Wednesday, August 29, 2007


It is getting harder and harder to associate with the Republican party these days. I don't honestly know which is worse - the Democrats lust for power and control with all the hypocrisy and lies or the Republicans lust for moral superiority with all the hypocrisy and lies.

We have this new scandal with Sen. Larry Craig (R Idaho) and his "I am not gay!" declaration that doesn't jibe with his behavior. And so what if he is, but this hypocrite is the same guy that clucks about family values and chides Bill Clinton. What is Larry doing soliciting sex with men in airport bathrooms? What an idiot!

In 2006 there was Congressman Foley (R Florida) toying around with underage boys with provocative IM messages as if he were interested in gay sex with boys. What is wrong with him? There was the honorable Sen. Vitter (R Louisiana) listed in a whore house Rolodex. Before that Duke Cunningham (R Calif) is caught taking kickbacks from defense contractors. Again, what was he thinking? Remember Newt, the conservative icon of the 90's, also very critical of Bill Clinton's immoral personal behavior. Well Newt stepped out on his very ill wife with a hot new honey in contradiction to all his moralist rhetoric.

Even though, to their credit, Foley, Cunningham and Gingrich resigned their positions rather than bring further dishonor on themselves and their party the damage was done. Due to a hostile anti-conservative media they stood no chance of their scandals being swept under the rug like almost every Democratic scandal. (William Jefferson, Diane Fienstein, Sandy Berger, Harry Reid etc etc etc, oh, you don't recall these scandals, my point exactly.)

Unfortunately for me there really is nowhere else to go. I cannot associate with modern Democrats because they are socialists plain and simple. The Libertarian Party has a lot to like except that it is a joke. Small "L" libertarian is very intriguing and I find I have sympathy for the live and let live attitude, but it is not a serious political party. The Green Party, umm, no way. I don't subscribe to the idea that humanity is an evil scourge.

In the end one party or the other will have to repair itself.

The modern Democratic party I fear is beyond hope. They speak and act (and govern) like 5 year olds. How can we deal with a philosophy that treats rational and moral thought is an act of bigotry? How can we interact with people so utterly incapable of critically judging the merits of the positions they hold while calling you a racist and a homophobe.

As for the "do as I say, not as I do" Republicans I only hope they (we) can actually take the higher ground and live up to the standards we expect of ourselves. Everyone is a hypocrite at one time or another, but the current crop of Republicans take the cake. What a major disappointment. It is so difficult to stand and hold on really important matters like fiscal and tax policy and national defense when your associates are screwing around, literally!

If there was a way to develop a Common Sense Party that wasn't beholden to political correctness or moralistic dogmas I'd join today. I'd bet half of all Americans would sign up before sunset, but it isn't going to happen. We have to retake one or the other of these established parties. The socialists have claimed the Democratic Party. That leaves us with the Repug-lican Party. Great...


The Air Car, Say What?

By now we have all heard that we are choking this fragile planet in cloud of CO2 because we greedy, thoughtless, brutish, racist, homophobic, redneck, Bush-loving, fat and arrogant Americans drive our (big) cars to work. We all know that if we were even a little bit enlightened and eco-conscious, like all Europeans are, we would walk the twenty miles to work - or at least ride a bike or, if we absolutely had to we could take mass transit.

Many good people, people who take this "we're killing the planet" to heart, have already gone for the hybrid car. Of course, the hybrid car, while being cute as a button and the current pinnacle of viable green technology, still relies partially on the evil that is the internal combustion engine.

The true all-electric car is just around the corner! Again, the plug-in electric car still has to get energy from somewhere... Yeah, that would be a coal fired power plant, not actually that eco-friendly now is it?

What we need is a car that would run on air! Ha ha ha ha, why that's just silly! Wait, what did you say?

Yes, I said an air car, and it's not as crazy as you'd think. The first commercial compressed air car is on the verge of production. Meet the MiniC.A.T. Tata, India’s largest automotive manufacturer, has signed a deal to produce a very cost-effective mass production Compressed Air Car.

