Saturday, April 29, 2006

Oils Well that End Swell

In a categorically unsurprising manner, [p]Resident Bush Rejects Tax on Oil Companies' Profits.
President Bush on Friday rejected calls by some lawmakers for a tax on oil company windfall profits, saying the industry should reinvest its recent gains into finding and producing more energy.

"The temptation in Washington is to tax everything," Bush said in an exchange with reporters in the White House Rose Garden. "The answer is for there to be strong reinvestment to make this country more secure from an energy perspective."

With gasoline at over $3 a gallon in some areas, Bush said there was "no evidence" of price-gouging of consumers.
Price-gouging? Why would ANYONE think that? Could it be because the petroleum industry is reporting not only record earnings but records profits?

Basic economics dictates that, if the wholesale price goes up, then the cost of the product will rise too. Basic economics also informs us that, if a company maintains its market share, then rising prices will mean higher earnings.

However, in a situation such as this, higher earnings don't USUALLY mean higher profits. To be sure, you are bringing in more dollars BUT you concurrently are incurring more costs to produce your product.

OBVIOUSLY, the oil industry isn't being completely honest. It's readily apparent that they're charging more than the increased cost. Just like the Robber Barons of old! (Sort of brings sentimental tears to your eyes, doesn't it?)

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Why Mr. or Mrs. Smith Won't Go to Washington

In the 1939 Capra film, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, an idealistic Jefferson Smith (played by James Stewart) is sent to the nation's capitol and runs headlong into the corruption and "good 'ol boy network" of the US Senate. He stands tall and fights for what is right.

In present times, voters often decry professional politicians who live and breathe inside the beltway. One often hears the sentiment that more average citizens should run for elective office because they would be more likely to serve the interests of common citizens, not corporations.

As State Treasurer of a small political party, I can well tell you WHY Mr. or Mrs. Smith have no interest at all in going to Washington. The rules one must navigate to put together a campaign committee are ten times worse than anything a taxpayer faces on April 15!! How many average people have the knowledge of a lawyer, an accountant and a marketing guru all wrapped into one brain?

This situation is far worse for political party committees. Not only do we have to deal with our state elections office but we concurrently have to to navigate the rules and procedures of the Federal Election Commission (FEC). It would be one thing if the rules between states and the feds were congruent, but, sadly, they aren't.

And this offers an apt explanation of why I've been blogging only sporadically as of late. I'm having to learn a new set of state rules (having moved to Washington from Oregon) concerning political party activity, while refreshing my knowledge of ever-changing FEC rules and policies.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Managed Forest

Today, while my wife & I drove our dogs toward a needed run on the beach, I passed a sign that read, "Managed Forest". It got me to thinking, "How does one MANAGE a forest?" Forests seem to manage themselves quite nicely...without any assistance nor hindrance from human beings. In fact, if we left them alone, I'm sure they can manage rings around us.

According to the Wikipedia,
"Management" (from Old French menagement "the art of conducting, directing", from Latin manu agere "to lead by the hand") characterises the process of leading and directing all or part of an organization, often a business, through the deployment and manipulation of resources (human, financial, material, intellectual or intangible). Early twentieth-century management writer Mary Parker Follett defined management as "the art of getting things done through people."

One can also think of management functionally, as the action of measuring a quantity on a regular basis and of adjusting some initial plan, and as the actions taken to reach one's intended goal. This applies even in situations where planning does not take place. From this perspective, there are five management functions: Planning, Organizing, Leading, Co-ordinating and Controlling.

Management is also called "Business Administration", and schools that teach management are usually called "Business Schools". The term "management" may also be used to describe the slate of managers of an organization, for example of a corporation. A governing body is a term used to describe a group formed to manage an organization, such as a sports league.
A forest is merely one facet of a complex and interdependent ecosystem. In fact, ecosystems are so complex that we mere humans seem wholly incapable of understanding them. Therefore, if we don't truly understand them, what business do we have EVEN imagining that we could manage them?

We should learn from them. They can teach us what it is to be part of the one reality.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

What's in a Name?

The other day -- while labeling a slew of postcards for a GPoWS mailing -- I happened to be watching the 'ol boob tube. Amongst the gazillions of tv commercials was one that actually got me to thinking -- not about the product, mind you -- but about something altogether different.

