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Law Enforcement Has Failed The Las Vegas Massacre Victims

Today’s Campaign Update

(Because The Campaign Never Ends)

  • It is hard to remember any modern criminal investigation in the United States that was botched as badly in its public communications as the investigation into the Las Vegas massacre has been thus far.  The Orlando night club shootings were a mess, but at least investigators into that terrorist attack had a relatively believable narrative and timeline nailed down within about 48 hours of the incident.  The same was true of the San Bernardino terrorist assault – within a few days of that mass murder, law enforcement appeared to have the salient facts of the case pretty well nailed down and communicated to the public.
  • Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the ongoing (we think, anyway) investigation (such as it may be) into the mass shootings in Las Vegas, which killed 58 innocent people and wounded almost 500.  The investigators in this case still do not appear to have nailed down the simplest, most basic facts of the case, starting with when the shooter checked into the damn hotel.
  • On Friday, Las Vegas Metro PD Sheriff Joe Lombardo seemed to confirm that, after 12 full days of claiming that the shooter checked into the Mandalay Bay Resort on September 28, he and his crack staff of investigators finally got with the hotel’s front desk, had them hit a few keys on their computer, and determined that he actually checked in on September 25.  This is a fact many ordinary people have known for at least a week, thanks to the revelation by hotel employees of both a room service receipt dated September 27, and a valet receipt in the shooter’s name dated – guess what? – September 25.  This really is not that hard, Sheriff.
  • But maybe Sheriff Lombardo didn’t confirm that as an actual fact – it’s almost impossible to tell, given that he is possibly the most nervous, shifty, and inept public speaker in the history of American law enforcement.  Maybe he’s nervous because he isn’t used to this role.  No, wait, that can’t be it, since he has performed the role of public spokesman on hundreds of criminal investigations in the past.  Maybe he’s so nervous because he’s embarrassed that his investigation thus far has been such an abject cluster-you-know-what.  That could be it – the Sheriff does at least appear to be a person with some sense of self-awareness.
  • Or maybe, as is typical of so many public speakers, he’s so extremely, visibly nervous because he doesn’t really believe the narrative he is reciting is actually true.  Maybe he’s so extremely, visibly, tremblingly nervous because of that beady-eyed FBI guy standing just behind his left shoulder monitoring each and every word he says.  That might have something to do with it.
  • Regardless of the reasons for his nervousness before the cameras, somebody needs to get Sheriff Lombardo some lessons in public communications, fast.  Here are some lessons some smart communications professional could teach him:
    • It does not inspire confidence when you break off eye contact every time you recite some “fact” or “timeline” discovered by your investigation.  People who believe what they’re saying typically have no problem looking their questioner or the camera in the eye when they answer;
    • Given the FBI’s recent history of major corruption and defrauding the American public, it does not inspire a lick of confidence when you tell us that “We are standing hand-in-hand with the FBI in the continuance of this investigation”, as you said in your no-questions press conference yesterday.  For informed Americans, that is actually a cause for alarm;
    • Speaking of that press conference, it does not inspire any confidence at all when you hold a press conference, strictly limit its attendance only to press members you approve, and then refuse to take questions;
    • If you feel you have to say “There is no conspiracy between the FBI, LVMPD, or the MGM,” you have a credibility problem of your own doing, from which it is probably impossible to recover; and finally
    • If you hold a press conference at which you say and do all of these things and basically offer no real, new information at all, then you shouldn’t have held the press conference.
  • To be clear, neither I nor anyone else knows if there is any sort of conspiracy among law enforcement to push any sort of false narrative about this horrible crime.  It could just be that Sheriff Lombardo really is the most inept spokesman for any major criminal investigation in modern times.
  • What I do know is that the story we’re being told right now is so filled with holes it could serve as your kitchen collander.  It is simply not believable, for instance, that this shooter was a guest at the Mandalay Bay for a full week and was never captured by any of the hotel’s thousands of security cameras.  Not possible.  Period.  It is simply not believable that his multiple computers contained no useful information about his background or his preparations for this crime, which, if law enforcement is to be believed, spanned months, if not years.
  • The American public deserves better than what law enforcement has delivered related to this investigation thus far.  More to the point, the 58 dead, 500 injured and their loved ones deserve better.  If Sheriff Lombardo and his beady-eyed FBI overseer are incapable of providing that, then perhaps someone else should be put in charge of this case.