Imagine a car that is incredibly cost-efficient to run. Its mileage is about double that of the most advanced electric car - up to 190 miles. Currently in most urban environs 80% of motorists drive at less than 42 miles to work and back. The car has a top speed of 68 mph.

While I would have a very hard time picturing myself behind the wheel of something that looks this hideous I must say I am intrigued.

The infrastructure to support the plug-in electric car already exists, people already understand a "rechargeable" battery. So, where can you buy air? Refilling the car is simple and it's not a stretch to believe gas stations would soon be offering a compressed air adapter. In two or three minutes, and at a cost of approximately $3 the little car will be ready to go another 190 miles. The car carries a small compressor which can refill the tank in 3-4 hours.

How it all works is what tripped me up when trying conceptualize an "air" powered car. I have used compressed air guns before and while they can blast a projectile with great force we are talking about a pellet or bb that weighs next to nothing. It seems the key to generating the power needed to drive a piston downward so its connecting rod turns the crankshaft is the time the piston remains at top dead center in the stroke. Go here to see an animated clip of the connecting rod in action.

This car, as it is now might be at home in tightly packed European or Japanese cities. For Americans I'm afraid the chassis would need to be more substantial before it would be a safe alternative to plug-in electric cars or today's hybrids. Regardless, I think this endeavor is showing that the current paradigm can be changed - even though I love the sound and feel of a V8 attached to my right foot - I see the need for these interesting and, yes, revolutionary vehicles. Keep your eye open for the Air Car coming to a city near you!


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Minnesota's North Shore

I've just returned from a fabulous jaunt to Minnesota's North Shore. It was a quick get away for my wife and I, which is something we haven't done in years. The weather was fine and the hiking was invigorating. The scenery, my friends, is about as good as it gets here in the frozen north.

Stretching about 150 miles from the famous port city of Duluth to the Canadian border the north shore of Lake Superior has been a favorite destination for tens of thousands of tourists for many decades. We recommend a mid-week trip of no less than 3 days to avoid the crowds and to make sure you don't miss any of the highlights.

We started in Grand Portage near the Canadian border and went south on Highway 61. The first place we stopped was Grand Portage State Park to see the High Falls.

The Pigeon River separates the U.S. from Canada. It was the High Falls that gave birth to the "grand portage". It is a rugged nine mile portage first used by the Chippewa Indians before the first French fur traders ever laid eyes on these spectacular waterfalls. This is the highest waterfall in Minnesota - falling well over a 100 ft. Obviously photos can't relay the impact seeing it in person does.

Near Grand Portage in an undisclosed location is the infamous Witch Tree. It is not marked on any maps and it is featured in no brochures. There are no signs or historical markers pointing the way - one just has to know where it is. Finding it is half the fun.

It is said to be a spiritual site for the Native Americans of the area and therefore is treated with reverence by all visitors. The tree is reportedly in excess of 300 years old. Growing out of a rock it seems to defy the laws of nature... The best way to view it is from the lake itself. Seeing it from the viewing stand 30 yards away lessens the visual impact, but it is nonetheless spectacular.

The tree is situated deep in a ravine where the wind does not blow and the birds do not sing. It is utterly silent among the moss draped conifers. There are signs that say only "Quiet Area". The site is marked by this informational sign just as you enter the ravine.

We stayed in the town of Lutsen, famous for its ski resorts and lake shore villas. Lutsen offers the best skiing in Minnesota, a state with plenty of snow but no real mountains. Just south of Lutsen is Temperance River State Park. The Temperance River cuts a mighty swath through the bluffs as it winds its way down to the big lake.

The river cuts through the bedrock with violent torrents carving 30, 40, 50 foot gorges with its many waterfalls. But even with the raging river pounding away relentlessly just a few feet below a tiny, delicate and beautiful flower perseveres.

