Saturday, December 8, 2012

Gas tax attack

I'm sure my Canadian comrades will be shocked but even in the U.S., the government engages in a gas tax grab. I've been attacking the myths behind the call for a gas tax increase and both the Casper Star Tribune and the Wyoming Tribune Eagle covered my comments. Be sure to check out my gas tax talk on Glenn Wood's Bold Republic radio show, KIML Gillette, Wyoming

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Art Show in October

Be sure to come to the opening of the Halloween Show at the Artists Guild in Cheyenne, Wyoming, 1701 Morrie Ave., on October 1 at 7:00 pm. I have two paintings for sale there. If you can't make it to the opening, the show runs the entire month of October so please check it out. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Painting the smokey sunset

I drove through the Wind River canyon on my way to the dinosaur dig (see below). Wyoming has had a bad fire season this year, but on the plus side, all that particulate matter in the air means fabulous light effects. These are four paintings taken on the drive through the canyon late in the afternoon.

Fire Canyon
Oil on Board

Fire Canyon

 Fire Walker
Oil on Board

Fire Walker
River Ruin
Oil on Board
River Ruin
 Smoke River
Oil on Board
Smoke River

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Painting - SOLD

One of the paintings I have posted here on this blog has sold!

Winter Loneliness

If this keeps up, I'll have to set up my art website again. I'll be posting more paintings as soon as I can get some decent pics of them done. I've been very productive over the last while. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Cattle Drive

The City of Cheyenne puts on a rodeo called Frontier Days (which costs taxpayers a poop-load of money every year, but I digress).

One of the events is a cattle drive. The drive starts at the north most point of my regular bike ride so I thought I would check it out.

I pull Mr. Bike off to the side of the road, behind a barbed wire fence, but was told I had to move to the south side of a dirt road. No problem, I say, but having been told the cattle's route, I wonder a bit about that advice; more on that later. 

The drive starts out with a few riders and a couple of wagons.

Looking between this soon to be important dirt road and the horizon you can see a bunch of little specs. So far so good.

The cattle are now making their way to this dirt road which, from the advice I received earlier, must be some sort of magical barrier the cattle will not cross. At least I hope not because there is nothing between me and the road. 

There are now, or soon to be, about 500 cattle making their way beside the fence I was standing behind.

Phew, someone has decided to sit on their horse between me and 500 cattle. I fell better already.

Hmmm, he rode away.

I am now looking longingly at the fence I had originally been standing behind which is, in fact, acting as a barrier to the 500 cattle. 

So far so good, they seem to be heading out along the magic dirt road. 

Here you can see where they are supposed to be heading.

Oh NO!  They've broken across the magical dirt road barrier!!  At this point, my heart rate is rising steadily. 

A cowboy sits - on the other side of the fence - on his horse. I said, "I knew I should have stayed on the other side of the fence. He said, "Don't worry, you'll be fine." I said, "thank you, oh savior."He just laughed. I'm not feeling better about this.

Heart rate is still rising. 

Heart rate is starting to go down as another cowboy, on my side of the fence, starts to shoo the cattle away. 

Phew! Two cowboys are shooing them away. I feel much better now. 

As you can see, these are not docile cows, but steers with action on their minds. 

 And long pointy horns.

They are all now being driven down the road on the other side of the fence from me. Heart rate is back to normal.

The End.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Digging for Dinosaurs - and a naughty museum secret revealed !

One of the very cool things you can do in Wyoming is dig for a day at a real dinosaur bone site. You need to go to Thermopolis and head to the Wyoming Dinosaur Center and Dig Sites.

One of the unique specimens they have at the museum is the Archaeopteryx. This is the only one in North America (if I recall correctly, it came from Germany). It is the first known bird and was around about 150 million years ago. It is also thought to be the transition between dinosaurs and birds.

So, my dig day started out well. Mitch was my guide. Here we are looking at dinosaur bones.
Then we went up to the site. This is a view looking out to the Wind River. It's the brown diagonal cut in the distance. If you arrive in Thermopolis from this south, this is the  drive you can take. You are at the bottom of the narrow break in the earth. It's quite spectacular.

