Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Costs of Drilling

"Drill, Baby, Drill!" This has been the cry of those who profess to be concerned about the price of oil but who usually happen to reside in petroleum laden areas. Discounting any concerns of safety and disregarding the increased costs of off-shore drilling, there have been fervent efforts to open new areas for oceanic exploration. What could go wrong?

What has gone wrong is the well operated by BP that sank on Earth Day. Estimated to be pouring 5000 barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico each day, the spill has been reported to be at least 600 miles in circumference, or around the size of the state of Ohio. Fishermen in the area are concerned that oil is going to completely wipe out the commercial shrimp harvest. Wildlife officials have noted that is is mating season for many animals in the wetlands and that if the slick comes inland it could prove devastating.

The slick, now about 100 miles wide, made landfall Thursday night in the Mississippi delta region. Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano has designated the disaster a "spill of national significance," and stated that the military may need to be used to help contain the problem.

Wednesday, BP did a "controlled burn" of some of the oil that they had corralled using booms. So far, around 175,000 feet (30-35 miles) of booms have been deployed and the problem continues to grow. Numerous efforts to engage the shut off valves have proven unsuccessful. Some methods to stop the leak are estimated to take months to complete.

Eleven workers were killed in the initial explosion that eventually toppled the oil platform. Add to their deaths the recent deaths of coal miners in West Virginia and Kentucky and the true costs of these sources of fuel become staggering.

That allegedly cheap oil is costing lives and wrecking havoc on the environment. Enjoy your shrimp substitute.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

First Arrest Made Under New Arizona Anti-Immigration Law

Authorities in Arizona announced that they have made the first arrest under its new anti-immigration legislation. The law requires law enforcement officials to question anyone who looks suspicious and to detain those who cannot provide documentation of citizenship or legal immigration status. Less than a week after the passing of the law, the first arrest has been made.

Phoenix police initially questioned the detainee, a woman who gave only the name Dora, after observing her looking at a map and wearing a backpack. "She sure looked suspicious," the arresting officer was quoted as saying, further noting that when questioned, "She said she was 'exploring', and that just set off alarm bells."

The woman was unable to provide documentation and was taken to the Maricopa County detention center where Sheriff Joe Arpaio immediately had her placed in solitary confinement. Despite concerns that the woman might be a juvenile she was placed in an adult facility under constant observation. Sheriff Arpaio, using the woman's jailhouse moniker, explained that "this woman, this "Dora the Explorer" woman, is clearly a danger to the community and maybe even a terrorist. She's trying to pretend to be innocent, but her story just doesn't add up." Sheriff Arpaio then displayed the sandals the woman was wearing for the members of the press. He pointed out that the shoes were quite worn and of a style not commonly seen in Arizona.

Local law enforcement have also issued an all points bulletin for the woman's companion who fled the scene when police demanded documentation. Described as short with profuse body hair, the man was noted to be wearing bright red boots.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day 40

If the climate were a bank they would have saved it by now. - Hugo Chavez

Earth Day turns forty this year. There's a mass of plastic goo in the Pacific the size of Texas and another one forming in the Atlantic. Glaciers are melting and ocean levels are rising along with annual average temperatures. Bangladesh will likely be underwater by 2050.

We're running out of landfill space and toxins accumulate in our environment. Municipal water supplies are showing signs of pharmaceutical and chemical contamination while bottled water has no standards and contributes significantly to the ever growing bulk of plastic in the environment. Recyclable is far more common than recycled.

Algae blooms occur with greater frequency and the oceans are perilously over-fished. The fish we eat is contaminated with mercury and other toxins to the point that our ears are ringing. Genetically modified crops are surreptitiously finding their way into the grocery stores while milk without BGH must be labeled.

Millions of new drivers and their cars are added to the planet every year. Rivers dry up before they reach the ocean. Desertification and deforestation continue at such rates that progress is measured in slowing down the rate of growth. Politicians living in climate controlled bubbles question the science of climate change. People go to tea parties and demand government get out of their lives while their children and grandchildren sustain genetic damage from environmental toxins that proliferate from our deregulated free markets.

