This Modern Age

Archive for June 2008

ANWR: The Miracle of Directional Drilling

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Jonah Goldberg, of National Review fame, wrote a piece on ANWR that was originally published  in 2001.  But now with $4/gallon gas drilling ANWR is again the topic du jour I thought I would go back and reread it. 

Amidst Jonah’s natural wit and humor there was one part of the description of the drilling that struck me:

Opponents of drilling are absolutely right: Oil exploration isn’t pretty. The Alpine site looks like a few gravel parking lots connected by a gravel road. There’s industrial piping piled up and corrugated trailers and loading paddocks everywhere. The whole place looks like the floor of one of those giant construction pits before they put up a skyscraper in downtown New York. But what the opponents are reluctant to acknowledge is that the place is tiny: The entire Alpine installation, including living quarters for up to 700 people, covers less than 100 acres (97, to be exact). Those 100 acres represent two-tenths of 1 percent of the 40,000-acre oilfield. The drilling that once would have required perhaps a dozen wells, spread out across the tundra, now requires only one.

This is the miracle of directional drilling, a relatively new technology that environmentalist ideologues are loath to admit even exists, because it runs completely counter to the earth-gouging stereotypes of yesteryear. Directional drilling makes it possible to drill in virtually any direction for miles. Indeed, the drilling can go down hundreds of feet, then sideways, then upwards again, like a fishhook. Don’t think of an oil well as a straw, but as an octopus, with tentacles stretching out in all directions. If the Washington Monument were an absurdly tall directional oil well, it could extract oil from underneath the Bethesda suburbs, Arlington National Cemetery, and the Capitol dome – without waking up a sleeping Bethesda baby, rattling an Arlington headstone, or knocking Tom DeLay’s bullwhip from the wall.

 Well, what do you know?  

If you don’t want to trust the authority of Wikipedia to verify this technology, a Google Search for “directional drilling” yields hundreds of thousands of results. 

Honestly, I wasn’t terribly concerned about footprint that could have been left behind in this minor part of ANWR.  However, it is interesting to know that the impact of drilling is significantly less than many of us would have ever imagined. 

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June 27, 2008 at 5:23 pm

John McCain’s Character

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The BBC is reporting that John McCain’s former Vietnamese POW captor is endorsing him for President of the United States.

The following from Tran Trong Duyet struck me:

I think he’d make a very capable president. He’s done so much to improve relations between our two countries.

Tran Trong Duyet

Senator McCain, for all of his flaws, must have a remarkable heart and character.  While the Vietnamese still deny torturing any POWs (a claim that is hard to believe and McCain personally disputes), any POW experience must be hard to forgive. 

The BBC also reports that Cindy McCain was in Vietnam for a charity mission last week. 

Such forgiveness should be modeled and admired. 

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June 26, 2008 at 6:53 pm

Kennedy v. Louisiana: Justice Kennedy

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The death penalty is not a proportional punishment for the rape of a child.

          Justice Anthony Kennedy

Thank you to Justice Kennedy for framing the embodiment of judicial activism in your majority decision of Kennedy v. Louisiana.  It is not the Supreme Court’s stated job to decide what is and is not proportional.  Anyone is welcome to double check me on that one. 

Justice Kennedy – The question that was put to you is whether the death penalty is Constitutional or not.  Instead, you decided to rule on the “the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society”.  Really?  So, now the Supreme Court is going to be our societal arbitrator for decency? 

So, we are now a more decent and mature society because we will not impose capital punishment on an individual guilty of child rape (click the link for a description of the committed crime), to quote Justice Alito in the dissent, “no matter how young the child, no matter how many times the child is raped, no matter how many children the perpetrator rapes, no matter how sadistic the crime, no matter how much physical or psychological trauma is inflicted, and no matter how heinous the perpetrator’s prior criminal record may be?”

Understanding Poverty in the United States – Part I

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Poverty is always a hot button issue in heavy political cycles.  And truth be told, we are directly called by our Creator to care for the poor.  In fact, the poor should directly effect how we pray, where we spend our money and time and how we vote.

But there are fundamental questions that must answered to deal appropriately with poverty: A) Who are the poor? B) What should be done for the poor?

We are better served to learn who are the poor before we gain a solid understanding of what should be done to help. 

In 2004, Robert Rector and Kirk Johnson published their study on poverty based on the U.S. Census data

The following graphic from their study illuminates the material condition of the poor households in America relative to all American households. 

Interestingly, the first two statistics are based on full and prompt payment.  While obviously some the deficiency of poor households is due to cash flow problems, the category allows room for lack of organization and slothfulness – trust me, I have paid bills late myself simply because I lost track of them. 

Another telling statistic is the eviction percentage.  While we hear of the dramatic increase foreclosures in recent months, these 2004 figures are negligible for poor households – and I would be surprised if they have increased in a statistically significant environment in 2008. 

While there are obvious discrepancies between the poor and non-poor, the plight of the poor does not appear to be as dire as we might sometimes imagine.  

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June 26, 2008 at 12:21 pm

On Discussion & Education – Part I

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Discussion is the highest point of education because it is so suitable to human nature.  As wonderful a discipline as writing is, it more removed from natural human interaction than discussion.  First, writing is a complete action.  Any event or thought that is being written should be complete.  The consequence of this is that the writer cannot be involved in the daily flow of life as it happens while he is writing.  Further, no written work is perfect.  There will always be confusion about the use of particular terms, and sometimes the writer’s message may be entirely lost to the reader.  This is much less likely to be a problem in a discussion. 

In a discussion men may always ask questions to have terms and arguments clarified for him.  During a discussion mistakes may be corrected and forgiven and ideas may be explored because there is no material evidence of what is said.  This free form of learning truly lends itself to men being more active in their own education because discussion demonstrates thought and can foster and further it.  It only follows that men should become more free through discussion rather than through the removed activities of reading and writing. 

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June 26, 2008 at 8:25 am

President Reagan on Military

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There are some who’ve forgotten why we have a military.  Its not to promote war; it’s to be prepared for peace.

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June 25, 2008 at 5:23 am

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Reading Presidential Polling Data

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Over the next 130 something days we are going to get a lot of polling data and analysis.  But it all needs to be kept in perspective.

My good friend, Tim Carney offered the greatest advice on polling data four years ago.  “Pollsters always ask, ‘If the election were held today…’.  The truth is, if the election were held today, no one would show up.   Everyone thinks it’s in November.” 

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June 23, 2008 at 6:53 pm