Tuesday, May 27, 2008
It is said that mighty empires don’t collapse because of lost wars but suffocate on their own from the break down of morality and ethics as the seeds of evil grow and bring down the empire. Well America stands at the precipice of self-destruction because big business doesn’t care and big government turns a deaf ear to the cries for help from the people.
Once upon a time the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, the Justice Department Anti-Trust group, the Treasury Department, the Internal Revenue Service and other government agencies would never tolerate the corruption and deceit running rampant today.
Today we give tax deductions to corporations guilty of multi-billion dollar crimes against humanity. We give tax breaks to oil companies that refuse to build refineries and develop new oil fields. We bail out banks and investment houses that violated the law and created the sub-prime mortgage scam. We make money available at cheaper interest rates to institutions that then refuse to lower mortgage rates. And worst of all we allow 535 Senators and Congressmen to employ 18,000 staff and receive $1.6 billion so far in campaign contributions from the very same companies bankrupting our economy and destroying lives.
The federal campaign finance laws are an invitation to corruption and the House and Senate refuse to change them. No wonder when they get $1.6 billion just for the primary elections. The media blindly ignores the truth about the extent of corruption because they get billions of dollars in advertising revenue from the same companies.
Investment houses, banks and pharmaceutical companies have paid well over twenty billion dollars in fines for illegal activities since 2000 and we reward them with tax deductions for the fines they pay. Then we watch as the Federal Reserve guarantees lines of credit to keep them in business and to bail each other out while reducing the cost of our tax dollars to them so they can continue with their market manipulations.
Many of the same companies that lost $400 billion on the sub-prime mortgages they created out of greed are now benefiting from the incredible oil price surge with record profits every month while the average American is watching their lives, standard of living and retirement funds disappear.
Congress calls hearings to question the oil executives on their salaries and bonuses while doing nothing to stop the oil price spiral. What in the world is the point unless the point is to distract the American public from the truth? Keep the eye of the public off the financial institutions that are pouring billions of dollars into the congressional and presidential campaigns while raiding the US treasury in every way humanly possible.
Through it all the people have patiently waited for their elected representatives to protect them and their federal agencies to stop the bad guys. Neither has happened nor are they likely to happen. Congress is still looking in the wrong places and the administration is still asking the oil producers to increase production and neither strategy has worked.
Why do we have to ask those that directly benefit from our defense spending in Iraq (over $500 billion) to help us with the oil supplies when they could care less? Perhaps all those Sheiks in training that came to our Ivy League Schools to learn the ways of the world learned a little more about price gouging and a little less about protecting their own market.
Of course the oil companies have not developed known reserves nor increased refinery capacity so they are contributing as well to the mess. The President blames Congress for not passing his energy bill during the last eight years. How long does a president have to wait to figure out his bill is no good? If the president wanted the bill so bad then during those eight years he might have acted like a leader and found a way to get it passed. I mean he does head the “executive” branch doesn’t he?
Then there are the car companies who have become so dependent on oil and the internal combustion engine and the massive after market repair revenue it generates they sat back and waited until the consumer was getting squeezed to death before addressing the need for an alternative fuel engine.
In the end there is us, the American consumer, who bought the cars, burned the oil, let the financial institutions invest our money, elected the president and the congress, and now are screaming about what went wrong. We could have elected responsible officials who warned us of the dire future but we didn’t. We could have thrown out the politicians who lied to us but we didn’t. We could demand our elected officials prosecute the financial institutions that own the futures market, manipulate the media to drive up the price of gas, and get the federal government to bail them out whenever their greed gets them in trouble. But we don’t.
We did reduce our driving and that is good. What we really need to do is clean house, both houses of congress that is along with the administration. What policies the president did implement over the part eight years required the approval of congress to budget so they are both guilty of complicity in the oil fiasco. Besides, when it comes to being bought off by campaign contributions from these powerful forces both were willing to do whatever it took for the money.
So we need look no further than the mirror for the real culprit in the oil debacle as we let all the players make the grand scam happen and if there is to be a solution it will be found when we wake up and use the ballot to fight back. Throw them all out of office and there is a chance the world might become a better place. After what the politicians have done to us how can we do anything less?
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Our village newspaper, the Coltons Point Times has presented twelve articles over the past eighteen months identifying the culprits, the problems, and the myths of the oil price mess and offering ways a responsible president or congress could address these problems.
Now we expected nothing from the Bush administration in terms of attacking the problem because we knew the administration was clueless, ignorant, or conveniently looking the other way while planning their retirement homes in Dubai. One should never expect anything from the lamest of lame ducks.
But the Congress, under new Democratic leadership the past two years and with all those wonderful promises of dynamic action to fix the wrongs of the world, they could do something about it but won’t. Oh they hold periodic idiotic hearings to show the world they are on top of things and accomplish nothing with the utmost of noise.
What the congress and administration have allowed to happen with the sub-prime mortgage catastrophe and the oil price disaster will forever be known as the darkest hours in the history of our system of Democracy. The very people we have elected to protect us have sold their souls to the devil and their hearts to big money in the biggest takeover in US history, the takeover of the US government.
There are about 450 House and Senate incumbents up for re-election this year along with the three major presidential candidates. The securities, investment, real estate, and oil and gas industries alone have pumped over $1.6 billion into their campaigns and the election is not even half over in terms of potential contributions. Our administration and congress are as green as green can get but not in terms of environmental consciousness, they are awash in the green of billions of dollars being invested in their futures.
Unfortunately if our leaders looked at the facts they might question those green billions but they don’t. Instead they keep blocking campaign reform, allowing mortgage and securities bailouts and do nothing on oil prices while they keep banking the big bucks. Of course when you spend your time kissing babies and glad-handing constituents you may not have time to be responsible but the 535 Senate and House members have over 18,000 staff and you would think they could do something to help their bosses and our protectors.
