Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Exxon Mobil's "Can't-do" Attitude

In an era of $3.00 gas and oil companies' multi-billion-dollar quarterly profits, it's so refreshing to hear Exxon Mobil's CEO Rex Tillerson talk about how his company will lead the charge to develop alternative fuels and the technology to make them economically viable. Of course, as the CEO of a Fortune 50 company, one absolutely must have a clear vision of what's to come and a concrete plan for how to get there.

So, when asked recently by the Dallas Morning News to describe the coming explosion in alternative fuels development, here's what Mr. Tillerson had to say:

The day will come when we'll move from oil and fossil fuels to something different. It may or may not come in my lifetime. But what I know is, the day I die, I'll probably get driven to my funeral in something that uses hydrocarbons.

For the record, Mr. Tillerson is 54 years old. Surely, he must have a terminal disease that will see his life end soon, right? I mean, he's not seriously talking about being driven to his funeral in thirty years or so in a conventional, gasoline-powered vehicle, is he?

Is Mr. Tillerson joking? Well, as it turns out...not so much.

I think it would be a good idea if people used gasoline a little more efficiently. I'm not worried about it because you know gasoline, oil, natural gas, are so instrumental to people's lives today, both from an economic standpoint and from a quality of life standpoint.

And there is absolutely nothing out there for the next 30 years that's going to change that. ... Now, I'm not saying therefore I have a captive market and I can treat it however I want to. That's not the case either, because there are plenty of other people who want to sell gasoline into the market, too. ...

People will ... alter their habits around how to use gasoline when it gets too high ... unless people have concluded that this price is not inconvenient to them.

So far everything I see others investing in, they're losing money. There have been huge write-offs by some of my competitors of their investments in solar energy. There have been huge write-offs by some of my competitors of their investment in wind.

This biofuels phenomenon is very recent, like in the last six months. And it took an act of Congress to mandate its use and to leave in place a subsidy to make that work.

Okay. So, we've got oil and gas companies making billions of dollars in quarterly profits. We've got the same companies saying they need to spend up to one hundred billion dollars - yes, $100 BILLION - in the coming years to develop new oil refining capacity. And these companies also want to open vast new geographies - such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge - to new exploration and drilling. Yet, they are unwilling to invest in a new fuel like ethanol that is proving to be a legitimate alternative to gasoline in countries such as Brazil.

The United States can put men on the proverbial moon, develop microprocessing chips and nanotechnology that is revolutionizing countless industries, and find cures for an untold number of previously incurable diseases. But, for some reason, we can't find a way to do what a third world country like Brazil is doing to ween itself off of carbon-based fuels and foreign energy supplies. Incredible!

The oil companies have money to burn - literally. The U.S. government is spending hundreds of billions to do...whatever the hell it's trying to do in the Middle East. But they can't find a way to fund the development of corn-based ethanol technology...in a land that is among the most agriculturally fertile in the entire world.

Corn? We have corn. Lots of it. In fact, our own government has been paying farmers for years NOT to grow crops such as corn. We're talking about complete energy self-sufficiency for this country. No more oil imports. No more being held hostage by hostile foreign governments and cartels.

Hell, even the Indy 500 will have all of its race cars running on 100% ethanol in next year's race.

Yet, based on the comments of Exxon Mobil's Tillerson, we're just plain stuck with good old oil and gas for the foreseeable future. To do otherwise is just too expensive. It's too time-consuming. It's too uneconomical.

I'll tell you what it is: IT'S INSANE!!! And it's completely unacceptable!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Political Science Theater 2006

A seemingly innocuous, run-of-the-mill corruption probe of a sitting congressman all of a sudden has turned into a grand political drama and potential constitutional crisis. Funny that it took the alleged misdeeds of a Democrat in the House to elicit this kind of commotion, especially given all of the crap being pulled by Republicans in recent years.

While Rep. William Jefferson, D-Louisiana, may well have committed numerous unethical and/or illegal acts, for which he should be duly investigated and held accountable, it's hard to believe that it warrants this kind of attention. With all of the Republicans who are in trouble on the Hill, why did it take a Democrat to be the first congressman ever - EVER - to have his office raided by the FBI?

In the aftermath of the FBI's search-warrant-approved actions, the President placed a 45-day moratorium on the evidence collected until a reasonable solution can be ironed out. Seems reasonable enough, until one begins to wonder why he would take such action in apparent support of a Democrat who has been extremely critical of the Bush administration's incompetence in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Now, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI Director Robert Mueller reportedly have said they will resign unless the evidence collected in the raid is reinstated. Doesn't that seem just a tad bit rash?

The entire drama playing out in Washington has the feel of being just that, a drama. With all of the attention being paid to Republican do-no-gooders in Congress over the last several months, perhaps the Bush administration decided to unleash this little spat in order to drum up some publicity - a LOT of publicity - about a troubled Democrat. With the 2006 mid-term elections just months away, the troubled Republican Party needs to turn the tide in a hurry if it has any hope whatsoever of retaining a majority in the House and Senate this fall. And what better way to turn attention away from Republican misdeeds - and there are many - than to turn a white hot spotlight on the Democrats?

Anytime you have your Attorney General and your FBI Director allegedly threatening to resign over actions taken by the President, it tends to get the media's attention. And what the media pays attention to can't help but filter down to the voters.

