Ned Pepper's Outrages

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Senator (for now) Bob Bennett of Utah has opined that Republicans are bereft of ideas but rely on plenty of slogans.
Now, Sen. Bennett is extremely conservative, but apparently not conservative enough for the Republicans of Utah, and they dumped him in the recently concluded Repub primary. However, we digress.
Sen. Bennett is viewed by many of the media talking heads as the voice of reason among extreme conservatives, and Ned is willing to concede that high accolade, but wonders, as per Barney Frank, "On what planet, Senator, do you spend most of your time?"
For if there is one thing that most Republicans have, it bloody well IS ideas. And what are those ideas? Led Ned enumerate some.

They are rabidly anti-science, denying the fact of human-induced climate change, and the fact of organic evolution. (Note that evolution does not preclude the existence of a higher power).
They are rabidly pro-gun, supporting an unrestricted "right" to keep as many guns and as much ammo as one can. Apparently they never met a school massacre they didn't like.
They are rabidly anti-abortion, but when it comes to taking care of that life after birth, they couldn't care less.
They are rabidly pro-military, and support assassination campaigns and torture. Their motto could easily be "a dead raghead is a good raghead."
They are opposed to any kind of tax increase, except indirectly on the poorest and most vulnerable, and support slashing taxes for the rich and super rich, a policy that disgusts even many of the super-rich.
They oppose inheritance taxes.
They oppose environmental legislation and support in general the elimination of the EPA.
They slavishly adore big business. In this, however, they are only slightly ahead of most Democrats, Ned regrets to say.
They are anti-social security. They've always hated it ever since Roosevelt rammed it through.
They oppose health care for all Americans.
They have managed to be all over the map on immigration: some support it, some support "amnesty", some oppose it, but all but the most marginalized support unceasing floods of immigrants.
They are generally pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian.
They support military intervention in any state peopled with persons of color, as long as their own children do not have to do any fighting.
In almost all things they exhibit a degree of sanctimonious hypocrisy that would literally gag the proverbial maggot.
(Now, Democrats often exhibit a degree of sanctimonious hypocrisy, let it be said, especially about our "brave" troops, immigration and Israel. Ned didn't just fall off the back of a turnip truck.)
They oppose "big government" unless it benefits their constituents. The farm-state folks and the "rugged individualists" in the West are the best examples.
Ned could go on, but his brain and arms are getting tired. Moreover, he is getting thirsty.
His readers are free to add as many items to this list as they feel inclined to do so.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


A loyal reader has taken Ned gently to task for exhibiting an apparent antipathy towards people of faith. Now, Ned does not consider himself a person who adheres to any particular cult or belief system, but he is not so arrogant as to deny the existence of a higher power. That said, Ned would like to offer his apologies if his sentiments describing Christians seemed too heavy handed or unfair.
Ned believes one of the greatest advances humans have ever reached was the promulgation of the teachings of Jesus.
And one of the greatest tragedies of humanity has been the abject failure of most of those calling themselves Christians to even attempt to live up to those teachings.
Think of those who, professing to be Christians, deny equal rights to all of their fellows.
Think of those calling themselves Christians who support murderous wars carried out by mercenaries in the pay of this country mainly against persons of color.
Think of those who, amassing filthy lucre like the Dragon of the Nibelung, justify their own colossal greed and selfishness by appealing to Christianity, saying, as one of the Wall Street plutocrats, that they were "doing God's work."
Think of those who support the wanton destruction of the planet in pursuit of material excess, smugly justifying it either as James Watt, Reagan's notorious Secretary of the Interior, who said it didn't matter what happened to the environment since Jesus was coming soon and he would fix it, or as those who say that since the Old Testament gave "man" "Dominion" over the Earth, that we can do damn well what we please to it.
Think of those who support ignorance when it comes to science, but expect "scientists" to provide them with the latest video game so they can idle away their increasingly meaningless existence.
And think of those who treat their bodies, the "temple of the spirit", with contempt, becoming morbidly obese and expecting "society" to provide them with as many drugs as necessary to "cure" their addition to sloth and gluttony.
No, friends, Ned can think of no higher philosophy than the teachings of jesus. He wishes there were more followers of these teachings than there are 'Christianist' opportunists, prostituting those sacred teachings for their own gain.

