Archive for the 'science' Category

15
May
09

News You Should Know 05.15.09

This Friday afternoon, there were a number of news stories that caught my attention. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to write an entire, fleshed out blog on each of them.

  1. Pulitzer Prize winners. I know this is from last month, but I recently took a look at this year’s Pulitzer winners and found many quite worth the squiz:
    1. Alexandra Berzon of the Las Vegas Sun on higher death rates among construction workers on the Strip due to lax regulation enforcement.
    2. David Barstow of The NYT on the utilization of generals by the Pentagon to sell the Iraq War. (Pt. 1 and Pt. 2)
    3. Ryan Gabrielson and Paul Giblin of the East Valley Tribune reveal how a popular (and over-zealous) sheriff’s focus on illegal immigration resulted in the endangerment of investications of violent crimes and other areas of public safety. I still see that sheriff all over TV.
    4. St. Petersburg Times for Politifact (they completely deserve this one).
    5. Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post for his coverage of the 2008 election. This surprise me. Dont’ get me wrong, I love Eugene, but I’m not quite sure how his comentary was better than, say, E.J. Dionne’s. Eugene still rocks and congratulations to him.
    6. Steve Breen of the San Diego Union-Tribune for his editorial cartooning. Example:
    7. Damon Winter of The NYT for his photography of Obama’s presidential campaign. A great series and really worth the look.
  2. Texas and other states charging victims for rape kits. This is appalling – it reduces the number of women willing to pursue the arrest and conviction of their perpetrator. If a murder victim’s family had to pay for the evidence to be collected at the murder scene, the country would be in an uproar. Remember when I say there are areas where the U.S. needs improving? This is one of them.
  3. THIS IS BIG. The ACLU is suing to challenge a patent Myriad Genetics on two human genes linked to breast and ovarian cancers.“Knowledge about our own bodies and the ability to make decisions about our health care are some of our most personal and fundamental rights,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. “The government should not be granting private entities control over something as personal and basic to who we are as our genes.”
  4. The Texas Senate passed a bill weakening eminenet domain laws and forcing the government to operate much more transparently when attempting to seize private property. Yee-Haw!! Now, get with it, House, and let’s get this signed into law! I hope eminent domain reform is progressing in other states as well.
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29
Apr
09

Swine Flu – It’s Not the First, Won’t Be The Last

What a strange coincidence that a potentially pandemic illness originating from domesticated livestock mushrooms at the exact same time I am reading Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond.

In simplified terms, Diamond describes in his book how food-producing populations have been exposed for thousands of years to influenzas and other diseases carried by domesticated animals. Those with the genetic strength to overcome the illnesses or avoid them all-together lived to reproduce and, thus, propagate their genetic supremacy. Some bugs are meaner then others, hence the bubonic plague and Ebola virus.

These inevitable illnesses have made quite a mark on the development on human geopolitical history. Because food producers (FP) were exposed to these diseases and overcame them while hunter gatherers (HG) did not, the FPs easily decimated or wiped out many an HG tribe and culture. Smallpox has quite the reputation for being such a population reducer.

The main point here, however, is that as much horror and, possibly, death as the avian flu or the swine flu might wreak upon the global population, diseases transmitted from animals to humans are as natural as exinction. So long as humans live in close quarters with animals, and such cohabitation is unavoidable, the potential pandemic is always around the corner.

Me, I try not to be a germ-a-phobe. With weakened immune systems, our bodies cannot handle contact with the feces of many beasties. Sure, we don’t want to give each other illnesses, but a little dirty is good. So, I’ll start the Just Say No To the Wipey and Hand Sanitizer Campaign now.

As survival of the fittest is real, the cleaner we become as a species, the weaker we become. Looking on the bright side, it may not matter anyway since we’re killing our environment so rapidly, our only hope is space pods on Mars. Hello! Point me to the nearest mass-suicide cult ASAP!

31
Mar
09

Atheist Billboards Going Up in DFW Area

I’m pretty pumped! Monday, the Coalition of Reason will unveiled two godless billboards along busy interstates in the DFW area:

godless-billboard

The Coalition of Reason has already launched the campaign, aimed at uniting non-believing groups, in Philadelphia and Denver.

I’m part of the leadership of the Fort Worth Free Thinkers and we are joining with the North Texas Church of Freethought, Metroplex Atheists, Dallas-Plano Atheists and more to form the DFW Coalition of Reason .

The reaction of the area will certainly be interesting as this is an obvious headquarters for Christocentric religiosity. You’d be surprised, however, to see how quickly our community of non-believers (athiests, agonstics, non-theists, rationalits, etc., etc.) is growing.

