Friday, August 29, 2008

Left out of the debate.......

We tend to forget the side-benefit of our involvement in Iraq - and that is the drastic reduction of terrorist activity in Israel.

Since the fall of Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein, the terrorist activity in Israel has almost ceased. Maybe this is due to the end of payments to the families of the suicide bombers by the Hussein regime, the presence of the US military in Iraq or the terrorists' focus being redirected toward the US troops in Iraq, the beneficiaries would seem to be, in some measure, the state of Israel.

Think about the last time you saw or heard a news report about a terrorist act - marketplace or bus suicide bombing - since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Before the US went into Iraq, it seemed like a weekly, if not a daily, occurrence.

If you have not read Victor David Hanson's article, I recommend it: What happened to Iraq?

Monday, August 25, 2008

McCain Housing Crisis? Please......

Recently Senator John McCain was asked by a reporter how many houses he owned. This was definitely a loaded question designed to put McCain in a box and paint him as an elitist. As it turns out, he has seven houses worth approximately $14 million (based on what I have read).

So what?

Now, McCain is being painted in the light that he "doesn't know how many houses he owns...." - which is not what he said. He never said "I don't know how many houses I own......" He clearly was uncomfortable in discussing the subject and did not want to answer the question.

Probably because some of their houses are investment properties and some may be in the name of his wife, or in partnerships or holding companies.....I think he wanted his staff to accurately and completely answer the question.

As I thought about his answer, I began to add up the houses that I own.

I am a real estate investor and I own several rental properties. I own them in my name; my wife and I own some together; I have partners and I have some property in a corporate name. Let's see: my primary residence (1); three rentals in my name (3); one in Mel's name (1); two with partners (2); one in a corporation (1) - that totals eight (8). If you count a duplex that I own with a partner, then add another one to the total.

I deal with these properties every week. I am in the business. But think about answering a question like that on the spot - (heck I had to give it some thought).

John McCain has been on the campaign trail running for President for over two years! What if Cindy McCain had sold some of their properties or purchased others (given the real estate market - it could have been either).

If you are in the real estate business, think about it: How many houses do you own? Quickly, now. The world is watching........

Thursday, August 14, 2008

If there can be an upside.....

The BEAR is back. The Russian BEAR that is.

I have always been interested in geography. One of my college professors instructed that geography is more than just knowing where countries and geological features are in the world, but also is the study of those region's natural resources, climates and even political make-up to some degree.

Russia (during my college years it was the Soviet Union) has tremendous natural resources - primarily oil, natural gas, gold and timber. There are bountiful others but these are the biggies for this debate.

The Soviet Union was inefficient at tapping these resources primarily due to their inept government structure. After the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of market driven capitalism, there was incentive for, not only the new government but also private businesses, to invest in exploring and utilizing these resources. Russia isn't reliant on foreign sources of energy.

During the time since the fall of the Soviet empire, the United States has seen a reversal of sorts take place that, when juxtaposed against the NEW Russia, is daunting. Let me explain:

While Russia was experiencing capitalism, low taxes (they have a flat rate income tax of 13%) and a positive business climate, the US has seen a tremendous growth in government. We have created a huge entitlement state and have proceeded to limit free-market driven investments in energy resources. From the moratorium on oil and natural gas exploration to the moratorium on new nuclear reactors to the moratorium against recycling nuclear fuel to the increased regulations on business and industry that is growing everyday due to the global warming alarmism - we are like the inept Soviet state.

Neutered, if you will, by "Political Correctness" and by a small but vocal minority in America that is calling for carbon tax & trade, no nuclear expansion and don't even think about drilling in ANWR or off our coasts!

This latest Russian move is a power-play. The Russian leaders and the proud Russian people desire to once again be a major global force as they were under the old Marxist empire. This time, however, they are building their might, not through fear as during the Cold War era, but through cagey capitalistic approaches to wealth creation and energy independence.

If there can be an upside for the U. S. in the unforgivable Russian aggression towards Georgia it would be in how Americans begin looking at our own country again. With the Russian Bear gaining in global power once more, maybe - just maybe - the vocal liberal minority and environmentalists who have stymied progressive approaches to energy independence will gain some American pride again.

If we are to solve this energy crisis, deal with a weak economy and the dramatic reduction in American manufacturing, we need an increasing sense in American pride. This applies, too, to our struggles against Islamic terrorists and pride in our military.

