Marita Noon: The Pope, climate change and VW

Commentary by Marita Noon - While Pope Francis was shuttled around during his historic visit to the U.S. in a Fiat, he shared the news cycle with Volkswagen.

The pope made headlines with his calls for action on climate change. USA Today touted: “Obama, Pope Francis praise each other on climate change.” In his September 23 speech from the White House lawn, the Pope addressed President Obama saying: “I find it encouraging that you are introducing an initiative for reducing air pollution.” Addressing that comment, Business Insider added: “He praised President Barack Obama for his proposals, which aim for the US to cut emissions by up to 28% over the next decade.”

The core of the entire climate change agenda is the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions which proponents like to call “air pollution.” It comes from sources we can’t control: volcanoes; sources we can kind-of control: forest fires (better forest management would result in fewer fires) and human beings exhaling (reduce the population, reduce CO2 emissions); and sources we can control: the use of fossil fuels (we can virtually outlaw them as several countries, including the U.S., are trying to do).

The drive to cut CO2 emissions is at the root of Volkswagen’s unprecedented scandal that broke last week, resulting in the CEO’s abrupt ouster on September 23—the day that Pope Francis’ U.S. visit went into full swing.

With nonstop coverage of the papal activities—including his Fiat Popemobile—the Volkswagen story was likely lost on most Americans. But it is not going away.

On September 18, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency disclosed the scandal: Europe’s biggest auto maker, with 600,000 employees world-wide and 300,000 in Germany, utilized software on some VW and Audi diesel-powered cars to manipulate the results of routine emissions tests—allowing them pass strict emissions standards in Europe and the U.S. The “defeat devices” have reportedly been fitted to more than 11 million vehicles since 2008 and may cost Volkswagen up to $18 billion in fines in the U.S. alone. Owners of the impacted vehicles will need to have a heretofore unavailable “fix” installed and may have to provide a “proof of correction certificate” in order to renew their registration and will suffer “loss due to the diminished value of the cars.” As a result of the scandal, Volkswagen’s stock price and reputation have both fallen precipitously, and class-action lawsuits are already taking shape. Fund managers have been banned from buying VW’s stocks and bonds. Tens of thousands of new cars may remain unsold. USNews stated: “Whoever is responsible could face criminal charges in Germany.”

The question no one seems to be asking is: what would drive Europe’s biggest auto maker to make such a costly decision, to take a risk, from which it may be impossible to recover, and tarnish the “made-in-Germany brand”?

While the question isn’t asked, Reuters coverage of the story offers the answer: “Diesel engines use less fuel and emit less carbon—blamed for global warming—than standard gasoline engines. But they emit higher levels of toxic gases known as nitrogen oxides.”

In short, the answer is the drive to lower CO2 emissions and the policies that encourage reduction.

In BloombergView, Clive Crook offers this excellent explanation:
Beginning in the mid-1990s, mindful of their commitments to cut carbon emissions, Europe’s governments embarked on a prolonged drive to convert their car fleets from gasoline to diesel. With generous use of tax preferences, they succeeded. In the European Union as a whole, diesel vehicles now account for more than half of the market. In France, the first country to cross that threshold, diesel now accounts for roughly 80 percent of motor-fuel consumption.

What was the reasoning? Diesel contains more carbon than gasoline, but diesel engines burn less fuel: Net, switching to diesel ought to give you lower emissions of greenhouse gases. However, there’s a penalty in higher emissions of other pollutants, including particulates and nitrogen oxides, or NOx. Curbing those emissions requires expensive modifications to cars’ exhaust systems. To facilitate the switch, Europe made its emission standards for these other pollutants less stringent for diesel engines than for gasoline engines. The priority, after all, was to cut greenhouse gases.

If anyone could solve the dilemma, one would expect it to be the Germans, who excel in engineering feats. It is Germany that is touted as the world leader in all things green. The reality of achieving the goals, however, is far more difficult than passing the legislation calling for the energy transformation.

Addressing German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s push for de-carbonization, BloombergBusiness Points out: “Merkel has built a reputation as a climate crusader during a decade as Chancellor.” She “has straddled between pushing to reduce global warming while protecting her country’s auto industry.”

