Saturday, August 30, 2008

Minneapolis Repeals First and Fourth Amendments

I had a couple of different blogs planned but whats going on right now in Minneapolis deserves some attention.

County law enforcement has decided to raid a number of houses in a pre-emptive strike to intimidate and harass protesters and anyone who may open their homes to protesters in the twin cities. It started last night in St. Paul. (link)

You might be wondering, as I am, how they know which houses protesters are staying at. Seems to me that a bit of illegal spying was done here.

You may also be wondering, as I am, why police need sub-machine guns and tactical dress to raid houses to illegally arrest protesters. Sounds like intimidation tactics to me.

These raids have resulted in property damage. Wouldn't ya know it, city inspectors just happen to be on hand to promptly enter these homes while the owners are hauled off to cite violations of city code, so they can board the houses up. Boarding results in a bill to the home owner of $6000. Meanwhile, neighbors complain of crack houses next door that the police and city ignore. (link)

I'm curious if the police are now capable of seeing the future, and if visions are all that is needed to obtain a warrant. Though don't ask to see that warrant, the police might not show it to you, and will instead arrest you.(link)

The police wonder why anyone would run from heavily armed tactical police units that have surrounded a home when no crime has been committed. Call me crazy but I wouldn't be too keen on being arrested for doing nothing wrong by people who apparently don't care about my rights.

Twin city officials we're not notified of these raids. Normal channels for calling city inspectors to board up houses were also not followed. Boarding happens for abandoned or ramshackle condemned houses. Clearly, these homes being raided are not abandoned.

If you want to see another abuse of power, you can read about the no knock warrant on a mayor's house in Berwyn Heights, Maryland (link). This raid resulted in the shooting deaths of the mayor's dogs, two black labs. These are not vicious dogs. I've owned more than a couple labradors and they make poor watchdogs. Besides, couldn't the police just taser the dogs instead of killing them?

This case reveals so much that is wrong with law enforcement today. Apparently the mayor was a victim of a scam by drug dealers (of which I know a little something about, since some idiot tried to scam me into something similar). These drug dealers would randomly pick a house, have their drugs shipped to the house where their associates would then pick up the package. An idiotic plan if you ask me, but it's what they did. The police found one package at an airport in Arizona. Rather than pick it up there, they decided to follow it. Even though they already knew where it was going, in this case, to the mayor's house in Berwyn Heights.

They staked out the mayor's house. The mayor came home, found a package on his front step addressed to his wife, and brought it inside, not knowing it was full of that oh so dangerous weed known for making people mellow and very hungry. The police then pounced, raiding the house as if it contained heavily armed terrorists.

Now, does it not seem obvious that there was a better way to go about this? I would have waited for the mayor to leave his house, then quietly arrested him. See what happens there? No violence, no dogs being shot by scared and paranoid officers, no property damage.

Instead, law enforcement has decided that the war on drugs needed to be escalated, and so they got the go ahead for no knock warrants from our wonderfully screwed up Supreme Court.

The no knock warrant is primarily desired to prevent drug evidence from being flushed away. Secondly, the no knock warrant is designed to give the occupants of a dwelling no warning, thus they cannot dig in and fight back.

Now, these two concerns are valid on their face, especially if you support the war on drugs, which I do not for very logical reasons which is another blog post entirely. The geniuses who came up with this no knock warrant disaster don't appear to have thought things through. Or they just don't care.

1) What happens if you raid the wrong house? (link)

2) What happens if your probable cause for a warrant comes from an interview with an ignorant employee of a utility company making a house call, there is no further investigation, you make the raid and the meth lab you were trying to find is nowhere to be found? (link)

3) What happens when you raid a house, the resident is sleeping, you startle her awake, she thinks it's a home invasion (because she's been burglarized before), and shoots back? (link)

It seems to me that law enforcement has decided to minimize risks to themselves while heaping it upon the citizens they are supposed to serve and protect. Law enforcement has always had a poor PR image due to excesses by bad cops. This bad PR makes it difficult for law enforcement to do their job as a whole, and it also makes life difficult for the good cops that I know are out there, like my grandfather who was a state trooper right here in RI.

Political dissent is being criminalized in this nation. The war on drugs has become out of control. If getting high is going to be a crime then so should getting drunk. Oh, we tried that. I remember now. The war on alcohol was ended decade of violence and a failure to stamp out alcohol use in America. The war on drugs has been going on longer, meeting similar failure and producing even more violence. The war on political dissent, that's been going on quite a bit longer, protects only unpopular politics, and has failed to snuff out the spirit of dissent. It's insane that these wars haven't been ended.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Confusion in the Caucasus

Saakashvili seems intent on making more foolish statements, designed to inflame tensions between the west and Russia. He also seems to think McCain is going to come to his rescue. Here is a newsflash: McCain doesn't actually give a damn about Georgia.

