Monday, April 28, 2008

Week of 04/28/2008

America’s No-Win Situation
– by David Matthews 2

There is nothing more unsettling for me than to be in a no-win situation. It is one thing to be given choices where even one of the options is correct and the rest are wrong and you end up making the wrong choice. Then at least you can admit that you screwed up and that you deserved whatever punishment was the result. But it is another to be put into a situation where you KNOW that no matter what you do, you WILL lose.

I know people like to think that we should just choose the “lesser” of the evils being presented and just deal with the consequences, but that really doesn’t work in a society that glorifies winning and believes that winning is a matter of making the “right decisions”. How can you make the “right decisions” when you are given nothing but the “wrong” choices?

Here’s a great example: you get your identity stolen. In most instances, it’s really not your fault. Some clever crook uses a palm-scanner and swipes your credit card, or someone copies your name and address and phone number from a phone book, or maybe they hacked the purchase list of some local store… either way, they have all the information they need to take over your identity. Suddenly you get hit with all sorts of bills and bill collectors are calling you about purchases you never made. You call the police, you call the credit card companies, you call the credit reporting companies, and you do everything that you need to do to let people know that your identity has been compromised and is being used by scammers and thieves all around the world.

But it still doesn’t stop, does it? No, the bill collectors STILL come after you. The police start hassling you because your name is now some crook’s new alias. You have to spend thousands of dollars and countless hours of your personal time to defend yourself, and you get driven into bankruptcy.

And then here comes some success “guru” who tells you that the only reason why you’re in bankruptcy now is because YOU made “bad choices” in life. And he should know, shouldn’t he? He should know because he supposedly made nothing but the “right choices”. That and he probably never had his identity stolen and had to spend countless man-hours and every penny he owns trying to defend himself.

And what would this “success guru” say was your fault? What “bad choices” did you supposedly make that would put the blame of identity theft on your head? He’ll say that you really shouldn’t have gotten a credit card, or that you really shouldn’t have made any online purchases, or that you shouldn’t have had your phone listed in the phone book. These are all things that our society tries to make impossible. Banks give out check cards nowadays, and even your local grocery store wants you to sign up for their services by offering discounts, which means that they want your personal information, which they PROMISE to keep secret, unless they’re hacked of course. And if you want your name out of the phone books, that actually costs you EXTRA. And even then that doesn’t guarantee that your personal information won’t get stolen and hijacked by someone, because there are plenty of ways that it can happen.

Either way, the “success guru” is full of it, and yet he’s making out like a bandit because he’s out there telling folks that success is all about making “the right choices” even though YOU were given nothing but wrong ones and then told to simply make do with what you have.

Unfortunately we seem to be stuck with nothing BUT no-win situations, and it’s gotten progressively worse over the months. It seems like NOTHING we can do is right.

Take, for instance, trade policies.

We LOVE free trade… at least in theory! We LOVE the idea that free trade gives us access to goods and services all around the world and that we can keep prices low and affordable because of competition.

Yeah… competition… unless we happen to have free trade with a country that puts in draconian limits on the good being exported from us while we happily accept all sorts of products from them. Countries like China… that are so rich in trade exporting that they have the largest trade surplus in the world, and the only things they eagerly buy from us are the bonds used to fund our deficit spending. We love getting cheap goods from those countries, until those goods are TOO cheap and they end up poisoning us. Or they become so cheap that we can’t afford to keep our own businesses operating in this country and we lose our jobs to people in countries like China.

We love free trade, as long as we’re doing the free trading. We love cheap goods, until we find out how cheap they are. And we love the free market, until that marketplace takes our own jobs away. Either way, we can’t really win.

And we can’t really say “Buy American” anymore, because even the flags are being made in China, never mind all of the materials for the protest signs!

THE number one no-win situation in the world today is energy! We spill blood for oil all around the world, and by “we” I don’t just mean the United States. America may be the number one gluttonous pig in the world in terms of oil, but we’re not the only ones. China and India are actually moving up in the gluttony. Having newfound wealth does that to people… it causes them to buy really expensive cars with really crappy gas mileage, which they don’t mind because they can afford to pay extra for gas.

America is STUCK with a monstrous oil addiction, and we just can’t seem to shake ourselves off it, can we? Our elected and appointed grifters and shysters brokered deals with foreign groups like OPEC and APEC to make sure that we get as much oil as we want, never mind what we need. And now we NEED that oil and we’re having to compete with China and India and any kind of hostile activity, be it man-made or from Mother Nature, ends up with price spikes.

