Monday, February 9, 2009

Strong Moderate Blog's 1st Birthday!

Happy 1st Birthday!

Over the past 12 months the topics have been wide ranging, although mostly focused on these "Obama" and "McCain" fellas. I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I did. Here's to hoping for another great year!

Strong Moderate & Flaming Moderate

Friday, February 6, 2009

U.S./Emirates go nuclear... deal

What is small, smart and full of oil? No, it's not Dick Cheney's heart - it's the United Arab Emirates.

The U.A.E. is one of the most forward thinking and advanced countries in the Middle East and I would venture to say, the world. As a small confederation of mostly tiny desert emirates the UAE is looking to the future.. and that future includes international cooperation, an expanded relationship with the US, and energy stability.

I know you're probably scratching your head going "The UAE? Aren't those guys swimming in oil?" and yes, yes they are. The UAE is one of the most oil rich countries in the world, especially considering its puny size and small population. Unlike other Arab and oil-producing countries the Emirates are looking forward to the age of energy-independence and oil's inevitable decline.

If 2008 has taught the oil-producing countries of the world anything it is that fortunes can swell and then disappear very quickly. In the past year oil prices climbed from 70 dollars a barrel up to 150 at the height of summer, then down to $40 at the end of the year. That means most OPEC countries had horrible years because they expected the prices to either keep going up or hold stead at the price of $75/barrel. There were very few bright spots, one of those was the Emirates due to their plan to turn their tiny country into a travel, tourism, and foreign investment destination as well as their own economy's diversification.

There is one great weakness however in the Emirates, energy. How? Well, when you at home and you plug go to the electrical outlet where does your power come from? A coal plant? The UAE has no coal. A wind farm\solar energy? The Emirates would have to build a wind mill or solar panel every 20 ft to meet their needs. A hydroelectric dam? Good luck finding rivers in the desert. Finally, the most efficient, a nuclear power plant. Well.. the UAE is on its way.

The UAE signed a nuclear deal with the United States for nuclear fuel and access to important knowledge regarding the construction of one or more power plants. This deal is mutually beneficial, the Emirates get their precious energy, the US has something to cement their relationship with the oil-rich country, the US gets loads of cash (which they need), and the whole thing will be overseen entirely by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

I do love it when a plan comes together.

What do you think? Do you think this is a smart move by either party? Any aspects you think I'm missing? Enlighten everyone with a comment!


U.S. and UAE sign nuclear deal

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Stimulus... for WHAT?

Republicans leaders are finding the new $825 Billion dollar stimulus package that passed the House (without a single GOP vote) a little hard to swallow.. and rightfully so. As the minority party the responsibility falls to them to propose alternate ideas and better solutions. Since being the majority party and having their President in the White House Republicans have really fallen off and the way they are acting so far this year has been downright sad and regrettable.

So Republicans decided instead of coming up with a cleaner, leaner, and possibly more effective bill they went to the "well your plan is terrible" path and just offered a list of some of the items they consider useless, pork, or unnecessary spending. The list, which follows, has some of each.. and then there is some stuff that just sounds a little childish to dispute or items which should be fully funded but have nothing to do with a "stimulus" package. , The bullet pointed the items are the ones the GOP Congresspeople object to and I decided to follow each item they object to with a little comment of my own... enjoy. Some of the items are hilarious... hilariously sad.

$2 billion earmark to re-start FutureGen, a near-zero emissions coal power plant in Illinois that the Department of Energy defunded last year because it said the project was inefficient.

Because all the US Government needs is a coal power plant! I guess they wanted something familiar (especially in Illinois): dirty AND inefficient.

A $246 million tax break for Hollywood movie producers to buy motion picture film.

This is really outrageous. Has Hollywood had any problems buying motion picture film? Is there a shortage? With all the garbage Hollywood produces every year having a limited amount of film might actually make them make a good movie every once in awhile.

$650 million for the digital television converter box coupon program.