Just another day in unbelievable government narratives America.

That is all.

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The Best Solution To The Weinstein Problem? CalExit!

Today’s Campaign Update

(Because The Campaign Never Ends)

  • Democrats everywhere gave her an “A” for effort. – After President Trump issued an executive order that would enable small businesses and individuals to form health insurance associations across state lines and thus demand lower premiums for insurance policies, San Fran Nan Pelosi told reporters that “I don’t know what he’s putting out today, but I do know it’s a sabotage” of Obamacare.  Hey, give her a break:  She didn’t know what was in Obamacare, either, and still doesn’t.  At least Pelosi was able to remember and recite the day’s Democrat/fake media code word – which every Democrat and fake reporters used all day long – related to the President’s executive order, which of course was “sabotage.”  She had no idea why she was using it, but at least she managed to use it.
  • How about “Hobgoblin”?  No?  Ok, what about “Rotten tomato”?  Wait, that’s two words… – Today, the President will very likely terminate U.S. sponsorship of the Obama/Kerry idiotic deal with Iran, and we can only speculate on what the Democrat/media code word will be related to this action.  “Reckless”, perhaps?  “Irresponsible”?  No, that’s too many syllables, Pelosi could never remember it.  “Dark”?  No, they only use that when he’s talking about putting America first.  Hmmmmmm…I’m going with “reckless.”  Let’s sit back and see what happens.
  • Meanwhile, in Harvey Weinstein world… – Stuff got real for Amazon grand poobah Jeff Bezos yesterday afternoon, as director/actor/producer Rose McGowan turned her one-woman war on Hollywood in an unexpected direction.  While she didn’t accuse Bezos himself of any bad sexual behavior, she went off on the head of Amazon’s movie studio with a vengeance, accusing him of covering for Weinstein after she had informed him that Weinstein had raped her.  She ended her tweetstorm by imploring Bezos to “Be the change you want to see in the world.  Stand with the truth.”
  • Interestingly, while every other major media outlet on the face of the earth seems to have run a story on the McGowan/Bezos dustup, the Washington Post, which Bezos owns, apparently did not find this story newsworthy.  Go figure.
  • In response not to McGowan’s accusations, but to a separate accusation made by producer Isa Hackett Dick, Amazon did see fit to suspend the studio chief in question, some guy named Roy Price.  My goodness, what a cesspit of depravity Hollywood is turning out to be, and we haven’t even gotten to the pedophiles.  Yet.
  • CalExit is the solution! – This whole Weinstein deal ought to remind every thinking American out in the 98% of the country that lies outside of the major media centers that there is an organized, dedicated effort to have California secede from the United States, most commonly referred to as “CalExit”.  And lo and behold, the Sacramento Bee carried a story about this effort yesterday, in which backers of this secession effort say they believe they have an easier path to taking their state out of the union than the Catalonians have to separate their region from Spain.
  • While that’s not exactly a low bar, it gives the organizers hope:  “There are definitely similarities in the fiscal situation – we both give more than we get back,” said Dave Marin, director of research and policy for the California Freedom Coalition. “But there’s more flexibility in the U.S. Constitution for secession than there is in the Spanish one. California has more tools available to it.”  Honestly, it should give the rest of us a little hope as well that maybe, sometime in the near future, the cesspit of depravity that is Harvey Weinstein World will reside in a whole separate country.  Seems like a very reasonable solution, doesn’t it?
  • Incidentally, about that whole “we both give more than we get back” line of BS spouted by Mr. Marin:  I’m thinking this guy hasn’t considered what his state’s life would be like without all that water coming into LA from the Colorado River Basin.  And I’m thinking he hasn’t given a lot of thought to what it might cost his new country to recruit and maintain its own military forces, because if you think us “Normals” out here in flyover country are just going to smile and say “great!” when Californians come begging for water and our armed forces to protect them when things get real, you don’t really know us Normals, and you really don’t want to find out the answer to those questions the hard way.
  • But hey, go for it, Mr. Marin.  All I want to know about your effort really and truly is, how can I help make it happen?