Then we dug around for Camarasaurus bones. Mitch is a student at the University of Wyoming and he has a summer job at the Center, finding bones at his own site and dealing with people who sign up to dig for a day (like me). Here, you see Mitch's hand on the rocks surrounding a bone and in the next one, you can see the black round part inside the rock. That's the bone.

The bones (the black parts) are surrounded by rock or mud.

This was my big find. It looks like the occipital bone of the Camarasaurus. Apparently, skull parts are almost never found because they have the tendency to roll away.

This was my smaller find. The remains of teeth from the Camarasaurus. (The black bits.)

This is what the Camarasauras head looks like. You can see by the teeth it was a plant eater.

The big foot next to the skull is from a Supersaurus, which as you may imagine, is gigantic. Here's where the naughty secret about bones in museums is revealed. The actual Supersaurus skeleton would be too heavy to set up in a museum as it would collapse the floor, or so I am told. This model is made from Styrofoam. In fact, they aren't even sure if the head on this Supersaurus is really what the head looks like as they haven't found one yet (that rolling away problem I mentioned earlier).  They put a head on this skeleton they thought might be right based on similar dinosaurs. Many of the skeletons in museums like this are models. In the above photo, the skull is a bronze cast. Notice how shiny they are.

I also got a chance to work in the lab and wash and chip away the mud and rock from real dinosaur bones. Once cleaned up, real bones look like this:

Apparently, the reason the bones are black here is because there is a lot of cobalt in the soil.

I also got to keep a small bone fragment which I have here at home.

So, that was a brief recount of Maureen's latest adventure.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Abstract(ish) Painting

I went to Sedona last month for a painting class with Stuart Shils, an abstract artist from Philadelphia. The goal of the class was to learn how to capture the 'perceptual moment' in the painting. In plain language, that means capturing whatever it was that drew you to the scene in the first place and de-emphasizing everything else in the painting to enhance the viewing experience. (Well, it's good to have goals.) The Wall painting comes the closest to achieving that goal. The two Vedauwoo paintings are still representational but they came out well so I'm posting them anyway. Hope you like them .....
Energy Abstract

Life Among the Rocks

Wall Barring Tree Shadows

Friday, April 6, 2012

Alone in the Park

Two new paintings of a similar scene - one in pastel and the other in oil. 

Winter Loneliness - 36x24 oil on board

Empty bench - 18x12 pastel on paper

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Resurge awaken

When we talk about renewable energy, do we mean impoverishment?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Obamacare Makes a Sick Health Care System Worse

  • But we have the tools to prevent the spread of socialized health care.

  • The health care system in the U.S. needs reform, no question, but it needs the type of reform that makes the system better, not worse. As more and more people have now realized, Obamacare is nothing more than Medicaid expansion. Wyoming Liberty Group’s battle to stop the implementation of Obamacare in Wyoming has made it a leader in health care reform. That expertise is now spreading to other states, giving them the tools to fight off the Obamacare Goliath.

    Our neighbor Montana is a good example of a state that is using the tools developed by the Wyoming Liberty Group’s policy expert, Regina Meena, to hold its own against the forces of socialized medicine. Carl Graham, the CEO of the Montana Policy Institute, explains in a radio interview what real health care reform is and how to fix the system using these tools.

    Mr. Graham says there are three measures that define real heath care reform: it increases health insurance coverage and health care access; it increases the quality of health care; and it gets health care costs under control.

    Obamacare fails on all three of these measures. It will force more people to have insurance, but as we saw here in Wyoming, the cost will be higher. Not only that, just because people have insurance doesn’t mean they will have access to health care. If the supply of health services is rationed, people will have access to a waiting list, which is not access to care.

    Obamacare reforms will also likely mean less quality. If the government takes away profits and limits competition, health service providers have no incentive to improve the way they do things.

    Obamacare’s costs have been grossly underestimated. The federal government originally said the cost would be under $940 billion over 10 years but the Congressional Budget Office says the cost will be at least $1.76 trillion during that period.

    So if we want real health care reform, how do we fix the system?

