Saturday, August 31, 2013

‘The President’s All-of-the-Above Energy Strategy’ and Other Self-Delusions

We’ve been having area-wide lease sales over the same portions of the Gulf of Mexico for the last 30 years. Despite this week’s tepid response at the Western GoM Sale (shelf and deepwater offshore Texas, mostly), the press release from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management would have you thinking it was a smashing success.

Western Gulf of Mexico Lease Sale Yields $102.4 Million in High Bids on More Than 300,000 Acres

As part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy to continue to expand safe and responsible domestic energy production, the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management today held Western Gulf of Mexico Lease Sale 233, . . . [blah, blah, blah & etc.]
But the Oil and Gas Journal cuts through the self-congratulatory baloney:

Lackluster western gulf lease sale draws $102 million in bids

The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s western Gulf of Mexico Lease Sale 233 offshore Texas netted $102,351,712 in apparent high bids—less than the first two sales in the Obama administration’s Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas leasing program for 2012–17.
Twelve offshore companies submitted 61 bids for 53 tracts covering 301,006 acres. Nearly 21 million acres were available for oil and natural gas exploration and development.
It was even worse than that. Two adjoining blocks accounted for fully 50% of the total high bids. Almost all of the action was in deepwater, and few blocks drew bids that substantially exceeded the minimum bid level. Only four, count ‘em four, shelf blocks drew any bidding attention at all.
In fairness, the shelf in the Western Gulf is gas-prone, and gas prices are historically low compared to oil. But industry’s tepid response to the sale also reflects concern about Interior’s increasingly stifling and costly approach to regulation.
Also this week we were graced with a blog post from White House economic advisors Jason Furman and Gene Sperling (AFAIK no relation to the Hair Club for Men guy). The thrust of it is taking credit for the positive impact that the energy sector has had on GDP growth, the balance of trade and on job creation. I’ll only comment about a couple of their more noteworthy claims, which have become talking points for the Administration:
The President established a national goal in 2011 to reduce oil imports by one third by 2020 and elevated the goal in 2012 to reduce them by one half by 2020We are currently on track to meet this ambitious goal if we continue to follow through on the policies that are critical to achieving it.
That’s accompanied by this graph:
EIA overview


Fourth-grade students in Illinois are learning that “government is like a nation’s family” because it sets rules and takes care of needs such as health care and education.
So says a worksheet for social studies homework that was distributed to students at East Prairie School in Skokie, Ill, complete with a drawing of Uncle Same cradling a baby that represents the citizens.
Illinois School Defends Government = Family Homework
The worksheet distributed to fourth-graders at East Prairie School in Skokie, Ill.
Students are then prompted to answer 10 questions comparing government and families, including how their family provides for their health care needs and how the government does the same, and what rules families set and what rules government sets.
The worksheet it titled, “What is Government?” and then goes on to answer that question.
“Government is all of the agencies, departments, organizations, groups, individuals in a nation who make, carry out, enforce, and manage conflicts about rules and laws,” the worksheet says.

President Obama responds to Daily Caller request for comment

Barack Obama, president of the United States, personally responded to a Daily Caller request for comment.
“Dear Patrick: Thank you for writing,” President Obama wrote in an email to this reporter in response to a days-old inquiry regarding his administration’s use of the term “shared responsibility payment” to refer to the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate penalty.
President Obama presumably wrote the letter from the White House, where he lives with the first lady and daughters Sasha and Malia.
“I have heard from many Americans regarding our health care system and the Affordable Care Act, and I appreciate your perspective,” President Obama wrote.
“Basically, there are two main things the American people need to know about the Affordable Care Act and what it means,” President Obama wrote near the top of the nine-paragraph letter.
“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, American workers and families can feel more secure knowing that they can get the care they need at prices they can afford,” President Obama concluded, notifying The Daily Caller about other government websites where we can learn about the Affordable Care Act.
President Obama is the 44th president of the United States. He grew up in Hawaii, attended Columbia University, and worked as a community organizer in Chicago before he became president.
“I have not made a decision” yet on whether or not to attack the nation of Syria, President Obama said several hours before sending The Daily Caller a letter.

The Gender Wage Gap Lie

Men and woman in the workplace. You know that “women make 77 cents to every man’s dollar” line you’ve heard a hundred times? It’s not true.