Just another day in I have found the solution to the whole Weinstein problem America.

That is all.


Image credit:  The Federalist

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STEER: A Business Model That Works

It was great to be able to write this issue’s cover feature on the South Texas Energy & Economic Roundtable (STEER) and its outstanding staff, including President and CEO Omar Garcia. Watching the organization have so much success has been very rewarding, since I played a minor role in its creation back in 2012; and writing the piece provided a chance to reflect on the STEER business model and why the oil and gas industry should try to replicate it in other parts of the country.

By late 2011, it had become obvious to everyone that the Eagle Ford Shale was a world-class resource that represented an unprecedented opportunity for economic development in South Texas. Shortly after a lunch during which I and a group of colleagues talked about how best to go about protecting this opportunity, I got on a conference call with the Haynesville Shale Operators’ Committee (HSOC). This coincidence of timing was what spurred my involvement in the germination of STEER.

HSOC was the brainchild of the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association (LOGA) and its President, Don Briggs. Created during the height of the development of the Haynesville Shale natural gas development, the organization served as an extremely effective voice for the industry in what was at the time the busiest shale development region of the country. The challenge the Haynesville Shale presented to LOGA was its concentration in the northwest corner of the state, hundreds of miles from the state capital of Baton Rouge, where LOGA’s offices were located.

Rather than have its staff constantly travel back and forth between Baton Rouge and Shreveport to help its members address community and regulatory issues, LOGA came up with the model of establishing a committee within its organizational structure that essentially functioned as a separate trade association. To become members of HSOC, companies paid separate dues, and the committee itself had its own separate staff.

To further distinguish HSOC as a separate entity, the HSOC staff seldom became engaged in the single most crucial role of any state trade association — lobbying the state’s legislature. Instead, HSOC focused on helping members with community and media relations, functions that have not traditionally been strong points for the industry’s legacy associations.

The model worked. HSOC was a tremendous asset for producers, the media and communities in the region, all of whom needed an honest-broker intermediary to help understand and communicate with one another.

Seeing no reason why this model wouldn’t work just as well in South Texas — where the sudden, massive growth in oil and gas activity was very predictably creating lots of friction and challenges in the local communities — I took the idea to Rob Looney, then-President of the Texas Oil & Gas Association (TXOGA), one of the industry’s largest trade associations, headquartered in Austin. My involvement ended there, since I had a conflicting role with one of the industry’s national trade associations at that time.

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STEER: A New Kind of Trade Association

A Sleeping Giant Beneath The Chalk

Nestled in a quiet area of suburban Dallas, just off the intersection of Texas State Highway 12 and Interstate 30, lies the neighborhood of Eagle Ford. At one time an incorporated city, Eagle Ford was annexed in the mid-1950s by the city of Dallas, whose city center skyscrapers can be seen just 6 miles away.

Originally settled by the family of Enoch Horton in 1844, the community soon became known as an important crossing of the West Fork of the Trinity River. The Horton family established a grist mill; and within a few years they donated land to establish the town’s first cemetery and for the right of way and depot for the Texas and Pacific Railway. As was the case for hundreds of communities in Texas’ early decades, the establishment of a rail depot led quickly to rapid population growth. By the 1870s, Eagle Ford had become a key shipping point for the cattle industry, and its population had grown to several thousand.

The death of the trail drives led to the collapse of the cattle business, and by the 1890s, Eagle Ford’s population hovered around 50 citizens, where it remained well into the mid-20th century. Memory of the community’s heyday was largely lost to history, where it remained until late 2008.

Not far from the location of the original Horton grist mill, a small cliff face reveals an out-cropping of the Austin Chalk formation, which had become famous during the 1970s and again in the 1990s for the production of prodigious amounts of crude oil. Indeed, the Chalk is experiencing a bit of a third revival today.

