Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Really Big Deal

Last Friday, Kimberly Strassel pondered about the possibility of The Real Obama Climate Deal:

The administration has kept open the possibility of approving the Keystone XL pipeline. It has hinted it will greenlight more export terminals for natural gas. It last week again delayed its fracking rules for public lands. These moves have encouraged the oil-and-gas industry, even as they have driven the environmental community nuts. The Natural Resources Defense Council this week declared that approving Keystone would be "fundamentally inconsistent" with Mr. Obama's renewed vow to "address climate change."

Or would it? Republicans might recollect that the Obama administration has a practiced method of winning controversial legislation like ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank. To wit, it uses a combination of bribes and threats to get pertinent sectors of the business community to back its efforts.

Consider what the mighty oil-and-gas lobby might be co-opted to do—either out of gratitude for the president's backing or fear that he might turn on it. Consider how the political environment might change if the industry threw its weight behind a carbon tax or the EPA climate scheme. Consider that this might prove an easy call, given that a tax would be borne by its customers, while EPA regs will mostly crush coal. Consider that numerous Big Oil chieftains have already endorsed such a carbon levy. And who says Mr. Obama has to decide Keystone XL or anything else soon? He could hold out, to see what he can extract in return.

If you think about it, this makes perfect sense. In fact, if he was willing to think big and make a few mild compromises, President Obama could craft a climate/energy deal that would increase the chances of a successful second term, help his party politically, and fund the continued growth of government in the future.

Here’s how. He offers to essentially open the spigot on American energy all the way including:

- Not having the EPA stand in the way of continued and expanded fracking operations

- Approve the Keystone XL and other pipeline projects to more easily bring oil/gas to market

- Approve the export of LNG

- Open up oil reserves in Alaska and off shore that have been closed to exploration

In return, the President would require that the GOP House pass and Republicans in the Senate not block a carbon tax bill.

As Strassel notes, the oil/gas industry would gladly take this deal as they really don’t have a problem with a carbon tax that will be passed on to consumers anyway. It would be difficult for Republicans to say no to an opportunity to open up all these energy resources and you can bet that red state Dems would happily support the deal.

President Obama would have to sell the deal to liberals and the environmental groups by explaining that the benefits of the carbon tax outweigh the potential environmental costs of increased oil/gas exploration and production. It would require him to admit that-like it or not-fossil fuels are going to provide the vast majority of our energy needs for the foreseeable future. He could assuage environmental concerns by explaining that the carbon tax could help reduce consumption and that some portion of the money collected by it would be used for “green energy” research and development. At the end of the day, that likely wouldn’t enough to make environmental groups happy and he’d have to be willing to accept that.

Because the benefits he would get could be huge:

- Unleashing America’s energy resources would give the economy a big bump-a bump looking increasingly necessary given today’s dismal GDP number-and unlikely to come from other sources. More jobs, more spending, and more economic activity that President Obama could claim credit burnishing his second term reputation.

- Such a deal would also help red state Democrats in 2014 and the Democratic ticket in 2016. If the economy continues to limp along and Democrats are seen as blocking actions that could help it grow such as allowing more oil/gas exploration and production, they will pay a price. This deal would allow them to avoid that and also maintain environmental cred for supporting a carbon tax.

- Whether Democrats care to admit it or not, the fiscal situation will eventually reach a point where sustaining the current level of government (to say nothing of expanding it further) will simply not be possible. Further taxes on “the rich” or “greedy businesses” will only go so far in delaying this day of reckoning. A booming economy brought about by unleashing America’s energy would do a lot to help fill federal coffers. A carbon tax could raise untold billions of dollars. Dollars that could be used to keep the government train on the tracks.

One of the objections raised to the carbon tax is that it will hurt the economy by increasing energy costs for consumers and businesses. And taken alone, it surely would. However, if it were coupled with a significant increase in the supply of oil and gas, that impact would be muted. The total price could stay relatively flat, it’s just that the government’s take would be much largely. Would consumers really care if gas cost $3 a gallon today and the government got 50 cents (hypothetically) or if it cost $3 a gallon two years from now and the government got $1.50? Not likely. And even if these supplies wouldn’t come online for years, they still would have an impact on current prices.

One industry that would undoubtedly suffer severely under this deal would be coal. And politicians from coal states would no doubt oppose it vigorously. But could they really hope to stop it if it were pushed by President Obama and Democrats he brings on board, supported by the oil/gas industry, and Republicans willing to sacrifice coal for more oil/gas? Unlikely.