Certainly, I hope one of the results of this four-week media campaign is greater organization of non-believers so that our voice is heard amongst the cacophony of American diversity. For too long, we have allowed one specific lunatic fringe group to dominate politics and accepted culture in our society and that must stop. The pendulum is swinging away from those who would seek to imprison the rest of us with their beliefs. We will be the silent minority no more.

And speaking of minority, I’d like to remind everybody that religious unaffiliated is the fasted growing “religious” group in the U.S. Doesn’t that just give you a warm, cozy feeling inside?

If you’re in Texas and would like to find a group of non-believers in your area, visit this Texas Secular Network site for a list. Some groups are more stingently athiest and organized, but as for us Fort Worth Free Thinkers, we just like good beer and good conversation and rational thinking. Peace out.

02
Dec
08

Conscientious Consumerism

I am a huge believer in voting with dollars. Huge! Whether it’s buying environmentally safe products or not eating veal or going to doctors who belong to minority groups, I try to put my money where my loud mouth is. No, I’m not religious about it – I don’t always buy locally-grown produce or independently-brewed beer and I wouldn’t go to a doctor who left a scalpel in me just because she was Hispanic and female (though, all the Hispanic female doctors I have visited have been phenomenal).

It’s called conscientious consumerism – as opposed to the American phenomenon of conspicuous consumerism which feeds on the souls of impoverished children.

One of my main responsible spending projects is the support of non-religious free thinkers (atheists, agnostics,

hee hee

hee hee

spiritual boycotters of organized religion, etc.). Of course, there are only so many directions this moral compass points. Hell, I live in Fort Worth and there aren’t too many openly atheist businesses in town, despite all the roofers who have Christian fish on their yard signs. It was much easier to practice when I lived in Austin.

But every cent counts, right? So, I look for books written by non-believers, buy Simpsons dvds, am not unfamiliar with adult toy shops, try to see Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt movies despite my inability to take them seriously as actors anymore. I avoid businesses who use the Christian fish as their selling method, refuse to go within 15 feet of a Christian book store unless it’s to flash my boobs in their windows (kidding!), etc., etc. Twilight was written by a Mormon chick and while I salute her entrepreneurial spirit, I will not read her books or see the movie. And I’m making a much more concerted effort to keep funds from Scientology followers (you know who I’m talking about).

But, it’s hard, people! And I’m weak. I can’t help but find myself in the drive-thru at Chick-Fil-A now and again. And despite the fact that burger chain Fudruckers plays god-awful christian worship music on Sunday mornings (by request), I manage to chomp down on their wondrous meat and buns, wedge fries and heavenly processed jalapeno cheese sauce once a month (or more?) on a day that is not designated for rest for the majority of Americans. And, shhh, but I love the Chronicles of Narnia series.

The response to Propoboycott-oppressionsition 8, however, is making my life a lot easier. The publication of donor lists have helped galvanize a boycott against the business leaders who helped ensure the success of a religious political movement aimed at oppressing the rights of a specific group of Americans. I am more than happy to joint the effort to hand prejudiced business leaders some whoopass with each dollar I don’t spend supporting them. Cinemark Theaters, this means you.

What is surprising is that MANY of those that end up on the boycott lists are Mormon – not just any ole Christian felt called to donate in support of Prop. 8. It is mind-boggling how many of the donors supporting Prop. 8 live in Utah. It seems there was a concerted effort within the church walls to push parishioners to spread hate. Sure, their church leaders have routinely practiced pedophilia and suppression of women, but how dare gays have the right to marry! What imbeciles. Needless to say, I’m not planning any trips to Utah any time soon.

Though I don’t live in California, I do pay attention to the movements supporting gay marriage – many of which lists monetary supporters of Proposition 8. For instance, Californians Against Hate has a great website, giving me many more businesses upon which to focus my responsible consumerism: A-1 Self Storage, Washington Mutual, Templeton Funds, Marriott, like I said – Cinemark Theaters. Mormonsstoleourrights.com lists the ways in which the Mormon Church has worked to oppress gays and also posts a petition viewers can sign advocating the loss of tax-exempt status for churches who are politically involved.

Boycotting is not a “bullying” tactic as many of the named donors are claiming. Religioners have their fun with boycotts all the time. And I fully support any American’s right to donate to causes they support. However, I have the right to refuse to patronize those with whom I disagree. Voting by the dollar is one of the most fundamentally democratic expressions we Americans have and a major producer of progress. I will never purchase anything produced by Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh or anyone else that spews hatred and vitriol. That’s my right.

And while I will suffer for my views (no more Franklin Covey planners…) it is important for me to practice what I preach and support efforts to expand good will to all people and oppose those who would oppress.

By the way – what an abismal shame that a dishonorable person like Saxby Chambliss could reach one of the highest offices in the land. What the hell, Georgia?! This man inhabits the bottom of the moral barrel and you would re-elect him?! What a disgrace.

