Archive for August, 2008

It seems like everyone in this country, including the mainstream media, has been beating the war drums in an effort to get us into Cold War Part Deux with Russia, for the sole reason that they’re undemocratic and Putin’s some kind of new Saddam — a dictator. The problem is that, although the media portrays Vladimir Putin as some kind of criminal (and, admittedly, he is ex-KGB and was rightly accused of the poisoning an ex-KGB official in 2006) just because he’s critical of American policy. For sure, our president has done much worse: instigating a “war” against terror (impossible), and further, fabricating a war in Iraq (where are the WMDs?!). Yes, I know, I know, Bush’s favorability ratings are way low, but Putin’s are extremely high after fixing the disaster of the Boris Yeltsin years. All Bush did was drag this country to war, using the weight of 9/11 to drag us into a war on terrorism.

But, alas, whether Putin’s reputation is deserved or not, we are most certainly moving toward a new cold war. Among these moves:

In addition our president has said that Russia will face consequences for its actions (more war posturing), and War Loser John McCain (though, he IS a POW!) has said that “we are all Georgians” in the wake of Georgia’s brilliant invasion of South Ossetia (where they were crushed by the Russian military shortly thereafter). McCain also said that “nations don’t invade other nations in the 21st century” — forgetting the Iraq War and his megalomaniacal plans to invade Iran. It’s this kind of posturing that makes the evolution of a second Cold War seem so imminent. Russia’s been compliant enough with the West’s orders after the fall of the USSR, but we have not complied with our agreement to stop the eastward expansion of NATO. As has been said — don’t prod the sleeping bear. And, maybe, just maybe, the Bear that is Russia will wake up.

I’m in absolute shock right now: one of the most intelligent, articulate, and overall wonderful people I know is… A McCain supporter. It just does not compute with the workings of my mind — and she’s not very conservative in the least, in fact, she has political leanings much like mine. And she’s swallowed every bit of the McCain propaganda that Barack’s a celebrity (and, she says, if he isn’t here, then he is overseas! Would you vote in a celebrity over a politician?) and has no idea what to do in times of war. She thinks I’m crazy when I mention that McCain will get us in a nuclear war with Iran and Russia. She then says that we should be defending ourselves (preemptive war?) if other nations are preparing to attack us. To which I say: WHAT NATIONS? Sure, people don’t like us, but they know that we’re insane and are willing to nuke them, so they don’t attack us. It works both ways — countries want to get nuclear weapons because it will deter other nations from attacking them.

The Obama “celebrity” thing is a poor argument as well: since when did somebody’s popularity alone give them a bad rep? If popularity is a bad thing, wouldn’t that mean Bush is the best president ever since he’s almost hated universally?

Also, the war argument is pathetic. McCain has said, “I know how to win wars,” almost a laughable amount of times. But he’s the picture of incompetence: he graduated 6th to last(!) at the Naval Academy and further cemented his incompetence by getting shot down in Vietnam. Yes, I know he suffered an amount that no one can possibly imagine, but that was because he lacked the skills necessary to avoid getting shot down in the first place. His campaign playing the “POW” card to gain him respect or sympathy, or worse, pity, is downright awful. Do they expect us to respect him just because he had to pay the piper for his lack of flying skill? Do they really think that he knows how to win wars, considering the ones he’s been involved in have ALL BEEN LOST?!

I’m tired of it.

EDIT: The real problem, I think, is that this makes me fear that McCain will get elected; it makes that outcome much more real to me. It strikes me as surprising and deadly that such a smart, discerning person is able to root for a man that will likely plunge the planet into nuclear winter.

Yesterday, I experienced my disgust for those who are incompetent, but aren’t done away with because they are the administrators. Today, it is not necessarily incompetence that I talk of, but competence.

One of the oldest adages ever repeated is, “Practice makes perfect”. The idea is, as we do something more, we get better at it: whether it’s muscle memory or whatever, it happens (if we use proper “technique” for those activities that require it). If you read a lot, you’ll become a faster reader (though most people peak). If you play the piano a lot, you’ll get better at it. If you workout a lot, you’ll get stronger (provided you do it properly). Again, the more we do something, the more progress we make, and the better we get at it.

So, since I’ve sort-of established that the more you do something, the better you get at it, I should ask what is the biggest incentive for somebody to do anything?

Liking it; taking pleasure and pride in doing something. The more you like something, the more likely you are apt to do it, are you not? So, perhaps, one can infer that the more you like something, the more you are likely to be good at it.