So now we’re looking for alternatives, aren’t we? We want cheap oil and cheap gas, but we’re not going to get them anymore. And it seems like ANY kind of alternative is not viable!

Raise the Gas Mileage: The automakers bet their futures on huge bulky urban assault vehicles and pickup trucks back in the 1990’s. They burn through fuel faster than a frat boy goes through a keg at Spring Break, but back then nobody cared because the price of oil and the price of gasoline were so low. And even when it DID start to matter, the spin machine prevented people from realizing that they were digging their own economic graves. They were conditioned mentally and emotionally that they NEEDED to buy an urban assault vehicle for safety and convenience and POWER. Hey, you go through at least one blizzard and see how many SUV owners gloat that their purchase was somehow “worth it”.

But raise the standards, you say? Oh no, no, no, no, no can do, according to the automakers. You see, in order to make the urban assault vehicle so “safe” and so POWERFUL, the automakers had make the urban assault vehicle HEAVIER. Heavier metals, which made the vehicle as safe as the military vehicles they were modeled after, were needed to support the heavier truck engine, which gave it the power. That’s the reason why it chugs so much fuel. So to make them fuel-efficient again, the automakers have to make the vehicles lighter, which mean that they have to sacrifice “safety” in the form of lighter construction or “POWER” in regards to engine capability, both of which are that kind of vehicle’s key selling points.

PLUS in order to do these things, you have to make some serious changes to plant operations, which mean you have to get the unions to sign off on them, or you have to work with the manufacturing plants in the countries that you exported your jobs to. Either way, it’s not a quick or easy task.

In other words, you can’t win.

Build more refineries & Stop messing with the mix: There has not been a single new oil refinery built in the United States in well over two decades! That is a very painful fact when you consider the number of times refineries have to be shut down for maintenance and for making changes to the fuel mixture as required by federal laws and regulations. Every six months we have to go through this game of prices going up and up because of these shutdowns and changeovers.

So why can’t we build more refineries? Or at the very least, stop messing with the mixture every six months?

One word: Environmentalists.

Every time we talk about building a new refinery, environmentalists start screaming bloody murder about the damage done to the environment. They throw up rules and regulations to actually PREVENT new refineries from being built, which then forces the oil companies to work with the ones they currently have no matter how old they are.

Then of course we have the “Not In MY Backyard” crowd… and they also scream bloody murder about putting up oil refineries that might interfere with their property values or with their lovely viewing of the nearby area.

Mind you, both groups DEMAND cheaper gas prices, and in all likelihood they will drive those urban assault vehicles or pickup trucks, but they would rather have someone ELSE refine the oil into the fuel they need.

And forget about trying to stop the changeover of fuels… because it was the environmentalists that lobbied Congress and the White House to REQUIRE the special seasonal blends AS WELL as the regional “boutique” blends in the first place!

Drill closer to home: Sounds like a good plan, right? We still have got plenty of untapped and unexplored oil resources here in this country. We certainly could use it to help stave off our dependency on foreign oil and thus prevent us from being subservient to those foreign lands and have the price of oil shoot up anytime an oil sheik stubs his toe. So why can’t we just tap into what we have at home?

One word: Environmentalists.

Yes, these guys again!

While we were striking deals with OPEC to keep oil prices low, low, low, the environmentalists were getting the White House to sign dozens of Executive Orders which declared hundred of thousands of acres as “endangered property”, which meant that nobody could touch the land. Some of these areas may or may not have oil, but we’ll never know for sure as long as they are “endangered”.

Plus, of course, these are the folks that will scream bloody murder if you start talking about putting oil wells up either on the land or on the sea. Never mind, though, that it will mean still more dependency on foreign oil. In fact they will travel long distances… in urban assault vehicles and pickup trucks no less… to protest the creation of a single new drilling rig, wasting more valuable fuel for the job.

Convert vehicles to natural gas: Switching to natural gas seems to be a good alternative, right? The MARTA busses in Atlanta all run on natural gas. It’s better for the planet according to the environmentalists.

There’s just one little problem… to bring in natural gas in the levels needed to convert everything over from gasoline you need more than just tapping into natural pockets of natural gas. You need… OIL FIELDS!

Well, so much for appeasing the environmentalists… not to mention the NIMBY crowd comes back into play. After all, who wants to live next to a place that smells like rotten eggs? Who wants to live anywhere near a place that smells like rotten eggs?

Convert gas from coal: Sounds crazy, I know, but there is a guy who actually developed, perfected, and patented the process by which COAL can be converted over into oil! Nobody paid any attention to it because at the time, it was just too expensive to implement, especially when oil was selling at $20 per barrel. Now that it is selling well over $100 a barrel, conversion from coal would be cheaper and easier.

