Friday, May 28, 2010

Memorial Day 2010 - Remember our Defenders


Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, given November 19, 1863 on the battlefield near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, USA

Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation: conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war. . .testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated. . . can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war.

We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate. . .we cannot consecrate. . . we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us. . .that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion. . . that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. . . that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom. . . and that government of the people. . .by the people. . .for the people. . . shall not perish from the earth.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Oil Drilling Myths and Lies - Fact Checking the Media on Gulf Oil Spill


Myth 1. Media have reported up to 70,000 barrels of oil a day are being released into the Gulf.

An Administration task force today said the actual spill is between 12,000 and 19,000 barrels a day. An unknown percentage of the spill was natural gas escaping with the crude oil. This would reduce the oil in the Gulf.

Myth 2. Media has reported it is worst oil spill in history exceeding the Exxon Valdez accident.

According to the official government estimate, not BP, the total spill to date is between 12,000 and 19,000 barrels per day, meaning a total of 440,000 to 703,000 barrels total. At present the Top Kill procedure is underway and oil is not escaping, thus the total spill to date may remain stable.

At the highest estimate the spill ranks below the top 14 oil spills in history with the top being 11 million barrels in the Persian Gulf.

The Exxon Valdez, so often mentioned by the media, ranked 35th in world history. While the Gulf spill is larger the Exxon Valdez was 257,142 barrels. It was from a single tanker ship, the Gulf leak is from an oil field.

Myth 3. Media have reported this will be the largest environmental disaster in US history.

The Gulf oil spill contains a yet to be determined amount of natural gas, perhaps 30-40%, that reduces the contamination of the waters. In addition, the warm water and weather in the Gulf is causing up to 40% of the crude oil to evaporate. Remember the Exxon Valdez was off Alaska in much colder cold water and weather.

Myth 4. Media have reported that much of the oil will reach the Gulf coast beaches and wetlands. In fact some media reported the oil spill would hit the beaches within days of the explosion.

So far land contamination has been very small with the vast amount of oil dispersed 5-12 miles from land. Limited marsh land has been contaminated so far and most Gulf coast beaches have not been reached by oil.

Myth 5. Media have reported the chemicals being used to disperse the oil were banned by EPA.

All chemicals dispersed to date were approved by EPA. They have recommended a reduction in the amount of chemicals being used which is being implemented.

The use of chemicals to disperse oil spills has been proven to substantially reduce the amount or residue from the oil by breaking up the oil slick and allowing natural biodegradable processes (microbes) to destroy it.

Myth 6. Media have reported burning surface oil just contaminates the atmosphere.

Burning surface oil reduces the oil residue by 99% and carbon dioxide is what is dispersed.

Myth 7. The media reported the Administration said today they fired Elizabeth Birnbaum fired director of the U.S. Minerals Management Service and that eliminates the Bush people involved in cozy relationship between big oil and federal regulators.

After Obama said he was not aware of what happened to Birnbaum the Interior Secretary said she had resigned, and was not fired.

Birnbaum never worked for Bush but was appointed to the Interior Department by Bill Clinton. She had worked for various Democrat Congressional committees in natural resources before the Clinton job in 1999-2000, then worked for environmental groups before returning to the Pelosi committees in 2008.

In 2009 Obama, not Bush appointed her as director of the US Minerals Management Service. As a graduate of Harvard Law school and Brown undergraduate along with her long career working for House committees and non-profit environmental groups she was most certainly an exceptional talent and Obama person. Seems odd the White House didn't know they appointed her.

Myth 8. The absence of a single large oil pool on the surface is very bad because it means the oil is already contaminating the environment.

The absence of a large oil pool is a very good thing because it means there is less oil because of the natural gas and evaporation and that the effort to disperse the oil is working which makes it much more vulnerable to natural biodegradable processes.

Myth 9. BP was also responsible for the Exxon Valdez disaster.

Exxon was responsible for the Exxon Valdez disaster. BP owned a controlling interest in the Alaska oil industry consortium that was required to write a cleanup plan and respond to the spill two decades ago.

