Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Good advice from Pope Benedict

Worried about declining Christian populations?

Pope Benedict XVI told Catholics to have more babies "for the good of society," saying that some countries were being sapped of energy because of low birth rates.

"Having children is a gift that brings life and well-being to society," he told about 15,000 people at his weekly audience in the Vatican, to which he arrived by helicopter from his summer residence southeast of Rome.

He said the decline in the number of births "deprives some nations of freshness and energy and of hopes for the future incarnate in children."

It's also a good way to make sure that Islam doesn't swamp a post-Christian world. Islamic birth rates are generally much higher in Europe.

One Jerk & A Bad Idea

Made the mistake of trying to watch CNN for awhile to get a different look at the Katrina coverage. Wolf Blitzer, who we regard as a reliable professional despite his surroundings, did just fine. But every once in awhile CNN interrupts Blitzer's performance with intrusive commentary from Jack Cafferty, a boorish business reporter whose lefty bias and antipathy for George W. Bush will not be hidden.

Cafferty turned one exchange into a rant against Bush for daring to "vacation" in Crawford, Texas, while the world was still spinning, or something that silly. It was petty and, considering the gravity of the catastrophe on the Gulf Coast, was really badly timed. Even had we agreed with Cafferty (and we do not, since he is an idiot) his ravings served no positive purpose in a time of emergency, and it distracted from the disaster coverage.

That was bad enough.

But then Cafferty decided to use the occasion to promote ... are you ready for this? ...


Cue the organ music.

Yeah, that completely predictable response of the feeble-minded liberal whose only mantra in good times and bad is to increase the scope and power of the government into every aspect of life.

Cafferty had taken a poll, you see, and he read several responses he'd gotten from viewers indicating whether they wanted to see the federal government ration gasoline or not. Most of the comments he read actually were AGAINST rationing, although a couple were written in sarcastic form that might lead an idiot to think otherwise. Apparently it did.

Cafferty, who favors rationing now, wraps up his report with: "Well, Wolf, you can see that opinion is evenly divided."

The question? Was he consciously spinning the meager results of his rationing survey, or is it true that the liberal mind simply cannot conceive of the idea that most Americans do not agree with them?

Rationing did not work in the '70s. We were there. You cannot legislate the laws of supply and demand out of existence. People get hurt when you try. Rationing is not the solution to our present situation. Unleashing the energy industry by rolling back the deluge of red tape required to drill and to build refineries is the only sensible solution. We've dammed up the supply side while increasing imports of crude and refined product. We sowed the seeds of the present problems, and no government edict alone will provide a solution.

The Wall Street Journal online edition had a headline this week: Americans want gasoline, but not gasoline refineries. That pretty much sums up the prevailing liberal orthodoxy. Yet we think that most Americans, given a choice of $3 or $4 gasoline and spot shortages, would opt for a couple dozen refineries strategically placed around the country to increase supplies of fuels.

That's the poll Cafferty ought to be taking. But he won't.

For the best reporting from NOLA ...

Read the Times-Picayune. They may have had to evacuate their downtown HQ, but they are doing magnificent work, reporting on the disaster, and related stories, better than anyone else.

You can find them online here.

Shrinking value of $$$ at the pump

Yesterday was a 23 cent rise.

Today another 10 cents more, hitting $2.90 here in Oklahoma.

Yup. Talking petrol.

But Diet Coke was only 98 cents per 2 liter at the Super WalMart, holding the line against extortionist, inflationary price increases. We're sure that Uncle Sam will weigh that fact heavily in preparing the next inflation report.

New Orleans losing vital signs?

The news from the Big Easy is not encouraging.
In a surprising assessment of Hurricane Katrina’s lethal destruction, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said Wednesday he feared that thousands had died in his city alone and that the entire city would have to be evacuated.

“We know there is a significant number of dead bodies in the water,” Nagin told reporters, adding that there are others dead in attics.

Asked for a number, he said, “Minimum hundreds, most likely thousands.”

This gloomy report on the effort to shore up the leaking levees:

Floodwaters continued to pour into New Orleans unabated Wednesday, hindering attempts to repair damaged levees that surround the below-sea-level city. And an Army Corps of Engineers spokesman warned that the repair work could actually make the situation worse.

“You know, we’ve got an unprecedented situation here,” U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman John Hall told via cell phone from New Orleans.

Hall said his own attempts to round up current information were being stymied because “I’m on the phone every minute” with reporters from around the globe. But he could say that the biggest problem remained a breach in the eastern wall of the 17th Street Canal.

“Last I heard,” the breach was 300 feet long, from 4 feet to 20 feet deep, “all under water,” Hall said. Other reports, including one on the Web site of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, have estimated the breach to be as long as “500 yards and growing.”

Horrific. The health fears are increasing with reports of bodies floating in the waters.

"We are gravely concerned about the potential for cholera, typhoid and dehydrating diseases that could come as a result of the stagnant water and the conditions," Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said Wednesday after announcing the emergency.

With 475 buses lining up to transport over 20,000 of the stranded refugees from the Super Dome to Houston's Astrodome, the New Orleans mayor said he believes there are between 50,000 to 100,000 people still in the city (living or dead, we assume). Meanwhile a certain number of people in the city seemed in no hurry to do anything except find merchandise to steal.

Officials watched helplessly as looters around the city ransacked stores for food, clothing, appliances and guns.

"We don't like looters one bit, but first and foremost is search and rescue," Gov. Kathleen Blanco said Wednesday.

In the city's Carrollton section, which is on relatively high ground, looters commandeered a forklift and used it to push up the storm shutters and break the glass of a Rite-Aid pharmacy. The crowd stormed the store, carrying out so much ice, water and food that it dropped from their arms as they ran. The street was littered with packages of ramen noodles and other items.

New Orleans' homeland security chief, Terry Ebbert, said looters were breaking into stores all over town and stealing guns. He said there are gangs of armed men moving around the city.

The Times-Picayune newspaper reported that the gun section at a new Wal-Mart in the Lower Garden District had been cleaned out by looters.

On New Orleans' Canal Street, dozens of looters ripped open the steel gates on clothing and jewelry stores and grabbed merchandise. In Biloxi, Miss., people picked through casino slot machines for coins and ransacked other businesses. In some cases, the looting was in full view of police and National Guardsmen.

The historic French Quarter appeared to have been spared the worst flooding, but its stores were getting the worst of human nature.

"The looting is out of control. The French Quarter has been attacked," Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson said. "We're using exhausted, scarce police to control looting when they should be used for search and rescue while we still have people on rooftops."

Sen. Mary Landrieu's helicopter was taking off Tuesday for a flyover of the devastation and she watched as a group of people smashed a window at a gas-station convenience store and jumped in.

You can understand the desperation of those who are thirsty and hungry. But the problem with looting, even for survival purposes, is that it provides immoral encouragement to others to loot for pleasure.

Don't stop praying for New Orleanians.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Water-logged New Orleans

Relief efforts include 3,000-pound sandbags to hopefully plug the broken 17th St. Canal levee before the entire city is inundated beyond revival.