Merkel is, apparently, bumping up against reality. After shutting down its nuclear power plants, Germany has had to rely more on coal. BloombergBusiness continues: “She successfully helped block tighter EU carbon emissions standards two years ago.” Those tighter emissions standards would have hurt Germany’s auto industry, which accounts for 1 in 7 jobs in the country and 20 percent of its exports. At last week’s Frankfurt Auto Show Merkel said: “We have to ensure politically that what’s doable can indeed be translated into law, but what’s not doable mustn’t become European law.”

Evidence suggests the issue “could be industry-wide.” CNBC reports: “several major companies having exposure to the same diesel technology.” BMW’s stock price plunged, according to BloombergBusiness: “after a report that a diesel version of the X3 sport utility vehicle emitted more than 11 times the European limit for air pollution in a road test.” The Financial Times quotes Stuart Pearson, an analyst at Exane BNP Paribas, as saying: VW was “unlikely to have been the only company to game the system globally.” And an October 2014 study, cited in BloombergBusiness, claims that “road tests of 15 new diesel cars were an average of seven times higher than European limits.”

The VW emissions scandal is more than just a “‘bad episode’ for the car industry,” as Germany’s vice-chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, called it. It provides a lesson in the collision of economic and environmental policies that strive to reach goals, which are presently technologically unachievable—a lesson that regulators and policy makers have yet to learn.

The Los Angeles Times (LAT) reports: “Regulators have ordered Volkswagen to come up with a fix that allows vehicles to meet environmental regulations.” If it were that easy, even economically possible, the much-vaunted German engineering could have solved the problem instead of developing technology that found a way around the rules. LAT concludes: “automotive experts believe any repair will diminish the driving dynamics of the vehicles and slash fuel economy—the two major characteristics that attracted buyers.”

The fact that, while waving the flag of environmental virtue advocated by Pope Francis, those, with the world’s best engineering at their fingertips, had to use the expertise to develop a work-around should serve as a lesson to policymakers who pass legislation and regulation on ideology rather than reality.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy—which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.


Swickard: The arrogance of educational leadership

Education leaders are like King Arthur
© 2015 Michael Swickard, Ph.D.  Facts are easy. When I was doing Talk Radio a few years ago I always had a computer in front of me. When there was a question, the computer provided information quickly. The talking points were in front of me.
            Educational leaders in public schools say they are teaching thinking but from what I see students spend much of their time on memorization and how to take tests. Why are we spending so much time and testing effort essentially teaching test preparation?
            Years from now education pundits will wail, "How could all of those supposedly educated educational leaders in 2015 be so stupid?" They were stupid because they were overcome with their arrogance and power.
            Example: Picture a superintendent of a large school district explaining being in charge. The person says, "The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that I was to carry Excalibur. That is why I am your superintendent."
            Well, that may have come from a Monty Python movie, but it is a fine example of the arrogance of leaders. There is no arguing with the leaders. I know because I have tried, but they have Excalibur, etc.
            A college department that certifies superintendents and principals was the department where I got my Ph.D. so I am quite familiar with what these educational leaders are taught. For a while after my 1998 graduation I was an adjunct faculty in that department. Some current leaders and teachers were in my classes.
            Recently I was exasperated with a principal who I had in class years ago. The end of the conversation was, "You are not doing any of the things we taught you to do as an educational leader nor are you using research to guide you." This person answered, "But I am legally in charge so I can do what I want."
            There are two main contentions of the current public education management: First, that increased management will always improve educational outcomes and, the change agent for learning is entirely teachers. Both are wrong but we, as a society, have put our money and power in the hands of administrators.
            We have an administrator-centric system where everything is about administrators. Every administrator hired comes up with more administrative requirements to where teachers I am in contact with say they no longer teach, they just work making data sheets for administrators so the administrators can hire more administrators to make more teacher requests.
            But are we improving education? More importantly, will the improvement be useful when these students are adults. Public Education is not supposed to be an end in itself for school children; it is the living of life as an adult that ultimately matters.
            The U. S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2012 had a report that indicated the Federal Program, Head Start, had many immediate benefits for students but those benefits did not appear to last into adulthood. The program has gone for five decades so there is a lasting problem. Childhood leads to adulthood and that is what we should value. Ultimately what we do for children needs to improve their lives as adults.
            The mania is teaching the test so administrators can game the test and then show on accountability reports that schools are doing well. But the report of schools doing well will not help students when they become adults. In fact, this disconnects students from schools.
            As a society we need lifelong learners. What students need to become a lifelong learner is curiosity and support for their own individual curiosity of all things. However, the schools don't seem to want curiosity in their classrooms, rather, they want compliant little robots who do what they are told.
            Each year we need to bolster the curiosity of students, give them literate and numerate tools to satisfy their curiosity. They will become lifelong learners. Almost all of the real education in a person's lifetime is self learning.
            Teachers are just there to help students learn to teach themselves. We need to think of the learners and not the educational leaders who have a cottage industry.