If we don't wake up quickly here in America to what is happening, we may soon find ourselves a good ways down the list in world power and influence rankings.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Clock is Ticking for Energy Independence


I posted this back in May but wanted to re-post it, as it is probably more important today in light of the world events surrounding Russia's power play in Georgia. Russia gets it - we get it but are impotent to act: We must begin securing our energy future by tapping our American natural resources, reducing our reliance on foreign sources of energy! Will we be able to "drill our way out of this crisis?" - No. But it is a big part of the Solution - utilize American natural resources, more nuclear energy for electricity production (which, by the way frees up a ton of natural gas and reduces reliance on coal for electricity), continued support for research into alternative fuels for transportation, continued investment in renewable sources such as wind & solar, energy conservation and conservation education.

Here is a re-post:


In the 1967 movie "The Graduate," Dustin Hoffman's character, Ben, is given the following career advice:

Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you - just one word.
Ben: Yes sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Ben: Yes I am.
Mr. McGuire: 'Plastics.'
Ben: Exactly how do you mean?
Mr. McGuire: There's a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?
Ben: Yes I will.
Mr. McGuire: Shh! Enough said. That's a deal.

If the movie were filmed today - or if the book were written today, the "WORD" would not be plastics - it would be "ENERGY." The demand for energy in the future, this issues surrounding how we will acquire sources of energy and how we balance our impact on the environment will be crucial. Energy.............Energy.........

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

FAQ's About OCS 5-year Plan

FAQ: (MMS is the Sub-Agency under the Dept. of Interior - Mineral and Mining Servicces)

Q: Why is MMS doing another 5-year program now?

A: In light of the current energy situation and President Bush’s lifting of the Presidential Withdrawal, the Secretary of the Interior directed MMS to begin the initial steps for developing a new five-year program. We are, in effect, getting a two-year jumpstart on that process. It is still a multi-step, and multi-year process to develop a five-year program.

The current five-year program took effect on July 1, 2007 at a time when oil was only $64 a barrel and does not contain many of the areas that were under Withdrawal and remain under Congressional ban. Should the Congressional ban be lifted, a new program would have to be developed to make those areas available.

Q: With this new program, will you be able to lease new areas that were under Presidential Withdrawal?

A: This action begins a process that will open discussions about expanding our domestic energy production. If Congress acts by removing their ban, then new areas could become available, but only after a lengthy process involving active public input and strong safety and environmental protections.

Q: Did Congress lift their ban?

A: They have not. Current moratoria for the Atlantic, Pacific coasts and a small portion of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico are established through the annual appropriations process. However, most of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico was placed under a different statutory ban that is set to remain until 2022. Congress would have to either delete or modify language in upcoming appropriations bills or enact specific legislation to make those areas available.

Q: What happens if the new administration doesn’t want the new 5-year program? Will they have an opportunity to change it?

A: The next administration will have every opportunity to take advantage of today's action. Decisions to continue or stop this process will be theirs.

Q1: Are you going to open up the entire OCS or just certain sections?

A: This action is designed to encourage discussions about the OCS areas of greatest interest, with the greatest potential. New areas will not be available for leasing until the Five Year Program is complete, having incorporated multiple rounds of public comment and Congressional approval.

Q: How much oil do you really think is out there?

A: The Minerals Management Service estimates about 17.84 billion barrels of oil and 76.47 trillion cubic feet of natural gas to be technically recoverable in the areas currently off limits. Those numbers are very conservative as little exploration has been conducted in most of those areas during the past 20-30 years. Our estimates are based on the available data. We have seen, though, that the numbers tend to increase dramatically as technology improves and exploration activities occur.

Q: Which areas are considered to be under the congressional ban?

A: The congressional ban currently encompasses all of the Outer Continental Shelf located along the west coast, east coast, most of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico Planning Area, and a portion of the Central Gulf of Mexico Planning Area.

Q: How much energy does the Outer Continental Shelf provide our nation?

A: The Outer Continental Shelf currently provides about 27% of domestic oil production and about 15% of domestic natural gas production.

Q: What is MMS doing to make companies produce on the leases they already have?

A: MMS encourages due diligence by establishing primary terms of leases that allow only the minimum length of time a company should need to explore a lease. At the end of the primary term, the lease must produce in paying quantities or the operator must conduct continuous operations in order to keep the lease in effect unless MMS grants an extension. If an extension is granted, the MMS monitors activity closely and ensures that approved milestones are met in a timely fashion.

Helping to Solve America's Energy Crisis

This is a map of areas currently off limits to oil and natural gas exploration.

