Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Feeding the Oil Barons

S.S. Condoleeza Rice

The Viscount has already begun the tear regarding the all-time-highest-ever-profit-ever-posted-by-any-company-ever recently reported by Exxon/Mobil.

I'm not against company profits. Nosiree. I got a company. I work in a company, too. I'm a big fan of company profits.

What I'm not a big fan of is astronomical profits taken by the very rich off the backs of the poor and middle class in times of economic stress with the help and collusion of the US government. As a matter of fact, I fucking hate that.

So someone needs to please explain to me this:

How is it that increases in product COSTS translates to increases in company PROFIT for gas and oil suppliers?

In my business, when my costs go up, my profits go down, unless I increase my prices HIGHER than the increase in costs.

So in this case, the American people are scrounging to pay for oil and gas amidst rapidly rising prices, while the gas and oil suppliers are increasing their profits at the same time. Which means they are ripping us off.

But wait. It gets worse.

The US government, in the meantime continues to subsidize oil companies for drilling and exploration and in the meantime said oil companies continue to cut jobs.

The subsidies, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, undermine other efforts to promote cleaner, more efficient forms of energy.

So when I have conversations with right-wing apologists who advocate that we should "let the market drive new energy sources", I bite back the urge to rip their heads off and spit down their necks. This is a direct result of my Bhuddist tendencies and Zen meditation training and should be commended. Instead, I simply remind them that they are full of shit because the market is RIGGED.

In fact, I can remember exactly when and how it was rigged - how about you?

Once upon a time, Dick Cheney convened a group of oil barons in a room and had an energy policy meeting. Remember what they talked about?

Of course you don't. It was and always will be a secret to everyone except Cheney and the oil barons. Members of Congress then approached the supreme court to get Cheney to release the transcripts of the meeting discussions. Cheney took his good buddy (and presiding judge for the case) Antonin Scalia on a really cool hunting trip which Scalia arrogantly assured us was NOT a conflict of interest. By the grace of God, Cheney won the case in the Supreme Court, flipped Congress the bird and embarked on our new energy policy which can be summarized as follows:

Exxon overcharges us for oil.
Exxon also gets our tax money.
We have little in the way of non-oil related alternatives, so Exxon posts record profits.
Exxon cuts jobs.
Buncha rich people get richer
Buncha not-so-rich people get poorer.

That's part of what we get when we vote oil barons into public office.

This is the other part:

Thursday, January 26, 2006

More Pearls of Wisdom...

...from the Charter of Hamas:

The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said: 'The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him...'

Not that they are anti-semitic or anything.

How about this...

There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors. The Palestinian people know better than to consent to having their future, rights and fate toyed with...

Not that they lack a spirit of compromise or anything.

Get out your prayer mats kids. These guys are gonna make Arafat look like Mother Theresa. (Actually, Arafat kinda did look like Mother Theresa, poor guy)

Here's a website that'll warm your heart. Pour yourself a hot chocolate and have a look:

Cute Muslim Kids

Democracy In The Middle East - Finally

That's right folks - Democracy has taken root in the Middle East with Palestinian voter turnout at 60% (beats the crap out of ours). Jimmy Carter and his team of election officials found the election to be conducted in a fair and non-violent manner.

This is a shining moment.

Oh, and here are the guys they elected into office:

As for me and the missus, we're planning a vacation to Israel to take a few snapshots of the Holy Land before it's vaporized.

Friday, January 20, 2006

My sleep in buffoonery bunghole

That was the subject line of an e-mail I received yesterday. The e-mail was from a Mr. Esteban Capps. My e-mail program previews the first two lines of every e-mail, so in preview mode, I could read this:

Being very anxious to leave no stone unturned, I waited until Mr. a sacrifice on our port of some portion of the premium, of course, line. On one side of this line, said Mr. Micawber, representing I had often admired, as I have elsewhere described, his...

Now, if I didn't get about 5 of these every single day I would think - "Gee, that's peculiar." And if I were stupid enough to open the email and read it, I would even more puzzled to find inside a recommendation for a new and "extremely undervalued" stock pick.

And then my next step should be (pick one):

a) Place a high priority call to my stockbroker;
b) Respond to Esteban Capps with a thank you note for his kind generosity in alerting me, of all people, to this incredible opportunity; or

Another e-mail that I received right before that one was from some poor hijacked soul named Eunice Ruiz and it had this for the subject line: EXTRA TIME

Wooweee. Here's what the preview lines said:

Does this sound familiar when you are having sex? ..please don't come yet...please..oh god..no..no..no..yes..yes.. SHIT I came...Not again... If you said YES, keep reading...

OK, so I gotta ask.

Do people really answer this shit? I mean, is it really possible to sell Viagra or boost stock prices this way?

It must be, because I keep getting more and more of these things in my inbox every day. I mean someone has to go through some trouble to make this happen, and they would not do it if there were no payback. So that leads me to my next and final question of the day...

How have we survived this long as a species?

TODAY'S FATWA: Allah loves most those who wallpaper our mailboxes with spam. Surely they will each be given a special virgin to shower naked with in heaven.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Post Op

Knee surgery yesterday. Meniscus was too messed up to repair, so they snipped it. Makes recovery easier I'm told, but could lead to a faster encroachment of arthritis in the knee later in life. C'est la vie.