Let's look the other way!

Predictably, the Clinton defenders are out in droves. Why? Because Hillary Clinton is picking up where Bill left off. Surprise surprise, we have……a scandal. Here is a list of a dozen things that Democrats want voters to ignore:
  • Ignore the fact that Hillary Clinton was running the State Department she broke laws and exposed classified material to unsecured sites.
  • We should ignore the fact that she intentionally and unlawfully transmitted classified and confidential information crucial to our national defense through an unsecured, private e-mail system to people (Sidney Blumenthal) with no security clearance.
  • We should ignore the fact that she negligently stored confidential national defense information on unsecured and unauthorized private devices, including a server located in the bathroom of a loft apartment in Denver.
  • In short, we should simply ignore the fact that she committed federal crimes that would have sent others to jail and to jail quickly.
  • We should ignore the fact that she initially tried to cover up the fact that she sent and received classified information on her civilian account even though this reality is now beyond dispute.
  • We should ignore the fact that she mishandled information from U.S. Africa Command detailing “Libyan troop strength and movements.”
  • We should ignore the fact that she stored this information on a private, unsecured server, and transmitted it on a private, unsecured Smartphone.
  • We should ignore the fact that she intentionally did not use the State Department’s standard, secure device.
  • We should ignore the fact that she first said she’s innocent because she never sent or received classified e-mails. Then adjusted the defense to say with information that was “marked” classified. 
  • We should ignore the fact that every single federal employee who handles classified information including the Secretary of State and her administrative assistants are required to protect both “marked and unmarked” classified information.
  • We should ignore the fact that she and all of her employees signed a classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement that clearly states this responsibility, a responsibility that’s not just a legal mandate, but is also a matter of sheer common sense.
  • We should ignore the fact that Mrs. Clinton knew all of this despite pretending she is stupid about this one thing.
Most important to the Clinton line of BS is the idea that we should ignore the law: 18 U.S.C. Section 793(f) that says this: (f) Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, note, or information, relating to the national defense, (1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or (2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer— Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
Have enough things to ignore? Try a five more:
  • We should ignore the law that says the “proper place of custody” for the classified and even unclassified national defense information is a secure government server, computer, or Smartphone.
  • We should ignore the fact that she displayed “gross negligence” in placing classified information on civilian servers.
  • We should ignore the fact that she displayed gross negligence in keeping classified information on her personal Smartphone. And ignore the fact that she displayed gross negligence when she handed that same information to her own lawyer.
  • We should ignore the fact that many others have gone to jail for failing to respect and obey these laws.
  • We should ignore the fact that it may take years to determine the full extent of the damage Clinton did to our national defense.
Beyond gross negligence we should ignore the fact that actions were intentional. Again, 18 U.S.C. Section 1924 says: (a) Whoever, being an officer, employee, contractor, or consultant of the United States, and, by virtue of his office, employment, position, or contract, becomes possessed of documents or materials containing classified information of the United States, knowingly removes such documents or materials without authority and with the intent to retain such documents or materials at an unauthorized location shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both. (b) For purposes of this section, the provision of documents and materials to the Congress shall not constitute an offense under subsection (a). (c) In this section, the term “classified information of the United States” means information originated, owned, or possessed by the United States Government concerning the national defense or foreign relations of the United States that has been determined pursuant to law or Executive order to require protection against unauthorized disclosure in the interests of national security.
And finally, we should ignore all of this because she is a Democrat. And we all know dozens of Democrats personally, who will indeed ignore all of this.


