Wednesday, 19 May 2010

One Guy and a Letter

A long time ago...up until the 1970s...California produced enough electricity to cover their requirements. They had coal plants which some folks were terribly upset about the smoke involved and the pollution.

At some point...based on political action...they started shutting enough of these, and everyone got into the clean air business. What they didn't grasp...was that electricity had to be procured...so they started buying and moving power from another state to California.

If you ask a hundred folks on the streets of LA today...maybe thirty of them would readily know that power they consume is not California-produced. The rest? They have no idea that its coming from Arizona...where no one is saying much about how you produce the stuff...just that you sell the stuff to some other folks at a profit and pay for what you have in the state. Yeah, Arizona taxes are gleaned off this...if you didn't know.

That's the message from a member of Arizona's top government utilities agency, who threw down the gauntlet Tuesday in a letter to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa by threatening to cut off the city's power supply as retribution.

So as things continue along a heated trail this week....Gary Pierce stood up. Gary is a commissioner on the five-member Arizona Corporation Commission. They kinda run the whole power sales business.

Gary finally got fed up...over the LA threats of the past week...against Arizona and its immigration efforts.

Gary wrote a letter to the Los Angeles City Council. Gary knows who he sells power to. He made the letter clear.

The main quote from the letter? "I received your message; please receive mine. As a statewide elected member of the Arizona Corporation Commission overseeing Arizona's electric and water utilities, I too am keenly aware of the 'resources and ties' we share with the city of Los Angeles. If an economic boycott is truly what you desire, I will be happy to encourage Arizona utilities to renegotiate your power agreements so Los Angeles no longer receives any power from Arizona-based generation".

It's been rather quiet in LA today. The LA political folks are holding their mouth and thinking over the next step.

It's obvious that they really can't jump and dump Arizona power. It's obvious that they can't find replacement power organizations quickly or cheaply. Any company being approached by a California official now....will smile as they hint a seven to ten percent increase over Arizona rates. They know the California guys will have to pay and screw over their customers...to make this deal work.

Is Arizona worried? No...they can find another customer and rig deals within a month or so. Lots of states have gone stupid and terminated power plants. They all need power from somebody in the end.

I believe LA will kinda consider this the end of the affair...and maybe just try to forget how stupid they got.

The Book War

There's a big chat going on today over the Texas School Book Commission and their discussion. It's rather heated...even by Texas standards....and a bunch of folks....not even from Texas are involved. So allow me to make this a simple task.

There's one major company in America that makes school books for schools....and maybe twenty others who'd you classify as a notch below them. Their objective? They want to sell you school books and make a profit.... preferably....lots of profit. Book by book....they can get rich.

Some states allow towns to run their own mechanism. Some manage by counties. And then you have a couple of states that run their business by a commission....and buy bulk for the entire state. Naturally, it's the Sam's Club episode.....buy in bulk...save money.

So, say that Johnny needs a new history book for the ninth grade. In LA....it's a local issue. They have a group which runs out....establishes their standards for such a book and then tells the book publishers what they'd like. The publishers bring in examples for the ninth grade...and a competition occurs.

Now, LA might have a strange view on the Constitution. Maybe they'd like just one entire page on the Constitution, period. Maybe they'd like three pages on Doctor Martin Luther King. Maybe they'd like 122 words over the start of World War I but then would like 244 words over the start of World War II. Maybe Ben Franklin gets three lines of a mention, while Jimmy Carter gets 16 lines of mention.

The book company doesn't care. The problem though....if you buy in bulk....LA doesn't match up to Texas. So Texas is look for a $48 book deal and LA is going to have to accept a $75 book deal. Texas is happy, and LA is stuck being happy with what they have.

So a couple of states grasped the importance of hanging onto Texas standards, and they want the $48 deal too. So they run up to the company involved and says....sell us the same book. We don't have any big concern over standards. They save on cost, and it makes practical sense.

Along the way in this deal....Texas folks over the past decade realized how much got removed or changed on standards....so they ensured that replacement folks on the committee had a different view.

Hostility is brewing. Brother versus brother. Father versus son. Mother versus daughter. Red state versus blue state.

So let me lay out the next year. Texas will likely have a book deal where seventy percent is kinda red-state flavored and the rest blue-state flavored. The states that ran up and bought the cheaper $48 book? Well....you will see a bunch of cities and counties get involved and demand a totally different book what Texas bought. Naturally....we are talking $68 as a minimum and maybe even $75.

Who pays the $25 difference? Thats a curious thing....as these folks run off to isolate them from the Texas standard....this $25 difference cost has to be made up via the state government, the county government or the city government. Taxes start to come into play. The school book commission could even approach each kid and let the parents know that they got to pay up a $25 fee at the beginning of school....to cover the book.

The other curious thing...is that the teachers in class....don't even have to use the book. That's the funny thing. You could have 24 lines to cover the entire Constitution and think that the teacher will spend five class-days on this, and move on. The guy could spend six weeks on the Constitution and use outside references that make the book worthless.

