Includes thoughts and comments about energy needs, resources, conservation and their relationship to politics at home and around the world.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

One of my favorite co-workers in the last dozen years or so of my corporate life was Dan Shawhan, a engineering graduate from Virginia Tech just before WWII where he also played football. A former Chairman and CEO of the company we worked for also was a VPI graduate.
I thought of them yesterday (April 16) along with all of the shooting victims when the news broke of the massacre at Blacksburg.

Like most people, I guess I'm still in some shock that such an event could happen. Could it have been prevented? will be a question to be debated for some time to come. It would have been difficult at best, what with 75% of the school's normal daily population living off campus. Had the school been "locked down" immediately following the first shooting, it might have worked but with the shooter still on campus, probably not. Spread out over 2,600 acres, VPI is really a fair sized town or small city. Short of an armed law enforcement officer in every classroom and building on campus, I don't know how any university. college or K-12 facility could be made safe against someone bent on taking lives such as the one in the VPI incident. I don't think you will see any school going that far. So, if there is a solution it will have to be something other than turning our schools and colleges into armed camps.

As was to be expected in the wake of the massacre at VPI, gun control proponents are set to mount another strenuous campaign to outlaw gun ownership. They will cite European nations such as Great Britain et al who have strcict laws in place against guns in private hands. Yet, many of their citizens still own guns and probably always will. They will cite high crime rates in this country involving the use of guns v. much lower rates in European countries. At the same time they will ignore the fact that armed private citizens have thwarted the efforts of numerous criminals in this country.

I believe the Second Amendment insures the sanctity of all the other rights spelled out by the founding fathers. Without that amendment there would be precious little to stand in the way of a force intent on a takeover of the country. I know that sounds like NRA talk, but I believe it as sure as I'm sitting here.

Having said all of the above, I do believe we should deny the right of gun ownership by all aliens living in this country until or unless they become naturalized citizens. I also believe the system now in place but not yet fully reliable whereby a check of police records is made before a gun sale is made should be strengthened. Counter to the NRA's position, I believe all privately owned small arms, be they handguns, rifles or shotguns, should be registered with the local police or sherriff's department. Any resale of such weapons should be reported to those agencies for re-registering in the name of the buyer. Automobiles, boats etc. require registration in a similar manner, why not guns?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Carrot v. The Stick
John Kerrey and Newt Gingrich had an interesting debate this morning on the issue of climate change and how to meet the challenge of developing ways to counteract its impact. It was not an argument about whether we are undergoing climate change or the need for action to combat it. And, it wasn't an argument about the science of it. Their debate boiled down to whether it should be government running the show or private enterprise.

The Stick
Kerrey took the position that government had to take the lead by setting the standards of how much reduction in greenhouse gas needs to be achieved, by what date, and putting the heat on industry to get there.

The Carrot
Gingrich's disagreement was that we can get to the goal quicker and at less expense by "incentivizing" industry to do the job. The incentives would include tax breaks on research and development. He believes the Kerrey approach would require a whole new and costly bureaucracy replete with likely court cases etc. that have plagued so many government regulatory agency efforts in the past.

I personally prefer Gingrich's approach, not because like him I'm a conservative politically, but because I have always favored carrots over sticks. I'm confident that private industry scientists and engineers can get us to acceptable greenhouse gas levels in relatively short order given sufficient incentive.

Monday, April 02, 2007

EPA Regulation Authority

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to enforce limitations on greenhouse gas emissions from American automobiles. It's going to be interesting to see how they will do it. Eco-cops in every assembly plant? in every engine lab? on every street corner? Or a whole new bureaucracy?

Conflict of Interest

Conflict of interest in any position be it government or the private sector is a serious matter. It looks like Senator Feinstein (D-CA) may find out just how serious it can be. The claims, if true, that the companies her husband has ownership in (Perini Corp. and URS Corp.) have benefited from the Senator's lead position and votes on a subcommittee responsible for approving appropriations for major military construction projects certainly smack of conflict of interest. Her sudden resignation from the subcommittee suggests she lacks a defense. Interestingly, mainstream news media have been silent on this matter. Even though I'm a Republican, I take no delight in seeing Feinstein or the Democrat party take the heat in this matter because greed in public officeholders has become rampant in both major parties. It is terribly disheartening and it further destroys one's confidence and trust in all of our political leaders.

Raced-based College Admissions

It has been reported that race-based admission policies in our leading institutions of higher learning are not producing the results originally set by Affirmative Action; i.e., more black minority doctors, lawyers and other professionals. One theory has it that in accepting minority students with lower academic qualifications than those of the other students at a given institution puts the minority students in a position of feeling inadequate. As a result, the theory says, such students fail to go on to professional careers. Had these same students gone on to institutions where their academic qualifications were equal to those of the rest of the students, the results would be better. It is asserted that universities and colleges should concentrate on results, not on raced-based admissions.