Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Oil is STILL Over

Everyone seems to have quit panicking and returned to the roads. The price of gasoline has now dropped below $2 a gallon and hovers around the $55 a barrel price. Concern for the future of our energy supplies has plummeted with the price of oil.

Hear this:


Just because the price has momentarily dropped does not mean that the problem is solved. The problem has just become a little worse. Every action, including a drop in price, that leads to greater consumption only serves to make the problem worse.

As a commodity, oil is done. There are the problems of declining supply (see Hibbert's Peak) and increasing demand (all the new drivers in China and India, just to start). Couple these with a realization that the burning of petroleum is complicating another major problem, global warming, and it is clear that the oil based economy must cease.

The solution to two problems, energy and environment, must occur simultaneously. Both problems require solutions that take the other into consideration. Sustainability must become the new focus, not cheap exploitation of resources and profit margins.

To stop seeking alternatives only due to momentary price shifts is the same folly that we have engaged in for the last 30 years. Time to change. Change the oil, it's over.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Neither God, nor Allah, on Their Side

Ayman al-Zawahiri, second in command of al-Qaeda, has issued his first taunt towards Barack Obama. Invoking the words of Malcolm X, he referred to Obama, Colin Powell & Condoleeza Rice as "house Negroes." His attempt, of course, was an effort to deal with the popularity of Obama and the effect that has on the appeal of al-Qaeda.

Ironic in his appeal was his invocation of the words of Malcolm X. Ironic, in that one of the right-wing, fear monger rumors being spread around election time, was that Obama was secretly the son of Malcolm X. It is somehow fitting that the fanatics on both sides should so mutilate the legacy of one great man in order to undermine another man they fear may be even greater.

In attempting to provoke a racist response to Obama, al-Zawahiri shows himself to completely misunderstand the legacy of Malcolm X or Malik el-Shabazz, as he was correctly referred to in the video. The reference to Malcolm as Malik el-Shabazz is relevant in that it demonstrates awareness of his final days. Subsequent to going on hajj, Malcolm returned from Mecca transformed. He began to preach racial harmony and wanted to bring American Islam more in line with that he saw practiced worldwide. Alienating both the Nation of Islam and the white racist who thrived on his old rhetoric, he became too dangerous to live.

The bigots who manufactured the "Obama is Malcolm X's son," demonstrated both their ignorance and desperation. First, they fail to comprehend that were this to actually be true, it would only enhance the already larger than life image of Obama. What next, must he have pulled a sword from a stone? Can he fly?

Beyond the ridiculous, this rumor also betrays both an ignorance of history and an overt racist assumption. The historical ignorance is that Malcolm was fanatically dedicated to his wife and FBI efforts to get something on him confirm these assertions (please refer to the FBI website to view its file on him). The overt racist assumption herein plays on old stereotypes about sexuality. Their desperation lies grounded in seeing the nation begin to turn its collective back on the old lies and the old guard.

So here we have it. Two backwards, bigoted groups, both trying to play upon racial hatred, in order to support their beliefs in their own superiority. Unable to convince the world based on the truth of their arguments, they are left with only treachery, distortion and deceit.

Be aware, the cornered animal fights the hardest.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Going Down the Road (to Detroit) Feeling Bad

The automobile industry of America is once again on the brink of collapse. Since the Bush Administration is in the final days of its rampage of the wealth of the American public, Detroit has decided to get in line. Why not ask for a little of that bailout cash?

The plea from the Big Three is that there will be too much disruption to the economy if they are allowed to fail. Sound familiar?

Politicians are focusing on the loss of jobs and the ripple effect through the already damaged economy. Apparently, it's all about the worker.

Yet, Bush has already blamed worker compensation as the culprit in the problems of Detroit. To be fair, some, such as Barney Frank, have focused on executive compensation, but by and large, the reporting of the issue has focused on the financial burden of pension plans and health care as well as union contracts.

Leaving Bush, the anti-barometer of appropriate action, aside, it is absolutely off point to blame the assembly line workers for the fall of the U.S. auto industry. The workers at the factory level seem to be the only people in the industry who are actually good at their jobs and worth their salaries. Union busting will not save Detroit.