Keep up your prayers.

OIL WOE$ -- Katrina Piles On

Took a short drive a few minutes ago and passed a Quik Trip on the corner just posting $2.80 (rounding up one-tenth), mere hours after it had posted a 13 cent hike from $2.57 to $2.70. That's 23 cents in 12 hours, with more to come, we fear.

Anticipating a rise, we filled the tanks on two vehicles Sunday night at $2.57 ... a total of 32 gallons for $82.24. If we had to do it again today the total would be $89.60, roughly a 9% price hike.

Friends of ours reported they spent over $600 on fuel in July, a family with three vehicles, though one is a company car and thus has a gasoline subsidy. The two main vehicles, however, are an Expedition and a Jeep, neither an environmental poster winner.

A bicycle is beginning to look like a good investment.

Even more convincing are the reports over at The Oil Drum. com. To be forewarned is to be forearmed, or something like that. Maybe it's forlorn? Check 'em out.

Some good reporting in New Orleans

Some of the best reporting we've seen on Katrina comes from people who know the area: reporters from the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Here's some of the flavor of one story:
A large section of the vital 17th Street Canal levee, where it connects to the brand new "hurricane proof" Old Hammond Highway bridge, gave way late Monday morning in Bucktown after Katrina's fiercest winds were well north.
As the sun set over a still-roiling Lake Pontchartrain, the smoldering ruins of the Southern Yacht Club were still burning, and smoke streamed out over the lake. Nobody knew the cause of the fire because nobody could get anywhere near it to find out what happened. (Emphasis: Dave the Oklahomilist)
Joshua Bruce, 19, was watching the tide rise from his home on Pontalba Street when he heard a woman crying for help. The woman had apparently tried to wade the surging waters on Canal Boulevard when she was swept beneath the railroad trestle just south of Interstate 610. Bruce said he plunged into the water to pull her to safety. He and friends Gregory Sontag and Joey LaFrance found dry clothes for the woman and she went on her way in search of a second-story refuge downtown. (Again, emphasis DTO)
In Lakeview, the scene was surreal. A woman yelled to reporters from a rooftop, asking them to call her father and tell him she was OK, although fleeing to the roof of a two-story home hardly seemed to qualify.
Two men surviving on generator power in the Lake Terrace neighborhood near the Lake Pontchartrain levee still had a dry house, but they were watching the rising water in the yard nervously. They were planning to head out to retrieve a vast stash of beer, champagne and hard liquor they found washed onto the levee. As night fell, the sirens of house alarms finally fell silent, and the air filled with a different, deafening and unfamiliar sound: the extraordinary din of thousands of croaking frogs.

You get the idea of the flavor of the reporting, the objectivity and honesty of the reporters. This is far superior to the drivel being dished out by the once mighty Associated Press (which seems to have quit hiring writers but must concentrate on finding political science grads who want to change the world).

Miracles Needed; Much Prayer Required

Officials and residents of New Orleans are reporting that things are getting worse. Water at Tulane University hospital is rising an inch an hour from the levee breach (or breaches).

One man's weblog offers this:
Unless the two block breach in Bucktown is fixed, New Orleans which is already 80% flooded according to Mayor Nagin will destroy the City of New Orleans. In my view, that includes the CBD and French Quarter.

Stephen Sabludowsky's says the only solution to the situation is a miracle. A miracle that will require prayer.

Prayer is needed for all the various dire needs along the Gulf coast. If you can help in no other way, this is one offering that you can spare.

The Creator of the universe and its physical laws is the only One who can suspend those laws and bring about victory and healing. It is time that we turn to Him who was, is, and ever shall be. Might we suggest this prayer:

Praises to the Lord, the Eternal, God of Heaven and Earth!

Praise to Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord!

Praise to the Holy Spirit, co-eternal with the Father and Son, who with the Father and Son moved upon the waters and created the world upon which we so depend.

Praise and thanksgiving for this opportunity to pray for others, and to sacrifice our time, talent and treasure to help those in the path of destruction.

Prayers of contrition in the ways in which we, as individuals, and as a society, have forgotten the truly important parts of life, like love and forgiveness and sharing, and instead of focused on our own material wants and physical pleasures, too often ignoring both God and our neighbor in need.

Prayers of supplication for Divine Assistance since we realize only too well that we are helpless to make things right, or even to stop the flood tide of destruction that threatens to eliminate a major American city from the face of the earth.

Please, Almighty God and Father, through the sacrifice of your Son, Jesus, and the love and grace of the Holy Spirit, for the glorification of your Holy Name, intercede on behalf of New Orleans and all those along the Gulf coast who are imperiled and beset.

Grant that the miracles necessary for their healing and rebuilding, and especially for their spiritual healing and rebuilding, begin now.

Through you, alone, O Lord, is the victory possible.

In the Name of the Jesus Christ, we pray!


The Gulf Coast's Heartbreak at Dawn

As the sun arose today over southern Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, helicopter crews began showing the world live images of ruin and devastation, of countless thousands of flooded, permanently ruined homes and businesses. Among them scattered fires have broken out, perhaps the result of pilot lights finding spilling natural gas from broken lines; perhaps for other reasons. Paradoxically surrounded by millions of gallons of free roaming sea water, the fires will continue, and in some cases spread to other buildings, unchallenged since there is no way anyone can get there to fight them.

In square mile after square mile the video shows what can only be described as immense heartbreak, for each flooded home represents displaced lives and lost connections to the past. Each wrecked business represents jobs that no longer exist for bread winners. Inside some of the homes, without doubt, are the drowned men, women and children who unwisely chose to brave Katrina. Inside, or on top of, other homes are frightened refugees desperate for rescue by boat or by air.

Total loss of life as yet unknown. Total loss of property will be in the multi-billions of dollars. Total damage to the region is incalculable. And not just the region -- the Katrina disaster, as one relief worker termed it, "is our tsunami." Another disaster official said the miles and miles of ruined cities "is like a nuclear disaster but without the lingering radiation."

In New Orleans eighty percent of the city is flooded. After initial jubilation over the apparent survival of the downtown business district and the historically important and colorful French Quarter, more shock and heartbreak as a two-block section of levee failed overnight, which continues to dump flood waters into parts of the city that had initially been spared. The sun is shining, but there is little to smile about, and the tragedy is just beginning.

Along the Gulf Coast there are homes and businesses which no longer exist, foundations alone testifying to the fact that lives and jobs "used to be here." Thirty-two foot storm surges from out of the sea, whipped by 150 mph winds, can do that. The world watches televised pictures of the pews in church sanctuaries open to the sunlight, the roofs torn peeled back like the tops of soup cans.

Martial law is declared over the entire region. Curfews are invoked. Sporadic looting reminds us that even in the light of massive human disaster and heartbreak there are always a few who still choose not to respect the rights of others. Although in one respect it is hard to blame anyone for looking for food or necessities in order to survive in the hell that is left. And that may well be the case in some instances of so-called looting, simply beleaguered, haunted individuals trying to survive for a day longer until the waters recede and rescue arrives.

