Friday, June 06, 2008

$4 gas? How about $8 gas?

Oil doesn't grow on trees.

Not $10/barrel oil, not $138/barrel oil.

Three things:

1. Stop your whining, especially if you had kids. Where do you think the increased demand came from?

2. Politicians, stop your pandering. There is never a bad time to implement a carbon tax. Show some guts.

3. Ever heard of the profit motive? Let's all remember that, in this capitalist system, the oil companies are not in this as a public service. They are there to make billions of dollars in profit. Love it or change it.

When I was a teenager in the early '70s, the planet had two billion fewer people than it has now. But I saw rampant growth all around me. Wide open Texas? Maybe on a stretch of highway between Midland and Marfa, but I grew up in Dallas, at the time the eighth largest city in the United States, and in every direction, I saw the prairie going under. I saw the suburbs steamroll the "wide open" with asphalt and sprawling houses.

We always knew this was coming: $4 gasoline 30 years later seems cheap. Now, $5 will start to seem expensive, and $6 will actually make a difference. But we know that $10 gasoline is coming, relative to income and the U.S. dollar. We know it's coming. We just don't know when. Oil is like diamonds, except oil is not a girl's best friend, and oil is not forever. You can get by in life with one modest diamond. One. Try that with a tank of gasoline. And yet, every day, there are millions of barrels less oil on Earth than there were the day before. When it comes to oil, gone is gone (except that it hangs in the air and thus in our bodies as a waste product, biting us in the asthma and the atmosphere).

We need expensive oil and pricey gas to get us to grow up and stop behaving like spoiled brats. The problem is that very few people are getting rich off all this. It is time for the governments of the world to conserve and protect our precious natural resources.

Especially when those resources are priceless.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Has the time come for a U.S. Department of Peace?

A bill has been introduced into the U. S. House of Representatives (HR 808) calling for the formation of a national Department of Peace and Nonviolence. It would work on non-violent solutions for our national and international woes, from domestic violence and abuse to the staving off of wars, especially, one would hope, those deemed preemptive and thus started by our own government.

U.S. Representative and erstwhile presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) often proposed a Dept. of Peace and got laughed at, but perhaps he was prescient. As with the formation of the Department of Energy in the 1970s, such things come to be when a dire need is felt far and wide. Perhaps one legacy of the Bush/McCain/CIA/traditional American interventionist "police the world" doctrine will be the institutionalizing of some antidotes to the messages we send and the sheer horror and havoc we wreak with military might and war.

The American powers that be are quite macho, and so the Department of Peace probably sounds too wishy-washy to them, too girlie. Maybe such a department needs a different and alas more "practical" (manly), bricks-and-mortar name, such as the Department of, say, Civil Affairs, since civility is, by its very nature, peaceful.

Or how about the Department of Civic Responsibility? That of course implies that we, the citizens, "We, the People," are responsible for governing ourselves according to someone else's definition of what responsibility is -- always a dangerous thing to suggest. (We vote to give responsibility away, not keep it for ourselves. Millions would rather complain about the White House or Washington than look in the mirror.)

The crux of the problem, especially in the U.S., is that we are taught to be MORE competitive than cooperative. I think that is at the heart of the matter. As a culture, if we taught and demonstrated that cooperation is better than competition, we might actually get some place. That is the future of human evolution. For millions of years, we (and our animal ancestors) have shown what competition can do. I think it's high time we give peace (I mean cooperation) a chance.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

As good as she was

As good as she was, Hillary Clinton could not help but represent the past, conventional thinking and even the status quo. In the wake of two Georges Bush and her own husband, and in contrast to Barack Obama, she could seem a steely "fighter," but she could not seem like the change agent for which so many millions clamor.

Historically, the U.S. Senate has not been a ripe launching pad for presidents or presidential campaigns. The senate has had some great orators but few members who capture the imaginations of millions, much less a majority of Americans. And Hillary is, we can tell, however capable, a senatorial type. She is a policy wonk, which is not a bad thing. It's a lot better thing than being incompetent or being from the CIA or the military or the minor leagues. But we've got radar on wonks when what we want is a head of state, when what we want is a two-term monarch, a suave and gallant symbol to lord over our national and worldly prospects.

Hillary suffered the same fate of so many senators who have run for president (and look where they are today, back where they belong). She ran as a capable senator, and that is not enough. She ran as a woman, and that is not enough. And she ran, in her worst moments, as Bill's wife and as a former First Lady, and that is not nearly enough. She ran on all she had.

Meanwhile, had he waited another term or two, Barack Obama would have been forced to run as a senator, as well, perhaps an "experienced" and even "senior" senator, as a committee chairman and accomplisher of legislative daring do, but a sitting senator with the clock ticking and a paper trail a decade long. He knew that to run as that sweeping, shining symbol, to be in millions of voters' eyes that gifted, suavely superhuman, blessed monarch we imagine, he'd have to run soon, run once, run now, and run with everything he had.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


There's been a lot of talk about cross-voters. Supposedly, about a fifth of those who voted for Senator Clinton say they would vote not for Senator Obama but for Senator McCain in the fall.

Are they nuts? How could one person stomach the policies of both Clinton and McCain? Is that racism? Or confusion? Or just insanity? It does seem to support the notion that a sizable minority of the electorate is irrational.

But frankly, irrational or not, I wouldn't worry that Obama's impending nominee status will bleed the Democrats and progressive independents of votes. Just think how many right-wingers are shuffling around and threatening to flee the maverick McCain. Middle of the roaders find a spicy appeal in a maverick or so-called maverick. But ultra-conservatives think a speck of whole-grain in the white bread is sacrilege. If he continues to waffle shifty-eyed a la Pappy Bush, McCain will cost the conservatives plenty. Personal health aside, his unsteady vision thing will cause fractures all over the right side of the electorate -- and perhaps even cause a few red states to turn blue. ("It's the economy, stupid,"rings true again, and only a terrorist attack in the U.S. could change that.)

McCain is starting to make Bob Dole seem like presidential material. Or even Pappy. No wonder the right-wingers liked Reagan so much. He's the only one of them who ever made the past look so good.

Meanwhile, as we speak tonight, farewell Hillary, hello Hope.