14
Oct
08

Why “Drill, Baby, Drill” Chanters are Idiots

I’m sure most of you who watched the Republican National Convention saw the goobers in hardhats and safety vests which said, “Drill, baby, drill!” Their captain, Rush Limbaugh said June 18,

They’re (Democrats) going to oppose the economic growth of the country. They’re going to oppose your prosperity. They’re going to oppose all of that by standing in the way of this.

They’ve (Democrats) got their talking points and they’re lying through their teeth about it.

Bill Nelson of Florida, one of, ahem, my senators, is out there saying that, (paraphrasing) “Hey, the federal government’s already leased a whole bunch of land to the big oil companies; they’re not even using it.”  It’s such a smoke screen, the number of years left on these leases is very few, and the whole thing is a lie anyway.  I have the figures to prove it.

Entrepreneurs of all stripes, all sizes, create business of all sizes. They’re a wide range. And who is it that always sets out to punish them and destroy them?  Liberals, the American left! Absolutely right, Brian. I could read your lips in there.  Good going.  What does Obama want?  Barack Obama wants you to suffer.  Barack Obama wants higher prices on fuel. right now.  Barack Obama wants a windfall profits tax. right now.  Barack Obama wants to raise your income taxes, by the way, right now.  He wants to raise capital gains taxes, right now.  He wants to raise Social Security taxes, right now.  Obama wants you to suffer.  The Democrat Party wants you in pain.  They want you angry, and they are willing to block any remedy to this problem in order to keep you suffering and in pain and angry.  Obama wants prices up, he wants your income down, and he wants taxes up, ladies and gentlemen.

I know, he’s a crackpot. I recommend reading the whole transcript because it’s incredibly laughable. Let me continue. Here’s Sarah Palin during the VP Debate,

The chant is “drill, baby, drill.” And that’s what we hear all across this country in our rallies because people are so hungry for those domestic sources of energy to be tapped into.

Barack Obama and Senator Biden, you’ve said no to everything in trying to find a domestic solution to the energy crisis that we’re in.

If that’s not enough to make you want to sprinkle cyanide on your cheerios, country singer Aaron Tippin has a new hit, “Drill here, drill now,” you can listen to here. I’m posting the second verse:

Every time a foreign tanker pulls up to our shore
They got us over a barrel while they bleed us a little more
And think how much it costs just to bring it all that way
And how many American jobs that’d make if we were drillin’ in the USA
Oh and God forbid if our oily friends should decide to cut us off
We’d be standin’ around with our britches down now listen to me ya’ll

Perhaps Aaron’s legendary tight pants have seized up blood flow to his brain.

What I’m trying to say is that all these calls for offshore drilling and energy independence have made it clear there’s a drought of information on the Right. I’ve decided to rectify the situation by gathering what we informed people call FACTS to help explain the error in this argument – which many Democrats are perpetuating as well. It’s almost criminal.

So, I beg of you – educate yourself. Even if you don’t want to read my lengthy presentation of reality and possibility, conduct your own research of the effects of increased offshore drilling, the possibility it will lower gas prices, and the addition to jobs and U.S. prominence alternative energy technology will provide.

Here’s my crack at it. It’s long, but it’s worth it. Jesuschrist, it’s worth it.

The clamors for energy independence only surfaced following the rise in gasoline/petrol prices. Because gas prices are largely determined by the decision made by OPEC regarding production levels, Americans are under the incorrect impression that drilling for more hydrocarbon off our shores will provide energy independence and lower gas prices.

OFFSHORE DRILLING ≠ ENERGY INDEPENDENCE ≠ LOW GASOLINE/PETROL PRICES

The American people are uninformed, which is nothing new, and their politicians are doing nothing to correct this problem because they are whores for campaign contributions, which lead them to feed the corporatocracy that is pimping America by trading money for favorable legislation. The oil & gas lobby is one of the biggest john of them all. According to the Federal Election Commission Sept. 2, 2008, and reported by the Center for Responsive Politics, campaign contributions for the 2008 election cycle totalled $22,543,340. Republicans were the most successful streetwalkers, receiving 75 percent of these contributions, while Democrats only garnered 25. Apparently, it’s hard out here for a pimp Democrat.

Because Americans don’t understand the realities of domestic hydrocarbon production, 67 percent answered in the affirmative to the RasmussenReports poll question, “In order to reduce the price of gas, should drilling be allowed in offshore oil wells off the coasts of California, Florida, and other states?” According to the survey, the results of which were released June 17, 64 percent of voters “believe it is at least somewhat likely that gas prices will go down if offshore oil drilling is allowed.” Now, I’m sure you know embittered former pollster for the Clintons, Dick Morris runs RasmussenReports and is now a sweetheart of the Right – which is why they quoted this survey endlessly.