Monday, June 28, 2010


Ned had not been feeling particularly outraged today, until Mrs Ned reported on her recent solo visit to her rather dysfunctional family over the weekend. Mrs Ned's family are, as are many proud Americans, devout "Christianists", which means they attend cult functions regularly but eschew any attempt to live a life that Jesus himself advocated.
What distressed Mrs Ned was the extent to which these proud citizens were scamming the system. That is, squeezing benefits from the state and local government in a manner similar to an intestinal parasite, taking nutriment but ensuring that the host is not killed in the process. Some of Mrs Ned's family are "veterans," which apparently entitles them to all sorts of benefits and preferences, although none of them actually saw combat of any kind. Now they qualify for all sorts of money, health care, and educational benefits while the average citizen is finding it hard to afford tuition at state run universities. Other members of her family are on "disability" which apparently involves convincing a government paper pusher that one's health is impaired by one of a myriad of so-called "diseases." Then, as long as one doesn't earn too much money above the table, one continues to draw benefits for life. What distresses Mrs Ned is the fact that these "disabled" persons exhibit every other indication of being healthy enough to carry on a perfectly normal (by American standards) lifestyle.
Another thing that Mrs Ned found objectionable was that one of her morbidly obese siblings apparently recently had a face lift, on government benefit, and was counseled what to write on the form to make the face lift seem medically necessary.
Now of course, these are the same folks who believe that government should "tighten its belt", cut taxes, and foster a culture of individual responsibility.
For everyone else, that is.
And it goes without saying that they are Republicans and, as Ned mentioned, Christianists.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

They're all above average

Faithful readers recall Ned's penchant for the Henrys. Today, Ned would like to take as his text (since it is a Sunday) a quote from henry IV, Part One, perhaps the best of all. For plot, comedy, character, melodramatic effect, there's none to compare.
Henry is berating Prince Hal for being too much in the common eye, and likens Hal to Richard II. He says,
Had I so lavish of my presence been,
So common-hackneyed in the eyes of men,
So stale and cheap to vulgar company,
Opinion, that did help me to the crown,
Had still kept loyal to possession
And left me in reputeless banishment,
A fellow of no mark nor likelihood.
By being seldom seen, I could not stir
But, like a comet, I was wond'red at;
That men would tell their children, 'This is he!'

What we have in this country is a surfeit of narcissistic exceptionalism: everybody is a star. Everyone deserves their few minutes of fame? Why? Because we, being Americans, are "special." Everyone is to be wondered at. A corollary: everyone who "tries" should get a prize. But by setting the bar so low, we prostitute renown, and corrupt accomplishment.
Today's NYT features an article on the proliferation of valedictorians at the nation's "elite" (read, well-budgeted) mainly suburban (meaning mainly white) high schools. Some high schools graduate as many as 30 "valedictorians." Now, a valedictorian is supposed to the the ONE person with the highest grades in her or his graduating class. But due to the dumbing-down of the nation's educational experience, we now have too many "top students" to be able to choose the single best. Thus, everyone's a star.
This at a time when 30% of high schoolers never graduate at all.
How did we get here? Grade inflation has been a factor of American educational life for at least three decades. Research has shown that the average college GPA has increased by about 0.1 point per decade since the late '60s. Ned is no sociologist so wouldn't venture to suggest a reason. But it does direly suggest why mental illness and antisocial behavior are on the rise. Children who are told their entire lives that they are "special" and "unique" and who are given prizes for showing up and "trying" will have a hard time acclimatizing themselves to a job market where everyone isn't number one.
One of the comments made by a "valedictorian" perhaps encapsulates the problem. The student says, "..It is a testament to how hard we've tried."
In Ned's former life as a hated college professor, he had many students tell him, after receiving a grievous grade on a paper of test, how "hard they tried" or how many "hours they studied" only to be "given" a poor grade.
Ned admonishes todays students, administrators and educators to emulate Yoda: "Do or do not. There is no try."

