Let’s do it right this time

What do Mike Dunleavy, Muhammad bin Salman, Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin have in common?  They all want $100 oil, and they’re doing all they can to get it.  Alaska, Saudi Arabia and Russia want high oil prices for the income they derive from it.  Biden has thrown in with the environmental extremists in pursuit of a green energy future.  High oil prices discourage consumption, and reduce pollution.  They also incentivize the transition to alternative fuels.  The American consumer, especially the middle class which drives to work, is going to suffer, but as far as Joe Biden is concerned, they can lump it.  They’re sacrificing for the environment, and should be proud to do it.

As a result, the Alaska Department of Revenue sharply increased the projected revenues to the state from oil production.  This takes some of the pressure off the budget, and should reduce the amount needed from Permanent Fund earnings to balance the books.  The Governor and the legislature have some breathing space.

I believe revenues will continue to increase, as oil slowly continues its climb into triple digits. 

Not quite a year ago, oil sold for $19.33 a barrel.  President Trump managed to do something that had never been done before.  He got the Russians and the Saudis (OPEC +) to cooperate on curtailing production.  It worked, and a year later we’re at $60 oil.  The Russians and the Saudis, two of the top three oil producers in the world, will continue to constrain production, trying to balance it with consumption, and increase the price.  They’ve done it before, in cooperation with the other of the top three, the United States, and they can do it again, without active American participation.  Biden isn’t working with financial incentives.  He’s on a moral crusade.

For the State of Alaska, the pressure for new revenue   —   tax increases  — will decline, but it will not abate.  Alaska is on an unsustainable path, and it needs to be corrected.  Hopefully, we’ll have enough time to get it right.

But statutory fixes aren’t enough.  No legislature can bind future legislatures, so statutes restraining spending or setting the amount of the Permanent Fund dividend have no application in the future.  Only constitutional amendments can do that.

The legislature is considering amendments on all of these subjects, but none of them will easily reach the 2/3 vote required.  It’s doubtful they’ll pass.

In which case the people of Alaska have the once-in-a-decade opportunity to vote for a constitutional convention.  In November of 2022 that question will be on the ballot.  If a majority of Alaskans believe that they are capable of electing delegates to that Convention who are capable of crafting thoughtful and effective amendments, they will vote yes. 

And then we’d really have a chance to get it right.

James K. Polk and Donald Trump, Compared

James K. Polk was one of the most successful Presidents in our history, exceeded in his accomplishments only by Washington, Lincoln and Jackson. He had four goals when he took office in 1845, and he achieved all of them in his one term. He wanted to complete the process of Texas annexation, take California and its ports of San Diego and San Francisco from Mexico, settle the boundary dispute with Britain over the Oregon Territory, and reform the finances of the federal government. If you include Texas, the amount of territory he added to the United States exceeded that of the Louisiana Purchase.

He was the proud protege of Andrew Jackson, and completed what Jackson had begun. But he was not a good politician, and only obtained the Democratic nomination by promising to serve only one term. During his Presidency he was roundly disliked by foes and allies alike. Due to a horrifically painful operation when he was very young, he was probably impotent. He died shortly after he left office at the age of 53, an embittered and unloved man.

Donald Trump is not a politician, and never pretended to be one. Throughout his short career in politics, he has completely alienated half of the country. But in one term his accomplishments rank only behind James K. Polk, and ,of course, Washington, Lincoln and Jackson. He succeeded in doing what he said he would do, even to a greater extent than Ronald Reagan, who was a great President for winning the Cold War and revitalizing the economy.

Trump doesn’t need a second term to embellish his record. He has permanently reshaped the Republican Party, and the 2024 Republican nominee will only ratify this transformation. The Trump agenda, minus the personal Trump drama, will easily prevail without him.

He’s no James K. Polk, and he has a quite pleasant post-Presidency to look forward to. I hope he has a great time with his family, and avoids the labor of another campaign, and the virtual certainty that a second term would be something of a disappointment. It could never equal the first.

If you’re ever in Nashville, go by the State Capitol, and pay your respects at the grave of “Young Hickory”, the 11th President of the United States, and a great American.

