Friday, July 31, 2009

Instead of Teachable Moments, How about Learnable Moments

Professor Henry Louis Gates had the best line of the day, referring to Sergeant James Crowley:
"When he’s not arresting you, Sergeant Crowley is a really likable guy."
For all the hype and discussion about which brews should be offered, the so called beer summit set a good tone. President Obama could have organized a White House Conference on Race, with a variety of earnest participants offering their diagnoses and prescriptions for race relations in the U.S. Instead Obama invited Professor Gates and Police Sergeant Crowley over for a beer.
Instead of teachable moments, we all could use a few learnable moments, as E.J. Dionne noted yesterday:
The problem with "teachable moments" is that the term sets up one group of people as teachers while another group is consigned to the role of pupils.
Gates and Crowley do not lack for teaching opportunities when it comes to race. Gates writes and lectures on the subject. Crowley teaches classes on avoiding racial profiling.
Inviting Vice President Biden to join them was a smart move. Biden is well known to police departments across the country as the guy who wrote the bill to put 100,000 cops on the street in the 1990s.
Commentators have piled layers of meaning on the episode. It was good to bring the focus back on the participants, who seemed to get along just fine. Professor Gates and Sergeant Crowley agreed to continue talking.
Photo: AFP

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Saving Money by Saving Energy

Let's start with the basics. If I drive a car that saves me 15 percent of my fuel costs, has my quality of life diminished by 15 percent?
Of course it hasn’t (unless I actually like spending money on gasoline). If you think that better mileage necessarily comes at the cost of comfort or convenience, try comparing a new Ford Taurus (28 mpg highway) to the 1986 model (24 mpg highway)—a difference of about 15 percent.
But that is the glaring assumption of critics who blindly assume that energy conservation requires sacrifice in comfort, convenience or productivity. Based on this fallacy, Dave Anderson at DelawarePolitics makes an further leap of logic with this headline:
Markell Seeks to Ration Energy
Anderson thinks that SB 106, the Energy Conservation and Efficiency Act of 2009, will make us poorer. He writes that the bill, which was signed into law yesterday, "is a recipe for undermining our prosperity." He has it exactly wrong.
It’s really pretty simple: If I spend less on energy through efficiency, without sacrificing output, then I have more to spend on other goods and services.
SB 106 sets a target of 15 percent reduction in energy consumption by 2015. I have read the bill, and spoke in favor of it in Leg Hall back in June. Nowhere does it so much as even hint at the prospect of rationing. The target can be met without forcing Anderson and the rest of us to sweat out the summer heat, huddle together in blankets in the winter, or turn off our computers and televisions.
But don’t take my word for it. Ask the world’s leading business consulting firm.
The New York Times reports today that a new McKinsey study finds that U.S. energy consumption could be reduced by 23 percent by 2020 by using only those measures that produce net savings:
The report included only efficiency improvements whose long-term savings would outweigh the initial costs. It did not consider the potential environmental benefits of cutting energy use.
I should note that those environmental benefits would have economic value as well. But the report looks at just those efficiencies that are "NPV-positive," which is finance geek talk for a good deal. The report finds that $520 billion in investment would produce $1.2 trillion in economic benefits in today’s dollars. For those keeping score, the NPV (net present value) benefit would be $680 billion—roughly $2,200 for everyone living in the U.S. today.
Of course, that requires that we find half a trillion in investment over the next decade, which is a tall order. But it would be a sound investment in purely economic terms, and in environment benefits that are not included in this analysis.
Bottom line: Productivity or value isn't measured by how much energy is consumed, but by how efficiently that energy is used.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