So if he were open to it, it seems as if President Obama could pull off a grand bargain on energy/climate that would benefit both him and his party for years to come. The only hitch? That whole “mild compromises” thing. Based on his past record and current attitude, it seems unlikely that this president could bring himself to give even a few inches to secure a deal with miles of benefits.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Clearbrook Crude

One of the things that we hear a lot when discussing oil and gas prices is that oil is a global market and therefore subject to fluctuations in supply and demand that may occur anywhere in the world. While that is still true compared with other commodities like natural gas whose prices are based on regional supply and demand, the fact is the there isn’t a truly a single global price for oil and there is more variation in oil prices today than at any time in recent memory. The Key to Oil: Location, Location, Location:

The average spot price for Brent crude oil in 2012 was about $112 a barrel. Meanwhile, West Texas Intermediate averaged only $94, a 16% discount. But that is nothing compared with some lesser-known benchmarks. Oil priced at Clearbrook, Minn., mainly barrels produced in the prolific Bakken basin, got just $88, a 22% gap. Western Canadian Select crude, meanwhile, sold for an average of about $74 a barrel, a one-third discount to Brent. Today, those Canadian barrels command less than $65 a barrel against Brent's $113.

Raise your hand if you knew there was a oil price benchmark that was determined at Clearbrook, MN. In fact, raise your hand if you hand if you had even heard of Clearbrook, MN before. I had no idea that the town of 518 souls in northwestern Minnesota was home to an oil pipeline junction and had its own oil benchmark. Next time you hear someone talking about Brent or West Texas oil prices, throw in a reference to Clearbrook to really establish your cred.

The reason for the spread in prices is the difficulties involved in getting the oil from Bakken and the Canadian oil sands to market. Since it costs more to get the oil to refineries and eventually consumers, the producers have to offer a discount on their product. That looks likely to change in the not too distant future.

But even they may now spell opportunity. While the future of the Keystone XL pipeline, a major potential route south, remains questionable, help is coming from other quarters. One is BP's Whiting refinery near Chicago, which is being retooled to absorb more heavy Canadian oil in the second half of 2013. And as new pipelines and rail links narrow the gap between WTI and Brent, that should also pull up the price of Canadian oil.

Above all, cheap oil attracts buyers and logistics firms. The big discounts on Bakken crude led railroads to add almost one million barrels a day of transportation capacity last year, according to investment bank Tudor, Pickering, Holt. It estimates a combination of pipelines, rail trucks and barges could close the discounts on Canadian crude by $20 a barrel or more in the next couple of years. That could boost profits substantially. Every $10 a barrel extra that Baytex gets on its heavy crude oil would boost 2013 cash flow per share by 16%, according to RBC Capital Markets.

For energy investors seeking profits, it might be time to buy a map.

And put a pin on Clearbrook. Speaking of logistics, remember a few years ago when Warren Buffett went heavy into railroads and people wondered why he was investing in transportation technology from the past? There’s a reason that he’s called the “Oracle of Omaha.”

Friday, January 25, 2013

Where The Beer Flows Like Water

While government efforts to control what Americans eat and drink continue to expand and show no signs of abating, in the Czech Republic an effort to compel restaurants and bars to offer lower priced alternatives to beer is meeting stiff resistance. Brewing Controversy Over Proposal to Make Water Cheaper Than Beer:

He wants to require restaurants and bars to offer at least one nonalcoholic beverage at a price lower than that of the same amount of beer, primarily to offer teens, who can legally drink at 18, an alternative. The easiest thing to do, Dr. Heger said, would be to offer patrons pitchers of tap water.

Even that has some tavern keepers foaming.

"It ticks me off," said Eleni Atanasopulosova, 34, the manager at U Zelenku. "There are more pressing issues. People are struggling to find work. The government should do something more important."

Dr. Heger, a 64-year-old radiologist who likes to toss back a few himself, attributes such resistance to a general Czech dislike of government regulation, a legacy of the country's decades under repressive communist rule.

"It's important to speak against social engineering," Dr. Heger said. "We don't want to suppress smoking and drinking among adults. It's their right." He added: "I'm not against alcohol consumption. It just has to be reasonable."

A couple of points:

1. Compared to what we’re seeing in the United States, the Czech Health Minister’s proposal actually does seem fairly reasonable. I can’t imagine an equivalent American nanny state busybody ever admitting that they don’t want to control what adults eat, drink, or smoke to say nothing of conceding their right to do so.