Mountain Man Peter Ranne, the first black American in California

Peter Ranne was a black mountain man. We would know nothing about him, but for the journal of Harrison Rogers, hired as his clerk by Jedediah “Diah” Smith for his epic South West Expedition of 1826.

The new firm of Smith, Jackson and Sublette had just been formed to trap beaver in the Rockies and all the Far West. While his partners led expeditions to established fur bearing country, Smith left the second fur rendezvous at Cache Valley, Utah with 19 picked men to explore and hunt for beaver in the virgin territory of the American Southwest. Peter Ranne was one of these men. They were not employees. They were free mountain men, who sold their furs to the firm which engaged them at $3.00 a pound.

From the Idaho-Utah border they headed southwest, across what Smith called a Country of Starvation, until they reached the Virgin River near present day St. George Utah, following it down to the Colorado. Then west, across the Mojave Desert, reaching the San Bernadino Valley on November 26, 1826. They stayed at Mission San Gabriel, waiting for the Mexican authorities to grant them permission to travel north, in search of beaver. After a long delay, the were granted an interview with the Governor-General in San Diego. Smith chose Peter Ranne to accompany him for this critical meeting.

Ordered to leave the country the way they came in, Smith and his party headed back east, but decided to ignore their instructions and follow the western side of the Sierras to the north, in a search of pelts. They harvested 1500 pounds of beaver, and in May of 1827 attempted to cross the Sierras up the rugged canyon of the American River. Unable to make the passage with their goods, they retreated back into California,

Smith needed to meet his partners at the summer rendezvous of 1827, so he left his party and all his goods in California, and headed back across the Sierras through Ebbetts Pass with two men. This was the first crossing of the Sierra Nevada by any man other than an Indian.

After conferring with his partners, Smith left the third rendezvous at Bear Lake, on the Idaho -Utah border, on July 13, 1827, with a party of 18 men. He returned to California, again crossing the Mojave Desert into the San Bernadino Valley, and eventually rejoined Ranne and eight others remaining from the 1826 expedition. Rather than try again to pack out all their pelts, they were sold to a ship’s captain. With the proceeds Smith purchased 250 horses, at $10 a head. They headed north into Oregon with this herd, intending to drive them east, back to the fur country in the Rockies, where they could be sold at great profit.

Half way up the Oregon Coast, they camped where the now named Smith River joins the Umpqua. On the morning of July 14. 1828 Smith and two others left to scout the trail for the day’s journey. The remaining 16 men, including Ranne, were attacked by a band of 100 Kelawatset Indians. Only one, Arthur Black, escaped alive.

Thus ends the tale of Peter Ranne, the first black American to reach California by land, and the first to see the state for himself, from San Diego to Oregon. He survived great hardships, and died young, but lived the life a free American man, free as only the mountain men of the American far west ever were.

Impeachment and the Salem witch trials

Biden’s time begins in the laughable theatre of the absurd, the vengeance impeachment of his accomplished predecessor. The farcical nature of this trial is a prelude to the entire two years remaining under Pelosi and Schumer. Congress has sunk low in the past, but these two years will mark a new low, lower than any Congress in the last 232 years.

Nothing will be done, but the drama will be continuous. Just like the impeachment. All show, no substance. And what a show it will be. The left hates this country and all it stands for. These people have been coddled since birth, given every advantage of a rich country. They hate themselves, so naturally they hate their country.

I feel like I’m in Salem, Massachusetts in 1693. The hysteria is reaching a fever pitch. It’s madness, but back then 30 were declared witches, and 19 hanged.

They’d do that to us again, if they could, but they can’t. They’re weak. But they’re going to damage this country, as much as they can.

But this is a very strong country, and it is defended by strong men and women. When the hysteria passes, we’ll get this country back on track.

As Webster County goes, so goes Georgia

Webster is a small, rural county in southwestern Georgia. Maybe a thousand votes. These people are farm people. 54% whites 44% black. In November Trump carried it by two. Webster just reported, amazingly early, that both R’s are winning by four.

So the first concrete sign is good. But no matter what the result, either way, we have, effectively, gridlock. Nothing’s going to get done, not a budget, or anything big. House Democrats are split, and any number of small groups of co-conspirators can block any bill. The Senate has multiple power blocs, all able to thwart any bill.

This is going to be ugly.