Sunday, August 31, 2008

Friday, August 29, 2008

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Note From Rep. Matheson on Oil Speculation

Dear Cameron,

A newspaper story in the Salt Lake Tribune this week supports my concern about price manipulation occurring in the oil trading markets. I read the headline "Just a Few Speculators Fueling the Volatility in the Oil Market" about the discovery by U.S. market regulators of how one financial player had gained enormous sway over the oil market--without regulators' knowledge.

Other data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) shows how active trading by a single futures trader in June coincided with the rapid rise in the per-barrel oil price.

The potential for price manipulation in the oil futures trading market is troublesome. Providing the CFTC with more oversight authority is one aspect of a comprehensive energy bill I have written in response to high gas prices. I believe my bill is the right approach as we pursue an energy policy that delivers secure, affordable, clean energy to consumers.

We must end our dependence on foreign oil. To reach that goal, we must pursue every available avenue such as more domestic production from off-shore areas; exploration of oil shale and tar sands leasing in the West; more investment in research and development of alternatives, such as plug-in hybrids; more efficiency from existing supply and more private-sector innovation to take us to the next technological level.

As someone who worked in the energy industry for 13 years before being elected to Congress, I know how vital energy is to every sector of our economy and every aspect of our lives. I am optimistic we can meet our energy independence challenge, as long as we recognize that what we do now will bridge the span between our current energy needs and new resources for the future.


U.S. Representative
2nd District of Utah

Minor Leaguer Should Sue For Giambi's Spot?

Rick Reilly thinks so.
Jones played in the Yankees' farm system from 2000 to 2006 as a corner outfielder and first baseman. He hit 39 HRs in a season, and nobody in the Bronx even blinked. That's because the Yankees had Jason Giambi at first and Gary Sheffield in right. And guess who were both cited in the Mitchell Report? Giambi and Sheffield.

More Fun With Newspaper Story Comments

In the comments to this Senator Orrin Hatch editorial in the Salt Lake Tribune, comes this gem:
ImpeachBushNow: 8/23/2008 11:19:00 AM

Who cares anymore. With idiots reproducing up to eight kids and demanding that they are "right" because there are more of them gives little chance for rational humans to exist on this planet knowing that there are limited resources available.

Gone ahead with your god-given right to have large families and take your state deductions. I'll keep paying for your little monsters to go to school and I definitely feed them at lunch time.

Do you really think we can just continue to flood the world with more people, who will need more food, more water, more resources to survive, and oh yeah... more energy, which with the current trend, means more pollution (something Orrin doesn't mention in his letters).

I can tell that Utah in particular is proud of their education system, because we seem to be creating some incredible problems for them to solve. HINT: you could stop rubbing stamping liars like Hatch.

You want to take a realistic aproach to solving any of our resourse needs, you might want to address the fact that some families choose to tax our resources more than others.
I have noticed this sentiment expressed for some time now. For instance, there's this comment to my letter about biofuels printed in the Deseret News:
liberal larry | 7:34 a.m. Mar. 15, 2008
The writer is correct that the production of befouls is distorting the price of global food commodities. In fact, almost all commodities are increasing in price because of the increasing consumption of nations like China and India. This is a natural out growth of the planets over population, there will continue to be a competition for the worlds scarce resourses, you better get used to it because there are limited amounts of the earth's oil, water, precious metals, wilderness etc. and no glimpse of population control in sight.
No glimpse of population control in sight? Holy cow.

Orson Scott Card recently wrote about the energy issues we're facing, and how every alternative has been opposed at one time or another by environmental groups who proclaim that the only real alternative is to have fewer humans. He astutely pointed out that "I haven't noticed them volunteering to lessen the population starting with themselves; nor have I seen their heroes bicycling everywhere."

Which is only mostly correct. Well, the heroes not bicycling is completely true, but the other part about not volunteering to lessen the population themselves is only partially so. I haven't yet heard of any "save the planet" mass suicides, but last year the UK's Daily Mail reported how some men and women are sterilizing themselves so as not to harm the planet by reproducing. Some choice quotes from that story include,
"When I see a mother with a large family, I don't resent her, but I do hope she's thought through the implications."

"Sarah and I live as green a life a possible. We don't have a car, cycle everywhere instead, and we never fly. "We recycle, use low-energy light bulbs and eat only organic, locally produced food. "In short, we do everything we can to reduce our carbon footprint. But all this would be undone if we had a child. "That's why I had a vasectomy. It would be morally wrong for me to add to climate change and the destruction of Earth.
Sigh. We seem to be reaping the consequences of Al Gore's "it's a moral issue" global warming/environmentalist crusade.

