COVID-19 and the Numbers

If you’re like me, the press conferences and the resulting press coverage leave a lot of confusion about what to expect as the pandemic plays out. Stories and headlines like this one seem to miss the point completely:

White House projects 100K to 240K coronavirus deaths as Trump tells US to prepare for ‘very painful two weeks’

I saw that press conference too, and that wasn’t my conclusion. The “100 K to 240 K” model seemed like more of a cartoon that has not changed for weeks. Dr. Deborah Birx used a graph from this model that leads to a different projection: 84,000 deaths, with a confidence interval from 38,000 to 155,000 deaths. [Note: The study’s projections have been revised upward about 10% since yesterday.]

So what should we expect? When is this thing going to peak? When will things start to get back to normal?

I decided to look at the numbers myself, and I feel marginally better. See Page 2… Continue reading

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Sean Hannity is Dead Wrong About Hunter Biden

Sean Hannity is off base in his criticism of Burisma and its appointment of Hunter Biden to its board.

Hannity hammers away at the younger Biden’s lack of oil and gas experience. Fact is, that’s kind of the point of outside directors. Industry insiders can be subject to groupthink. Outside directors can bring perspective and expertise in general business. I would guess that most, if not all, American oil and gas corporations, both large and small, have lawyers, investment bankers, and general business professionals with no oil and gas experience on their boards.


Hunter Biden was a cokehead. That’s what makes his seat on Burisma’s board so objectionable. Hunter brought nothing to the picnic other than his name and his connection to his (then) powerful dad. Most legitimate companies would avoid anyone with Hunter’s checkered c.v.

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The Strange-But-True Story of Dr. Hubbert and Peak Oil (video)

I was invited to address the New Orleans Chapter of the Society of Independent Professional Earth Scientists (SIPES) on January 21, 2020.

The title of my talk was “The Man Who Would Be King: The Strange-But-True Story of Dr. Hubbert and Peak Oil.” I’d given this talk a few years ago at an industry luncheon in Lafayette, but with newly-updated data and a few new graphs, the story has come into sharper focus.

The audience on this occasion was mostly earth science professionals. In spite of moderate technical content, it should appeal to a broader audience as a tale of a forgotten slice of American history, radical politics, and the philosophy of growth and resource development.

A video of the presentation available at this link.

Sorry, I’m unable to embed the video. If you go to the website, scroll down until you find me.

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What Mitt Romney Tells Us About Impeachment and the Democrats

You’d think that if there were ever a Republican the Dems could work with it would be Mitt. Mitt is not a man of conviction.

But, if you recall, Mitt was destroyed by the Democrats in 2012. Because he rode around with a dog on his car 20 years ago. Because he had “binders full of women”.

This is not about Romney. Just as the impeachment is not so much about Trump.

Sure, Trump can be a lout, but any Republican candidate who denied Hillary Clinton her rightful victory in 2016 would have received this same treatment: spying, dirt-digging, vilification, and ultimately impeachment.

Presidents have a four-year term for one reason: Even the worst President can only do a limited amount of damage in four years, especially a Washington outsider.

This impeachment is nakedly political and unserious. It is a stunt to weaken certain GOP senators, weaken Trump as a candidate, and set the stage for another round if Trump should win again in 2020.

Which is really crazy to be talking about.

In a sane world, a party as big as the Democrats should have no trouble fielding a centrist candidate who could beat Trump 60-40.

As we have seen, that candidate doesn’t exist.

So the only strategy they have left is to sh*t in the well.

Mitt, it doesn’t matter that you voted against the President. All that matters is the R behind your name, even if lower case. You’re never going to be invited to lunch with the cool kids.

This impeachment process has done violence to American politics. I pray it is not permanent.

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A Modest Proposal to Raise $1 Trillion

  1. Pass a law to require 320,000,000 Americans to purchase a banana and duct tape it to a wall.
    The market value of each has been established: $120,000. Some will be more, some less; $120K is a representative average of the duct-taped bananas that have cleared the market recently.
  2. Pass Elizabeth Warren’s tax on assets.
    3% would seem to be a fair rate. You just created something worth $120K from a banana and duct tape. What are you, greedy?
  3. Do the math. 
    OK, compliance won’t be 100%; we’ll assume 300 million duct-taped bananas. For some reason, not everyone wants a $120K banana duct taped to their wall. 300 millon x $3,600 each = $1.08 Trillion! Even if collecting the tax costs $80 billion, we still have a cool $1 Trillion  for the U.S. Treasury.
  4. And that’s not even counting the economic impact of the sale of 300 million bananas.

You’re welcome.


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Don’t offer ‘thoughts and prayers’, for God’s sake!

I’m on the mailing list of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, one of the nation’s premier peer-reviewed scientific journals, on account of a letter to the editor I wrote five years ago. (That’s a whole ‘nother story.)