So we pointed out in a series of articles that the largest investment houses in the world have lost almost $400 billion in the sub-prime mortgage fiasco that never should have happened if the administration and congress were doing their job. We also pointed out some of the same powerful investment houses were the silent owners of the oil futures exchange while the Arab nations who were bailing our the sub-prime losers also owned a lot of those oil reserves soon to be sold on the futures market.
That information was provided in November of 2006 when the oil price was $50.98 per barrel. Today, thanks to inertia by our government the crude oil price is now over $130.00 per barrel, an increase since our first article of nearly $80 per barrel.
In January of 2007 we listed the secret partners in the purchase of the oil futures exchange in London including Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank (Germany), and Société Générale (France) all among the biggest financial giants in the world, three major oil firms BP Amoco, Royal Dutch Shell and TotalfinaElf, all three among the top eight most profitable corporations in the world in 2005, and six of the largest energy companies in America.
We warned that the same financial institutions were among those losing billions of dollars in the US sub-prime mortgage market and that they were in a position to offset their sub-prime losses by keeping oil prices at record levels. Every day the price stays up these firms benefit through their ownership of the futures market not to mention the billions of dollars they manage that can be leveraged to keep the futures market at record levels.
So-called oil industry analysts who worked for these firms and were darlings of the news media were identified by us as in potential conflicts of interest by not identifying they and their employers benefited from the runaway oil prices fueled by their expert analysis that projected $150-200 per barrel. Our headlines could not have been clearer.
“Slicker than an Oil Spill”, “The JP Morgan Chase Takeover of Bear Stearns - A Trillionaires Delight”, “Oil Price Conspiracy – Kings and Pawns”, “Oil Profiteering”, “Oil Bailing Out Sub-prime Mortgage Mess”, “Politicians and Oil – the Silence is Deafening”, “Oil Analysts Drive Oil Price Records”, and Demons and the Black Gold.”
So eighteen months, twelve articles, an $80 per barrel increase in oil and over $1.6 billion poured into your campaign coffers and still nothing has happened of substance in congress. You now leave us with no alternative but a Constitutional crisis because all of Congress, the House and Senate, are co-conspirators in the sub-prime and oil price shenanigans that have resulted in destabilizing the world economy and hurting very badly a lot of innocent people here and around the world. You should be ashamed and shamed for what you allowed to happen.
It might be too late to impeach the administration for their complicity in this series of tragic events because they will be long gone soon enough and it would be yet another waste of federal money but the truth is you, the congress, should be impeached and that is the cause of our constitutional crisis.
Impeachment proceedings require that the House of Representatives bring articles of impeachment and the impeachment trial be conducted by the Senate. There is no provision in the Constitution on what to do when the entire House and Senate is going to be impeached so the American Civil Liberties Union or maybe those lawyers who have also poured $72 million into your campaigns could figure out some way to bring a class action impeachment against our entire congress. It sure sounds like a lot in legal fees could result.
In the meantime you or your 18,000 staff members should take the time to read our twelve articles and see if it can inspire you to come up with a strategy that might work to bring down the oil price. You can find them at http://coltonspointtimes.blogspot.com/ where truth is free and we make no campaign contributions.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
I mean Einstein didn’t grow up in the nucleus of an atom with electrons, protons and neutrons but seemed quite capable of pioneering the physics of the atom. Most historians certainly didn’t grow up back in the past yet they seem to have no problem writing about it. Still, the question is worth discussing because there are other ways one can relate to a place such as the Point besides growing up in it, which probably doesn’t mean a lot since it has changed dramatically since then.
There are two reasons I am comfortable writing about the rather odd things in Coltons Point. First I was a trained researcher and journalist and our job was to find out things. Second, since one of the primary features of the Point is the Potomac, meaning being a River Man, then my previous fishing adventures should be of value.
So I thought back and decided the high school fishing experiences probably didn’t count since the only worm that got caught was the one in the bottom of the bottle of Mescal and we never even bothered to bait our hooks.
But there was one early fishing adventure when I was fishing at the Mississippi River locks and caught a prehistoric monster. There was also the time I caught three buckets of lobster at Prince Edward Island in Canada. A tuna adventure in an old tuna boat far off the coast of Nova Scotia also adds to my credibility along with catching one of the largest striped rainbow trout in Colorado that season.
I tried my hand off the Florida Keys in search of Marlin but caught nothing then came face-to-face with a barracuda while snorkeling because the fishing was too boring. Rest assured those 600 teeth were gigantic through the magnification of goggles. Finally there was the 24-pound lobster my friend and I caught and ate to solidify my credentials.
Down on the mighty Mississippi about 60 miles north of where Mark Twain grew up I was fishing from a lock with my friends Diamond Jim the ancient riverboat captain and the Indian Chief, probably a survivor of Little Big Horn. I used to entertain them when I could get away to the river. Suddenly my pole nearly flew out of my hands as some monster snatched my bait and made a run for it and an epic struggle took place before I could bring the creature close to the locks where I could pull him out of the water and see what I caught. As I pulled in the line something more ugly than sin emerged from the churning surf with a long snout and sharp spikes all around it. I screamed, the Indian Chief and Diamond Jim roared, and before I knew it what they called a Garfish was released back in the water to terrorize another kid.
The buckets of lobster were caught from a pier on the coast of Prince Edward Island up by Nova Scotia but the catch came to a rapid halt when a Canadian Royal Mounted Policeman came up and said he could arrest us for catching lobster from shore. I tried to explain that growing up in Iowa surrounded by cornfields did not help us learn the Canadian lobster laws but we certainly were sorry and could we please keep the ones we had for dinner. I do not think he wanted to spend the night at the jail with us as I had this propensity to talk non-stop asking questions and articulating theories so we got a lecture and the lobsters and were sent on our way.
The tuna adventure was a good idea gone badly as I challenged an old French captain to take on my two brothers and me as crew on his tuna boat. Reluctantly he agreed and we were to meet at 5 am at the wharf. Now this was to be a real adventure as I heard the tuna were huge, we go to go out on the Atlantic Ocean a long ways, and after fishing for Marlin and failing in Florida finally I might catch a deep sea fish. When we arrived at the wharf in the dark our hearts sank as the boat was so old it should have been in a museum and the way the smoke belched out of it there was no way we could make it out and back.