A few observations seem due:

1. The Red Cross and federal and state governments have begun a careful, almost too cautious response (in our opinion) to the disaster. Lives are on the line. Time is of the essence. There is almost a surreal, post-modern circumspection in our top-down coordinated relief efforts here in the early 21st Century. No doubt that in due course the relief effort will be magnificent, perhaps even historic in terms of numbers of MREs served, people sheltered, checks written. But when lives are on the line, we prefer the response of southern sports-fishermen who, even before the winds of Katrina had abated, were in their small boats and plying the flooded neighborhood streets, looking for (and finding) terrified victims to rescue. While on TV screens government disaster officials were wringing their hands and talking of the need to first protect the emergency responders, individual citizens were bravely saving lives.

This is not to denigrate FEMA, or the National Guard, or any other agency. Individual actions can count for only so much. We just wish there was just a bit more "cowboy" in the rank-and-file beneath the Commander and Chief. In desperate times we need as many heroes as can rise to the occasion.

2. While comparisons to the December 26, 2004 tsunami can easily come to mind, perhaps we should refrain from making that analogy. The disaster is still too fresh in the minds of the world, and there is a difference between the events that is critical.

The tsunami gave no advance warning. It was realized at least as early as Saturday that Hurricane Katrina was growing into a monster and was headed for the gulf coast. Mandatory evacuation orders had been given. Loss of life is a tragedy under either circumstance, but it was unnecessary on the Gulf Coast. Even one death is too many, but somewhere between 280,000 and 450,000 Indian Ocean coastal residents were killed in a matter of minutes (we doubt there will ever be a clear accounting of the number). In Hurricane Katrina, the loss will probably be over 100, perhaps more, but that is a far cry from the losses in Indonesia and India, etc.

3. Katrina will be an ongoing tragedy written in the lives of millions. The nation's unemployment rate just rose by a significant percentage. The nation's homeless population just rose by numbers that will stagger our minds, once an inventory can be finished. Replacement costs of infrastructure will be massive. Insurance losses stunning.

There may well be a voluntary desire for many to relocate elsewhere, anywhere except near the ocean. Possible is that the government will try to prevent homeowners, or perhaps landowners is the better term now, from rebuilding in these hurricane prone areas. While it is easy today to understand the logic of those who would forbid reconstruction, it is harder still to see how one can justify wholesale violations of property rights, people whose property rights have already been violated by Mother Nature.

The economic rip tide from Katrina will ripple through the nation. There is very little upside to this. Millions are going to need assistance, and they should get it from all of us. They are our brothers and sisters, our neighbors and friends, and they are in dire need.

Contribute what you can afford to disaster relief. A dollar spent now can help save and rebuild lives. Be ready later to contribute more. Be compassionate. But for the grace of God a disaster could break upon any area of the country, and devastate any of us.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Hurricane: moisture hog

One of the irritations of most late summers in Oklahoma, at least for those who can read a weather chart, is the fact that most hurricanes in the Gulf, and occasionally the larger ones in the Atlantic, affect our weather too.

Naw, we don't get the high winds, the tidal flows or the heavy rains.

Of these we get zip. What we do get is light dry north or north-easterly winds with no moisture, a lot of sunshine and the feeling that it will never rain again. Sometimes we get wispy, extremely outer band clouds high in the sky that signify exactly nothing. It almost never gets cool when this happens, even in late September or October. That's because hurricanes are nature's perfect moisture hoarders, altering jet streams and moisture flows, wreaking havoc half a world away on normal weather patterns.

The Oklahomilist prefers predictability and order. The gluttony of the hurricane and its total disregard for tradition has always been a cause for anger and dismay.

Starting this morning the familiar pattern has set in again. The good news is that after an unusually wet August, we may be able to mow the backyard again and fix the balky pool pump in time to close the pool for the season. The bad news is that it's so darn hot that we do not want to work on the lawn and the pool. But the window beside the desk shows a brilliant green tangle of lawn, and a mild verdiform coloration to what should be sparkling water from the pool.

It is unavoidable.

Katrina Thoughts: From a distance

Our blogging on Hurricane Katrina will be limited as there are others better positioned to know what they are talking about, not to mention that it's still early yet and we don't know the extent of damage in Louisiana and lower Mississippi. One other pertinent reason: when it comes to preparations or the actual survival of those in Katrina's path, nothing we or anyone else says makes a bit of difference. Only in the aftermath can we be of service, however peripherally.

IT'S OIL AGAIN, NATURALLY that makes major headlines since the central Gulf is home to more than a quarter of America's petroleum production. As of the last hour we are being told by multiple sources (probably quoting one another) that we are losing a million barrels a day of production to Katrina. That's a seriously bad number.

Thus we are not surprised to hear that President Bush may open up at least a portion of the Strategic Oil Reserve to counter the ugly market forces (that means "high prices" in plain-speak).

We have no problem with this. Katrina is a national emergency, not just a regional one. The devil as usual is in the details as to how and to whom the national oil reserves will be released. How? They are located in Louisiana. It might be a day or two before they can be tapped, and then it's the question of "to whom?" Who has the capacity to take the reserves to refine and distribute, and who derives the benefit?

It's also a question of "for how long?" will the reserves be tapped. Severe depletion of the reserve is not a good idea, no matter how tempting it might be to alleviate the price impact at the pump. Let's face it: sooner or later prices will top out as consumer behavior changes.

Friday, August 26, 2005

U.N. power grab exposed

John O'Sullivan, writing in National Review Online, calmly discusses
"an obscure document, now circulating in draft form among U.N. delegations, that calls on the assembled governments to re-affirm their support for the U.N.'s Millennium Declaration Goals and the other declarations of U.N. conferences over the past 30 years ..."
and if you believe in self-governance, liberty and the right of Americans to continue the experiment begun in 1776, his column will is alarming.

As it should be. Some good points he makes:
When bureaucrats seize power, they do it not with swords but with chloroform. ...

Alas, a reader who has the fortitude and diligence to plough through all of its 158 provisions will discover that its main thrust is to extend the U.N.'s power directly into countries and over the lives of citizens, corporations and private bodies. ...

The section on the environment commits governments to promoting something called "sustainable consumption." Consumption is your standard of living. If that commitment is not mere flapdoodle, it means that a government that endorses it will limit its citizens' standard of living in line with the U.N.'s view of its environmental sustainability. And we all know from other pronouncements that the U.N. and its agencies consider U.S. consumption to be unsustainable.

There's much more but you should read it yourself.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Alert George Steinbrenner

An illegal alien attempted to sneak into the U.S. through Arizona managed to down a U.S. Border Patrol helicopter with a rock about the size of a baseball, according to the Associated Press.

Illegal immigrants threw rocks at a Border Patrol helicopter, forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing when one of the rocks damaged the rotor, the agency said.

Neither the pilot nor the Border Patrol observer was injured.

The A-Star helicopter was two miles west of the U.S. Port of Entry in Andrade, Calif., on Tuesday when a group of immigrants began throwing rocks at the aircraft.