BP also supplied the top executive of the consortium, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.

The consortium was blamed for having a flawed response plan but the consortium was an independent subsidiary of BP and other oil partners. BP was not blamed for the accident or clean up problems.

BP needs a break, Obama needs a czar, governors need a friend, and TV news needs a long vacation!


If the news shows were required to use fact checkers before the talking heads went on the air and made their latest wild claim as to why the "other" guys are incompetent, in other words if they were required to tell the truth with no exaggerated distortion, then would they have anything left to say?

Imagine that, all the hosts and reporters for Fox and MSNBC, along with their guests, had to tell the truth? Just the thought would leave them speechless and I happen to think the "Sounds of Silence" would be much better for the American psyche than news shows on TV.

How in the world did America ever survive World War II or the Korean war without those news talk shows? Back then we actually trusted the news media, believed the anchors told the truth, and felt the news people were being as objective as possible.

When you turned on Walter Cronkite, John Cameron Swayze, Huntley and Brinkley, Lowell Thomas or even Edward R. Morrow on radio, you got the news. Not filtered, not slanted toward a social issue or political philosophy, not intended to help a sponsor sell product or propaganda, just the plain old unbiased truth.

Those were the good old days. Way back when integrity meant something. When story content, not speculative spin, really was fair and balanced. But alas, those days are gone.

Just today the MSNBC shows demonstrated yet again, and at MSNBC program content is a collective and shared experience, how the chain reaction lie can work. Once a speculative fact is told on the air regardless of the truth in it, every subsequent show on MSNBC repeats the original story, even if the claim is not true.

When TV programs have to tell lies and undertake character assassination for the purpose of getting ratings, then they should not be allowed to claim special privilege under the Bill of Rights, freedom of the press.

The Morning Joe Show, with their large cast of liberal elitists and one conservative apologist, were raising the roof because the Obama administration was letting BP take the lead on the disaster. Are they really that insane?

When Apollo 13 went haywire on the way to the moon and it looked as if the craft and crew were goners, the White House turned to the people responsible for the mistake in the first place, NASA and their contractors, to solve the unprecedented problems.

BP has already called in the top scientists and engineers in the world, from their competitors and from universities and public and private laboratories.

There are two distinct and separate aspects to this disaster. One is capping the spewing well, which may be done today. This problem is much like Apollo 13, it had never been experienced before because of the depth of the well, one mile below the sea. They have to take care of that problem and the oil industry experts are best qualified to do it.

The second aspect of the problem is the containment and clean up of the oil that has leaked into the Gulf. This program should be managed by the federal government, particularly the Federal Emergency Management Program, good old FEMA.

One can only hope that all the improvements made to FEMA since Katrina by Bush and by Obama the last year and a half will make it capable of managing the task at hand. A massive and highly sensitive environmental clean up and restoration of the wetlands, the marshes, the beaches, the Gulf waters and all the environmental and ecological aspects of the Gulf Coast states is required.

The White House needs a Gulf Environmental and Ecological Czar to oversee this effort. How can that be so hard for an Administration that already has more Czars than banks have vice presidents? For once they should take the unusual step of ignoring the left leaning requirement for new appointments and name someone actually qualified to manage such a disaster response.

There is much that can be done right now to set in place actions to clean up the environment or protect certain critical areas from becoming polluted. The Corp of Engineers, Defense Department, Homeland Security, especially the revived FEMA units, and other federal agencies can be doing things right now to help. Permits can be expedited, emergency waivers granted, agencies forced to break bureaucratic logjams and other actions that a czar could take.

Thousands of volunteers need to be recruited to help save the environment and protect the ecology and Obama could get it done. Emergency approval of government permits for attacking the oil must be granted from a variety of agencies and a Czar should be empowered in the event of a national emergency, to grant the waivers and permits needed to be solving problems.