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Devotees of Shakespeare will remember the star-crossed lovers in Romeo and Juliet. Juliet, in frustration with the fact that her lover Romeo is a member of the family with which her family has a long and deadly feud, asks "What's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
This quote inspired Ned to do a post on nicknames, and has a modest quiz for his loyal readers.
NAME: John
NAME: Robert
NAME Henry
NAME: Margaret
NAME: Plyush
The answers are as follows JOHN: Jack; ROBERT: Bob; HENRY: Hal or Hank; MARGARET: Peg or Peggy; PLYUSH: why, Bobby of course!
If his readers wonder how in the world someone named Plyush could be nicknamed Bobby, Ned reminds them that this is America!
Besides, anyone born with the name Plyush Amrit, who would like to run for office in redneck Louisiana had better do better than Plyush. So, early on, Ned suspects, Plyush had his friends start to call him, "Bobby." Not, "Ply" or "Ushie" or even "Shoofly", or that old souther standby, "Skeeter."
This is, in fact, our old friend, the Governor of Luisiana, Plyush Amrit "Bobby" Jindal.
Earlier Ned did a post on the governor linking to a NYT article calling into question the governor's inactions and missteps during the Gulf spill crisis, while he kept up a non-stop criticism of BP, the Coast Guard, and the Obama administration. And refused to call out more than a token number of the national Guardsmen authorized by the President.
Ned's readers know that Ned has been harshly critical of the President, for whom he voted by the way, but Ned would allow that a person named Barack could get away with nicknaming himself "Barry."
But Plyush? To Ned it smacks of cynical opportunism, but then Ned has always been a suspicious bastard. Chalk it up to that.


You may recall in an earlier post, Ned pointed out that "Bobby" Jindal, Governor of Louisiana, had been refusing to exercise his responsibility to do everything he could to spare his state from oil damage, preferring to let damages pile up on BP and the Obama administration. Now there's more on this subject, and Ned's suspicions have been confirmed by CBS News and the NYT. For a summary, see
Readers may recall Jindal, who named himself Bobby to ingratiate himself with redneck voters in Louisiana, gave a "response" to an Obama speech, and did an ineffectual, deer-in-the-headlights mess of it. That seemed to finish his aspirations for national office, but it seems the accident has given him a second wind.
More on this story as it develops.