One baseball-sized rock gashed the rotor, forcing the pilot to land nearby, said Michael Gramley, spokesman for the Border Patrol sector based in Yuma, Ariz.

That must have been some throw.

Considering how troubled the NY Yankee pitching staff has been, and that the Yankees have opted for refugee talent in the past ...

On the serious side, check out the following paragraph and see if you can spot the mistake.
After the incident, 17 people were apprehended for illegally crossing the border, and two of them were being investigated for smuggling. Ten immigrants evaded capture."

Notice how it went from "illegal immigrants" to just plain "immigrants"?

Maybe it's not a mistake at all, just another case of the AP preparing the minds of the American people for the Reconquista.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Still at her Bush-bashing AP post

Jennifer Loven, the wife of a well-placed Democratic lobbyist AND a reporter for the Associated Press, continues her hatchet beat on the president with a snide little piece entitled, "Of All Gas Consumers, Bush May Be Biggest."
Getting President Bush from here to there consumes an enormous amount of fuel, whether he's aboard Air Force One, riding in a helicopter or on the ground in a heavily armored limousine. The bill gets steeper every day as the White House is rocked by the same energy prices as regular drivers. Taxpayers still foot the bill.

Almost every vehicle Bush uses is custom-made to add security and communications capabilities, and the heavier weight of these guzzlers further drives up gas and jet fuel costs.

The White House declines to discuss travel costs related to the presidential entourage, and did not respond to a request for the overall effect of higher fuel prices on its budget.
It isn't until the fourth paragraph that Loven mentions that
It is not Bush's choice to be ferried around in a less than fuel- efficient manner. Those arrangements are dictated by tradition and the Secret Service, whose mission is to protect him.

But then she adds:
But Bush is one of the nation's most-traveled presidents.

She gets into more detail, bashing Dubya's pickup, his motorcade driving habits, the fuel-guzzling propensities of Air Force One, etc. Every once in awhile she tempers her remarks with a limp balancing sentencing, but mostly you are given the impression that the President should do a Jimmy Carter and set a good energy-saving example for the nation. (Although she does admit that it didn't do Carter's image with Americans any favors.)

Do you get the feeling that the AP has a vested interest in driving down the president on energy costs, painting him as an unfeeling gas guzzler? Ah, the AP used to be such a fine organization, but it is clearly in the tank for the liberal agenda today.

The Blogosphere complained about Loven's reporting during the 2004 campaign because of her family ties to national Democratic politicians, but mostly because her style is to inject a great deal of "analysis" into AP dispatches, almost all of it critical of Bush and his policies.

For a refresher on Loven check out this Powerline archived story as well as this one.

Who ya gonna believe?

Pat Robertson or your lyin' ears?
"I didn't say 'assassination.' I said our special forces should 'take him out.' And 'take him out' can be a number of things, including kidnapping; there are a number of ways to take out a dictator from power besides killing him. I was misinterpreted ..."

Yes, Pat, you did say assassination. You were not misinterpreted. Everybody and his dog has heard the original tape by now.
"If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it," said Robertson on Monday's program. "It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war."
"Pat Robertson: Just Shut Up!" for more detail.)

Does this man have any advisers, or even close family members, who might be able to talk sense to him? As a Christian and as an American, the Oklahomilist finds himself embarrassed that Robertson continues to claim to speak for both God and Americans, and does neither very well.

UPDATE -- Somebody must've whispered in his ear. Later this afternoon Robertson apologized for his remarks, claimed he was upset over Chavez's recent remarks and behavior, and over-reacted. This time Robertson spoke only for himself. Naturally Chavez and the Venezuelan government are demanding that the aging 700 Club evangelist be arrested and prosecuted for unspecified criminal violations. As much as we disliked his remarks, we hope that the matter is allowed to drop. Trying to make Chavez happy would be counter-productive; it would only feed his meglomania. Plus, the last time we checked, the First Amendment allows for the utterances of stupidity, even if directed against foreign heads of state.

OIL WOE$ -- Cultural doomsday?

A Florida restaurant owner posts a remarkably coherent article on Peak Oil and the need to find a reliable energy replacement soon. Mike Shannon, in an opinion piece in the Bradenton Herald's online edition entitled "Edging Closer to Doomsday," argues:
"... life has the unsettling tendency to replace one problem with another. This new challenge, while nowhere near as cataclysmic as nuclear warfare, has the potential to be equally life-altering. And I am afraid that this is one clock that cannot be stopped.

"To say that oil is important to the functioning of the modern world is the equivalent of saying that oxygen is important to the continuation of human life. At this point in time we as a society simply could not do without it."

Shannon discusses the inevitable disparagement that goes to anyone who dares challenge the prevailing "wisdom" that somehow new oil reserves will continue to be discovered and developed. Often such observations are termed "Malthusian" in an effort to discredit. This is a flawed analogy, he says.

"There is much debate about the actual date of the start of the irreversible decline in the world's supply of oil - estimates range from 10 years from now to sometime in the latter half of this century - but none about the inevitability of its eventual arrival. We will run out of oil. That is not a prediction, it is a fact. What we plan on doing about it, and even more importantly, when we plan on planning to do something about it, is all that matters.

the fundamental difference between the production of food and the reliance on oil, and the fundamental flaw in Malthus' thinking, is that food is a commodity that is replaceable in a relatively short and very predictable time frame. Oil is the by-product of millions of years of the decomposition of organic materials. Any and all attempts at making synthetic oil have proven to be prohibitively expensive or of too small a yield to even approach meeting the demand. And even if a heretofore unknown giant field of good old-fashioned oil is discovered in the near future, that will only delay the inevitable. We will still run out of oil sooner or later.

Finding alternative sources of energy is not a pie in the sky dream; it is an inescapable imperative.

Shannon, however, is an optimist:

"As it was with the solving of the Malthusian challenge, the problem can and will be fixed through techniques and processes that we can scarcely imagine now. But only if we take the problem seriously enough now to bring to bear the full-scale effort that it will require. This is a problem that will take the combined effort of the genius and the ingenious alike. If we wait any longer to begin this monumental task, we run the extreme risk of having waited too long.

"Unfortunately, the powers that be seem perfectly willing to maintain the status quo.

"This is not meant to imply that the mindset of the multinational corporations that dominate the world's energy markets is the sole source of the problem, but it most certainly is a major part of it - even if their internal motivations are perfectly understandable. Any for-profit business entity is precisely that: an organization whose sole purpose is to not only create but to maximize its profit. And making money, they most assuredly are. ..."

Don't just read the whole thing. Think about it.

And then try to explain to yourself how that travesty of an energy bill recently adopted by Congress does anything to combat the problem.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Re: Pat Robertson ... Just Shut Up!

This should not be necessary but it is:

Pat Robertson has never been, is not now and never will be a spokesman for the Oklahomilist, his family, the vast majority of his friends and co-religionists.

Pat Robertson, in our considered opinion (IOCO), has a few loose nuts and bolts in the mechanism of his mind. This is nothing new. There's been creaking and clanking for years now.

Pat Robertson is past his prime, whenever that was.