So, regardless of the issues involving the raid on a congressman's office, the overriding message that Republicans want to sink into the minds of the voting public is that a Democrat is being investigated for corruption. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised at all if the DoJ trots out a few more investigations of Democrats as the October elections near, if only to give a boost to Republicans' chances of retaining power. Timing is everything, as they say. If the Senate and House majorities revert to the Democrats this fall, then the shit will really hit the fan come 2007.

And won't THAT be a show worth watching? Stay tuned...

Monday, May 15, 2006

Turn out the lights, the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party's over

For decades, the annual college football matchup between the University of Florida and the University of Georgia has been known as The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. The game takes place in Jacksonville each fall in late October or early November. Having been to several TWLOCPs myself, mostly in my college days, I can attest to the fact that the game's nickname is pretty much accurate. There's a lot of alcohol consumed.

But if the University of Georgia's president has anything to say about it, the great SEC rivalry game between the Gators and the Bulldogs never will be referred to as TWLOCP again.

University of Georgia President Michael Adams objects to the phrase "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" to describe the annual Georgia-Florida football game.

And he has asked CBS Television and the city of Jacksonville, Fla., to not use the phrase when promoting the game the network televises each year.

The request is part of Adams' push to curb on-campus alcohol abuse and change UGA's image as a party school.

"There are better images," Adams told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "We have requested they not use that nomenclature. The indication is they are sensitive to our concern."

As if dropping the unofficial name of the game is going to curb alcohol use or abuse, especially among college students. It won't. And I don't get the impression that either Alltel stadium or CBS will elect to cancel their sponsorship agreements with the beer companies. Of course not. After all, that would put a damper on the great sums of money to be made off the sale and marketing of alcohol.

This apparent crusade is reminiscent of the recent change in the unofficial name of the annual football game played in Dallas between the University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma. It used to be called the Red River Shootout.

That is, until the politically-correct gurus among us decided that any association with guns was bad karma. It's now called the Red River Rivalry. Ugh.

But hasn't the name change resulted in a drastic reduction in crime and illegal use of guns in Dallas and elsewhere, you ask? Uh, no.

Having spent four of the best years of my life at the University of Florida, I am confident that today's student body will not give in to the wild and crazy rantings of Georgia's president. On the contrary, I wouldn't be surprised to see The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party gain even greater prominence in the years to come...if for no other reason than to spite a weeny, pencil-necked administrator from UGA.

Go Gators!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Worst. President. Ever.

Now that the latest Harris poll has President Bush's approval rating dipping below 30%, can it be that much longer before he begins flirting with the legendary Mendoza Line? Since Bush allegedly understands baseball, he should be quite familiar with this infamous benchmark for futility. And with over two years left in office (shudder), Bush gives all of us plenty of time to see just how low he can go.

Mario Mendoza's legendary inability to hit a baseball in the major leagues caused his near .200 batting average to be dubbed The Mendoza Line. If the President's approval rating continues to plummet at its current rate, we could be talking about The Dubya Line before long...and Mario Mendoza finally may find peace, as his own ineptness is superseded by that of our glorious leader.

How low can he go? Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A president named Jeb?

If President George W. Bush has his way, his younger brother and current Florida governor Jeb Bush one day will run for President of the United States.

"I would like to see Jeb run at some point in time, but I have no idea if that's his intention or not," Bush said in an interview with Florida reporters, according to a story on the St. Petersburg Times Web site.

Great. That's just what we need in this country...a Bush dynasty/monarchy. As if having a Bush in the White House for twelve out of twenty years isn't more than enough...

Of course, given Jeb Bush's status as a charter member of PNAC, it shouldn't surprise many that the neo-cons would want one of their boys to be the next person to inhabit the Oval Office. And despite what many are saying about Jeb's lack of interest in running in 2008, don't believe a word of it. He's part of the grand plan. And he most certainly will be on the Republican ticket two years from now. About the only thing that could stop it from happening is if Democrats are able to wrest control of Congress this fall and begin the investigative and/or impeachment processes to bring down the current president and his corrupt and incompetent administration. Such a scenario would spell "curtains" for any presidential aspirations that Jeb may hold.

Since Jeb's tenure as Florida governor is up later this year, he will have plenty of time on his hands to plan his campaign. And some of that time may be spent trying to figure out how to overcome two of his children's penchant for going afoul of the law. Noelle and Jebby will be popular names on the campaign trail should Jeb Sr. make it that far. Should be interesting, to say the least.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Constitutional illiterate to head CIA?

Now that CIA director Porter Goss has stepped down, the scuttlebutt is that Goss's replacement will be former NSA head and Air Force General Michael Hayden. The obvious red flag with Hayden's possible appointment is that he clearly has limited familiarity with the U.S. Constitution and the Fourth Amendment, in particular.

In fact, it was just a few months ago when TDB highlighted Hayden's contention during a press conference that the Fourth Amendment did not mention probable cause. For someone in a leadership capacity over a major spy organization to be so completely ignorant of one of this country's most basic tenets of freedom is nothing short of unfathomable.

Let's refresh our collective memory about what the Fourth Amendment says:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Perhaps General Hayden should study up on the Constitution. And let's hope the U.S. Senate duly grills him on this issue before giving him rubber stamp approval to take over in Langley. Otherwise, we'll just face an ever-quickening erosion of our basic freedoms by those who are supposed to be protecting them.