City Slickers

Photo above: City Slickers III. Wind River area, Wyoming. Son Matt, Brother Dave, Son John Paul, Me J.P.

Small Talk

SMALL TALK: View the story of the air rifle that doubled the size of the United States. Fantastic bit of 2nd Amendment history re: Lewis and Clark.

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Spot Gold

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Perfect Storm

The Middle East hiccups and we rush to the emergency room with oil fever. Even the thought of oil being choked off from that area of the world sends the price per barrel soaring and the stock market plummeting. For as long as I can remember, one U.S administration after another has called for a cogent energy policy that would reduce, and even eliminate, our dependence on oil from that area of the world. Instead, over the past several decades, our dependence has grown, rather than lessened. And that very dependence drives and constricts our foreign policy operations, often at the expense of our treasure and blood. The Middle East may be the tail, but it wags the alpha dog of world politics with ease. The question becomes, why have we allowed this to happen? The short answer is bad politics and bad policy. The longer answer is a bit more complex--a perfect storm of diverse interests and groups that have combined together to prevent true energy independence to emerge.

The most powerful business organizations in the world are the mega oil companies. They have invested billions of dollars in ensuring that the flow of oil from the Middle East continues. They are vertically invested, which means they have established a presence in each step of the way from the Middle East to the United States. They are heavily involved in the discovery and exploitation of the oil reserves in that area. They are heavily involved in the shipping of the oil from there to here. They own and operate the giant refineries in the United States and elsewhere. They are involved in the distribution and retail sales of the final products. At each step of the way, they make a profit. For example, a barrel of oil costing $100 will be refined into products worth $135 at the retail level. That is just at the refining and distribution end. They also charge $2.10 a barrel when they ship on their own tankers. (About 16% of the world’s tanker fleet is owned by the mega oil companies). They certainly share in some percentage of the profit at the well head, having cut deals with the Middle Eastern countries for exploration, discovery, and production. Simply put, the major oil companies have a huge vested interest in maintaining the status quo. With their billions in profits annually, they can buy influence in our government by the bag full. They also have an unwitting partner in maintaining the status quo. They are collectively known as “environmentalists.”

The environmental movement in the United States has paralyzed our ability to achieve any semblance of energy independence. They have fought successfully, tooth and nail, to prevent expansion of our nuclear energy capacity. They have prevented exploitation of our natural oil reserves both on land and on the coasts. In the name of a bogus “global warming” they are taking direct aim at our coal industry. And they are not just the Sierra Club, they have managed to infiltrate our government at the Cabinet level and are working hard to regulate the very air we exhale. Our country has vast reserves of oil that could be used to lessen our dependence on Middle Eastern oil. Huge fields of crude oil  in Alaska’s North Slope. There are vast amounts of trapped oil in the Dakotas and the western states. And as a bonus, enough natural gas to fuel our country for the next 100 years. But, in the name of environmental purity, all those resources remain locked up.

The last item of the perfect storm is inertia. Our infrastructure has been built around relatively cheap oil to fire up the industry and commerce of the United States. The internal combustion engine, running on gasoline and diesel cannot be changed overnight to allow the use of alternative sources of energy such as compressed natural gas, wind, and solar and electricity derived from those sources. For the foreseeable future, we remain dependent on oil, and lots of it, to drive our economy.

So there it is. The oil companies have a vested interest to keep things as they are. The Environmentalists have locked the gate to our reserves and thrown away the key. The infrastructure of an oil driven economy is like a super tanker—it takes a long, long time to change direction.

In the next article, I will discuss some ways to get us out of this mess. In the meantime, pray the Middle East remains relatively calm—if it boils over we are going to be looking at $5.00 gas and the shambles of economic recovery.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Good Intentions

Sometimes a sentence grabs you with its simple elegance. In a WSJ article written by Jason L. Riley, entitled “The State against Blacks”, he quotes his interviewee, Walter Williams as saying, “I learned (as a graduate student) that you have to evaluate the effects of public policy as opposed to intentions.” Let me repeat that.

You have to evaluate the effects of public policy as opposed to intentions.

Most laws and public policies start out with good-intentioned politicians trying to live up to their role in promoting the general welfare of our people under the terms of the Constitution.  Here are some examples.

Health care. Provide for the millions of un-insured people in this country.
Housing. Make housing affordable to all our citizens.
Energy. Achieve energy independence.
Education. Provide high quality education to all.
Individual rights. Equality in all things.
Environment. Provide a clean and healthy environment for the people.

These are just a few examples of the good public policy goals that well-intentioned politicians try to accomplish for the people of this country. Although we can all agree that all are laudable intentions, it is important to measure the effects in order to evaluate just how well they have promoted the general welfare of the people under our Constitution. I’ll take them one at a time.

