9.9 billion over 25 years. I’m not sure why the federal government is able to resist the bribery of tax dollars, but apparently the EPA is.

Expected employment impacts were also estimated in the IHS report.

Construction will generate about 4,700 direct and indirect jobs in the state, and the 25-year initial production phase would employ about 2,900. That’s significantly larger than what the Pebble Partnership has been advertising.

Direct jobs at the mine would total about 700 in the first four years of production and would increase each year to 1,000 by the 15th year of production. The indirect jobs, mainly with suppliers, would total about 650 in the first four years and increase to 875 by the 15th year. Jobs at the mine will be high-paying, averaging about $109,500.

The study estimates that 75 percent of the workforce would be Alaska resident, a number typical of other major resource extraction projects in the state.

Mining activity would boost the economy of the Lake and Peninsula Borough and help sustain small villages in the region. Ventura Samaniego, CEO of Kijik Corp., the village corporation of Nondalton, told the authors of the report that the lack of a regional economy is resulting in severe losses of population.

“The Nondalton population declined by 26 percent between 2000 and 2010. Approximately half of Kijik Corp’s shareholders now live in Anchorage,” Samaniego told the report authors.

Existing jobs across all of southwest Alaska are mostly provided by government. The IHS report referenced the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s study, “Workforce Analysis for Southwest Alaska’s Large Mines” reported that school districts and local city, borough and tribal now provide 40% of the jobs in the region,” the labor department report said.

And yet the Kijik Corporation has taken a stand against Pebble as has the Bristol Bay Native Corporation. They don’t see a reason to employ people at the mine because they already have jobs in government as well as highly-lucrative jobs as setnetters in the Iliamna watershed and they fear the loss of the setnetting if the containment dam leaks, but they also have no will for employment because the government pays for a great deal of their support through Bureau of Indian Affairs monies and State of Alaska programs.

Moreover, like all of our Native corporations, Kijik and Bristol Bay Native Corps have become business entities. That’s fine. That’s what they were intended to do so that eventually the Native peoples of Alaska would become self-supporting. We’re still waiting. These corporations compete with non-Native companies for projects all of the state. Pebble is on state land, so Anglo American and Northern Dynasty Minerals got the contract for the exploration, but you can bet Kijik and Bristol are wishing they did. Red Dog has been very lucrative for NANA Corp. If the Pebble Partnership comes to a point where they cannot get permitting, they will drop the lease and I expect Kijik, Bristol, and possibly NANA and CIRI to go for the lease after a decent period of time. Suddenly the Natives of Bristol Bay will be all for gold and lead mines in the watershed and absolutely certain it can be done without any risk to the salmon. Why do I think that? That’s the history of Red Dog. It never would have been developed if NANA hadn’t been able to profit from it.

But, of course, we’re not supposed to talk about how the Native corporations use their stakeholders to racket up the price of projects, drive the non-Natives out, and then they come in and joint venture or wholly own and make a mint … with the full support of the Native community. We’re supposed to not notice what is right before our eyes.

Ultimately, this decision should not be made emotionally, but scientifically and with application of a cost-benefit analysis. We have got to get away from this idea that we can do absolutely nothing without absolute assurance that nothing bad will happen. The world is not a perfect place. In this imperfect world, we make progress through risk. We don’t carelessly dump poisonous chemicals into the watershed of the richest salmon fishery in the world, but we cautiously engineer so that won’t happen, knowing that there may be a small chance of failure.

Why is this such a difficult concept?


Listening to the Libertarian Party   2 comments

So I’m working my way through conservative political parties in an attempt to find one that meets me most of the way. I’m told by all sorts of people – this being Alaska – really all sorts – that I’ve just got to check out the Libertarian Party because Ron Paul used to be a Libertarian and it’s just so Alaskan.

The Libertarian Party isn’t really a conservative party. It’s a fiscally conservative party that advocates for leaving the other guy alone. On the surface, I like that idea, but I’ve got some reservations. When I scratched beneath the surface of the Republican Party I did not find a party committed to republicanism as I understand it – and I understand it in a Jeffersonian way … more or less. When I scratched beneath the surface of the Constitution Party, I found a few places where they aren’t all that constitutional. So, I have reservations about the deeper structures of the Libertarian Party. I’m a small l libertarian.