National disasters are not the time for partisan politics, which makes the political fundraisers being done by Obama this week seem rather shallow and self-serving. Maybe his sudden awakening to the fact the only thing missing from the disaster was leadership, confidence, determination and responsibility, had something to do with the fact he is suddenly going to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast this Friday, and not just for a photo op.

The last bizarre story propagated on MSNBC on the oil spill is that Congress is inept because they cannot raise the liability limit for oil companies from the current $75 million to $10 billion and this is a disasterous situation. What is MSNBC talking about? BP has already said over and over they will pay all legitimate claims for the oil spill. They have already agreed to pay over $350 million for claims and they are just beginning to assess the cost.

If they already committed to and expect to pay out $350 million plus a whole lot more, does anyone really think they expect to pay only $75 million in total damages as specified by law. Of course not, they committed to far more than their legal and pitiful liability. Our inept Congress can fix that law any time, both parties already know it is nonsense and that BP has already agreed to pay the costs. Whatever happens it has nothing to do with the current oil spill. BP said they will pay!

BP needs a break, Obama needs a czar, the state governors need a friend, and television news needs a long vacation, so the nation can pull together and help fix what congress cannot do. No country on earth responds to a disaster like Americans if government and the press would get out of the way and let us work together to get the job done to the best of our ability.


BP Oil Spill Live from the floor of the Gulf


As BP works throughout the night to get the Top Kill procedure to seal off the leaking oil pipe one mile below the surface of the Guulf, you can watch the process in real time.

This procedure has never been attempted at this depth but watch as the oil escaping has changed from a black and white plume, black for oil and white for natural gas, to a brown plume representing the mix of the 10,000 tons of mud being pumped into the pipe.

If it is working sometime today, Thursday, the oil flow should slow down and eventually end.

BP cut off the live feed to the press but somehow PBS managed to keep the feed.

This view will be maintained as long as the live BP feed continues.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

New Jersey Super Pride - First Real Open Air Super Bowl to Meadowlands


For the first time since the Super Bowl began it will be played in an open air outdoor stadium in the snow belt as New York/New Jersey broke the 47 year stranglehold of Super Bowls in domed or warm weather stadiums when they won the right to stage Super Bowl 48 at the new stadium in 2014.

The game, which will be played at the Giants' and Jets' new $1.6 billion, 82,000-seat home in the Meadowlands within eyesight of Manhattan and the number one city and metro area in the world, Metropolitan New York - New Jersey will get to show us what they've got.

New York/New Jersey was one of three bidders for the 2014 game. The other two were South Florida, which already has hosted 10 Super Bowls, including the most recent one in February, and Tampa Bay, which has hosted four. NY/NJ won on the fourth ballot by a majority vote by team owners over Tampa. South Florida was eliminated after the second ballot.

Newly elected New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Mayor Mike Bloomberg of NYC played key roles in breaking the 47 year hold the domed and warm weather stadiums have enjoyed and finally football in America will decide a champion based on the four key fundamentals of winning football at it's highest standard of competition. The fundamentals are the winner must exemplify true grit, determination and skill while overcoming the weather conditions to win.

Once upon a time the NFL championship games were played up north where weather was often as big a factor as skill and some of the most exciting games in history were barely visible to the viewers. But this is America and football is not a sport for creampuffs so it is only right the weather be a factor.

For the New York and New Jersey area this game will generate up to $100 million or more in new revenue which is needed. It is also appropriate that the first cold weather game be played in the newest, most modern and most expensive stadium in the world.

After nearly a decade since the 9-11 terrorist disaster in NYC it will also show the world that the New York New Jersey area is back in the spotlight as one of the most vibrant areas in the world.

Note to reader: I am definitely not objective about this story. Having lived in Jersey for 18 years and served with Governor Kean when the Meadowlands was first coming to the forefront as a major sports complex in the nation, it is great to see this vibrant and dynamic area be given such an honor and you can bet it will be one of the best Super Bowls of all time.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Obama Again Fiddles in California as Gulf Coast Burns over Inaction on Oil Spill


It seems to be a habit with the Obama administration. Just when he is getting pressure from the left and right wing media to do something about a grave crisis he jumps his jet for California and holds million dollar fund raisers. While Obama fiddles Rome burns and millions of more special interest dollars are poured into Democrat campaigns.