We have no doubt that Mr. Robertson means well. We have no doubt that he loves Jesus, and no doubt Jesus loves Pat (for He loves all of us).

It's just that from time to time Pat has spoken in Jesus' name without first bothering to check to see if Jesus would approve the message. On Monday, as part of his "700 Club" broadcast which purports to impart Christian-oriented advice and teaching, Pat said it would be okay for the United States to send assassins to kill Hugo Chavez, President (Strongman) of Venezuela. This seems to imply that the commandment "Thou Shalt Not Kill" is not absolute, or at least has interesting caveats.
"You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it," Robertson said. "It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... and I don't think any oil shipments will stop."

Robertson accused the United States of failing to act when Chavez was briefly overthrown in 2002.

"We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability," Robertson said.

"We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator," he continued. "It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

Glancing momentarily at our WWJD decoder ring, these words from the 5th chapter of Matthew's gospel come to mind:

"You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, 'You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.'
But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, 'Raqa,' will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, 'You fool,' will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift."
Reconciliation, not retaliation, is the first duty of the one who would serve God at the altar. Jesus also said that those who live by the sword perish by the sword.
We are not so naive as to believe that nations never employ assassination as a means of foreign policy, and as an exercise in moral logic the spiritual cost of the death of one man versus the deaths of many (in a $200 billion war?) is certainly grist for the mill. But it is not a proper public topic for a man who claims to proclaim the Word.

And that's always been our problem with Pat Robertson. He often mixes up his thoughts as an American citizen with his views on the message of Christ. He appears to have trouble telling the difference.

At the least, Pat Robertson (and his TV production team) should be more careful. More to the point, perhaps it is time for him to retire.

OIL WOE$ -- Violence at the Pump

A tipping point has been passed. The price of gasoline is now triggering incidents of violence at the gas pump, the worst so far in this report from ABC.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. Aug 23, 2005 — The case of an Alabama gas station owner run down and killed by a driver who police believe was escaping with $52 worth of fuel comes as no shock to industry experts. "As the price of gas climbs, people's values decline," said Jeff Lenard, spokesman for the National Association of Convenience Stores.

[Hassain, or Tony] Caddi, owner of the Fort Payne Texaco, died Friday after he grabbed onto the vehicle and the driver dragged him across the parking lot and onto a highway, police said. Caddi fell from the vehicle and was run over by the vehicle's rear wheel. A search for the driver and a gold or tan Jeep-style SUV continued Monday.

The Petroleum & Convenience Marketers of Alabama tells gas retailers to "never try to take action themselves" during robberies and drive-offs, said Arleen Alexander, the group's executive director.

"But I can understand why someone would want to fight for their property," Alexander said. "Fifty-two dollars doesn't sound like that much, but with the little they're making these days that's a lot."

Gasoline theft cost retailers nationwide $237 million in 2004 more than twice the $112 million loss in 2003, according to NACS.

Pump theft, and violence, is not new to America. It also took place in the '70s during the years of rationing following the Arab oil embargo. Steps, mostly successful, were taken to discourage theft and violence. While most of the changes made thirty years ago are still in place today, there is a sizeable generation that has not faced this issue until now. When a tank of gas can cost over $50, which for some is more than a day's take-home pay, it's easy to understand why someone might be tempted to steal. In most states stealing gasoline is a felony; in any state running over the station owner most certainly is felonious as well. Someone in Alabama is facing, at the least, serious prison time.

Using history as our guide, next will come the demand from the bleeding hearts for the government to "do something" about rising gasoline costs. Please, politicians, resist the siren call to "do something." The seeds of price correction are contained within today's high prices: when Americans have had a time to think about it, they will begin using less fuel by cutting out unnecessary travel. (And let's face it, there's a lot of unnecessary travel taking place.) Once demand is lessened, reserves will increase and the price will go from outlandish down to merely avaricious levels. (At least for awhile. The long-term prospects are not good.)

The worst thing would be to invoke rationing again. It gives consumers the worst of all possible worlds.

As for the thefts and/or violence, government in its role of protector of citizens should treat each case in an equally stern, even harsh, manner.

Many service stations in our part of the country have gone to systems where one cannot obtain gasoline without first guaranteeing payment, either through credit cards, debit cards, or convenience store pre-paid cards. As much as we miss the old days where you could just waltz into the office after filling your tank with $18 of regular, toss over a $20 and still buy a Coke and a candy bar (with change), such pre-emptive moves are necessary in today's society.

When gasoline hits $3 or $3.50 per gallon, the tipping point for some of our less philosophical or moral citizens becomes a trigger point. Before that stage is reached examples need to be made to show that society will not tolerate gasoline outlaws.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Could not resist the quiz

"Which Holy Grail Character Are You?"

Arthur, King of the Britons
Arthur, son of Uther Pendragon, from the castle of Camelot. King of the Britons, defeater of the Saxons, Sovereign of all England!

Have a feeling this will delight AND dismay a bunch of people. The Oklahomilist is regally pleased that he was not identified with Brave Brave Sir Robin or any of the taunting French bastards.

Take the test for yourself.

This is not a request.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Won't be stuck in Lodi

A Pakistani who allegedly plotted to open a terrorist camp in northern California, all the better to kill Americans, is getting a fast ticket back home.
Shabbir Ahmed, 39, will be deported on charges unrelated to terrorism: that he overstayed his religious-work visa while heading a mosque in Lodi, an agricultural town of 62,000 about 30 miles south of Sacramento.

Ahmed was one of five men from the mosque who were arrested in June after federal authorities secretly recorded conversations over three years. None of the detainees has been charged with crimes of terrorism
An FBI agent testified last week that Ahmed was acting as an intermediary for Usama bin Laden and other terrorists. The agent refused to testify whether Ahmed was a member of a terror group, saying that information was classified.

Defense lawyer Saad Ahmad said his client has no connection to terrorism, but that Ahmed decided not to contest the immigration charge because he could have been incarcerated for years while fighting the allegations.

Ahmad said his client grew to love America but now fears for his safety after being labeled a terrorist.

No doubt his "love" for America was readily apparent on the government tapes, which is why he's getting a new gig. Lucky Mr. Ahmed avoids the Lodi curse which, according to John Fogerty, means "somehow I missed connections, looks like I've lost my friends." Mr. Ahmed can sing and dance for a new audience in Pakistan, and avoid singing in federal court.

Some guys just have all the luck.

A wedge issue we should embrace

Bill Richardson, opportunist Democratic governor of New Mexico, is stirring the pot with his attempt to look like a hard-line border protectionist by declaring a state of emergency in four border counties and pledging $1.5 million to help reinforce border patrol efforts. Why, he's even considering playing nice with the Minutemen!

Like any good politician, Richardson can put his finger to the political winds and determine from whence they bloweth. Good for him. Sure he's been on all sides of the issue. What did you expect?

But this is a good thing, especially right now. Something must awaken Dubya, or one of his top lieutenants, to the fact that the American public is fed up with our leaky borders. Nothing awakens napping officialdom quicker than the spectre of being outpositioned on an issue that, by rights, should have been theirs all along. This is a wedge issue we should embrace, and be noisy about telling pollsters, press and politicians about it.