2. The fact that even such mild requirements are being resisted by the Czechs is encouraging as is the note about them having a general dislike of government regulation. You take those attitudes and roll them together with good beer that’s cheaper than water and the place starts sounding like a promised land indeed.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Three Canards and the Truth

Bjorn Lomborg-himself by no means an anthropogenic global warming denier-finds fault with the science behind President Obama’s inauguration speech call to action on climate change. Climate-Change Misdirection:

In his second inaugural address on Monday, President Obama laudably promised to "respond to the threat of climate change." Unfortunately, when the president described the urgent nature of the threat—the "devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms"—the scary examples suggested that he is contemplating poor policies that don't point to any real, let alone smart, solutions. Global warming is a problem that needs fixing, but exaggeration doesn't help, and it often distracts us from simple, cheaper and smarter solutions.

For starters, let's address the three horsemen of the climate apocalypse that Mr. Obama mentioned.

Historical analysis of wildfires around the world shows that since 1950 their numbers have decreased globally by 15%. Estimates published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences show that even with global warming proceeding uninterrupted, the level of wildfires will continue to decline until around midcentury and won't resume on the level of 1950—the worst for fire—before the end of the century.

Claiming that droughts are a consequence of global warming is also wrong. The world has not seen a general increase in drought. A study published in Nature in November shows globally that "there has been little change in drought over the past 60 years." The U.N. Climate Panel in 2012 concluded: "Some regions of the world have experienced more intense and longer droughts, in particular in southern Europe and West Africa, but in some regions droughts have become less frequent, less intense, or shorter, for example, in central North America and northwestern Australia."

As for one of the favorites of alarmism, hurricanes in recent years don't indicate that storms are getting worse. Measured by total energy (Accumulated Cyclone Energy), hurricane activity is at a low not encountered since the 1970s. The U.S. is currently experiencing the longest absence of severe landfall hurricanes in over a century—the last Category 3 or stronger storm was Wilma, more than seven years ago.

While it is likely that we will see somewhat stronger (but fewer) storms as climate change continues, a March 2012 Nature study shows that the global damage cost from hurricanes will go to 0.02% of gross domestic product annually in 2100 from 0.04% today—a drop of 50%, despite global warming.

Hmmm…President Obama sounds like he might be part of the some who “may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science.”

Lomberg goes on to suggest that if we truly want to respond to the threat of climate change in a meaningful and impactful manner, we would be far better served by taking steps to ameliorate the potentially damaging impacts of a warming planet while working to develop new alternative energy sources that actually could possibly reduce or replace our use of fossil fuels. This recognizes the reality that our current alternative energy technologies are not the long term answer and until we come up with ones that are, we are going to continue to rely on carbon based sources to fulfill the vast majority of our energy needs.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Love, Peace, and Hope

Earlier this month, the cousin of a good friend of mine was murdered in St. Paul by her husband. The murder of this thirty-two year woman is a horrible sad story and the tragedy is compounded by the fact that she leaves a seventeen-month-old son behind. A site had been established to help provide for this boy name Oliver. The Manya Memorial Fund:

Manya was a warm and caring woman filled with love and hope. She grew up in Dodge Center, Minnesota, and graduated from Triton High School in 1998. She attended Pacific Lutheran University, playing volleyball and earning a bachelor’s of science in psychology. She went on to gain a master’s degree in counseling psychology at Bethel University. Manya worked in management at Target Corp. since 2003 where her co-workers remember her as witty, outgoing and an outstanding worker.

Mayna died tragically from a domestic assault on January 6, 2013 at the young age of 32. She left behind her parents, 4 siblings and a beautiful 17-month-old son Oliver.

His daycare teachers describe Oliver as that child who “lights up the room. He has stolen all of our hearts. He deserves love, peace and hope.”

No one can ever replace his mother but we can join together as a community to support Oliver by providing resources for his education and other future needs. 100% of all contributions will go to benefit Oliver.

Hard to imagine a more worthy cause.

Deservedly Obscure

An interesting article on How The Song “Seven Nation Army” Conquered The Sports World contained this little gem:

Today, there are few athletic venues the song hasn't invaded. "Seven Nation Army" has appeared at both Michigan and Ohio State, and also at obscure schools (check out this rendition by St. Cloud State's band).