He only got involved in this affair thanks to his lobbyist/foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann who only got involved in Georgia's affairs for the lobbyist money (link). McCain's statements about Georgia and his ridiculous blustering is an attempt to gain votes here among the diplomacy challenged public. The west only gives a damn about the oil Georgia can transport out of central Asia. Thus why the coverage here has been so one sided. It's what the corporate/right-wing media wants.

Saakashvili said this yesterday:

“Yesterday, I heard Sen. McCain say, ‘We are all Georgians now,’” Saakashvili said on CNN’s American Morning. “Well, very nice, you know, very cheering for us to hear that, but OK, it’s time to pass from this. From words to deeds.” (link)

Does Saakashvili understand that McCain is not president? He's a senator, and his job is to represent his state of Arizona in the Federal government. His job is not to represent Georgia. Perhaps Saakashvili is still receiving advice from Scheunemann, and this bluster of his is somehow designed to give McCain cover to engage in looking "tough". Saakashvili also seems to think that America should help save him from his foolish decision to start a war. Sorry, we've got enough enemies thanks to previous meddling in other regions. I don't think Russia is some saint of a country, nor do I agree with some of their military tactics, but it's naive to think that civilians caught in the crossfire are not going to die or be maimed. Perhaps Saakashvili should have thought about that before he decided to attack South Ossetia.

If anyone thinks Obama is going to be clear headed about this, I would think again. He's already decided to take sides in this conflict, ignoring that it was Georgia who started the war. One of his top advisers is Zbigniew Brzezinski, who apparently would like nothing more than to resume the cold war and like the neo-cons, thinks Putin is the second coming of Stalin and this little war with Georgia is the prelude to the revival of the Soviet Union. Well, if we keep antagonizing Russia, feeding their paranoia and mistrust of the west, then Russia will surely oblige neo-con fantasies. (link to recent interview with Brzezinski concerning the conflict in the Caucasus.

If America and Russia would work together on common goals, the world would be more peaceful. Instead, each nation seeks to gain the upper hand in world influence (to control world resources), as if either has a right to treat the world as their own personal sandbox. Neither country has the right to meddle in the domestic affairs of other nations, just as people have no right to force me to live a certain way. National and person rights end when they infringe on other nations and people's self-determination. America has no business inserting ourselves in Russian-Georgian affairs, oil be damned.

I'll leave you all with the most bone headed and hypocritical statement ever made by John McCain:

"In the 21st century, nations don't invade other nations." (link)

I guess America isn't a nation, or he's saying Iraq and Afghanistan aren't nations.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Nationalist Interrupts Obama's Townhall Meeting

Seems some people just can't get over themselves and their ridiculous obsession with pledging allegiance to symbols. The pledge is a joke. We didn't say it in the Navy. Not once. At best, we had to salute the flag if we were outside and the signal came that it was being lowered (Is it sad that I can't remember if we had to do this when it was raised?) You were also supposed to stop your car. Even then, some people just kept on trucking, and it seemed a bit ridiculous to salute the flag when you couldn't see it.

Why not recite the preamble to the constitution instead of the pledge? You can fly the flag all the live long day and it won't protect your freedom. It won't protect your right to bear arms, won't keep law enforcement from going after you without a warrant and it wont protect your right to vote. Only the constitution does that, and even then, only if Americans are willing to uphold it. The culture warriors and the nationalists/neo-cons only uphold the constitution when it's convenient for them. They stupidly believe, as the homophobes in California do, that say, giving gay men and women the right to get married is somehow taking rights away from straight people. It's insane. Discrimination is not a right. No action that infringes on another's rights is protected by the constitution. Bigots might want to grasp that concept someday. Life would be easier for them. Anyway.

Here are two video's of John Quinn, a freelance photographer with press credentials who thought it appropriate to interrupt Obama from the press riser and inject his nationalist views. When he was confronted he decided he wasn't press now, no, now he just wanted to be John Q. Public. Idiot.