However the captain insisted a deal was a deal and off we chugged for England I think as we went straight out to sea for at least two hours before slowing. Long ago the land had disappeared. When I asked the captain if we could survive if the boat capsized he said we didn’t need to worry, if the hypothermia didn’t get us fast the sharks would. I could sense a growing hatred from my brothers.
Finally in the early morning hours the old salt spotted a school of tuna and told us to drop the lines. I looked around for the poles like in Florida and he laughed. “The wire coiled at your feet and all around the deck, drop those lines,” he yelled and thank goodness they were already baited. We tossed the steel cables over the side and in minutes the old boat started groaning from the weight of a thousand tuna pulling at the cables.
“Now what” I yelled and he responded, “pull the damn cables in!” Before the first tuna was on board our hands were bloody pulps but the minute the tuna broke the surface our pain vanished as we spent the next few hours catching what seemed like an endless supply of giant tuna. Exhausted, bloody and smelling like tuna, we finally made it triumphantly back to shore where he offered us tuna steaks to take home but we passed.
The 26-pound rainbow trout caught in the Rockies was a little easier. We drove to a mountain stream I had read about and the spring runoff was over, there was barely a trickle of water left coming down the mountain. Persistent, I walked the riverbed until I found a small amount of water and there in the water was the giant trout that I promptly caught with my hands and we ate for the next three days. The result far overshadowed the catch.
I already mentioned the Florida Keys and the deep-sea adventure that caught nothing so the only story I have left is the 24-pound lobster. That happened in lower Manhattan when I won a bet with my boss and let me tell you it was the biggest lobster I ever imagined though not the biggest on the menu. I suspect they chopped it up with a chain saw and served it to us in big bowls and it proved the most delicious meal I ever ate.
So there you have it, my diverse and dramatic credentials to be an honorary Water Man and be able to tell the story of the Pointer people. Did I mention when I worked for the Governor of New Jersey and we were trying to get a ban on oysters from New York Bay lifted and the Fish people walked in with oysters the size of watermelons? They said they were delicious and could serve a family but I questioned whether the world was ready for giant mutant oysters that required a sledgehammer to open.
So why should the news media care? Because the credibility of the media is just as poor as the credibility of the president, congress and corporate America and those reporting the news should not be considered a joke. If I didn’t care about the reputation of the media I would not care, although the extreme efforts of some media to distort the public will does provide some form of entertainment.
News reporting is a protected privilege in America, it is even protect by the Constitution in the Bill of Rights. But along with such privileged status comes responsibility, the responsibility to not abuse your rights and many of the media seem to forget.
What is the purpose of polls? Polls are a snap shot at that moment of time in reaction to a specific question. No more no less. The more objective the question the more objective and honest will be the answer. The more scientific the pool of people polled the more accurate the results.
Every day political news reporters try to apply the results of daily polls to what will happen in the future. For example, they tell us McCain is equal to Clinton or Obama in the fall election. Such extrapolation is nonsense and the media knows better. When you hear such things just know there is a hidden agenda by those making such silly reports.
This is May, not November, and many people have not even started thinking about the general election. We don’t even have the final candidates for the general election. My years of polling experience have shown people wait until September to start thinking seriously about the general election.
Any poll done at this time when the final candidates are not selected and they are not running against each other could be 20-25% inaccurate. So why does the media continue reporting these results? They know better.
The only polls accurate right now are those concerning the public sentiment and they foreshadow serious change this fall. More than two-thirds of the public think the country is headed in the wrong direction, more than two-thirds think Bush is doing the wrong things, and more than two-thirds think congress is just as misguided. Barring some unforeseen catastrophe no Republican can win the presidency this year.
If McCain is running even at this time it is only because the public does not know Obama well enough and know Clinton too well. When two-thirds of the public is opposed to the direction of the country and to President Bush, and McCain is the Bush standard-bearer, Hillary should be light years ahead of McCain, not just even in the polls. Obviously the public knows her too well.
Also, there is no way the results in one state mean the same thing will happen in another state as the people of West Virginia are far different than those in Mississippi or Iowa, just as New York is different than California. Polls can also be very distorted if the people surveyed are not registered to vote, or even if they are registered does that mean they will actually vote.
If a poll is of “eligible voters” it will be wrong for 50% of eligible voters are not even registered to vote. If a poll is of “registered voters” it could also be 50% wrong for half of the registered voters are not going to vote. If a poll is of actual voters based on their actual voter record then it is getting close to right but very few polls ever attempt to identify those most likely to vote, thus polls are consistently off though the media would have you believe otherwise.
There is a final distortion of poll results if the caller identifies who employs them for if they say it is a Washington Post poll for example some people are going to be inclined to answer the way they think the “media” wants them to answer. People do not want to feel stupid so they might just make up answers, especially on issues they do not know.
As a result the economy will always be the number one issue and specifically jobs within the economy. Gas prices will follow closely. Many people will list the environment as a key issue having no clue why that is so. Global warming and related issues are too complex for most people to understand. Foreign policy will always be way down the list unless there is a war with a lot of deaths and still it will remain far behind the economy and crime.
Immigration is a quite disruptive issue as the media loves to play up the controversy but in truth it is not much of a real issue because 85% of all American citizens identify themselves as a person of foreign ancestry for example French-American, Irish-American, German-American, Hispanic-American, and African-American. That means only 15% of our citizens consider themselves genuine Americans and that is really how it should be and is. How could a nation of immigrants hate immigrants? Only the media can make that happen.
The bottom line is this. If you believe the polls published by the media you are as crazy as the media. On the other hand, if you really want to see a meaningful poll the following are the latest results from a Harris Poll on the Confidence of the American Public in our institutions.
The Harris Poll® #22, February 28, 2008
(Percent of the public having a great deal of confidence in the major institutions.)