Saturday, January 19, 2013

HWX, with Roger Simon

The Hinderaker-Ward Experience (HWX) podcast returns, taped yesterday for a special Friday night edition.
Over some Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye and a hardcore brandy and eggnog, the boys bump their heads up against the debt ceiling and contrast President Obama's current strident condemnations of  Congressional resistance to raising the debt to Senator Obama's past strident condemnations of Presidential requests to raise the debt.  They also come to terms with telling lies in America through the dark glass of Manti T'eo and Lance Armstrong.  
Next they delve into the exotic world of thespianism when they are joined by the great Roger Simon and Sheryl Longin, for an entertaining discussion of their new play, The Party Line.
Things then wrap up with the Loon of the Week (featuring Constitutional scholar Danny Glover), This Week in Gatekeeping (featuring a serial columnist fabricator), and this weeks Ricochet Listener/Member of the Week - the legendary Sean!

Many ways to hear the podcast, including over on the mothership at Ricochet.   You can be sure to never miss an episode, by subscribing via iTunes or Feedburner.  Or just use the player embedded below or in the upper right hand corner of this web site.  If all of these fail, send me an email and I'll come to your house and read from the written transcript.  Enjoy!

HWX, with Kevin Williamson

Backfilling promo for the HWX podcast from a couple of weeks ago, didn't want to lose track of this one.  It featured the great Kevin Williamson of National Review.  We discussed his terrific and provocative article (Risk, Relativism, and Resources)  about what conservatives don't get about so many of their fellow Americans.
Also the usual spirited chit chat, including fiscal cliff negotiations, Al Gore becomes Al-Jezeera, and special appearance by listener of the week, the pride of suburban Detroit,  Jeff Petraska. 
To hear this episode, head over to the archived post on Ricochet.  Or just use the player embedded below or in the upper right hand corner of this web site and dial it back to the January 5 episode.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

No Easy Road

David Bentley Hart looks at the current state of politics in America and the Long March Ahead:

Anyway, I expect the course of things is set for the near future: a comfortable combination of authoritarianism and libertarianism; a provident, intrusive, and imperious state allied to a corporate culture that encourages, gratifies, and endlessly amplifies an amoral appetite for the trivial and ephemeral; extraordinary governmental power wielded peremptorily in the name of endless warfare abroad and of ever more perfect civil order and social justice at home; culture replaced by advertising, shared custom by private impulse, community by television; public life reduced to the bare dialectic of state power and individual rights. There may be a path open that leads beyond that state of things—a path not primarily political, but rather cultural and spiritual—but it will not be easy to find, and it will be a very long march indeed.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Five For Reading

If you received an Amazon gift card for Christmas and haven’t had a chance to use it yet or if you’re just looking for a good read, here are the top five books that I read in the past year.

Outside of sports, politics is likely the most cliché laden sphere of life. Jonah Goldberg does a masterful of job of describing and demolishing a number of such clichés that the Left holds most dear in “The Tyranny of Clichés.” Slippery slope, spiritual not religious, violence never solves anything and a host of other lazy excuses for arguments are sliced and diced with Goldberg’s usual incisive and witty manner.

For all the talk about what must be done to save the “middle class” in last fall’s campaign, candidates from either party rarely dared touch on what the real divisions in America’s social strata are and what has caused them. Charles Murray’s “Coming Apart, The State of White America 1960-2010” is a sobering statistical look at this divide and what its implications bode for the future. He doesn’t offer a lot in the way of solutions, but it helping to steer the discussion to what the real problem is he has performed an invaluable service.

I think I read my first book on the Second World War when I was about ten. Since then, I’ve read a number of books on various aspects of the war and consider myself fairly well versed on the topic. However, when I read “Freedom’s Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II” by Arthur Herman, I realized how little I really knew about how the United State became the arsenal of democracy that tipped the balance for the Allies with its prodigious industrial output. William Knudsen and Henry J. Kaiser are the primary heroes in Herman’s story of how American businessmen were able to redirect their energy and ingenuity into wartime production in remarkable short amounts of time with previously unimaginable results.

Even during the darkest days of the Third Reich there still were good Germans, non perhaps more so than pastor/theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Eric Matazas’ biography “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy” is a gripping tale of Bonhoeffer’s all too short, but impactful life. Bonhoeefer saw the evil behind the rise of the Nazis long before most did and became a dedicated and dogged opponent of Hitler and his henchmen. His story is full of stirring examples of following God no matter difficult the path and is what people have in mind when they speak of “having the courage of your convictions.”

