Friday, March 30, 2012

For Some, Gas Prices Aren't High Enough

Amongst the complaining of so-called "pain at the pump", there are some in the oil refining industry who feel that the price of gasoline isn't high enough.  This article discusses how some American refineries, particularly on the East Coast, are shutting down because the price of gasoline isn't keeping up with the rising price of crude oil.  Part of the problem is that while America is still the world's leading user of oil, our use is declining as other countries throughout the world are becoming more advanced and using more barrels per day.  Also, much of our oil production takes place in the Midwest, giving refiners easy access.  East Coast refineries are dependent on the more expensive foreign oil, which runs up to $20 a barrel higher than domestic oil. 

Something that I have read before, but have read here too and bears repeating, is that we are actually also a net exporter of petroleum.  We export more than half a million barrels a day, up 266 percent from a mere four years ago.  This is why the "drill, baby, drill" crowd drives me nuts.  Assuming that we still have plentiful resources of oil left to strike somewhere in this country, since we are in a global market, that oil won't automatically be used by us.  The fact that we export 500,000 barrels a day of oil, with the national average of gasoline close to $4 a gallon, pretty much proves my point.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Gun Company Stops Accepting Gun Orders

Ruger, the gun company, has announced that due to overwhelming demand, they have suspended Firearms Orders until the end of May.  I first thought that it was due to growing economic uncertainty (which I am sure, is a factor), but as the article points out in closing, it's probably more related to this year's election cycle.  I was speechless when I read the comments.  Many people seem to think that owning firearms will keep the federal government (Obama, in particular, for whatever odd reason) in check and the Second Amendment secure.  There will be a "coming crackdown", according to one poster. 

What a bunch of malarkey.  Out of all the amendments to the Constitution, I'd say that the Second Amendment is probably the safest (talk to the 1st and 4th Amendments, if you really want to see an erosion of rights and protections).  Both because of the overwhelming passion and vigilance of gun owners (which I do find admirable, in a sense) and also, because I don't believe that it bothers the government that much. 

Let me clarify that.  Throughout history, the ability of the populace to check the government has been fairly strong.  What the state had in discipline, force, and slightly more sophisticated weaponry, the people had in sheer numbers.  At this time and place, things are slightly different.  The U.S. has the largest military in the world, a very large domestic security apparatus (FBI, Homeland Security, NSA, CIA, etc.), and a nationwide police force.  On top of that, our government has the most powerful weaponry ever devised.  Tanks, fighter jets, assault rifles and submachine guns, "sonic busters" for breaking up protests.  One can go on and on, but you should get my point.  Which is, the gap between what the people are armed with, and what the government is armed with, is the biggest that it has been in history.  So, I think that's a reason why the government isn't too concerned with taking away people's guns.  They could just take everything else away.  Besides, even if the gun owners do wake up and decide to "take the country back", they can have fun with their peashooters and their hunting rifles against what would be the most powerful, militarized police state in history.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

More Antics in This Election

I've been paying scant attention to this election, and at the moment, it doesn't seem like this Santorum fellow is going to be the GOP nominee.  I still think that the fact he's done as well as he has (2nd in delegates behind the presumed frontrunner, Romney), however, says a lot about the state of our union and its political situation. 

Santorum is currently under fire for remarks that a fire-and-brimstone pastor said at a rally for him.  The pastor said, among other things, that "we" (by "we", he means American citizens) worship Jesus Christ and that anyone who doesn't like it, such as the gay people, the liberals or the pro-abortion people, can just "get the hell out".  Of course, Santorum immediately tried to distance himself from the comments that the pastor made, although you can see him in the video clapping along with everyone else.  This seems a lot like the Reverend Jeremiah Wright controversy back in '08, which looked like it might have sunk then-Senator Obama's chances of being President. 

But the point I wanted to make is that the success of this candidate Santorum says a lot about where our country will be headed politically in the years to come.  As our economic fortunes continue to wane and our futures become more and more uncertain, I feel that a vast amount of people who still vote, will gravitate to maniacs and those who are on the religious fringe.  Assuming that one will still be able to vote this November, or in 2014 or 2016, and so on.  In my opinion, there is a distinct possibility that there will be a real backlash (and not one limited to the far-right) against the kinds of people that the pastor was attacking in his sermon.  Joe Six-Pack, who might not have much in the way of political or social beliefs, might look at the advent in power of gay people and think, "things were okay until these people came along and started forcing their ways on us."  I know that what I'm saying might sound illogical, but hard times and suffering tend to make people hold illogical opinions. 

The Democrats hold a fair amount of blame, if this were to come to pass.  The author Chris Hedges explains this much better than I could; he even has a book about it, "The Death of the Liberal Class", but I'll try my best to explain it.  For decades, in terms of most economic issues, there is little difference between the two parties.  Both the Democrats and Republicans have advocated and passed taxation and financial policies that benefit the top 1% of Americans.  This has taken place as middle-class and working Americans have lost ground, as their jobs are shipped elsewhere and their income stagnates or declines.  Rather than the Democrats acting as an alternative to the money-worshipping GOP, they have largely emulated their allegiances to big business.  These days, the only difference between the two parties lies in the social wedge issues, like abortion and gay rights, which the Democrats usually support.  Hedges refers to this as "boutique activism".  And Democrats will say that the poor rural people "vote against their economic interests" when they vote Republican. 

I don't agree with that.  When working people are losing their jobs and seeing their incomes flatline, regardless of who is in office, they will turn to other issues in order to determine who gets their vote.  If you are a strong believer in God or if you want to own guns, you will probably vote Republican.