I agree that government exists to protect the rights of every individual and should not be engaged in choosing groups of individuals for special protection.

First, I have some good friends who were strong members of the Libertarian Party for over 20 years who withdrew several years ago because of the LP stance on the legalization of drugs and abortion. As a Christian who believes that murder is murder even if the victim is pre-born, I don’t think I can vote for people who say it doesn’t matter. I don’t find the constitutional argument for privacy holding any water in this instance. Our founders never would have agreed that murder was okay so long as it was private. The taking of human life is murder. Maybe I wouldn’t be comfortable with women and doctors who perform abortions being prosecuted as aggressively as people doing driveby shootings, but I still hold with the moral concept that abortion is murder and that the Constitution doesn’t give us a special right to commit murder under special circumstances. “All men are created equal” except if “they’re a black person living below a certain geographical line and then they’re not.” That was a special right granted white southerners by the Supreme Court and it was still wrong.

I agree that the military is way larger than it needs to be and that the United States should not attempt to act as global police officer, but when researching the LP, I also believe we must maintain our ability to wage war on foreign soil and not just react after the fact to aggression that comes against us. I believe that stance will leave us at the mercy of our enemies, fighting on Main Street USA instead of “over there”.  I don’t think that makes me a progressive, but it may make me a realist.

I strongly disagree with allowing an open-borders immigration policy on the grounds that the United States has a right and obligation to its people to protect them not only from military foreign invasion, but also from cultural foreign invasion. The United States of America will not remain the United States of America if we allow ourselves to be overrun by citizens of other countries who have no interest in assimilating to our culture. While we should strive always to be welcoming to those who wish to immigrate to our country, we should remember and they should be reminded that it is OUR country. If they want to join us, they should do it in an orderly and legal fashion. Even legal immigration needs to be measured to allow for assimilation of new immigrants without overwhelming the existing culture. Immigrants should add to our culture, not transform it.

So, while there are parts of the LP platform that I agree with, I cannot agree with enough of it to feel comfortable with it.

Onward in my search.

Zero Hedge Offers A Different View Of The Global Economy   Leave a comment

Although I think this article is extremely pessimistic, I agree with quite a bit of it. The United States needs to get real. We need drastic action before this scenario plays out. Government spending needs to be cut. It may not need to be drastic. Start with 5% of actual spending, then 3% annually (also of actual spending) for the next 10 years. That might actually stimulate the economy enough to pull us out of this. But, we need more. All regulation at the federal level needs review by Congress and the regulators should have to prove they exist for a reason. All regulations that can prove that needs to be given a sunset date so that it is not a forever situation. We need to open up oil refining and coal in this country.

I do not believe that fracking is so expensive that it can’t meet our needs, but I do believe it needs to be local and refined regionally to control costs and that might stimulate interest in the manufacturing industries — IF we can tell the Sierra Club et al to go pound sand and mean it.

Of course, this is all predicated on the idea that indolent Americans will get off their rumps when their government payments quit coming and take some low-skill jobs in manufacturing. Wow, what a concept! A revitalized economy by making it necessary to get off your butt.

I believe we can do it, but I seriously doubt we will do it. So, yeah, start a big garden, get some chickens and a goat and stock up on what you can’t grow — like ammunition. You’re likely going to need it and there’s probably nobody to blame but ourselves.


Where Are We Now? – A World View




Wondering why the money world got its knickers in a twist last week? The answer is simple: the global economy is breaking apart and its constituent major players are doing face-plants on the downhill slope of a no-longer-cheap-oil way of life.  Let’s look at them case by case.

     The USA slogs deeper into paralysis and decay in a collective mental fog of disbelief that its own exceptionalism can’t overcome the laws of thermodynamics. This general malaise precipitates into a range of specific quandaries. The so-called economy depends on financialization, since it is no longer based on manufacturing things of value. The financialization depends on housing, that is, a particular kind of housing: suburban sprawl housing (and its commercial accessories, the strip malls, the box stores, the burger shacks, etc.). Gasoline is now too expensive to run the suburban…

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Posted June 24, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Mead Treadwell for Senate   Leave a comment

Mead TreadwellSo, Alaska’s Lieutenant Governor is running for the GOP nomination for US Senate from Alaska. If he wins the nomination, he gets to run against Mark Begich.