There a lot of books out there on how to improve your life and a lot on how to get ahead in business. But there are precious few that combine both areas in as efficient and effective manner as “How Will You Measure Your Life?” by Clayton M. Christensen does. He uses his experience in business and life to offer simple yet important advice on how to be satisfied in your career, how to be happy in your personal relationships, and how to stay out of jail. A lot of it is knowing what your priorities are and living by them. Again, it sounds simple and even obvious, but it’s also an easy path to drift from if you don’t maintain focus and this book helps to do just that.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Look For The Union Label

It's that time of year again, folks. No, I don't mean flu season.  No, I don't mean golf season for the Minnesota Vikings.  I'm talking about the time of year when Minnesota Democrats propose an increase in the state's minimum wage.

Now, I've never considered myself an expert in economics by any stretch of the imagination but I think I understand the basics, unlike some of the utter fools that the people of this state have chosen to represent them.

Consider these comments from the utter fool from Brooklyn Center:
Sen. Chris Eaton, DFL-Brooklyn Center, who introduced the Senate bill, said that "whether it's a teenager in a part-time job or a low-income worker struggling to stretch each paycheck, putting money in the pockets of minimum-wage workers is good for the economy. The money is going to be spent in local businesses, on job training courses and rent."
Think about that for a minute.  Now you've thought about it for a minute longer than Sen. Eaton did.  Does this moron seriously think that the legislature raising the minimum wage will result in employers magically unearthing piles of cash to use to pay employees?  Of all the arguments in support of raising the minimum wage, this one has to be the most facile.

The only thing that raising the minimum wage will result in is fewer employees.  If an employer can only afford three employees at $6 an hour then he can only afford two employees at $9 an hour.  It's simple mathematics.  There's no extra money being pumped into the economy, it's the same amount but it's being pumped in by fewer people.

Of course, those pushing to raise the minimum wage are not concerned about teenagers or low-income workers or even the ridiculous notion of stimulating the economy.  No, they are only concerned with pleasing their union overlords:
Unions campaign to raise the minimum wage at least in part because it enriches them. Raising the minimum wage makes unskilled workers more expensive for businesses to hire, and so hiring skilled and highly paid union members becomes a more attractive choice. This effect increases union members' earned income but reduces low-income workers' job prospects and income. That unions support raising the minimum wage is understandable, but antipoverty advocates should reconsider their support for a policy that hurts the very people they seek to help.
So, there are two conclusions to draw here.  Either Sen. Chris Eaton is an idiot with absolutely no grasp on the basics of economics or she's a tool of the unions but doesn't have the courage or integrity to actually admit it.  I'm going to go out on a limb and say she's both.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Get to Omaha

On behalf of the entire Fraters Libertas staff, we wish JB Doubtless a happy birthday in what has become our traditional manner:

The Educational Dinosaur

Vox Day on worries that children who are homeschooled will have problems adjusting to the working world:

I think one should step back and consider what the working world presently is before concluding that those who struggle with it are somehow deficient. What is natural or normal about spending 8-10 hours per day in a small grey cubicle, living like a rat in a cage and shuffling virtual papers while attempting to avoid conflict with various unproductive individuals of varying degrees of medication and reflexive hostility? Considering how much the average worker has to modify his normal behavior just to avoid getting in trouble with HR these days, can one reasonably conclude that it is the homeschooled individual and not the increasingly outdated working world that is the problem?

The experts tell us that to succeed in the working world of tomorrow, it will be increasingly necessary to be independent, free of reliance upon the corporate patterns of the past, flexible, and agile. To me, it sounds as if much of the "awkwardness" of the homeschooled individual in the eyes of the more conventionally schooled is akin to the strangeness of the mammal when viewed from the perspective of the dinosaur.

I'd like to know what it exactly about the structure of our current education system that is somehow going to help prepare children for the world of work today and especially tomorrow. What, you mean we don't all work in enviroments where all our coworkers were born within twelve months of us and the pace of work for all is dictated by the slowest worker?

Missing the C

Robert from Michigan e-mails:

I'm sure there are those of your acquaintance who watched the Mythical National Championship Monday night so this is for them:

1. On 9-1-2012, Alabama beat Michigan, 41-14. On 1-7-2013, Alabama defeated Notre Dame, 42-14. More than four months and hardly any improvement.