If the Big Three auto makers want to find the solution to their business problems they should look at their lousy product. Building cars around a marketing strategy designed to maximize per unit profits is short-sighted. There is no effort to build a better car, just a better selling car. Just last night I saw a pickup truck marketed towards young working class males. When I checked the price and specs at the website I discovered that the truck cost around $40,000 and got 12 miles to the gallon. Is this really the best vehicle that can be produced for a person starting out in life?

What passes for innovation in the auto industry includes things like digital displays, increased headroom, individual zone climate controls, leather interior and market tested cup holder placement. While these things may be nice, none of them lead to a better driving car that has a lower impact on the environment. Form is emphasized over function, and sleek looks are more important than an efficient engine. The cars look like the Jetsons, but drive like the Flintstones.

If Detroit were paying attention to what customers want rather than trying to manipulate them into buying what they are offering, then they would cease the fight against CAFE standards and safety advances. Both of these are fought on the grounds that they would increase the cost of cars a few hundred dollars. Manual transmissions, which increase mileage, are increasingly difficult to find.

Give me a car that gets 100 mpg and has a roll cage, a la race cars, for enhanced safety and I will gladly pay more. Give me just those two things and it can look like a turnip. I suspect that many others would agree.

This is not at all out of reach. I owned a Geo Metro in the early '90's and that car got 60 miles to the gallon. And that was before I had even heard of hypermiling. Of course, the wreck that totaled it is the reason I'm such a proponent of roll cages.

So why isn't Detroit building a better car? Why did Detroit kill the electric car? Why have there been no significant advances in mileage since the Geo and its clones. If the major auto makers were told they could not sell another car until they developed one that got 100 mpg and was environmentally friendly, I have no doubt that it could be done.

What's wrong with the U.S. automobile industry will not be fixed be a short term infusion of cash so that they can continue to develop such absurditites as "hybrid-SUV's" whose owners slam on breaks at a speed bump, and see the monstrosity as a status symbol. Even though the price of oil has momentarily dropped, it must be recognized that continuing to waste petroleum is no longer a viable business model. OIL IS OVER!

Maybe we should let Big Oil bail out the Big Three.*

*thanks to Ashton Kucher for this idea.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Good Place to Start

In the first week after his election, advisers for Barack Obama have begun to "leak" his plans to close the disgrace of a prison at Guantanomo Bay. Undoing the damage of the Bush Administration will likely be a challenge that will require supreme efforts by Obama during the next four years. Bush has screwed up so many things it is hard to know where to begin.

Closing the prison at Guantanamo is a good place to start. Guantanamo or "Gitmo," as it has come to be called, is symbolic of the utter disregard for human rights and the rule of law that has pervaded the Bush Administration. Gitmo exists primarily as a means to evade U.S. laws concerning the right to trial and fair treatment, ignore centuries of law going back to the Magna Carta as regards the right of habeas corpus, and to circumvent international law regarding the proper treatment of prisoners and prisoners of war.

When Alberto Gonzalez referred to the Geneva Conventions as "quaint," he effectively exposed the true disdain for human rights that exists within the Bush Administration. Gitmo has been a blemish on our international reputation and a stain on our collective psyche. Too many, especially those within Bush's own party, have failed to question what this aberrant approach to incarceration has inflicted upon the nation. More than any other single issue, the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba has sullied our national reputation and made the U.S. appear a hypocrite on the world stage.

As stated, closing this disgrace is a good place to start to regain our standing in the world. Beyond that, it is also a good place to begin to reclaim the values that made this country great. Standing for human rights and justice, fighting tyranny and extending a helping hand to those in need are all values once associated with this country. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration has destroyed all of these notions, both at home and abroad. To move forward, Obama must consciously undo the damage done by Bush.

Closing Gitmo is only a start, but a very good one.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Real America Elects a President

For many years the Republican Party manufactured a culture war centered around opposition to abortion and gay marriage, while attempting to obliterate the line between church and state. Sadly, fear was often been a centerpiece of this approach. Fear of the other, homophobia and religious intolerance were enshrined as "family values." This electoral strategy proved successful as the GOP dominated the politics of this country for the past 28 years. However, an outcome of this strategy was a polarization of the nation along a cultural divide.