For now, I am only interested in finding a GOP candidate who can beat Mark Begich, who is considered vulnerable. Most Alaskans are non-partisans (52%) or Republicans (38%), so Democrats have a tough time. There is a strong libertarian streak. This is why a candidate like Mead Treadwell appeals to us.

My campaign will focus on three principles:

• Fighting for liberty by reversing the Obama Administration’s relentless assault on our families and our freedoms.
• Fighting for fiscal sanity in Washington, D.C. We borrow too much, we spend too much, and we tax too much.
• Fighting for Alaska. The federal government must deal with Alaska’s issues on Alaska’s terms. Ted Stevens fought every day to bring power and decision-making home, and so will I.

His approval ratings as Lt. Gov. are high, his business background and pro-development stance resonate with us, and his past association with Wally Hickel makes him something like Alaskan nobility.

But I don’t know if he should be Senator — not yet. I need to investigate more, way the pros and cons between him and Joe Miller, check out if there are any others running. And, even after one of them wins the primary, there are still other parties to consider for the general. I promised Mark Begich when he voted for ObamaCare that he would NEVER get my vote and I am absolutely committed to getting him out of office this time around. Otherwise, he’ll play the “I-have-seniority” card and, like Lisa, we’ll never get him out of there.

So Joe Miller, Mead Treadwell or someone else, who ever I vote for has to have a good chance of winning against Begich.

If you’re interested in this race, do check out my earlier post on Joe Miller and compare the two candidate websites.



You Can’t Make Lunacy Up   3 comments

The United States may well have the largest oil reserves in the world. Alaska alone, were we a stand-alone country, would rank as the 13th largest government-owned oil reserve in the world, making us OPEC material. Yet because of intense lobbying by environmental organizations, the United States government has locked up 67% of domestic oil reserves and 40% of domestic natural gas reserves on federal land, making us dependent on foreign oil imports. Our problems run much deeper than that, however.

The NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard) and the BANANAs (Building Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything) oppose building so much that the United States hasn’t built a new oil refinery since 1976. All remaining American refineries are running at full capacity, so that when one needs to be shut down for routine maintenance, it causes a temporary shortage in the supply and a spike in prices. Rules and regulations at the state and federal levels block the petroleum refinement industry from building new refineries. Old worn-out refineries are closing. California closed 10 between 1985 and 1995, representing 20% of the state’s refining capacity. California’s energy policy is literally wedded to radical environmental groups, so it is unlike any new refineries will be built there in my lifetime.

Building a refinery would cost at least $2 billion and take about 10 years. If – IF – permits could be obtained, there’s no guarantee the refinery would ever be built. Why? Well, where would you build it where it would be welcomed? And, if you could find such a community, the radical environmentalists would organize and energize the NIMBYs and BANANAs with concerns about air pollution or the dangers of large trucks and railcars carrying hazardous materials or the potential for leakage into the environment. Scientific facts to the contrary, the ostrich party acts like refinery environmental standards haven’t improved at all in 40 years.

The Department of Energy predicts domestic oil consumption will increase 43% by 2025, but production will grow only 23%. Meanwhile, Congress has poured more than $23 billion of our money into alternative energy sources like windmills, solar panels and ethanol, all in the name of conservation. In reality, no combination of conservation, technology or alternative fuels can come close to replacing the fossil fuels system we already have. Maybe, after years of research, testing, permitting and construction, distribution system for alternatives will begin to take a larger share in the marketplace, but in the meantime, we NEED domestic oil and gas NOW!

The United States imports more than 60% of its oil from unstable nations in the Middle East where the entire region is on verge of revolution. Our policies have left us at the mercy of Libya and Saudi Arabia. We’re a coup or an assassination away from radical factions putting our economy into a tail spin that will pulverize the US economy.