2. What's the difference between ND's football team and Princess Diana? The Irish get crushed after they come out of the tunnel.

3. How many ND players are needed to change a tire? Only one, unless it's a blowout, then the whole team shows up.

The cynic in me says it's better to have a mediocre season than to participate in the MNC, since the abuse you take for losing is so overwhelming. It's similar to those who participated in the Southeast Asia War Games (1962-74) and came away with a only a silver medal.

Monday's BCS National "Championship" Game once again confirmed what a sham college football is. The bowl games are a joke. Unless you have a team playing in one, there is no incentive to watch anything but the National "Championship" Game and those games have offered little in terms of drama of late.

Going back a dozen years, if you compare the quality of the game and entertainment value delivered between the BCS National "Championship" Games and the Super Bowls it's not even close. Because when you have a playoff, you have a much better chance of getting an ultimate contest between two teams playing well at that time instead of teams that might have peaked much earlier in the season and then coasted into the BCS because of a softer late season schedule.

And don't even get me started on the ridiculous gap between the end of the regular season and the National "Championship" Game.

I like football and I'll watch regular season (and especially playoff) NFL games even if my favorite team isn't playing. But I watch very little college football and when I do tune in, like I did on Monday night, I'm almost invariably disappointed in what I see.

Get back to me when you get a playoff system, a REAL playoff system. Until that happens, college football games are something that only an alumni of the schools playing should consider worth watching.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

If The Profile Fits...

I’m not sure how it escaped my notice at the time, but apparently a few years back the state of Michigan passed something known as the ”super drunk law”:

On January 9, 2009, Governor Jennifer Granholm signed two public acts that created what has become commonly known as Michigan’s “super drunk” law.

1 With an effective date of October 31, 2010, this law amends several sections of the Michigan Vehicle Code and most notably adds a new definition of drunk driving applicable to drivers with a bodily alcohol content (BAC) of 0.17 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood, per 210 liters of breath, or per 67 milliliters of urine.

2 Drivers convicted under this new definition will be subject to enhanced punitive and license sanctions and will also be required to undergo one year of alcohol rehabilitation, which may be an alcohol treatment program or a self-help program. The enhanced punitive and license sanctions will apply only to first-time high-BAC offenders.

Second-and subsequent-offense license and punitive sanctions will remain unchanged, regardless of the driver’s BAC, presumably because the current overall punishment for repeat offenders is still greater than that established for super drunks.

Prosecutor: Dude, you are charged with being like...super drunk while driving the other night. How do you plead?

Defendant: Whatever...

Rumor has it that Michigan lawmakers are now considering adding another legal distinction to apply for drunk drivers that will be known as “totally wasted.”

While on the subject of drunk driving, we can also address an e-mail from Bob and Cindy:

After a lot of enjoyment and some chuckling while reading our new favorite web site fraterslibertas, I believe you may be the go to people for my concern; maybe you can shed some light on the commercials that peak during every holiday season, the driving after drinking commercials.

It seems that the commercials show white men as the only people stopped for drinking and driving.

Are these commercials based on the percent of the race or ethnicity of actual people pulled over for DUI, or demographics of viewers, or on actual convictions, or who is driving during the holiday, or the percent of people with ID’s that can drive?

Please help maybe you can shed some light into this gray area. They don’t have
to show anyone in particular being pulled over, except they do, I wish someone would put an end to the commercials as they just show white men as the culprits.

That’s actually an interesting question as I’ve also noticed a certain similarity in all the drunk driving suspects in these spots. It turns out to be one that isn’t all that easy to address. There aren’t a lot of demographic statistics readily available online on drunk driving arrests.

The State of Minnesota does have a breakdown of demographic data on felony DWI sentencing in 2011. There were 660 offenders sentenced for felony DWI in Minnesota in 2011 while there were 29,257 DWI arrests that year so it may not be a representative sample. Here is the breakdown:

DWI offenders are slightly more likely to be male (88%) than in the overall felony population (83%).

So the gender profile does seem to fit. Especially since 73% of those arrested for DWI in Minnesota that year were male.

A greater proportion of felony DWI offenders are likely to be white (69%) or American Indian (8%) than in the overall felony offender population (57% and 7%, respectively). The proportion of felony DWI offenders who are black (16%) is much lower than the proportion of black offenders in the overall felony population (28%).