For whatever reasons Bush has never chosen to be serious about border security or illegal immigration. He's never explained his position to the extent that we could understand it, let alone defend it. It's been one of those article of faith ("trust me") kind of issues that leaves a great deal of the Bush base wondering if we aren't being seriously taken for granted. That goes double for those of us in states in proximity to the border. We can see with our own eyes, and hear with our own ears, the ever increasing numbers of Hispanic workers and motorists. Only a fool believes that most of them are here legally. The inflow is undeniable.

Even without the threat of terrorists hidden in the surge of unregulated immigration, this would be a concern. There are limits to our society's ability to train and assimulate new members, not to mention serious concerns about insurance coverages (health and auto). Rare is the week that ends without hearing new reports of people involved in accidents with uninsured undocumenteds (most of whom disappear quickly).

So let the President and the GOP get nervous about border control. We'd be pleased if they worry about losing their base on this wedge issue. Hopefully they'll be discomforted enough to actually do something about it.

There's a surge of patriotic Americans rallying to the issue, Mr. President. We're looking for someone to do something about it, preferably before 2008. This would be a good time to get out in front and make it look like a parade. Your parade. Otherwise it might become Richardson's parade or, heaven forbid, Hillary's.

Hitchens hits the mark

We've tried to avoid the Cindy Sheehan "protest" of the Bush ranch, mostly because everyone else is on it and the ongoing spectacle of that woman, who so obviously is being egged on by the Loony Left, really turns the Oklahomilist's stomach. (We've had a touch of something anyway, no sense in making it worse.)

But Drudge tied in to a Christopher Hitchens article at Slate that is worth a read, appropriately entitled, "Cindy Sheehan's Sinister Piffle." An example:
Sheehan has obviously taken a short course in the Michael Moore/Ramsey Clark school of Iraq analysis and has not succeeded in making it one atom more elegant or persuasive.

As a bonus he slams Maureen Dowd for her unqualified support of the "grieving" mother. Dowd is the national poster child for loony lefties, so Hitchens' post is worth reading for that part alone.

Mr. Sandman, give me a dream

Forget the rosy forecasts of the Middle Eastern branch of OPEC: Peak Oil is either here or not far off. How can you tell?

The oil sheiks are starting to talk about researching "alternative energy" sources.

"Our competitors, the alternative energy providers, are intensively pursuing research programs aimed at reducing the domination of oil and gas in the global energy market," Abdullah Salatt, Qatar's representative to OPEC, said. "Likewise, we should have our own independent programs."

Like how you can generate 30 miles per gallon from sand, perhaps?

Maybe that's a little insensitive on our part, but it's comforting to think that when petroleum is a thing of the past, at least we have green pastures and clean water for our horses.

Must've been negative ...

A followup to our thoughts on "Positive Lightning," we came across this timely tidbit from across the state:

Oklahoma Man Shocked, Shocked by Lighning

Carl Mize was hit by lightning in storms August 5, but the electrical jolt is nothing new for him. This is the fourth time he's been struck.

Hwas was working with a crew on the University of Oklahoma campus when they saw storms approaching. A co-worker familiar with his history retreated, saying, "I'm getting away from you." The bolt struck soon after that.

Mize spent four days at Norman regional Hospital and he's well on the road to recovery. Other than complicating his heart condition and numbing his toes, Mize is apparently fine.

We're happy for him, but I feel no shame for my low profile move last Friday.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Positive lightning?

Got caught on the jogging trail earlier this evening by a surprise thunderstorm, half a mile away from the car. What was just a smallish dark cloud grew within minutes to a sizeable thunderhead, sending down wicked cloud-to-ground bolts of lightning, some of them a good 45 degrees out ahead of the cloud where the sun was still shining.

Quickening the pace the realization hit that the Oklahomilist was the tallest object within a quarter mile, and rain was starting to fall. The last flash was less than a quarter mile away. The only solution was to take "refuge" in a small depression off to the side of the trail that runs above the Creek Turnpike. Alas its only compensating virtue was that I was no longer the tallest object in the field. The rain became a cold downpour, and then dime-sized hail began to mix with the wind and the rain. Visibility went to a matter of a foot or so as the wind kicked up to 50 or 60 mph.

One cannot help but feel a bit foolish, tucked into a fetal curl, hands above the eyes in a bid to keep the hailstones out, while ice cold rain plunges your body temperature from a sweaty 100 degrees to who knows what. Dime-sized hail is nothing special in Oklahoma, but it's been years since I've had to contend with it one-on-one.

And yet the sting of the hail, the swirl of the wind, the cold wash of the rain was nothing compared to thoughts of the lightning, especially since earlier in the day we had come across this "Bizarre Lightning" story from the Arizona Republic. Lightning is static electricity but it makes a difference whether the strike is a "positive" or "negative" bolt.
A top National Weather Service expert in Phoenix will investigate a powerful lightning strike that "sounded like dynamite exploding," damaging 13 homes in central Mesa on Tuesday afternoon.

"This is beyond the norm," meteorologist David Runyan said. "It's bizarre. It intrigues us. We will seek some means to understand it a little more."

The lightning bolt drawing all the attention caused extensive damage to a home in the 2000 block of East Seventh Avenue, near Broadway and Gilbert roads, as its charge sped to other structures through underground wiring and wet soil.
On Wednesday, Runyan, of the Weather Service, said he would visit the site after Randall Cerveny, an assistant professor of meteorology at Arizona State University, indicated it could have been hit by a positive strike, which is extremely rare and powerful.

Scientists say positive strikes deliver much more voltage than the negative bolts that occur 90 to 95 percent of the time in storms across the country.

Positive strikes also tend to spread their potent charge over a larger area.

"They tend to be much more powerful," Cerveny said. "We don't know much about them because they are so rare."

How far the strike spreads depends on such factors as how much underground wiring is in the area and if the ground is wet.

Well, the ground all around was wet, and provoked a great deal of thought whether that small dip in the hill would offer any protection against a positive lightning bolt. The 90 to 95 percent odds against it provided little solace with the booming all around. (What did provide solace was a a steady stream of "Hail Marys" and "Our Fathers" from yours truly, along with a specific promise to Jesus to clean up a few messy loose ends ASAP.)

The Lord is kind. The storm passed after ten minutes, the sun came out and the squishy, waterlogged trek to the car began. The cell phone still hasn't quite returned to normal but all things considered it was quite an experience with little harm done. What a marvelous world it is when we expose ourselves to it.

Still can't help thinking about that "positive lightning" however:
Mesa firefighters, who have seen the aftermath of other lightning strikes over the years, said they have never witnessed anything like the effects of the Seventh Avenue strike. They believe the strike, recorded at 4:45 p.m., first hit the home, owned by Al Ogawa and Richard McTevia, and spread its powerful charge underground.

The force's intense heat exploded underground wires, including television cable, near the home, erupted through the soil and spewed dirt and debris like volcanic ash against homes, trees and parked vehicles. Areas around brass doorknobs and locks were scorched.

