Friday, November 15, 2013

The Current Status of the Federal Helium Reserve, In Case You Were Wondering . . .

One issue that should keep Americans up worrying at nights is the current status of the Federal Helium Reserve.

No worries.  It is still there near Amarillo, Texas, storing vital helium for America's defense and scientific needs.

The Bureau of Land Management's brief history of the Federal Helium Reserve notes that stockpiling began in 1925.  At that point, the Army and Navy were interested in the possibilities of dirigibles for wartime use.  USS Akron  is the best known example of naval airship construction and use.

Development of more reliable and effective airplanes quickly killed defense applications.

After World War II, NASA and research communities relied on the reserve for their helium.  Overall, however, "federal demand for helium did not live up to postwar expectations."

In 1996, the goals of the program shifted.  The government now operates the reserve and pipeline system, provides helium gas, evaluates helium bearing gas fields, and provides access to land for helium recovery.

The helium reserve must be of immense national importance.  Right before the government shutdown last month, Congress passed and Obama signed a bill designed to keep the reserve fully funded and operational.

Helium, especially in liquid form, is vital to research and it gradually growing more expensive.  Reports indicate that the United States reserve, the only of its kind, has allowed supplies to dwindle.

A helium reserve is needed and it may be a good idea to have more than one.  The private sector, however, can and should run this operation.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cameras on Cops

Reason's December print edition has an updated column from last August entitled "Watched Cops Are Polite Cops." 

Some jurisdictions have done this.  Rialto, California saw complaints against officers drop by 88 percent.  Judge Shira Scheindlin. of the federal district court in Manhattan, ruled that officers in high complaint areas film their "stop and frisk" efforts in an effort to see if officers are complying with civil rights laws.

Ronald bailey, who wrote the piece, argues that police should be on board.  Complete photographic evidence can defend an officer against spurious complaints.  The knowledge that officers had filmed interactions may have contributed to the drop in complaints in Rialto.  Citizen recordings usually only start after tensions have risen and omit context.

Bailey warns that officers coming into homes with cameras on can violate civil rights,  "video of someone's metaphorical (or literal) dirty laundry is nobody else's business."  But safeguards, like those used on the reality show Cops, can protect the innocent.  Mandatory erasing of videos in the short term, unless needed for evidence, is also necessary.

Bailey also points out that people may act more civil when they know the camera is on them.

The issue is complex.  It certainly has the potential to invade privacy and violate rights, but also ensure that police act professionally at all times.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Case Example of Government Greed: Kanawha County School Levy

The Charleston Daily Mail's Don Surber provides this week's example of government greed at work.  It's worth a quick read.

The Kanawha County School Board asked voters to support a levy that would cost $130 million over five years.  Within the request was $3 million for school libraries, but a lot more for who knows what else.

Voters rejected it, breaking from history.

Surber writes that Kanawha County has changed over the past few decades.  What was once a manufacturing center has become a shopping destination.  The valley has jobs, they just pay a lot less.  Supporters argued that it would be one less latte per day, which is true.  Most voters, however, never buy lattes because it is ridiculous to pay so much for a cup of coffee.  

We're talking about people who have to brown bag tuna salad because they want to pay their bills and save a little for Christmas.  Surber notes that it adds up to one less night eating out per month, which will end up meaning one less restaurant.

In general, this is a classic case of government greed.  They ask for more than the voters can bear and try to make voters feel guilty because golly gee, it's for the children.

No it is not for the children.  It is for the bureaucrats.  It is for federal mandates that kill, rather than support education.  It is for retreats and conferences.  Don't say it is for the children.  It rarely is in education.  

And all too often, it is not for the teachers either.

Kanawha County would have supported a small levy simply for libraries because they see the value in that.  But tens of millions more that would not have been spent wisely?  No.  Not today.

Government got greedy and voters did not fall for its manipulation.  It is a shame that its greed cost the children.

Things are tough all over.  And government does not care.