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.

Posted in Politics | 2 Comments

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: relativefinder.org. It requires a family tree in familysearch.org, 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. [Correction: Dwight David Eisenhower is also not a cousin. – Ed.] 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.

[Edit – A person has 32,768 sets of 14-G grandparents. Just a data point. – Ed.]

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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

Posted in Climate, Energy, Environment, Politics, Popular Culture | 2 Comments

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

Tell Me Again Why You’re an Anti-Fracker?

So, you embrace the “Progressive” energy agenda. You’re all in for the Green New Deal despite its fanciful call for quitting fossil fuels by 2030. You support renewable energy mandates. You protest fracking and new energy pipeline infrastructure. Carbon tax? You’ve even called your Congressman about that one.

These policies all make fossil fuels more expensive to the consumer. That’s the goal of the Climate Change agenda, right?

You don’t need a degree in economics to know that when a commodity price goes up, consumption goes down. The consumers bid out of the market by higher energy costs are the folks on the economic margin, the ones struggling to get by.

Conversely, lower prices mean higher consumption. Thanks to the shale boom, the U.S. has enjoyed a “Blue Light Special” on the little blue flame for over a decade.

A new paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research quantifies the benefit of cheaper natural gas in human terms: Inexpensive Heating Reduces Winter Mortality (.pdf link; h/t Mark J. Perry at AEI.org).

The study estimates that cheap, abundant natural gas saves 11,000 lives annually in the U.S.

Seventeen percent of the population spends over 10% of their income on home energy. The largest component of that expenditure is winter time space heating. We’re talking about the elderly, the infirm, those below the poverty line, anyone on a fixed or limited income who are forced to use less natural gas should prices rise.

The positive health impact of those cheaper prices vs. the cost of electricity or home heating oil is quantifiable, especially in terms of reduced mortality due to respiratory and cardiovascular disease. When home heating takes a smaller bite of the monthly budget, there is also more money available for food and health care.

Those 11,000 lives belong to real human beings, not cartoon penguins or polar bears.

This is a tangible benefit today, not a speculative estimate “by the year 2100”.

Natural gas is cheap, abundant, and domestic. It displaces more polluting fuels from the energy mix. With natural gas production and consumption at all-time highs, overall carbon dioxide emissions are decreasing.

Tell me again why you’re an anti-fracker?



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.@Sen_JoeManchin for POTUS …

… or at least, for the Democratic nomination.

A serious, centrist Democrat should be able to make a play for the blue collar Dems who put Donald Trump in office.

Repudiation of the Green New Deal would not only differentiate his candidacy from the clown show of announced candidates, it would stake his claim as the only adult in the room.

Even if it is a position that is not currently popular with the Dem electorate, 15-20% sees through the B.S. In a field of 20 to 30, 15-20% could be a frontrunner.

Then there’s the issue of energy state Dems who will have no one else to vote for if the entire party embraces the Green New Deal.

A Manchin candidacy would at least give a voter like me a Democratic alternative. I do not consider the Green New Deal to be serious policy proposal. I will not consider any candidate who embraces it.

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Old-School King of the NFL, Part II

(A followup to this post, after having a few days to ruminate on it.)

According to these guys, half of all NFL games are decided by 8 points or fewer.

That means at least half of all games are potentially in the hands of one referee and whether or not he/she decides to drop a flag on a single late-fourth quarter pass play.

The current pass interference penalty (first down at the spot of the foul, spot the ball on the one yard line in the case of an end zone foul) encourages offenses simply to chuck the ball deep and hope for a flag.

Remedy? Simply adopt the NCAA rule: The penalty for pass interference is 15 yards and a first down. Revert to the current penalty only in the case a blatant foul. (FWIW, the Robey-Coleman non-call in the NFC Championship game was what I would call a blatant foul: blow to the receiver’s head, back to the ball, no attempt to make a play on the ball.)

Sure, that leaves some judgment on the zebras. But it makes offenses a lot less likely to “chuck it downfield” and cross their fingers.

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