The false assumption is that offshore drilling will lead to energy independence which will lead to lower gasoline prices.

Wrong.

U.S. WOULDN’T OWN OFFSHORE OIL AND GAS ONCE IT IS DRILLED

As Cenk Uygur correctly pointed out of the Huffpo, the United States government does not own all the hydrocarbon that is produced within its borders. The company that is awarded the contract to drill owns the oil or gas and may decide to sell their unrefined product to whomever they like and will likely do so to whoever is the highest bidder, be they India, China, etc. Simply because the U.S. government decides to open leases off Florida, California and ANWR does not automatically assume the U.S. markets will be the recipient of those energy resources.

Secondly, the U.S. refineries are operating near capacity. According to the latest numbers provided by U.S. Department of Energy for July 2008, U.S. refining operable capacity was 17,610,000 barrels per day. Of that capacity, U.S. refineries produced 17,464,000 barrels per day. The last major refinery built in the U.S. began operations in 1976. This is partially due to strict standards set by the EPA and the high cost of such an endeavor, but also NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard), an acronym describing a residential opposition to nearby industrial building. People want to use the oil and gas, they just don’t want to be near the production of their precious energy. With my family from in and around Lake Charles, I can see why.

The point is that politicians – Dems and Repubs alike – encourage the drill, baby, drillers; they just forget to mention that even if we increase offshore drilling, we do not have the refining capacity to ensure those energy reserves serve the American market. Sure, we can loosen environmental standards and attempt to rush the establishment of some refining infrastructure before oil companies bring that offshore hydrocarbon online. But visit Lake Charles for a weekend and decide if you want those big daddies in your backyard or if you would rather just drive less, switch to fluorescent light bulbs and inflate your tires.

U.S. ENERGY COMPANIES WILL CONTINUE TO KEEP PRICES AS HIGH AS THEY CAN

Americans are also assuming that oil and gas companies, in all their benevolence, would flood the American market with hydrocarbon to allow gasoline prices to decrease. Not gonna happen. FOR EXAMPLE, PLS’ ProspectCentre reported Oct. 1, 2008 that Chesapeake Energy, the largest producer of natural gas in the U.S., will “reduce it drilling capex (17%) through year-end 2010 by ~$3.2 billion in response to recent price collapse that has driven gas prices down (~50% since July 1)…Of the capex reduction through 2010, $1.9 billion is associated with reduced drilling activity.” WHAT??? you ask. Gas prices are over $1 more than when Hurricane Katrina hit. My car cost $12.50 to fill up eight years ago and now requires $40. And Chesapeake Energy is reducing drilling because energy prices are falling. Yes, Chesapeake produces natural gas, which is different than gasoline – but prices of energy originating from hydrocarbon sources are closely related.

Translation: Chesapeake Energy is decreasing their drilling of natural gas in order to reduce supply, despite typical ravenous demand of Americans for energy, which will help keep prices high. Politicians have given Americans the idea that American oil and gas (natural gas) companies are operating at capacity and we need to open more leases to bring more energy online in American markets. False. Major companies in the United States are right now decreasing domestic energy production because prices have fallen, causing these companies what they see as budgetary constraints.

The interesting tidbit about Chesapeake’s maneuver is that they’ve done it before. BNET Sept. 27, 2006: “Effective October 1, 2006, the company plans to temporarily shut-in approximately 100 million cubic feet (mmcf) per day of net natural gas production (approximately 125-150 mmcf per day gross) in various areas of operations in the southwestern U.S. until natural gas prices recover from recently depressed levels.” What has happened since the end of 2006? Prices have risen! How surprising! Of course, I’m not suggesting Chesapeake’s activities alone have caused gasoline prices to increase, but I’m giving you an idea of how the oil and gas industry responds to any decrease in gasoline prices.

You see – and this is very important – even if oil and gas were produced as much as possible within American borders and even if refineries were built to handle the capacity of oil and gas sucked out of the ground, oil companies would keep production low. Why? Why? you ask. I will tell you.

The oil companies have discovered that Americans have a high pain tolerance when it comes to energy prices. Americans will let gasoline reach $4.00 a gallon before really pulling back. They will never allow gasoline prices – profits – to fall back to the yesteryear of cheap gas and easy energy. No matter how available or plentiful that energy is domestically, the companies will manipulate the market to keep prices high. Oh, they’ll give us a load of “reduced supply” mishegoss, but make no mistake – they only have eyes for profits. Right now, according to PLS, XTO, EOG and Petrohawk “may watch Chesapeake’s stock to determine if they should follow the same plan.”

