Monday, July 21, 2008

Monday Thoughts

Ok, another weekend and we're all back to the work week, like we want to be at work during the summer. But with gas prices so high, it's hard to think of anyplace to go when it costs a fair amount of money. For me a trip to Mt. Rainier NP cost $60+ round trip to the closest entrance and to Paradise. The other entrances are farther and costs more.

Anyway, the news.

Listening to the proposals in Congress to help offset the price of oil and gasoline at the pump. I got the impression that Congress doesn't want to really do anything but just make it a political issue they can blame the other party as the problem during the election. And none of the solutions they have proposed won't solve the problem. Well, except maybe one, but that's also doubtful.

And that's the regulation of the futures market of oil speculators. Energy economists estimate $0.50-0.80 of the price of gas is due to the speculators. That's a fair estimate if you calcuate the price of oil per barrel, refining costs, taxes and station profit, you end up with the gas profits and the speculator profits. Remember speculators aren't doing anything in the flow of oil into gasoline, they're simply buying and selling oil contracts.

And regulating them with better management and oversight of the market would be a good thing for the consumer, all of us. They're simply the totally useless part of the process, invented for people simply betting on the future and we're paying the price. The whole futures market could easily disappear and nothing would be lost, especially for oil, and be replaced with a regulated market which stabilizes and reduces prices.

And to all those speculators, "Ahhh...." Sorry, you're not liked or wanted, now go away.

Ok, I've ranted.

The campaign. While I've generally like Obama, and know his swing to the center is closer to who he is a Senator and likely more as a President - he went left during the primaries to offset Hillary's center position denying her those voters and delegates, it's a little disconcerting that he's moving to the center-right.

And yes, I know it politics, and he's moving there to take McCain's right-center voters, it's uncomfortable at times to hear him speak on issues espousing a view that is so distant from his former center-left and liberal position he took during the primaries. But it shows he's also flexible and open to the issue, to hear all sides, and while expressing a position, that position isn't fixed and will adjust and adapt to the circumstances and situation.

You have to listen to his whole speech when he talks about issues, and ignore the soundbites and pundits extracting tibdbits from them. He almost always phrases his view with "if" so that it provides for choices with provisions or caveats. I can't disagree with that, but I can disagree in that it loses the individual perspective and loses the firm values one should have when make the final decision.

And this is what bothers me about Obama. You can't fully trust someone who promises something knowing it's not a guarrantee they'll keep it let alone even consider it in the final decision. I'm not against that with some issues, but I am on some I feel compromise should come through tough negotiation and finding the best alternative with some clear wins for your position.

I don't see that in Obama. I see it in McCain, but often with the wrong view on the issues.

Onward, to the ocean.

Should we approve off-shore oil drilling? The Republicans would like to make you think it would provide both an immediate and longterm reduction of oil prices. Well, do you really think more oil will actually lower gas prices? Like electricity rates and prices? I'm sure prices will be reduced a little, say 10%, but most of that I suspect will come out of the wholesale price, refinery costs and station profits.

I don't see the oil companies wanting to reduce their profit one cent. I don't trust their promises nor the predictions.

I hope the American public understands off-shore oil drilling won't solve the problem, nor will will you see oil wells off-shore for 3-5 years minimum and likely 5-8 years. They simply want the leases to stick in their pocket, slowly explore and develop, and wait until gas is $6+ per gallon. They're not stupid so neither should we and sacrifice our future coastlines to them for money.

Remember they already have 68 million acres they haven't even explored yet, let alone produce oil and natural gas which they and we know is there. Why not start there now?

Did you read the story the Federal Appeals Court overturned the decision of the Qatar man, arrested in 2003 in the US as an enemy combatant and held without access to legal help or the courts, saying the President and the government does have the right to do this (lower court decided he was entitled to the courts, due process and legal aid). In short our government can arrest you on suspicion of providing material support (no evidence required) and hold you indefinitely without rights to courts, lawyers and your family.

And this can apply to US citizens. The decision will go to the Supreme Court where the President has lost all three similar cases for executive privilege to do this with enemy combatants, even saying that term is illegal. So it's likely this will be overturned then and there, but until then and even as we've seen with other people, the government, mainly Departments of Justice and Defense, simply ignores the law and court decisions.

We're in the time our government can arrest you without a warrant, on the least evidence and mostly suspicion (Portland, Or man), and hold you indefinitely without rights or access to lawyers or courts. The Supreme Court has said that's illegal and violates the Constitution, but it hasn't stopped the government.

And we know from cases, the FBI actually creates conspiracies of terrorist groups to arrest, even providing the money, training, recruitment, logistics, specialists, etc. as evidence. In short the FBI will create the evidence they withhold from you in the name of national security. Exaggerated?

No, because if you look at all the cases of terrorist groups arrested in the US, no one has been convicted of terrorism. All were convicted of lesser offenses on evidence the FBI provided them, like weapons, plans, bombs, etc.

Ok, this is a good thing to know the FBI is always looking for terrorists. But now the FBI doesn't trust all Americans of being innocent and not have anything to do with terrorism. We're in a constant state of being suspects by our own government who can act and let time sort it out. They've shown this over and over. They can always later apologize for ruining your life and perhaps writing you a small check, but that won't stop them from doing it to other Americans.

This one is also interesting. The TSA office added the name of a reporter to the no-fly list after he aired a story critical of the air marshall program (remember the idea of armed air marshalls on planes?), see CNN story. There's also stories that some air marshalls are on the no-fly list and can't board the planes they're expected to protect, and they can't get their names off the list.

Who's running the no-fly asylum?

Maybe when the next President comes into office he should add the names of George Bush and Richard Cheney to the list and see how they feel. A taste of their own politics?

Ok, enough for the weekend news.

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