How Cap and Trade Promotes Economic Efficiency

Critics of the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill are painting it as an affront to free market principles. Ironically, the cap and trade approach is designed to harness market forces to reduce emissions.
An article in this month’s Smithsonian describes how the idea of cap and trade was first put into practice under George H.W. Bush, when Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) president Fred Krupp started talking with White House counsel Boyden Gray about an innovative approach to reducing acid rain:
During the early years of command-and-control environmental regulation, EDF had also noticed something fundamental about human nature, which is that people hate being told what to do. So a few iconoclasts in the group had started to flirt with marketplace solutions: give people a chance to turn a profit by being smarter than the next person, they reasoned, and they would achieve things that no command-and-control bureaucrat would ever suggest.
An inflexible regulatory regime forces emissions controls across the board, even if reducing a pound of SO2 or CO2 may differ wildly from one industry to another. A cap and trade system uses market forces instead of brute force regulation or taxes to provide incentives for cleaning up emissions:
The basic premise of cap-and-trade is that government doesn't tell polluters how to clean up their act. Instead, it simply imposes a cap on emissions. Each company starts the year with a certain number of tons allowed—a so-called right to pollute. The company decides how to use its allowance; it might restrict output, or switch to a cleaner fuel, or buy a scrubber to cut emissions. If it doesn't use up its allowance, it might then sell what it no longer needs. Then again, it might have to buy extra allowances on the open market. Each year, the cap ratchets down, and the shrinking pool of allowances gets costlier. As in a game of musical chairs, polluters must scramble to match allowances to emissions.
When properly structured, a cap and trade system leads to the most cost effective solutions to reducing emissions, and rewards technological innovation that drives down costs even further.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Lance Armstrong Wins by Coming in Third

There was a time when it would have been difficult to imagine Lance Armstrong being happy to end the Tour on the third step of the podium. But there he was, happy to be there next to his Astana teammate Alberto Contador. During his seven year reign at the top of the sport, no one thought that Lance was just happy to be there; he rode with the killer instinct rare even among the planet's most supremely determined athletes. This year, he said finishing third was "not bad for an old fart," and acknowledged that Contador and second place finisher Andy Schleck, both more than a decade younger, were the stronger riders.
To have Lance Armstrong competing for the yellow jersey—at one point he was only 22/100 seconds off the lead—grabbed headlines around the world. A friend compared it to the Tiger Woods effect; when Tiger is in the hunt in a major tournament, ratings soar. The rivalry between Armstrong and Contador made for some terrific drama. Two former Tour winners, riding on the same team by happenstance, forced to work together for the team and their own self interest, except for those thrilling moments when Armstrong gained a few seconds through alert riding, or Contador proved to be the best by riding away from his rivals on a mountain stage.
At first I was among those who wondered why Lance Armstrong should mount a comeback when he already had a perfect record of seven wins in seven consecutive Tours. Was he risking his place in history, like those boxers who keep fighting well past their prime?
I can think of five reasons why his return was a triumph: First, the stated reason of generating interest in the Livestrong Foundation: media attention spiked during the Tour. Second, he thought he could compete at the top of the sport, and was proven right. Third, he enjoys riding a bike. You have to enjoy riding to spend five hours a day riding over mountains. Fourth, he gave back to the sport he loves. Interest in the Tour was higher than ever, even than during his glory years. More than half a million spectators lined the road to Mt. Ventou to see Armstrong and Contador play cat and mouse with the Schleck brothers. Fifth, he seems more human, and no longer so cold. As the New York Times reports, Armstrong "appeared to win the hearts of the people of France, the country that once loved to hate him."

For me the end of the Tour is like the end of summer vacation (even though I watched from my living room). Now we have 49 weeks until the world’s greatest sporting event again winds its way around France.
Photo: Eric Gaillard/Reuters