Violence against teachers gets worse every year

Though he never mentioned him by name, my idol, Walter Williams explained why America needs to elect Ben Carson president.
In a recent column, Williams talked about violence against teachers in our schools. Williams speaks of counselors of teachers in public schools treating teachers (not soldiers) for PTSD. The conclusion is our school’s are now war zones. The evidence is overwhelming. In Philadelphia schools employ close to 400 school police officers. Police are everywhere at every school. In my hometown of Baltimore, each school day in 2010, an average of four teachers and staff were assaulted. Nationally, an average of 1,175 teachers and staff were physically attacked each day of the 2011-12 school year.
What is the Obama administration solution to the schools becoming war zones? It sent all the school districts in the country a letter warning them to avoid "racial bias" when suspending or expelling students.
Walter Williams
Obama thinks this violence against school teachers is about race. However, we did not begin to have this violence problem until 50 years ago. Discrimination was a larger problem BEFORE all this violence began to snowball. As discrimination has diminished, violence has escalated. Still, Obama's Secretary of Education Arne Duncan claimed that racial discrimination in the administration of discipline is "a real problem today." This is the big lie that continues to destroy our country.
The question is simple: Why are black “leaders” accepting violent behavior that allows schools to become war zones. The answer is pretty simple. It is a complete lack of respect, let alone admiration for, the attitudes embraced by Ben Carson's mother. These are the attitudes and behaviors that produced a John’s Hopkins neurosurgeon like Carson.
No, instead Obama and the rest of the Democrats have redefined what constitutes acceptable behavior in the black community. They have put schools on notice to tolerate black violence against school teachers. Violence is not the problem in their eyes. In their eyes racism is the problem. Accordingly, they feel compelled to convince all young blacks that destructive behavior is explainable by racism.
We need an impressive man who has accomplished great things (not a speech maker) to deliver the message to the black community that we are no longer going to give a slap on the wrists to people who assault school teachers. We will NEVER see that kind of tough love from any Democrat. What you will get from Democrats is the toleration of more and more violence against teachers.
The fact that the school violence problem is worsening is directly attributable to Comrade Obama as are most of the other ills this nation suffers from. Nobody can name a single thing that is better under Obama. Healthcare, the Middle East, border security, real wages, and race relations are all worse.


A long line of Catholics

The Spence family descends from a long line of Catholics. John S. Spence the bishop being perhaps the most noteworthy. Pope Francis the leader of the faith that is directly traced to the disciples of Jesus has crossed lines into hypocrisy that puts Jimmy Swaggert and the Reverend Jim Baker to shame.
Forget his preaching about “climate change” in the face of his bogus catastrophic predictions regarding the “planet.” Forget his visit to Cuba without as much as a mention of how the Castro brothers butcher dissidents and squash religious freedoms. Forget the fact that he won’t mention that Democrats in the U.S. are now openly supporting infanticide….the killing of babies who survive abortion procedures. Now this pope has decided he does not like free market capitalism or wealth accumulation.
Let's give some thought to wealth accumulation. According to Time magazine bankers' best guesses about the Vatican's wealth put it at around $10 billion to $15 billion. Vatican Italian stock holdings alone run to $1.6 billion, 15% of the value of listed shares on the Italian market. The Vatican also has big global investments in banking, insurance, chemicals, steel, construction, and real estate. Massive dividend and rental income streams combined with tithes from their customers helps pay for Vatican expenses. The Church is well diversified like any corporate giant. It also holds billions in gold bars in Swiss banks. Its art collection is priceless. Visit Vatican City and witness a portfolio of the most ornate architecture and accessories possibly imaginable.
Somehow this pope, is perfectly comfortable sitting on his golden throne and living a life of luxury. He also sees to it that Church cardinals live lives of privilege and luxury. And to a lesser extent, like mid-level division presidents in a for-profit corporation, bishops also live well. The great irony is the structure of the Catholic Church could be mistaken for that of most for-profit companies in the world. The only difference being the Church’s “products and services.” While satanic entities like Pfizer and Merck sell miracle drugs that keep people alive, the gloriously virtuous Vatican sells salvation to people collectible after they are dead.
Unlike ordinary stockholders, the Vatican pays no taxes on all of its income and capital gains, a model the Clintons have taken a liking to for their "foundation."
These days it is a regular occurrence to hear this pope spout Marxist principles in a way that attempts to position him and his corporate lieutenants in a position of moral superiority when compared to the rest of the "greedy" world. His primary virtue seems to be that he does not like the fact that for-profit companies CEO’s tend to behave exactly as he does when doling out high living standards to the accomplished clergy in his corporation.
No wonder Democrats like this guy.