The Military 51%, Small Business 47%, Major Educational colleges & universities 32%, Medicine 28%, The US Supreme Court 25%, Organized Religion 25%, Public Schools 20%, The Courts & Justice system 16%, Television News 16%, The White House 15%, Major Companies 14%, Organized Labor 11%, Wall Street 11%, The Press 10%, Law Firms 10% and Congress 8%.
It would appear the general public already know what they think of the media and their polls when 84% of our citizens do not have a great deal of confidence in Television news, and they have even less confidence in The White House, Major companies, Organized Labor, Wall Street, The Press, Law Firms, with Congress bringing up the rear in terms of the American institution with the least confidence of the American citizens.
Friday, May 16, 2008
So we all heard about President Bush traveling to Israel for the 60th anniversary of the founding of the nation and then we heard about his speech to the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, where he took a cheap shot at presidential candidate Barack Obama. "Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along," Bush said.
The president went on to smugly mention terrorists, Nazis, Hitler and Iran implying he was talking about Obama although that implication was later denied by the White House Press Office in a most sarcastic manner. White House Press Secretary Dana Perino stated: “"I understand when you're running for office you sometimes think the world revolves around you. That is not always true. And it is not true in this case." That seems like a rather calculated and nasty response from the spokesperson for the president.
So Obama wanted to meet with those we don’t agree with in order to try and resolve our differences. Bush says that is bad. Of course Ronald Reagan, John Kennedy and many other presidents have entered into direct negotiations with the enemy to resolve conflicts and even people in the Bush Administration have met with Iran, Korea, Syria and others the Administration once called enemies so what in the world was Bush thinking?
Since it has always been an unwritten rule of American politics that we do not attack other politicians on foreign soil these statements seem little more than the typical bullying tactics that have helped drive the popularity of the Bush Administration into the ground making it the most unpopular presidency ever recorded. I wonder why?
McCain, who more and more sounds like a stalking horse for Bush in a failed race was quick to come to the defense of the president elevating the issue to a headline story but I am yet to understand how trashing an opponent is helping to explain the policy differences between candidates for president.
The White House must feel concerned that McCain needs help three months before he even becomes the official candidate for the Republicans, a good sign that the lame duck president has serious doubts about the new GOP candidate.
Bush has chosen to not stay above politics and has jumped into the action always eager for a fight whether there are any weapons of mass destruction or not. McCain has chosen to parrot the president so we can only hope his shoulders are strong enough to carry the sins of the president in the campaign.
The Democrats demonstrated that differences or not between their candidates, the most unifying force in America to bring the Democrats together in the fall is the president himself and the presidents’ own tendency to bully the opposition may just be the best advantage Obama needs to be the next president.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
The American public has been getting conned by the media for far too long and since we have all become to desensitized to realize when we are victims the Coltons Point Times is going to give you the truth. Today’s con artist is Fox Television and the wildly popular American Idol show with a great deal of help from the news media of all networks.
Last night the three surviving contestants were reduced to the final two, both Davids (Archuleta and Cook), as over 56 million votes were cast by viewers according to the show. This morning on the various morning news shows the 56 million voters were mentioned over and over again but did anyone explain the vote? Nope.
Not to take anything away from the show because it is a slick production but American Idol is no amateur contest like it is billed and there are not 56 million people voting as the media would have you believe. Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts went so far as to say at least more people voted for president in America.
Guess what Robin and the rest of the news media, there are not 56 million voters because each person can vote ten times and then call back and vote again. It’s possible just 5.6 million people voted. The Idol producers are careful not to mention individual totals or the number of actual voters, the results would be far less impressive.
The fact is each week there are fewer people watching American Idol as the regional fan favorites get dumped one at a time. We are now left with the two Davids, one from Utah and one from Missouri. Kids from all major media markets have been eliminated which could explain the loss of ratings.
Last night 22.24 million people watched the 1st half hour and 25 million watched the 2nd half hour. The numbers are down from earlier in the season and from last year although they did increase slightly over last week. Last week 21.8 million people watched last Tuesday's competition, the smallest Tuesday audience in more than five years. The show did better the last Wednesday with 22.9 million, but that was the smallest Wednesday audience in three years, according to Nielsen Media Research.
While it is still the number one show on television the loss of 7 million viewers over the years would indicate the public is tiring of it. Part of that may be caused by the fact the kids are no longer kids and the amateurs are no longer amateurs as most of the top ten finalists came equipped with voice coaches, previous record deals, previous records released, years of performances and a team of advisors making this a lot more like a casting call of professional singers for a Broadway Show than an amateur talent competition.
Long ago when there were 24 competitors the Coltons Point Times predicted the top two males and females and our four picks finished four out of the top 5. Our number one pick, David Archuleta, the 17 year old from Utah is in the last two. Next week we will know.
Monday, May 12, 2008
More than anything else the spiraling price of black gold is a reflection of the attitude of the world toward the United States foreign policy and the last few years America has taken a beating in international relations. What we as a nation do in the Middle East, in Asia, in South America and in Eastern Europe has directly impacted on oil prices as many nations that produce the precious oil oppose our foreign policy.
Take the Middle East for example where we have propped up the Saudi Arabia kingdoms for decades, a Muslim nation, while giving a blank check and unlimited arms to Israel to oppose the Muslim nations. Along the way we save Kuwait from an invasion by Saddam Hussein and Iraq and then we obliterate Hussein because of phony “weapons of mass destruction” intelligence. Now we occupy Iraq and after five years nothing is even approaching the life they had under Hussein.
First let us look at oil production in the world. As of February 2008 the following are the top oil producers shown in millions of barrels per day. Russia 12.93, Saudi Arabia 8.81, United States 7.40, Iran 3.93, China 3.82, Canada 3.50, Mexico 3.46, UAB 2.59, Venezuela 2.44, Norway 2.44, Iraq 2.37, Kuwait 2.29 and UK 1.65.