Continuing south on Highway 61 we come to one of our favorite North Shore parks, Tettegouche State Park. The Baptism River, like the Temperance is a wild ride through the bluffs and offers some of the best hiking in Minnesota. But it's Shovel Point that treats you to some unparalleled sights.

The color of the water in Lake Superior is like nothing I've seen before. It's very clear and very cold, even in mid-August. Not many sandy beaches or bathing beauties to behold, just an occasional kayaker floating by.

There are numerous historical markers, scenic overlooks and wayside rests all along Highway 61. Cutface Creek is beautiful little wayside. However, with this years lack of rainfall the creek itself was bone dry. Nevertheless, the beach (if you can call it that) is a favorite spot for rock and agate collectors. I snapped this rather artsy picture as colorful little leaf bobbed in the shallows.

From another wayside sightseers can get a view of the famous Split Rock Lighthouse. Decommissioned years ago and turned into a state park this lighthouse is easily one of the most recognizable of Lake Superior's many lighthouses.
Situated high above the lake on a 150 ft cliff face Split Rock Lighthouse is a favorite of photographers and painters, including yours truly!
"Autumn At Split Rock"
18X24 (acrylic)

Indeed the whole North Shore is favorite of photographers and artists! For instance, Gooseberry Falls is probably the most photographed feature in all of Minnesota's many state parks. This year with the lack of rain the falls are a fraction of what they normally are. Still, as you can see, tourists continue to enjoy Minnesota's most visited state park.

Twenty miles north of Duluth is a town called Two Harbors which still services large iron ore vessels. Here the Philip Clarke is being loaded as we view it from the breakwater pier out in the harbor.

Two Harbors is hopping town during tourist season and boasts many fine cafes, BWCA outfitters and gift shops. The Two Harbors Lighthouse is still a working facility that doubles as a bed and breakfast with a fine little gift shop.

We ended our tour trying to follow the famous Sky Line Parkway in Duluth. There are supposedly seven stone bridges built along the parkway during the depression by WPA workers. The city has since grown to engulf the old Sky Line Parkway and try as we might we continually lost our way. Eventually we found the south end of the parkway and stopped at a wayside where we snapped this picture of Duluth's most famous landmark, The Aerial Lift Bridge.

Just as we were giving up on finding any of the stone bridges we turned a corner a there it was!

Everyone should take a drive along Highway 61 at least once in your life. It one of America's great national highways. But a Highway 61 adventure wouldn't be complete without a tour of Minnesota's North Shore!


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Organic? Or, Better Life Through Chemistry?

I knew there was a reason I blow right past the ever expanding organic section at my local supermarket. Somewhere inside me deep down I knew something was very wrong with the whole "earthy" milieu.

Basically it's a sham. The whole "go organic" mantra is designed to play on your fear of chemicals, factory farms and big agri-business. In the end there is no real difference in the food itself - except for the cost. I don't mean just the cost you pay at the checkout, I'm talking about the cost to the land, the air, the water and the animals as well. Read Jackie Avner's excellent piece "Reasons you should buy regular goods" in the Denver Post.

Your local grocery store loves organic food, the mark up is tremendous, and by the way the supermarket is big business too. (Don't even mention Whole Foods, that's a multi-billion dollar BIG business).

Avner points out what is less than obvious:

Consumers assume that organic crops are environmentally friendly. However, organic production methods are far less efficient than the modern methods used by conventional farmers, so organic farmers must consume more natural and man-made resources (such as land and fuel) to produce their crops.

Why can't people seem to understand that more and more people all over the globe are being fed better than ever before in human history with less and less land and fewer farmers devoted to the cause. It called modern agri-business. It is responsible for our incredible lifestyle and increasing lifespan. Why is it looked upon as if it is something evil???