Why? The government has been broadcasting warnings about the digital tv conversion for TWO YEARS! If folks haven't got a box yet they ought to be penalized, by NOT getting a free $40 bucks off.

$88 million for the Coast Guard to design a new polar icebreaker (arctic ship).

I actually don't see much of a problem with this however this spending belongs in the 2.65 trillion dollar defense budget not a stimulus package.

$448 million for constructing the Department of Homeland Security headquarters.

• $248 million for furniture at the new Homeland Security headquarters.

Building a headquarters for the DHS isn't a bad idea. spending more than half of what you did on constructing the place on furniture is baloney. Some furniture makers are getting rich selling DHS $4,000 desk chairs and $50,000 toilets! Once again, this doesn't belong in a stimulus package, it belongs in the appropriations bill for the DHS.

$600 million to buy hybrid vehicles for federal employees.

Umm... I'm not sure if this means they will be giving tax incentives for employees to buy hybrids... or they plan on purchasing hybrids as fleet vehicles (a good idea by the way in terms of fuel economy).. or Oprah decided that the President ought to tell federal employees: "You get a new car, and you get a new car, and you get a new car...." Oh yeah, how does this stimulate the economy again?

$400 million for the Centers for Disease Control to screen and prevent STD's.

That's nice.. I support funding the CDC but this really isn't stimulating the economy, there isn't a financial meltdown because sexually promiscuous individuals have STD's.

$1.4 billion for rural waste disposal programs.

This could be very useful and helpful if done correctly... but it belongs in the Department of Agriculture or Dept of the Interior's appropriations bill.

$125 million for the Washington sewer system.

Careful folks! Improving the sewer system might cause more waste to end up in the Potomac. Congress, I suggest you begin investing in swimming lessons! Seriously, complete pork.

$150 million for Smithsonian museum facilities.

They need it! The Smithsonian museum system is a national treasure but this isn't really going to stimulate the economy.

$1 billion for the 2010 Census, which has a projected cost overrun of $3 billion.

Completing a Census is very important. It tells us about the direction of the country in so many ways and it leads to the reapportionment of districts for the House of Representatives and countless state/local legislative bodies. Something troubling.. how does a program run a $3 billion dollar overrun with a budget of $13 billion? Was someone trying to impress the new boss with a ridiculously low estimate for costs or are these people just incompetent spending money?

$75 million for "smoking cessation activities."

Great. That's right I'm a HUGE anti-smoking advocate. Go cry about it. Better yet, go cough, wheeze, and give yourself serious disease.. far away from me. Oh yea, this is a good investment because it does decrease health costs down the line, so it is borderline OK to include in a stimulus package but it doesn't do anything for the "now" or "today" of this crisis.

$200 million for public computer centers at community colleges.

Why do the GOP object to this? This is a great idea. In bad economic times people who are out of work often turn to education to help them find gainful employment and are trained in new areas giving the American worker more skills and a wider variety of experience. Computer centers can add to that by giving community college student access to more resources, including online job listing and resume-makers (and this blog!)

$75 million for salaries of employees at the FBI.

The FBI has a budget. This is a stimulus package. The stimulus package is not the FBI budget. 'Nuf said.

$25 million for tribal alcohol and substance abuse reduction.

Great... a good $25 million dollars to spend on the Bureau of Indian Affairs budget. This could really uplift reservations out of their third-world environment if the money was allocated in the right place and used wisely on programs that have been proven to work not sunk into the same old programs that have shown no promise over the years.

$500 million for flood reduction projects on the Mississippi River.

Ok... going for the whole TVA thing (Tennessee Valley Authority, for those who didn't pay attention in High School US History). A nice FDR touch could actually be helpful if it was used to protect cities (like New Orleans) while respecting wildlife.

$10 million to inspect canals in urban areas.

Speaking of New Orleans... I'm not sure this is quite a "stimulus", it is needed but still.. I'm not sure it applies

$6 billion to turn federal buildings into "green" buildings.