And maybe this is the root of incompetence: their lack of passion for whatever they’re doing makes them incompetent. They don’t have sufficient experience in what they do, or, perhaps, their apathy causes slowed progression in their job. The malaise for what their doing bleeds into their work, degrading everything they do. All because they don’t particularly like what they’re doing — and affecting everyone they’re working with.

Maybe it’s because people don’t know what they really want to do, chasing whatever they want on a whim. Or maybe it’s an obsession with the bottom line — the income — and they just pursue what they think will rake in the most money, not doing what they really want because they’re afraid that that line of work won’t provide them with enough money. Or they’re just not interested in anything and haven’t really found their passion in life. Whatever the case, the people who don’t like their jobs don’t just hurt themselves: they also hurt everyone who encounters them because of their sheer incompetence. Maybe it’s fair to say that some that don’t like their jobs are competent, but the vast majority are not, because of the aforementioned apathy and disinterest.

So, is the cause of incompetence an inability to find something that we love to do — and can get paid to do?

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Okay, so Obama clinched the nomination, and the evil Billary-ites did not turn the Pepsi Center on its head and kill all the Obama supporters, so I suppose we’re all going to take the fight to McCain, now, correct? There’s nothing more evil than an American imperialist like John McCain, a POW with an itchy trigger-finger, right? Well, it seems like we’re getting an imperialist from the Obama camp, the old Carter foreign policy sage Zbignew Brzezinski, a dusty (and angry) relic from the Cold War era. Make no mistake: if he gets his way with Obama, Brzezinski will have us spreading our empire further into the Eurasian supercontinent. How do I know all of this? It’s in his book, the Grand Chessboard. Some quotes…

“… But in the meantime, it is imperative that no Eurasian challenger emerges, capable of dominating Eurasia and thus of also challenging America. The formulation of a comprehensive and integrated Eurasian geostrategy is therefore the purpose of this book.”

“In that context, how America ‘manages’ Eurasia is critical. A power that dominates Eurasia would control two of the world’s three most advanced and economically productive regions. A mere glance at the map also suggests that control over Eurasia would almost automatically entail Africa’s subordination, rendering the Western Hemisphere and Oceania geopolitically peripheral to the world’s central continent. About 75 per cent of the world’s people live in Eurasia, and most of the world’s physical wealth is there as well, both in its enterprises and underneath its soil. Eurasia accounts for about three-fourths of the world’s known energy resources.”

“Never before has a populist democracy attained international supremacy. But the pursuit of power is not a goal that commands popular passion, except in conditions of a sudden threat or challenge to the public’s sense of domestic well-being. The economic self-denial (that is, defense spending) and the human sacrifice (casualties, even among professional soldiers) required in the effort are uncongenial to democratic instincts. Democracy is inimical to imperial mobilization.”

“Henceforth, the United States may have to determine how to cope with regional coalitions that seek to push America out of Eurasia, thereby threatening America’s status as a global power.”

“America is now the only global superpower, and Eurasia is the globe’s central arena. Hence, what happens to the distribution of power on the Eurasian continent will be of decisive importance to America’s global primacy and to America’s historical legacy.”

“The most immediate task is to make certain that no state or combination of states gains the capacity to expel the United States from Eurasia or even to diminish significantly its decisive arbitration role.”

“In the long run, global politics are bound to become increasingly uncongenial to the concentration of hegemonic power in the hands of a single state. Hence, America is not only the first, as well as the only, truly global superpower, but it is also likely to be the very last.”

So, Obama voters, do you want the above to happen? An expansion of power by the US that will inevitably lead to the end of every developed nation on earth?

After confirming that the majority of those in administrative positions that I know personally are totally incompetent, and corrupt to boot, I’m wondering how people could ever get there — administrating with a total lack of skill in their work. How is it possible, that the people placed in charge are the worst? How is it that the corrupt overlords lean on the few that are competent, claiming their successes as their own?

How can this be fixed?

With the general election looming, it seems like the media is trying to pigeonhole various voters into “voter demographics” based on wealth, skin color, religion, sexual orientation, location, whether they own a dog or a cat, what their favorite pizza topping is, etc. etc, as we saw in the primaries. It’s pretty funny watching these political analysts on TV trying to predict what “demographic” will vote for each candidate, like the evangelicals will vote republican, the gays will vote Democratic, and so on.

Whatever happened to “one man, one vote”?