Swickard: Trying to impair the urge to be impaired

© 2015 Michael Swickard, Ph.D.  At a traffic light the car in front of me did not move when the light turned green. The driver's head was down, I suspect looking at text messages. After angry honking finally caused the person to look up and realize the light changed, the person made it through the light just as it turned red.
            The rest of us had to wait through another light cycle. I suspect several drivers went back to their cell phones while waiting. It made me think of the good old days of driving when there were fewer distractions. However, it is a fact there have always been things that distracted drivers from their task with the road.
            In the 1970s while working for a television station I went to the scene of a wreck and was talking to a driver who confessed the wreck was the fault of his cigar. "My cigar slipped out of my mouth and fell into my lap." he explained. Evidently the fire in his lap caused him to take his attention off the road. Bam!
            Paul and Joseph Galvin were the developers of car radios around 1930. Once installed, the radio gave the joy of entertainment but was one more reason for drivers to take their eyes off the road. It is hard to estimate how many people have died because of car radios.
            There have also been beverages. One morning while leaving a small town I was holding a convenience store cup of fresh coffee. Concurrent to increasing my speed I was adjusting the radio when I looked up and a fellow in bib-overalls on a tractor was suddenly in front of me.
            Out of instinct I clutched the paper coffee cup while applying the brakes thereby pouring very hot coffee all over myself. The rest of the day I had massive coffee stains but our guardian angels kept us from colliding.
            It seems to me that now our society has many more distracted drivers. Years ago primarily it was people who drank and drove that killed thousands upon thousands of people. In just the last ten years the distractibility index has zoomed. With the advent of cell phones, texting and video on demand it's a wonder that some young people and some not so young people are still alive.
            Part of the problem is knowing why vehicles collide. Often it is that the orbits and trajectories of the vehicles violate the law of not trying to occupy the same space at the same time. At least the textbook way of driving says running into things is a drag.
            There are many theories on how to stop distracted driving. We see several broad categories of impairment: alcohol, drugs, sleep deprivation and physical distractions. These impairments are facts.
            Wherever you were last night, somewhere near you someone was behind the wheel of a car and was impaired. All good theories on how to combat such activity have a prescriptive component: If we as a society do this, then that will happen.
            Some impaired drivers are caught, adjudicated and incarcerated. Many more offend day after week after month after year. We wake to headlines proclaiming a family was slaughtered by an impaired driver. The media captures the offender's sad face when realizing the effect of their actions.
            The major impairment theory in America is that threats of a penalty will change behavior. The penalties for impaired driving have been increasing as politicians stand before the cameras and proclaim that they have a solution for this scourge: they will pass tougher and tougher penalties.
            Can we as a society be tough? Can we elevate the penalties for impaired driving to the point that it disappears? For example, what if we took away a driver’s license for five years on a first offense? Second time, forever and ever. Would that work?
            The problem is that every weekend even after twenty-five years of DWI heavy enforcement there are people still being caught. Maybe texting while driving should automatically forfeit the car and serve time in jail. Are we tough enough to be that tough? Or have we become too soft to act? We must impair the urge to be impaired while driving.