Today Obama again flies over a disaster area on his way to the golden state of California where he can mine gold for campaigns. It is his third cross country flight to shake the big bucks out of California and a pattern seems to be developing. It seems every time the Gulf coast or America needs an explanation from the president on what he is doing to help us, the president is not available.

Today it is the BP oil spill in the Gulf which happened over one month ago. The only people who failed to act more than BP to avoid this environmental tragedy was the Obama Interior department, Homeland Security and White House. Obama, as president, not BP, was responsible for approving permits, approving the installation of the deepwater rig, making sure contingency plans were in place and monitoring every step of the drilling process.

Try as they may to place the total blame on BP it was the federal regulatory and safety role, or lack of one, that enabled this to happen. BP should have been prepared for a disaster, but the federal government was responsible to make sure the plan existed. Both failed. In fact 34 days later the Obama people are still bumbling around trying to figure out what to do. This week they say they are relying on BP expertise after raking BP over the coals the last week.

So rather than go to the disaster area and take charge, Obama is flying over the disaster on the way to multi-million dollar campaign fundraisers in California. Instead of walking the beaches and encouraging workers, many of them volunteers, who are cleaning up the oil he is charging $2,000 a person to join him for cocktails or $35,200 to join him for dinner in San Francisco.

Does this sound vaguely familiar? It should.

Just a few months earlier, in October Obama made his first visit to New Orleans. During the campaign and after taking office as president Obama’s steady criticism of how former President George W. Bush’s administration ignored the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina was a shrewd political move that helped propel him into the White House. Unfortunately, the people of New Orleans only got a photo op and more words, not action, as he quickly hopped the jet for the west coast.

Once safely in lala land with Nancy Pelosi citizens could see the president and actually spend time with him, if they paid $34,000 per couple for dinner with Obama or $1,000 for a concert ticket with him. As he was behind closed doors in San Francisco hobnobbing with contributors the BBC on the other side of the world was announcing that Obama was going to send 45,000 more troops to Afghanistan. Obama did not confirm the exact number of troops until December 2.

Just last month Obama was back in California raising $3 more millions on April 19, just a day before the BP oil rig explosion on April 20. This trip fell between Obama's toothless Nuclear Summit April 12-13 and his speech to Wall Street on April 22.

When things get tough the president heads out for California fundraisers where the millions he rakes in for the political fat cats seems a lot more important than what is happening in the Gulf, or Afghanistan, or the economy.

Had we been paying attention we would know the White House was great at making the president disappear when the heat is on. Back on February 17, 2009, just a couple of weeks after becoming president, Obama signed the controversial economic stimulus bill at a cost of $787 billion. The same day he also announced the $245 billion housing and mortgage bailout which has largely failed.

Quietly the same day the Pentagon, not president, announced a 17,000 troop increase in Afghanistan while Bill Clinton was saying he was not responsible for the economic crisis even though he apologized for allowing his staff to change federal regulations that allowed the economic crisis to happen.

Perhaps our national priorities have suffered from lack of presidential attention and focus but at least the political campaigns are getting all the money they need from Obama. The people of America, it seems, are still waiting to get the president's attention.


Monday, May 24, 2010

European Socialism, the Darling of the Obama White House, Bankrupting the Euro


With the near collapse of the Greek economy and subsequent bailout from the EU partners, the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the US Federal Reserve for a trillion dollars, the nations of Europe might get to catch their collective breath.

If ever there was a need for a clear symbol on what would happen if the Obama redistribution of wealth program got adopted, this is it. Greece goes bankrupt from the deficit burden of the socialist promise of cradle to grave care from the state. Now we find out most of the members of the European Union have far exceeded their allowed deficit and must institute emergency budget cuts.

These are some of the key features of the European style Obamacare being sought by the White House and Democrat controlled Congress.