I'm going to include two videos from Bill Maher's show, by the director Alexandra Pelosi (daughter of Nancy Pelosi).  One is of voters in Mississippi, many of whom are very critical of Obama.  The other is of voters in New York City, who support Obama because of the stereotype that Democrats keep people on welfare (I love the one guy who refers to government handouts as "Obama bucks").  I find a lot to dislike about both camps, but I do have a slight "less evil" preference for the New York pro-Obama crowd.  At least they're honest about taking handouts, unlike the rural right-wing "get government's hands off my Medicare" types, who rail against big government while accepting any government assistance they can get. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Fukushima Residents Scared of Nuclear Radiation

This is a good article from the Guardian about the ramifications of a post-meltdown Fukushima.  It's similar to what I was blogging about last week ("No Nukes in Japan").  One of the people interviewed said that she was no longer eating locally and was buying imported meat and drinking bottled water.  Which led me to wondering: what if these options weren't available?  In a post-oil economy, they very well might be.  If you were a Japanese citizen and did not want to eat food grown in that region as a result of the lingering effects of Fukushima (the nuclear half-life of the substances released into the atmosphere can last for a really long time, on the order of tens of thousands of years or even longer than that), or if some other nuclear disaster developed in some other part of the world, what if it wasn't possible to import food and water that was relatively safe to drink?  These questions make me ponder whether nuclear energy is a positive thing or not. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

65-year-old man subjected to torture and imprisonment for selling...milk

A California man was imprisoned and subjected to a week of torture and cruel & inhumane treatment for selling raw milk.  While considered a health hazard by our government, there are people who knowingly value the health benefits of raw milk and wish to purchase it.  I am not one of those (have never had it, so can't tell you one way or the other how I feel), but do feel that people should have the right to drink raw milk if they wish.  This right is available in other countries around the world, but not here in the "land of the free". 

I was reading the summary of what happened to James Stewart, the man who was subjected to this foul treatment, and thought of something.  It seems that whenever I read of really cruel treatment in our penal system, it's never from a convicted murderer or a rapist; whether this actually does happen and is just unreported, I don't know.  But when I do hear of cruel treatment, it's usually visited upon a protestor or someone like Mr. Stewart, who is circumventing the way things are traditionally done in the U.S. and offering people another option.  This threatens the power structure and if you do this, it seems an eventuality before you are taken in and made an example out of.  Just look at the bail that was set for Mr. Stewart: $1 million.  For selling raw milk. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

No Nukes in Japan

This is a good New York Times article on how the Japanese are scared of using nuclear power since last year's Fukushima Daiichi disaster, to the point where all 54 of their reactors have, or will soon, go offline.  The Japanese have avoided shortages up to this point due to a crash program, but this has left them more reliant on fossil fuels that are mostly imported from other countries.  Articles like this reinforce my opinion that in a post-oil economy, nuclear power is probably our most viable option if we want to maintain any kind of semblance to the lives that we currently live. 

The clincher comes at the end, where the mayor of a Japanese town, after demanding new guidelines and safety measures from the government before the plants should reopen, then admits that the reactors will have to be restarted anyway in the event of economic slowdown or energy shortages.  A fisherman who was also interviewed acknowledges that no one wants to go back to a world without TV's or smartphones.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Iced-Tea Flavored Coors

I don't really drink anymore.  Now and then, I will order a beer with my meal when I'm out, but it isn't very often.  And that beer is usually Coors Light.  I know, it's "American, mass-produced beer".  And I do like a Sam Adams or a Killian's Irish Red, but for some reason, Coors Light is usually the first thing that comes to mind when the waitress asks me what I would have to drink.  And don't think too low of me, but I like it.  I heard someone once say that "Coors Light is made for people who don't like to drink beer", and they might have something there. 

Anyway, during the summer months, I also like a Mike's Hard drink.  That could get you in trouble.  More than once, I would sit down with a six-pack of Mike's, chug it down (since it really does taste like lemonade, I don't taste that alcohol flavor at all), stand up and promptly wobble and stagger until I would have to sit back down.    Again, I don't drink that often, but when I do, Mike's is an awesome choice. 

It seems that Coor's agreed, and had an idea to mix the two drinks.  Hence, Coor's Light Iced Tea.  I don't know, I'm kind of recoiling here.  It could be good, but I'm skeptical.  Coor's and iced tea?   

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Interesting e-book about abortion

I tend to stray away from abortion-related topics, or debate, for that matter.  It's pretty much the ultimate no-win issue in political discussion, that is, it's pretty much impossible to turn someone to your way of thinking if you lean one way or the other.  If you're "pro-life", it's a bitch trying to convince someone of your belief system if they are "pro-choice", and vice versa. 

Well, good thing I'm not trying to change minds.  I came across an interesting e-book on the subject, and one that doesn't try to convince one, one way or the other.  Rather, it serves as a guide (and an introduction) to self-induced abortion methods.  This can be very helpful, either in a collapse scenario or in a scenario in which the ultra-religious right take political control.  Actually, these two scenarios do not have to be mutually exclusive, as extremist politics can easily be the order of the day in a collapse of the nation. 

In fact, for some, the e-book can already be useful.  According to this Atlantic Monthly book review (written in 1997), 80% of American counties do not have an abortion provider. 

Monday, March 5, 2012


I spent my morning listening to a TED presentation that was given recently by Guy McPherson, a college professor and blogger, and author of a book titled "Walking Away From Empire".  The entire segment, which consists of 2 short animations and talks by McPherson and someone named Michael Silwa (whose monologue is very good), talk of the many dangers brought about by empire and our entitlement society, and the risks that both of these guys took by walking away from it.  I recommend watching it, the entire thing is around 45-50 minutes long.