Virtual Front Page, Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Your top stories at this hour:
  1. Panel Sharply Raises Estimate of Oil Spilling Into the Gulf (NYT) — Remember how they were saying it was like an Exxon Valdez every week? Now it’s more like every four days. Interesting, and important, but weak as a lede.
  2. Obama to Call for Broad Energy Action (WSJ) — From the Oval Office tonight. If only it had happened already, THIS would be my lede.
  3. McMaster endorses Haley (thestate.com) — Thereby showing that of all of them, Henry McMaster is the real Republican in this race, the True Believer in Reagan’s 11th Commandment. Party solidarity uber alles.
  4. Petraeus Faints During Hearing (WashPost) — But he seems to be OK now.
  5. U.S. Man Arrested for ‘Hunting’ Bin Laden (WSJ) — American construction worker arrested in northwestern Pakistan “with a sword, a pistol and night-vision goggles.” Which is a shame, because this dude was obviously ready.
  6. AT&T, Apple Struggle to Handle iPhone Orders (WSJ) — So evidently, the economy’s not hurting TOO badly…

18 thoughts on “Virtual Front Page, Tuesday, June 15, 2010

  1. bud

    I wasn’t crazy about the president’s speech. I wanted to see some hard figures for renewables and a plan to end drilling in the deepwater.

    It was interesting that I learned the most watching Governor Barber from MS. He stated that 30% of all US oil production comes from the Gulf. And 80% of that comes from deepwater wells. The shallow water wells are essentially used up.

    What that means is that about 1/4 of US oil and nearly 1/8 of all the oil we use is deepwater oil. It is an established fact that deepwater wells peak and decline rapidly. Hence whether we continue drilling or not American oil will drop rapidly once we run out of deepwater sites. Its just a geological fact. Barber missed the implications of this. He suggested we push forward with more deepwater drilling. That’s just a foolish game of delaying the inevetible by a very short time while risking more catastrophies in the future.

    So with that background in mind it was disappointing that the president was not more strident in pushing for fossil fuel alternatives such as wind, solar and yes nuclear. Otherwise we will simply become more dependent on foreign oil. And even that is running out soon. The giant Gawhar field in Saudi Arabia has been in production since the early 1950s.

    There are additional points that can be made such as the increasing energy cost involved in producing oil in ever deeper water. What that means is a barrel of deepwater oil is not the NET equivalent of a barrel of west Texas oil.

    At the end of the day the future cannot be ignored any longer. We will need to reduce our use of oil. It will happen, one way or the other. Let’s do it in a way that will not ruin our great nation. The stakes are high and we need to act. Too bad good policy makes for bad politics and visa versa.

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  2. bud

    The president wants to set up an escrow account to pay for the victims of the Deepwater Horizon spill. Why not propose a environmental impact tax on gasoline? I’d suggest about $1 gallon to pay the victims of this disaster and to offset the costs of the wars we fight to keep the oil flowing from overseas. Anything leftover could go toward building the electric grid to make it feasible to build wind turbines in windy Texas and the Dakotas. We’ve been subsidizing big oil for too long. Now it’s time to get some back. (Yet another example of how the rich benefit from taxes. What poor person drives a Hummer).

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  3. Brad

    You know I’m all for that! That’s a major plank on the Energy Party platform. I’ve also thought it was one of THE most devastating criticisms any Democrat ever threw at George W. Bush. Joe Biden said this to me once (actually, he said it to me three or four times; Joe repeats himself a good deal) — that the great failing of the Bush Administration, the greatest missed opportunity for true leadership, was when the president failed to go before the nation on Sept. 12, 2001 and announce that he was going to ask Congress for a massive tax on gasoline.

    To which I said, each time, amen to that, Joe.

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  4. Doug Ross

    If you really want to screw the poor people in this state, raise the gas tax by a dollar. Aside from the added direct cost to fill your car, the cost of every single item that is delivered via transportation will see its cost rise.

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  5. Brad

    Yeah, Doug, we all know that argument, you bleeding heart, you.

    But I still think we should do it. Everybody, rich and poor, would benefit in the long run.

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  6. Doug Ross

    It has nothing to do with being a bleeding heart. It’s common sense. You raise the cost of gas, people will have fewer dollars in their pocket and their will be a downstream effect. The impact on retail sales would be huge. The impact on tourism would be huge.

    It’s a pie in the sky idea that doesn’t have any plan behind it.

    I’ve got a better idea – if we truly think energy is an important issue, take the #$#%#% money from the defense budget and from foreign aid. Funnel the money that would have gone into adding even more firepower to our current overwhelming level into something that has a useful purpose.

