Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Moth Drawn to the Publicity Light Bulb

What is up with that, Jesse Jackson?

First he shows up at the Michael Jackson trial, where MJ is spreading the word he's the victim of a vast conspiracy and likened himself to Nelson Mandela. I'm all with Rev. Jackson (no relation) holding that persons are presumed innocent until proven guilty, but if the legacy of the former aide of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. is to be the protection of the civil rights of an incredibly wealthy celebrity, one wonders if there aren't perhaps bigger causes out there.

Oh, wait, maybe there are...today, Rev. Jackson inserted himself into the whole Terry Schiavo mess, showing up at a news conference with the Schindler family and suggesting that basically Terry Schiavo was being victimized by her husband. To no apparent purpose, he's now linked himself within one week to conspiracy theories concerning the alleged persecution of African-Americans and the alleged judicial murder of the disabled.

The Schiavo case is clearly about one thing to the right wing: it's a pre-positioning of the various extremist candidates for the 2008 Republican Presidential nomination. Jeb Bush, who needlessly intervened multiple times in the process despite the lack of constitutional authority to do so, has nevertheless been painted as a weak and weak-willed malingerer by the extremists touting the Schindler family's position on Schiavo -- an attempt to head off the Bush family from putting forward its most apparently-competent member for the next round of dynastic rule. Bill Frist makes a video diagnosis of Schiavo that would get him drummed out of the medical profession were the AMA not so craven and politically beholden to the Reds because of the "tort reform" issue. Resident Bush rushes back in the middle of the night to sign a bill he could've legally signed anywhere in the world, in a big show, while 1000 other pressing issues go without notice or Presidential intervention. Even crazy old Presidential Candidate Alan Keyes is on the scene, showing up in unlikely places like The Randi Rhodes show to argue bizarre interpretations of the constitution (that the judiciary has no power to rule on the constitutionality of laws of the executive and legislative branches, for instance) in a tortured argument that the Schiavo case is a breach of judicial power. These guys are all just lining up their ducks, so much the better to shoot one another in '08.

So what are we to make of Rev. Jackson's appearance in this case? He's come a long way from standing with Michael Moore at the front of an anti-RNC protest in September.

I'm waiting to see what Riley has to say in Boondocks about this one.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Why Liberals Should Take Economics

This has been circulating on the net for quite a while, and I got it back this week from two different sources:
You might want to make a copy of this and keep it in your car.  Looks like we're subsidizing a bunch of murdering misfits by buying Mideast oil/gas. 


Why didn't George W. think of this?  (Think??)

Gas rationing in the 80's  worked even though we grumbled about it.

It might even be good for us!

The Saudis are boycotting American goods.

We should return the favor.

An interesting thought: boycott their GAS.

Every time you fill up the car, you can avoid putting more money into the coffers of Saudi Arabia. Just buy from gas companies that don't import their oil from the Saudis.

Nothing is more frustrating than the feeling that every time I fill-up the tank, I am sending my money to people who are trying to kill me, my family, and my friends.

I thought it might be interesting for you to know which oil companies are the best to buy gas from and which major companies import Middle Eastern oil.  Thse are the latter:

Shell............................. 205,742,000 barrels
Chevron/Texaco......... 144,332,000 barrels
Exxon /Mobil............... 130,082,000 barrels
Marathon/Speedway... 117,740,000 barrels
Amoco............................62,231,000 barrels

If you do the math at $30/barrel, these imports amount to over $18 BILLION!

But of course $30 a barrel was 2 months ago, Now it's $50+ a barrel

Here are some large companies that do not import Middle Eastern oil:

Citgo......................0 barrels
Sunoco...................0 barrels
Conoco...................0 barrels
Sinclair.....................0 barrels
BP/Phillips..............0 barrels
Hess.......................0 barrels
ARC0.                    0 barrels

All this information is available from the Department of Energy and each is required to state where they get their oil and how much they are importing.

But to have an impact, we need to reach literally millions of gas buyers.

It's really simple to do.

Now, don't wimp out at this point... keep reading and I'll explain how simple it is to reach millions of people!!

I'm sending this note to about thirty people.

If each of you send it to at least ten more (30 x 10 = 300)... and those 300 send it to at least ten more (300 x 10 = 3,000) ... and so on, by the time the message reaches the sixth generation of people, we will have reached over THREE MILLION consumers!