According to the State Demographic Center, the 2010 census racial breakdown for Minnesota was:

White 85.3%
Black or African-American 5.2%
Hispanic or Latino 4.7%
Asian 4%
American Indian 1.1%

While the white may be slightly underrepresented in the felony DWI data compared to the overall numbers (and the black and American Indian numbers overrepresented), they don’t appear to be egregiously out of line. So in Minnesota at least, the profile from the PSA commercials of a white male being busted for DWI is a pretty accurate one. Guilty as stereotyped.

Monday, January 07, 2013

If Not Us Them

Exxon to Spend $14 Billion on Project Off Canada's East Coast:

ExxonMobil Corp. will spend $14 billion to develop the Hebron oil field off the shore of eastern Canadian province Newfoundland and Labrador, a project it expects to yield 700 million barrels of oil, the company said Friday.

Exxon's announcement underlines how major oil producers are returning their attention to North America after years of searching for oil in the Middle East, Africa and other regions. New drilling technology has allowed ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and other companies to make major discoveries in shale formations in Canada and the U.S., and those same companies are now increasingly turning their attention to fields off the continent's shores.

Exxon said production will start in 2017 and should eventually reach 150,000 barrels of oil a day. The Irving, Texas, company will own through a subsidiary a 36% share in the project, with Chevron Corp., Suncor Energy Inc., Statoil ASA and Nalcor Energy and Gas also holding stakes.

Though the U.S. hasn't allowed oil drilling off the coast of the Atlantic for decades, the Atlantic floor has proven fertile for those seeking reserves off Canada.

Earlier this year, Royal Dutch Shell PLC said it would spend $1 billion to explore Atlantic waters off the province of Nova Scotia. Around 40% of the nominal gross domestic product of Newfoundland and Labrador comes from the energy and resources sector, according to figures from the Canadian government.

"North America is beginning to look like the hottest place on Earth now, both onshore and offshore," said Oppenheimer senior energy analyst Fadel Gheit. "Eastern Canada is definitely under-explored."

The drilling will take place more than 200 miles southeast of the province's capital of St. John's, in about 300 feet of water. Exxon said it will use a stand-alone, gravity-based structure designed to withstand the sea ice that makes drilling on Canada's Atlantic coast hazardous.

The governments of Canada and of Newfoundland and Labrador approved the project in May.

While America waits, dithers, and debates about whether we're really going to exploit the enormous energy resources at our disposal, our friends to the north-not exactly hardly known for their reckless adventurism-our moving ahead and taking advantage of their also plentiful oil and gas supplies. Are they needlessly endangering their environment or we needlessly endangering our economy?

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Heir to Hamilton?

John Kerry as Secretary of State. Chuck Hegel possibly as Secretary of Defense. Just when you thought that Obama’s second term cabinet couldn’t get any worse comes this suggestion from the folks at (with a little help from Hollywood):

Below is an email from the actor Danny Glover, who worked with the organization Just Foreign Policy to create a petition that's taking off on, the nonprofit site that allows anyone to start their own online petition. If you have concerns or feedback about this petition, click here.

Dear MoveOn member,

Press reports say President Obama will soon nominate a new Treasury Secretary. Press speculation has centered on candidates likely to support the Wall Street agenda of cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits and other domestic spending rather than government policies to create jobs.

We want President Obama to nominate Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, who opposes austerity and wants the government to focus on creating jobs.

That's why I created a petition on to President Barack Obama, which says:

We urge you to nominate Paul Krugman for Treasury Secretary. Krugman will protect Social Security and Medicare from benefit cuts, promote policies to create jobs, and help defeat the austerity dogma in Washington and around the world.

Click here to add your name to this petition, and then pass it along to your friends.


–Danny Glover

The very notion of the ultra-liberal New York Times columnist in that positions makes one pine for the good ol’ days of Timothy “Turbo Tax” Geithner, doesn’t it? Although the confirmation hearings could make for some good fun.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Wildly Predictable

Predictions for this weekend’s NFL Wildcard Playoff action submitted without further comment:

Houston 23
Cincinnati 17

Green Bay 31
Minnesota 13

Baltimore 34
Indianapolis 24

Seattle 20
Washington 16

Okay, one comment. With the exception of the Seahawks-Redskins contest, the teams playing at home this weekend are the superior squads. Given that and the disadvantages of playing on the road, it’s hard for me to see how the Bengals, Vikings, or Colts will be able to pull off upset victories. However, it’s been a strange and unpredictable NFL season so far and I’d love to see some more surprising outcomes this weekend.