Friday, June 25, 2010


Today, Ned's going to tackle the third rail of American politics: immigration.
He recalls more than twenty years ago being surprised, during a routine check of faculty at Departments of Geography around the country, at how many persons of Indian descent were occupying faculty positions. He fleetingly wondered how many American geographers were looking for work as a result of these department hiring foreigners.
Then he had the opportunity to do a year overseas at a university in Britain and remarked how few Americans there were on the faculty. He was told that EU rules required that precedence be given to citizens of EU countries, so Ned felt very fortunate to be able to spend the year there. Now, Ned wasn't flattered to think that he was the most qualified candidate in the world for that position, even though that was essentially what the university had to certify to get Ned hired. No, Ned got the position because of a faculty contact, who was able to pull strings and get Ned the position, However, when Ned re-applied, he was told that the EU had tightened "up" requirements and they had to offer the job to an EU resident. So Ned was exiled back to the States.
In this country, however, it seems that departments like to have foreigners on their faculty, which all in all strikes Ned as a good policy, except for the Americans who lose their jobs as a result.
Now this is just one tiny facet of the immigration story. To most, the problem with immigration seems to be illegal immigration, and that apparently was what the controversial new Arizona law was designed to address. It seems that most Americans support Arizona's law. In fact, poll after poll seems to suggest Americans want a clampdown on both illegal AND legal immigration. But Ned is skeptical of polls as an earlier post describes.
So what to do about immigration?
Some on the left seem to support unlimited immigration to make up for crimes committed by former US administrations, in places like El Salvador and Nicaragua, not to mention Vietnam. Ned is sympathetic to this position, but feels a better way to do this would be to offer reparations to the affected countries. Bringing foreigners to this country often induces them to a culture shock akin to being struck by lightning. Recall the plight of the Hmong, for example, a group of tribespeople induced to aid the CIA during the Vietnam war. After we lost, we opted to bring many of the Hmomg out, too. The only problem was these folks didn't have a written language and their social norms were wildly different from those in Western countries. Now, Hmong communities in the US are beset by gangs, as the young try to cope with a toxic, alien culture. Moreover, the Hmong apparently believe in having many children, which puts heavy burdens on affected local governments.
Some on the right seem to support immigration to provide an unending supply of desperate labor, perhaps hoping to destroy what is left of the labor movement in this country in the process. Others say they support bringing the "best minds" to America. How this can be expected to improve conditions in the home countries is problematic, but this doesn't seem to worry them.
Countries like India suffer from a lack of medical care even as Indian doctors flood into the US.
Ned supports immigration up to the level at which American citizens leave this country, which is about 200,000 a year. And he doesn't care what their race, ethnicity, sexual preference or age is, as long as they can contribute materially to the well-being of people in this country.
As to those here illegally? Ned wonders what part of "illegal" is hard to understand. One major stumbling block to fixing the problem is the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution, which basically guarantees citizenship to anyone born under the "jurisdiction" of the US. Well meaning in its concept, it has become a powerful magnet to persons coming here illegally, to have children that will then be US citizens and will qualify for all sorts of benefits, even as Americans and legal immigrants exhaust their unemployment benefits and frequent soup kitchens.
We need to repeal or modify this Amendment to start to fix immigration.


Maybe BP can be made to pay for this, too.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


There's a character in an obscure 17th century play called Ignoramus--an ignorant lawyer. The character has give its name to a class of persons defined as totally or completely ignorant. A news item yesterday made Ned wonder why ignoramuses routinely reach such high levels in a society that seems to pride itself on being a "meritocracy." A few examples: George Bush somehow managed to graduate from Yale, if memory serves Ned correctly, with a "C" average. Now, elite schools like Yale and Harvard rarely award anything but A's, reasoning, Ned assumes (if you can call it reasoning) that anyone good enough to be admitted must be a genius. So Bush's C average was equivalent to a D or F at a typical state school, Ned opines. But this ignoramus ended up as President of the United States, not once but twice, to disastrous consequences as any objective observer would agree. What about his opponent? Gore was a thoughtful intellectual, eminently qualified to be president (and in fact elected in 2000) but was stigmatized and demonized by both his opponent and the "mainstream media" as a lying elitist.
Fast forward to 2008: John McCain graduated at the bottom of his class at the Naval Academy. Some argued that he had been granted admission based on his father being an admiral, but let that pass. And, based solely on his selelction of Palin as his "running mate" he lacked the judgment or statesmanship to be president. Some have argued that political parties have the knack of nominating the only candidates who could lose to his/her opponent. John Kerry comes to mind. But, again, Kerry was a thoughtful statesmanlike man, who had the misfortune to have a very rich wife. Unfortunately, he was demonizable, ironically due to his war service. Being photographed wind surfing in a preposterous body suit didn't help.
Palin obviously lacked any of the the characteristics necessary to be president. That's not only his opinion, Ned argues, but was the opinion of many horrified Republicans at the time. The breathtaking cynicism and opportunism shown by McCain in picking her should immediately have disqualified him, be he got 43% of the vote.
Bill Clinton was a Rhodes Scholar but had feet of clay. A man with great potential but who was demonized from the beginning by Republicans who felt he didn't deserve to have been elected in 1992.
Now we come to General McChrystal, who, if reports are to be believed, had a record number of demerits while at West Point (has Ned got the academy right?) and has had run-ins with authority and the chain of command his whole career. How did he get to be a high-ranking officer, and where are the officers who graduated near the top of their classes?
This country has the self-destructive habit of rewarding incompetence and ignorance, and demonizing reason and intellectual ability.
"The fault lies not in our stars, but in ourselves."