Near the end of the 2008 Election, a familiar refrain from Gov. Palin and others on the right, concerned "real America." A classic us versus them , divide and conquer strategy, the words were used to evoke a not so subtle form of bigotry. "Real America, it seemed, only included rural, predominantly white areas of the country, where church attendance was high and Republicans dominated politics. The culture wars were again a the center of an election.

Unfortunately for the Republicans, they got it all wrong. While they have mounted a campaign over the years to convince the public that all things good are Republican, and that they are the bastion of the "values voter," in short, that all "real Americans" were Republicans, the public wasn't buying it. After a series of policy disasters and overt corruption *(see note below), wearing the vestiges of the righteous seemed only like another Emperor in new clothes.

This time, many people saw through the lies and we all laughed out loud. Real America stood up. Not the sham, "real America," where everyone looks, talks and thinks the same, but the America where we all have a right to be different. The America where you can be Muslim, Hindu or Jew. The America that is the melting pot, where people of all nations have come together, elected a President.

Obama is what real America is about. Indeed, he is a product of America. His parents were of different ethnic and religious groups. He has relatives who live in other countries and children who are quintessentially American. He is educated, and appears to be an open-minded and tolerant individual. Obama represents a different side of the nation than the caricature that we have become to the rest of the world.

Real America is not a monolithic nation where you must tow the party (Republican) line in order to belong. Real America is a diverse land where we recognize that our differences are our ultimate strength.

Real America elected a real American as President.

In saying the above, I in no way intend to disparage the 42 white men who have been President before Obama. They are real Americans too.

* Corruption Note: "Scooter" Libby, Attorney Firings, Renditions, Abramoff Scandal, Stevens Conviction, Delay, Cunningham, Foley and on and on. See "Hugh's List" for even more.

Monday, November 3, 2008

ELECTION 2008: Don't Believe the Hype

"The election is tightening." "Watch out for the Bradley effect." "There are plenty of undecideds still out there." Or at least that is the hype.

In an effort to produce something newsworthy, the major media outlets are willing to perpetuate the myth that the race for president is close. Drama is injected into every turn possible. Polls are selectively chosen for display that suggests the race is closer than it is. Why?

The cynical part of me wants to believe the paranoia among Democrats that this election will be lost/stolen by some unknown means. History clearly plays a part in this concern as the Democrats have managed to lose more than a few "done deals." However, the rational side of me must view the claims that the "race is tighter than believed," as little more than hubris.

Ignorance of math, statistics in particular, is responsible for NOT seeing what is crystal clear - the election of 2008 is already over. The only question now is: How much of a blowout will it be. The polls are not close for those who have obsessively been following them on any of the numerous sites dedicated to the election.

Sunday morning network news programming produced a notable departure from the typical "it's getting close," mantra that is being used to keep interest (and ratings) high. On most of the Sunday shows, This Week on ABC being an exemplar, the discussion was more about how large the difference would be than about who would win. Even George Will, the ultra-conservative intellectual, stated that it was not even close.

My Predictions:

Obama: 53% 358 Electoral Votes (358 is the floor, 376 is upper boundary)
McCain: 44% 180 Electoral Votes

Barr & Nader will split the remaining 3%. Further, Barr will have an impact on the vote in Georgia, possibly tilting it to Obama. In Montana, the wild card is the Ron Paul-Constitutional Party tally. If the third parties tip these, Obama could go higher.

Senate: + 8 seats to the Democrats
House: + 30 seats to Democrats

Again, this election is not close. Only shenanigans like we have never seen will be able to alter this election.

Having said the above, VOTE, like your life depends on it. It does.

Ray Bawarchi has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and teaches a collegiate level course in statistics.

British Petroleum Gulf Oil Spill Costs

  • 11 workers killed in initial blast
  • Damage to Ocean Ecosystem
  • 35,000 to 60.000 Barrels of Oil Per Day. That's somewhere between 1,500,000 to 2,500,000 gallons a day or 150 to 300 million gallons already spilled into the ocean as of July 27th by that estimate.
  • Gulf Fisheries Industry
  • Gulf Tourism (ongoing costs)
  • Long Term Health Effects to Humans and Wildlife (to be determined)