Saturday, July 25, 2009

More on the Birthers

In response to my latest piece in the Guardian on the Mike Castle/birther video, I received a lengthy e-mail from a reader, who thought I hadn't done my homework:
Tommy, I thought I might drop you a line and educate you a little, since you embarrassed yourself a little by not even knowing what you were writing about.
The writer complains that he and his fellow birthers are more nuanced than he believes their critics give them credit for. For instance, he points out that birthers don't question whether Obama is a citizen, just whether he is a natural born citizen. He goes on to suggest I look at the big picture:
Let's just forget the birth certificate, and utilize a "few" other tidbits that might help people like explain exactly how legitimate Obama really is. In fact, if you can come up with the following documents/records, you could pretty much be responsible for shutting down the entire birther movement. Wouldn't this be a feather in your dunce cap?
The correspondent lists a series of mostly private documents including family records and school records and concludes:
WHAT is Barack Obama trying to hide? WHAT is he afraid of? WHY doesn't he just release these documents to prove that he is a natural-born citizen and, therefore, qualified to serve as President -- especially his actual birth certificate?
It didn't take long for the comment thread at the Guardian to turn to other conspiracy theories, including detailed descriptions of the unsolved mysteries of 9/11 and mention of Jerry Falwell. But one commenter says, "the more whiny, deranged people that stand up and spout their dumb little theory, the less likely anyone within a stone's throw of either moderation or sanity is likely to want to associate or vote with the Republican party."

Friday, July 24, 2009

Delaware River Deepening Permit Denied

Collin O'Mara, Secretary of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, has denied the permit application by the Army Corps of Engineers to deepen the Delaware River. In his letter to the Army Corps, O'Mara offered several reasons for denying the permit:
Given the hearing officer’s recommendations, the significant changes to the scale of the project, the outdated nature of the record, and the potential procedural flaws in making such an important decision based upon the existing record, I have no alternative than to deny the permits. Please note that having reviewed the record, I take this action without prejudice to any future permit application.
The proposal to deepen the navigation channel from 40 to 45 feet has been on the table for more than eight years. An application was filed with DNREC in January, 2001. The hearing officer presented his findings and recommendations in 2003.
The Secretary's Order notes that the hearing officer had presented the Army Corps with conditions for further consideration by DNREC:
If the Army Corps agree to abide by all the conditions, then the Hearing Officer suggested that the Department reconsider whether to issue the permits. If the Army Corps did not agree to the permit conditions, then the Department would allow the Army Corps to submit a new application that was limited in scope to those identified statutory deficiencies or to any new information that could change the Hearing Officer's findings.
Evidently, the Army Corps has chosen to do neither. After eight years, the State of Delaware is standing up to the Army Corps and defending its jurisdiction over Delaware's waters.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mike Castle and the Birthers

By now you may have seen the YouTube clip of an irate woman waving her birth certificate in a plastic bag and telling Mike Castle that Barack Obama is not a U.S. citizen. It's been on Drudge, Rush Limbaugh, DelawareLiberal (twice) and the News Journal.
But the Obama birth certificate lunacy wasn't the only nuttiness tossed at Mike Castle at the now infamous listening session. Think Progress watched the entire video record and compiled a highlight reel of the fringe theories Castle stoically endured. Members of the crowd told Castle that global warming is a hoax, and that it's just a theory like evolution. You can't tax carbon dioxide, he was told, because "trees need CO2 to make oxygen!"
Castle listened as one audience member insisted that the swine flu virus was engineered in "a small bioweapons plant outside of Fort Dix," and that a big vaccine company was "caught sending AIDS-infected vaccines to Africa." This speaker continued, "You think I’m going to trust you to put a needle full of dead baby juice and monkey kidneys? Cause that’s what this stuff is grown on, dead babies!"
Education reform in Delaware cannot come soon enough.
If you're wondering whether the birther nonsense will ever go away, Michael Tomasky has an even more disconcerting thought:
He can't prove he's not a space alien either.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Governor Markell Will Veto HB 201

Governor Jack Markell has announced that he will veto HB 201, the Un-Bottle Bill. While noting that the current program "is not very effective," the Governor points out that HB 201 offers no alternative and "does not move us forward." He closes his veto message with this challenge to all stakeholders, including the environmental community:
To that end, I have directed Secretary Collin O'Mara of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and Alan Levin, the Director of the Delaware Economic Development Office, to work with Representative Viola, other members of the General Assembly, beverage distributors and retailers, and the environmental community to comprehensively examine how beverage bottles are distributed, sold, returned and recycled. My hope is that we can propose a workable solution when the General Assembly returns in January, 2010.
I and a small group of recycling advocates spoke with the Governor last Friday to make the case for a veto. It seems he listened to what we had to say.
The veto gives recycling advocates leverage with legislators who want to get rid of the current program. This may be our best opportunity yet to create a comprehensive statewide zero waste policy in Delaware.