These are the top oil consumers of the world again in millions of barrels per day. United States 20.7, China 6.5, Japan 5.6, Germany 2.6, Russia 2.5, India 2.4, Canada 2.3, Korea 2.1, Brazil 2.1, France 2.0, Mexico 2.0, Italy 1.9, Saudi Arabia 1.9 and UK 1.8.
Finally these are countries with the most oil reserves in the world reflected in billions of barrels of oil. Saudi Arabia 266.8, Canada 179.0, Iraq 130.0, Iran 105.0, Kuwait 100.0, United Arab Emirates 100.0, Venezuela 80.0, Russia 60.0, Libya 41.5, Nigeria 36.2, United States 21.0 and Mexico 20.0. Five of the top six are Arab OPEC members and they control 55% of the world oil reserves, while all of OPEC controls 70% of all the world reserves.
Saudi Arabia has the largest oil reserves in the world, while Iraq has the third largest oil reserves in the world. The United States has spent hundreds of billions of dollars defending those countries yet these two countries have made little effort to help us during the recent oil price increases. Iran is yet another oil giant and ever since our ill-fated backing of the Shah of Iran over the people we have struggled to benefit from their oil reserves.
In fact, of all the Arab countries with substantial production and reserves, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, UAB and Qatar, only Iraq which we occupy has not reduced oil production this year and over the past year. In the case of Iraq they were producing 2.6 million barrels per day under Saddam. Five years after our invasion they are still only producing 2.3 million barrels a day with the third largest reserves in the world. Oil experts have predicted Iraq could produce up to 6 million barrels a day in four years but they didn’t count on the extent of corruption in the Iraq rebuilding budget. All the other Middle East nations have lowered production. Some friends.
Hopefully our leaders understand when people have the reserves and they lower oil production it means they are probably trying to cause economic damage to the USA. Venezuela seems to hate us and they have lowered oil production. On the other hand, we alienated Russia but they still increase oil exports. Our relationship with China is not particularly good but even China has increased production while lowering their projected oil needs. Canada and Mexico, our neighbors, have increased production yet we seem to ignore them or take actions against immigrants for example that contributes to our negative image. In spite of that Canada and Mexico are still trying to help.
So we can count on our friends Canada, Mexico, Russia and China to help with the oil price mess. I doubt many people consider Russia and China friends of the USA but at least they are working to minimize oil prices. In Russia they took care of the speculators and crooked oil companies by nationalizing the companies. It seems to work as they produce nearly 10 million more barrels than they need and refuse to be part of OPEC.
So is there a problem with inventories? Not really. Although U.S. crude oil inventories may be down according to Tim Evans, an energy futures analyst at Citigroup's Futures Perspective, the gasoline inventories are at their highest level since March 1993. In spite of OPEC world oil production was up 2.5% in the first quarter of 2008 over the same period in 2007 while world oil consumption rose just 2%. World production is projected to be 3.3% higher in the second quarter and 4.1% higher in the third quarter than the same periods a year ago while world demand is projected to rise by just 1.6% over the next six months.
The tenuous nature of the economy has caused oil demand to fall in some countries. According to economist John Kemp at the commodities firm Sempra Metals, the U.S. consumed 4% less petroleum in January 2008 than it did the year before. With China reducing the expected increase in oil demand world surplus oil production capacity has gone from a very tight 1.5 million barrels per day a couple of years ago to more than 3 million barrels today, says petroleum economist Michael Lynch.
So supply is up and relative demand is down. Inventories are up and reserves are more than adequate, yet the price of oil continues to rise. Why? Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson blamed a third of the recent run up in oil prices on the weak dollar, another third on geopolitical uncertainty, and the rest on market speculation.
I have my own reasons and they can’t be any worse than Mr. Tillerson. We can blame a fourth of the rise on the Demon Retribution for Bush foreign policy, a fourth on the Demon Manipulation for oil company tax and refining capacity shenanigans, a fourth on the Demon of Deceit for conflicts of interest in our financial institutions, banks and media where expert oil analysis profits the companies with no disclosure of the analyst ownership conflicts, and a fourth Demon of Greed in market speculators who are probably the same financial institutions, banks and media experts manipulating the price through the futures markets.
Note that I have not mentioned congressional inertia, Administration bungling, the federal agency non-responsiveness nor the media ignorance as major factors in the price run up because I can’t imagine they have any ability to react quickly to anything while the coffers of the national political parties and candidates are so bloated from oil company contributions their reaction would be highly impaired. As for the media, well look where the advertising revenue comes from to pay for the network news team that covers the news.
Is there hope? Sure. The Mayan calendar says the world will end in the last year of the new presidents 1st term, 2012. That would certainly bring an end to foolish politics, haphazard enforcement of corruption laws, rampant greed and spiraling oil prices.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
By Jim Putnam
I went in search of a needle in a haystack. You see, I love old things starting with my late grandparents, cars, furniture, clothes, houses, and anything associated with them. Make no mistake I am an All American Baby Boomer, and not just any old Baby Boomer but one born in the very first year of the Baby Boomers, 1946. It is truly MY generation.
The 1950’s were my education, the 1960’s my graduation, and things have pretty much been down hill ever since. To be born in an era when people took pride in their work, when a work ethic was really a work ethic, when the things you needed were supposed to last, and when honesty prevailed seems like such a long time ago. I grew up when extended warranties weren’t needed because what you bought lasted.
So I set out to find those things. My journey has taken me from the Great Plains to California, New York to Canada, Mexico to Ireland and Scotland to Russia. I searched the world over for the magical combination of quality and service, pride and competence, the things we used to find in the 5&10, the soda fountain, the auto dealers, and the repair services, things that lasted and people who cared.
Well one day I found it in the strangest of places. You see, after driving through the entire continental USA, Canada and Mexico over and over staying off the super highways and scouring the back roads I was about to toss in the towel and give up. It was when I came to a sleepy fishing village in southern Maryland where time seemed to have stood still that my hopes were finally raised.