The most pain I experienced through the whole thing was the insertion of the intravenus into my wrist. And that was nuthin. The creepiest thing was the operating room. Very creepy. Big circular light. Nurses with hair nets and masks. Operating table with STRAPS. Beepy, blinky machines everywhere. And you think - I really don't want to be here. Maybe therapy was the better option. And just before you get revved up enough to seriously consider your chances of bolting, they start pumping valium through your IV and the whole thing becomes a scene in somebody else's movie.

How about that nurse putting that gas mask over that guy's face, ha? How about that line, "Take a DEEP breath and before you know it, you're going to wake up in recovery." After that, I had enough time to think "?" before I woke up in recovery with a nurse holding a cup of crushed ice in front of me.

Wow. Like, who changed the channel?

Not much pain, but enough to wonder how it's gonna be when the drugs wear off completely. No need to worry on that account. Along with the ice chips I was given a cup with two horse-pill sized Percodan's. Ten minutes later the world was a pain-free, worry-free Shangri-La dressed up as a hospital ward. Hey, there's my wife. Isn't she cute? Let's go home baby. I'm starving and I think I would also enjoy jumping off the top of the pergola into the goldfish pond. Why haven't I tried that before?

And so, today is day two, and I'm feeling pretty good. It was tough sleeping last night becuase my throat was sore (apparently from the breathing tube they claim was in it during the supposed operation). So, that and the drugs have left me a little too mentally spent to work on anything more taxing than this blog. I would have liked to have started a new tune or something.

Maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

I Now Issue Fatwas

I am totally into fatwa's now. Fatwas are beyond cool. They're brilliant.

First, there's the word itself.

Fatwa. How incredible is that word? I mean, if had to come up with a word for this practice, I could never come up with a word as good as FATWA.

It's beautiful. Say it with me:

Faaaaah Twaaaahh....

Good. If you pronounce it correctly, it should sound like Marlee Matlin calling someone a "fart-twat".

But that's neither here nor there. What is more relevant is the derivation, which I believe is a combination of the ancient Egyptian root "Fah", meaning "new rule" and the modern Farsi suffix "Twah", meaning "that I just pulled out of my ass."

Muslim clerics have taken the practice of issuing fatwas to the level of sublime art. You see, the trick is to have your fatwa seem stupid at face value, but in a very subtle Yogi Berra- like way, it reveals itself to be both clever and thought-provoking.

Take this one - a very recent fatwa issued by the highly respected Egyptian cleric Rashad Hassan Khalil:

"Being completely naked during the act of coitus annuls the marriage".

Now, this is profound in its brilliance. There's no way that I, a fatwa noobie, could have come up with a fatwa that good in this stage of my career. Think of the questions it provokes! Does leaving our socks on count? How about jewelry? Handcuffs? What if we both wear the same garment?

Then there's the utility of it. Think of the possibilities for guys who want a divorce. No expensive lawyers, no tying up the courts and she doesn't get half your shit. All they have to do is claim they did it with their clothes off and the marriage is annulled. Done deal. I say guys because it would be a little more for difficult for the gal who wants a divorce. You may be aware that under Islamic law for a guy to prove something, all he has to do is say it happened, while for a woman to prove something, she needs four male witnesses. So if the couple does actually have sex in the nude and there are four male witnesses...well, there's a whole 'nuther fatwa about THAT.

The Grand Ayatollah of Mars

Here are some other cool fatwas:

“Whoever cuts down a lotus tree, Allah will cast him headlong into the Fire.”- Sunan Abî Dâwûd

And one of my all time favorites:

"You do not have to prevent music from entering your ear. You will not be a sinner just because you hear it. The sinner is the one who listens to music intentionally."-Sheikh Sâmî al-Mâjid

No wonder martyrdom is big with these folks.

Anyway, I'm now practicing issuing fatwas, although I'm not nearly as good at it yet as I hope to be someday. Here's one I just issued:

"Anyone who comes across a member of the Steve Miller Band shall throw a large rock at him or force him to eat rotten fruit."

And one more:

"Those who choose to comment on today's blog shall include their own fatwa in the comment."

Peace be upon you.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Clear Liquid Gold

How did we get ourselves into this? I mean really, what lemming-like disregard for logic and sense can bring us to understand our willing participation in this absurd scam?

Imagine if someone said to you: I'll sell you a product that you already get for price A, at 1000 times price A. You have it in your house now in unlimited quantity, but when you come to the supermarket, I'll sell it to you there for 1000 times the price you're already paying and you'll buy it and carry it home. You'd say - that's nuts, but the truth is we're all doing it, aren't we? You know what I'm talking about, right?

People are up in arms about the price of gasoline. Bitching and moaning. Blaming Bush, blaming the arabs, blaming Katrina and having an all around conniption when gas goes from $2.25 to $2.50 per gallon.