    Just like with the South Carolina budget, somebody has to decide what the priorities are and the answer can’t be “Everything fro Everybody”.

    I’d rather see the government give Warren Buffett and Bill Gates $100 billion dollars to address the energy problem than to watch the government blow through it with an Innovista-style boondoggle.

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  7. Brad

    I was just joshing with you there a bit, Doug.

    Now I’m going to say something that might REALLY insult you, though, and if it does I apologize. But you know what? As much as you disdain legislators, you’d be a good one. You see what you just did? You saw that Bud and I were aligned on something that you disagreed with us both on (which doesn’t happen all that often; seems like you could let us enjoy it this once), so you very deftly made a proposal tailor-made to peel away Bud’s vote: You proposed to get the money instead from the Pentagon.

    Brilliant maneuver, sir.

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  8. Bart

    Brad, David, & bud,

    I hope the hell you have the money to pay an extra dollar a gallon. I sure don’t and I don’t know many who do. We, my wife and I, have to watch our income as it is. And it is getting tighter and tighter.

    As Doug said, then, where do we get the money to pay for the massive increase in everything else we buy, because, in case you forgot, goods are delivered by planes, trains, and trucks, not mule and wagon.

    Jimmy Carter started the Department of Energy during his administration solely for the purpose of developing alternative sources of energy. What do we have to show for it after 30 years and billions upon billions spent each year? Just another government agency draining funds from tax revenues and producing nothing.

    First, clean out the excess and waste in government, then develop sensible programs that will help us become energy independent.

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  9. David

    To be honest, Bart, a big increase in the gas tax would make me nervous. I’m not 100% for it, but I do lean that way heavily.

    Our nation’s government needs more revenue to deal with our deficit issues. That’s just a fact. We’ll never get there by eliminating government waste and excess alone — it’s politically unfeasible. Gas taxes are about as broad as you can get and I think at this point our country would be better off taxing consumption rather than income and investment more than we already do. But that’s not even the real issue for me. If gasoline imposes certain costs to our society, why shouldn’t the price at the pump reflect that? Why, Bart, do we have a shitfit when oil pollutes our oceans and coast but not when it pollutes our air? What sense does that make?

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  10. Kathryn Fenner

    There is not much excess and waste in state and local government.

    Increasing the price of fuel does impact the poor disproportionately. That is why we have government agencies to ameliorate the impact–but no, we’re going to starve them to death.

    Good public transportation could soften the impact on those who cannot afford cars. Vote yes on the one cent tax in Richland County!

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  11. Doug Ross

    John Stewart had a very funny bit last night showing each President going all the way back to Nixon speaking to the American public on the need to break our dependence on foreign oil.

    As long as the oil companies have lobbyists who can line the pockets of politicians, we’ll never see the traction necessary to make that happen.

    Still waiting for Obama to do something that distinguishes him from George Bush. Looks like we’ve got another photo op Presidency.

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  12. Bart

    @David,

    FWIW – I do not disagree with the changes that reduce pollution of the atmosphere. Emissions from fossil fuel are dangerous but over the past 20 years plus, stides have been made to reduce pollutants and the air quality is improving, without adding massive taxes to fuel.

    If the government was actually serious, from “BOTH” sides, the trucks I follow on the interstate would have much stricter emission standards than they do. States, with the assistance from the federal government, would have some actual teeth in the vehicle inspection programs that are slowly being abandoned across the country. The promises made over 30 years ago should be a reality by now. However, Republicans and Democrats dragged their feet, were influenced or bought off by special interests, oil and automotive, and the real work was never done. Instead, we have another agency that sucks billions and billions down the drain every year and produce little or nothing. Efficient government at work!!

    The reason for the “shitfit” is not that people don’t object to air pollution, its because the oil spill is a highly visible, a major 24/7 news story, photogenic, emotion evoking, political opportunism disaster. A disaster that does not occur every day. There is a huge difference between the two when you can’t see images of birds, fish, marsh grasses, beaches, and humans covered with air pollution but on television plus internet coverage of the oil spill, the images of the consequences of the spill are very real and are broadcast and discussed around the clock.

    There is a camera showing the gusher broadcasting 24/7. It is a disturbing and provocative image that does evoke strong emotions from any caring human being. It is difficult to be pragmatic and allow reason to overcome passion under the circumstances. Instead of a small area being affected, the Valdez spill in Alaska, this one will affect every person in America and Britian directly.

    Hopefully, you get my point. Unfortunately, we normally don’t fear what we cannot see unless we are prone to believe in ghosts. But, when you can see the slowly developing effects of this disaster, a certain fear gets into our psyche’ and the longer the gusher spews oil into the Gulf, the greater the fear and the longer the nation will be affected by the aftermath.