In March, 2008, I was appointed to a US Department of the Interior sub-committee which deals with oil and natural gas leases on America's outer continental shelf (see earlier posts).

I am excited about playing a small role in helping the Nation solve it's energy crisis by utilizing our own natural resources. Our first action will be a conference call of the committee on August 26th.

Here is a copy of the Dept. of Interior Press Release about this initiative:

Interior Department Initiates New Five Year

Oil and Gas Leasing Program for Outer Continental Shelf

Seeks Public Comment to Address Changed Energy Situation

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Saying the nation’s energy situation has dramatically changed in the past year, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne today jumpstarted the development of a new oil and natural gas leasing program for the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf. The action could give the next administration a two-year head start in expanding energy production from federal offshore jurisdictions, including some areas where a congressional ban had prevented oil and gas development.

“When our current five-year program for Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas leasing was launched in July 2007, oil was selling for $64 a barrel,” Kempthorne said. “Today a barrel of oil costs more than $120, almost double the price a year ago. Clearly, today’s escalating energy prices and the widening gap between U.S. energy consumption and supply have changed the fundamental assumptions on which many of our decisions were based.”

“Areas that were considered too expensive to develop a year ago are no longer necessarily out of reach based on improvements to technology and safety,” Kempthorne noted. “The American people and the President want action and this initiative can accelerate an offshore exploration and development program that can increase production from additional domestic energy resources.”

President Bush lifted the Executive Withdrawal on oil and gas leasing operations on the Outer Continental Shelf on July 14, calling on Congress to lift its ban that has been in place since 1982. He also urged Congress to enact legislation that would allow states to have a say regarding operations off their shores and to share in the resulting revenues.

“The President believes coastal states should have a voice in how Outer Continental Shelf resources are developed off their shores while ensuring those environments are protected and that Congress should provide a way for the federal government and states to share new leasing revenues,” Kempthorne said.

Because of the current energy situation and the President’s action, Secretary Kempthorne has directed the Minerals Management Service to begin the initial steps for developing a new five-year program that accurately reflects the nation’s needs. The multi-year process starts with a call for information from all parties on what a new five-year program should consider. MMS is also requesting comment to ensure that all interests and concerns are considered regarding oil and gas leasing and exploration and development resulting from a new five-year program. The governors of all 50 states will be specifically asked for their comments, particularly on issues unique to each state.

“This initiative could provide a significant advantage for the incoming administration, offering options it would not otherwise have had until at least 2010,” Kempthorne said. “Today’s action would provide a 2-year head start for the next administration on developing a new five-year program.”

The current program runs from 2007-2012 and includes 21 lease sales in eight of the 26 Outer Continental Shelf planning areas in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska and the Atlantic. It does not include areas under a congressional ban, with the exception of Virginia. The new program, depending on public comment, can consider any area although any leasing in a banned area would need congressional action.

The Outer Continental Shelf currently provides 27 percent of U.S. domestic oil production and 15 percent of domestic natural gas production -- most of that from the Gulf of Mexico. The areas under a congressional ban contain an additional 18 billion barrels of oil and 76 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in yet-to-be-discovered fields.

Those numbers are considered conservative estimates because little exploration has been conducted in most of those areas during the past 20-30 years because of the congressional ban. Interior’s estimates are based on available data. Estimates tend to increase dramatically as technology improves and exploration activities occur.

This initiative uses the process mandated by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act Amendments of 1978, which give the Secretary of the Interior authority to develop “out-of-cycle” leasing programs and requires various procedural steps, including several rounds of public comment and multiple environmental reviews.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Funding Education

Alright - I know it has been a while since I posted anything. I wanted to post about the Education Funding Study Committee meetings.

First off, I want to thank those committee members who have participated and are trying to help us "Untangle the Knot of Education Funding Mechanisms." This is an almost daunting task.

But I am encouraged by today's meeting and what I see as similar solutions from two unlikely sources: The Dept. of Education Task Force and The South Carolina Policy Council. It looks as if more and more people are embracing the idea of funding students versus funding programs.

Rep. Clemmons provided the beginnings of a bill for us to chew on. I compare it to a jar of clay that we can now begin molding and shaping. Thanks, Alan!

I like the Policy Council's study on Weighted Pupil Funding or "Backpacking." In the next meeting we will take a comprehensive look at Dr. Rex's Task Force's report. The meeting after that we will talk with Dr. Brian Hassell, the author of the Policy Council's study.