Friday, October 30, 2009

TARP On Steroids

Congressman Bred Sherman is pointing out that a proposal from the White House to bailout banks directly (without going to Congress) would come with an unlimited dollar amount and would be a permanent grant of power to the Executive Branch. TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) was a horrible idea, and a stab in the back to the American taxpayer, but at least it had a spending cap, an expiration date, Congressional oversight (for what little good it does) and some pay limits for executives at the firms requesting the funds. This bailout authority from the Executive Branch would have none of those provisions.

When Sherman asked Treasury Secretary/bank flunky Geithner whether he would accept a $1 trillion limit on the new bailout authority (if the White House wants more, they would have to come to Congress and ask for it), Geithner refused this and insisted that the White House should not have to ask Congress for permission to bail out more banks.

Where do these idiots think all this money is going to come from? China? The taxpayers (who are already spent due to the previous bailouts)? Or are they trying to crash the U.S. dollar on purpose? Well, I have read that in case of a total collapse of society, toilet paper can be quite useful. I have a few thousand pieces of it in the bank; if I can get to it in time, at least I'll be covered.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Gas Prices on the March, as the Economy Heats Up

Within a matter of a few days, a local gas station that I pass by on Route 112 (in Medford, NY) had its prices rise on standard gas from $2.52 to $2.67. This has occurred at a time where the overall economy (barring the rising number of jobless claims) is said to be "recovering" and continuing on a path of growth. This makes my prediction of a few months ago on this blog, and my general feeling on this situation, bear some fruit. That is, that as we see the economy recover, we will also see an increase in oil prices and by extension, rising prices when you fill up your car. This will of course, be a main contributor on dousing a huge stream of cold water on any recovery. Since our economy is dependent on abundant, cheap oil to function as we have come to know it. No new energy = no recovery, and in the long run, no economy as we have come to know it. No growth, little prosperity. Long-running economic concepts like "the market" and the "invisible hand" of Adam Smith will be next-to-meaningless, since these concepts, and the people who devised them and preach them to this day, have failed to account for scarcities of resources that, to this point, we have taken for granted.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Song of the Day

I've been hearing this song on the radio for years, and never discovered its name or who the performer was. I finally tracked it down last night, by doing a Google search on the lyrics. I love it, it's such a sublime song. From the 80s too. The 80s didn't do a lot of things right, but one thing they did do was the music, a lot of it's aged well. The 90s is more recent, but it sounds so generic and mopey in comparsion. Anyway, the song is "Something About You" by Level 42.

Something About You - Level 42

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Public Option

I went to and saw some petition that is being circulated by Senator Harry Reid about a "public option". I signed it, but with some reservations. Here is what I included in my signature:

I am not sure what the "public option" means, and feel that this was a clumsy phrase; as Bill Maher says, it sounds like something you would call a public bathroom. But if it means "universal health care", like other developed nations use, than I am all for it. However, as long as Big Insurance exists, this whole debate is a non-starter. In order for there to be real reform in health care, the profit motive must be removed. As long as the for-profit HMOs are able to exist and rake in profits off the sick and vulnerable, any reform or change that is initiated will be doomed to failure, or watered down as to be meaningless.

With that being said, anything has to be better than what we have, so I am guardedly signing your petition.

Peaks and Valleys

The peak oil issue is like one big onion, in that there are continuous layers to be peeled away, except these layers are representative of the new things and ideas that I often come across when reading about this emerging issue. The latest comes courtesy of Suburban Empire, a relatively new blog. I am used to looking at peak oil in terms of the Hubbert's Peak theory, which follows a Bell-shaped curve. Initially, the curve rises due to new discoveries of oil fields, as well as emerging technologies that can be used to gather more oil out of the ground. Later, however, the curve peaks and then sinks downwards due to resource depletion.

But when you basically turn the peak upside down, you have a valley. And a valley would also be very instructive in helping to understand this issue. In this case, courtesy of Suburban Empire, this valley would be an indicator of human production (work) rather than oil production.

As hydrocarbons are on an upward swing and become more and more plentiful, less and less work is required of the human populace, especially in nations with ready access to oil reserves. This is the power of oil, it's equal to having many "superhumans" (or slaves) doing the hard work for us, allowing us to have desk jobs or jobs in the service industry, which requires relatively little skill. So as long as oil is in a state of robust production, and new sources are being continuously discovered, the work rate that humans do drops. We eventually reach a bottom, or a valley, which can be considered by some as being some beautiful Eden. But as SE notes, we must leave this Eden eventually, and what will push us out of the Eden will be rising oil prices and/or shortages. Leaving the valley will require us to climb upward, meaning that us humans must put in more and more work if we hope to maintain any semblence of civilization.

So, if you can't understand the ramifications of oil reaching peak and our way of life becoming prey to soaring oil prices and scarcities of many amenities and necessities that we take for granted, perhaps you will understand the valley, which we must leave eventually, and then, we will start getting our hands dirty.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Rough Terrain Ahead (AKA We're in Deep Shit Now)

This is a must-read article from Robert Fisk of the Independent.
In it, he describes a not-so-covert plan by the Gulf Arab states, the Chinese, Russians, and other nations to switch from using dollar as the international currency in which to buy oil to a "basket" of currencies including the Chinese Yuan, the Euro, and gold.

One of the main reasons why it costs a lot less to fill your gas tank in this country than in others, is that our currency, the dollar, is the currency for oil. Other countries must trade in their currency for ours so that they can buy oil. Hence, they pay more at the pump. Once the dollar is depegged as the world currency for oil, it will cost a lot more for oil and driving fuel in this country. The dollar will dive in value; I think a good investment for the future would be a wheelbarrel.

But hyperinflation could well be the lesser of our problems. The only way we would be able to get access to what's left of Middle Eastern oil is to take it by force. If there is a scenario where WWIII could stand a good chance of happening, this would probably be it. After all, Fisk ends his article by stating last month's news that Iran would sell its oil in Euros rather than Dollars, and what was the last nation ballsy enough to do that? Iraq, which was almost immediately invaded by the U.S.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Health care and the "public option"

This is an article in which one senator is quoted as saying, on the Senate floor, that the "public option" in the health care legislation might be so popular, that it isn't worth doing, since popular demand would turn the "public option" into an institution that is too big to fail. At this point, I find that the piece has entertainment value, if nothing else. This "debate" over health care reform is a non-starter, for one simple reason. In order to have any debate, it must start from the fundamental premise that health care, as we know it, is a human right, and that profit has no place when it comes to making people well. If that day were to come in another initial phase of health care reform, since this one is doomed to fail, that acknowledgment from the mouths of our politicans would be necessary. Otherwise, it would be like this one, as well as the last one (under Clinton) and the ones before that. Think about this: no politician (that takes corporate money) is going to kill a $100 billion-a-year industry by offering a true single-payer system. All this "debate" is serving to do, is to cause another diversionary wedge between the conservatives and the liberals, while the bailout is still taking place, and is being even less scrutinized than before due to the health care ruckus.

Another reason why I have turned against this "reform", is something that was briefly mentioned in the Sun article. Under this plan, it would be mandatory for all Americans to carry health insurance, under penalty of fine. Massachusetts has the same system. This system, in which the beneficaries would be the private insurance companies or the government (provided which service the individual would choose, that is, if the government would even be an option), is akin to the ancient custom of tribute, in which provinces would transfer wealth from their citizens to a kingdom like Babylon or Rome out of allegiance, if not outright coercion. Of course, only in this case, the ones exacting tribute would not be medieval kingdoms, but corporate HMO's.