    The key is putting consumers back in control of their health care choices. Real reform would mean consumers themselves would make decisions that meet their needs, together with a safety net (not hammock) for those without the means to help themselves.

    Regina Meena, at the Wyoming Liberty Group has developed a Five-Point plan to do achieve real health care reform. As Regina says, “The key to this plan is returning health insurance to the private insurance market, where auto, property, life and supplemental health currently function. These insurance products are viable, affordable and work for us.”

    How do we get there?

    1. We need more competition. Obamacare has started the consolidation of the health care industry, which means less competition. The tool to achieve more competition, one fully supported by the Wyoming Liberty Group and the vast majority of Wyoming legislators, is cross border insurance sales. If the insurance industry can sell in Wyoming the same insurance policy it sells in other states, and can pool the risk over a larger population, the cost of insurance will go down in Wyoming.

    2. We need more insurance options. For example, people should be free to choose policies with higher deductibles, or policies that provide only catastrophic coverage.

    Other improvements include: a reduction in mandates, greater transparency and certain tort reform.

    If we want to defeat this Goliath permanently, we must clarify the relationship between government and the people. Socialized medicine is a Utopian solution that is supposed to equalize health outcomes. But to make people ‘equal’ the government has to treat people differently. It raises costs to some so it can give their hard-earned income to others; and is it fair to force some to pay more to lower costs to others, especially when it reduces access to health care for everyone at the same time?
    We need real health care reform, one that increases quality and lowers costs.

    Let’s face it, Obamacare is more about redistribution and control than curing a sick health care system.

    Saturday, March 17, 2012

    Wednesday, March 14, 2012

    Windmills of doom

    Well, I've practiced a bit by doing representational wind turbine paintings and now it's time to go surreal.

    Enter the Windwalker

    Sunday, March 11, 2012

    Abandoned and forgotten -- almost

    Another view of these strange old abandoned buildings. Although the sign at the turnoff says something about a research center, turns out the back building is the old wastewater treatment plant and the front building is possibly an old hospital. I found that out today when I biked up to the new wastewater treatment plant, which is on the other side of the highway from the old plant. The new wastewater treatment plant is on the top of one of the rolling hills so I biked up to the gate and a disembodied voice came out from the speaker - Can I help you ? 

    Uh oh, I thought. I said I was looking for places to take photos from and asked if I could come through the gate and take pics from the top of the hill. The voice asked if I was a terrorist. I said I was an economist, which some people think is a terrorist, but no, I wasn't a terrorist by the usual definition.

    The fellows at the plant turned out to be very nice and told me the story of the new/old wastewater treatment plant. The new plant also has a  nice high view of the windfarm farther east, a great place for more pics.

    U.S. government debt default -- one way or another

    The U.S. debt is now so large it is beyond most peoples' ability to conceptualize. How will the U.S. get out of this debt? By defaulting on its obligations. 

    The U.S. should, and probably will, default on its debt, either outright or through inflation. Why should this happen? If is doesn't, our children and grandchildren will be turned into serfs. 

    Say the U.S. government doesn't default on its debt. That means young people will be forced to pay higher taxes in the future to pay it off. At the moment, interest rates are low. As inflation takes hold however, those rates will rise. When that happens the interest payments on the debt that taxpayers will be forced to pay will also rise. This will take more and more tax dollars out of government coffers and put it into the hands of bondholders. At the same time, taxes will have to rise to fund health care, social security and other entitlement programs. People will be forced to pay taxes for spending they never voted on - they will be little more than serfs. 

    Default will punish all those who lent money to government. (Just like what is happening in Greece right now.)

    So how will the government default on its debt? In one of two ways. The government could, as many homeowners have, just stop paying what it owes on the debt - an outright default. 

    Or, what is more likely, the value of what the U.S. government owes to bondholders will be reduced via the scourge of inflation. 

    Sure, individual citizens who hold U.S. government bonds, and banks, mutual funds, pension funds would lose money, but the upside is they would never lend money to the federal government again. 

    Sure, foreign governments who have been keeping the U.S. government spending spree afloat would lose money, but the upside is they would never lend to the U.S. government again. 