The particular ad concerned a car or truck, I don't remember which one. It was one of the newer models and its name was derived from a city. I soon realized that a great many models of various types of vehicles are named after geographical locations. Here are a few that came to mind.
Tahoe (NV)
Cheyenne (WY)
Mailbu (CA)
Bel Air (CA)

Aspen (CO)
Daytona (FL)
Durango (Mexico)
Monaco (Country)

Seville (Spain)
Eldorado (KS or AR)

Catalina (CA)
Le Mans (France)

Yukon (Canada)

Tacoma (WA)
Anyhow, I got to thinking about which towns will never, ever have a vehicle model named after them; the kind of towns with a weird name that doesn't conjure up the kind of imagery that, say, Malibu or Seville does.

Though certainly not an exhaustive list, here's what I came up with. Please feel free to add to the list.
Toad Suck (AR)
Humptulips (WA)
Tittybong (Australia)
Bumpass (VA)
Dogpatch (AR)
Knob Noster (MO)
Chugwater (WY)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Split Personality

In a manner of speaking, we all suffer from schizophrenia. Our personalities fragment into different people going different directions, often simultaneously! One moment we're a lover, the next the employee or employer. Amidst all this we are also the brother/sister, mother/father, child, and all other assorted roles and persons.

For much of the past year, I've been the blogger, The Rambling Taoist. Almost every day, I would spend at least 2-3 hours in this role, both reading blogs and writing here. It was the predominant part of my personality.

This has changed somewhat. This past weekend I was named the State Treasurer of the Green Party of Washington State. I'm also in negotiations with Oregon's Pacific Green Party to serve as their Interim Fundraising Coordinator (a position I've held twice before). Consequently, I've had less time to function in my role as a blogger.

For the next few weeks, I may not post as "religiously" as before. I need to spend time boning up on Washington's various laws and regulations pertaining to political parties. If I am selected to fundraise for Oregon's party, that will occupy a good portion of my time too.

Besides, I tend to write in spurts. There are weeks and months that I don't need to think much about what to write on any given day; the ideas spurt up on their own! At other times, the ideas seem to be on holiday. I'm learning to let the ideas themselves control when I write and when I don't.

As a Taoist, this is called going with the flow. Don't force the process through a manner of will. Practice wu wei and things will take care of themselves.

Friday, April 7, 2006

A Most "Lovely" Day at the Beach

One of the great perks about living in Aberdeen, Washington is that we're only 18 miles or so from miles of beaches on the Pacific Ocean. During the work week in Spring, you can go down to the beach and see few, if any, other people. In other words, it's sort of like having the whole beach to yourself!

Today my wife & I loaded our 3 dogs in the pickup and headed to Twin Harbors State Park Beach Access outside of the tiny hamlet of Westport. We drove down onto the beach and saw only 1 or 2 other folks. Our dogs ran around like they were in their own private paradise. Della & I collected interesting looking rocks and just gazed out at the roaring ocean. We had a great time until...

We began the quest to head home. We got stuck in the sand! However, after about an hour of digging ourselves out, we started to make some progress. It began to look like we were going to get out of our predicament until...

The truck, all of a sudden, wouldn't start. We had a mechanical problem with our truck earlier in the week. We suspected the problem was with our starter. We had the truck towed to a highly-recommended local repair shop. After testing the starter, they informed us the problem was merely some wire coming off the battery. They fixed it and sent us on our way.

For two days, we encountered no problems. No, the problem didn't reappear until we were stuck in the sand on the beach.

I had to hike out 2 miles to get to the nearest phone -- a two mile walk is a loooong way for a person with Mixed Connective Tissue Disease. To make this long story short, the repair shop owner drove from Aberdeen to Westport and got us, the dogs and the truck back home without charge.

His technicians then determined the problem was indeed the starter and replaced it. That part did cost money, but the price was fair.

I'd write more, but I now need to go recover from our most "lovely" day at the beach. I think I'll be recovering for many days.

Thursday, April 6, 2006

We're Becoming Little Glow Wormz

Here are two disturbing articles about the dangers of nuclear power. As I've stated in this space before, I am categorically opposed to nuclear power. It creates byproducts that are extremely lethal and NO ONE has yet to figure out how to store said byproducts safely. The continued use of all things nuclear poses one of the greatest dangers to life on planet earth.
Uranium bombing in Iraq contaminates Europe
San Francisco Bay View
by Bob Nichols

Nine days after the start of the American president's 2003 "shock and awe" uranium bombing campaign in Baghdad, an invisible radioactive uranium oxide gas cloud swept through Britain's towns and countryside and throughout Europe.