It is WAY past the time to institute bold long-term plans to keep the nation’s lights on and disentangle our transportation system and industry from world conflict. Such plans would include reopening the off-shore fields and opening access to energy rich areas currently off limits to exploration, like the mere 2000 acres in ANWR. More importantly, we need to build refineries to process the raw materials into usable gasoline, diesel, etc.

For this to happen, the American people need to get real-world woke up RIGHT NOW. Our economy does not run on magic fairy dust. It runs on energy and, more importantly, it runs on reliable energy. Wind and solar do not, at this time and probably not for decades to come, qualify as RELIABLE energy. Solar is a low-efficiency energy source that costs more in fossil fuel to produce than it saves in the lifetime of a solar panel. Wind has high-efficiency, but is reliant upon the changeable weather. Both raise the ire of some NIMBYs because they tend to spoil the view. Do you see the irony of that? A green solution is not desirable because it causes visual pollution?

No, you really cannot make this lunacy up!

Joe Miller for US Senate   Leave a comment

I’m not convinced that I like Joe Miller for the US Senate. He definitely won the 2010 GOP primary for the seat Lisa Murkowski occupies. I voted for him in that primary. I know Joe personally and his wife was one of our son’s most liked teachers. I’ve been trying to get rid of Lisa Murkowski since Daddy gave her his Senate seat like a gift wrapped box of chocolates. I’d have been happy to call him the Senator from Alaska.

But …

In the months between the primary and the general, we learned things about Joe that were a bit unpalatable. For example, that he tried to rig the Alaska GOP party chairman election to remove the much more moderate chairman and replace him with a more conservative one. I understand the sentiment, but being caught voting multiple times smacked of a lack of ethics.

I could handle that he took government benefits as a younger man even as he know rails against the entitlement system. We all mature and grow. It’s good to know a man is human.

But then his security detail handcuffed a journalist to a chair at a townhall. First, who needs security when they’re running for election in Alaska at a townhall in Palmer? I cant’t remember the last time someone killed or injured a politician in this state. If you don’t want Alaskans coming up to you and asking you uncomfortable questions, it’s probably best not to run for office in Alaska. Yes, I know the reporter from the Alaska Dispatch is an idiot and too aggressive for his own good. Handcuffing him to a chair was just a very unAlaskan thing to do.

And the results showed in the election. Miller didn’t lose to Lisa by much, which is remarkable when you consider that she had all the name recognition, but he didn’t win and that’s the way politics works in Alaska.

So, will I vote for him again. I don’t know. I never make a decision this early in a race. He’s way ahead of Mark Begich. If you want to know something about him, visit his website:

Make your own decision. Do you think this is the website of a future Senator?

Should Alaskans want this man as our Senator?


Posted June 24, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Alaska

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Popular Madness   1 comment

Ouch! I went to the gas station on Saturday morning fully intending to drive out to our cabin site with a full tank of gas.

$3.98 a gallon! This is for regular unleaded in the second largest city in Alaska. Alaska! Where the Trans-Alaska Pipeline runs just 10 miles from my house and the second-newest refinery in the nation (35 years old and counting) operates 15 miles from my house. Alaska, sitting on an ocean of oil. What the heck?!

You have probably had a similar experience. I hear Chicagoans are paying $4.36 a gallon. They deserve it more than I do.

What? Yeah. The main reason your gasoline prices and my gasoline prices are so stinking high can be found with a good look in the mirror in most American households. It’s not OPEC that’s screwing you. It’s you or your fellow Americans who support policies that block new drilling and the building of new refineries on American soil. You are the cause of high gasoline prices!

Tom Deweese of Canadian Free Press suggested that the real political parties in the United States are the NIMBYs (Not in My Back Yard) and the BANANAs (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything). These two political forces are driving the nation’s future by dictating the policy agendas of the Republicans and the Democrats. These are one variety of progressives who infest both major political parties and have far reaching effects.