Today’s inbox contained a link to this recently published paper (emphasis mine):

The value of thoughts and prayers


A standard response of both policy makers and private citizens to hardships—from natural disasters to mass shootings—is to offer “thoughts and prayers.” Critics argue that such gestures are meaningless and may obstruct structural reforms intended to mitigate catastrophes. In this study, we elicit the value of receiving thoughts and prayers from strangers following adversity. We find that Christians value thoughts and prayers from religious strangers and priests, while atheists and agnostics are “prayer averse”—willing to pay to avoid receiving prayers. Furthermore, while indifferent to receiving thoughts from other secular people, they negatively value thoughts from Christians.

“Willing to pay to avoid receiving prayers”, eh? If so, how much?

Fig. 1 suggests that, on average, Christians value prayers from a priest at $7.17 (SE = 1.09) and prayers from a Christian stranger at $4.36 (SE = 1.01). These values are significantly different from zero (z = 6.56, P < 0.001 for prayers from a priest, and z = 4.30, P < 0.001 for prayers from a stranger). In contrast, the nonreligious are “prayer averse”: on average, they are willing to pay $3.54 (SE = 0.81) for a Christian stranger not to pray for them (z = −4.34, P < 0.001). Likewise, they are willing to pay a priest $1.66 (SE = 0.75) not to pray for them (z = −2.22, P = 0.027).

I must say, that’s quite a statistically robust analysis!

Keep watching this site for a PayPal link. Not only am I willing not to pray for just about any atheist you can name, I would be willing to offer group discounts not to pray for large groups of atheists.

Not-to-Pray Price list

  • Individual atheist: $3.00.
  • Family of atheists (up to 6): $10.00.
  • D-list celebrity: $25.00.
  • A-list celebrity: $100.00.
  • Small liberal arts college: $1,000.
  • National university (Div I): $10,000.
  • Hollywood: $100,000.
  • Other fees upon request.

My goal is to become the Jeff Bezos of not praying for people.

Of course, as a Christian, it is my obligation to love my neighbor as myself. One could say that it is a Christian imperative to pray for all sinners, both religious and nonreligious, anyway.

But if I’m found out, what are they going to do, sue me? As the old saying goes, No harm, no foul!”

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“You will do as you are told/Until the rights to you are sold.”

Frank Zappa said it about TV in “I’m the Slime” (1973), but he’d extend it to social media, I’m sure.

First, a disclaimer: I am neither a lawyer nor a computer programmer.

But you know that 27-page Terms of Use Agreement that you signed when you signed up for Tweetstorm and Face-a-Gram? Like most people, you signed “I Agree” without reading it.

That agreement was written by a team of 100 corporate lawyers who were carefully selected for their lack of souls. I took the time away from my busy schedule to read the 6-point agate of the agreement, which I summarize below in laymen’s terms:


What that means is that any content you post on their service belongs to them, and they can do with it as they please.

It also means that the platform can censor what you write. It can filter what you see. It can exercise its own political beliefs in choosing candidates and policy narratives to promote.

It owes you nothing. Period.

That’s the price of posting your vacation selfies in front of The Bean, and seeing your friends’ cat videos.

But there’s good news: You can assert your rights by revising that agreement, asserting Title 27 of U.S. Code Subchapter 3B, and cutting and pasting this language into your timeline.

Not only that, by cutting and pasting this language into your timeline you can reprogram Face-a-Gram’s algorithm to show you posts from dozens of your followers, instead of the mere half-dozen or so that you’re used to seeing.

Got that?


Seriously, that Terms of Use Agreement is written in dense legalese for a reason. You agreed to whatever you agreed to with the platform for whatever reasons you whose to do so. Of course such an agreement cannot be unilaterally altered by one of the parties, especially when the other party to the agreement has all the hand.

Not only that, the notion that you can somehow alter the software that runs the platform by cutting and pasting boilerplate text into a text box is just absurd. If there’s one job description that outnumbers lawyers at these companies it’s programmers.

They employ legions of programmers and data scientists. Really good ones. No, the text box on a web page is not a “back door” where a typical user can take over the whole data engine that makes the website run.

Bottom line, an individual user on a social media site is a grain of sand. The site is the beach. It doesn’t give a crap about your rights, your individuality, or your liberty. The site will connect your electrons with images of your friends’ electrons as long as you contribute to their numbers. They will drop you like a bad habit when it suits them.

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Notes on Genealogy: What do Martin van Buren and Hillary Clinton Have in Common?

So I’ve been working on my family tree on and off for about 20 years. My Dad had an interest and that got me started; an abundance of internet resources made research easy. At this point I know some information about all my “great-greats”, and some lines go back considerably farther.

In summary, my roots are typical of white-bread, Midwestern WASPy flyover America. Nothing special, a few interesting stories and insights on westward expansion, that’s about it. No saints, and no ax-murderers, as far as I could tell.

But last week I found a site run by Brigham Young University that purports to be able to tell you if you have famous or notable relatives: It requires a family tree in, the LDS site. Linking is quite easy.

The results are enlightening, but not in the way I expected.

Just as an example, my roster of kinfolk in the entertainment industry includes luminaries like Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, and Donny and Marie Osmond.