How many times have you heard that “women are paid 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men”? Barack Obama said it during his last campaign. Women’s groups say it every April 9, which is Equal Pay Day. In preparation for Labor Day, a group protesting outside Macy’s this week repeated it, too, holding up signs and sending out press releases saying “women make $.77 to every dollar men make on the job.” I’ve heard the line enough times that I feel the need to set the record straight: It’s not true.
The official Bureau of Labor Department statistics show that the median earnings of full-time female workers is 77 percent of the median earnings of full-time male workers. But that is very different than “77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men.” The latter gives the impression that a man and a woman standing next to each other doing the same job for the same number of hours get paid different salaries. That’s not at all the case. “Full time” officially means 35 hours, but men work more hours than women. That’s the first problem: We could be comparing men working 40 hours to women working 35.
How to get a more accurate measure? First, instead of comparing annual wages, start by comparing average weekly wages. This is considered a slightly more accurate measure because it eliminates variables like time off during the year or annual bonuses (and yes, men get higher bonuses, but let’s shelve that for a moment in our quest for a pure wage gap number). By this measure, women earn 81 percent of what men earn, although it varies widely by race. African-American women, for example, earn 94 percent of what African-American men earn in a typical week. Then, when you restrict the comparison to men and women working 40 hours a week, the gap narrows to 87 percent.

Democrats Launch Pro-Coal Group

Coal power plant / Wikimedia CommonsA handful of Democrats with ties to coal industry lobbyists have created a new group with the purpose of emphasizing the importance of the fuel sources among the party, which is increasingly hostile to coal power.

The CoalBlue Project launched shortly after President Barack Obama rolled out a new climate plan that observers say will devastate the coal industry.
The group says it will “advocate[e] within the Democratic Party for policies that recognize coal as an essential part of the transition to cleaner fuels, are supportive of the development and deployment of clean coal technologies, and include sustainable coal as an equal partner in the mix of future sustainable fuels.”
CoalBlue members include Democratic politicians from coal-heavy states such as West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Illinois, according to a Friday report from the Huffington Post.
Some staffers for the group also have ties to lobbying firms that work on behalf of the industry.
[Secretary Stefan] Bailey was a congressional staffer for nine years, working for [Rep. Nick] Rahall [(D., W. Va.)] and former Sen. Evan Bayh (D., Ind.). He is now a director at the government relations firm Prime Policy Group, whose lobbying clients include energy companies such as Duke Energy, the largest electric utility in the U.S. Bailey said that he’s working with CoalBlue as a volunteer, and that the group is not affiliated with his firm.
CoalBlue Project president Jon Wood is the former vice president of government and external affairs for Alpha Natural Resources, one of the largest coal producers in the U.S. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Wood is still a registered lobbyist for Alpha. He worked previously for the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.).
It is unclear whether the effort will be able to sway the White House, given its position that, as one White House climate adviser put it, “a war on coal is exactly what’s needed.”

Dozens of bills die in California Legislature committees

With California's legislative session in its final days, state lawmakers pared dozens of bills from consideration Friday, including a measure to expand the independence of nurse practitioners.
They also halted the progress of a bill that would allow mothers who get pregnant while enrolled in CalWORKs to claim benefits for the child.
The appropriations committees in both houses considered their "suspense files," the holding place for hundreds of bills that would cost the state more than $150,000 each to implement.
In the Assembly, lawmakers moved rapidly through the list of 152 bills, passing 110 with a $17 million price tag.
Among those stalled in committee were Democratic Sen. Loni Hancock's Senate Bill 283, which would allow drug felons to access food stamps, and Senate Bill 38 by Democratic Sen. Kevin de Leon. It would create an amnesty program for people prohibited from possessing guns to surrender them to law enforcement.
Democratic Sen. Ed Hernandez's bill expanding the duties of pharmacists passed, but his Senate Bill 491 to add duties and independence for nurse practitioners – including prescribing drugs and managing treatment plans – was halted.
It lost the support of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners following recent amendments and was opposed by the California Medical Association, which represents doctors.
Hernandez said he will push forward with the bill next year.

Read more here:

The Hidden Costs Of ‘Free’ Obamacare Benefits

featured-imgThe new health care law promises all sorts of free benefits -- but analysts argue nothing is ultimately free, and ObamaCare is no exception.

“P. J. O'Rourke famously said that if you think health care is expensive now, wait until it's free,” said Avik Roy, of the Manhattan Institute. “Once you lard on all these additional things, all these extras that insurers must provide, you have to pay for that."

For the average consumer, that means taxes, the American Enterprise Institute’s Jim Capretta told Fox News.

"There's going to be taxes on insurance. Taxes on drugs. Taxes on medical devices. All of that is getting passed through to the prices people have to pay either for direct services or their insurance premiums,” he said.

The administration points to a host of free services as one of the early benefits of the new law.
"That means free check-ups, free mammograms, immunizations and other basic services,” President Obama said last year.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius also says "people now have preventive services as part of their health plan without co-pays and coinsurance. So everything from cancer screenings to children's immunizations have to be covered."