If those three million get excited and pass this on to ten friends each, then 30 million people will have been contacted!

If it goes one level further, you guessed it ..... THREE HUNDRED MILLION PEOPLE!!!

Again, all you have to do is send this to 10 people.

How long would all that take?

If each of us sends this e-mail out to ten more people within one day, all 300 MILLION people could conceivably be contacted within the next eight days!

So . . . DO IT !

Here's the reply I sent to my well-meaning correspondents (which is also similarly reasoned on the Snopes Urban Legends site):

Hate to rain on the parade, but there are two flaws with the boycott campaign, which has been circulating the Internet for several years now, one factual, the other logical. (Plus the idea of picking and choosing "good" and "bad" oil companies flies in the face of common sense.)

(1) The statements about source buying are untrue. Most producers buy from a fluid mix of suppliers.When you buy a tank of gas, you have no idea where it came from and rarely does the retailer. In general, levels of imports vary by location in the US of the outlet relative to the supply; for instance, we get more Alaskan crude here in California because of the fact we're closer to Alaska than Saudi Arabia.

(2) Oil is a commodity, and laws of supply and demand hold true. So since our demand levels require a certain amount of imports, any hypothetical boycott would have zero effect on the supplier countries, even if, say, Exxon were bankrupted by such a move. The overall demand means somebody else would buy from the Saudis. And in turn, the Saudis are going to be happy to sell to, say, the Chinese, whose demand may outstrip urs within ten years, so that won't solve the problem of oligarchic power in the mideast.

While well-meaning, I'm sure, a better approach to individual action is the old fashioned technique of conservation. Drive less, or not at all, trade in the SUV for a hybrid, and use alternate fuels (although as long as our government subsidizes oil consumption, that will unfortunately just make gas cheaper for the gas guzzlers, but I think it's the right thing to do in general.)

Dependence on foreign oil has only one solution, and that's lowering our overall consumption of oil; that in turn has only one real solution, which is an organized long-term government energy plan which subsidizes alternative fuels until they can reach economies of scale, and eliminates hidden subsidies for oil (there are many, starting with the tax system and working around to highway policy). It's not the sort of thing that the market place will accomplish on its own under the present stacked deck, and unregulated markets tend to have cataclysmic adjustments, anyway; the last thing we want is for alternative fuels to be forced by necessity when the economy is suddenly crushed by a permanent energy crisis.

It's the story of the ant and the cricket once again...

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Bad at Math, or Just Bad

As I write this, the President has just nominated a veterinarian to head the Food and Drug Administration. Nothing like the expertise of a horse doctor from a one-stoplight town in Alabama to restore public confidence in the drug review process. This follows appointing a guy to head the FCC communication whose primary experience was counting ballots for Bush in Florida in 2000, appointing a guy to head the World Bank whose primary experience with third world economies is he helped wreck one (Iraq); a guy to be UN ambassador who hates the UN and believe its irrelevant to the conduct of foreign affairs, following hundreds of appointees who don't believe in regulation to regulate industries from which they were plucked for their posts.

I have been thinking for a while that the common hallmark of the members of this administration is that they're bad at math. How else to explain their weird accounting for the deficit numbers, their strange sense of disproportionality in the conduct of the "war on terror" (spending hundreds of billions and thousands of American lives while cutting back vaccine programs, basic health care, flu shots, etc. that save hundreds of thousands of lives), or today's claim from many Republican Senators that opening up the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge, which has reserves which at most would increase our oil supply by 2%, will somehow solve our energy crisis or reduce prices at the pump?

No, it basically comes down to this: it's a conspiracy of incompetence. At heart, these people hate government. They spend all their time telling everybody it can't work. They hate programs like Social Security that could only have been accomplished by the common collective of government, and do everything they can to undermine them. So when they're put in power, they have the perfect out. They can screw around with any government activity anyway they want. If it works out, then their whacky theories of governance are vindicated, usually with an eye towards enriching some sector. If it doesn't work -- why, it's just more proof that government is the problem, not the solution!

It's a true confederacy of dunces, where no matter how divorced from reality they get, their basic goal is accomplished. In one sense I think this is nearly treasonous behavior: our country, after all, was founded and the Constitution specifically drafted because our people wanted a strong government to provide common good, rather than a society where specific competing interests were constantly at war with one another.

Bad government -- it's what the Rs promise, and what they deliver.