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Ned believes strongly that oats are a wonder food. Oats are loaded with fiber, much of it soluble. They contain lots of protein as well. Quick oats are easy and can be used in lots of recipes. Bur Ned cautions everyone to avoid processed foods making health claims because they may have some oats in them. Cereals, for example, with their added vitamins, sugar and salt should be avoided. In fact, Ned counsels everyone to avoid any cereals in boxes. Eat oats in stews--they make a great thickening agent in lamb stews, for example. They are also marvelous in salmon patties. Use 1 can wild caught salmon, add 1/4 cup oats, some finely chopped onion and one egg. Mix well, and cook as an omelet. Great and great for you.
Ned also recommends oatmeal cookies, but not the crap that you buy in packages. Make your own: it's almost ridiculously easy, and if you use cocoanut butter it's healthy and easy to prepare. Use butter if you wish: it's just harder to mix.
Here's an easy recipe: 2 cups quick oats, 1/2 cup cocoanut butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar or blackstrap molasses, 1/2 cup ww or spelt flour, 1/2 cup currants, 1 tsp vanilla and 1 tsp cinnamon. Add 1/2 tsp baking powder. Mix well. Then add 1 egg. All this should be organic of course if you can get it. Use a large tablespoon to drop lumps of dough onto a baking dish. You should be able to get about a dozen cookies. Bake at 360 for 10 minutes, then turn the oven off and leave in for another ten minutes. Remove immediately. If they are too crunchy for you, reduce cooking time a bit.
You will love them.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The entire quote, BP and Obama

Here's the entire reference to Henry V I made in the last post. In it, I said he (Obama) would rue the day he demonized BP, for the impact would be severe on this country. Here is the quote:

And tell the pleasant Prince this mock of his
Hath turned his balls to gunstones, and his soul
Shall stand sore charg├Ęd for the wasteful vengeance
That shall fly from them—for many a thousand widows
Shall this his mock mock out of their dear husbands,
Mock mothers from their sons, mock castles down;
. . .
But this lies all within the will of God,
To whom I do appeal,
So go in peace. Fare you well and tell the pleasant Prince, his jest will savour but a shallow wit,
when thousands weep
More than do laugh at it.

Ned's Food and Fitness Guide- An occasional submission

I have lost nearly 15 pounds over the past 6 months by going to the gym to work off my growing outrage at the disappointments in the Obama administration and the bad weather in Oregon. I have found the elliptical machine to have been the most effective for me. I am now working on weights, and I figure in another 6 months I will no longer be ashamed to venture out uncovered. But exercise is one thing: eating another, and they are both essential to good health. I am taking no prescription medication and hope to keep it that way.