I like to call these people collectively “the ostrich party”. They want towns to remain small, but they want homes of their own and jobs to support them. They want to build those homes in rural areas with beautiful vistas and clean air, but complain when someone else gets the same idea. They complain that a neighbor’s new home has blocked their view, never considering that their home blocked someone else’s open space. They want to be able to use their cell phones and computers wherever they go, but they support programs that lock away land to keep wilderness pristine, free of human development, power lines and, uh, cell towers.

There is something entirely ironic about a nation of three-car-garage homes that opposes filling stations, refineries and power plants. Our lovely, clean, well-ordered American landscape has no place for industry to make the things we need, but then we expect our policymakers to make those things work at a reasonable price.

This is the result of at least three decades of implementing the radical agendas of special interests like the Sierra Club and the Nature Conservancy – rich powerful groups that have spent billions to push their policy of no growth, which they brand as Sustainable Development, through Congress and into our local communities. The news media and corporate commercials constantly barrage us with the “go green” message to indoctrinate the nation into a collective guilt complex because we need to use energy and grow food to eat.

Banning the building of things that have been termed “not green” sounds noble. Americans pack public meetings to express our outrage over plans to build a power plant in our community. If, as recently happened in Fairbanks, the public demands were to have one of those smelly polluting coal plants built to relieve our 27 per kilowatt hour electric bills, the local newspaper is deluged with comments from people who live elsewhere demanding to know why we’re so stupid. Don’t we know that breathing coal fumes will give a small percentage of the population asthma and possibly acserbate the COPD of elderly smokers in 30 years?

Don’t you know that cold will kill us this winter if we can’t afford to keep the power on? But what about the view of Denali (Mt. McKinley to the Outsiders)? We’ll destroy the view of that precious peak by wreathing it in pollution. I can live with smack-awesome winter sunsets to keep my modestly-sized home warm.

Modern American society is properly indignant with no responsibility for the consequences. We restricted our access to energy and our ability to process it into a useable form to the point where the cost of heating and cooling our homes, driving our cars, and flying our planes is spinning out of control.

Eighty-eight percent of the energy for America’s transportation, industry, government, and residential needs comes from oil, gas and coal. The nation shuts down without them! Except for a handful of House members, there is no drive in Congress to ease regulations to allow for domestic production and the Executive branch insists the only solution is the stop using energy … be “sustainable”.

Is freezing to death sustainable?

It then pretends to address the energy shortage with massive grants for “alternative energy,” like wind mills and solar cells. We have to get off our dependency on foreign oil, Barack Obama insists, as these alternative energy sources supply only about 1% of our energy needs with no signs of immediate improvement despite massive “investment”.

Just suggest to a green that the solution to reducing our dependency on foreign oil and lowering costs at the pump might be a few more oil wells on American soil and watch their blood pressure soar. Veins will start popping in their foreheads! Congress and federal agencies have banned oil activity on more than 300 million acres of onshore federal land and 460 million acres of offshore territory. The United States may well have the largest oil reserves in the world, but 67% of oil reserves and 40% of natural gas reserves are locked away on federal lands in the western states because environmentalists fear that drilling will damage ecosystems.

Such green scare-mongering is little more than bedtime terror stories told to frighten children. Technology allows for safe drilling, even in Alaska’s tundra wasteland of ANWR and the shallow Chukchi Sea.

Oh, but we don’t want oil wells in our back yards! Really? Are you that stupid? Maybe it comes from living through -50 (that’s below zero) every winter, but I’d be fine with seeing an oil wellhead pump on my way to work every day if it meant it didn’t cost me $7000 a winter to heat my home.

But access to the oil in the ground is just a small part of the problem. The spoiled brats packing the public meetings have created a much greater crisis than that.

Bear Tale (or Why I Own a Gun Part 2)   Leave a comment

The hot August afternoon hung still and close over the valley. The only sound was the buzz of insects and the distant song of the creek at the bottom of the hill.

Brad stared at the GPS, sweat trickling down from his hair into the neck of his shirt. To get from waypoint 2 to waypoint three, he needed to cross a tract of fallen, fire-killed trees where brush had begun to grow up. Before he could chainsaw another brushing line for the surveyors he had to calculate the angle of his line. He couldn’t see both waypoint markers, so math was required. The square of the hypotonuse is ….