How many of you live in a place where there are no sidewalks, no streetlights, no stoplights, no water lines, no sewers, no cops, no politicians, no strip malls, no Wal-Mart’s, no through streets, no plethora of bars and churches, and no fast food joints? Somehow the Potomac River front in St. Mary’s County, Maryland has survived the so-called advance of civilization and remained frozen in time, a time long ago.
One day while driving the country roads and avoiding the Amish and Mennonite horse drawn buggies I came across a remote intersection with a softball field, a lively bar and eating place, and lo and behold, a little store called The Vintage Source. I pulled in, got out, and found the door locked with a sign that said open the third weekend of every month.
This is the 21st century; no one is only open one weekend a month! Stores stay open 24 hours a day to bleed you out of every last buck. Looking through the window of the old storefront I could see there were interesting things inside, everywhere inside, and was determined to come back and see what treasures lay within. Since we were still in the metropolitan Washington, DC area I was also determined to see what outrageous price might be on these treasures.
I returned that 3rd weekend and was in for the shock of my life. It was as if I followed the White Rabbit down the tunnel into Alice’s Wonderland where nothing was as it seemed as I stepped out of my car back into the 1950’s, or 1940’s or earlier. The Vintage Source was no 21st century antique store but a trip in H G Wells Time Machine to an era of ice cream socials, people helping people, no stress and wonderful artifacts of the past to take home with you.
The little store was packed with people but there were no fights over the bargains, no pushing and shoving to get a deal, and no arguing over prices. People were happy, were friendly, courteous and all the other things you no longer find while shopping. This was not a shop full of grandmother’s antiques, those things so uncomfortable they could only be used for display. There was a lot of vintage stuff in there, but it was all things that could be practical in your home.
Now I had often heard that when it come to antiques, Americans have a Neiman Marcus taste and a Sears & Roebuck imagination meaning they love antiques but have no clue how to incorporate them into their homes. They need someone to tell them what to do. If you did not have the imagination to figure out how to use the vintage items, there were pictures all over the place showing how to incorporate them in a home.
The Vintage Source is the brainchild of Michelle Combs Radez, and if central casting ever showed up she would be cast as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. Her ancestors came from England about 200 years ago and she is the modern reincarnation of the beloved Scarlett O’Hara. Tough, she was the only girl with five brothers; the Iowa farm girl background of her mother influenced her.
After back packing around the country her first job at 15 was working in an antique store. It was there and traveling with her mother she began to appreciate the need for primitive antiques with character, maybe aged and bruised even, because they could be used for practical purposes without fear of losing their value. She did not fall in the trap of focusing on high value antiques, the items that remain in shops without selling. Appeal to people with high taste but limited budgets and you could succeed she believed.
Like Scarlett, she set out to learn all there was to learn and Michelle set up a tent one weekend a month on her front lawn to chase her dream. It was a wedding tent she found at a sale. A year later she leased an old storefront not far from her family home, then bought the old store, and three years later the business is booming. She still sets out for auctions, garage sales and estate sales in search of the items her clientele is seeking with her trailer and the tireless help of her husband.
She also realized if some minor repairs were made to the items the people were more likely to buy them and she learned wood repair, stripping and painting old items, and became so good at repairs she was asked to teach classes on restoration at college. In the store they tell you how to make repairs and sell items to help you. Michelle never stops learning about antiques or how to use them and never stops trying to find new ways to recycle old items.
But even Scarlett O’Hara could not do it alone so Michelle invited two people to be in house dealers in her shop. One is Sheryl Tort, from the Texas panhandle where life is tough; ingenuity is essential and self-sufficiency the lifeblood of survival. If you were to imagine the star of the story O Pioneer by Willa Cather about the pioneer woman who saved the family farm it could have been Sheryl rather than Jessica Lange.
Married to a Navy man, her story is one of creativity, hard work, a love of salvaging and recycling furniture, and a heritage of packrats. Her uncle back in Texas was a collector and salvager of furniture and her sister also has an antique store in Texas. It was a way of life down there and a passion she would never lose. First she built up a business of sewing slip covers for furniture and then became a dealer in Michelle’s store specializing in finding prized antiques on the Internet through eBay and Craig’s List.
The other dealer invited to join the store was Cathe Chiomento, the Auntie Mame of The Vintage Source who hailed from a comfortable Pennsylvania family whose father was one of the first Arbys franchise holders on the east coast. While Michelle and Sheryl may seem quiet and thoughtful at times Auntie Mame is a fireball of energy and activism. She was also a Navy wife but her journeys throughout the world left a wealth of programs behind that she helped organize to aid military wives and families in fighting drugs and alcoholism, and addressing the many other problems of military dependents.
This same sort of activism and energy was directed toward her obsession with antiques and once she settled in Maryland she decided to give it a try as a leisurely side job. After a couple of starts exploring the waters she came across Michelle’s store and decided this was the place she want to be.
So Scarlett O’Hara let Auntie Mame and the O Pioneer woman be dealers in her store and the result is a store they describe as classic to funky, eclectic to non-traditional. The atmosphere is like a social event or a happening and the once a month opening gives it a mysterious quality unlike most commercial traps.
Make no mistake, this is a very successful business but it is far from typical with very reasonable prices, being environmentally sensitive as it seeks to restore and revitalize furniture thus saving the unnecessary destruction of trees for new and cheaper furniture, and it shows people how to use the antiques and collectibles in ways they never knew.
You owe it to yourself to make the sojourn to The Vintage Source on the 3rd weekend of the month. It is so unlike the crass commercialism, the unfriendly service, the inferior product quality and the stressed out shoppers you encounter every other day it is like therapy for the soul and just might restore your faith in the forgotten quality of American entrepreneurs.
The Vintage Source is located at 22080 Newtowne Neck Road, Compton, Maryland.
From the DC area: Take 495 to Rt. 5 south, towards Leonardtown. Turn right at Rt. 243 (at the McDonald’s and Dash-In stores). Travel three miles. We are on the left, just past the BackRoad Inn Bar.