Worst Oil Spills

  • Kuwait 1991 - 520 million gallons: Gulf War I
  • Gulf of Mexico 2010 - 206 million gallons: BP Oil
  • Mexico, Bay of Campiche 1979 - 140 million gallons: Pemex Oil
  • Trinidad & Tobago 1979 - 90 million gallons: Greek Oil Tanker Atlantic Empress
  • Russia 1983 - 84 million gallons: Leaky Pipeline collapsed into Kolva River
  • Iran 1983 - 80 million gallons: Tanker collided with Oil Platform
  • South Africa 1983 -79 million gallons:Tanker Castillo de Bellver sank
  • France 1978 - 69 million Gallons: Amoco Cadiz ran aground and broke in half.
  • Angola Coastal Waters (700 miles at sea) 1991 - 51-81 million gallons: ABT Summer exploded at sea.
  • Italy 1991 - 45 million gallons: M/T Haven Oil Tanker exploded.
  • Source: Mother Nature Network. mnn.com. The 13 largest oil spills in history. by Laura Moss. Friday July 16, 2010.

Nuclear Accidents (Under Construction)

  • 1957 Windscale, UK
  • 1961 Idaho Falls, Idaho, US
  • 1979 Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania, US
  • 1984 Athens, Alabama, US
  • 1985 Athens, Alabama, US
  • 1986 Plymouth, Masachusetts, US
  • 1986 Chernobyl, Ukraine, USSR
  • 1996 Waterford, Connecticut, US
  • 1989 Griefwald, Germany
  • 1999 Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan
  • 2002 Oak Harbor, Ohio, US
  • 2004 Fukui Prefecture, Japan
  • Source: Benjamin Sovacool

Mining Disasters (Under Construction)

  • China 1942 - 1549 deaths
  • France 1906 - 1100 deaths
  • Japan 1963 - 447 deaths
  • Wales 1913 - 438 deaths
  • South Africa 1960 - 437 deaths
  • Source: Epic Disasters Website
  • Note: Do not look at the dates herein and conclue that mining disasters are a things of the past. Every year thousands of miners die worldwide in largely unreported accidents.

OIL IS OVER! - Resources

  • Hibbert's Peak - "The" source that explains why Oil is Over.
  • Tragedy of the Commons -Garrett Hardin
  • The Land Ethic - Aldo Leopold
  • Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight - Thom Hartmann
  • Eco-Defense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching


  • The Dirt People - Ray Bawarchi (yes, that's me)
  • The Razor's Edge - Somerset Maugham
  • Demian - Herman Hesse
  • Black Elk Speaks - Black Elk (as told to R. Neimur)
  • The Quiet Don - Mikhail Sholokov
  • Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
  • Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
  • 1984 - George Orwell
  • Delicious Laughter - Jallahudin Rumi
  • The Sybil - Par Lagerksvitz
  • The Fixer - Bernard Malamud
  • Spirits Rebellious - Khalil Gibran
  • The Quiet American - Graham Greene
  • Midaq Alley - Nagib Mafouz
  • Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Slaughterhouse 5 - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Farenheit 451- Ray Bradbury
  • We - Yevgeny Zamyatin


  • John Coltrane - St. John the Divine
  • Patti Smith
  • The Clash - the only band that matters
  • Billy Bragg
  • Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band
  • Art Blakey
  • Death - pre-punk visionaries from Detroit
  • PJ Harvey - Polly Jean, Polly Jean
  • Woody Guthrie
  • Michael Franti (Spearhead)
  • Public Enemy
  • Ray Charles - the Genius
  • Bob Dylan
  • Velvet Underground
  • Flaming Lips
  • John Doe & X
  • The Beatles

opiate of the masses

  • God is a comedian, playing to an audience too afraid to laugh. - Voltaire
  • I do not feel obliged to believe that the same god who has endowed us with sense, reason and inellect has intended us to forgo their use. - Galileo Galilei
  • The ink of a scholar is worth far more than the blood of a martyr.- Mohammad
  • If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him. - Sheldon Kopp
  • No one will be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest. - Louisa Mae Alcott
  • When it is a question of money, everyone is of the same religion.- Voltaire
  • If God were alive today, he'd be an athiest. - Kurt Vonnegut
  • The god I worship is not short of cash, Mister. - Bono
  • Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine. My sins they only belong to me. - Patti Smith
  • God sure baked a lot of fruitcake baby, when Adam met the Eden lady. - Joe Strummer