Sunday, June 05, 2005

Oil is everywhere - even on the bottom of Supervisor Carbajal's feet!

First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal says: “(Oil production) is something that does not interest me," he said. "Regardless of how safe this industry has become . . . the disasters are not distant. They're out there." (News Press 06-05-05)

Apparently, he hasn’t considered that natural seeps from the Santa Barbara Channel have released 4,895 gallons of crude oil and 71 tons of methane gas each day for decades; however, this fact of nature seems irrelevant to people like Salud who wish to create the illusion that man alone is responsible for all the earths “pollution”.

Do your homework Supervisor Carbajal - nature is not as pristine as you would like it to be. Failing to collect this valuable resource in a controlled manner is irresponsible as the natural releases continue to foul south coast beaches.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Democracy - a Problem to Democrats

Democrats have been attempting to redefine “democracy” lately, claiming that it is really the minority that should rule. Of course when Republicans were in the minority for 40+ years this particular notion was not discussed in the halls of Congress.

The reason they are doing this is that they are unable to accept their current situation as the minority political party. It seems that elective politics is rather fickle and that you can’t continue fooling the people forever and eventually they catch on to your inability to govern responsibly and replace you and your ideas.

The primary dictionary definition of democracy is: “Government by the people exercised either directly or through elected representatives.” We have an election every two years to select new members and/or renew the terms of members holding seats in the Congress. Some of these are Democrats; some Republicans and a few are independents.

Election results are based on simple a majority of the voters in a district, that’s why redistricting was so important in California. Democrats realized that if the margin of voters was fairly evenly balanced between Republican and Democrat in each Congressional District that it wouldn’t be long before the California delegation became Republican.

So, in California, elections are predetermined by “safe districts” and there is little if any competition of ideas, just party hacks who are given a rubber stamp by the state political committee and are expected to use it. Democracy has become a relative term and the citizens of this state are suffering from an ultraliberal government which is focused on “feelings” rather than proper administration of the states business.

The second definition is: “A political or social unit that has such a government.” The United States is a democracy, thus the definition is applicable to the way our country is governed. Most states have competitive elections and that’s a definite disadvantage for liberal democrats. When it gets down to a battle of ideas, democrats are bankrupt and only have “concerns” without any viable solutions.

The next definition is the one the democrats are having the most trouble with: “The common people, considered as the primary source of political power. Majority rule.”

The Federalist Papers were produced by the founders of the Constitution in 1787-1788 to explain how the new government would operate. They said: “It is ESSENTIAL to such a government that it be derived from the great body of the society, not from an inconsiderable proportion, or a favored class of it.” So, it is clear from the beginning that the founders expected the majority to govern.

Of course, this means that the dreaded Republicans are currently running the show in Washington and Democrats can only agitate, obstruct, delay and abuse the meaning of democracy. The recent several month delay in the voting on judicial appointments is one example of this obstructionism. The immediate abandonment of the deal made to end the stalemate by Democrats and the filibuster of yet another nominee the following day is indicative of the ethical standards within the Democrat party.

It never dawns on Democrats that if they simply provided reliable, logical, well thought out and technically sound solutions for the problems that they perceive that the voters would put them back in office – then they could put all this talk about the new meaning of democracy behind them.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Lamb Lies Down on H Street...

The City of Lompoc's Mayor, in a recent op-ed in the Lompoc Record, accused the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and SBCTA of not understanding how city finances work. In his commentary, he makes the following statement:

"Both the Jarvis and SBCTA letters state that by entering into broadband the city will be taking money away from vital services like public safety, parks, library, etc. It appears that both organizations lack the basic knowledge of how city finances work. The $1.5 million that we are using to establish a Wi-Fi network is being borrowed from the utility department and is not new money - it is already in the bank." - Dick Dewees (Lompoc Record, May 18, 2005) -

In the first place, the city's utility department is not an investment bank. Therefore, it should not be dabbling in the venture capital business.