Makes you wonder, what if something happened to "reverse the charges" on the earth's polarity so that 90 to 95 percent of the lightning strikes were positive instead of negative? The all-electric, wired-in connectivity we enjoy in our homes might become instead potential death traps during inclement weather.

Now that's a comforting thought to end the day!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Erotic blindness?

Looks like looking at those naughty pix might make you go blind after all ... at least temporarily.

(Who says the Oklahomilist has no respect at all for science?)

Those evil humans are at it again

A recurring pet peeve for us is when people want to turn science into a religion. A fresh example is a report in Science Daily that claims humans are responsible for the warming of the Antarctic ice shelf, large chunks of which have fallen off in recent years.
"The disintegration of Larsen B is almost certainly a response to human-induced global warming," says Queen's geographer Robert Gilbert, the only Canadian researcher on the international research team.
Oh, really? What he says next casts serious doubt on that:
"Antarctic temperatures have increased more than 10°C in the last 25 years. By comparison, the world-wide temperature change during the entire post-glacial period has only been 2 -- 3°C," he adds.
Ignore for a moment the fact it is an historical fact that grapes once grew in Greenland, several hundred years ago, and that other scientists have found evidence of wide fluctuations in global temperatures, greater than 2 or 3 degrees C, that seemingly occur in cycles. Let's simply try to put some logic to the immediate presumption that humans must be responsible for a 10 degree C change in Antarctic temps.

There is no doubt that changes are taking place worldwide, and especially at the poles. Some data suggest that the sun itself is putting more than the average amount of thermal radiation into our globe (not to mention electro-magnetic, in a process we do not as yet understand). Thus there is a question: How much warming is human-induced and how much of it is the result of other forces?

As far as we know there is no evidence that warmer temperatures "migrate" to the poles through some as yet unknown natural process. But you would have to assume this as a given in order to say that the warming "almost certainly" is caused by human activity. You would also have to rule out any other causes.

This is not science. A scientist would say, "How is this possible? What other factors might be involved? How can I know for certain that more human-caused heat is pooling at the South Pole rather than being equitably distributed throughout the earth's atmosphere?"

A scientist might say, "Perhaps there is an as yet unknown source of heat that is acting on the Antarctic ice shelfs. Perhaps there are undersea fissures releasing volcanic material that we have yet to detect and measure. We know it is happening elsewhere." And that scientist would get his grant money aligned, pick research associates, and get after it, trying to nail down this mystery.

What he would not do is automatically go to his Scientific Catechism and re-read the chapter on the Evils of Human-Caused Global Warming, and issue a press release.

BIO-MASS -- Also in the news today is an alarmist report from Siberia that an area of permafrost peat the size of France and Germany combined is thawing, with the possibility of releasing billions of tons of methane into the atmosphere. As usual, the press found a "scientist" with his dog-earned catechism handy:
Climate scientists yesterday reacted with alarm to the finding, and warned that predictions of future global temperatures would have to be revised upwards.

"When you start messing around with these natural systems, you can end up in situations where it's unstoppable. There are no brakes you can apply," said David Viner, a senior scientist at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

"This is a big deal because you can't put the permafrost back once it's gone. The causal effect is human activity and it will ramp up temperatures even more than our emissions are doing."

Two questions come to mind:

One: If this permafrost is so unstable, how did it handle the aforementioned earlier period of global warmth? Did it melt and then refreeze? What happened to the earlier methane release?

Two: In a world facing the spectre of PeakOil, wouldn't a sizeable chunk of real estate with readily available methane offer at least a tempting solution to energy resource demand? Methane, when burned, produces carbon dioxide and water. It's a clean natural gas.

But why pester yourself with optimistic "can do" questions when it is so much easier to point the finger of doom and declaim, "Woe to you polluters, the end is nigh!"

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

NCAA revealed to be a no-brainer

This one's a no-brainer: The NCAA has lost whatever it had left of its sanity, its integrity and our respect.

A new rule that would bar sports teams with "hostile" and "abusive" nicknames (or at the least terms that embarrass those in politically correct circles) from playoffs is the summit of madness and illogic (at least when speaking of collegiate sports).

CBS Sportsline reported:
Starting in February, any school with a nickname or logo considered racially or ethnically "hostile" or "abusive" by the NCAA would be prohibited from using them in postseason events. Mascots will not be allowed to perform at tournament games, and band members and cheerleaders will also be barred from using American Indians on their uniforms beginning in 2008.
While NCAA officials admit they still can't force schools to change nicknames or logos, they are making a statement they believe is long overdue. Eighteen mascots, including Florida State's Seminole and Illinois' Illini, were on the list of offenders.

But some names don't seem to bother the NCAA executive committee:
President Myles Brand noted that some schools using the Warrior nickname will not face sanctions because they do not use Indian symbols. One school, North Carolina-Pembroke -- which uses the nickname Braves -- will also be exempted because Brand said the school has historically had a high percentage of students, more than 20 percent, who are American Indians.
"We believe hostile or abusive nicknames are troubling to us and it can't continue," committee chairman Walter Harrison said. "We're trying to send a message, very strongly, saying that these mascots are not appropriate for NCAA championships."
Instead there are bowl games, privately sponsored events, at least officially. But the truth is that it will affect football soon enough, since most colleges compete in both sports.The action does not affect NCAA football because there is no established playoff system.

This is a can of worms, the contents of which will only get smellier and more ridiculous as various PC pressure groups pile on. PETA will want to ban nicknames which abuse and offer hostility to animals. Thus say goodbye to Texas Longhorns, K-State Wildcats, Missouri Tigers, Colorado Buffalo, and a host of others. (We use Big 12 references becaus
e at least we know Big 12 team names). But it won't stop there. Any association with those who break the l
aw or condone lawbreaking will be next. Thus Outlaws, Renegades, Pirates, Buccaneers, etc., will soon be blacklisted. This would include the Oklahoma Sooners. Why? Because the Sooners were those enthusiastic settlers who established their farms just a wee bit ahead of schedule, sneaking over from Kansas or Texas before the start of the land runs. In other words, cheaters. We love our infamous forebears here in the land of the red man. Oh, damn, we're in big, big trouble. That's what Oklahoma means in at least one Indian (excuse the hell out of us, native American) dialect.

Guess we should rename the entire state too. Call it the State of Heartland, and rename the Sooners something less colorful, like "Law-Abiders." No more the Oklahoma Sooners. Call 'em the Heartland Law-Abiders. And how about up the road in Stillwater, Heartland? Can't have the Cowboys. Sorry! Those mean ol' cowpokes PUNCHED the longhorns back in the evil old, politically incorrect frontier days. That's hostile and abusive! Let's rename the OSU team the Heartland State University Veterinarians.

Iowa State should change its name too. The state itself gets a pass because although it's an Indian name it simply means "This is the place" or "This is a Beautiful Place." Not too much to get excited about there. But Cyclones? What an awful image! To too many young children in Tornado Alley the term cyclone is synonymous with twisters, alerts, and terrifying mad dashes into smelly, dank and dangerous cellars full of old jars of green beans and corn. How could a major university be so thoughtless as to abuse the little psyches of children with such hostile imagery!