Dead Horse Theory


Clinton sympathy for sexual assault accusers is touching

You have to admit. These Clintons have brass. I would say Bill has a big set of brass balls, but the blue dress sort made them all too real instead.

Here comes Hillary yesterday. According to Hillary Clinton, she believes victims of sexual assault have “A right to be believed.” Apparently she has a new web piece. It is entitled, “Hillary’s Message to Survivors of Sexual Assault.” It says, "I want to send a message to every survivor of sexual assault. Don’t let anyone silence your voice. You have a right to be heard. You have a right to be believed. We’re with you."

Oh really?

Consider Juanita Broaddrick who alleged Bill Clinton had raped her in 1978. Trashed by Hill.

Consider Paula Jones who claimed Clinton sexually harassed her while he was governor of Arkansas. Trashed by Hill.

Consider alleged sexual assault victim Kathleen Willey. Back in 1993 she accused then sitting President Bill Clinton, of sexually assaulting her in the White House. Trashed by Hill and her decency questioned.

Consider the case of Monica Lewinsky. Any young intern who was used for sexual favors by an older executive is the victim of a predator. That would be the thoughts of most mature adults. Not Hillary. Hillary laid Lewinsky to filth too and once again gave Slick Willy a free pass.

These are the ones we know of.

Kathleen Willey was fuming when asked about her reaction to Hillary's feigned concern for sexual assault victims. According to the American Mirror Willey had this to say: “She (Hillary) believed what happened for sure. She just chose to ignore the plight of all of his victims, thus enabling him to continue to abuse and rape women in the future. She’s a money-hungry hypocritical witch who will do anything for money. She’s a lying pig. I cannot believe that she had the gall to make that commercial. How dare she? I hope she rots in hell.“

OJ I think I am going to mark Willey down in the insincere camp when it comes to evaluating the veracity of Hillary's feelings.

For sure one sexual assault is one too many. However, for Hillary the idea that they are suddenly at epidemic levels is a convenient narrative that might help her rally all the girls in the U.S. behind her and her amazing concerns for them.


Place names for those honored and not forgotten

Professor Marion Hardman
© 2015 Michael Swickard, Ph.D.  One person in college made me a writer. Previously I had resisted every effort to make me a competent writer while in public school. At college I was a good photographer, radio announcer and television director but not much of a writer by choice.
            Last week was the dedication of a lecture hall at New Mexico State University. One of the names on the building is Marion Hardman who passed away years ago but is alive in my writing. Here is what happened:
            In 1970, as a sophomore at NMSU, my advisor said, "You'll never graduate if you don’t take English Literature." I replied, "I’ll take it, but no one can make me like poetry."
            Marion Hardman was listed as the professor. Looking like someone’s grandmother, Professor Hardman stood at the lectern the first day and through thick glasses softly called the roll. She seemed frail and out of touch with the modern age.
            I looked at my watch impatiently. Then oddly an hour went by without my notice and she ended the first class. She began by saying, "Many of you young people are worried about the Vietnam War which is being fought as we speak."
            She had my attention. I was in Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps and thought often about the Vietnam War. She said, "A little more than a hundred years ago Walt Whitman had many of the same thoughts that you are having today."
            Then from memory she quoted some of the Whitman poetry. Despite my resolve to not learn poetry, I was mesmerized. When the class ended I was enthused. I have never seen anyone transformed so completely.
            The Professor Hardman that ended the class could leap tall buildings in a single bound. We hung on her words, everyone in the class. I wish you could have heard her. She had the ability to hold a class on each word, to change students with ideas. More importantly to me she had the ability to bring out talents in students.
            Professor Hardman was the first person to tell me I wrote interesting things, and if I mastered the technical aspects, I would be a good writer. She said it in a way that was not insulting and she handed me a book on writing.
            That semester I spent every available minute working on writing. She smiled at the end of the semester and told me I had really improved. I beamed.
            She took each student that way and helped each in their own way to develop their special talents. I would not be writing this column if I had not have taken her class. I see her gift to me in each column I write. That Place Name, Hardman Hall, has special meaning to me.
            That is the value of place names. Every building, road, mountain, etc. has a name. Most people just use the name to know the place. Example: the name of the tallest mountain in the United States has been known on maps as Mount McKinley.
            Last month by order of the Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, it is now Denali, which means tall in one of the seven indigenous languages. Naturally those from Ohio where President William McKinley was born and is buried prefer the former name.
            This opens the debate about place names: what should be the criteria for changing existing place names. And who should be in charge of place name changes. New Mexico is full of place names that reflect many cultures, how should we arbitrate a desire for a different place name?
            For example: if the Native Americans in the Albuquerque area want the Sandia and Manzano Mountains to reflect what they were known by for centuries before the Spanish arrived, how do we decide the name to use?
            More so, what about the WisePies Arena which was known only as The Pit in Albuquerque? Should dollars name it? It seems we need two things: place names that are measured and fair to all citizens and we need to make sure that the story of these place name people is well told.
            Changing place names is a can of worms with the top off now.