Moreover, the money the city's utility department is lending out is not being loaned by risk takers, investors, and/or depositors, which is typically the case when banks loan money. In this case, the money is being loaned by the utility's ratepayers so that the Lompoc City Council can pursue a non-essential government enterprise that we believe is better left to the private sector.

Secondly, in his op-ed, the Mayor says, "If, three to five years from now the city elects to offer high-speed Internet, cable television, and telephone services, the money for these services will be provided through the sale of municipal bonds."

We already know that the Mayor; the city council; the city's staff; and their million dollar out of town consultant, are fully intent on taking the good people of Lompoc down the road where providing a soon to be obsolete "fiber-to-the-home" (FTTH) broadband service is the ultimate goal.

Indeed, the WiFi, or Wireless Internet Utility (WIU), is only the first phase. The FTTH project is phase 2 and development is already under way and at an estimated cost of $27 million dollars for both phases. SBCTA and Jarvis will continue warning Lompoc's taxpayers that it is a rough road ahead and their misguided city council has no business taking them down this road in the first place.

The Mayor correctly points out that we (SBCTA/Jarvis) did not attend any of the "numerous" public meetings about municipalizing Lompoc's wireless/fiber broadband service. The reason is quite simple; we were not notified, or asked, to attend any of the numerous public meetings.

It is worth pointing out that the Mayor of Lompoc used to sit on the board of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association. He resigned on May 13th due to our opposition to his pet project. Had he invited us to one of their numerous meetings we could have made our concerns known to him long ago. Who knows, maybe we could have saved Lompoc's taxpayers the $425,000 the city council has already agreed to pay their consultant.

I suspect we were not invited because they probably were not interested in hearing from the opponents of their broadband proposal, only the proponents (especially their out of town consultant). After all, in his op-ed, the Mayor states that the consultant warned them there would be opposition to this proposal. Did the Mayor ask the consultant who and where the opposition might come from?

But since the Mayor has dropped the gauntlet, I feel compelled to respond to his charge that we have no understanding of how city finances work. This is our understanding of how city finances work:

Taxpayers pay taxes to local government so the local government can deliver a few essential programs and services not readily available from any other source, such as: police protection, fire protection, code-enforcement, fixing and maintaining roads, filling potholes, trash collection/hauling, wastewater treatment, etc.

That same taxpayer can then go out and hire a private communications company - like COMCAST - to receive super-duper fast internet access that will allow them to surf the internet, chat online with friends and family, play games and download music, movies and pictures of their favorite musicians, actors and celebrities.

COMCAST makes money and hires people to service their customers; the company pays taxes (including payroll, income, and property); as well as other fees to the city; the city prospers and as a result so do the citizens. It is actually a good economic model...and has been working pretty well in this country for over 200 years.

But if the city decides to run COMCAST and other companies like it out of town in order to provide its citizens the same kind of non-essential services, such as broadband, and the citizens choose not to buy the service from the city, the city ends up losing money. Why is that? Because the city borrowed, the $27 million dollars required to roll out the "cool" non-essential service.

Also, what would happen if some citizens buy the cool new service but not enough, or not as many as originally projected? In other words, what happens if the city's out of town consultant is off in their customer projections? The city will find itself in serious risk of not earning enough to justify the cost. But how can that be? After all, it is a real cool broadband service that people are already claiming they want and many already use.

Here is why:

In order for the city to win, it must price the new - non-essential - government owned broadband service accurately. They must determine the total projected capital per customer service unit...i.e., the price per customer must be well understood well in advance. Has the City of Lompoc nailed this small detail down? If so, can they tell us what it is?

If the level of customer interest is positive (as i am sure it is), then the city will be able to project positive earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITA). We suspect this is probably where Lompoc is. Currently, everything looks great and so they think the city is good to go...but is it?

What will happen if the projections on customer interest misses the mark and the city experiences softer than expected sales? By the way, this is something every private business experiences on occasion. Or to put it another way, what if the dog just doesn't like the dog food and some of the customers cancel their cool new service? You might ask AOL, CompuServe or Prodigy if this ever happens.