National Health Insurance
Nationalization of certain insurance, banking and auto industry elements
Nationalization of the housing and commercial mortgage market with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac already siphoning off over a trillion dollars in taxpayer money
New restrictions on energy industry and increased global warming and environmental pressure
Creation of a futures trading market with Goldman Sachs for industrial carbon credits

There are a lot of other things they want as well but you get the general idea. Obama has often cited the socialized programs of Britain, Germany, Canada, Denmark Norway, Switzerland, Finland and the Netherlands as examples of successful socialized social programs.

For decades demographers and economists warned Europe that social welfare was doomed because of the aging of Europe's baby boomers. With most countries now achieving zero population growth, there are not sufficient youth to pay the cost of benefits to the baby boomers as they retire. Still the social welfare states kept adding to the excessive benefits over the years falling deeper and deeper in debt.

Now the nations of Europe face deep cuts and the first round of cuts came by reducing public payrolls and benefits, the least objectionable. They are not nearly enough to achieve the cuts necessary however so cuts to the social welfare programs are next and they will be painful.

Germany is the financial foundation for Europe and it is facing a $3.75 billion budget cut from it's budget. The only way to achieve it is with cuts to the nation's unemployment program, which just went through difficult cuts 5 years ago. Unemployed people under 50 years of age will get 60% of their last salary before taxes, and the benefit lasts up to a year.

Britain's new government is facing $8.6 billion in cuts mostly to government payrolls. Retirement ages to qualify for state pensions are being raised from 60 to 65 for women, and from 65 to 66 for men. The current system that allows people to remain unemployed indefinitely when not looking for work will change to require people to seek employment.

Funding for Britain's nationalized health program is safe for the time but is scheduled to increase each year until 2015. The current $360 payment to families for every newborn, intended to encourage a higher birth rate but largely unsuccessful throughout Europe will be eliminated and child tax credits reduced.

In France people can now retire at age 60 with 50% of their annual salary. The French intend to raise the retirement age like Britain and are bracing for massive union opposition like occurred in Greece.

Spain is cutting billions of dollars in state salaries next month and the socialist government has frozen increases in pensions for cost of living increases for the next two years. Assistance payments for disabled people is being cut by $375 million, the new baby bonus of $3,124.35 per baby is eliminated and the retirement age for men is being raised from 65 to 67.

Denmark and other Nordic countries have the world's highest taxes and most generous cradle to grave benefits and have moved fastest to address long term needs. As a result they also have the lowest unemployment rates and most generous benefits. Norway, whose benefits are fully funded with oil revenues, has the lowest jobless rate in Europe at 3%.

Southern European countries have the most trouble. In Greece civil servants earning over $3,750 per month will lose two extra months of salary now being paid, one at Christmas and another between Easter and summer vacation. They now have to contribute to pensions for 40 years instead of 37 and early retirement cannot be taken before age 60.

To make their cuts Portugal is raising income, corporate and sales taxes, unemployment benefits will be cut and out-of-work must accept any job that pays 10% more than they earn on unemployment.

German public education, which was free until 2005, now allows tuition fees of up to $1,250 per year. All German students pay no more than that to attend state funded universities, including the most elite schools.

The most expensive and elite universities in Britain like Cambridge, charge $4,720 per year which is far less than the elite USA schools like Harvard that charge $35,000 per year.

These are just some of the problems being faced by the social welfare states of Europe and by the way, yes, through the Federal Reserve we are helping to bail out these countries for their excessive socialist spending. Does Obama really think after we underwrite the bailout of the European socialist nations and their failures in redistributing wealth, will we really have any wealth left to redistribute?


Sarah Ferguson Blinded by the Gold - Bribed for Royal Family Influence?


One of our favorite characters from the Princess Diana era of British royalty was quirky Sarah Ferguson, former wife of Prince Andrew, son of Queen Elizabeth. Andrew is Britain's special representative for international trade and investment.

Poor Fergie was caught on tape talking about influence through her former husband and about a bribe of 500,000 pounds, about $750,000. As reported in the British tabloid News of the World, she was caught on tape by a reporter accepting $40,000 cash as a down payment for her efforts.