    OK, never is a long time and memories are short. People would eventually start lending to the U.S. government again just like they did to a number of U.S. states that defaulted on their debts in the 1840's. In the meantime, government would be forced to spend only what it collected in taxes. We would once again be living within our means and not creating a legacy of debt and higher taxes to future generations. 

    Sunday, February 26, 2012

    Prairie research

    Who knows what goes on in research centers close to military bases?
    One's imagination can run wild.

    Farm Research

    Friday, February 3, 2012

    A walk in the Botanical Garden

    The Botanical Garden in Cheyenne is a good place for a walk in the afternoon.

    Aspens nestled in snow

    Aspen barrier to rock

    Thursday, February 2, 2012

    Don't let a fat tax expand gov't wasteline

    Governments love sin taxes and not because they want to punish sinners. Taxes on 'sins' like smoking, boozing and gambling rake in billions of dollars every year. In March, the B.C. government called for input on what to do about childhood obesity, and where might that lead? Well, the BC Medical Association, worried about the growth in other peoples' waistlines, wants government to create a new sin – drinking soda pop – and tax it.

    The prospect of getting permission for a new tax to fight fat has, no doubt, politicians and bureaucrats licking their lips in anticipation. However, if we let government invent a new sin and tax it, will we lose weight, or will our wallets just be lighter because government now has more of our money to waste?

    Obesity rates seem to be rising in the developed world, but before we let government take even more of our money, maybe we should ask a simple question – do fat taxes reduce obesity? The BC Medical Association uses a Statistics Canada report, Fitness of Canadian children and youth: Results from the 2007-2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey, to bolster its case for a fat tax. However, this study shows it's a lack of exercise, not soda pop, that is behind today's higher rate of obesity in children.

    Not only that, some states in the US already have fat taxes and they have higher levels of obesity than B.C. does. California, for example, has a 6.25 per cent tax not just on soft drinks but on chips as well, and about 25 per cent of its population is obese. Washington State, right next door, has a 6.5 per cent fat tax on both soft drinks and chips and 26.4 per cent of its population is obese.

    In B.C., with no fat tax, 13.6 per cent of the population is obese. Seems a fat tax has no effect on waistlines. So why would a government consider a fat tax?

    A fat tax, like other sin taxes, is a cash grab. Sin taxes are popular because they allow government to appear to be battling behaviours deemed undesirable by some special interest group; but because a hike in the price of sin often does little to reduce consumption, it means government cashes in. The tobacco tax hike is a good example. In February 2009, the B.C. government increased the tax on a carton of cigarettes from $35.80 to $37.00 and the tax on a gram loose tobacco from 17.9 cents to 18.5 cents. In 2009, the B.C. government collected $682 million in tobacco taxes. In 2010, after the tax hike, the B.C. government collected $740 million in tobacco taxes. Ironically, the smoking rate had declined between 2003 and 2009, just before the tax hike. Government taxes tobacco not because it is morally opposed to smoking but because the tax is a cash cow.

    Supporters of a government solution to every problem argue the government has an obligation to stop people from getting too fat because in our socialized medical system, the cost of people eating whatever they want falls to the taxpayer. But people engage in risky behaviour all the time and that costs the taxpayer too. If we accept the idea that government can arbitrarily decide what we can and cannot do, the door opens to unlimited government interference in our most basic personal decisions.

    A fat tax probably won't reduce peoples' waistlines but likely will fatten government waistlines with dollars it can waste on big government salaries, stadium roofs and law-breaking bureaucrats' legal bills. Instead looking for excuses to confiscate more of our income, government should go on a diet.

    This article first appeared in the Vancouver Province,  March 25, 2011

    Sunday, January 15, 2012

    Sun or cloud ?

    Cheyenne is a very sunny place, but we do get clouds sometime. For artists, our imaginations allow us to interpret a scene however we want. (That's the great thing about being an artist with a day job.)

    Here are two examples of the same scene: one cloudy and one sunny (at least, that's how I've interpreted them). Which do you prefer ?  

    Face the clouds
    Face the sun