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  13. David

    The reason for the “shitfit” is not that people don’t object to air pollution, its because the oil spill is a highly visible, a major 24/7 news story, photogenic, emotion evoking, political opportunism disaster.

    Absolutely. And that’s my point. Everyone recognizes the damages from the oil spill. No one objects to having the responsible party have to pay to clean it up. But the air pollution is no less harmful just because we can’t see it and there’s no 24/7 media coverage of it. So why is there the objection to making the responsible party pay for it? That’s all a gas tax is, right?

    You lament the failure of our government to solve this problem after 30 years and billions of dollars worth of trying. Wouldn’t a gas tax put the burden of solving the problem on the private interests who would like to avoid paying the higher tax, meanwhile internalizing the societal costs, such as air pollution, of burning fossil fuels?

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  14. Bart

    O.K., the government now owns and controls a major financial interest in two of the three automobile manufacturers. The ball is now in the federal government’s court.

    What steps are being taken to demand or insure engines designed in the immediate future are as pollution free as humanly possible? We hear about great gas mileage on flex fuel cars, cars that run on battery and fuel, and a few other options but is there a mandate from the government controlled auto companies to immediately make wholesale changes to eliminate harmful emissions and improve fuel mileage?

    At this point, Ford is the more responsive and responsible of the three. Ford did not turn to the government for survival.

    Wouldn’t it make more sense, economically, to accelerate the building of new vehicles to meet stricter emission and mileage standards, paid for when they are bought at the point of sale, not paid for again, again, and again at the pump? A repetitive payment at the pump by the average citizen who will continue to struggle to pay for basic necessities of life.

    Most of us make monthly automobile payments, well, except maybe for Doug, and payments are built into our budgets. Wildly fluxuating prices at the pump reap havoc on any fixed income budget. We simply do not need another burden added to already stressed resources.

    Eventually, all older vehicles will be cycled out of service and the new models become the norm. The polluters will be gone at some point. Their impact on atmospheric polution lessened each passing year. That was the original plan. Again, government, BOTH sides of the aisle, failed to follow through. Why should we have to continue to pay the price for gross incompetence by career politicians and feed an ever expanding government payroll, supported by our tax dollars?

    My wife and I have had to make cuts in our budget, our family and friends have done the same, my neighbors as well. The same scenario is taking place in most homes across this nation and this latest disaster will result in even higher prices at the pump without adding another tax. Simple economics.

    Are we wrong to expect the government to do the same? Is the government not expected to make sacrifices as well? Is expanding the government into the largest employer in the country not enough? Is the fact that government employees now enjoy higher average salaries not enough?

    Just when is enough, enough?

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  15. Kathryn Fenner

    “Government” is not a monolithic entity. There are various entities–federal, state, local and miscellaneous, and people performing services of varying degrees of importance. People in government jobs usually do not make anywhere near what they could in the private sector, and have been effectively cut for years by not getting raises to keep up with inflation, and so on. They simply aren’t in the same boat as privately employed people. I don’t believe that government workers are earning higher average salaries than people in comparable jobs in the private sector, if such comparable jobs exist.

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  16. Bart

    Sorry Kathryn, I was referring to the federal government. Apologize for the oversight. The following article may help. It is from last year, December 2009.

    “””WASHINGTON, D.C. (YBH.ME) – The internet news machine is abuzz this morning over a USA TODAY article in which it is revealed that federal workers earn an average salary of $71,206 vs. $40,331 for private sector employees. While those numbers are striking, an even more disconnected figure is available.

    According to the CATO Institute, when benefits are included, federal workers earn far more than those in the private sector and the disparity is growing.

    The CATO study, released in September, puts the average federal civilian salary with benefits at $119,982 vs. $59,909 for the private sector. Federal government employees now earn fully double that of their private sector countrymen. In 2004, the average federal employee made two-thirds more than a person employed in the private sector according to CATO. The rate of disparity is growing rapidly. Total federal employee compensation grew 57% from 2004-2008 and just 30.8% in the private sector over the same period.

    Neither CATO or USA TODAY explored the non-financial compensation aspects of either group, such as job security, guaranteed wage increases, and pension security. Taking all three into account, federal government jobs would become even more valuable as the government doesn’t often shrink while private sector jobs ebb and flow on a more consistent basis.

    CATO figures used in their analysis are from The Bureau of Economic Analysis. The USA TODAY study analyzed data from the Office of Personnel Management’s database. The different data sources and methodology account for slight differences in each report’s base numbers.”””

    And the federal payroll keeps growing, and growing, and growing while the private sector payroll keeps shrinking, and shrinking, and shrinking.

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