Alberto Contador Takes the Yellow Jersey

For all the intrigue of the last two weeks, the question of who leads Astana—and the Tour de France—came down to the simple matter of who can ride up a mountain faster. Alberto Contador gave us the answer yesterday on the first Alpine stage of the Tour.
As the New York Times reports, Armstrong will not challenge Contador, saying, "As far as I’m concerned, I’m happy to be a domestique." He at once too modest and too proud. Lance Armstrong is not a domestique; he stands second in the general classification.
As for not challenging his teammate, Armstrong is graciously agreeing to not do what he can't do. One might as well challenge the laws of gravity, from which Contador alone stands aloof. He rode away from his rivals like he was dancing on a high wire.

Photo: Eric Gaillard/Reuters

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Are Beverage Distributors Hurt by the Bottle Bill?

Yesterday's bottle bill story in the News Journal included these revealing comments from one beverage executive:
Chris Tigani, president of World Class Wholesale and former head of NKS Distributors, disputes the windfall notion, but supports repealing the deposit.
He said the deposit isn't a profit source for liquor distributors. If half of the bottles are returned, the administrative costs of collecting and recycling them offset any profit from keeping the deposits on the other half.
"Because of this economy that we are in, redemption rates have gone up and we expect them to go up even further," Tigani said. If the rates keep increasing, eventually it's going to be a cost for the distributors to collect and recycle them.
So redemption rates are up? Maybe the nickel deposit is working.
He also let us know that, if redemption rates keep increasing, then it will be a cost for distributors, which suggests that for now they are coming out ahead. But whether distributors are making money on the deposit or not is another issue. I'm interested in increasing recycling rates.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

More on the Un-Bottle Bill

My post yesterday on the un-bottle bill has now generated more public comment than the General Assembly heard in considering HB 201. Surely the repeal of such an important program deserves more than a perfunctory discussion.
Several commenters raised questions about diversion rates, handling and who keeps the nickel. All these are worthwhile questions that should be more fully considered—consideration they were not given by the General Assembly. No analysis was presented as to the effect on recycling rates if the bill were passed, though one or two legislators did offer the unsubstantiated opinion that recycling would increase if the bottle bill were rescinded.
As far as I'm concerned the burden of proof is on the supporters of HB 201 to show that it would not adversely affect recycling in Delaware. They have not met that burden.
If you agree that such a significant change in policy deserves more thorough discussion and analysis, please contact Governor Markell today and ask him to veto HB 201.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Ask Jack Markell to Veto the Un-Bottle Bill

House Bill 201, the bill to repeal Delaware's original bottle bill, passed the Senate in the early morning of July 1, when most environmental advocates had already gone home. Now advocates are organizing to ask Jack Markell to veto this regressive and short sighted measure.
Pat Todd of the Delaware League of Women Voters writes, "Delaware’s Bottle Bill Law needs to be strengthened to include aluminum cans and 2-liter plastic bottles, not repealed." DNREC secretary Collin O’Mara spoke against HB 201 before the House Natural Resources Committee, saying "mend it, don’t end it."
My view is that if the current system is flawed, it should not be repealed, but included as part of a larger effort to improve recycling in Delaware. As I wrote three years ago,
recycling has enormous economic benefits. Financial analysis can quantify the value of postponing the construction of a new landfill in northern Delaware, a reality Markell recognized in a speech back in April:
Expanding recycling: despite the short-term economics of recycled materials, it will be much more cost-effective in the long-term to prioritize recycling instead of the purchase of another landfill site (assuming we could even identify one).
We should be going forward on recycling, not backward. If you agree, please contact Governor Markell today and ask him to veto HB 201. Even though the session ended 12 days ago, the bill may not yet have reached his desk, so there is still time to weigh in on this issue. Tell him TommyWonk sent you.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Tour de France Heads into the Pyrenees