Plus, children up to 26 can stay on their parents' plan at no cost.

Delta Airlines, though, says that change will cost the company $8 million just next year.

And they're not alone.

Via: Fox News

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The decline of Republican environmentalism

TWENTY-FIVE years ago tomorrow, from the sunny decks of an excursion boat touring Boston Harbor, George H.W. Bush, then the Republican candidate for president, launched a fierce attack on Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, the Democratic nominee. Bush said that Boston’s polluted waters — “the dirtiest harbor” in America — symbolized Dukakis’s failed leadership. He “will say that he will do for America what he’s done for Massachusetts,” Bush declared. “That’s why I fear for the country.” By delaying a major cleanup of the harbor, Bush said, Dukakis had cost taxpayers billions of dollars and allowed the pollution to continue, making “the most expensive public policy mistake in the history of New England.”
Bush’s attack on Dukakis stands out as perhaps the last time a prominent national Republican turned an environmental cause into a weapon against a Democratic opponent. And in that 25-year gap lies a lost path and a giant missed opportunity. Republicans no longer seriously contest the environmental vote; instead, they have run from it. Largely as a result, national environmental policy-making has become one-sided, polarized, and stuck. Republican politicians mostly deny the threat of climate disruption and block legislative solutions, while President Obama tries to go it alone with a shaky patchwork of executive actions. A middle ground on environmental policy remains a mirage.
George H.W. Bush visited Boston Harbor during his campaign on Sept. 6, 1988.
George H.W. Bush visited Boston Harbor during his campaign on Sept. 6, 1988.
Bush’s presidency initially promised a different path. Bush’s feelings about the environment ran long and deep. Heading a House Republican task force in 1970, he called the “interrelationship between population growth and natural resources . . . the most critical problem facing the world.” He shared the environmental movement’s goals of improving the nation’s air and water. One of Bush’s signature achievements, the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, instituted a cap-and-trade system to cut power plant pollution and reduce acid rain. The New York Times described the law as a “model for updating in the 1990s the other 1970s-era statutes that form the foundation of the nation’s environmental program.”
But then Bush abandoned the Republican environmental resurgence he had begun to build. By the end of his presidency, he was pitting economic growth against environmental regulation. Bush mocked 1992 vice presidential nominee Al Gore as “Ozone Man,” declaring that Gore was “so far out in the environmental extreme we’ll be up to our necks in owls and outta work for every American.”
What explains the switch? Despite significant environmental gains during his presidency, Bush’s leadership faltered as the issues grew more complex, abstract, and international. The raw sewage pouring into Boston Harbor had created a local constituency for change and a clear solution. By contrast, largely invisible and computer-modeled threats like climate change affected everyone, but far in the future. Negotiating international agreements to limit greenhouse gas emissions thus provoked fierce ideological debates over scientific knowledge, economic regulation, and national sovereignty.

Louie Gohmert's Capitol tour

I already liked Louie Gohmert (R-TX) a lot, but after reading about the tours he provides for constituents, I realize I have underrated him. Andrew Evans of the Washington Free Beacon "tagged along" with the congressman as he guided constituents on a multi-hour personal tour of the Capitol. Read the whole thing, but here is a sample.
Congressman Gohmert isn't your typical tour guide. Only a few congressmen actually give their own tours, Gohmert told me. Fewer tour guides have the depth of knowledge of the Capitol that Gohmert has. And fewer still have the access to the Capitol that he gave the group.
The tour began with Gohmert taking the group onto the floor of the House of Representatives. He let us sit in the first couple of rows of seats as he stood between two lecterns and talked to us, still wearing his buttoned black suit jacket and occasionally running his hand over his bald pate. He explained some of the mechanics of his job: where people sit, what walls light up showing how the representatives have voted, how he casts his vote.
Someone asked Gohmert if there is anywhere in the Capitol that he hasn't been. "The crawl space underneath," he said, shrugging.
Gohmert's explained to the group the origin of a hole in the ceiling of the House Chamber (a bullet hole from when Puerto Rican nationalists stormed the room), where a fresco by "the only classically trained fresco painter in America" at the time used to be in the House and why it was gone, and the origin of partisan seating arrangements in the House (it came from the British House of Commons).
Via: American Thinker

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Obamacare: When You Have to Find a New Doctor

