Thursday, July 17, 2008

Drill Already

US crude oil supplies increased by 3 million barrels this week and what do you know - the price of a barrel of oil dropped from $147 to $135. It didn't hurt that President Bush lifted an executive order imposing a moratorium on off shore drilling. Unfortunately, Obama and the Dems continue to stand in the way, arguing that taking action to increase domestic supply is a stupid idea because "we can't drill our way out of this."

The US Minerals Management Service estimates that there are 85.9 billion barrels of oil (enough to supply the US for 11 years) and 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas (enough for 18 years) waiting for us on the Outer Continental Shelf. Yes, it will take some time to get to some of it, but certainly not as long as it will take to develop competitive alternative energy sources. The only thing standing in the way is the Democrat controlled Congress and a certain presidential nominee.

Energy policy is shaping up to be a tough issue for the Democrats, as they are beholden to the powerful environmental lobby which absolutely opposes cheap energy. Many Democrats would like to see higher prices on gas because it causes people to use less energy. Most favor the Kyoto treaty, which would probably require the government to increase taxes so that gas prices reach $7-8 a gallon. Obama opposes drilling in the OCS and doesn't have a problem with the price of gas. He did tell MSNBC that, “I think that I would have preferred a more gradual adjustment.” I would prefer that we make every effort to secure our own oil so we can fuel our economy and lower our payments to oil rich countries supporting terrorism.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Stuff White People Like

A great post from this very funny website about how white people like "Comparing People to Hitler."

Tax Cuts for the Rich

Here are the new figures on the distribution of income taxes for 2007. Ever wonder why Republicans continue to propose "tax cuts for the rich?" Maybe it's because they are the only ones paying taxes.

In case you can't read the graph, the top 1% pay 39% of all income taxes, 2%-5% pay 20%, 6%-10% pay 11%, 11%-25% pay 16%, 26%-50% pay 11% and the bottom 50% pay just 3%. The top 50% pay 97% of income taxes! What is there to stop the majority who pay little in income tax from voting to increase taxes on those making more? Politicians then use that money to transfer it to the bottom 50%, effectively paying them for their votes.

Whenever the media talks about tax cuts they show how much top earners save compared to the pittance received by the low earners, but they never show how much those people pay to begin with. Bush's tax cuts reduced the middle fifth's effective tax rate from 5% to 2.9%. They got a much larger percentage cut than the richer tax payers, but the total amount saved was much smaller.

Bottom line: to cut taxes, you have to cut taxes for the rich (who provide almost all the jobs, by the way) or you won't have much of a tax cut.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Roulette Strategery

I made a visit to a casino recently to loan them $80. My favorite game is roulette, mainly because it's simple and you can play for a while without losing too much money. Quick primer - there are 36 numbers that are either black or red, plus a 0 and 00 that don't count as black or red. A little ball spins around the wheel and lands on a number after everyone places their bets (usually at least a $10 minimum per roll). A bet on a color pays 1 to 1 and you have a 47% chance of winning because of 0 and 00. A bet on a number pays off 35-1 and you have 2.6% of winning. You can also put chips in between two numbers or on the corners for a 17-1 payoff or 8-1 payoff.

There are a lot of people online who claim to have guaranteed winning strategies for roulette. They are all wrong. Roulette offers some of the worst odds you can find in the casino. In the long-run, the house advantage guarantees that you will lose. However, some strategies are better than others for maximizing your enjoyment and your chance of winning a few bucks.

It drives me crazy when I see people scattering chips all over the board. The ball will bounce your way often, but who cares when you lose so much on your other bets. Betting on red or black is great if you just want to hang out at the table, but you are very unlikely to win much. Here's my preferred strategy: assuming a $10 minimum, I'll put $4 on a lucky number (11 for Isiah Thomas, 30 for Stephen Curry, etc.) and then surround it, placing two chips on half of the lucky number and three other numbers (10 chips total). For example, 4 on 11, 2 split between 8 and 11, 2 split between 10 and 11, and 2 split between 11 and 12. If 11 is rolled, your payoff is $242. If you start with $100 you'll have enough for at least 10 spins. You have a 23.4% chance of hitting your number and winning the $242 in one of these 10 spins. However, if you don't hit your number, you also have a 56.1% chance of hitting one of your splits, which would net you $34. This gets you 3 more rolls. Now you have a 29.3% of hitting your number within the 13 rolls. Using my limited math skills, you also have about a 5% chance of hitting your number twice in 10 rolls. Just be sure to take your winnings and put them in your pocket.

A couple alternate strategies to consider: $4 on two different numbers and use the other two chips to split different numbers. You have a 42% chance of hitting one of the numbers with 4 chips on it, which is much better than your 23% chance in the other strategy, but your payoff is only $150. But you also have a 82% chance of hitting one of your splits, earning you about two more rolls. Then you're up to a 47% chance of winning the $150. You have a better chance to hoot, holler, and high-five, but the payoff is lower.

A third is the simplest and gives you the best odds: betting all 10 chips on one number. You have a 23% chance of hitting it and getting a $350 payoff, but you can't extend your time at the table with the splits, so it may lead to less fun, which is my primary goal.

If you have any other strategies, let me know.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

4th of July Weekend

Sorry I've been slacking on the posts. We had a bunch of Sarah's family in for a long 4th of July weekend. We set a new record for people sleeping over at our house one night with 15. It was a lot of fun taking everybody downtown and playing some competitive games of cornhole. The Taste of Lombard was also going on this week across the street, so that provided nonstop fun and excitement (i.e. funnel cake). It's also very convenient to watch the fireworks from your front yard. Anyway, here are some great pictures my brother-in-law Matt took and posted on his photo-blog.