In fact, it can and will happen for a variety of reasons, but the most likely scenario for it happening is because of what we will call "the gales of creative destruction", i.e., because of innovation. Welcome to the brutal world of high tech.

Case in point: do the members of the Lompoc City Council realize we are less than a few months away from WiFi being rendered obsolete? This is true; get ready for WiMax because it is coming to a roof near you...within a year it will be in people’s living rooms and within two years, every new home computer will be equipped with a WiMax chip. WiFi, to put it gently, is already a dinosaur.

The so-called "fiber-to-the-home" service is not far behind and will soon become extinct as well.

If this happens, who cares? After all, the city can always cancel the cool new, er, old service, right? Absolutely, but the debt (and the Mayor is apparently predicting the use of tax-free municipal bonds to finance the FTTH phase) will still need to be paid back, with interest, and that means the general fund will be on the hook when the venture eventually goes sideways.

Could this happen? Wouldn't the city's hired consultant warn the city about this potentiality? Not if they want the contract. But in fact, it happens all the time, Minnesota's collectivist utopia notwithstanding.

And so here is really where it all comes full circle; if the city's general fund is encumbered because it is servicing tens of millions of dollars in unproductive debt, it will have less money available for police protection, fire protection, code-enforcement, road repair and maintenance, trash collection and hauling, waste-water treatment...and, oh yeah, I almost forgot; broadband!

Say it ain't so Joe

While Carpinteria residents will soon pay over $80 for water, the little backwater (and according to the Santa Barbara Taxpayers Association “mismanaged” because of their soon to arrive broadband service) town of Lompoc is charging less than $45 a month for both drinking water and wastewater disposal.

Oh, by-the-way our City provided electric utility rates are less than half of the PG&E rate for the same electricity.

Sure glad I live in Lompoc.

Monday, May 16, 2005

WARNING: The ethical standards of journalists may be faulty.

Ethics in journalism used to be the cornerstone of the news reporting industry. Apparently, reporters have forgotten their duty to report the news of the day factually and editors have forgotten their responsibility to verify their sources.

Reporting of the days events is a highly charged business as each outlet tries to “scoop” their competition to gain readers, listeners or viewers. The ability of the internet to instantly transmit news stories has eroded the impact of the daily newspaper and 24/7 all-news networks have diminished the importance of the “top-of-the-hour” radio news and half-hour evening television news.

Individual reporters are constantly pressured to produce writings and 30-second voice/videotape pieces that will grab the attention of the public. Sensationalism is now the byword in journalism as ethics and credibility have taken a back seat.

In the last few months many major news outlets have been forced to retract major “stories” that were soon proven false by the public. CBS’s Dan Rather “reported” false information concerning the National Guard service of President Bush in order to persuade the voting public that he was unworthy of being re-elected. Rather did this to further his own political agenda and in the process sacrificed his place as a news icon and instead became a newsmaker.

The New York Times has fired reporters because they fabricated stories. Eight newspapers including USA Today and the Sacramento Bee have forced reporters to resign recently because of other unethical behavior including making up facts. One columnist, a Pulitzer Prize winner, whose column had appeared three days a week in the Bee resigned amid an internal inquiry into whether some people mentioned in several recent columns ever existed.

Now Newsweek has published a false and misleading report concerning the actions of guards at Guantanamo Bay. In their zeal to capture the moment and scoop the competition, Newsweek falsely reported that guards had flushed pages of the Koran down the toilet.

Naturally, this infuriated the Muslim community at home and in the Far East. Rioting, renewed attacks on American forces and several deaths resulted based on reaction to this false report. The credibility of the United States was deeply hurt in an already skeptical region of the world.

Newsweek’s response was a feeble “apology” to the victims, however they did not retract the story even though it was firmly established that the “source” could not personally substantiate the allegation!

Many news outlets reprinted this falsehood without doing some independent fact checking. Of course why would you fact-check a story produced by a huge, well funded organization like Newsweek? One would think that they had their own set of checks and balances in place to filter out things like this – apparently, they didn’t and neither does any of the other once trusted “major news outlets”.