Health care. Effect: Will place the best health system in the world under the control of big government. Many think that is a good thing. More think not.

Housing. Effect: Good intentioned legislation and regulation designed to make affordable housing available to most Americans led to the housing bubble, crash, and the current recession.

Energy. Effect:  After fifty years, more  dependent on foreign oil. (See Environment, below)

Education. Effect: An education system that loses ground every year in performance ratings. 

Individual rights: Effect: The murder of thousands of unborn children a year.

Environment: Effect: Regulation of the air we breathe out. Loss of jobs by the thousands.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not just anti-government, as perhaps the list above would indicate. There have been other public policies that have been very successful, when judged by their effects. For example, Social Security (at least to this point), OSHA, National Park System, Airline De-Regulation, NASA, the development of the Internet, and many, many others.

The only problem with measuring public policy by its effects, and not its intentions, is that intentions are here and now, and effects are measured only in the future. For example, the arguments against Obama care are couched in what the opponents think will happen in the future. To paraphrase Nancy Pelosi, “We have to wait until it happens before we’ll know if it is as bad as we think.”

By that time, it will be too late.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011


The 2012 presidential campaign officially kicks off off on January 25th with the State of The Union speech by the Chameleon in Chief. With reptilian smoothness, he will ooze back into campaign mode after two years of hard nosed, left wing accomplishments that left the body politic reeling in wonder at its boldness and blatant agenda. Once again we will be treated to high flown rhetoric, full of hope and change and appeals for non partisan governance. Like the Chameleon, Obama can change political colors at will, and will do so because he desperately needs to win a second term.

The stunning rebuke of his agenda in the November elections, in his view, was only a minor setback to the long term goals held by he and his cronies Pelosi and Reid. But he knows he has to recast his image in order to survive the next election, thus the Obama of the campaign trail will be in evidence from this point forward. Smooth platitudes will roll off his lips with practiced ease--the old Obama returns like an old soldier to the scene of his victories. What swept him into the White House was his promise to govern like a moderate. When he actually governed like the far left liberal that he is, the people rose up and delivered a shellacking.   Now he will go back to pretending he is a moderate after all, and given the gullibility of the American voter, he may just pull it off.

And if he does--watch out. He will be a lame duck President from the day he is sworn in  for his second term, and the real Obama will re-emerge with a vengeance. Currently, our economic system is in shambles, our national debt is growing with horrible certainty on the road to disaster, and our leadership in the world is being challenged from all sides. All that in just two years of liberal governance. Just imagine what the Chameleon will be able to do with six more years.

We were fooled once--shame on him. If we are fooled twice--shame on us.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

World's Easiest (And Maybe Best) Lemon Pie

Taking a break from the political wars--time to recharge, rethink, and review the sorry state of what passes for political discourse these days.

Here is absolutely the easiest way to make a fantastic lemon pie in about five minutes. My thanks to Wendy for the recipe.

One thin-skin medium lemon, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces, skin and all, seeds removed. Fresh off the tree is best, but for those who don't live in CA, AZ, or FL go to your best produce food store.
4 eggs (I recommend removing the shells, unlike the lemon rind)
1 1/2 cups Sugar
1 Stick melted butter (8 TBSP)
1 Tsp vanilla
1 ready made 9 inch pie shell unbaked

In a blender, combine lemon, eggs, butter, sugar, and vanilla and mix at high speed until smooth and creamy. It will seem a bit runny, but will be just fine.

Pour mixture into pie shell.

Bake about 40  minutes at 350 degrees F, until center quits jiggling.

Cool and eat.

For those who prefer more tart, reduce sugar to 1 cup.

Surprise your spouse or sig other or roomie with this one. Guaranteed Brownie points.

JP  (If you try this recipe, how about letting me know how it turned out for you. Email me

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Are You Prepared?

I suppose you watched the news yesterday evening and today. Huge winter storm hits the central and northeast part of the country. Traffic snarled. Numerous power outages. People flocking to the supermarket to stock up. Sitting in front of my cozy pellet stove out here in Utah, with the temperature dropping to single digits, I was inwardly pleased to know that should the power suddenly go off line, I would remain cozy and warm and well fed even if the outage lasted a week or two. How many of you would be able to have that same confidence? I’ll bet there are many people out east right now, with power lines down due to the storm, who wished they had prepared a little better for such a situation. We are so used to living on the grid that any disruption of the grid can become a huge problem to the average citizen--that is, unless they are prepared.

And being prepared is easy to do, not that expensive, and provides a sense of safety and satisfaction in knowing you can carry on in the face of any disaster, whether man made or by nature. Think like a Boy Scout--Be Prepared. The following is an outline of how to get yourself set.