But guess what? These moral crusaders are flat out wrong.

My inaugural post on this blog concerned the myth of overpopulation. Once again there had been a letter printed in the Deseret News that furthered the myth, claiming that "enlightened observers" knew that overpopulation was the real culprit behind all of the world's problems. So I responded with a letter of my own. In it I included the following information:

-Half the world lives in nations with sub-replacement fertility
-The population of 51 countries or areas is expected to be lower in 2050 than in 2005
-It is widely believed that there will be an underpopulation crisis in Japan by 2014
-The US Census Bureau predicts the level of fertility for the world as a whole will drop below replacement level before 2050
-Today, 20% of developed nations’ population is 60 years old or over. By 2050 the proportion will be 32%.

These are facts conveniently left out during the "overpopulation" section in school. We have been consistently bombarded with humankind-as-the-enemy messages, and those chickens are coming home to roost.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Repeat After Me: The Poor Pay No Tax

In the comments to this Deseret News letter criticizing Senator McCain for being rich, comes another oft-repeated misconception. I'm quite certain it won't be the last time I hear it between now and November, so let's get it out of the way early on.
"Yes we would like to see the super wealthy CEO pay more percentage of their pay in taxes than the struggling mother earning minimum wage."
A "struggling mother earning minimum wage" pays ZERO income tax.

In fact, if we give that mother just one dependent child and have her take the standard deduction, then she not only owes zero tax, but she'll also get back $3,850 through the Earned Income Credit and the Child Tax Credit. With two children that number jumps to $6,710.

See here and here for previous posts on taxes.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Best Sports Story Comment of the Day

A comment from the Deseret News' story today on BYU getting dissed by national media:

The Rock | 8:49 a.m. Aug. 22, 2008
I live in Washington State. I worked with several 'Huskies' (here after called 'fluffy puppies') the year after BYU won the national championship. When the 'fluffy puppies' discovered that I had attended BYU they were unmerciful. They were so abusive that they would have been fired for harassment had it happened in today's environment.

Their refrain was always; "BYU should not even be considered for the national championship; they don't play anybody."

It was always the same; "They don't play anybody."

When it was learned the BYU was playing the 'Fluffy Puppies' that year it only got worse.

BYU kicked the puppies from one end of the field to the other. It was sweet!

Monday morning at work there was not a 'Fluffy Puppy' to be found. They had stuck their tail between their legs and hid.

I finally found the one with the biggest mouth sitting at his desk. I put both my hands on his desk, leaned over and whispered; "You were right, BYU doesn't play anybody."

His silence said it all...

Make sure your words are sweet and tender you never know when you will have to eat them.

I enjoyed serving them to the Fluffy Puppies.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Olympic Champ and Chump

Throughout his 8 gold medals, at times dominating and other times .01 seconds "how did that just happen" amazing, Michael Phelps has been everything you want an Olympic champion to be - gracious, humble and confident.

Usain Bolt, on the other hand, hammed it up before his race was even over,
"With a full seven strides to go, he dropped his arms and let them fall outstretched to his sides, appearing almost to run sideways as he played to the sold-out crowd of 91,000 at the Bird's Nest. Just before the finish line, he started high-stepping and, for good measure, executed a chest-thump."
A shameful, idiotic display of athletic arrogance. The man is fast, too bad he's also an Olympic-sized chump.

Not Sure If This Is Good or Bad...

But thinks BYU's Bronco Mendenhall is the #1 college football "coach on the rise".

For what it's worth, I agree with some of the commenters to that story - Boise St.'s Chris Petersen belongs near the top of that list.

But here's hoping neither one of them leave their schools.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Lowering Your Gasoline Bill Is Really Expensive

So gas prices have skyrocketed, making the daily commute more expensive. As market forces demand, many people, in an effort to lower their gas bill, are shopping for and buying hybrid cars. It seems reasonable, as hybrids get better than 40 mpg. As a consequence, hybrid manufacturers can't keep up with demand, and hybrids' share of the auto market steadily increases even as overall vehicle sales plummet in a slowing economy.

But does buying a hybrid save money?