Ned's first rule of eating is to free one's mind from likes and dislikes, because these are mainly created by industrial food manufacturers. Eat what likes you, and don't worry so much about what you like.
Cut down on salt. The average American consumes two to three times the optimum sodium intake, mainly from processed foods.
Cut down on meat, especially industrially grown meat. This stuff contains additives that are not good for you, are bad for the environment and bad for the animals. I avoid all beef and pork, whether industrial or organic.
Max "out" on vegetables, and try to get organic when possible. Stop worrying about price, since you spend very little on fresh food anyway.
Cut back on fruit juices. They may contain nutrients, but they have so much concentrated sugar that they can mess you up. f you must drink fruit juice, make it organic and cut it 1:1 with water.
Drink vegetable juice. It's the elixir of life, but go for the low-sodium kind.
Eat lots of fruit, but be careful of eating industrially-grown fruit like apples, strawberries, and peaches, as they are dosed with pesticides. Avoid industrial bananas since they too are dosed with pesticides. Get organic ones and don't worry about the extra ten cents. If most people saw a nickel on the street they wouldn't bend over and pick it up.
Avoid processed grains! Make your own bread. It's easy if you get a bread machine from your local Goodwill or equivalent.
If you must eat pizza, buy pre-made crust from a local whole foods store or co-op, the kind you roll out and bake at home, and make it yourself. Read labels and avoid processed flour and salt.
READ LABELS. This is a key recommendation.
Here are some of my recommended foods in no particular order. I will post recipes if demand warrants it later.
Strawberries (organic only)
Apples (organic if possible)
Bananas (organic only)
Coleslaw--buy if with dressing from a local deli and cut it with equal parts packaged coleslaw like Dole's.
If you eat meat: buffalo, venison (eat the damn things up and get rid of them!), lamb, a little chicken is OK now and then.
Sheep's milk and goat's milk cheeses. Watch the salt!
Kefir and plain yoghurt, organic if at all possible!
Butter, organic or at least no BGH!
Olive oil.
Eggs if from happy hens --eggs are wonderful food
Fish--I like wild-caught salmon and don't be afraid to buy it canned from Alaska (look for the cans with no added salt), and mackerel. Calamari is good too but almost impossible to cook so I get it when I go out. Very sustainable. Squid breed and die.
I eat a little shrimp but it isn't very sustainable so go very light.
Asparagus in season
Kale and chard are great and great for you.
Tomatoes are a wonder food but get organic if you can.
Nuts and seeds are great for you but only in moderation because of the calories. I like brazil nuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds ( a wonder food) and sunflower seeds. Walnuts too.
More later.

The New Republican Party

I can't resist this: what is it about South Carolina?

Just about the time one suspects the Dems may be unfit for office the Republicans show why they are deserving of the contempt the thinking public has shown towards them. A totally discredited Southern rump, representing mainly racists, rich corporate interests, and "rugged Western individualists" most of whom are on some government handout. And Sanford is their poster boy. Their poster girl? Sarah Palin.

The Dauphin's jest

Ned can maintain a level of outrage only for so long. Therefore today only one post will deal with a mostly regretful retrospective on Obama's handling of the GOM crisis. The other will be on health matters.
Ned admits to an affection for the Henrys: Henry IV, parts 1 and 2; Henry V, and yes, even that stepchild, Henry VI, in three parts. But today he would like to quote from Henry V. The Dauphin of France, in a contemptuous gesture, has sent King Henry a 'gift' of tennis balls in answer to Henry's claim to the throne of France. Henry goes into a carefully-controlled but furious tirade, and he closes it this way: 'Get you hence in peace, and tell the Dauphin, his jest will savour but of shallow wit, when thousands weep more than did laugh at it.'
I'm afraid that's gong to the the long-term impact of Obama's demonization of BP. Here's the latest: Bloomberg news is reporting a bit of rather old news, that state pension plans have so far taken a $1.4 billion bath from the falling price of BP stock. But this is just a part of the story. BP was paying 84 cents a share quarterly until Obama browbeat the company into canceling it for 2010. How much will that cost pension plans in addition to the $1.4 billion? A $1.4 billion loss implies that state pension plans in total owned about 50 million shares of BP, since the shares are down about $30. (Do the math.)
Let's assume the plans had 50 million shares. How much is the loss of dividends going to cost them? About $40 million a quarter. For the year, a cool $120 million. Now, to those who are piously scorning these pension plan members, saying they should have "done due diligence" and nonsense like that, I say most members really don't know the holdings of their plans, and couldn't do anything about it if they could. BTW, the same thing is true for individuals, since voting in corporate business is "one share, one vote." But let that pass.
What I'm saying is that if BP had been allowed to continue paying those dividends, hundreds of thousands of state employees, who did nothing wrong, would have pension plans that are markedly healthier than today. And BP could have continued to pay for damages in the GOM. But for short-term political gain, Obama chose to demonize BP, materially contributing to its stock price crash.
"His jest will savour but of shallow wit, when thousands weep, more than did laugh at it."

