Thursday, May 04, 2006

Exxon/Mobil CEO Debunks Refining Capacity Myth

Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon/Mobil was interviewed by Matt Lauer of the Today Show. During the interview Tillerson made the following statement in response to a viewer question suggesting big oil is intentionally restraining refinery capacity to keep prices high.

"Exxon-Mobil has expanded refinery capacity in recent years at a rate greater than the expansion of demand."

Myth Busted! The excuse given over and over buy oil company execs and the press is that refinery capacity can't keep up with demands. Those environmentalists have prevented the oil companies from building new refineries and that this is the real problem. Now we know it's a pack of lies.

Others point to the rise in oil prices, but unless the gas companies are marking things up more that should not translate into 8.4 billion dollars in profits this quarter. In defense of this Tillerson gave the argument that Exxon/Mobil is a global corporation and much of their profit is made outside the US.

Whether you buy his defense or not, his answers show the biggest problem in America today. Global companies have no allegiance to any nation; they only are responsible to their shareholders, in theory. So when we ask companies like Exxon to do what is right for America, they look puzzled and ask, why? We aren't Americans; we are a "global" company.

I am a big advocate of free trade, but it must also be free trade with a sense of responsibility. Selling goods made by virtual slave labor, or gouging the middle class and lying about it are both irresponsible acts. If you are going to use the Global excuse for your actions, then you must act as a responsible citizen of the world. That means treating everyone fairly and not exploiting one nation at the expense of people’s lives or livelihoods.

Exxon/Mobil claims to be a Global company, but the CEO lives in the USA. Their headquarters in here in Dallas, TX (or Irving, TX to be precise). They enjoy lives of unprecedented wealth and power here in this country and I would argue that they are a US company. As such they should take the national interests of Americans into consideration when they hike prices to line their already golden pocketbooks. After all, the economy and infrastructure of our country makes their business possible, we built roads with public money that brought on the boom in the automobile and in the end their record profits. Isn't it time they understood that all Americans are "stakeholders" in their enterprise? As such don't we deserve a little consideration?

I know Wall Street would be disappointed, but what if they only made 6 billion dollars profit this quarter and eased the burden on the lives of the poor and middle class in this country, couldn't the good will that would bring be worth it?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

White House Defies Court Order To Release Records

As reported on AmericaBlog, Scott McClellan in one of his last appearances before the press brought news that smacks of a cover-up. He said that the list of visits by Jack Abramhoff ordered by the court would be less than accurate. The Secret Service was ordered by U.S. District Judge John Garrett Penn of Washington to turn over records to Judicial Watch, the organization that brought the Freedom of Information lawsuit.

Declining to explain fully what he meant by "not a complete historical record", McClellan has set the stage for more controversy surrounding the lobbyist and the Bush Administration. Already it looks like Abramhoff was at the White House for more than a couple of Hanukkah parties as previously stated.

This really seems like it is the start of another cover-up of illegal or unethical activities by the Bush administration.

Sorry Moussaoui, No Virgins For You!

Zacarias Moussaoui will spend the remaining days of his life in prison. Sorry, no virgins for him.

A jury decided against the death penalty for the 37-year-old French-Moroccan who is the only person to be convicted in relation to the 9/11 attacks. It is ironic that a man so eager to be martyred was visibly relieved when the sentence was returned. That says to me that not even he believes the "72 virgins" awaiting him in heaven.

More importantly the jury decided not to compound the tragedy of the attacks with a state-sanctioned killing. This represents a move toward sanity in regard to 9/11. Unfortunately, Bush and the administration is already beating the drums again and posturing the whole affair as a battle between good and evil.

"The end of this trial represents the end of this case, but not an end to the fight against terror, and we can be confident. Our cause is right, and the outcome is certain: Justice will be served. Evil will not have the final say."
- President Bush
Once again they are attempting to structure any discussion in terms of us as the good guys and anyone who is against us as "evil". Do I think the hijackers were good guys? Not at all. They were religious fanatics who saw America as "evil" and their cause as good. To play into their game by just trying to turn the tables is a loosing proposition. It is time we looked at the causes of the terrorism, and how best to prevent it in the future without all the rethoric. If we avoid the fundamentalist trap of the terrorists, we can retain our national sanity and defend ourselves rationally and effectively. We could also go al long way toward eliminating the causes of terrorism to begin with, by trying to understand why they are attacking and how to make a better world where their cause will seem as insane as it really is.

Soldiers Caught In Porn Stings

The military has been sweeping the Internet and it’s ranks in an attempt to prosecute the numerous military personnel who perform in adult oriented military-themed web sites. The latest targets are soldiers from Ft. Bragg, NC who appeared in both heterosexual and gay scenes on the sites.

The trials and the prosecutions really highlight several problems in the military. The first is the poor judgement on behalf of the soldiers who appeared in the videos. The military does not exist in a vacuum, and someone was bound to see and recognize a face in one of the videos. Though I have absolutely no problem with people appearing in consensual erotic videos, I do have a problem with these cases. I suspect the real reason these soldiers appeared was for money. The salaries of enlisted personnel are abysmal. The stories of soldier’s families living on food stamps are numerous.