Nebraska doesn't get away clean. Nebraska is an Oto (an Indian tribe) word that means "flat water" and is a reference to the Platte river and really means "broad river." This may or may not relate to "broad" as in a derogatory term for a woman, but in 21st Century America you cannot take chances. And Cornhusker? Obviously not what it would seem. Its bound to be some hostile and abusive Freudian reference to what some men would try with the aforementioned broads in the river. Nope. Nebraska Cornhuskers has got to go. But it's not my state, so let 'em come up with their own PC substitute.

CONCLUSION? Road trip! The entire NCAA executive committee needs to crowd into a big ol' Winnebago (ignoring the name, of course), stop just long enough for beer and chips, and spend the entire fall visiting with the people in the parking lots of stadiums all across the land, asking them for their opinion on the NCAA and PC nicknames, and maybe, just maybe, they'll get a true education called Real World 1001.

Meanwhile we recommend that the 18 on the black list of offenders go on the WARPATH, hire attorneys and SCALP the NCAA in the courts. The rest of the teams should, in solidarity against insanity, hold a POW WOW and vote to boycott the NCAA basketball tournament next spring. Yeah, it's a lot of lost WAMPUM but some things are more important than money. It's time to put the TOMAHAWK to the sensitivity police who are not so slowly but surely stripping our culture of its history and traditions.

DISCLOSURES -- The Oklahomilist's pedigree includes Cherokee and Osage bloodlines, and Mrs. Oklahomilist is a card-carrying member of the Cherokee tribe. We are proud of our heritage but are not terribly disappointed that we live in a world with central heat and air, convenience stores, internal combustion and personal computing.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Dismay over good employment?

The headline on the Fox News website:

Stocks Fall on Red-Hot Jobs Data

We did a double-take on the headline and had to read a little bit further. Why would a good jobs report out of Washington be such bad news for Wall Street? The reporting wasn't too helpful but contained within it are our clues to the solution of this mystery.

NEW YORK — Stocks fell Friday after the Labor Department reported surprisingly strong gains in jobs and wages, which in turn could spark inflation and prompt the Federal Reserve to keep raising interest rates.

In late morning trading Friday, the blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average (search) was down 33 points at 10,577 while the technology-packed Nasdaq Composite Index (search) was down 8 points at 2,183. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 Index (search) was down 7 points at 1,228.

"For the stock market, it's a sweet and sour report. On the sweet side, the economy is doing well. It's clearly generating jobs and sustaining growth," said Ed Yardeni, chief investment strategist at Oak Associates in Akron, Ohio. "On the sour side, the Fed will continue raising interest rates."

While Fox is usually better than most it still succumbs to mainstream press thinking that revolves around Alan Greenspan, the Fed, and all things government -- all of these reactive agents in the economy -- and forgets to plug into the primary, or perhaps we should say "primal" agents of causation, the mindsets of the corporatists who by and large are calling the shots.

Why is job growth and static unemployment (the rate stayed unchanged at 5.0%) such bad news? It means that companies might actually have to pay more for labor. A simplistic capitalist analysis would say that that is indeed a bad thing. But let's not be too simplistic. Why did the job growth occur in the first place? Because companies are adding employment because sales (and prospects for future sales) gave them the confidence to do so. Employment is being added because profits over and above a certain trigger point are requiring expansion decisions.

Yet for every capitalist who "gets it" and enthusiastically expands his payroll and his output, there are two, three or a dozen pessimistic sit-on-their-rump fund managers who only see the trouble it will cause the markets, who could not care less about the human lives that are affected positively and who probably wish every company in America could suddenly outsource their jobs to Malaysia where workers come cheap.

So instead of the good news that it ought to be, the overall market deems it bad news for the long term and plays around with your retirement investments.

Before someone tosses in the bromide that the market is now the collective action and "wisdom" of millions of Mom and Pop investors, you need to get up to speed on what has happened to Wall Street since the dot com collapse and 9/11. Program trading -- the computerized activity of the big players on the Street -- is way up, and individual investor participation is way down. A fairly good explanation of this can be found in the archives over at Urban where editor George Ure has graphed the difference in investment activity on the New York Stock Exchange, using the NYSE's own numbers. You'll find his analysis under "Friday's Problem."

Bottom line is that regular people are, statistically speaking, no longer confident enough in the markets to do much investing there. That's not hard to understand considering that many investment advocates (once upon a time including the Oklahomilist) were cheerfully urging everyone into the markets by explaining how the markets "never really fail" those stalwarts who invest and stay the course, at least since 1930. Oops! Right now the investing that is being done is that of people using other people's money, and often it is tied in with much computer baggage that even the guys issuing the orders can't tell you exactly why something is bought, sold or held.

This is not an environment conducive to regarding the impact on ordinary human beings, and it is this absence of the human touch, of humanity, that we have begun to find not just repellant, but fearsome.

We'll admit that it is hard to be overly optimistic in an economic environment where the personal savings rate of Americans has officially dropped to (are you ready for this?) ZERO and the price of a barrel of oil on the world market is flirting with $63 (when just four months ago there were disaster predictions about $50 per barrel oil).

Conclusions? You might want to think about adopting a more sustainable lifestyle and reducing debt so that you can be more properly prepared for the future, good times or bad. But it's still more-or-less a free country, and you've still got your free will, regardless of what any bureaucrat or federal judge believes. We just want your decisions to be informed ones.

Monday, August 01, 2005

A U.N.-controlled internet?

Where would one even start
defending such a bad idea?

U.S. Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota has issued his analysis of the U.N. committee's report that the United Nations should "take over" control of the internet. Fortunately he is not a defender:
"Subjecting the Internet and its security to the politicized control of the UN bureaucracy would be a giant and foolhardy step backwards." (Courtesy of the Drudge Report)
Coleman makes some good points, among them:
"The first priority for the United Nations must be fundamental reform of its management and operations rather than any expansion of its authority and responsibilities.

"The Internet has flourished under U.S. supervision, oversight, and private sector involvement. This growth did not happen because of increased government involvement, but rather, from the opening on the Internet to commerce and private sector innovation.

"Putting the U.N. in charge of one of the world's most important technological wonders and economic engines is out of the question. This proposal would leave the United States with no more say over the future of the Internet than Cuba or China-countries that have little or no commitment to the free flow of information."

That last point is the pertinent one: The U.N. wants to control the internet because most of its member states hate what the internet represents, a threat to despots and tyrants. Control of the world wide web would give certain factions at the U.N. more of the power they crave to build a one-world government.

So here is our question for American patriots and lovers of freedom: If we do not wish to give up our control of the 'net, how does the U.N. plan to take it away from us? Only with the cooperation of at least two branches of our federal government could it happen. Something to think about as we look at Supreme Court nominees and the all too soon 2006 mid-term elections.

Bottom line for the Oklahomilist?

The United Nations can go to hell.

No, it's not very sensitive, but this is one sorry outfit that does almost nothing right and poses a greater danger to human freedom than most people imagine.