Where was Lela? She said she and their son would drive out today with fresh supplies and chainsaw gas. Maybe they could help him with the math. The angle of the hill was throwing him off.

Gosh it was quiet here! Brad allowed himself a brief reverie about evenings in a cabin in the clearing he’d found yesterday. A long way off, he heard the sound of a truck gearing down on the highway as it came down the hill. He could live with that. He glanced at the sun and estimated that Lela and Robert were out of church by now, but probably not left Fairbanks yet. He was tired of MREs and hoping she’d bring some fruit. No cell phone service made it impossible to tell ….

Some of the taller brush moved down slope.

Oh, good, she’s here early. I’ll just finish up this calculation and get ready for a picnic.

The brush swayed hard now.

She brought the dogs.

Brad tried to decide whether he was upset with her for disturbing the peace of the valley or glad to see the two mutton heads.

The brush was shaking more violently and he was about to shout “I’m up here” when the branches parted and a cow moose running full tilt uphill ran straight at him.

Damn, I don’t have a gun!

A cow moose … with calf running behind … could easily stomp him to death even though she was running into his space. Thinking quickly, Brad raised a fist over his head and as loudly as he was capable, shouted “Hey, you! Back off!” while pumping his hand at the moose with each syllable.

She blew from her nose, but with missing a beat, veered around him, one great brown eye rolling to look at him. It reminded him of a horse and if his adrenaline had not been so high, he might have laughed. The calf veered with her and they continued their headlong rush up the hill.

Whew! That was close! Wow, I voice-commanded a moose! Pretty cool!

The brush down the hill moved.

Aw, twins! Come on, baby moose! Catch up to Mama and brother!

Brad rehearsed in his head how he would guide the baby moose to follow its mom using the same technique as before and then — above the brush about 30 yards down slope, a large brown head appeared. Brad’s voice clutched in his throat. His hand dropped.

Bear? Don’t run! Stay still!

The bear looked right at him, dropped into the brush and headed directly toward him. Brad’s body turned to run even as Brad’s brain said “Don’t!”


Thirty feet uphill and across a mass of downed trees that crisscrossed one another to hip height and then — he leaped from tree trunk to tree truck without pause, slipped, rolled, sprang up and ran again. Behind him he could hear branches cracking and snapping. He didn’t look back. His body wanted to just run down the path he’d cut. He was trending that way.

No! Chainsaw!

Against all instinct, he ran toward the waypoint marker where his chainsaw and pack waited. The bear was closing.


With a burst of speed, he reached the post, grabbed the chainsaw, pushed the lock forward and pulled the cord. He expected it to putt and die like it always did, but this time it roared to life without a hesitation. Revving the motor, he turned in the direction of the grizzly. It was 10 feet away, a good 5 1/5 feet at the shoulders and headed right for him. He revved the chainsaw higher and held it out in front of him like a rifle. The grizzly stopped, sprang up to its hind legs and roared. Brad revved the chainsaw again. The grizzly dropped to all fours and scampered back, putting about 15 feet between them, then circled around to the north and upslope.

Brad started back down the brushing line, running chainsaw in his hand, walking as fast as he could. He could hear the bear crunching along in the brush maybe 30 feet upslope.

Don’t run! Walk fast! Keep going! Don’t run!

He reached waypoint 4 and the downward trail. He glanced upslope and the bear reared up in the brush, still about 30 feet away, but clearly not giving up. He started sideways down the brushing line, moving as fast as he dared without actually running. Just as he reached the trail that would lead to his tent, the chainsaw died. He pulled the cord. It putted and sputtered. He pulled the cord. It putted and sputtered.

Run! Get out! Get away!

Brad jogged to the bottom of his brushing line, to where it met with the neighbor’s trail and then he ran, ran as hard as he could while carrying a chainsaw until he reached an outcropping of rock where he could climb high and sit and wait.

Brad didn’t see the bear again that day, though he had a good view of the valley. When he returned to his abandoned pack two days later, (with Lela guarding his back) he saw evidence that the bear had marked it, sprayed the waypoint marker and there were claw holes in his canteen.

And, people wonder why we think we need guns?