Monday, June 21, 2010

Polls: Who gives a f**k?

Today's NYT has a story about the latest "poll", asking a cross-section of the great unwashed what they "think" about some issue. Find it at
It seems that a large majority of our friends and neighbors don't think that BP will be able to stop the subsea gusher in the GOM within the next month. A fifth of respondents think they will.
Based, exactly, on what?
Most people lack the expertise to assess the likelihood of success of any activity involving offshore oil drilling--hell, even petroleum geologists and engineers sometimes scratch their heads.
People think that OTOH BP will make everything right. And OTOH they don't trust BP to tell them the truth.
They trust Obama to handle the situation except when they don't. The residents of the Gulf expect BP to make everything right and expect the Gulf to completely recover. This cannot be based on news coverage of the spill, which has ben "all catastrophe, all the time." That plume? A "killer plume, headed for the Keys." Except it wasn't.
The plume? "A subsea lake of oil." Except it wasn't. The oil concentration was about one tablespoon in a swimming pool.
Those Gulf beaches? "Awash in oil." Except they weren't.
The life in the Gulf? "May never recover!" Except it will, according to 8 in 10 respondents.
Polls on anything remotely related to science are used in this country in a shamelessly inappropriate manner to ask people things they have no expertise to have a judgment on, except when they ask them something of such breathless banality that it would make anyone with an IQ over room temperature want to get into a warm bath and open a vein. Think of all the preposterous nonsense about teaching evolution for starters.
So the next time you read the responses to some new poll, ask yourself "who gives a f**k?"

The Fault Lies Not in Our Stars

Here's the deal. The reason we are drilling in dangerous places like the deep water GOM is because oil is above $60 a barrel. Actually now it's close to $80 and probably headed to $100. Drilling in deep water is very expensive, and if the price of oil were, say, $40 a barrel, it wouldn't be worth it. Why is the price of oil above $60? Global demand is above 80 million barrels a day but the U.S., with 5% of the world's population uses a quarter of that. If our oil consumption per capita were like that of the EU, world demand would be about ten million barrels a day lower. This would mean the world price would probably be lower than $40 so nobody would be drilling in the GOM. For example, it costs about $12 to get oil out of Prudhoe Bay in Alaska and a few bucks a barrel to ship it to refineries in Washington and California. It costs about $4 to get a barrel out of the supergiant Saudi fields but they can't really ramp up production that much.
So the next time you get in your SUV to drive to the convenience store a mile away to get a six pack, a pack of weeds or a gallon of milk, think about your own culpability in the disaster in the Gulf. As Hamlet said, "the fault, Horatio, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves."

Holding Corporations Responsible

Well, some critics of BP have come down pretty hard on us "small people" who have the misfortune to own some BP shares, and who apparently are going to pay the lion's share of remediation costs through foregone dividends. Just a few stats: 40% of BP shareholders are Americans and most are small holders, with fewer than 1000 shares. Many if not most are retired.
This is in no way trying to pose us as victims. Many of the commenters on sites devoted to the BP story have little patience for us. For some reason, they think we are, or should have been, able to correct the behavior of the BP board. Here's a little bit of info from planet Earth to all those who think this: when shareholders vote on company business, it's not one shareholder one vote. It's one SHARE one vote. So the institutional manager who oversees his million shares casts a million votes, and they almost always vote in lockstep with the company. The directors of the company usually have hundreds of thousands of shares. Do you think they vote against the company?
For me, I always vote for the proposals of the rabblerousers and reformers. The Wall Street folks will tell you that any reform vote that gets 40% approval is amazing. Of course it fails, but in the corporate world, the deck is stacked against the small guy, just like that roulette wheel in Casablanca. So, those of you who feel you won't get any social security when you retire, think about what your options are in this society run by politicians for plutocrats. If you don;t invest in the market, you can put your money in CDs or money market funds and get 1%, You will also pay taxes at the income tax rate on interest income. Or you can buy gold. Or muni bonds, paying 2%. Try to retire o investments paying 1-2% a year.
I'm not asking for your support--I couldn't care less-- or your empathy, only that you understand the facts before you express an opinion. Apparently those who are attacking BP believe people should have absolute responsibility for their own actions and for their own life. What a great idea!
Why not put it into practice everywhere and elect Republicans?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