Immediately beneath the Chalk outcropping, another formation displays what seems to be a rocky, clay-like profile. This formation is actually a shale formation, one that happens to be the source rock for the Austin Chalk. It was the oil migrating up from the Eagle Ford that made the Chalk such a prodigious formation to begin with.

Like the Austin Chalk, the Eagle Ford Shale extends deep into South Texas and even under the Rio Grande into northern Mexico. Unlike the Chalk, however, this formation had received scant attention until October 2008, when Petrohawk (now a part of BHP Billiton) drilled what is credited as the first commercial horizontal well completed in the formation in La Salle County. The well, completed with a 3,200-foot horizontal lateral involving a 10-stage frac job, produced at an initial flow rate of about 7,600 MMBTU of natural gas per day, and the race was on.


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Luminant Announcement Proves Trump Repeal Of CPP Won’t Save Coal

During his campaign for the presidency, Donald Trump repeatedly promised he would save the nation’s struggling coal industry by rolling back regulations enacted during the Obama years, and he has made strong efforts to keep his word.  But the extent to what the President would be able to do to keep this pledge was always severely limited, by the constitutional limits on presidential powers, the vagaries of the regulatory process, the ability by opponents of his priorities to tie anything he tries to do up in the court system for years, and by the realities of the marketplace.

So it was somewhat ironic and telling that the following two announcements came within a few days of one another:

  • On October 6, Luminant announced it would be permanently closing its huge, 1800 mwh coal-fired Monticello power plant in Titus County, Texas by January 2018; and
  • On October 9, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced his agency would formally propose a new rule to replace the Obama era Clean Power Plan (CPP), following up on the executive order issued by President Trump on March 27.

Mr. Pruitt admitted his agency has no firm proposed substitute at this point, but rather will seek public comment and participation in developing a plan for reducing power plant emissions that would ultimately replace the CPP.  Regardless of how that process of public input is conducted, the EPA’s action will be met by strong resistance, as evidenced by the typically inflammatory statement issued by Micheal Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, as cited by the Washington Post:

With this news, Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt will go down in infamy for launching one of the most egregious attacks ever on public health, our climate, and the safety of every community in the United States.  He’s proposing to throw out a plan that would prevent thousands of premature deaths and tens of thousands of childhood asthma attacks every year.”

Mr. Pruitt can rest assured that his proposal to repeal and replace the CPP will be challenged in the federal courts at every conceivable opportunity not only by anti-development groups like Sierra Club, but also by the many Democratic state attorneys general who have already coordinated suits against several other Trump Administration energy and environment-related proposals.

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Capital Flow To The Permian Basin Hasn’t Dried Up; It Has Moved Downstream

headline in Tuesday’s online edition of The Houston Chronicle, “Drillers Choke Off Dollars To Permian Basin Operations,” may have unintentionally caused confusion regarding the current state of play in the country’s most active drilling and oil-producing basin.

The story to which this headline was attached references a report by the firm Wood MacKenzie that discusses how upstream merger-and-acquisition activity in the Permian has trailed off somewhat dramatically in recent months. This is entirely true. As The Chronicle points out, Wood MacKenzie’s data indicates: “Drillers spent $35 billion in West Texas over a nine-month period that ended in early spring. By comparison, the collective value of land deals of the last six months is less than $5 billion.”

Someone at The Chronicle apparently realized that the initial headline was somewhat confusing ― the Wood McKenzie report does not talk about any slowdown in drilling ― because the headline was later changed to read “Rising Costs, Land Prices Have ‘Taken The Edge Off’ Permian Basin.” It was inevitable that the upstream M&A fever that developed in the Permian last summer was bound to eventually slow down. As geographically huge as the Basin is, there is a limit to the amount of acreage within it that could rationally be evaluated to meet acquisition costs that in some deals exceeded $40,000 per acre. So it is not surprising at all that the pace of land and reserves transactions has slowed dramatically.

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The Wisdom And Foresight Of The Texas Rainy Day Fund

In its infinite wisdom (OK, I’m kidding just a little here), the Texas Legislature showed great foresight during its 1981 session, creating what the state calls the Texas Economic Stabilization Fund but what has since come to be commonly known as the Rainy Day Fund. At the time, policymakers took advantage of a great boom time in the petroleum industry, using the state’s oil and gas severance tax receipts as the funding source for virtually the entire fund balance.

