Friday, September 30, 2011

How gas and Oil sucked the life out of the Economy: Occupy the CFTC

In all of the discussions I've heard, read, or had since the U.S. economic woes began, I am completely confused as to why Americans seem to just roll over and quietly deal with ridiculously expensive fuel costs and ignore the ramifications of these obscenely high gas prices.  I have rarely heard anyone discuss fuel and food costs and their role in our country's financial misery. Sure you do hear that the costs of both are higher and life is more difficult as a result, but there's a lot more to this story.
 I would suggest that the U.S. economic woes wouldn't be nearly as bad if not for the unnecessarily high prices in food and energy. I would suggest that fewer people would have lost their jobs, their homes, and their dignity if not for the artificially and unnecessarily inflated gas costs. 

Some quick research show the following numbers:

  The U.S. consumes  approximately 140 billion gallons of gasoline per year. At an average increase of $1.26 more per gallon over 2004 prices ($1.81 according to DOE). Over the 6 years from 2004 to 2010 that equals $1.058 Trillion dollars EXTRA spent on gasoline. Well this money had to be diverted from somewhere. This money was likely taken away from consumption of goods, away from clothing, away from electronics, away from automobile purchases, away from mortgage payments, away from education, etc. 
Can you imagine how many jobs are lost as a result of an extra 1 trillion dollars coming out of the economy to fuel your car?

Diesel fuel cost $2.55 in 2009 and increased to $3.68 (avg in 2011) increase of $1.13 per gallon with an annual a usage of 64.32 billion = $72.7 billion dollars out of the economy in 2011 alone. You think that might take the wind out of any recovery sail?
An estimated $72 BILLION DOLLARS in 2011
Can you imagine how many jobs are lost as a result of an extra 72 billion dollars coming out of the economy to fuel your car?

Home heating oil consumption is 7.2 billion gallons a year.The price jumped to over $4 a gallon in 2008 with an average price of $3.45 compared to 2.45 prior to oil run in the market or approx. $7 billion dollars taken out of the economy.
More than 7 BILLION DOLLARS in one year
Can you imagine how many jobs are lost as a result of an extra 7 billion dollars coming out of the economy to heat homes?

Jet fuel 2.77 to 3.44/gallon up from under $1/gallon 10 years ago 17.5 billion gallons per year weakened airline industry, weakened wages, fuel surcharges passed on to gen public... 34 billion over 10 years
 More than an 3.4 BILLION DOLLARS AVG. Per Year
Can you imagine how many jobs are lost as a result of an extra 3.4 billion dollars coming out of the economy to fuel jets?

I imagine that a huge number of jobs, many homes and significant amount dignity would not have been lost if not for the artificially inflated costs of energy that benefited Wall Street, Big Oil, and Oil transport and storage companies.
It's important to note that during this time Wall Street speculators, BIG bank, oil companies, oil storage and transport companies raked in insanely high profits. 
 It would seem that most of the benefit here would be going to oil companies. Yes some, but don't take your eye off of the Banks. Formerly classified as speculators, the biggest banks are now classified, through some stroke of classification voodoo, as hedgers, as if they are no different than oil companies in the eyes of the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).
A more thorough explanation can be found here. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont saw fit to share some illuminating documents regarding speculation in oil. Enjoy or vomit, whichever it moves you to do.

So while there are plenty of places to look for why our country is in such a financial mess, do not overlook the artificially inflated fuel costs and the TRILLION plus dollars diverted out of the economy and into the pockets of Big Oil and Big Banks.

Data was compiled from several sources including AAA, the Dept. of Energy, and Dept of Transportation.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

"Too Politically Correct"

I'm not a fan of the term politically correct or even the concept of political correctness as it relates to everyday use of language. Don't get me wrong, I do think people should play nice with each other and have consideration for the words we use, what they mean and how they impact others. That's just common courtesy. Isn't it?
Besides, Politically Correct or Incorrect is an odd way to describe it. Unless you're talking about politics, why is it even called "politically" correct? Don't we have enough politics in our daily conversation? It seems to me like we could do without throwing it into every conversation, couldn't we? I think the folks who started this whole movement need to take a vacation and relax. PUT DOWN THE COFFEE! 
Isn't it up to each individual to decide how they speak? I think it is the right of everyone to be able to say whatever they would like to say (as long as it is legal and doesn't endanger others). Everyone has the right to sound as dumb or rude as they would like. You have the right to be a buffoon. I don't think it's American to take that right away. Governing words, even in an informal matter is just too heavy.
According to the American Heritage Dictionary, Political Correctness is:
adj. Abbr. PC1. Of, relating to, or supporting broad social, political, and educational change, especially to redress historical injustices in matters such as race, class, gender, and sexual orientation.