So Many Outrages, So Little Time, etc

This post is about disability. If the government is going to take Ned's BP dividends to pay motel owners in the Gulf, he wants to talk about people on disability. Now, maybe there are lots of people who deserve disability payments, which are basically payments in lieu of work. Blind people (that is, people who cannot see at all) deserve disability payments. People without arms and legs deserve disability payments. But if you are going to extort Ned's BP dividends to free up money to pay someone disability, he want to make damn sure they deserve it. And he suspect many on disability do not, and are in fact scamming the system. Here are some numbers:
There are about 18 million people drawing disability payments, which are basically for life, from the Social Security System. And lots more from local police and fire departments. The average payments on SS are $14,000 a year. Not enough to live on, but a nice subsidy if you have some other scams going on, or some under the table part time work. Ned suspects millions of those on disability are scamming the system. And remember, about 2.5 million people apply for disability each year. Most of them are denied the first time, but they keep trying, and why not? It's free money.
But it's just more hypocrisy from the bankrupt American entitlement system. So many people cry about taxes and government waste, and then cash their disability check each month. Ned'll bet everyone who reads this blog knows somebody on disability, who seems able bodied in every other respect. One of his wife's relatives is on disability, and routinely takes long trips in his RV, loading it with heavy boxes and driving thousands of miles. He also has health care from several different sources, but expressed concern that the country "couldn't afford" universal heath care. And it should go without saying that this guy is a fundamentalist Christian!
So, if you are going to take Ned's BP dividend, Mr President, check all those people who are scamming the system by claiming disability, will ya? And get back to us on that.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

So Many Outrages, So Little Time

The Gulf blowout seems to have brought out the worst in everybody except, of all people, BP and Haley Barbour, the self-proclaimed "fat redneck" governor of Mississippi, and long time Republican operative. Barbour was gracious with the President and patient with BP.
President Obama, on the other hand, was petulant insulting and unpresidential. And when Joe Barton apologized to Tony Hayward for the "shakedown" BP had just undergone at the hands of Obama and his Attorney General, I found myself agreeing with Joe for the first time in my life. After all, BP had accepted responsibility from the first and had agreed to waive the $75 million legal cap on liability. They had set out to compensate residents for financial losses. At first, as I understand it, they were asking those who claimed financial loss to document that loss with tax records. What a novel idea! Document a claim! That apparently didn't sit well with claimants.
Then of all things, Hayward actually said the 'top kill' method to stop the oil flow had a "60 to 70% chance" of success. I groaned inwardly at such foolishness, and sure enough, it didn't work.
That basically set the stage for what was to follow: a series of misstatements and cock-ups in which they were aided and abetted by the feds. And Jindal, governor of Louisiana, covered himself with slime when he according to press reports vehemently opposed a federal disaster declaration which would have made aid instantly available to the Gulf, because he wanted BP to have to pay every cent. Or did he just not want Obama to get any credit? Who knows.
But the outrage to me was the conduct of the press towards the spill, hysterically exaggerating every impact, and hysterically predicting one imminent disaster after another to Florida and the Atlantic. Filling newspaper columns with dreadful reports of poisonous "oil plumes" deep underwater bringing death and destruction, even though oil concentration was at most 500 parts per billion. And never once did they give a background value for the Gulf, with its hundreds of natural oil seeps.
Obama demonizing BP didn't help matters. It's not as though they were a tobacco company, killing 5 million people a year while paying up to $10 billion in dividends annually. So who ispaying for the disaster? So far, BP shareholders, many of whom are retired, middle-class Americans and American and British pension plans.
But if BP goes belly-up, Obama and his minions will rue the day they set out to destroy what was left of the company's reputation.
So much outrage. So little time.