Saturday, October 29, 2005

The same old face of terrorism

From CNN:

Click to view full-size image

Now imagine if India took an approach to terrorism similar to that of the U.S.: i.e. "making Kashmir safe for democracy." I wonder what the results of that would be. Of course, the situation isn't exactly analogous because Kashmir actually is a security threat to India, unlike the previous relationship between Iraq and the United States.

So make of it what you will. The basic point is that when you see incidents like this and the continuation of problems in Israel and Palestine over four years after the event that "changed everything," it makes you wonder why we're not actually doing what we can to solve problems rather than create more of them.

My meeting with General Clark

General Wesley Clark was in Los Angeles today for a WesPAC fundraiser at a private residence in Cheviot Hills. The event was supposed to start at 7:00, but Michael Webber of SoCalGrassroots prevailed on the General to meet with some bloggers as a preamble. So there we were, in a private room at a roundtable with the general. The bloggers in question included myself, John Amato of Crooks and Liars, Mark Kleiman, MS_in_LA of Who's Counting, and Steve and Pam of SteveAudio. So essentially, seven bloggers, together with Wesley Clark and his wife Gert, all just having a conversation. Arianna Huffington was supposed to show up, but she had other obligations. Quite a forum, and a singular occurrence. I should be getting a picture soon from WesPAC--when I see it there I'll post it here.

We were only supposed to meet for 15 minutes, but the General gave us twice that amount of time, sharing stories about his encounters with Pat Robertson and talking about his ideas for foreign policy and his critiques of the administration, and what type of talk and mentality appeals to voters. One of the especially memorable exchanges on this topic was on the topic of torture. Mark pointed out that while we all know that torture isn't okay, there's a broad swath of America that doesn't think that. But I took that a step further and said to the General that we have to fight battles on the blogs every day with people who think that torturing prisoners actually makes us safer, and don't realize that it doesn't actually produce any more actionable intelligence--and we don't have any credible military personnel pointing that out.

I think that the General would have kept on talking to us for hours, but we finally had to break it off so he could address the rest of the donors at the fundraiser. And what a public speaker he is. He advocated that the Democrats change the public perception of their party to be the one that represents the common good, faith, values and service and patriotism. He also pleaded that each one of us needs to put the good of the nation ahead of our individual pet causes--a message that many people need to hear. If you haven't gotten a chance to hear the General speak, you're really missing a treat. He's warm and charismatic, but clear and powerful when he needs to be--a fantastic public speaker who can captivate and hold your attention.

As a side note, I got to meet a couple of other congressional candidates seeking election in 2006: Mary Pallant, who is seeking to unseat Elton Gallegly in CA-24, and Russ Warner, who is doing the unthinkable by challenging David Dreier in CA-26. Mary is a very fun and engaging lady--we had a little football rivalry going on, since she's USC and I'm UCLA. Russ is very friendly as well--he brought his son with him, who just got done serving a tour of duty in Baghdad. It was very intriguing to speak with him because it was the first time I had actually spoken face-to-face with someone who had served in Iraq. I asked him to describe his experience if he could, and he only had one word for me: "chaos."

When I get some pictures from the event I'll post them. This was a very fun day, and solidified my initial primary support for the General--presuming he runs in 2008. But first, we have 2006 to attend to.

Friday, October 28, 2005

My Prius.

I just got my Prius in a couple of days ago. Why don't more people have one? Given the $2,000 tax incentive, the low MSRP of the car, and the mpg benefits, isn't it a no-brainer?

Whatever. I guess Cadillac will keep rocking and rolling all the way to the collapse of the oil industry.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

There's plenty of oil. So what?

Rantissmo has a diary up on proclaiming that all the hullaballoo about running out of oil is utter nonsense--not citing any facts or figures from any sources, of course. More proof that Republican policy is entirely faith-based. Incidentally, this diary made the recommended list, which is why I bother with commenting on it here. Notice that I'm not questioning whether he's right, I'm merely pointing out that he doesn't cite anything as proof for his statements.

But the whole point is that the quantity of oil in the ground is only half the battle, even if we weren't running out of oil that can be inexpensively extracted (which the diarist concedes is a possibility). The whole point of the author--and of many of the comments attached to the diary--is the standard refrain that the free market as arranged by the laws of supply and demand will dictate oil prices. But guess what the author forgot to mention entirely? DEMAND.

The Department of Energy forecasts that oil consumption will grow by 1.9% annually through 2025, reaching an astounding 118 million barrels per day in 20 years. For the record, that's 5 billion gallons a day. Consistency in oil prices would only be obtained by an increase in supply commensurate with demand. While the Department of Energy estimates that OPEC and non-OPEC countries will be able to increase output to match demand at a rate that would keep average oil prices around $51 per barrel, the following paragraph from the IAGS condensation quoted above should provide some pause:

But the EIA, by its own admission, has no mechanism to conduct reliable, independent reserve data analysis. Like other agencies it relies on data provided by petroleum ministries of oil producing countries, which are often deliberately exaggerated, and on data provided by oil companies. As the recent Royal Dutch/Shell scandal showed, reserve data by major companies may be overstated. On March 18, the company slashed its reserve estimate by 21%.

So even if we assume that the EIA estimates about demand are correct, and that foreign governments and oil companies (in whose best interests it usually isn't to tell the whole truth) are entirely honest about the state of their reserves, production, and refining capacity, oil prices would still hover close a non-inflation-adjusted price that not too long ago was seen as a harbinger of bad news for the world economy. And this does not count political or meteorological upheavals, or even the possibility that OPEC countries are operating at close to peak extraction capacity. Nor does it include the possibility of collusion among large oil corporations to fix prices at something more favorable to the industry--because for these companies, no profit is too much profit.

So even broken down into the most basic issues of supply and demand, it's obvious that the volatile nature of the "free market of oil" will almost certainly not produce results that are inherently favorable to the consumer. But on top of that, there are two other undeniable factors:

1) There is such a thing as maximum production capacity, even with unlimited supply.
2) Assuming that the world economy continues to grow, there will be a time when demand significantly outstrips supply, even at maximum supply capacity.
3) Oil supply is definitely limited, and will become more expensive on average to extract as cheaper sources are exhausted.

So much for free-market economics--I haven't even gotten into the larger issues of adverse health effects of burning fossil fuels, or the damage from global warming, or any other such issue.

And the final question: why are these people going out of their way to defend the status quo when Exxon makes $10 billion in one quarter and the consumer gets squeezed at the pump? They're normal people too. Are they masochistic?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Andrea Mitchell: Blogger call for action

Following up on the blogger call to action put forth by VirginiaDem over at Daily Kos regarding Andrea Mitchell. It's time to start flexing our muscle and get it widely distributed over the "internets" that we won't stand for this type of lying--and the more places it appears on the internet, the better off we'll all be. It is completely unacceptable for a major news network to spread blatant, disproven falsehoods in an attempt to provide "balance"--just to have an excuse to have something negative to say about Joe Wilson, as if that makes exposing a CIA agent fair game just to "set the record straight." Nothing they won't stoop to.

Attention mainstream media: if you want to maintain your relevance, try telling the truth. Otherwise we'll be on you faster than you know it. You start it, we finish it.