Stacy WilsonRemember when President Obama said if you like your doctor, you could keep him or her? Americans everywhere are finding out that’s not true.
“I have to find a new doctor,” Dallas mom Stacy Wilson tells Heritage. “I’ve been seeing the same primary care physician the last 15 years and I just got a letter [in the] last month or so saying that she’s moving to a VIP program where you pay in several thousand dollars and you get more time with the doctor, more personalized care, and because of that, well first of all I can’t afford that, and second of all, she’s shrinking her practice down to like 400 patients.”
Wilson’s doctor, an internist, is one of many doctors switching to what is known as “concierge medicine.” A survey of doctors in 2012 found that one in 10 plans to convert their practice to concierge, also known as direct-pay because it eliminates third-party insurance. Many say they are responding to increasing bureaucratic interference and uncertainty over insurance and Medicare payments, and some directly cite Obamacare. This is one way for doctors to guarantee a level of patient care, which they fear is being compromised by indiscriminate regulations.
“I don’t fault my doctor. She’s a small business owner, and she has to do what she has to do for her small business and herself before her patients,” Wilson adds. “If they’re going to put all these regulations on the doctors, she needs to do what she needs to do. If that means shrinking her practice and doing a VIP program, then that’s what she has to do.”
Wilson said it’s simple: “[Obama] lied. It’s one thing to come up with an idea and think it’s so great, and it’s another thing to actually know how the system works and what the details would be. And you can’t make promises like that until you know what’s going to happen, and they don’t even know what’s going to happen now.”

AP's Rugaber Uses Unadjusted Metro Area Data to Find 'Widespread Improvement in the Job Market'

At the Associated Press, economics writer Christopher Rugaber used not seasonally adjusted data published by the government's Bureau of Labor Statistics on metro area employment and unemployment to crow about "widespread improvement in the job market." The predominance of part-time jobs among the new ones created and fact that houshold incomes have yet to recover from the recession apparently had no impact on his assessment.
The opening sentence of the government's report reads: "Unemployment rates were lower in July than a year earlier in 320 of the 372 metropolitan areas, higher in 38 areas, and unchanged in 14 area, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today." But the second paragraph of Rugaber's AP report, headlined "Unemployment Rates Fall in Two-thirds of U.S. Cities," tells readers that "[U]nemployment rates fell in 239 of the nation's 372 largest cities in July from June."
Rugaber looked at single-month changes instead of full-year changes. BLS's entire report uses not seasonally adjusted data, so a month-over month comparison really doesn't mean much.
To his credit, Rugaber eventually told his readers that the government data wasn't seasonally adjusted ("Unlike the national data, the metro figures aren't adjusted for such seasonal patterns"). But before he did, he mixed apples and oranges, throwing in the following seasonally adjusted data:
 The U.S. unemployment rate fell last month to a 4 1/2-year low of 7.4 percent. That's down from 7.6 percent in June. Employers added 162,000 jobs. That's enough to lower the unemployment rate but below the average monthly gain of 192,000 this year.
Readers who didn't move past that point wouldn't know that Rugaber was mixing apples and oranges. The not seasonally adjusted national rate went from 7.8 percent in June to 7.7 percent in July.
Far more fundamentally at this point, if one is going to sing the praises of "widespread improvement" in the sense that more people are employed, it's more than a little negligent to avoid a couple of quite pertinent realities — even if, as BLS indicated, over 85% of metro areas showed lower not seasonally adjusted unemployment rates than a year ago.
The first, as seen below, in a trend driven by the impending train wreck of Obamacare, is that the new jobs being created this year are predominantly part-time:
Unless there's evidence that part-time work is all people are looking for, which is highly doubtful, this fact directly negates Rugaber's "widespread improvement" claim — even if all 372 metro areas were somehow seeing lower unemployment rates.
The second, as noted by the former Census Bureau employees at Sentier Research, is that household incomes are still well below where they were four years ago when the recession officially ended.  A job market which is seeing high-wage jobs disappear, only to see them replaced with lower-paying and often part-time jobs is not what the average American would see as "widespread improvement."

Iowa Democrat prays: Dear God, thank you for abortion

Midge Slater, an organizer for the Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans, part of the Iowa Federation of Labor and the AFL-CIO, spoke to about 80 people who came to the capitol to protest a proposal that the State Board of Medicine end a program that allows doctors to prescribe an abortion pill for a woman after a video chat, rather than an in-person consultation.
Two days later, on Friday, the Board voted to end the practice known as “tele-med” abortions.
In her invocation at the rally, which was attended by Jack Hatch and Tyler Olson, two Democratic candidates for governor of Iowa, Slater prayed that elected officials “may always support a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions.” She prayed for “increased financial support for low income women” to have abortions. She prayed that “women in developing nations” have greater access to abortion. She prayed to “give thanks and celebrate that abortion is still safe and legal.” And she prayed that families may know “the blessing of choice.”

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