The main point is that even if all our hydrocarbon energy supply originates within U.S. borders, prices will remain in the nose-bleeds. Them’s the brakes. Yes, we are currently experiencing a reduction in prices, but it won’t last.

DON’T FORGET ABOUT REFINING

Now let’s assume that we do open all our oil and natural gas reserves to quell demands for more resources. We throw open every lease available off various coasts and in protected wildlife preserves and give them to the exploration and production companies like letting a fat kid loose in a candy store. We would have to assume that demand would remain the same or decrease in order to bring gasoline prices down.

Just one thing. Remember that last refinery that was built in 1976? Yeah, American consumption of energy has increased 25 percent since it was built. If prices are cheap, our consumption will not decrease unless there is a national mandate Americans understand is necessary to preserve our environment and the health of our children. With demand high, prices will remain so as well.

Because American oil and gas demand will always rise above domestic supply – especially with cheap prices – we will never be energy independent as long as our main source of energy is hydrocarbon. Our demand will always outpace domestic supply. Can’t say it enough.

If we do throw open all the leases possible and build refineries to service the American market as much as possible, we will end up polluting the shit out this country. Perhaps this wouldn’t be such a big deal if the only pollution we had to deal with was only that which we create ourselves. It’s not. Pollution from China has already started having worldwide effects – especially in California, where emissions regulations for local industries will have to be sharply curbed to deal with the fallout from China’s production boom.

“GREEN REFINERIES”? SURELY, YOU JEST.

No, I don’t, Willis. There have been recent movements toward establishing “green refineries” – if there is such a thing. Arizona Clean Fuels Yuma fought for seven years and finally received a permit to build a 150,000 barrels-per-day refinery that it says will operate within strict environmental regulations. Hyperion Resources, based in Dallas, is planning an environmentally sound refinery that will turn Canadian crude into low-sulfur gasoline and diesel at a rate of 400,000 barrels per day. According to a Reuters article describing the project, it often takes five years before companies receive the required permits for construction, which can often lead to investors jumping ship.

And if that wasn’t enough to whet your appetite for green gas, Hunton Energy of Houston has proposed the first green refinery on the Texas coast, shooting for a 340,000 barrels-per-day facility to convert Canadian bitumen crude into clean-burning jet fuel and diesel. According to the Houston Chronicle, “Its defining feature is the integration of a gasification facility, which would capture most of the plant’s carbon emissions before they reach the atmosphere.” It will be interesting to see whether this refinery – in ten years, if the project succeeds – will live up to its “green” claims.

There is, however, no definition for “green” and its subjectiveness has allowed it to be used as a major selling tool by energy companies who tend to be colorblind when it comes to the environment. In this case, “green” refers to reduced emissions by the refineries. It does not mean “zero emissions” as such as thing is currently impossible.

Obviously, the greenest refinery will likely do more detriment than wind and solar combined. Although one has to take into account the energy needed to produce a wind turbine, transport it and set up the massive thing (I see them in parts on 18-wheelers all over the highways here in north Texas). How long would a windmill have to generate energy before justifying its very existence? Just a question.

CLEAN COAL, JUMBO SHRIMP, PRETTY UGLY

Still, the term “green refinery” calls to mind another potential oxymoron: “clean coal.” Politicians say it all the time and the term even enjoyed a bit of attention during the recent Vice Presidential Debates. Jeff Biggers of The Washington Post has taken notice as well. He writes in a scathing opinion piece of the coal industry and its treatment by the Bush administration, “Clean coal: Never was there an oxymoron more insidious, or more dangerous to our public health. Invoked as often by the Democratic presidential candidates as by the Republicans and by liberals and conservatives alike, this slogan has blindsided any meaningful progress toward a sustainable energy policy.”

“Clean coal” is referring to reduced emissions from coal-firing plants and efforts are underway around the world to find the means to reduce the environmentally detrimental affects of this energy source. The release of carbon dioxide into the air is one of the biggest offenses of coal use and scientists are trying to discover new means to deal with this greenhouse gas, included rerouting it under ground. Capturing the CO2 is a top priority in “clean coal” technology. According to National Geographic News, however, technologist Gordon Couch, with the International Energy Agency’s Clean Coal Centre in London, says zero-emissions coal power is a realistic goal – though years away.

“NUKULAR” ENERGY

John McCain likes to repeat that nuclear energy is just fine because he served on a Navy ship powered by nuclear energy and all Senator Obama needs to do is talk to one of our sailors serving a nuclear-powered vessel (yeah, because they’re experts) to learn the benefits of this energy. But nuclear plants are some of the most dangerous sources of energy – the fact that Chernobyl and Three Mile Island are household terms is a large indicator of public concern regarding this energy option.