So who would be against this idea?

Do I REALLY have to tell you?

Yes, the environmentalists would once again be screaming bloody murder over this idea. They would object to the pollution used for the conversion process, the strip-mining of coal to make the conversion, and of course the pollution that would result. To them, it would double the damage to the planet.

Convert from gas-powered to electric-powered vehicles: Sounds good as an idea, but the downside is that the electricity still has to come from somewhere. Gas-powered, coal-powered, and even nuclear-powered electrical plants are all quickly condemned by “you know who”.

And if that’s not bad enough, now the so-called “CLEAN” alternatives are under attack…

Windmills: Windmills! CLEAN energy! NATURAL energy! You would think that environmentalists would be ecstatic about using the power of Mother Nature for good right?


In Massachusetts, a proposed windmill farm, which would help provide clean and natural energy to help the area, is being opposed by… who? Environmentalists! WHY? Because the giant blades can slaughter whole flocks of songbirds that stray in the area! Never mind that the bird inhabitants in that area are rare, if any, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. No, birds are somehow more important than people.

Hydropower: WATER! How about WATER? Another NATURAL energy source when used in a hydroelectric dam! How can you take issue with that?

You can when there is a drought.

In recent years the State of Georgia suffered from a drought. Too much demand, not enough rainfall. The water coming from the Chattahoochee River does more than just provide hydroelectric power… it also provides the drinking water for the metropolitan Atlanta area. You would think that THIS would be important enough, right?

Well, no, apparently there is something FAR more important than the continued survival of people in the Atlanta area… namely some freshwater fish and muscles. And the government didn’t mind if they drained the river at the Buford Dam until there was nothing more left as long as any remaining water ended up in Florida for those fish and muscles. And who were the ones pushing for this displaced sense of priority? Yup, the environmentalists again.

And now, we have yet another alternative that is getting shot down…

Biofuels: We’re not just talking about ethanol, although that’s the key item of contention right now. Biofuels… making gasoline from something OTHER than petroleum! Something organic. Something good, right? Something the environmentalists have been wanting for DECADES now, right?

But here’s the problem… with more and more demand for ethanol from countries all around the world, farmers are deciding to grow corn and sugar for FUEL instead of for FOOD. More corn for ethanol means less corn to feed the cattle, less corn for the grocery store, and thus less corn for families. And of course if the companies are paying big bucks for corn for ethanol, the farmers would rather grow corn for fuel than for other essential items such as rice. So now FOOD prices are soaring along with FUEL prices, and people are once again screaming bloody murder that the masses are starving to fuel up some “rich elite American’s vehicle”.

Well at least this time it’s not the environmentalists doing the bitching and crying, although they were when the discussion turned to genetically-modified food.

Sorry Europe, but the “rich elite Americans” don’t bother with biofuels. They’re still driving their custom-made urban assault vehicles using premium city-polluting gasoline so they continue to pollute the world as they smoke their cigars and count their money. The rest of us Americans… the ones that work for a living that you Euro-snobs seem to forget exist… are the ones that are suffering with the higher food prices and the higher fuel prices just like the rest of you.

We just can’t seem to get a break when it comes to trying to resolve this energy problem can we? If we continue to suffer with the current problems with petroleum, everyone screams bloody murder about the damage to the environment and the growing cost on society. If we try to change our ways and come up with alternatives, then the same groups STILL bitch and cry and scream bloody murder!

It’s truly a no-win situation for us! Not matter what we do, we bankrupt businesses, bankrupt society, bankrupt whole institutions, slaughter creatures, pollute the environment, and cause us to starve. Take your pick, but we’re going to be the bad guys no matter WHAT we do!

Let’s get brutally honest here… no matter what we do, we’re going to piss some special interest group off. We had might as well accept that. The name of the game, therefore, is NOT to appease everyone, but to come up with an option that WORKS and then to deal with THOSE consequences later.

In order for us to deal with the problem of oil and the problem of depleting energy resources, we need to bring in actual SOLUTIONS. It is NOT right for us to simply say that our current mess is the way that it needs to be. That is UNACCEPTABLE! The civilized world, if not humanity itself, will not survive with the way things are going today. That is a fact that we need to deal with.

I hate no-win situations. I hate being put into them. But in terms of resolving this matter, SOMEONE needs to bear the burden of this mess, and so far the WRONG people have been the ones doing it without any kind of resolution. It’s high time that someone ELSE bears that burden.

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