Perhaps a disclaimer could inoculate ethically challenged news organizations: “WARNING: The facts reported in this story may or may not have actually occurred. Any attempt to use this information as a basis for riot, criticism of the subject of the report or establishing the true circumstances of the event in question should be avoided. The staff and management of this publication are not responsible for the content of this article.”

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Rare opportunity for a "win-win" government give-away

The Bush administration is going to start reimbursing hospital districts for providing emergency medical care to illegal immigrants. The money, totaling $1 billion, will be available for services provided until September 2008.

American hospital districts treat anyone who walks through the door, this is the way the emergency medical care system has worked since there were country doctors and I don’t think many people would argue with that philosophy – if you’re sick, injured and unable to care for your illness you should be cared for by a professional.

The care provided really isn’t “free” as we would like to believe. Medical professionals get paid, buildings cost money to build and maintain and the supplies and equipment used to treat the sick and injured are costly. Many patients are covered by insurance or government programs, but illegal aliens are not. You and I, who are here legally, pay for it.

Taxpayer funded medical programs are in trouble financially. Spending a billion to treat illegal aliens may be a nice gesture, but what about all of us who are here “legally” – is adding an “entitlement” for people who are here illegally either prudent or the right way to “fix” the problems with the medical delivery system?

Well, our government is going to do this anyway, without any real public debate, just print the money and send it out to hospitals. Wait a minute, this is a government program and there will undoubtedly be reams of paper work required to justify receipt of the money.

I see a silver lining in this program already. Why not have the Immigration and Naturalization Service administer the program?

I’ll bet that one of the blocks on the paperwork will be an identification of the individual who is receiving the care and his/her immigration status. Otherwise, how would the feds know that the money was really going to treat illegal aliens and not just sick, taxpaying American citizens?

Now that we can identify freeloading illegal aliens, how about posting an INS agent in each hospital district whose sole purpose is to round up these law breakers after they are treated and put them on a slow bus back to wherever they came from!

Eventually this program may actually pay for itself as the need for this new entitlement and other drains on the economy caused by illegal aliens is slowly decreased by attrition.

Another block could be to ask where these people work. That is a simple question that could reap another benefit for us taxpayers. Remember that INS agent? When we find out where this person works, the agent could be sent around to enforce the laws that require employers to determine the immigration status of their employees. Suitable fines and/or jail time should follow, with the fines being applied to the cost of enforcement.

This could be a win-win situation, which is rare in government programs.

If we are going to spend $1-billion of our hard earned tax money on scofflaws, at least we should get something positive out of it. Of course, civil libertarians will be hard at work to prevent it, I must have been dreaming.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Good news/bad news for illegals.

Santa Barbara taxpayers Association: "U.S. pays for care of illegal aliens Treatment money for border states"

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration said yesterday that it would start paying hospitals and doctors for providing emergency care to illegal immigrants. The money, totaling $1 billion, will be available for services provided from today through September 2008. Congress provided the money as part of the 2003 law that expanded Medicare to cover prescription drugs, but the new payments have nothing to do with the Medicare program.

Comment: Wouldn't this require hospitals to identify illegal aliens in order to collect the money? Idea: station INS officers at each hospital and after care is given load the illegals on a bus for a trip south!

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Gold plated parks in Goleta

Some people claim that government is inefficient. What follows is just one example of that inefficiency.

A recent story in the Santa Barbara New Press, "Goleta turns green for parks upkeep (5/8/05)" amplifies government inefficiency: "Santa Barbara County, which has handled park maintenance duties under terms of a $551,735 annual contract with Goleta since the city formed in 2002, will cease providing services on June 30." "At the county, parks officials say they are working with Goleta on a smooth transition. They (the county) expect to lose four positions as a result of the switch."

Now let's say just for the sake of argument that the parks employees are paid a "living wage" of $12 an hour, plus benefits for their work and that they work full-time. The extended cost would be around $20 or so - that's about $166,400 a year for wages.