The Tour de France heads into the Pyrenees today after the most exciting first week in memory. Unlike previous Tours, we've had several events to sort out the contenders early on. Fabian Cancellera is still wearing the yellow jersey, though many expect him to lose it by the end of the stage.The next four riders in the general classification are from the Astana team: Lance Armstrong, Alberto Contador, Andreas Kloden and Levi Leipheimer. All are strong climbers, all have finished on the podium, and all are within 31 seconds, with Lance just 22/100 seconds off the lead.
Today's stage is the first of eight in the mountains. I expect Astana to ride together to sort out their rivals. Carlos Sastre, the defending champion, Cadel Evans, a two-time runner-up, and Andy Schleck will be looking for opportunities to attack and make up the time they've lost in the first week. Another contender, Denis Menchov, is already down nearly five minutes.
Astana will be able use its strength at the top of the GC to great tactical advantage. Rivals looking to claw their way into contention will have four riders to watch. Armstrong and Contador don't have to attack, but if Kloden or Leipheimer mount a charge, any rider looking to move up will have to respond.
The return of Lance Armstrong has galvanized the Tour. The peloton hasn't had a patron or boss since his departure, and he is back with the toughest posse in town. As the riders head up the slopes of the Pyrenees, Astana will be dictating the action. It's hard to imagine that Astana will let anyone else wear yellow from here on out, but we still have 16 days to go and two mountain ranges to cross.

Photo: Joel Saget / AFP / Getty Images

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Lance Armstrong Nearly in Yellow

Lance Armstrong, age 37, is within 22/100 seconds of wearing yellow after Astana won the team time trial in the Tour de France. But, as the New York Times reports, he didn't sound too downhearted:
"It’s a little bit of a disappointment,” Armstrong said, sounding particularly upbeat after his Astana team won the stage. “But I have seven yellow jerseys at home."
The first week of the Tour de France is supposed to be flat and boring. Yes we get a few moments of excitement when the sprinters make their headlong dash for the finishing line. But the Tour generally doesn't start to sort out the contenders until the peloton heads into the mountains.
Not this year: Strong cross winds split the peloton on Monday, allowing a group of riders including leader Fabian Cancellera and Armstrong to make time on some other contenders.
This set up yesterday's time trial, which moved Armstrong and his teammates up in the standings, and further hurt some of the contenders from the weaker teams:
Carlos Sastre, the defending champion, was in 29th, 2:44 back. Cadel Evans, a two-time Tour runner-up, was 35th, 2:59 back. Denis Menchov, the 2009 Giro d’Italia champion, was 72nd after crashing during his Rabobank team’s run. He was 3:52 out of first.
It's still early, but race for yellow is looking more and more like an intrasquad event. Cancellera is expected to lose time in the mountains, and the next four riders in the general classification are from Astana: Armstrong, Alberto Contador, Andreas Kloden and Levi Leipheimer—all within 31 seconds of the lead.
Photo: Pascal Pavani/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Monday, July 06, 2009

Which Christianity?

Those who talk about the United States as a Christian nation fail to answer one essential question: Which form of Christianity?
As David Hackett Fischer describes in his exhaustively documented Albion's Seed, four major strains of Christianity took root the colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries: Puritans in New England, Anglicans in Virginia and Maryland, Quakers in Pennsylvania and borderland Protestants in the Appalachian highlands.
Each came because of religious and civil conflicts in England, and brought those conflicts with them. The Puritans and Anglicans, who migrated following the English Civil War, had very different ideas of how church and society should be organized. Both shunned the Quakers. The Protestants from the borderlands between England and Scotland, endured centuries or war and disorder, and brought with them a deep distrust of authority.
The religious conflicts that drove them all to America shaped their views of church and state. The only way they could agree on a single government was to limit the role of religion in civil life. These people fought each other in England and in the new world, and recognized that their new government could not be used to impose one version of Christianity on another.
When we sing, "Give me that old time religion," we aren't clear as to which old time religion. There were many of course, which we tend to forget in our yearning for a purer, simpler version of faith. But history shows us that religion in America at the founding of the United States was neither pure nor simple.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