Over the last 36 years, the Rainy Day Fund has proved to be exactly what it was billed to be back in 1981: a fund that has had the effect of stabilizing the state’s budget situation. As an example, the Great Recession created huge revenue shortfalls for the state government going into both the 2009 and 2011 legislative sessions, forcing policymakers to cut spending on state services deeply. But the ability to take billions of dollars from the Rainy Day Fund ensured that cuts to the bone did not become cuts into the marrow of those services.

The Rainy Day Fund has also allowed legislators to address other pressing state issues without impacting the budget’s General Fund. The 2013 session of the legislature funded the state’s entire $50 billion State Water Plan by tapping the Rainy Day Fund for $2 billion, establishing a revolving line of credit that will be used to finance a large variety of dams and other water projects in the coming decades. That same session also, with the approval of the state’s voters, tapped the Rainy Day Fund for $2.25 billion to fund much-needed road improvement projects all over Texas.

Even after all those and other large, special withdrawals over the last decade, the Rainy Day Fund today retains a balance of over $10 billion, money that is available to help Houston and other areas of Southeast Texas rebuild from Hurricane Harvey. In short, the Texas Rainy Day Fund is a pretty phenomenal success story for which the oil and gas industry rarely receives much credit.

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In Light Of Constant Waivers, Is It Time To Repeal The Jones Act?

I’ve written entirely too much about the Jones Act this year, but like a bad penny, it just keeps turning up in the public discourse.  Last time I addressed this subject, it was over an effort by the U.S. shipping industry actually expand this pernicious and archaic protectionist law, an effort that thankfully failed thanks to some last minute interventions by a few members of the Texas congressional delegation.

That was back in May.  Now, here we are four months later and the Jones Act has once again become the subject of national media coverage, this time mainly because President Trump keeps having to suspend it in order to help save lives after major hurricane events have devastated the U.S. and its territories.  That sentence alone should make any observer wonder:  After all, if a law has to be suspended during times of crisis to help save lives, shouldn’t we at some point consider whether the law should exist at all?

Before we get into that, let’s review what the Jones Act actually does.  Fellow Forbes contributor Ted Loch-Temziledes, in an excellent piece on the Act, sums it up thusly:

The act regulates all maritime commerce in U.S. waters and between U.S. ports. It requires that shipping of all goods transported between U.S. ports be carried out by ships under the U.S flag. The ships must be constructed in the United States, owned by U.S. citizens, and crewed by U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents. Furthermore, the steel used in any foreign repair work on a Jones Act vessel must be less than ten percent of the ship’s total weight. Waivers are only possible on a temporary basis, in cases involving national defense, or other emergencies, such as hurricanes.

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It’s Been A Tough Week For Peak Oil Theorists

In news that is certain to upset adherents to the never-dying cult of Peak Oil, IHS Markit released a study on Sept. 25 indicating that, per their analysis of data from more than 440,000 oil wells in the Permian Basin, the basin still has somewhere between 60 and 70 billion barrels of producible oil to give up in coming years. That’s not exactly the “near-infinite resource” view of the Permian held by Allen Gilmer and his staff at DrillingInfo, but it certainly supports the notion that the basin will remain a very active area for oil and gas development for decades to come.

“The Permian Basin is America’s super basin in terms of its oil and gas production history, and for operators, it presents a significant variety of stacked targets that are profitable at today’s oil prices,” Prithiraj Chungkham, director of unconventional resources for IHS, said in the statement.

The IHS Markit study is the latest in a string of resource estimates in the past year that have produced a growing understanding of the true magnitude of the resource in place in the Permian. Last November, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) issued its own resource estimate that a single formation in the Permian, the Wolfcamp Shale, contains 20 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil, by far the largest such estimate ever issued for any single formation by the USGS. Most in the industry understand that this is actually a conservative resource estimate because USGS limits its resource assessments to reserves that are producible using current technology. Given that technology advances in the oil and gas industry every day, such estimates, while useful markers, are out of date before they are even released.


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