I did some online research to find out how much it would cost me to buy a hybrid vehicle. A quick search of large area new and used car lots found seven hybrids. Most are the Toyota Prius, which is by far the highest seller in the hybrid market. But I also found a Lexus and a couple Honda Civic hybrids. The price tag? Anywhere from $26,000 all the way to $37,000 for the used Lexus.

Now, to break that down to a monthly bill depends on a variety of factors like down payment amount, trade in value, and credit score. Not to mention any fees and taxes added to the advertised sale price.

You might argue that an owner of an SUV or truck easily paid the $26-28k it would take to buy a hybrid, so trading it in makes sense. That's quite correct. Unfortunately, SUV's don't hold value very well, so the vast majority of owners are upside down when it comes to how much it's worth vs. how much they owe. In fact, gas prices have made that scenario worse, as SUVs have taken an even larger hit to their resale value.

What does all that mean? Depending on how far in the red you are in that SUV, you may have to tack on a few (or five or seven) thousand dollars to the price of the hybrid if you want the dealer to take your vehicle as a trade-in.

But what about all that gas savings with the hybrid? That can be quite significant, depending on the vehicle you're replacing. For instance, if you average 1000 miles driven a month, and your SUV got 15 mpg vs. the 45 mpg the hybrid gets, at $4 a gallon you'd save almost $180 a month. The savings increase as gas prices rise, and decrease as they fall. However, if your current vehicle gets the more average 20 mpg, then your savings falls to $110. If you're getting 30 mpg, then the hybrid only saves you $44. In reality, the gas savings a hybrid represents still means a few years before it begins to offset its cost.

In fact, one of the biggest weaknesses of hybrids is their cost. They are generally a few thousand dollars more expensive than their non-hybrid equivalent. And the gas savings between a 35 mpg Honda Accord and a 45 mpg Accord hybrid isn't much. Exacerbating the problem is that there really aren't many used hybrids to be found, meaning you can't buy an older model to save some money. It actually could be much more prudent to buy a regular car that's a few years old and still gets 30 mpg. You could get it for half (or even less) than the cost of a hybrid, and you'd save $130 a month in gas over your 15 mpg SUV.

But Cameron, you say, aren't there tax incentives to buying a hybrid? The answer is...sort of.

Yes, the federal government gives a non-refundable tax credit for buying a hybrid. However, there are multiple catches. First, it's non-refundable, which means if you don't owe any tax (which, surprise! a lot of people don't, particularly the people most worried about gas prices), then the credit does you no good. Second, the credit amount varies with the hybrid you buy, so be sure to check that out first. Most average around $2,000. Third, the credits phase out over time as more hybrids are sold. Once a certain sales threshold is met, the credit is gone. Because of this, the Toyota Prius no longer has a federal tax credit. The Honda Civic hybrid's credit has been cut in half and will soon be gone. Lastly, the credit can only be used by the first owner. If your hybrid is used and was already registered by another owner, no credit for you!

But what about state tax incentives? Utah does not offer one for hybrids. None. They used to, but not any more.

There are, however, some fringe benefits to hybrid ownership. For $15 you can buy a special "clean vehicle" license plate that allows you to drive in the car pool lane even if you're alone. Plus, Salt Lake City lets you park for free at any metered space. So there's that. But these benefits might be tempered somewhat by the fact that your insurance rates could go up with a hybrid.

Even in the face of soaring gas prices, it's wise to be prudent. Buying a hybrid to save money might actually cost you more than you save. It could be wiser to just drive the SUV less in favor of a more fuel efficient second vehicle, or even trade it in for a cheaper, non-hybrid but still very efficient, gas-powered car. Or, you could always start saving your pennies now for a shot at the electric Chevy Volt in 2010.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


August 14, 1846: Henry David Thoreau is jailed for tax resistance.

August 14, 1935: Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act into law, creating Aid to Dependent Children, unemployment insurance, and pension plans for the elderly.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Safe Sex? Not So Much...

Sex education is important. Where that education comes from, and what it consists of is subject to debate.

My senior year of high school we had a sex ed section in health class. Obviously, that was a little late for many teenagers. I will never forget the girl who raised her hand to share a very important lesson with the class. The year previous she had been pregnant, and was now struggling to raise a baby and finish high school. Her lesson was, "If your boyfriend tells you he's sterile, don't believe him." Here, obviously, was a girl in need of education.

Unfortunately, the education she would be given in school and, frankly, by many parents would be almost as foolhardy as believing your boyfriend is sterile.