A great idea.. that sounds like it is going to turn into a stimulus for "green" contractors who will be rolling around in our "green". "Green" buildings are good for saving on costs down the road, but maybe this could be done piecemeal, with the most cost-efficient work done first then work our way towards true eco-friendlier buildings.

$500 million for state and local fire stations.

Good. They are feeling the pain out there. Not sure if this belongs in a stimulus package but they really do need it, as do the communities these fire stations serve courageously.

$650 million for wildland fire management on forest service lands.

NO. The over-protection of the forests from fire is one of the leading causes of the current crisis that has killed MILLIONS of acres of trees across the country, from the Rockies clear out to the Pacific Northwest. If you want more info on this leave a comment.

$1.2 billion for "youth activities," including youth summer job programs.

How about instead of "including" we cut out all the non-work/service related program funding and focus in on pushing the next generation of American worker into positive programs that will really help in the long run.

$88 million for renovating the headquarters of the Public Health Service.

1) Sounds like too much, 2) Public Health is important 3) their building may need some repairs - they should include an extra $88 million on their next budget request

$412 million for CDC buildings and property.

Too ambiguous. Possibly reasonable, maybe not.

$500 million for building and repairing National Institutes of Health facilities in Bethesda, Maryland.

*sniff* Oh yeah.. smells like pork, a big half billion dollar load of pork. These facilities fall in Rep. Van Hollen's Congressional district.. who is that you ask? Rep. Van Hollen is Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means as well as the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform" --quote from Rep. Van Hollen's website

$160 million for "paid volunteers" at the Corporation for National and Community Service.

This is a good idea, one thing the country could really use this period of economic downturn for is to renew the Community service spirit and get people involved in their own communities, helping each other so the government doesn't have to help them. Ask for a cup of sugar from your neighbor and offer to carpool to work instead of putting your hand out and asking for a bailout from Uncle Sam. A community can serve as a helping hand to help you find those bootstraps and get you out of despair.

$5.5 million for "energy efficiency initiatives" at the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration.

This one stinks so bad... well, you can finish that one. If they need it then they should ask for it in their annual budget, it seems that Congress is willing to give anything to the VA, no matter how useless, in order to prove to their voters that they "care" about returning soldiers. Hardly. Most are just token supporters who only cared for vetrans when Walter Reed (the hospital, not middle school) came up. Most have already forgotten and almost none have worked towards projects like the Hagel/Webb G.I. Bill.

$850 million for Amtrak.

Why? Oh yeah.. it IS a bailout. I don't even know what Amtrack would use the money on! Their trains, service, employees, and scheduling has been terrible for years (except the DC-Wilmington, Del. service). Heck, most folks are use to it, don't change it now - especially when that money could go to better uses like stimulating the economy!

$100 million for reducing the hazard of lead-based paint.

Congress: Tell companies to stop putting lead in paint.

I'll be expecting my $100 million dollar check in the mail, thank you.

$75 million to construct a "security training" facility for State Department Security officers when they can be trained at existing facilities of other agencies.

This is a good idea, it think all State Dept personnel should be well trained especially with the hazards of the current age, none larger than the threat of a ballistic Hillary Clinton. Oh yeah, put this in the Dept of State budget.

$110 million to the Farm Service Agency to upgrade computer systems.

I'm really not sure how badly this is needed or what its effect will be so I won't judge. That's right, I didn't know the answer and I decided to own up to it instead of putting a snarky comment here. How many bloggers do that? Not a lot.

$200 million in funding for the lease of alternative energy vehicles for use on military installations.

Lease? Leasing is the biggest scam in the auto industry since the advent of the "Under-vehicle protective coating" that "must" be purchased with a new car. Stop leasing and just buy vehicles, negotiate sane service plans, and put this spending in the Dept of Defense budget where it belongs.

Wow. Wasn't sure if I was gonna make it through that heap of garbage but I think it'll be ok.

Agree? Disagree? Think there is something more outrageous in the bill? Leave a comment and let everyone know. Thanks.