From the 301 Potomac River Bridge or LaPlata area: Take Rt. 301 north to Rt. 234 south (at Whitehouse Motel). Exit onto Rt. 5 south. Turn right at Rt. 243 (at the McDonald’s and Dash-In stores). Travel three miles. We are on the left, just past the BackRoad Inn Bar.
From South of Leonardtown: Take Rt. 5 north towards Leonardtown. Turn left at Rt. 243 (at the McDonald’s and Dash-In stores). Travel three miles. We are on the left, just past the BackRoad Inn Bar.
From Calvert County:Take Rt. 4 south over the Solomon's Island Bridge. Continue straight on Rt.4 towards Leonardtown. Exit onto Rt. 5 north through Leonardtown. Turn left at Rt. 243 (at the McDonald’s and Dash-In stores). Travel three miles. We are on the left, just past the BackRoad Inn Bar.
Lost?? Call 240-925-1060
Friday, May 09, 2008
But I also believe Big Brown is going win the most difficult of all sporting challenges, the Triple Crown. Three races of over a mile against the best horses in the world during a five week period is the true test of champions. In the 134 years since the Kentucky Derby began only 11 horses have won the coveted Triple Crown. It has been 30 years since the last Triple Crown champion, Affirmed in 1978, the longest drought ever between Triple Crown champions.
Since Affirmed won in 1978 ten horses have won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes but none won the Belmont Stakes to claim the Triple Crown. The closest was Real Quiet in 1998 who lost by a nose in the Belmont. This year Big Brown could put an end to the long wait as he seems to run stronger in each new race and so far in just four career wins he won by about 33 lengths. You are not going to want to miss these last two races.
Now no horse will ever be the champion like Secretariat in 1973 who blazed to glory winning the three races by a record total of 36 lengths. It had been 25 years since the previous Triple Crown winner and to this day Secretariat holds the records in the Derby and Belmont, and would be the record holder in the Preakness except for a freak breakdown of timing devices in the race.
As for the last winner, Affirmed, his legendary races against Alydar rank as the best competition of all time. Alydar was the only horse to ever finish 2nd in all three races and in the Belmont when Affirmed was going for the Triple Crown they were nose to nose at the finish line with Affirmed winning in a photo finish by a nose. In all three races the two horses finished just two lengths apart.
The tragic story of Alydar pictured below with Affirmed at the finish of the Belmont, the horse who went from 2nd place in the Triple Crown to the most successful breeding thoroughbred of all time before a mysterious murder at the fabled Calumet Farms and an insurance payoff of $50 million will be a subject of a later expose in this paper.
Thursday, May 08, 2008
When the dust has settled from your very trying primary campaign, the confetti has been swept away from the boisterous national conventions and the final tally certified from the general election we have elected a president who instantly becomes the most powerful person in the world.
At that point in time you assume the mantle as the leader of all Americans, Democrats, Republicans, Independents and non-voters alike. You will lead a nation that is the citadel of freedom, the defender of human rights, the provider of equal opportunity, and yes the melting pot of the world where diverse people, cultures, ethnic backgrounds, religions, philosophies and politics can flourish. No other place in the world can make such a claim.
When you take the Oath of Office as the President of the United States you will become the 44th person in history to accept the responsibility inherent in the office. All Americans will be watching you, and so will all of the people of the world. The path you choose to follow as president will determine how many of the 300 million Americans will stand firmly behind you.
It won’t be easy but it does not have to be hard if you realize as so few politicians do that you, as our chosen leader, represent the heart and soul of what is good about the United States.
As a people far removed from the egos and thirst for power so often seen in our nation’s capitol we long for a leader who cares, who possesses genuine empathy and compassion, who will create an administration dedicated to helping people and solving problems rather than perpetuating a bureaucracy, and who will bring about long overdue meaningful change.
We want a leader willing to learn about our needs rather than tell us what is best for us. Someone who can accept responsibility and admit mistakes and then you will always receive our support and forgiveness.
We are a people whose Declaration of Independence and Constitution made clear that we are One Nation Under God while distinguishing the difference between God and religion and we hope and pray you will not shrink from the rights and responsibilities inherent in being One Nation Under God and the inalienable rights we enjoy.
Our nation was founded out of love of freedom, respect for God and justice for all. The path has been bumpy at times but our strength comes from the will of the people to never lose sight of our goals. If you lead the people down that path you will discover the secret of our nation, the power of the people.
We the people in defense of our country and other nations are willing to sacrifice our sons, our daughters and ourselves to preserve our precious freedom and way of life and we have proven it throughout our history. We are the most charitable and forgiving people on Earth who will never hesitate to help another in times of need. No nation on Earth comes close to the unselfishness of Americans to volunteer their time, donate their money and offer their prayers for the good of mankind.
We expect you Mr. Obama to be yourself and Americans will stand behind you. Be America’s First Family looking out for all families in America and you will earn our respect. Show your devotion to your wife and children so the world will know what is important in America and you will earn our trust. Let the First Lady be an advocate for the forgotten needs of our people and your children a model for the love so desperately needed everywhere and you will earn our support.
Be our heart and soul, the heart and soul of all Americans, and you will take your rightful place in history as one of our greatest presidents of all time, not just the first African American to be president. We expect a lot, but we are willing to give a lot in return. Together we can return America to its rightful position as the model and leader of the world. Together we can demonstrate the strength of our conviction, the power of our will, and the value of our freedom to a world in need of hope.
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
A team of analysts from Goldman Sachs made the prediction in the media and triggered the price increase and NBC News then had their own oil specialist, John Kilduf of Fimat USA confirm the numbers. So what do you think?
Well, Goldman Sachs is an investor and the lead broker for the IntercontinentalExchange, Inc., owner of the London Futures Exchange one of the two leading oil futures markets in the world. In the old days such action by Goldman might be construed as a conflict of interest and an effort to manipulate the price of oil.
