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

Obama: The Anti-Iraq War Candidate?

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The Washington Post (hardly a tool of the GOP) ran an editorial piece on a conversation that occurred between Sen. Obama and Iraq’s Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari. 

While Sen. Obama ran his campaign to the left of Hillary on the Iraq War, making strong comments on troop withdrawls and such, he is ready to start campaigning a little different now.  Now it’s time for all of the neat ideals of the primary season to be adjusted.

According to the Post, Zebari was very clear on the high cost of a rapid withdrawl of American troops:

We have a deadly enemy, when he sees you commit yourself to a certain timetable, he will use it to increase pressure and attacks, to make it look as though he is forcing you out.  We have many actors who would love to take advantage of that opportunity.

But it sounds like Sen. Obama is revisiting reality on the issue.  Rather than committinig to forfeiting the Iraq War, Sen. Obama’s response was:

If there would be a Democratic administration, it will not take any irresponsible, reckless, sudden decisions or actions to endanger your gains, your achievements, your stability or security.  Whatever decision he will reach will be made through close consultation with the Iraqi government and U.S. military commanders in the field.

Zebaris’ conclusion was “[he] might not differ all that much from Mr. McCain.” 

Ouch! Not quite what The Left was looking for. 

 

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June 20, 2008 at 6:53 pm

ANWR – Drill It

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The argument about ANWR comes down to 2,000 acres.  That might seem like a lot of land at first glance, but ANWR itself is roughly 19.0 million acres and 17.5 of that is absolutely permanently closed to development.

And further, look at that map – it’s the northern most part of Alaska.  It’s not the gorgeous part of ANWR that the media loves to show pictures of.  In fact, it’s literally like a level of Hell in Dante’s Inferno.  These 2,000 acres are flat, tree-less and it reaches about -110 degrees fahrenheit with wind chill during the winter.  Did someone have better plans for this area?  A park or tourist area? 

Indeed, back in the 80s – before Illogical Environmentalist was chic – the Washington Post editorial board is credited with saying ANWR is:

one of the bleakest, most remote places on this continent, and there is hardly any other where drilling would have less impact on surrounding life. . . .

Drill It

Translated into the vernacular: Common haircuts do more permanent damage than what is being proposed for going into ANWR to drill for oil. 

For more on domestic drilling in the OCS (Outer Continental Shelf) click here.

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June 16, 2008 at 1:52 am

Electoral College Outlook: McCain 270, Obama 268

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An UPDATE of the Electoral College Outlook Can Be Found In This Link.

The country can argue about politics and theory all it wants, but eventually it comes down to solid, old fashioned arithmetic.  The problem that the Democratic Party is facing – and would have also faced with Hillary as the nominee – is, what States can they win that Gore and Kerry could not carry in 2000 and 2004?

Tim Carney is a long time friend of mine and one of the best political forecasters in Washington D.C. – he’s nailed all of the recent elections to the wall.  In a recent Evans-Novak Political Report Tim predicts the Electoral College going to McCain over Obama by 270 to 268.  Granted, that is a razor thin margin, but it seems to represent the current political climate. 

Carney sums up the Presidential race:

The electoral map looks nearly identical to 2004, with Iowa and Colorado swinging into the Democratic camp. Beneath the surface, however, we see Michigan and Pennsylvania becoming more competitive for Republicans.

The election will hinge on two regions: Lake Erie and the Mountain West. An Obama win in New Mexico or Nevada would be enough to tip the scales, but a McCain win in Pennsylvania could put the race out of reach. In the end, as always, it comes down to Ohio, where Obama’s weakness among rural whites could send McCain to the White House.

 

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June 14, 2008 at 7:27 pm