What did Goleta get for the other $385,335? I certainly hope that the City of Goleta requires an accounting of expenditures from the County to justify these costs.

The Write Side...

“Clean Air Month” is upon us. We can all look forward to scare stories about how the air we breathe is killing us, but is the biggest offender of the politically motivated clean air standards man or nature?

A Lompoc Record editorial began with: “And even though we consider our little corner of the world paradise, the fact is that while Santa Barbara County meets federal clean-air standards, it falls short of meeting the tougher state standards.”

This is sort of misleading, since the north county routinely meets state standards and the south county does not. It also fails to acknowledge that local environmental activists have hoodwinked the Santa Barbara Air Pollution Control District into creating the most restrictive standards in the United States, standards that may be unattainable even if human activity stopped today.

It also doesn’t mean that the south county has more industrial pollution emitters than does the north – it is probably connected to the methane release from natural seeps off of our coastline, not any human activities. You see, the instruments used to measure air contaminates cannot discriminate between natural and manmade pollution.

The Record continued: “But when air pollution enters the picture, nature's perfect cycle is disrupted.” As pointed out above nature is not perfect when it comes to polluting the environment. Anyone with a pollen associated sinus problem can readily attest to the impact that nature has on our daily lives.

And what about those “greenhouse gases”, the purported cause of global warming, where do they come from? A major source is volcanoes. Dr. Dick Camp, Professor of Geology at San Diego State University reports that at Mammoth Lake, CA states: “There is clear evidence that CO2 gas is currently ascending through the rocks surrounding Mammoth Mountain. Carbon dioxide has killed trees in at least four areas around the volcano (”

“Satellite data after the 1991 eruptions of Mt. Pinatubo (the Philippines) and Mt. Hudson (Chile) showed a 15-20% ozone loss at high latitudes and a greater than 50% loss over the Antarctic!” Could this be the cause of the "ozone hole" that is the proported source of "global warming" and not my SUV?

When Mount Saint Helens erupted the United States Geological Survey reported that it released 24 megatons of thermal energy (7 by blast, rest through release of heat)! To place this force in context, the two atom bombs dropped on Japan in WWII only released a force equal to 13,000 tons and 21,000 tons each.

The cloud of pollutants reached about 80,000 feet in less than 15 minutes and circled Earth in 15 days. On May 1st, some 25-years after the first eruption the USGS reports: “Under current eruptive conditions, small, short-lived explosions may produce ash clouds that exceed 30,000 feet in altitude. Ash from such events can travel 100 miles or more downwind.”

So despite what editorial writers, local environmentalists and movie makers want you to believe, its nature that is responsible for the greatest changes in nature, not humans’ activity or President George Bush’s environmental policies.

No matter how many oil wells we drill, power plants we build, air conditioners we operate, hair spray we use, cars we paint or SUV’s we drive we mere humans could never equal the magnitude of “pollution” created by nature.

The Write Side...

Should the Oak Tree ordinance be allowed to continue to hamper local ranchers? Is it necessary to “protect the environment”?

Lately politicians have been touting the notion the “democracy” should prevail and that the “will of the people” cannot be ignored. Well, the people of this county twice defeated ballot measures aimed at protecting Oak trees.

The electorate was right. Oak trees are not on anyone’s list (neither California nor the federal government) of threatened or endangered species, thus they require no special protections by government. The former Board of Supervisors crafted an emotional response to a minority of citizen groups’ baseless complaints that the trees were somehow threatened by ranching and vineyard activities.

The fact is that Oak trees are like weeds. They readily propagate without any prompting from man. They are plentiful in this region of the United States and because of the topography of the area, most are located on steep hillsides and out of productive landscapes.

I would urge the BOS to require the county staff to review this ordinance and identify a specific scientific need to protect Oak trees. In the absence of a stated technical need, or federal or state listing to protect the trees, the ordinance should be immediately rescinded.

To continue unnecessary government regulation diminishes the purpose of government and detracts from the important role that government plays in protecting its citizens.