"Five hundred thousand pounds [approx $750,000] when you can, to me... [to] open doors," Ferguson, 50, says on videotape during a meeting at a swanky London apartment. The British tabloid also printed a transcript of the conversation.

"Then you open up all the channels, whatever you need, whatever you want... We can do so much," she went on. "If you want to meet him in your business, look after me and he'll look after you."

Ferguson, a former Weight Watchers spokeswoman, appears to ask the reporter, who is posing as an international tycoon, for $40,000 in cash, and $720,000 by wire transfer "if you want a deal with Andrew... and then you meet Andrew."

After a pile of money is show on a coffee tape, the duchess puts her head in her hands (it's unclear if she's smiling or crying), and then moments later, hauls away a black computer bag stuffed with the cash, which is described as a fee for "doing the big deal with Andrew."

Ferguson says that Andrew was aware of the deal, but the newspaper says he was not.

"I will listen to the friendship talk between you two. And then I do it... You two talk. I listen. Then I activate," she said. "He meets the most amazing people. And he just throws them my way."

Ferguson wed the Duke of York, who is fourth in line to the throne, in 1986, but they split 10 years later. They are parents to two daughters, Beatrice, 21, and Eugenie, 20.

"He's so amazing," Ferguson says on the videotape. "We're the happiest divorced couple in the world."

The royal family was unavailable to comment. Fergie said in a statement that she had money problems but "that is no excuse for a serious lapse in judgment, and I am very sorry that this has happened. I very deeply regret the situation and the embarrassment caused."

Fergie has lost millions in business ventures (including the closing of her promotional firm, Hartmoor, last year, which she poured $2 million into), but still preferred to travel first class and in a chauffeur-driven Bentley.

Her $3 million contract with Weight Watchers expired in 2007, and according to the Times of London, she had to scale back her lavish 50th birthday party to a family meal because she couldn't afford it.

The only official comment by the Royal family was that she did nothing illegal. Here in America she would be guilty of taking bribes to influence people. Somehow it does not seem right that the Royal family cannot be guilty of accepting bribes in such a blatant case.


The White House must tell the truth about Sestak job offer - did Rahm Emanuel offer a bribe?


One of the talking points Joe Sestak, surprise winner of the Democrat primary in Pennsylvania used to defeat White House backed Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania was that the White House tried to get him out of the race by offering him a job. He even hinted during the campaign that it was the position of Secretary of the Navy, appropriate for a retired Admiral.

However, if what he said was true, then someone in the White House violated a federal law by making the offer and if they offered it to keep him out of the Senate race it was a blatant bride. It seems as if this White House is never far from controversy when it comes to Senate races.

There was a lot of controversy over what happened to Obama's own Senate seat when he was elected president. The Illinois Democrats and ill-fated Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich made a joke of the process and left lingering questions of whether that seat was up for sale and what role White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel played in it, answers that may very well come out in court.

Even long before these potential illegal matters there is the unanswered question about how Obama got his Senate seat in the first place back in 2004. In the Democratic primary he was the underdog and his opponent suddenly withdrew just before the primary. Supposedly he received a multi-million dollar buyout of his business and was in personal trouble for having an affair. By the way, the buyout came through Goldman Sachs. Again in the general election Obama's Republican opponent dropped out of the race before the election because of personal problems, meaning an affair, and he reportedly worked for Goldman Sachs.

I have raised these questions since the campaign for president but none of the traditional media have ever followed up on the stories. One of these days I hope someone in Washington media of Congress has the guts to fact check the earlier Senate race and get to the bottom of the Sestak and Blagojevich senate race bribes.

In the meantime, if there is no misconduct by the White House, and both Robert Gibbs, press secretary and David Axelrod, political director have been on television saying a report was made in the White House and "nothing inappropriate" happened. If that is the case, then release the report. Either the White House or Sestak lied and the truth needs to be released. The last thing we need is another liar in the Senate.