Reducing voters to groups based on one belief or tendency is a fallacy, and doesn’t portray voters as they really are; the declarations of a “gay” group, a “anti-war” group, a “black” group, a “blue-collar” group reduce voters to one-dimensional caricatures. I mean, I’m middle class, but does that mean my so-called “middle class motivation” really mean that I’ll support Obama just because the talking heads on the television say that 67.39% of middle class voters support him? They talk about how Obama had a tough time with “white, blue-collar” voters, but he wouldn’t have been able to get this far without them, as far as I’m concerned. What the analysts on our TV sets fail to realize is that we’re all, as individuals, part of many different groups. I’d be part of the anti-war, atheist, white, middle-class, and well-educated groups, if you had to break me down in that way. And guess what? All those point out to be media “democrat” signs, except for the white part. But they’d be wrong: I’d vote Nader, who hasn’t received any coverage because the MSM just covers the major two parties (but that’s a whole other blog post).

I get the media’s thinking: people with certain traits are more likely to vote one way or another based on the candidates’ stances. But the fact remains that we are all people with a variety of traits — and can’t be reduced to adjectives like “pro-choice” and “environmentalist”.

But, hey, maybe the media’s right. Maybe everyone just votes because of certain groups; if a guy who cares about the environment sees that 75% of “greenies” vote for Obama on CNN, he might be inclined to vote Obama without any critical thinking of his own. But maybe that’s the problem: people are too concerned with the collective, their group, and fail to think. And that’s tomorrow’s post.

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I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: off-shore drilling is the biggest scam since we were told the Iraq had links with al-Qaeda. But, time and time again, the Republicans (and now, their evil twin, the Dems, are supporting it as well) have been saying that it will reduce crude oil and gas prices significantly, and, get this: it can be done in two years! Finally, we’ll be able to break our dependence on foreign oil by… making ourselves dependent on our own oil! Just what the Bushies and the neocon overlords geniuses have been waiting for all these years! Surely these claims aren’t exaggerated, and there’s ample hard data to back the hyperbole up, right? Right?

Wrong.

The Energy Information Administration, or EIA for short, released a comprehensive study in May of this year detailing what would happen should we choose to drill in ANWR… And the results of the study do not show what the conservatives and, to an extent, the liberals want you to think. Wake up America: this off-shore drilling business is just political deception designed to get votes for McCain. It’s so effective at swaying voters’ minds that Barack Obama, too, has had to swing his stance on off-shore drilling in an effort to keep pace, still repeating the lies of the self-proclaimed oil experts who will make false projections so their pals at Exxon or BP can rake in the cash. The EIA report contradicts everything that has been said about off-shore drilling, from the calls that we’ll be able to drill within 2 years, to the claim that it’d drastically shrink oil prices. Hell, it won’t even affect our dependence on foreign oil significantly! Here’s the study if you want it.

Ready to debunk off-shore drilling? Here we go:

On the 2 year lie:

The assumption that ANWR oil production would begin 10 years after legislation approves the Federal oil and natural gas leasing in the 1002 Area is based on the following 8-to-12 year timeline:

• 2 to 3 years to obtain leases, including the development of a U.S. Bureau of Land
Management (BLM) leasing program, which includes approval of an Environmental
Impact Statement…
• 2 to 3 years to drill a single exploratory well. Exploratory wells are slower to drill
because geophysical data are collected during drilling, e.g., rock cores and well logs.
Typically, Alaska North Slope exploration wells take two full winter seasons to reach the desired depth.
• 1 to 2 years to develop a production development plan and obtain BLM approval for that plan, if a commercial oil reservoir is discovered. Considerably more time could be required if the discovered oil reservoir is very deep, is filled with heavy oil, or is highly faulted…
• 3 to 4 years to construct the feeder pipelines; to fabricate oil separation and treatment plants, and transport them up from the lower-48 States to the North Slope by ocean barge; construct drilling pads; drill to depth; and complete the wells.

That’s right, with current estimates, it’d take a minimum of 8 years to get one barrel of oil out of ANWR. John McCain would be out of office in his second term (assuming he got reelected somehow) before we got any oil out of ANWR. It’s not going to work that fast, period.

Okay, whatever, what would happen to world oil prices?