Swickard: Whom is stealing from whom?

Danger Will Robinson and us
© 2015 Michael Swickard, Ph.D.   "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interests." Adam Smith, 1776
             We are a nation lost on the road of good life, having lived so well for so long that we do not see our bounty nor do we see dangers. We live much better than our ancestors, yet many Americans are envious of those who have more. Despite having incredible blessings, they want to punish the "rich."
            We need the robot in the television series Lost in Space to say, "Danger Will Robinson" when we start playing with what made our nation strong and wealthy. More so, people in our society do not realize what keeps each of us alive and therefore they often take actions that are adverse to our own survival.
            Example: no one wants to pay more for electricity. You never see people holding signs, "Please increase my energy costs." But people have not really thought this through.
            El Paso Electric wants an increase to cover that they increased their generating ability. Protestors say the government needs to punish this energy utility.
            El Paso Electric along with some other energy utilities were on the hot seat, wait, it was a cold seat when a cold wave hit New Mexico in February 2011. What's really bad were the many people who existed for days without power. Their pipes froze and burst. That was the start of bad moments.
            Fast forward to today when the rate increase protestors want the power in their homes without paying for the increased capacity. They accuse the companies providing coal, gas and oil or taking advantage of them. Yet without power they would die within a week, if that.
            In our modern world we must have power to transport our food, pump our water, heat or cool our homes and to travel. Yet the majority of Americans seem to loath the energy producers. Several people have told me that the proposed El Paso Electric increase is theft. Really? Whom is stealing from whom?
            Most of the bounty in my life has been provided by strangers for the purpose of each having more for themselves. I drive a truck made by people who did not know, love and care for me. They were working because they wanted more. Sure they were professional so I love my truck but none of us knew each other.
            Some say gas prices are high because of the greedy oil industry. However, the record profits made by oil companies were exceeded 250 percent by the taxes on those companies. The government made 2.5 times as much as the oil companies with you at the pump paying both the profit and taxes.
            Further, those are just the overt taxes. Everyone who works to provide fuel, from the researchers and developers to the drillers and refiners to the transporters and stores, is taxed. You pay both overt and covert taxes when you buy gasoline.
            We know that the high price of gas is caused entirely by our government not doing the right things to increase supply. It is stupidity, not greed, that makes energy expensive for Americans.
            How much profit should people make? There is a fuel stop in the middle of nowhere between Phoenix and Los Angeles. It has a sign, "This gas is expensive. If you don’t need the gas, don’t buy it." Would those drivers be better off if no gas was sold?
            Pushing a car by hand for 50 miles is at the least daunting. After the first couple of miles of pushing by hand I think those drivers would gladly pay $100 per gallon.
            Everything is regulated by price in our country. If hamburgers were a quarter, more people would eat them. Gas costs what people will pay and no more.
            It does not matter to me if you do not want more. Some people live on the land, foregoing electricity, using only what they need. I would not stop them, but I do not want them to impose their lifestyle on me. Our country has been and is very prosperous. Let's keep it that way.