The economy is in deep trouble and our infrastructure is crumbling. Green infrastructure building appears to be the obvious solution yet nothing is happening as we constantly hear that it is too expensive to go green. Too expensive to the old economy, the petrol based economy of fossil fuel consumption and continual growth. There's no money to go green, its all being spent on oil and the creation of financial "instruments" on Wall Street.

For half the money spent on the war in Iraq ($2 trillion according to Joseph Stiglitz), for one trillion dollars, we could have put $10,000 worth of solar panels on 100 million living units in the United States. What would that have done for the economy and the culture of the country as compared to a protracted and pointless war?

And right now, as I write this, an exploratory oil platform off the coast of Louisiana that blew up yesterday, just toppled and fell into the ocean.

Happy Earth Day.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

George Orwell for GOP Chair

George Bush once commented that his base was the "... the haves and the have mores." Since that time little has changed within the GOP. Long the party of big money, the banks and the wealthy, the Republicans are working overtime to kill financial reform.

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), has been leading the charge and walking the tightrope. Aware of public anger over the bank bailouts and Wall Street excesses, McConnell is attempting to protect his constituents - the banks -while feigning populist indignation at the same institutions. Claiming to be intent on changing the status quo while working to insure it is no doubt a difficult balancing act. Luckily for McConnell he is not bound by any notions of truth. Claiming that the very legislation that attempts to prevent further bailouts will cause an endless chain of bailouts is the essence of doublespeak. George Orwell would be proud.

All 41 Republican senators have signed a letter indicating they will oppose financial reform. In addition to the blatant lie that McConnell is propagating, the talking points of free markets and getting government out of lives, the Republican establishment is trying to ignore the fact that they were for the bailouts.

This approach to financial reform, oppose the legislation on political grounds but use political buzzwords to manipulate the populace, is becoming the standard GOP approach to all legislation. No longer does the Republican party even attempt to put forth a coherent counter approach. Instead, their approach has become one centered on manipulating the emotions of the voters by the repetition of the same phrases, no matter their veracity, to the point of absurdity. It seems they are aware that they cannot prevail if they honestly reveal their agenda so they are attempting to shape the debate through neurolinguistic programming.

War is Peace. Hate is Love. The GOP is for the little guy.

Goldman Sachs: The Old Fashioned Way

Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street firm often derided as Masters of the Universe for their seeming ability to make money no matter what the economic climate, have been indicted for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for fraud.

The details of the case are complex but essentially boil down to Goldman encouraging investors to buy collateral debt obligations that they themselves were betting against. It also seems that they aided and abetted the run up of these financial instruments even as they were creating a climate for their ultimate collapse. Involved, but not charged, John Paulson, an investor who profited from the scheme, appears to have directed Goldman in this effort.

Goldman Sachs is already proclaiming its innocence. Some opinions suggest that the case may be so convoluted that it may be difficult to prosecute before a jury. Others suggest that it is just the tip of the iceberg.

Important in this discussion is how they were able to even conceive of such a scheme. In therapy, medical practice, social services, etc. professionals are taught to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. In the case of bankers, apparently the rules are to obfuscate everything and rely on the investors not asking questions.

This is the free market in action. Take the suckers for all they have. Goldman Sachs has not even attempted to defend its actions as ethical or even above board. When your defense is that the case will be hard to prove in court, there seems to be an admission of improper behavior.

As I write this, Goldman just announced record profits for the first quarter. Goldman Sachs: making money the old fashioned way - stealing it.

More Blackwater Crimes

Lost amid the Goldman Sachs indictments on last Friday was the news that officials of the firm formerly known as Blackwater were indicted on weapons charges. Former president of the company, Gary Jackson and the former general counsel, Andrew Howell, along with three others were charged with possessing and trading in illegal weapons.

Blackwater, whose founder Eric Prince has been implicated in murder according to work by Jeremy Scahill of The Nation in August 2009, has changed its name to Xe in an effort to hide from their past. Allegations of arms smuggling and lawless behavior have long dogged Blackwater.