With respect to the world oil price impact, projected ANWR oil production constitutes between 0.4 and 1.2 percent of total world oil consumption in 2030, based on the low and high resource cases, respectively. Consequently, ANWR oil production is not projected to have a large impact on world oil prices. Relative to the AEO2008 reference case, ANWR oil production is projected to have its largest oil price reduction impacts as follows: a reduction in low-sulfur, light (LSL) crude oil prices of $0.41 per barrel (2006 dollars) in 2026 in the low oil resource case, $0.75 per barrel in 2025 in the mean oil resource case, and $1.44 per barrel in 2027 in the high oil resource case. Assuming that world oil markets continue to work as they do today, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) could neutralize any potential price impact of ANWR oil production by reducing its oil exports by an equal amount. [emphasis mine]

You heard me. ANWR oil will most likely constitute 1 percent of world oil production, and, consequently, any positive effect can be rendered null by the production of OPEC — meaning that it’s no sure bet that oil prices will sink just because we got some production out of ANWR.

And, finally, dependence on foreign oil:

Every barrel of ANWR oil production reduces crude oil imports by about a barrel (Figure 3 and Table 2). In the AEO2008 reference case, the proportion of crude oil and liquid fuel imports to total supply remains relatively constant during the 2018 through 2025 time period at an average value of 51 percent. After 2025, reference case oil dependency increases to about 54 percent of U.S. liquid fuels supply in 2030. Because U.S. liquid fuels consumption grows slowly during the entire projection period, the lowest import dependency levels occur between 2022 and 2026 across the three resource cases. The mean oil resource case projects a minimum import share of 48 percent in 2024, before rising to 51 percent in 2030. The low and high resource cases project minimum import shares of 49 and 46 percent in 2022 and 2026, respectively.

Translation: assuming we don’t drill in ANWR, the study projects that 54 percent of our oil supply will be imported from foreign countries (in AEO2008 reference case). In the high resource case (maximum amounts of projected oil), we will have 46 percent dependency in 2026, and later on (in a graph), the study projects that we will have 48 percent of our oil be imported (from foreign countries) in 2030 in the high resource case. The bottom line is that the absolute best we can do in ANWR is to reduce our foreign oil dependency by 6 percent.

Can you hear me Washington? All your claims about off-shore drilling are outright lies, and now you can’t say that those who oppose it don’t have data to back it up. Because we do. The data says that we will be able to drill, at best, in 8 years, not 2. The data says that there won’t be a significant effect in global oil prices, not the ridiculous claim that it will drive gas prices down to $2. And it won’t do any magic in really reducing our dependence on foreign oil, since it will only shrink it by 6 percent, which won’t do us any good in the year 2030.

Wake up!

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Sensitivity

One debacle I’ve encountered in dealing with human beings (to sound alien-y) is that, well, some of us are more sensitive to certain things than others are. I’m not necessarily talking about your super-sensitive front teeth or your friend from Chicago who wears a t-shirt and shorts in the middle of winter. I’m talking about how, emotionally, we human beings are sensitive or more likely to (over)react to a certain topic (stimulus) based on our unique experiences.

And now it’s time for me to play faux psychologist.

I’m a firm believer that we’re shaped by our experiences, especially those that are negative, as the sensitivity I’m talking about is how certain topics evoke strong reactions from us. Here’s an example: you were fat as a child, but slimmed out as you got older… However, you feel ashamed or angry at yourself when you step on a scale and you’ve gained 10 pounds in the last month, because you fear returning to your previous unsightly state. Or, perhaps, you get upset when people discuss others’ weights and the like. Therefore, I’d infer that you’re sensitive to weight issues.

I, personally, am sensitive to the issue of honesty, or, more accurately, lies. From an early age I embraced the old maxim “Honesty is the best policy” and clung to it like a raft in the middle of the ocean. After being lied to quite often (as we all are), I’ve become in a close-to-paranoid state when it concerns the truth; I find it extremely hard to trust people completely in a short period of time. At the risk of sounding like Steven Colbert, it’s all because I believe in the truth and try to maintain my integrity the best I can, eschewing political correctness (a whole ‘nother post, PCism is) with little effort. This has led to me being called things like arrogant and disrespectful from those who’d lie to gain favor, and I can’t stand them or their doctrine, again, just because I have clung to that maxim with such childish naïveté in an effort not to become a “liar”. Am I right? In my mind, I am, but to another person, it may seem that it is all too naïve, and it is. However, I can’t control that I react so negatively to lies because of how I was brought up and my experiences.

Ironically (or fittingly?), I love politics — something that involves lots of lying. Perhaps my obsession wants to fix all the lies that permeate the political acts everywhere. I’m not sure.