Respected scientists reported on the unrevealed gas cloud after conducting research on specialized high volume air filters in England. Dr. Chris Busby and Saoirse Morgan stunned Europe in a Sunday Times of London article on Feb. 19, 2006. Their scientific paper, released March 1st, 2006, proved the event. With all the vigor of delusional drunkards, British nuclear and military spokesmen predictably denied the reality of an invisible radioactive cloud.

The military claimed that a Chernobyl-like event in the area was probably responsible, but no explosive meltdowns of operating reactor cores have been reported or observed in 2006 anywhere in the world. Evidence of the truth of the gas cloud panicked the military into frantic, irrational, ludicrous denials. The military spin was later refined and the new Chernobyl claim quietly the rest of the article.

Radiation Found To Be Harmful in Any Amount
United for Peace of Pierce County
By John LaForge

More news arrives daily of the ever-deadlier damage to the body by exposure to allowable “low doses” of radiation from nuclear reactors and radioactive waste. The findings -- if widely recognized -- could provoke a rewrite of guidelines for “allowable” exposures and bring an end to reactor operations in the U.S: Operating them so their emissions didn’t kill anyone would be too expensive. This is why critical scientists are pushed out of academia and industry and their studies ignored or suppressed.

In 2003, a dissenting group of British scientific experts found that internal exposure to plutonium is 100 to 1,000 times more dangerous than officially estimated (See p. 5). Their finding was cut from the official record and had to be published independently.

The National Research Council reaffirmed last summer their position that all radiation exposure carries the risk of cancer. The Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation VII (BEIR VII) report explicitly refuted the “hormesis” theory -- propounded by professors Todd Allen and Paul Wilson of the Department of Engineering Physics at the University of Wisconsin -- that a little radiation is good for you. “The scientific research base shows that there is no threshold of exposure below which low levels of ionizing radiation can be demonstrated to be harmless or beneficial,” said BEIR committee chair Richard Monson of Harvard.

This November, a study published in Radiation Research by U.S. and Russian scientists blamed excess cancers in the Ural Mountains in central Russia on chronic exposures to low doses of radioactivity leaked from a weapons factory 50 years ago. Science magazine calls the new report -- along with a large scale study revealing an elevated cancer risk in nuclear industry workers around the world -- “the strongest direct evidence yet of chronic, low-dose health effects.”

In 2002, British researchers also published in Science their finding that low level radiation from Soviet bomb test fallout caused genetic mutations in families living nearby, mutations that can be passed to future generations. The rate of mutation was found to be 80 percent higher than in the corresponding generation in the control group.

In 2001 the National Cancer Institute was forced to reveal its finding that atomic bomb testing in Nevada, which spread radioactive fallout across every state in the union, has caused at least 15,000 cancer deaths and up to 212,000 nonfatal thyroidcancers. The 67 bomb tests blown off between 1946 and 1958 were said at the time to be safe.

A two-year government study in 1990 found a marked increase in leukemia deaths among people living near the Prairie Island nuclear power reactor in SE Minnesota. The “significantly high” risk of leukemia death appeared among residents between the ages of 40 and 59, the National Cancer Institute said. Northern States Power, now Excel Energy, which runs the reactors, said, “Power plants have releases that are so low that one would not expect to see any health effects at all.” That was then.

The journal Environmental Epidemiology and Toxicology reported in 2000 that infant mortality rates around five U.S. nuclear reactors dropped almost immediately after the reactors closed. In areas surrounding five reactors shut down between 1987 and 1995 (Genoa, in Wisconsin; Rancho Seco in California; Ft. St. Vrain in Colorado; Trojan in Oregon; and Millstone in Connecticut), infant death rates dropped an average of 18 percent in the first two years. The average drop elsewhere in the U.S. was 6.4 the rest of the article.

[Note: Article originally published by NukeWatch. You can download of a pdf of the article here.]
Addendum: Just after finishing this post, I received the following article from TruthOut. Talk about serendipity!
The Bush administration on Wednesday unveiled a blueprint for rebuilding the United States' decrepit nuclear weapons complex, including restoration of a large-scale bomb manufacturing capacity.

The plan calls for the most sweeping realignment and modernization of the nation's massive system of laboratories and factories for nuclear bombs since the end of the Cold War.

Until now, the nation has depended on carefully maintaining aging bombs produced during the Cold War arms race, some several decades old. The administration, however, wants the capability to turn out 125 new nuclear bombs per year by 2022, as the Pentagon retires older bombs that it claims will no longer be reliable or safe.