More shocking than these allegations is that the U.S. government continues to do business with these thugs. Hiring mercenaries to fight wars is contrary to good sense and the values of the country. Blackwater, Xe and whatever other names they use to hide their behaviors must be held accountable for their actions. Banning them from any further work in the name of the U.S. must occur immediately.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Don't Think About a Pink Elephant

If I tell you to not think about a pink elephant, the first thing you do is think about a pink elephant. In order to not think about it, you have to first think about it. This is the nature of repression. Attempting not to think about something is ultimately futile. In fact, efforts to not think about something is often the quickest path to obsession. Throw in an absolute taboo on an activity that one is trying not to think about and suddenly the obsession goes underground and mutates.

This bring us to priests and celibacy. With the continuing saga of the pandemic of pedophile priests now dragging the Pope into the cover-up it is not surprising that the Church refuses to address the root causes of its problems. The psychological make-up of those who will undertake a lifetime vow of celibacy must be called into question. According to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, sex is a basic physiological need akin to food and water. Adult who voluntarily ignore such a need are unlikely to function in a psychologically complete manner.

The idea and ideal underpinning celibacy from a psychoanalytic perspective is that the sexual desire will be sublimated into good works and service. The ideal is usually far from the reality. While some priests, maybe even a majority, achieve this state of sublimating their sexual energy, there are many who clearly do not.

This is the crux of the problem: many individuals who would take a vow of celibacy do so out of a desire to flee from sexual impulses with which they are uncomfortable. The flaw here is that this is analogous to thinking of anything but a pink elephant. The vow of celibacy reminds them that they are not to engage in the behavior and now that they are in the priesthood, even the thoughts become forbidden and there becomes an isolation around the individual.

It is this isolation and forbidden aura around sex that causes some sort of mutation of the sex drive. Yes, I am stating that the requirement of celibacy is linked to the pedophilia. It is likely that many pedophile priests would be classified as immature type pedophiles. By this I mean that they are emotionally immature themselves as regards sexual development. This type of pedophile can be particularly dangerous in that they seem so innocuous and even child like at times. This does not change the fact that they are adults knowing abusing children. With priests, the inherent trust mixed with the social power of the position make them even more dangerous.

The issue of celibacy must be addressed along with the issue of pedophilia. It may not be is cause but it is certainly its cloak and crucible.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Symbol of Shame

I live in the South, and every day as I drive around I encounter Confederate flags on vehicles. Occasionally, I'll see the same symbol on t-shirts and hats. The governor of Virgina, Republican Bob McDonnell, has proclaimed April to be Confederate History Month.

What's up with these folks? What can possibly be up with any identification with the Confederacy? The Confederate states were losers who fought for an immoral cause. Don't give me any of this culture talk. That culture is inexorably tied to the practice of slavery and treasonous actions against the United States. Those who talk of Southern culture today are paying homage to these sorry behaviors.

At this point someone will no doubt argue that not everyone owned slaves. That is true. It is also true that not all Germans were Nazis. However, most Germans seem ashamed of the past history of their country and are horrified at the display of the swastika. In fact, Germany has laws that actually forbid the display of the swastika even in artistic and historical contexts.

The Confederate flag should rightly be held in the same contempt. It is a symbolic representation of slavery and an attempt to defy the most basic laws of the nation. The Confederacy should not be celebrated, it should be condemned.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

I Hope He's Playing Chess

It has often been said of Barack Obama that he is playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers. The conclusion of the health care reform battle certainly leads some credence to this idea. Further, through populist messaging and public anger, he has painted the Republicans into a corner over banking reform. If they continue to be obstructionists, they will also be seen as siding with the banks and no amount of free market rhetoric will change that perception.

But what is going on with Obama and energy policy. At a time when it is clear we need to invest in clean, sustainable green technology and infrastructure, he comes out for nuclear power, clean coal, and off shore drilling. Can this really be? Or is it that Obama is once again setting up his opponents? Let us hope that this is only a misdirection ploy that will culminate in green investment. Please Obama, be ten moves ahead, because right now you seem to be surrendering the game on the opening moves.

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. 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