You need the following essentials to weather any calamity. I’ll take them one at a time.
    1. Shelter
    2. Water
    3. Food

With the temperatures hovering around 10 degrees where I live, shelter is essential should the grid drop off. Your house is a great shelter, but it will be pretty miserable if after a week the internal temperature drops to that of the outside temperature. I have solved that problem by having a pellet stove, a month’s supply of wood pellets, and a means to power the auger and blower on the stove. To do this, I built and installed my own solar panels, batteries, and inverter that will provide near continuous power during the day, and half the night. But you don’t have to be that elaborate. A small gasoline driven generator/inverter out in the garage or back yard can provide the emergency power you need to drive space heaters, electric blankets, and basic electric cooking appliances. My solar system cost me less than $500 complete, and a utility generator with 3500 peak watts runs less than $500 at Costco. Could be the best investment you would ever make.

Water is essential to life. Period. In order to survive, you must have drinking and cooking water. Each person requires one gallon of water per day for drinking and sanitation. Be sure you have at least two weeks supply on hand. Should the grid go down, many municipal water systems would not be able to guarantee drinkable water. It would be a good idea to have water purification tablets on hand. Plain liquid bleach, at the rate of 8 drops per gallon, will do in a pinch.   Collecting rainwater by erecting a tarp, or catching downspout water is a good way to replenish drinkable water. : How to purify water.

Finally, food. Nobody wants to go on a forced diet during an emergency. Most people have enough food to last a week or two, but remember if you drop off the grid you may not have the ability to refrigerate your perishables, unless of course you have a garage like mine that is colder than a refrigerator.  And, you need a way to cook your food without gas or electricity. With a generator, an electric skillet, rice cooker, and tea pot will get you by. A small, liquid fueled Coleman Camp Stove is perfectly adequate for meal preparation. A good iron Dutch Oven with a couple bags of charcoal briquettes will go a long way in producing hearty meals. I have found that planning and storing food supplies is fairly easy if you pretend that you are going on a two week camping trip and stock up accordingly.

Finally, it goes without saying that you should have the following: Emergency crank radio, first aid kit, flashlights with lots of extra batteries, candles, and a good supply of your critical medications.

For quite a bit less than a thousand dollars, you can prepare yourself and your family for what is happening to a lot of folks back east right now. Don’t you think it is time to quit thinking about being prepared, and actually do something?


Monday, January 10, 2011

Stop The Bickering

It is human nature to assign a rational framework to irrational acts. We are bewildered when the scope of someone’s violent  actions far exceeds our ability to comprehend their behavior. Senseless violence cannot remain senseless, we must create a rational framework to explain the act. Thus, the intense examination of the person and motives behind the Tucson shooter  is well underway and will continue for as long as it takes for a consensus to develop in the body politic.

It has been two days since the horrible event in Tucson. We know next to nothing about the shooter or his motives but the news organizations are frantically gathering bits and pieces of his background in order to start the process of making sense out of this senseless act. The authorities, as authorities always do in these situations, are playing it close to the vest. We are left with reporting that ranges from the factual to wild conjecture. And as always, again a human trait, the event has become politicized, particularly since the prime victim was a political figure. So the finger- pointing begins, left versus right, and that very usual reaction to this tragedy becomes a story in itself. Lest it become the story, I think it is important to understand that each person will attempt to understand this irrational act through the prism of one’s beliefs.

 As a conservative, I find the statements of the Sheriff of Pima County, Paul Krugman, and Jane Fonda irrational in that they ascribe blame to right wing media and conservative groups like the Tea Party. However, they are only acting in accordance with their beliefs and should be ignored rather than vilified. The right wing media, in turn, doth protest too much, but again, it is the nature of their belief system to do so.

I say stop the bickering over this side issue and concentrate on arriving at a true understanding of the tragedy in Tucson. Time and patient investigation will eventually replace conjecture with facts, and with that, understanding.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Great Day for America

I watched the TV today as the House of Representatives read the Constitution, Republican and Democrat alike. I admit I got a lump in my throat. Years ago, I raised my right hand and took an oath to support and defend our Constitution. At the time, it was just another formality on the road to becoming an officer and pilot in the U.S.
Air Force. I have since come to understand what that oath really meant--a commitment to support and defend the single most important document in the history of governments, where the consent of the governed took primacy over the rule of those who governed. A few idiots disparaged the reading as a propaganda move by the new Republican majority. But what I saw, Democrat and Republican alike, was our representatives proudly reading their parts, and perhaps for some of them, the first time they realized just how privileged they are to not only take the oath, but to participate in reaffirming the power of that wonderful document to insure our freedom.