Under the plan, all of the nation's plutonium would be consolidated into a single facility that could be more effectively and cheaply defended against possible terrorist attacks. The plan would remove the plutonium now kept at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory by 2014, though transfers of the material could start sooner. In recent years, concern has sharply grown that Livermore, surrounded by residential neighborhoods, could not repel a terrorist attack.

But the administration blueprint is facing sharp criticism, both from those who say it does not move fast enough to consolidate plutonium stores and from those who say restarting bomb production will encourage aspiring nuclear powers across the globe to develop the rest of the article.

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Free Speech Not Always Popular

Here are some excerpts from an article in tonight's edition of Aberdeen's newspaper, The Daily World:
A Grays Harbor College student senator who voted against the charter for a new gay-straight student alliance is being ridiculed on the college’s Internet message board. Members of the student body said today she should be censured or lose her senate seat because she believes being gay is “bad behavior.”

Plumb, a 17-year-old Running Start student from Hoquiam High School, voted against a measure that would have established a club for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender and straight students last month because of her religious beliefs. Even so, the new club’s charter was approved on an 8-4 vote.

Other members of the senate who voted against the club haven’t stated their reasons publicly.

During last month’s student government meeting at GHC, no one explained their votes. But later, on an Internet message board sponsored by the college, the sparks started to fly.

“I simply don’t agree with homosexuality, and I am not going to support a club that does,” Plumb wrote when her vote was questioned. “It is my personal belief that homosexuality is a sin, and I am not going to support a bad behavior in any way.”

“I am extremely appalled that some of these people are representing my student government,” wrote Jen Anderson, a student who says that not all Christians are against homosexuals.
Needless to say, I don't share Plumb's "opinion" in the least. Still, while I disagree with her stance on morality, I support her right of free speech!

And we certainly need to applaud her for one thing -- she stated WHY she voted against the application. Three other students senators joined her in dissent, but have been silent as to why. Most likely, it's for the same reason.

As I've written on RT before, the greatest value of free speech is in understanding that some of the people who freely exercise it will voice an opinion that is unpopular or, at least, an opinion that you or I don't share. If we believe in this right, then we must defend its application for those who are like-minded OR those who state things we abhor. To do otherwise is to negate the very thing we say we believe in.

Monday, April 3, 2006

Utter Impotence

We humans like to think that we control a great deal. If the truth be known, it's a horrendous lie! While it is certainly true we have the ability to control people and the distribution of resources, we are bumbling fools when it comes to holding dominion over the weather and other facets of Mother Nature.

I was reminded of this point today as I watched a History Channel program on the great plague of medieval times. The "Black Death" killed between one-third to one-half of Europe's population during the 14th century. It changed the course of human history.

While the bubonic plague would not cause this type of devastation in human populations today, there literally are millions of microbes out there which could wreak this kind of carnage. This very point is underscored in an excellent book I read a few years ago, The Coming Plague by Laurie Garrett.

Scientists constantly are scanning the world trying to prevent the next pandemic. Unfortunately, as one of the scientists stated in today's documentary, we realistically may not fair much better than our 14th century brethren.

So, while we humans like to think we are the center of the universe, God's chosen entities and mighty intellectual beings, we aren't even the kings or queens of earthly existence. Many of these microbes we rightly fear have been around a lot longer than our species. And, despite our many efforts to wipe them out, they continue to live AND thrive.

What's even worse is that if you or I had to go up against one of these virulent microbes -- mano a mano -- guess who has the best chance of winning? If you need a hint, just let me say, don't bet the house on the human!

Consequently, while we humans spend inordinate amounts of time arguing and warring with each other over oil, water, gold, territory and religious convictions, who knows what these microbes are plotting? They could very easily conquer the winners AND losers of our silly wars and go laughing all the way to the microbe bank!!

Sunday, April 2, 2006

What Time Isn't it?

In a linear conception of the universe, time matters. It offers a clear chronology between yesterday, today and tomorrow. It's always moving forward; a steady progression. It interfaces with all things and provides the context for all interactions. Life equals time.

Time, an aspect of numbers, helps us to separate distinct and unique entities from others. It serves as a mechanism to compartmentalize our relations with all things inside and outside of our realm of consciousness. Put another way, each unit of time is one of the tools we use to show how nothing is connected -- each millisecond is a unique property unto itself.