I give you the fallacy of "safe sex":
"Condoms are often seen as something that will protect you from nearly everything sex related...pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). But condoms simply "reduce the risk" - they don't eliminate all risk. They will, for instance offer good protection against both pregnancy and many STDs, but not 100%. If you fall into the approximately 5% for whom condom use still results in pregnancy, you are 100% pregnant - or maybe infected. So, depending on your situation in life and what you may have to lose if you get pregnant, perhaps a backup method of birth control would be a good idea. Talk to your Doc! And it's also important to know that condoms do not prevent all STDs. Either because they simply don't cover the area that may be affected by some STDs, or because the condoms slips, breaks or is incorrectly used. It's about reducing the risk, not completely eliminating risk."
Simply handing out condoms and preaching safe sex is a harmful lie we tell ourselves and our children. While the average condom failure rate is about 5% (which is huge), that number increases a lot with inexperienced users. In 2005 the Guttmacher Institute released a study which showed that failure rates decreased with experience, going from in some cases 11% to less than 1%. So the target group of sex education -teenagers- are also the group most likely to not use condoms correctly, thereby negating most of their effectiveness. Also of note is that the Guttmacher study was conducted on 18-35 year olds, and not teens, meaning those failure rates were among older, more experienced test subjects. Additionally, those in the study were given intense education and training on condom use, and yet still had high failure rates. So again, preaching condom use as "safe sex" for teens is incredibly misleading.

Also important is the fact that STDs aren't passed solely by the fluids that condoms capture. They also spread by skin-to-skin contact, meaning despite using a condom, and using it correctly, you can still contract diseases like herpes, genital warts, and syphilis.

Additionally, and though the risk is low, the CDC recommends against even kissing someone known to be HIV positive because you can contract AIDS through french kissing. Also, Planned Parenthood's teenwire website tells teens that kissing can pass CMV, herpes, and syphillis.

We as parents, educators, and society as a whole need to stop pretending that there is such a thing as "safe sex". This is simply an easy to believe lie, one particularly harmful to the youth with whom we have been entrusted.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Georgia = Hungary?

"If Georgia falls, this will also mean the fall of the West in the entire former Soviet Union and beyond. Leaders in neighboring states -- whether in Ukraine, in other Caucasian states or in Central Asia -- will have to consider whether the price of freedom and independence is indeed too high."

MIKHEIL SAAKASHVILI, President of Georgia

"This fight is the fight for freedom by the Hungarian people against the Russian intervention...The whole world will see how the Russian armed forces, contrary to all treaties and conventions, are crushing the resistance of the Hungarian people. I ask...that the leaders should turn to all the peoples of the world for help and explain that today it is Hungary and is the turn of other countries."

Imre Nagy, Prime Minister of Hungary

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Ethanol: Reason 4,265 Why Politics Suck

T. Boone Pickens was interviewed by the LA Times recently. The entire interview is worth a read, but I wanted to highlight one thing in particular. See, T. Boone was Bob Dole's energy advisor when he ran for president in '96. T. Boone doesn't like ethanol now, and he didn't like it then either. But this is what he said about a conversation he had with Dole during the campaign:
"Let me explain something to you about politics: There are 21 farm states, and that's 42 senators. Don't go any further." I'm getting the picture. I said, "They want ethanol." He said, "They're going to have ethanol." And so he said, "Don't waste any more of our time or your time telling us it's a bad idea, because they're going to do it."
Never mind that it's a "crime against humanity" to use corn for ethanol. No matter that food prices have skyrocketed worldwide, causing food riots and starvation. We've got 42 farm state senators to coddle.

Friday, August 01, 2008

It's Official - "Working 4 Utah"

To Our Customers,

Beginning Monday, August 4, 2008, all State Tax Commission and Division of Motor Vehicle (DMV) offices will be CLOSED on all Fridays in conjunction with Governor Huntsman's "Working 4 Utah" initiative.

In addition, these offices will have new extended hours of operation Monday through Thursday, except holidays. The new hours are 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. These hours of operationalso include the Tax Commission and DMV phone centers.

Remember that many tax and motor vehicle services are available online. Visit or for a list of office hours and available online services.

Please note that these new hours of operation extend to most state government agencies. You are advised to check with the various agencies prior to visiting. You can also go to the state web page at for more information.

Thank you for your understanding and support of this important initiative to address the energy issues facing Utah and the nation.


Rodney Marrelli
Executive Director, Utah State Tax Commission