What are your sensitivities?

I’ve heard from a lot of self-proclaimed education experts that a voucher-based school choice system is the best way to go, since it would force the schools to compete for students. It is definitely a terrible, terrible idea, and here’s why:

Size
In a perfect voucher world, kids would switch to whatever schools they wanted to because a school is demonstrably better than the one that they are currently in. So, obviously, there would be an influx of children to what they or their parents think are better schools. With more children in these “better” schools, class size and student population become huge issues, especially in the cafeteria, where seating is limited for the entire school. As class sizes increase, the quality of the education, obviously, goes down — counteracting the decision to even move to a new school. This trouble could be halted with the aid of a student “cap” or limit that a lot of schools already have, but that would eliminate the point of the voucher system, as kids couldn’t get into the school of their choice because too many kids were already enrolled.

Furthermore, this would have an equal and opposite effect on the schools children were leaving. If kids left schools in large numbers, there would (obviously) be less kids at “underperforming” schools. What happens to the kids who are unable to change schools due to student “caps”? Higher level classes, such as APs, get cut from the curriculum, and the advanced children who didn’t abandon ship like their classmates are left in the dust.

Money
As children leave schools to “better” ones, their money goes with them. If a school is deemed unworthy by parent and child alike, and kids move, the schools they are getting away from lose money, and that means that the wages of everyone in the schools — counselors, teachers, principals, etc. — go down. Eventually, as the voucher theory dictates, these schools will close. Great! Now at least 50 professionals don’t have jobs! Well, maybe, as the “better” schools started to accommodate larger numbers of students, they have to…

Expansion
The Darwinarian approach of the voucher system eventually leaves one “super-school” on top of the heap. If one school is always on top, then there will always be an exodus out of “lesser” schools to the one “good” school. As students flock to the better school, that school will eventually need to expand to accommodate more students — resulting in more hiring of faculty. Assuming that so many kids have left schools that some are forced to close down, then teachers and faculty from other schools will be left jobless and will flock to the expanding “good” schools. But hold on a second: weren’t the weak faculty the reason why the schools that were closed down in the first place?

Not so fast. Teaching talent can only go so far – I’m a firm believer that, regardless of teaching talent, the student body really makes the school. When schools close, this simply eliminates a choice. The inevitability of the situation is that, as schools swallow other schools, one massive school reigns supreme (through elimination of “lesser” schools) — and is merely average, since it will have every child in the district. And now we’re back to square one, except without any choices. Is that what we want?

If you could, would you look into the magical crystal ball and see the future?

Now, there are two scenarios about the future:

1: The future assumes that you do not look into the future and is dependent on what you would do had you not looked into the future (meaning, if you look into the future, and try to change it, it will be successful). or…

2: The future realizes that you’d look into the future, and you cannot change it at all.

My pick in both situations would to not look at all, and here’s why:

Part of what makes life extraordinary and worth living is the process; just living is remarkable on its own. Not knowing the events that are going to happen next is the primary thing that makes life really special to me; that’s why the first time I read a good book or see a good movie remains special and something to remember. Seeing the same “scenes” being played back to me as they happen would take the surprise out of my life, and, really, make life not worth living. For example, if my future correctly predicted that I’d become a rich mogul when I got older, I’d just view my present life as drudgery and useless instead of enjoying every minute of it like I should.

I feel that if I looked into the future at all, that would violate the order of things, and, the worrier that I am, I’d live my life just awaiting the point where I met the vision of my “future”. It would also make me obsess over whether certain actions or people I met would have an effect on my future, though, I’d inevitably come to the conclusion that everything does effect how our future is molded. I’d attach a purpose to everything, though it really shouldn’t be that way — we give our own experiences meaning by how much they value us, not on the basis of speculation about the future.

And, really — is the “future” even worth it? Time is just a limited resource that we have that allows us to space out events. Ultimately, the future is really one step closer to our deaths than the present is, which brings me back to: why not really enjoy our present with reckless abandon (okay, nothing too insane… We don’t want to cripple our future) and worry about the future when it comes about? I’ve been guilty of living my life constantly brooding about future events. When I reached a goal I wanted, I’d just look at my list, identify one (metaphorically) and go chasing after the next milestone in my life, endlessly preparing for it. It’s no fun, really, to be so concerned about the future that you spend so much time worrying about the future that what you have now is wasted.

What would you do?