When in the Course of Human Events

In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776
The unaminous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. —That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. —Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the consent of our legislatures. He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
[New Hampshire] Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
[Massachusetts] John Hancock, Samual Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry
[Rhode Island] Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery
[Connecticut] Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott
[New York] William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris
[New Jersey] Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark
[Pennsylvania] Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross
[Delaware] Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean
[Maryland] Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
[Virginia] George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton
[North Carolina] William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn
[South Carolina] Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton
[Georgia] Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Friday, July 03, 2009

The Tour de France 2009

The Tour de France, the world's most demanding sporting contest, starts tomorrow. This year the riders will cover 3,500 kilometers over two mountain ranges in 21 stages. The favorite is Alberto Contador of the Astana team. Contador has won each of the grand tours he's entered over the last two years. Lance Armstrong, who will be riding with Contador, sums up his place on his team in the New York Times:
“The trick is trying to be a responsible teammate and co-leader and understand that Alberto could not just be stronger, but could be a lot stronger,” Armstrong said of Contador, who won the 2007 Tour as well as last year’s Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España.
I don't recall Armstrong ever admitting that another rider, even a teammate, is stronger. You could call this year's Astana team the New York Yankees of cycling.
The team has four riders who have finished on the podium in the Tour de France: Armstrong, Contador, Andreas Kloden and Levi Leipheimer. These guys will be intimidating in the mountains.
Johann Bruyneel's instructions to the team will be to deliver Contador to another victory, and if anyone else makes the podium, so much the better. Bruyneel's team (then Discovery Channel) was able to do just that in 2007, when Leipheimer came in third while riding in support of Contador.

Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) has been runner up in the Tour two years running, and wore the yellow jersey for much of the second week. He lost the jersey on Alp d'Huez to Carlos Sastre, who rode it all the way to Paris. But because Contador didn't ride last year, Sastre (Cervelo) isn't even the favorite. Neither rider has as strong a team to keep them safe in the peleton and escort them up the mountains. If Armstrong doesn't win, he has another motivation for riding. His return to the peleton has brought more attention to his foundation:
In 2008, before Armstrong’s return, $7,675,000 in donations came in during those quarters. In 2009, with Armstrong back, $8,056,000 came in.
More yellow rubber LiveStrong bracelets have been sold, too: 1,987,000 from January to May in 2009, up from 1,298,000 during the same period in 2008.
The sprinters will get their week of glory before the Tour heads into the Pyrenees next Friday. From there, the riders will have to pull themselves through seven more mountain stages before heading into Paris on July 21.
Photo: AFP

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Delaware's Budget

Lost in the debate on how to balance Delaware's budget is the fact that it got done at all, and on time. The New York Times reports that Arizona, California, Indiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and Pennsylvania were likely to miss the June 30 deadline to adopt a balanced budget. California’s problems are getting the most attention, but other states may be forced to close offices, send non-essential personnel home or issue IOUs if they don’t adopt budgets.
The budget adopted last night came in at $3.09 billion, $256.3 million less than FY 2009 budget of $3.348 billion. The Grants-in-Aid allocation was cut sharply, and the Bond Bill came in at less than half of last year’s version.
The budget adopted last night is just the beginning. Cost cutting measures in the budget are causing administrative headaches up and down the state. But the real work will come as the Markell administration begins to look at restructuring government agencies.

Much of Delaware’s budget debate revolved around the question of whether pay cuts or tax hikes would be more harmful to the economy. But the biggest blow to Delaware’s economy would have come if the General Assembly had failed to agree on a budget. Businesses like to know that they are located in states that can govern themselves.