Jackie Avner ponders this as well:

but I wonder: Why do people apply that logic to agricultural products, but not to every other product we use in our daily lives? There are either no chemicals, or the minutest trace of chemicals in some of our foods. But other everyday products are full of chemical ingredients. Read the label on your artificial sweetener, antiperspirant, sun lotion, toothpaste, household cleaning products, soda, shampoo, and disposable diapers, for example. The medicines we administer to our children when they are sick are man-made substances. Chemicals aren't just used to make these products; they are still in these products in significant amounts. It just doesn't make sense to focus fear of technology on milk and fresh produce.

Who among us really wants to live the way humanity lived before 1830? The rise of applied science and technology has accelerated humanity to heights no one even dreamed of 2 or 3 hundred years ago. Nowhere is it more profound and important than in food production. Here we are about to let the Luddites deliver us to our past instead of to our future.

The truly evil ones are not giant agri-businesses but the small minded people who are standing in the way of real and meaningful progress towards eradicating hunger and starvation. Intellectuals and neo-Luddites particularly in Europe are actively preventing genetic engineering of food crops for backward dirt poor countries in Africa. This should be looked upon as criminal!

In the name of preventing cruelty to animals by way of "chemicals" and medicines that boost production primarily by eradicating disease and illness they are actually causing animals to suffer needlessly.
Organic food producers throw away these medicines and modern practices, leading to unnecessary pain and suffering for the animals. Now tell me who are evil ones? In some nations in Europe they have banned the castration of pigs (a practice dating back thousands of years) to prevent "pain". Yet, for one, pigs that are whole fight constantly and inflict tremendous injuries on each other. Two, castrated pigs do not succumb to "boar's taint" which fouls the meat rendering it inedible.

Why is it that I keep coming to the conclusion that there are intellectual elites pushing organic foods, pie-in-the-sky renewable energy, global warming propaganda, inferior socialized medicine, fear of technology and last but not least an all out assault on big business (read capitalism) with the end goal of global population reduction. The problem for them is that there are just too many people on this planet.

The Al Gore types and the snobs in Europe will never come right out and say it (actually, some of them do
) but this is the bottom line. Since capitalism (America) poses the biggest threat to this goal it is deemed enemy number one. And the happy dupes picking over the crappy looking produce in the organic section of the grocery store have bought the propaganda hook, line and sinker.

Wake up and smell the non-organic Foldgers coffee before it's too late.


Friday, August 03, 2007

Today's Special: Oil For Shale

Just take a look at this graph. Are you as stunned as I am? Now this graph represents only oil that is locked up in oil shale. What's really amazing is this reserve located in the western U.S. literally dwarfs the known reserves in all of Saudi Arabia. That's right. We have more oil than Saudi Arabia. Iraq and Iran combined!

Why is this apparently well-known fact not being discussed in the main stream media at all? I have to believe it has a lot to do with radical environmentalism. There is a zealous desire among the leftists that control the discussion in the major media to discourage Americans right out of their SUV's. But then I am cynical when it comes to the motives of "environmentalists" and the "main stream media".

This oil reserve has been known about for decades. The land where a vast majority of this oil shale is lies in the states of Utah, Colorado and Wyoming. Most of the land, some 80% of it, is owned by the federal government. It is remote, rugged and is sparsely populated. In fact, the government placed protective legislation on this land in 1930, basically forbidding anyone to touch it.

The government knew this land was saturated with oil — but getting it out has always been prohibitively expensive. Clearly buying oil from foreign countries was always the cheaper bet. Not much has changed in that regard until just recently.

Oil prices due to geopolitical situations have skyrocketed. The amount of readily available crude located in politically stable areas is a tiny fraction of the total. With so much oil in the Middle East/South Asia region and with nations like Russia, Venezuela and Nigeria taking their oil industries through nationalization the civilized world is playing Russian roulette with their economies.

If there ever was a time to "tap" this reserve the time is now. We are still a decade or two at the least from the beginning of the end of the oil age. Is there a chance that technological advances would be stifled by introducing this abundant supply into the picture? Is there a chance that this new source of oil will upset the global economy? Anything is possible.

