Monday, January 30, 2006

Big profits for Big Oil... who cares? (And yes, I drive a car)

So there's a big ruckus because the annual earnings reports for the major oil producers are coming out, and it turns out that '05 was a good year for them: they made tens of billions of dollars in profits.

A lot of people are apparently upset at the news; they look at the prices we're paying at the pump, and then at these profit statements, and wonder how these companies have the gall to be charging the prices they are.

That's an understandable reaction, but it's a mistaken one. Why? Because gasoline and other petroleum products are commodities, and because of that, supply and demand can have a much more immediate effect on prices. Go back to September for a minute... when Katrina hit, the demand for gas skyrocketed, because people wanted to get the gas while they could (the supply was going to be pinched). The only way for oil companies and their products' distributors to ensure that they didn't run out of gasoline et al. was to raise prices. While that obviously meant we had to pay more, at least there was gasoline to be purchased! I remember reading about a service station here in the Sioux Falls area that was really lowballing their prices... they were consistently running out of gasoline! Let's face it: would you rather pay 50 to 100 cents more per gallon for gas, or not be able to get any gas because the supply is depleted? When demand is high, high prices are the only way to ensure that the supply of a commodity isn't exhausted. The fact is, what many of us saw as price gouging was simply the market ensuring an adequate supply of gasoline. (For a great primer of the reality of "price gouging", see this 2004 column by Thomas Sowell.)

That's one thing to remember. Here's another: if you consider the profit margins of these oil companies are making (profits as a percent of revenue), you'll find that the oil industry actually tends to lag behind other industries, in some cases by more than ten percent! (See this.)

ConocoPhillips has a webpage devoted to explaining oil profits; while you might consider the source biased (for obvious reasons), note that the data they use for their points is a matter of fact and is verifiable in the public record.

Remember, I'm not at all invested in the oil industry (well, apart from the few shares of a mutual fund I currently own in my 401(k)). Nor do I like having to pay $2+ for a gallon of gasoline. I simply think that while blaming "Big Oil" might be easy, it's not quite that simple.

'Ideology' requires ideas

If you want to see some incoherent ranting about the vote for cloture in the Alito debate, go here (warning: adolescent cursing in abundance).

One commenter complained that the Democrats who voted for cloture are intellectually bankrupting their party.

That's funny, coming from a website/forum/blog whose founder has stated that he doesn't read much, and from a political movement that is far more interested in "action" than in "ideas". ("Impeach Bush!" and "Bush lied!" don't count as ideas.) As observers on both sides of the political spectrum have noted, conservatives (in general) seem far more interested in debating their first principles than do liberals (in general).

One final thing: I do have to note that many of the complaints which Kossacks are airing against their senators sound familiar to what many conservatives (including, on occasion, myself) say about their senators (minus the cursing): compromisers, turncoats, etc. etc. It appears that "true believers" on both sides are often less than happy about how "their guys" vote.

But like that's news.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Cognitive dissonance on cognitive dissonance

Generally sensible Melanie manages to accuse those who oppose abortion while supporting the death penalty of cognitive dissonance while failing to recognize that opposing the death penalty while supporting abortion rights is no less cognitively dissonant.

Besides, there's that little difference of death row inmates having been found guilty of a capital crime, something which -- need I point it out? -- an embryonic human being is incapable of.

I note that as someone who sees virtually no use for the death penalty first-world nations like our own, but who recognizes that the death penality is not intrinsically evil, unlike abortion.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Then and NOW

Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and the other original feminists recognize what Gloria Steinem et al. do not: "Abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women."

Fortunately, we have Feminists for Life around to remind us of what the first feminists stood for and believed.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


Today I came across a blog that began this way:
    "Look, no one's for lynching," the speaker said to the citizens gathered around him in the town square. "Both sides can acknowledge that killing a black man is a bad thing. But can't we work together to work to eliminate the root causes of lynching, while still acknowledging that it is sometimes a necessity, and ought not to face a legal penalty?"
Can you believe this baloney? Read more here.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Benedict's first encyclical: Deus Caritas Est (God is Love)

We've known the title of the forthcoming encyclical for some time; we've also heard that it would be released in latter January, so as not to "compete" with the papal messages issued at the turn of the year.

The rumors now are that the encyclical will be released this Friday, January 20th. And today, we have what allegedly is the opening of the encylical:
    "God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God, and God in him." These words from the letter of St. John express with singular clarity the center of the Christian faith, the Christian imagination of God, and also the vision of man and of his path which proceed from it.
Stay tuned.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Did you hear?

When President Clinton authorized a domestic surveillance program (Echelon) which was much more invasive than that which President Bush authorized, the NYTimes labelled it "necessary", as opposed to the grave threat to civil liberties which Bush's authorization apparently is.

And there is no double-standard or bias in the MSM? Please.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Recipients of NEA dues moneys

If there was ever any doubt about the political tendencies of the nation's largest teacher's union, their financial disclosure report clears it up.

Why teachers whose politics differ from union leadership put up with this is beyond me.