Nuclear waste is an even larger concern. And since no real long-term solution has been found regarding the storage of nuclear waste, it is irresponsible for politicians to tout this as an option for energy independence. Nuclear waste is also tremendously costly to store – the Department of Energy has said the controversial proposed storage facility at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain would cost $96.2 billion to build and operate. France is repeatedly used as a positive example of the use of nuclear energy. However, France reprocesses its nuclear waste – which is banned in the United States due to proliferation risks – and still has leftovers, which it stocks in hopes that, perhaps in 100 years scientists will have found away to eliminate the toxicity of the waste. Bonne chance.

SUSTAINABLE ENERGY…HEAD OUT OF THE ASS

Geothermal Plant in California

Even with the environmental benefits of nuclear energy, the question still looming is the cost-benefit ratio of investing such an enormous amount of funds into a technology that is detrimental in the long-term, rather than positive alternatives: biomass, geothermal, wind, solar, tidal, hydrogen.

Powerful lobbyists, greedy politicians and corporate executives have convinced the more uninformed Americans, including Palin – who chanted, “Drill, baby drill. Mine, baby, mine,” on the stump – that we must turn to domestic oil, gas and coal to increase energy independence, which will bring down gas prices.

I don’t just disagree with them, I have shown that they are wrong. They are incorrect. And almost every source I have provided in this blog is available on the internet.

So, why does the truth not out? Why do Democrats participate in this charade as well? Bucks, dollars, contributions. The building of the United Corporatocracy of America. The oil and gas industry has been the 12th largest campaign contributor to John McCain’s quest for the presidency, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Had we focused our surplus budget and American acumen for technological development on alternative energy sources back in the 1990’s instead of cheap housing developments, we might already be energy independent. Perhaps Detroit wouldn’t be in the economic doldrums. Perhaps we might not be transferring all of our wealth to “countries who do not have our best interests at heart.” But, then ExxonMobil and ConocoPhilips and many other oil & gas companies wouldn’t be receiving record profits this year. Without their political involvement, Halliburton probably wouldn’t have received a number of sweet, no-bid contracts in Iraq from the Bush administration.

Instead, we’re left with “shoulda, woulda, couldas” dangling in front of our rose-colored glasses to the past.

To make matters almost unpalatable, the Right continues to dupe many of its followers – legendary anti-intellectuals, consistent swallowers of Fox News Propaganda who disdain facts, truth, research, reality and education – into believing offshore drilling will produce energy independence and lower gas prices. It won’t. It will only make the same white men richer year after year and worsen our environmental contributions.

RENEWABLE ENERGY IS BEST CHANCE FOR U.S. TO RETAIN GLOBAL PROMINENCE

Renewable alternative energy is our chance to regain and retain our primary position on the world stage. Global citizens are hungry and demanding alternative power and the U.S. has every opportunity to develop it, deliver it, and benefit from it. Like Obama said, renewable resources can give the U.S. the same economic positioning as the computer. Renewable energy technologies could be a major cultivator of domestic jobs and prop the U.S. up again as a major supplier to global market demands.

U.S. domination is subsiding, our economy is not growing as fast as other countries and we are losing our hegemonic status. Instead of tackling this development head on through education and technology, the idiotic dipshits of the Right are attacking our science classes, trying to shrink budgets for math education and calling for the same failed energy policies that will cripple our best chance to retain American greatness.

Republicans are selling our future to win elections now and their mindless followers are not only heading toward that cliff, they want to drag us over the edge with them. It is shameful and embarrassing and hopefully only a footnote in our country’s history. “Drill, baby, drill” is not the answer. It is “Dead Man Walking” for the U.S. economy and perhaps if these people knew exactly what they were proposing, they wouldn’t be trying to doom our country’s attempts to lead the world into the next technological era.

Let me be clear. I am not opposed to increased offshore drilling or increasing refining capacity. I am opposed to presenting it as a method for attaining energy independence and lowering gasoline prices. Such an assertion is untrue and only increase the falsehoods with which many voters make their decisions at the polls. It is harmful to democracy and it is harmful to the economic future and sustainability of this country. We must refocus our priorities to renewable and sustainable energy sources.

UPDATE 10.15.08. FYI, beeyotches, Time (as I spotted on Think Progress) is reporting that despite Sarah Palin’s calls for energy independence, she herself has supported efforts to send domestic hydrocarbon to more-profitable foreign markets.

According to Time, “Palin personally intervened in April, 2007, but her concerns were strictly local. She asked DOE to condition its approval on guarantees that gas needed in Alaska not be diverted to the better-paying foreign venues — a position she held until this past January, when the producers reached separate agreement with the state to meet its needs.

At no time did Palin or her government cite the desire to preserve Alaskan gas for the lower 48 states. The Sempra terminal began operations just four months after Palin announced unconditional support for the Marathon and ConocoPhillips request and a month before DOE approved their plans to export gas to Asia.”