Then there is the NBC news report. It seems their independent analyst works for Fimat whose name has been changed to NewEdge who just happens to be a wholly owned subsidiary of a wholly owned subsidiary of Societe Generale (SG), one of the largest banks in the world from Paris.
Surprise, Societe Generale was a founding partner of the IntercontinentalExchange (ICE) and benefits significantly every time the price of oil increases. So now both Goldman Sachs and NBC have offered experts whose companies directly benefit from the oil chaos and neither Goldman, NBC or Societe Generale disclosed the insider position they have in ICE and the oil prices.
Now where is Congress, the Justice Department, the Bush Administration, the presidential candidates, or even the news media in exposing this farce? How long do the American citizens and citizens of the world have to be victimized by such tactics before someone says “Stop” and investigates? Before you vote for any congressman or candidate for president ask them why they are not stopping these market manipulations.
If they continue to ignore them or you then vote them out of office. This is still the country of the people, by the people and for the people, we just have too many politicians who forgot.
Well Hillary certainly did gain some degree of experience during the Bill Clinton years in the White House. She learned the art of media misdirection, the ability to double cross any bridge when she came to it, and the ability to deny the past if it is the politically expedient thing to do.
Where does her training come from, President Bill Clinton of course? Last night in his whirlwind tour of small town America in North Carolina on behalf of his wife he claimed that his Clinton years as President were the best years in “Modern American History.” I thought it was up to historians to make that determination but clearly Bill Clinton has already written the history books.
These were the best years in modern American history? If the Clinton years were the best years in modern American history then why doesn’t the public agree? In 1992 Clinton was elected with the smallest winning percentage in modern American history only 43% of the vote, tying Richard Nixon in 1968 for that dubious distinction.
By 1996 Clinton still failed to capture half of the vote winning 49%, but one half of the eligible voters were so disgusted with politicians they didn’t even vote. That means Clinton won with less than 25% of the eligible voters. Does that sound like the most successful presidency in modern history?
What happened during those Clinton years when Hillary was serving as assistant president according to her resume and campaign claims? It seems as if Bill Clinton had an epiphany and figured out how to out Republican the Republicans. Clinton became the first Democrat to be the darling of the business community as first the poverty stricken were victims of the Clinton epiphany, then the minorities, then the immigrants, and then labor unions, the core of the Democratic party.
Clinton slammed through the NAFTA Free Trade Agreement, with the help of his wife the First Lady, that led to the loss of millions of American jobs, a transfer of the production of American goods and services to foreign countries, and the failure to set in motion controls and testing that would protect Americans from poor quality, unsafe and dangerous foreign products.
Welfare and poverty programs were victims of budget cuts while immigrants, legal and otherwise, were denied benefits and legal representation. Prison populations increased rapidly from the law and order attitude of the president to the point that the death penalty was extended to cover many new crimes and actions such as the Waco FBI attack on a religious sect resulted in the deaths of 86 men, women and children.
Clinton ordered a bombing attack on Baghdad, Iraq just six months after taking office. Several times during the Clinton presidency Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the World Trade Center 9-11 bombings and worldwide terrorism network that would haunt us until this day could have been captured by the USA but each event was bungled by the administration. Is that a sign of the best presidency in modern American history?
Clinton maintained the military establishment although the Soviet Union was gone and there were no more wars. He courted the Republican business community with tax breaks, trade agreements, and other favors throughout his two terms. When it became necessary to cut government expenditures to balance the budget the Clinton White House approved eliminating $5 billion in educational spending to repair crumbling schools and rejecting a proposal to extend health insurance to 10.5 million uninsured children leaning on Congress to back his rejection.
Of course there is also the personal actions during the Clinton presidency like Jennifer Flowers, Monica Lewinski, Paula Jones and Whitewater to name a few that disgusted the public to the point of impeachment of the president. Only three times in our history have impeachment charges been brought against a president. Just twice in our history did the House vote for impeachment and send it to the Senate for trial. The two cases were Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1999. Clinton was acquitted after the trial on a tie vote.
This was the Clinton presidency that Bill now calls the greatest of modern times and that Hillary says was her training ground for presidential experience. It also led to her election to the US Senate and to her failing to disclose $24 million in Bill’s income over a three-year period (2004-2006) not to mention their joint income of $109 million
In the eight years since he was president Bill and Hillary earned $109 million including lucrative consulting contracts and six figure speaking engagements, hardly a sign of the people’s candidate. What companies can afford to pay over $100,000 to hear him speak? It is doubtful many struggling non-profits are on his itinerary. This is what makes the Clinton presidency the best in modern history?
One can only hope the traditional Democrats will see how they have been duped, the labor unions, immigrants and minorities will see how they have been taken for granted, and the general public will see how they have been used. Can we really afford eight more years of double talk, double crossing and double dealing at the highest levels of our government? If this is the legacy of the greatest presidency of modern times then I believe the last thing we need is experienced people like Hillary who were running the country through those years.
Friday, May 02, 2008
This year there are 20 horses in the Derby, a huge field, and the odds on favorite is the one horse no one thinks can really win because of a host of excuses. Big Brown has only run three races in his career. The picture shows Big Brown taking the lead and winning the recent Florida Derby.
Only one horse in history won the Derby after just three races and that was back in 1915. Just two horses have won the Derby with just two races as a three year old and Big Brown only raced two times this season. Such inexperience seldom gets rewarded when you are running against the best horses in the world.
Big Brown drew the 20th Post Position, the farthest horse from the inside position. Only one horse ever won from the #20 position way back in 1929 and that was before starting gates were installed. Big Brown would have to fight through 19 thundering horses to get to the lead.
So we have an inexperienced big-hearted horse trying to make Derby history in many ways and the experts saying he can’t do it while the people want him to win. I guess the Kentucky Derby is a microcosm of this years’ presidential race. As Obama tries to make history the experts believe he will somehow not be able to live up to the dream.
Have another Mint Julep, the official drink of the Derby.
Perhaps the experts will be wrong and history can be made. We shall see.