Here he is fleeing, still refusing to say who he is or who gave him his press credentials. The ending is priceless:

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Running The Numbers

I've been swimming in numbers for two weeks now, deciding what numbers would be best to present here to further shoot holes in the GOP political theater in regards to lifting offshore bans or drilling in ANWR. I wanted to present something new, hopefully I've done that here. The "drill faster, drill ANWR" crowd are really getting on my nerves with their ignorance. If they haven't bothered to educate themselves on this issue, then stop having an opinion on the subject. For the rest, they just filter out facts and logic until whats left is a paranoid-fantasy delusion which they vomit up online and in polls. Now, onto the numbers!

Where we import oil from, the top 5 countries:

1) Canada: 19%
2) Saudi Arabia: 10.5%
3) Mexico: 10.3%
4) It's a tie: Venezuela and Nigeria at 9% each
5) Iraq: 5%

These percentages represent a share of total imports, not a share of total US oil consumption. Imports from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Mexico have actually fallen this decade. The decline (since 2002): -4% from SA, -5% from Venezuela and -2% from Mexico, while imports from Canada have risen nearly 5% since that time. 55% of our oil imports come from non-OPEC nations.

Here are the top 5 oil producing states (Including state's offshore production). Numbers are annual production as of 2008:

1) Texas: 397 million barrels (539 thousand offshore)
2) Alaska: 352 million barrels (91.8 million offshore)
3) California: 231 million barrels (13.6 million offshore)
4) Louisiana: 85 million barrels (8 million offshore)
5) Oklahoma: 61 million barrels

New Mexico (in decline) and Wyoming (steady) are barely trailing Oklahoma.

By far the largest source of domestic US oil is the federal offshore areas, producing 490 million barrels.

Domestic oil production peaked in 1970, at 3.5 billion barrels of oil that year. It declined to 2.9 billion barrels by 1976. From 1977 - 1985, domestic production increased more or less every year to a post-peak peak of 3.2 billion barrels. Domestic production has been in decline every year since. In 2007, our production was 1.8 billion barrels.

Oklahoma peaked in 1924 at 278 million bpy (barrels per year).
Louisiana peaked in 1970 at 565 million bpy.
Texas production peaked in 1972 at 1.2 billion bpy
California production peaked in 1985 at 395 million bpy.
Alaska peaked in 1988 at 738 million bpy.

Now lets look at declines in production, in these very same big producers, from their peak years:

1) Louisiana: -85%
2) Texas: -75%
3) Oklahoma: -78%
4) Alaska: -52.5%
5) California: -42%

Federal offshore drilling has seen a 17% drop in oil production since 2002.

Here are the top 5 producers per year with increasing production, as of 2008. 2002 levels in parentheses:

1) North Dakota: 45 million barrels (31 million)
2) Kansas: 36 million barrels (33 million)
3) Montana: 35 million barrels (17 million)
4) Colorado: 23 million barrels (18 million)
5) Utah: 19.5 million barrels (13 million)

As you can see, the picture for US domestic oil production doesn't look all that great. Colorado and Utah are the big shale states. That oil isn't going to be cheap owing to the difficulty in extracting shale oil. So no cheap gas from that, even if they could ramp production up to match the levels of the big 5 producers.

The largest oil field ever discovered in North America is in Prudhoe bay, Alaska. When it came online in 1968, proven reserves were pegged at 25 billion barrels of oil. It peaked in 1987, producing 1.6 million barrels per day that year. Since 2000, production levels here have been dropping an average of 8% a year. By 2004, 10.7 billion barrels had been produced at Prudhoe. Meaning if the estimated reserves are correct, then 14.3 billion barrels remain. (link. Scroll down on there, they have the pages out of order.)

Lets close out this blog with what I think is a damning report (PDF) and one that should end the debate on whether oil companies need more land or offshore areas.

Of all the oil believed to exist on the outer continental shelf, 79% of it is located in areas already open to leasing. These leased areas equal 44 million acres. Only 10.5 million of them are being utilized. The excuse for this from wingnuts, is that there are restrictions blah blah blah. They seem to ignore the part about how this land is leased. The oil companies have it. They can drill if they want to. But they don't or cannot due to technical or financial reasons, sometimes both.

91 million acres are open to leasing in the arctic region of Alaska, that's including both onshore and offshore. Oil companies have leased only 11.8 million of these acres.

In the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, you have 22.6 million acres open to leasing. Oil companies have leased just 3 million of those acres. There is no production going on among those 3 million, and just 25 exploratory wells have been drilled since 2000.

Peak production from ANWR is estimated to take 20 years to reach, and would hit 780,000 barrels a day or 284 million barrels per year. That would provide less than 5% of our current needs per day. What will our oil demand be in 20 years? Maybe it will be less than now. Maybe more. These are all estimates. No guarantees.