Will the hypocrisy never end???

24
Sep
08

Pharmaceutical Company To Disclose Payments To Doctors

I’d put the hallalujahs off for just a minute, though.

According to AP, Eli Lilly and Co. has said they will report payments made to doctors over $500 for services, speeches, etc. How unusual.

The pharmaceutical industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. Every time you go to the doctor, they have another prescription for you. Words such as “bi-polar disorder,” “anxiety disorder,” “clinical depression,” “attention deficit disorder,” and so many more are in our everyday vernacular. Do you fee sad sometimes and then happy sometimes? Well, that’s not right! Have a pill and this pill and this pill even though we have no idea who their chemical interactions will affect your body!

Do you think any of those diseases exist in developing world? No, they have to deal not with disorders of conveniences, but actual maladies such as starvation and AIDS and tuberculosis. Drugs do not cost nearly as much in those areas of the world because people could never dream of affording them and entire countries’ economies would face collapse. The cost of one pill here in the U.S. could feed the population of Sub-Sarahan Africa.

We’ve raised a population of entitled Americans who expect easy street and look to quick fixes when times get tough. We don’t even need to leave our bedrooms to have anything we need in the world. Is it a coincidence that obesity numbers go up the same time as depression and a infinitesimal amount of other diseases increase? I don’t think so.

Furthermore, the drug companies use people as their guinea pigs by pushing drugs far too quickly through governmental approval – though many times due to pressure by patients. Many times, these drugs prove to cause extreme harm over the long period. You know every time you turn on daytime TV and some ambulance-chaser is talking about Vioxx? There you go.

The drug companies pour a load the money they make with their high-priced drugs into the pockets of doctors who recommend them and write prescriptions and the law makers who decide (de)regulation. Ever heard of Medicare? As Wikipedia says, “According to Marcia Angell, the former head of the New England Journal of Medicine, ‘The United States is the only advanced country that permits the pharmaceutical industry to charge exactly what the market will bear.'”

Drugs that Americans depend on to live and stay healthy will cost them the quality of their life simply because of corporate greed and the idea of “free market” which does not exist in this country. Drug companies will tell you that their profits are focused on providing more products. They don’t reveal the salaries of their executives. It’s sickening, really.

So, now Eli Lilly and Co. says they will disclose doctor payments in expression of good will. AP reports,

Dr. Peter Lurie, deputy director of the health research group at Public Citizen, said the state laws can let patients know when their doctors have a connection to a drug firm, but the state laws are not working very well. The laws have various exemptions and sometimes don’t even disclose the information to the public, he said.

Lurie was skeptical that Eli Lilly’s announcement represented a step forward on the issue of more transparency in health care.

“There are dozens of pharmaceutical companies. This is just one of them. Most won’t follow this guideline at all, and there will be no enforcement,” Lurie said. “This is Ely Lilly’s attempt to forestall the federal legislation by saying we’re in effect complying anyway.”

Needless to say, my skepticism remains high. Why wouldn’t Eli Lilly disclose all payments? How many of the payments they issues are under $500?

High drug prices are simply another example of the myth of the free market and “American capitalism.” This manner of economic laissez-faire hurts the lower economic echelons – which is the majority of Americans. Until we start being honest about the reality of our lack of regulation, American voters will never demand better treatment from the Corporatocracy our country has become. Socialism is not a bad word and does not work in its pure form. But for our citizens to reap the benefits of economic growth, we must pepper our capitalism with a bit of socialism. Pro-capitalism is not patriotic. Being honest is.

24
Sep
08

Who Thinks Obama Is Going To Win The Sept. 26 Debate?

I’ve seen a lot of certitude from the Democrat side that Obama is going present USC-OU 2004 National Championship-style smackdown on McCain this Friday at the first presidential debate. And while if I were christian, I’d get on my knees every night till they bleed begging baby jesus for such an outcome.

But I don’t think it’s going to happen. And here’s why.

McCain has morphed into a desperate tall-tale-teller allowing his ambition to parasitically leach the soul from our once honorable and happier warrior. All that’s left is a shell of political expediency that clings to the life-force of a five-year POW who existed forty years ago.

Given the current situation of McCain’s character – or lack thereof – how many times do you think those of us watching will want to call bullshit Friday night? How many times do you think Romney tried to call bullshit during the primaries? Probably never. My experience with Mormons is that they don’t curse.

Still, the level of untruth perpertrated by McCain and his campaign has reached atmospheric levels. They wouldn’t know reality if it bitch-slapped them in the face and called them “man-whore.”

The worse part about it is not McCain’s lying – despite it’s unprecedented levels – it’s that the type of people who would vote for McCain do not care.