What have we heard from politicians since 1973? "We need to end our dependency on foreign oil". While this is simple rhetoric that belies the sheer ignorance of or complicit conniving of Washington politicians the fact is we depend more on foreign oil from more and more unstable sources than ever before! What have they done to bring about this vaunted goal of energy independence? The one politician who did actually do something about it will never get credit because his motivations will always be taken to task. He will forever be accused of setting up his rich buddies in the oil business.

Here are the facts. Oil shale technologies have begun to advance – drastically. Companies are coming up with ways to extract oil from the Green River Formation very cheaply. One company says it can extract the oil for as little as $10 a barrel. In fact, dozens of companies have stepped forward with similar claims. The time has come to tap this reserve (and build the refineries to get it to market)

The good news? On August 8, 2005, President Bush signed into law a new energy mandate. This mandate is called The Energy Policy Act of 2005. It calls for the opening phases of oil extraction in the Green River Formation – the world's most concentrated energy source.

We're finally ready to tap the largest oil reserve on the planet...

Will it actually happen? Will the environmentalists and Al Gore get it shut down with clap trap about Global Warming? Will America achieve energy independence?

What do you think?


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Feeling Funky II

On the heels of my last post I come to you now a bit humbled. While I think it's human nature to be both a pessimist and an optimist simultaneously I can can't square myself with being a literal walking contradiction. Let me explain:

The evidence that every generation of Americans achieves greater prosperity and living standards than the last is fairly compelling. Just looking at my own life and that of my family and my peers I see how much more affluence and luxury we enjoy over my parents generation and it is astounding. At the same time every generation thinks that our society is going to hell in a hand basket right before their eyes simply because things change so rapidly. Some people have a hard time adapting, things begin to look bleak. While our own lot in life is improving we can't help but empathize with those suffering and through a sort of transference we are convinced that things can't get much worse. The truth is that things always have gotten better.

For years I have been convinced that this simple paradox of things looking worse while things were actually improving was perpetual. Now, however I am not so sure...

Today I was reading an article by Douglas Mackinnon about the war that has been declared on the U.S. by Mexican nationals in this country illegally and the further I read the faster my optimism drained. Then I read a random comment of an anonymous reader and outright depression set in. I couldn't argue with one word of it. And the worse part - I am too tired to get angry any more. I have become part of the problem - I am failing as a father, I am failing my son and daughter. When I read this I saw my daughter in the first paragraph and my son in the last. Please read this and pray for me our country and yourself - we are going to need it.

toro writes: Wednesday, August, 01, 2007 7:53 AM

I hate to admit it, but when I read this my immediate response was anger. Then I realized that it will take a catastrophy to wake up the complacent citizens of our country. Most people are more interested in what part of her body Paris Hilton (and many others like her) will show next to be displayed on the internet than to read important information explaining what is destroying our nation. Too many have received too much too soon, and are absolutely bored with life, therefore requiring things that would shock most, while some consider suicide daily as an escape.

We are morally broken and the elite know it, why else would they so openly do what they do, and no longer even consider what we the people want. Our complacency has reached a point comparable to being drugged into submission waiting to be slaughtered.

We can compare our nation to a snake swallowing its own tail. The very rights that were written by great minds are no longer the basis of every day life, but have been replaced by hi-tech rituals.

Observe our very young and watch them spend hours being brainwashed by high-tech toys that provide them the very means to kill another like them. They can hook up and symbolically kill each other over this media, even actually train in weaponry more advanced than our military uses.

Take a look around you and you'll see most of our youth hooked up to electronic gadgetry, all intensely gazing into a screen that allows them to see things we've never seen. All intended to escape from reality and divert them from what is being taken away from them...FREEDOM! It's called conditioning and we are all victims.

Feeling Funky? I am. God help us all.