Sex work is often a resort of people who are desperate for money. It’s fast and sometimes fun, though it has its dangers. Aside from the transmission of STDs, sex work is illegal, so the participants immediately have that liability hanging over their heads. Though performing in adult videos is not illegal in many states, it still puts the performer in the public eye, and as such they will be seen my thousands of people. Exposure can be a problem in a society that judges adult video performers harshly, and especially in the military where such activity is seen as dishonorable.

Additionally, some of the soldiers performed in gay themed scenes, which as anyone knows is directly in opposition to the notorious "don’t ask-don't tell"" policy of the Armed Services. Sadly these men will be treated more harshly.

So what is the answer to all this hubbub? Well, I see no reason why any adult who wants to perform in an erotic video should be penalized for it. It is a personal choice, and in some ways could be considered a celebration of ones sexuality. However, if it was done out of dire economic necessity or under any kind of duress, I think it’s fundamentally wrong. Do I have a problem with people having sex for money? Not really. Prostitution and sex workers of all kind have been around forever. But to be pushed into it because the job you have chosen to do will not pay you a living wage, that seems immoral to me.

I will keep and eye on these cases and will be interested to see what the full circumstances are.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Karl Rove To Be Indicted Soon - Merry Fitzmas!

According to Jason Leopold of, Patrick Fitzgerald is preparing charges against Karl Rove. The grand Jury should vote on them next week.

This would make 2 indictments against Bush cabinet level officials in connection with the leak of CIA information. Faced with a criminal charge, will Rove roll over and spread the blame further up the ladder?

Additionally, Rove also has testified neither he nor any White House official was involved. A conviction of "Scooter" Libby would put additional charges of perjury on Rove's head. All I can say is, that it couldn't happen at a better time. The growing scandal, large enough in any other administration to have already led to congressional action, is finally hitting the radar of the common man. If the third estate will do it's job, and really investigate and report the news, the Bush administration will be rendered powerless.

Monday, May 01, 2006

US Admits "Divine Strake" Is Nuclear-Related Test

In another flip-flop, the US Defense Department now admits that the 700 ton bomb with the religious monicker, "Divine Strake" really is a test for the capabilities of a nuclear weapon. As we previously conjectured, it is a non-nuclear test of a tactical nuclear "Bunker Buster" weapon.

The blast will simulate the effects of a tactical nuke, and we can only assume that one is under development. The administration seems perfectly willing to step up not only the rhetoric but everything short of breaking every nuclear test ban treaty we have signed. Currently, the UN is trying to persuade the US to stop the test while the rest of the world watches and wonders if the UN has proven impotent again.

Stephen Colbert - America's Court Jester

Humor has traditionally relied on skewering the powerful and famous with a heady dose of irony. It is this humor that sometimes makes uncomfortable truths easier to swallow. But often that spoonful of sugar is laced with a bitter taste of sarcasm that cuts right to the heart of the matter, and that is the medicine Stephen Colbert served up Friday night at the White House Press Correspondents dinner. In his own words, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

Colbert’s performance has been criticized as "too biting and edgy", but I am delighted. Stephen was performing the traditional role of Court Jester. The jester was not just a comedian; he was a political comedian. Jesters could speak truth to power and not get beheaded, most of the time. They were the voice of humility and of the common man who could give the royal court a better perspective on reality. A good fool was sometimes a ruler’s best advisor.

King George has no stomach for jesters. His grudging nod to Stephen and then his precipitous exit show how tenuous his grip on reality is. He lacks the key ingredient in a really great leader, humility. A leader with humility, laughs at his own foibles and learns from the criticisms. Bush is a decider, and as Colbert stated, "He believes the same thing Wednesday that he believed on Monday, no matter what happened Tuesday"

People who attended the event said the president rarely laughed and mostly squirmed in his seat at the event. That is the sign of his character. He does not know how to listen to criticism and can laugh at himself only if he is making the joke. This could be called megalomania, but in the case of Bush I think it is simpler. He is as much a character playing a role as Stephen Colbert. Bush is a product, not a president. He was carefully crafted by the Republican Party and propped up as a "strong leader" strictly because he had a famous name. If his name was Smith, or Burns, or anything else he would still be struggling in various unsuccessful business ventures, failing and failing again.

My hat is off to America’s court jester, Stephen Colbert, may he keep his head to jest another day!

Watch the video here:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

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Sunday, April 30, 2006

300,000 March For Peace In NYC

Calling for an immediate withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq, an estimated 300,000 concerned Americans took to the streets in New York City. Demonstrators stretched for over 10 blocks as they marched from Union Square down Broadway to Foley Square for the rally.

Speakers included Cindy Sheehan, Susan Sarandon, Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson among others. The march had a more poignant tone sine April has the distinction of being the month with the highest number of US troop deaths this year. The total number of US troops who have died in this war is now over 2400.

The tone of the day was set by the comments of one protestor, Marjori Ramos who said, "We've been lied to, and they're going to lie to us again to bring us a war in Iran". The they obviously being the Bush administration who is moving forward with their plans for an Iran war and tests for tactical nuclear weapons.

This dramatic demonstration, though it was as big as the Immigration Marches a few weeks ago has not drawn the press coverage of that march. Media bias? That's my guess.