Jonathan Chait offers a compelling profile of McCain’s whoppers in today’s (LEFT-LEANING) The New Republican and I’ve pulled the significant paragraphs from his 6-page report. It’s long because McCain’s told a lot of lies. Here’s what I found extremely interesting from his piece, entitled, “Liar’s Poker” (bear with me – I know it’s a long – but it’s definitely worth the read):

Here we have the distilled essence of the McCain campaign’s ethos: Perception is reality. Facts don’t matter. McCain has presented himself as the grizzled champion of timeworn values. But the defining trait of his candidacy turns out to be a postmodern disdain for truth. How could McCain–a man widely regarded, not so long ago, as one of the country’s most honor-bound politicians, and therefore an unusually honest one–have descended to this ignominious low? Part of the answer is that McCain is simply doing what works–and there is good reason to believe that his campaign’s strategy of persistent dishonesty will pay dividends come November 4. But part of the explanation for all this recent dishonesty may lie, oddly enough, in McCain’s legendary sense of honor.

If this is McCain’s strategy, then a bunch of news reports debunking his claims isn’t going to hurt. Indeed it may even help. Last February, political scientists Brendan Nyhan of Duke and Jason Reifler of Georgia State published the results of an experiment designed to test the effects of political untruths. The results would unsettle any idealist. The first conclusion they found was that lies work. When subjects were confronted with an untrue political claim (President Bush banned stem-cell research; weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq) respondents naturally moved toward those positions. When the lie was corrected, however, the effect of the untruth in moving opinions largely remained. The truth, in other words, is no antidote for a lie.

Their second conclusion was even more disturbing. Subjects who identified as politically conservative were not only immune to the effects of having a lie corrected, the correction made them even more likely to believe a lie. So, for instance, one group of conservative subjects was presented with a news story that depicted President Bush claiming weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq. A second group of conservatives was presented with the same thing, along with a paragraph noting that Bush’s statement was untrue. The second group was more likely than the first to believe that Iraq possessed WMDs. The very fact of the press challenging their beliefs seems to have made conservatives more likely to embrace them. If this finding is broadly correct, then the media’s new found willingness to fact-check McCain will only succeed in rallying the GOP base to his side.

The pattern here is perfectly clear. McCain has contempt for anybody who stands between him and the presidency. McCain views himself as the ultimate patriot. He loves his country so much that he cannot let it fall into the hands of an unworthy rival. (They all turn out to be unworthy.) Viewed in this way, doing whatever it takes to win is not an act of selfishness but an act of patriotism. McCain tells lies every day and authorizes lying on his behalf, and he probably knows it. But I would guess–and, again, guessing is all we can do–that in his mind he is acting honorably. As he might put it, there is a bigger truth out there.

Main point: Conservatives who are told a lie, then told the truth, believe the lie more after they were told the truth! This means, people, that no matter how many times Barack says (with a hint of condescension), “Now, John, you know that’s just not true,” it won’t make a smidgen of difference. Even if Obama presents a coherent, thought-out, truthful rebuttal to McCain’s lies (“He wants to tax the American people,” “He was wrong on the surge,” “He doesn’t put country first,” “Palin has more experience.”), it will not make a difference in the belief conservatives have in McCain words. It truly is a sad commentary.

I must, however, point out that most of these conservatives are evangelical christians and believe the bible is fact, the Earth is 6,000 years old, all life came from the animals Noah could round up, Jesus rose from the dead and you have to believe in him – with no evidence – or their benevolent, all-loving god will send you down to the hellfires for eternity. Critical thinking isn’t their best attribute, to say the least.

I’m not sure how many of these conservatives will be watching Friday night, but seeing as how the main convention speeches drew around 40 million viewers, I’m thinking a lot will be tuned in. These people, however, would be in the bag for the Republican candidate even it was Elmo. I know, I know – there are loads of Dems who would vote for the Cookie Monster if he said he’d end the Iraq War. I get it.

While the debates will be a vital deciding factor in the outcome of the election, I think it will be harder to decide the victor. Palin has already won the VP’s go-round on Oct. 2. The bar is so low for her (perhaps the Devil is holding it up) and there are no rebuttal periods, which means than unless her boob pops out or she says, “I’m changing my mind and voting for Barack Obama,” she’s won. Actually, she’ll probably win big time if her boob pops out. Good luck, Joe B – try to chant, “I am not a political god. I am not a political god,” before heading on stage. That will probably help impede your gaffe-propensity.

What we can conclude here is that the arguments, facts, issues, policies, etc. presented during the debate will not determine the victor. The viewship will. The more informed and analytical the viewership, the more likely Obama will win. The opposite is true for McCain. I plan on watching.




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