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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

 

Florida; State of the Union; Legal ages

Sorry for the extended break between posts, and tonight will be a short one in view of the late hour. My Florida trip was a rather busy one, not really in your travelogue area. The West Coast of Florida (i.e. the Gulf Coast) is pretty nice, still relatively uncongested, unlike the overgrown East Coast. Driving across the state is still somewhat of a pain in the butt. Route 80 is two narrow lanes, one each way, with no median and trucks flying by your door at 50 miles per and up. Not much shoulder either before the swamp. They don't call it alligator alley for nothing.

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I did watch the State of the Union and though it was the usual hodgepodge of proposals mostly going nowhere, I thought it was one of George W's better efforts. He provided a much better rationale for our Iraq policy than his opponents have for reversing it. He failed though, to explain his new strategy very cogently or why it might be effective. Believe me, 20,000 new troops won't make a bit of difference. The question is how can we better deploy those troops and the ones already there. The Bush health proposal is interesting and I will want to study it further. I have some doubts that the country is ready to give up on the paradigm of employer provided coverage, whether it makes sense or not.

The weakest part of the speech was unquestionably his apparent move to the left on the environment. In fact, Bush has been trumpeting ethanol all along, and that is a policy that benefits only the farm states and the big food processors (like my investment in ADM). My own view is that what is happening in China and India spells doom for the internal combustion engine as we know it today. You don't have to be a mathematician of any consequence to figure out what it means to put billions of Chinese and Indians on the road. At that point, we go over the tipping point and oil, even with additives like ethanol, can not meet the world's energy demand. In fact, the inputs to ethanol production are barely exceeded by its energy output (something like 1.3-1 versus 10-1 for gasoline) so the more ethanol we use, the less efficient is our power supply (and the more expensive our food).

Clearly we need to be working on making other energy sources practical. I am not a scientist and can't tell where the solution lies, but I am pretty sure it is out there and necessity will drive us to find the practical solutions to keep our cars, planes and plants running. I am also pretty sure that the sources of our future fuel supply (say in twenty years) will not include two current sources - oil and ethanol.

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There are many things we have backwards and that should be re-thought. One of them is that the legal driving age in this country is 16 and the legal drinking age is 21. You might think that is logical, but I believe they should be reversed. Most cars driven by teenagers are unguided missiles. Frankly, this is true whether the young drivers are sober or not. Personally, I would make the legal driving age 21, possibly allowing exceptions for daytime driving to work and school. However, I also believe that it is important for teenagers to learn to drink. In France (not that I often hold that country up as an example for anything) children routinely drink wine. What's the problem with letting kids have a drink, since under my proposal, they will not be given wheels to operate? This way, by the time they are allowed to drive, the drinking novelty would be over, and hopefully, they would understand that the two activities should not be performed simultaneously. So I would set the legal drinking age at 16, or at least no more than 18, where it used to be in some enlightened states.

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On 1/16, I sold 100 shares of LZ at 50.52 out of the IRA, which had been purchased on 8/18/03 for 33.73. Also on 1/16, I sold 300 shares of HAUP out of the taxable account (ouch) at 8.00 (originally purchased on 8/6/01 at 1.66). On 1/23 I bought 100 shares of GWR for the taxable account at 26.44. Then on 1/26 I sold 100 shares of ABC out of the taxable account at 52.98 (originally purchased on 7/28/03 for 32.15). Finally on 1/29, I bought 2500 shares or WLVT at 0.81 for the taxable account in what might be another ill-advised average-down.

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