Interesting Items 04/20

Howdy All, a few Interesting Items for your information.  Enjoy –

In this issue:

  1. Alaska
  2. Plastic Bags
  3. Atkinson
  4. Taiwan
  5. Singer

  1. Alaska. It has been a couple weeks since I’ve updated the readership on what is going on here in Alaska.  Like other states, we are getting economically hammered.  Unlike other states, we have a $60 billion Permanent Fund available for spending.  The good news is that the money exists.  The bad news is that we have a LOT of Bad Actors in the state.  With that in mind….
  • Unemployment here in Alaska spiked to nearly 50,000 last week. As of last Weds, there were 9 deaths and 34 hospitalizations.  Do the math, and for every death, we Alaskans have lost 5,555 jobs.  For every Wuhan Flu hospitalization, we have destroyed 1,470 jobs.  Clearly, for Alaska at least, the cure is far worse than the disease.
  • With per barrel price of oil in the vicinity of $16, ConocoPhillips a couple weeks ago they were shutting down drilling on the North Slope (Prudhoe Bay) for the remainder of the winter season. A week later, they announced a further reduction in capital spending in Alaska by another $200 million.  Oil is the lifeblood of Alaska, funding around 90% of the state budget.  We need around $75/bbl to fund a tight budget.  $16/bbl for whatever period of time is going to be difficult for the current legislature to deal with, as the majority in both houses has shown little interest in controlling spending.
  • Princes Cruises and Holland America canceled their 2020 season in SE Alaska and the Gulf of Alaska last week. Other than Juneau, which is mostly a government town, tourism is one of the primary industries, now that part of the state allowed the cruise lines and greens to shut down logging in the Tongass.  Although there is an existing commercial fishing industry, it does not employ enough people to make up for the loss of tourist traffic.  Ralph Samuels described the problem in a piece last week.  Well worth reading.
  • Commercial fishermen and the communities that support them are starting to get antsy about the return of large numbers of people outside the communities to catch and process salmon. On the face of it, this makes a fair amount of sense, as these communities are quite small and remote with little ability to provide emergency hospital care.  A couple weeks ago, the Mayor and Tribal leader from Dillingham proposed cancelling the $300 million Bristol Bay salmon fishery due to concerns about Wuhan penetration into the community when the fishermen and processors show up in a few weeks to work.  As usual, this sort of cancellation will put them in line for emergency spending, AKA free money, which they regularly put their hands out for when the fishing season doesn’t go too well.  The processors stepped up and proposed a plan to deal with their concerns.  So far, it has passed muster with the State of Alaska, so as of this writing, the season will continue.  One interesting observation is that House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, second or third most powerful politician in the state, was nowhere to be found during the discussion.
  • One of our long-time writers, Art Chance, who came up here for pipeline construction wrote an interesting piece about how to restructure the economy after this is ove First, and foremost will be a cut of state employees and commensurate size of state government by at least 30%.  I think that is doable if for no other reason than moving public education and university education to an online / virtual model will allow a spending reduction of at least 50% to start with.

We here in Alaska have made a lot of really, really poor decisions over the past several decades, decisions which have managed to ensure we are not able to diversify our economy.  Image the level of concern in SE AK when Princess and Holland cancel their season, if they had a reasonable level of logging in the Tongass or active fish farming in SE and Prince William Sound.  Imagine the significantly decreased level of concern in Bristol Bay if there was another way to employ people in that part of the state, like say at a world class mine north of Lake Iliamna (Pebble).  Imagine our opportunities had we not pursued the Great White Whale of an in-state natural gas pipeline from the North Slope and instead gone for a gas to liquids (GTL) solution.  Obviously, sales would be way down with the per barrel price today less than half of what that operation needs to make money, but the infrastructure would be in place ready to go.  I remain hopeful that we will at least make a few positive decisions this time around.  I think the Governor and his staff are up to it.  I think a number of the legislature are up to it.  It’s going to be a festive primary season.

 

  1. Plastic Bags. The Anchorage Assembly holds a 9-2 leftist / union / green majority and has been in place for most of the last 5 years.  They locked it in by passing a vote by mail that we on the political right have been singularly inept in dealing with.  One of the things they passed last year was a ban on single use plastic bags that finally went into effect Sept 15.  I’ve had a good time thumping on them over the ban for the last couple months, especially since state after state and community after community have repealed the bans mostly due to health concerns.  As of this writing, OR, CO, ME, MA and VT have either repealed or delayed implementation of the bans.  Even SF, which had their ban in place for 13 solid years repealed it due to concerns about virus being spread around in reusable shopping bags.  Here in ANC, our particular ban did not completely ban paper shopping bags.  Instead, it imposed a 10 cent/bag fee to change our behavior.  As the Wuhan flu hit Alaska, our Boy Mayor imposed his city-wide shutdown.  One of the other early things he did was to waive the paper bag fee.  Last Tuesday, he announced he would no longer be enforcing the ban.  This was not reported by any local media – right or left.  I took the opportunity to remind our Assembly members of the other states repealing their bans while the Anchorage Assembly has chosen so far not to even take up the discussion, and asked what they know that the states repealing the single use plastic bag bans don’t know.  One of them responded that the repeal was temporary based on supply disruption due to the Wuhan Flu.  I replied that given that most of the reusable bags are manufactured in China, I wouldn’t expect that disruption to fix itself any time soon.  I also noted that we have a legislature and a governor who are just itching to do something positive, and whomever gets there first, picks up the free money on the issue, will be a hero, while intransigence by the Assembly and Mayor will look at best silly, and at worst rigid doctrinaire with little concern over public health.  We will see who gets the message first.