In the world of business, my cousins include: Henry Ford, Warren Buffett, John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, Sam Walton, and Howard Hughes. (N.B. To my knowledge, none of these cousins remembered me in their wills.)

Here’s the crazy part: The only U.S. President who is not listed on my list of cousins is Martin van Buren. The closest kin among U.S. Presidents are William Howard Taft and Millard Fillmore, both fifth cousins, 4 times removed.

BYU will also find notable relatives in other categories, including European Royalty, Signers of the Declaration/Constitution, Mormon leaders and historical figures, and U.S. First Ladies.

Like Martin van Buren, Hillary Rodham Clinton is not my cousin.

So what is to be learned from this?

The value of the respective trees is probably about what you pay for it (it’s a free site). That being said, my side of the tree looks credible.

Bottom line, it appears that virtually everyone is my distant cousin. (OK, that’s overstating a tad. If you’re a first- or second-generation descendant of immigrants, Asian or an Orthodox Jew, maybe not. But if you have even one WASPy line that can be traced several generations back into New England … hello, cuz!)

As you go back in time, the roster of ancestors grows geometrically (doubles every generation). There were fewer than 4 million Americans in 1790; if one has American ancestry going back that far, the chances of two lines crossing becomes higher than you’d expect.

Another thought: At this point, what is the value of organizations like the Daughters/Sons of the American Revolution? All Americans share that legacy. An 8th-generation connection is not remarkable.

One surprise — BYU’s search uncovered my royal lineage, not just a cousin but a direct ancestor. If memory serves (and it will have to, because I’m not looking it up again), my 14th-great-grandfather was James Stewart the Younger, King of Scotland. Which means I have about as much claim to a manse on the Firth of Forth as Elizabeth Warren has claim on Native American heritage.

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Unwoke Advice for Climate Change Kids

Students gather in Columbus Circle in New York for a student-led protest, part of many school climate strikes around the world, against a lack of action on climate issues and to raise awareness about climate change. (Justin Lane/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock, as published in the Washington Post.)

Today’s Climate Change strategy has shifted to target a more youthful demographic. Led by a job-killing freshman Congresswoman, a 16-year old Swedish girl with a TED talk and a foul-mouthed kids’ TV clown, the movement has abandoned preachy polemics for school strikes, shouting down the wisdom and experience of their elders. (During my active blogging days, we had to deal with the insufferable Al Gore. Maybe things have improved.)

[Sample conversation follows.]

Them: “We’ve got to do something now!
Us: “Now?”
Them: “Yes, now, before it’s too late!! It’s our future!”
Us: “What should we do?”
Them: “The Green New Deal! Climate Justice! Leave it in the ground!! Something!!”
Us: “But what if we can’t get China and India on board?”
Them: “We’ve got to do something now!!”
Us: “Oy, vey.”

The Do Something Now! Crowd are past masters at controlling the Climate Change narrative. Any pushback is predictably characterized as dangerous, selfish, and greedy, not to mention racist, anti-feminist, and anti-child. Conservative and skeptics “deny science” and are stuck in the past. Naturally.

Conservatives must resist this false narrative. It is a moral imperative of our time to make reasoned, rational policy decisions regarding our energy future. Those decisions necessarily involve considering all technologies, based on sound engineering and honest cost/benefit analyses. This is an adult responsibility; failure has a price measured not just in dollars, but in human lives. Continue reading

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Senator Warren knows better than Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, and Obama

U.S. Presidents from Nixon through Obama repeated it like a mantra: “America needs to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”

Jimmy Carter called the energy crisis “the moral equivalent of war.”

Even President Obama, no fan of oil and gas, saw the danger of over dependence on foreign oil.

[President Obama] 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 2020. We are currently on track to meet this ambitious goal if we continue to follow through on the policies that are critical to achieving it.

President Trump trumpets the industry’s success as if it were his own. That’s OK; the industry needs a cheerleader.

Finally, we’re blessed with the abundance we sought for nearly fifty years: Domestic production is at an all-time high, and imports are down a third from 2007. Not only that, we have reduced our dependence on oil from outside of North America to under half our total imports.

Not “energy independence”, necessarily, but we certainly took control of our destiny. Needless to say, our position is much stronger in the world.


But Liz Warren knows better. She’s promised that on the first day of her administration, President Warren will end all new oil and gas leasing on federal lands.

Is it me, or does a lot of this high-soprano hysteria reek of self-loathing? Here we are, having achieved a multi-generational goal, and instead of celebrating, instead of reaping our due rewards, we’re to put on a hair shirt and flagellate until global temps come down 0.5º C??

We are not energy independent. Ceasing federal leasing will necessarily increase our dependence on foreign oil. Federal lease income from royalties is the #2 source of revenue, behind only income taxes. Something like 20% of domestic oil comes from the Federal Gulf of Mexico, which is still yielding sizable discoveries.

We got what we’ve wanted for the last 50 years, and now we hate ourselves for it.

No two ways about it. We, as a society, are nuts.

Posted in Climate, Economy, Elections, Energy, Politics | 2 Comments