The Collins English Dictionary defines it this way:
politically correct: demonstrating progressive ideals, esp by avoiding vocabulary that is considered offensive, discriminatory, or judgmental, esp concerning race and gender 

      I guess that explains the "Political" part. But, there are more than a couple of problems with this. First, who is it that decides what is politically correct and what isn't? How do these people achieve this standing in society to dictate what may be unacceptable and what isn't? And now, isn't everyone with a mouth, that can utter a noise, suddenly on guard. That sure is a rotten way to live.
Surely this arbitrary power given to people to decide what is "correct" to say and what is not, creates an angst and a social discomfort in people. Too many decent well-meaning people get caught unaware of the days "proper" way of saying things by the PC Police. Often what is "okay" to say today, may not be tomorrow. No one sends out a memo, there's no facebook post, no tweet, nothing. It might be okay if your mom called you like when she reminds you it's daylight savings time.
       It could go something like this, "Okay honey, don't forget to set your clocks back tonight, and you can no longer use the word's little people, Good Night."

       The concept of politically correct has occasionally gone way overboard to where it attempts to govern everything others say. Often people are vilified who sometimes misspeak out of ignorance. It becomes hard to just have conversations anymore in a time where we always seem ready to pounce on the slightest slip of the tongue to point out to everyone "AHA! You see he is a bigot!" or "See! he's a misogynist!" or "HA! see she hates short people!" Relax PC people, sometimes people are just dumb or don't know better! That doesn't always make them a bigot. Bigot equals ignorant, but ignorant doesn't always equal bigot. BREATHE!
  It's pretty easy to see how there can be a backlash. And with this backlash, you end up with the other problem with PC and that is the concept of "Too PC". I understand if you're a little confused.
"You're too PC" has become the defense these days for anyone who says something that actually is racially or otherwise inappropriate (for example) and gets called out on it. Rather than recognize the inappropriateness of their words, they say "You're just too PC".

"Come on dude, you're just way "Too PC", he didn't mean anything by it when he said towel head."

"Oh... I see, my bad." 

     Well, I don't need the concept of Political Correctness and PC police to know that this guy may be an idiot. In fact, I'm somewhat grateful he didn't censor himself. It's better if I know who these people are. So you see, the flip side problem with "PC" is that it had a baby, a really ugly, rude, obnoxious baby.
Meet "Too PC".
     "Too PC" now has become an all to commonly used weak defense for people who routinely say offensive and often racist things. It's like an offensive person's hall pass. Some in the "Too PC" crowd now have lost their bearings on what actually is inappropriate to say. It's simply a backlash, a reflex. These people are so fed up with "PC", they have just pulled the plug on their language, and previously understood offensive language is flowing freely again.     
      Now having said all that, opposition to you saying something offensive is allowed to exist, and frankly encouraged. The problem here is labeling. Labeling people as PC or Too PC is not wise. The more we label, the more we put people in a box, and unless you broke a law, or you're dead, or your name is David Blaine, you don't belong in a box, no one does.
      I think we have all heard grandma or grandpa or some other family member or family friend who grew up in a time gone by say something way too inappropriate or even offensive (no matter what your ethnicity, I don't care who you are). And our response was initially to cringe, but then move on. 
     "It's okay kids pop pop's been drinking again..." and you move on.
      PC or Too PC are just stupid labels people use so they can just write someone off. And writing people off over a statement or two is simply a bad idea.
     So I propose that we allow people to be people. Allow them to be offended and deal with being offended. Allow them to say dumb things and deal with the consequences of saying dumb things. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Interesting Times: The Worst Kind of Party