Scientists will tell us they can map time. They utilize complex mathematical formulae to show the ignorant amongst us that time itself is more than an abstract concept. It IS something, though one certainly can't keep time in a bottle or hold it in one's hands. According to this view, you can't just chuck time out the window because it exists independent of human understanding. It is real.

Poppycock! I think the rock group Chicago said it best,
Does anybody really know what time it is
(I Don't)
Does anybody really care
If so I can't imagine why
(about time)
We've all got time enough to die
I began thinking about this topic during the "no" time this morning. Here, in most of the US, we shifted onto daylight savings time (dst) at 2:00 a.m. Consequently, the physical properties of time were tweaked; we went from 2:00 a.m. to 3:01 a.m. in the course of 60 seconds.

If time is real and not a human construct, what happened to 2:01 a.m. and its fellow 58 minutes? Did they get sucked into a black hole or are they out there somewhere? While I do realize that dst is a mere human convention, it still begs the question: How can humankind remove genuine tangible properties from their universe?

From a Taoist perspective, this question has no meaning. Rather than viewing life and existence as billions upon billions of distinct and separate occurrences, we recognize that we are all part of one whole. The distinctions we see around us -- time being but one -- are illusions.

Over at The Useless Tree, Sam deals with a similiar point in this manner:
For philosophical Taoists, the meaningfulness of death is to be found in its meaninglessness. That is, the death of one individual is no more and no less than the death of any other individual. Just as in life all things move as "one and the same," so, too, in death. In this, then, we are all one. We are all part of the totality of Way. We each have our place not only in life but also in death. Each death is simultaneously unique and the same. Each person, each thing, moves through his or her own particular life's Way, but each Way ends and is absorbed into the vastness of all Way. In sameness is uniqueness, and in uniqueness sameness.
If we are all part of one great cosmic reality, then time has no absolute meaning. It is merely based on human perception. While it may seem logical to the dominant world view and it may prove necessary to everyday existence, it merely creates arbitrary distinctions where none truly exist.

Saturday, April 1, 2006

A Pale Imitation

As a vegetarian and organic food advocate, I'm always on the lookout for new brands to try. While I certainly agree that the best meals are those that are homemade, sometimes I'm just not up to the task of cutting and chopping (due to my disability). Therefore, it's nice to be able to open a can or pop a frozen dinner into the oven or microwave.

There are several companies that specialize in organic and/or natural foods that represent my favorite brands. I drink gallons of Eden Foods Soy Milk (EdenSoy Extra Vanilla). I almost exclusively use Muir Glen Organic's tomatoes in the many soups I make. When it comes to salsa, no other brand than Emerald Valley Kitchen Organic Foods will do.

And when I speak of canned soups or frozen dinners, I can think of no better company than Amy's Kitchen. This latter company markets a host of nutritious AND delicious foods.

With this in mind, I decided to try the new Organics brand being sold at my local Safeway. Since it's the brand of the supermarket chain itself, I was a bit wary. Big mainstream corporations don't have a great track record when trying to imitate the work of innovative artisans.

For my culinary experiment, I purchased a package of Organic Black Bean Enchiladas for a retail price of $2.99 -- a savings over the retail price of Amy's Black Bean Enchiladas which ranges from $3.69 - $4.00 here in Aberdeen.

The nutritional information provided on the box looked promising: 12 grams/fat (but no saturated or trans fat); 42 grams/carbohydrates; 23 grams/protein; 6 grams/fiber; and 0 grams/cholesterol.

My first bite was zesty. The enchiladas were encased in a hot sauce of tomatoes and jalapeno peppers. However, the more bites I took, the more I didn't like it. The tortillas were grainy, the tofu was dry and the vegetables were hard. My wife agreed with this assessment. We both came to realize that the hot sauce was so spicy simply to coverup for the fact that the overall meal wasn't that palatable. In other words, the purpose of the sauce was to mask the blandness of the product.

From my standpoint, the problem is that capitalism and natural foods aren't a good mix. The big food conglomerates tend to want to cut as many corners as possible and to cut down on costs to maximize profits. Consequently, the use of inferior ingredients and mass production produces an inferior product.

Most, if not all, of the organic food companies highlighted above use the finest ingredients and prepare their foods in small batches. Both of these variables increase production costs, but a better product is produced.

Needless to say, I don't think I'll be buying any more foods of the Organics label. I'll stick with Amy's. Yes, they do cost more, but, as Patrick Henry might have said, Give me flavorful quality or Give me Death!