 

  1. Atkinson. This one is a couple week old.  President Trump fired Intel Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson on April 3.  The stated rationale was that he no longer had confidence in Atkinson’s ability to do his job in a non-partisan manner.  Atkinson responded that he was fired because he handled the Eric Ciaramella whistleblower complaint properly, whatever that is supposed to mean.  Of course, in his world, “properly” means rewriting the whistleblower rules to allow complaints to be filed based on second and third hand information (a phone call from Alexander Vindman to Ciaramella describing the telcon between Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky in July) that was used as the basis for House democrat impeachment proceedings.  Trump appointed Atkinson, a career Department of Justice prosecutor in 2018, something that likely demonstrates the depth of corruption that still exists in DoJ.  Democrats, as usual were apoplectic.  It won’t be the last time.

 

  1. Taiwan. One of the things the left is trying to do is turn all criticism of China into an anti-Oriental racial argument, with Trump and the Wuhan Flu critics of the Chinese Community Party (CC) being racist.  Of course, they completely ignore all the positive things Taiwan has done to sound an early warning on the spread of the disease and notify everyone who would listen of what they thought was coming.  Taiwanese warnings to the World Health Organization (UN, WHO), a UN organization that appears to be completely under the control of the ChiComs, were ignored.  Indeed, the WHO has gone to the point where they are today little more than another propaganda arm for the ChiComs, making excuses while the virus spreads.  This is one of the reasons President Trump last week announced he was suspending all payments to the WHO for the foreseeable future.  The last US contribution to the WHO was in 2017, at $400 million.  Somebody is going to have to make that shortfall up when the check from the US doesn’t show up next time it is due.  The WHO has been adamant (at the behest of China) not to allow Taiwan membership in the organization.  Most of this came to a head a couple weeks ago with a name-calling exchange between the Taiwanese foreign minister and the head of WHO, Tedros Adhanom.  The Taiwanese foreign minister had been adamant that WHO was irresponsible to limit Taiwan’s participation.  And it’s not just the foreign ministry getting in on the festivities, the Taiwanese Ministry of Justice released information documenting their claim that over 70% of fake news and disinformation on the Wuhan Flu comes from China.  So, what do we do with all this?  Clearly, we can no longer do business with China, as they neither believe what we believe, want to play by any sort of agreed-upon rules, and are looking at a quickly closing window of opportunity before their economy craters.  How can we best hurt China?  By making them irrelevant.  One way would be to diplomatically recognize the Republic of China in Taiwan as a nation, putting an end to the One China policy.  It will cost nothing and infuriate the ChiComs.  It will also not go unnoticed by Chinese who long gave the CCP a pass.  Another way would be to get together with like-minded nations like Israel, Great Britain and Taiwan and create a new international health activity (though at this writing, none of the governmental organizations have covered themselves with glory).

 

  1. Singer. We lost another one of the Good Guys last week, when Dr. S Fred Singer passed away at an age of 95.  Singer was an atmospheric physicist who was one of the most influential skeptical scientists in the climate debate since the 1980s.  He was a UN IPCC reviewer who repeatedly criticized the IPCC for their scientific methods and claims.  He was widely published with over 200 peer-reviewed papers in journals and a number of books available at Amazon.  He believed in 2013 that the climate debate would be over in a decade.  He was not afraid to mix it up with the climatistas, describing the people who did the IPCC as crooks and O’Bama scientific advisor John Holdren as “…an absolute nut when it comes to global warming.”  He accepted the theoretical existence of a greenhouse effect, recognizing that CO2, H2O and other gasses in the atmosphere can absorb IR radiation.  He was not convinced that the effects exist to any appreciable effect.  Unlike most skeptics, he believed that overall climate sensitivity is close to zero.  He described Hockey Stick Michael Mann as “… and ideologue, desperately trying to support a hypothesis that’s been falsified by observations.”  Singer was active and engaged throughout his long and productive life.  He will be sorely missed.

More later –

– AG

 

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