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Worst Kind of Party

      Parties are usually great. What's not to like? You get to hang out with your good friends. Some people even meet that special someone at a party. For many party goers, the possibility of meeting someone special, someone that can change everything for you, and make all the difference, is mighty powerful, even though conventional wisdom (and likely your mother) tells you this is just not the place to find thaperson. Even so, we enjoy the good food, good drink, fun activities and of course there's almost always cake. And who doesn't like cake?
At 42 years old, the parties I go to today are usually pretty low key, but still quite enjoyable. They usually involve dinner, some wine, and good conversation. Being married, sometimes I end up going to a party that I'd rather not go to, at the insistence of my sweet wife (who will be reading this). My move, to make such parties tolerable, typically involves making nice with other dudes who have that similar look of forced social interaction on their face, finding the TV, and watching ESPN. You almost always find another dude or two there watching something already and willing to talk about whatever sport is on. And of course ESPN has the power to make any "old guy" party experience okay.
In college, parties were entirely different. There was the loud music, the red plastic cup, too many guys and not enough women, and lots of cheap beer, many times bought with a fake ID. Sure, someone usually ended up drooling on your sofa or peeing in your closet, but hey, we were kids. By the way,  I went to Radford University, where it was rumored that the ratio of girls to guys was 3 to 1. I have to say, however, that some guy had to be walking around with 6, because I never ended up with even one much less three. Even so, the parties were mostly harmless fun. 

But as I think about all of the different kinds of parties, the worst parties of all have to be Political Parties. These parties just plain stink. I'll bet even their cake sucks, and it's pretty tough to screw up cake.
Even good old George Washington thought political parties would suck, as evidenced by the following quote:

"Political parties are just full of a bunch of pretentious, insincere self-serving jackwads and they make me wanna puke"- GW
Okay, I may have paraphrased a little, or just made that last one up entirely. What he actually said is below:
"However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion." -George Washington

That's some pretty accurate predicting on the part of our first President. Right on GW! 
Political parties exist for the purpose of getting people elected to government positions. Their intention is to join people of similar beliefs and opinions on how government should work, and influence that government by getting people from their own party elected. Presumably, these elected officials would then govern in the best interests of the people. It sounds harmless enough. It even sounds like it could be good and productive. The problem I have with them is that these days many of the principals in this type of party are still behaving like a bunch of overactive spoiled college kids with no responsibility.  
To get what they want, they don't mind lying. Much like a teen with a fake ID, some of the principals of these parties are exceptionally good at fooling people into believing that they are something they're not to get what they want: power and money. They'll tell you just about anything to get you into...well, let's say to get your vote, though they don't usually mean it. 
These days many of the people from political parties are committing a lot of party fouls.

You'll find leaders in these parties tweeting pictures of their doodads, having unwanted encounters with 18 yr olds, driving drunk, taking illegal drugs, and other immature, irresponsible behaviors.  
One big difference is that in the case of the college kid, he's damaging his own future and wasting mommy and daddy's money. In the case of these pathetic Political Party members, they are messing with our country's future and wasting tax payer money.    
These politicians seem to have never left adolescence. And anyone would admit that while college parties got a little crazy, they were generally harmless, and no one at those parties was fit to make decisions about the country's collective future. We would all admit that at that age, with the kinds of shenanigans we pulled, none of us should be trusted in such matters.
And so I ask, why then do we trust some of the people we vote for elected positions? The only answer I have is short memories. In the worst parties you can remember, the following things may have happened: someone passes on the floor, a dude ends up drooling on your sofa cushions, you end up cleaning vomit off the floor (sometimes under the dude who passed out), Some of your stuff ends up missing, people pretend to have a good time, there's bad dancing, someone ends up pregnant, someone clogs the toilet, a fight starts, or someone pees in the closet.
  After each of these parties, you might say to yourself, "Wow, that got waaayyy out of hand". And you swear that you're done with THAT kind of partying......until a week later. Somehow through the passage of time, you forget the pee in the closet or the vomit on the floor and you go again believing this next party will be different.
With each election, through the passage of time, memory fades and you go vote for another group from one of the political parties. You think somehow with the same kind of party, "This time it will be different". You forget the tweeting of the doodads, or even worse the time Corporate America showed up uninvited and some of your stuff ended up missing.
You can't help yourself. You want to find that special someone. You want to find that candidate that can change everything, and make all the difference, even though conventional wisdom (and likely your mother) tells you this is just not the place to find that kind of person.

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