So that's what this text book discussion is all about. Cheap books versus expensive books. Red state versus blue state. Brother versus sister. Yep...1850 all over again.

Fines of a Worthless Nature

Another Metro Story

Yesterday morning came another DC Metro story.

Some dude got on the train up around Rockville, Maryland way....probably around 9AM....and died. No one noticed.

His body rode through the entire line....to DC, and then northward to the vast end of the line at the opposite end, and then retreated all the way back through DC again, to return to Rockville....where it was placed in the sitting yard for an afternoon run. Only then around 3PM, did the maintenance guys walking through the train before the afternoon run....did they discover his body.

Yep, just another day in DC. Dying and riding Metro....over and over.

There Are Winners Out There

My associate in the office had a phonecall on Friday morning. His wife wanted him to fly down to the Carolinas and help move the son out of his school academy over the weekend.

My associate is like me....just got here in January....and his family has yet to make the big move (next month).

It was a fairly urgent deal on the wife's impression. It's kinda hard on a Friday morning to find a cheap airline ticket for Friday evening, but he tried and was successful. He had to fly out of Baltimore, and the thunderstorm we had....didn't help.

So he arrives at the academy on Saturday and along the way of moving the son out....here was the director of the school. There was this three minute exchange between the two. The director....in a way....had sought my associate. He wanted to make a comment or two about the son.

Sometimes....a few words....makes a vast impression on a guy.

Over the past six months.....his son was becoming a strong leader within the class group. With a year left before graduation....he was easily the kid with the most impression on the director. The kid had taken on several last minute emergency projects when other kids had backed out, and delivered 5-star performances.

In three minutes....it was the kind of moment that makes a guy pretty happy over his kid.

Then my associate finished up and went home. He told the wife the story. She smiled and decided to add two other bits to the story.

You see....my associate has to pay in the $1500 range each month for food, board, and tuition. There's a work requirement of forty hours per month....which pays the rest. Each kid is supposed to turn in these hours to help make this private education possible. His son....over the past three or four months....had been working forty hours a week. Yeah.....there was the thirty-odd hours of school and then forty hours of work. Their monthly rate had been cut down to around half of what he was supposed to be paying. The son hadn't said anything about that.

Then came an interesting bit about the son's ingenuity. After the chow hall closed each evening....kids would come up and desire a soda or some snack. Course, unlike a military base where you had a shoppette or BX to run over to and buy a snack....they had nothing. My associate's son had gone out and bought a big stash of Chinese noodle dishes and cases of soda.....and he was selling out of his closet. The kid was turning a pretty fair profit on this little "illegal" operation. The school kinda hinted things needed to stop.....but this had carried on for several months.

So, this kid is an entrepreneur at heart.....and showing lots of attitude that you'd beg for in a kid. I told my associate....this kid is a natural MBA-degree guy. He was proud of this kid.....and that probably made the entire cost of this last-minute trip worth the effort.

Results Are In

My impression of the state elections yesterday? The administration got few if any positive signs out of the public's feelings. They did retain Rep Murtha's seat in Pennsylvania but that was really the best result of the evening.

Arlen Specter supposedly is finished....unless he wants to run as an independent. The odds? Strangely enough....better than fifty percent. He knows he can gather campaign funds, run a decent campaign and with three guys.....he could draw votes from each. So it bears watching because of the strangeness of the year.

Arkansas? Senator Lincoln isn't a winner yet.....she's still got another run-off to get a clear 50-percent of the vote. The odds? Well....you have a new fresh Democrat running for the senate seat with lots of outside-of-the-state connections and money against Senator Lincoln. The ability of the guy to win in such an environment? It's mostly a joke from this point on...with tons of Democratic money coming into the state and going down some money pit in a losing effort.

Finally, Rand Paul of Kentucky. He was a nobody with no real organization over a year ago, and no money. The Tea Party effort in Kentucky picked him up, and he's on auto-pilot the rest of the way. It'll be virtually impossible for the Democrats to stop him in November....but they will soak up tons of Democratic national money coming into the state and going down another money pit in a losing effort.

Advice for the administration? Drop immigration reform. Drop cap and trade. Drop just about everything being used for dividing the public. Call down the media boys. Put together a 10-day effort to push emergency measures on jobs and the economy. You've basically got 100 days to show a repair underway. By mid-October....either you've regained your position.....gotten jobs as priority one....and taken the negatives out of the current situation....or you lose in a dramatic sense.

Is it the plan to lose like this? About two months ago....I started to think that its actually intended. The trick would be to have Republicans controlling the House entirely, and the Senate in a very close 50-50 situation. Then the administration would go into a two-year campaign show. There are people in the administration who think that's their strength....just full-time campaign playing. It's a lousy thought....thinking we could be looking at two entire years of Presidential campaign effort. Imagine turning on the TV nightly....and that's the first eight minutes of each evening.

So it's not really much of a big deal from yesterday. Faces are set to change. New guys likely coming to DC. And more political games set to help our boring lives.