 It’s not about hunting! It’s about survival!

The Ultimate Party Line   Leave a comment

I’m starting to like Rand Paul. I didn’t at first. I never much liked sons/daughters following dad into the family business of politics and Lisa Murkowski, Mark Begich and George W. Bush solidified that dislike in me. I also don’t care for his dad, Ron Paul. I like some of the ideas he espouses, but there’s something about the man that just doesn’t sit right and I’ve learned to trust my gut on some things. So, at first I didn’t like Rand Paul because of principles that had nothing to do with the man and then I didn’t like him because, whenever Rand opened his mouth, he seemed to make the conservative movement look foolish. Of course, that may well have been media manipulation of his message … or maybe he was just new and wet behind the ears.

Lately, however, he’s starting to sound really good. The fact that the Huffington Post hates him doesn’t hurt his stock with me, but he’s also saying intelligent things.

Rand is completely correct in stating this is a generational problem. There was a time when electronic communication was new technology and viewed by people of my parents’ generation (Greatest Generation) as somehow different from talking face-to-face. Even the telephone seemed different enough to not be covered by the Constitution. That was the rational of the Supreme Court in the 1979 Smith versus Maryland decision, that the use of electronic media somehow set aside our right to privacy. There were people who objected then – me, for example – but mostly people thought that if the Supreme Court rules something than their ruling IS the Constitution. Well, when the Supreme Court ruled that Dred Scott wasn’t equal to his fellow Americans, was that Constitutional or was the Supreme Court acting in a politically motivated manner? I think we can all agree that it was the latter.

We live in different times from 1979. My parents’ phone was on a two-party line back then. Privacy did have a different flavor to it when Mrs. McGowan could listen in. I had a more-or-less real-time conversation with a friend last night over email. That’s not uncommon. People today use email, telephone, text, Skype, Facebook, etc., to communicate. The idea in Smith was that when you transmitted the electronic data (phone numbers) to the telephone company, you were putting that information into the public domain. Agencies could connect numbers and recognize potential connections, but there was no ability to routinely record the conversations attached to those numbers. It took a massive amount of technology to access what was said and the SCOTUS had ruled in Katz versus the United States that the conversation was protected unless on issue of a warrant, which were not easy to get. That seemed reasonable. If your brother had grown up to be a bank robber, but you still talked regularly to him, that connection was a part of public record, but if you showed no signs of being a criminal, a judge was not going to issue a warrant to tap your telephone, though they might take his.

The Patriot Act changed that. Now the warrant applies to all the traffic on a particular carrier and the warrants are automatically renewed without a hearing by a judge, who by all accounts rubberstamps the FISA request anyway. The conversations are automatically recorded, held in cyberspace for a period of time while computers analyze them for key words and then, if the computer decides it sounds interesting, a human being listens to or reads them – all without a warrant based on a reasonable belief that you might be a criminal.

The possibilities – well, probabilities — for government abuse are enormous.

Just think about it in light of the IRS scandal involving the targeting of “tea party” organizations. Depriving organizations of money is obviously effective, but consider if this system could be used to interfere with more loosely based tea party groups that are trying to organize low-cost gatherings – such as classes to study the Constitution or the Austrian economists. If you could use that technology to harass people and create a chilling effect …?

In case you think this is a problem with the current administration or Democrats in general, here is an article that runs down how we feel about violation of our privacy when it’s the “other party” doing it.

Yeah, in 2006, many Republicans thought it was a dandy idea to spy on American citizens provided it was a Republican administration doing it. It is clowns to the right and jokers to the left in a major dance of situational ethics. It is not a partisan issue because members of both parties do it and members of both parties are violating our constitutional rights.

Regardless of what the Supreme Court has ruled 35 years ago before this technology existed, regardless of which party is in power at the moment, it was always wrong for the government to listen to our conversations without an individually issued warrant, but the point was moot when they lacked the technology to do so. Now they have the technology and we need to assure that they aren’t able to legally use it against us and then we need to dismantle the bureaucracy that would want to use it against us because … let’s be clear on this … the technology exists and as long as you have crooks in control of the government, they will use it against us.

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