If you'd like to check out where I get all these numbers, well here is a list of sources. Some are online. Some are books written by petroleum engineers, Like Kenneth S. Deffeyes. He talks about geophysicist M. King Hubbert, who successfully predicted that US oil production would peak in the early 70's, and the world would peak in the first decade of the 21st century. He made this prediction in 1956.

Hubbert's Peak. A book by Kenneth S. Deffeyes.
Gibson Consulting. Another great site, another oil geologist. Lots of links to sources as well.
EIA, Energy Information Administration. This particular page of the site has lots of interesting info, and you can delve into more specifics with the links on the left there
MMS, the Mineral Management Service
API, American petroleum Institute
The Prize. A book by Daniel Yergin. Excellent read about the history of the oil industry.

I don't imagine I will be writing another oil blog anytime soon, unless the GOP does something yet more outrageous. They are still plugging the Chinese/Cuba drilling myth on the floor of a darkened congress. They don't care. They'll keep up these stunts, nothing will change, and Americans will either be gullible and not see what the GOP is really up to or they'll smart enough not to buy into their ridiculous antics.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Senate Republicans Block Tax Credits For Wind And Solar A 4th Time

That fact won't deter Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) from making yet another of her rocks-for-brains comments in an attack against Democrats:

Oh, without a doubt, without a doubt. What we want to do is accomplish the people’s mission, which is open up every source of energy there is. They’re so strange Laura, they won’t even pass the tax credit for solar and wind right now. I mean, they claim to be the big solar/wind people, they won’t even pass that. (link)

Well thats funny. The bill in question, H.R. 6049: Renewable Energy And Job Creation Act, passed in the house on May 21st, 2008, 263-160. Bachmann voted against it. Just one Democrat voted against the bill, while all but 35 republicans voted against it.(link). Senate Republicans are busy repeatedly blocking the senate version of this bill. (link)

Quite the con job from Bachmann. But it gets better. The senate GOP has decided that they are going to shut down congress until the Democrats agree to lift the offshore drilling ban (link). All in the name of "helping" the American people. Well you Republicans have done such a fine job of that what with breaking down financial regulations designed to prevent speculators and con artists from crashing our economy. We really don't need any more of your help. It's maddening to see them doing this. I shouldn't even have to contemplate on whether or not this despicable maneuver will fool Americans into thinking cheap gas is possible. But we live in a nation with millions of people afflicted with information disabilities.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

You'd Be A Better Driver...

if you drove tiny, possibly unsafe electric cars? My favorite part of the video below is that yes, if you're driving a car that isn't a 4000 lb SUV, you'll have to actually drive not like an asshole. A side benefit of producing lighter cars that are safe, is that maybe our roads would be safer not just from the reduced weight of the cars, but the increased safety conscience of drivers who drive defensively instead of aggressively. Now the video here is of the Golf cart style of electric vehicle. In other words, impractical for all but urban dwellers who don't have harsh winters.

New Englanders are not going to plunk down our precious money for under performing vehicles we can't drive all year long, especially when those winters could involve your typical SUV skidding across an icy street on a collision course with you. I make this complaint because of an incredibly ignorant comment I saw on Huffpost, in regards to Exxon-Mobile having posted the biggest quarterly profit any company has ever made in the history of corporate America (Link). The comment came from someone who doesn't care to get our economy off of oil. We can just go buy electric cars he says, failing to factor in that not everybody can afford to, nor is it always practical, at least not with the current electric car lineup.

With Exxon posting record profits, do ya think they're in any rush to put more oil on the market, thereby lowering the price and cutting into profits? Me thinks not.

Monday, July 28, 2008

$100 Billion Tax Cheat

The part I like is Warren Buffet telling you that yes, without even cheating, he still pays less taxes than the rest of us. Reviewing the tax code here in RI, you would find that the 2 percent of Rhode Islanders who make $200,000 or more, owe 10 percent of their income to the state, while the rest of us owe 13 percent. We have a budget deficit in this state, and rather than raise taxes on the wealthy to at least the rate the rest of us pay, our governor would rather cut social spending and so make life harder on the poor and middle class. Brilliant.

We're one of the bluest states in the Union, so it's odd that we would elect a Republican for governor. Lincoln Chafee I could see electing, but instead we got Don Carcieri. Twice this guy has been elected governor, though in his second election he only got 51 percent of the vote. Now of course we have buyer's remorse. Most voters in this state identify as independent. So it seems we are slaves to some who can't make up their mind about the best way to govern.