But think about the logistics for a minute. To get all these gallons of gasoline, we need to arrange with local and foreign governments for drilling rights, spend millions in capital for drilling rigs and tankers, ship the stuff across thousands of miles, pump it into refineries and process it chemically, distribute it over land via rail and truck tankers, paying attention to myriads of safety regulations, drop it off at your local gas station then add 40% on top of the selling price for federal, state and local taxes. After all of this is said and done, we end up paying $2.50 (or less) for a GALLON of the stuff.

Goddamn oil barons.

But then we'll stride into the local deli or movie theater and cheerfully lay out $2.50 for 12 OUNCES of water. Do you understand, people? Even at it's highest inflation-adjusted price in 20 years, gasoline is 5 TIMES CHEAPER than bottled WATER.

What are the logistics associated with providing bottled water? Let's see...first we need to...um...get some water. Do we have to get it from a "mountain spring"? Nah. Not unless we call it Mountain Spring water on the label, but they don't even do that anymore. Now it's just "Dasani Water" or something equally meaningless. Could be tap water for all we know and probably is. Do we have to filter it or refine it or clean it or something? Newp. And even if they did, could you tell the difference? Be honest with me friend. If some disturbed individual snuck into your home and replaced the so-called "spring water" or "filtered water" or whatever the hell water you might think is in that bottle with water out of the tap, would you come downstairs the next morning, crack open that bottle and spit it out all over the kitchen floor in surprise and confusion? Would you say, in righteous indignation - "THIS IS NOT THE WATER I PAID FOR!" I suspect not.

Now we take this tap water and put it in a cheap plastic bottle, truck it over to the store in an ordinary truck and sell it to wankers like you and me for - once again - roughly 1000 times the price of what we pay for tap water. Remember also that there are no state and local taxes on the stuff. No international contracts. No oil tankers christened "SS Condoleeza Rice". No special trucks. No more regulation than there is on local tapwater (in fact, usually less). No refineries. No station attendants or special computerized dispensing devices. No wars with arab extremists.

I'm figuring about $2.21 cents of that $2.50 is pure margin. Or profit, as we say in the trade. Clear liquid gold. And they're laughing all the way to the bank.

Is this marketing genius or just profound stupidity on our part? Do you remember that 10 years ago there was no such thing as bottled water? Is this stuff filling some kind of deep-rooted need or are we just marching in tune to some mad pied piper and buying it because it's there?

I'm not saying its not convenient and even healthy. No doubt it's better to grab a bottle of water from the deli fridge than a coke. But we're being gouged. This is price gouging of the most egregious kind. You don't see a particular brand of water coming in at 35 cents a bottle and knocking the others out of business, so there has to be collusion going on. Why are we consenting to being ripped off like this?? A bottle of water from the deli should cost a quarter. Period. They'll still make money.

The Coca Cola bottling company can go to hell. I'm not paying for bottled water anymore. I'll fill up a few bottles with tap water at $0.80 per 500 gallons (which is roughly what the utility charges) and I'll carry them with me. I've got better things to do with my money.

And I'll tell you something else. Every time I sit down in a restaurant and I'm asked by the waiter if I'd like a bottle of water for the table (at 5 bucks a pop), I'll tell him: You fill our water glasses with tap water out of that pitcher over there and if I have to pay a single cent for it, you'll never see me in here again.

And put a slice of lemon in it too, while you're at it.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Illustration: "The Seven Ages of Women"

My "7" list...

7 Things to do before I die:

1) Record and perform with some really good musicians in real time.
2) Take my wife and kids to Europe and Asia (but not in one trip)
3) Acquire more real estate. (It's Monopoly, folks.)
4) Learn to properly meditate
5) Free myself and my loved ones from the stifling negativity and ill-will of my ex
6) Embark on a long-term philanthropic project
7) Make as many new friends as possible and spend as much time as possible with both the old and the new

7 Things I cannot do

1) Sit still
2) End up with more hair on my head today than I had yesterday
3) Finish "The Glass Bead Game" by Hesse
4) Watch movies over and over again
5) Laugh at practical jokes
6) Make sense out of any Abrahamic religious ideas
7) Drink bad wine

7 Things I say most often

1) "What the fuck, over?"
2) "Leave your brother alone."
3) "Step on the gas, fool"
4) "Stupid cat"
5) "Awesome"
6) Silence, raised eyebrow.
7) "Sorry, I'm not buyin' it."

7 Movies I can watch over and over again

See "things I cannot do".

7 Books I love

1) The Monk and the Philosopher - Revel/Ricard
2) A Brief History of Time - Stephen Hawking
3) The Demon Haunted World - Carl Sagan
4) Chapman's Piloting
5) Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot - Al Franken
6) The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas - LeGuinn (Short story)
7) The Blind Watchmaker - Dawkins

7 People who are a national disgrace

01) Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rove, Rumsfeld, Delay, Rice, Bolton, Frist. (They all count as one as they are all being controlled by Satan)
02) Pat Robertson
03) Coulter, Hannity, Limbaugh, O'Reilly (All count as one as they are all being controlled by Rupert Murdoch who is in turn being controlled by Satan)
04) Cardinal Bernard Law (May actually BE Satan)
05) Kenny G
06) Jerry Falwell and Ralph Reed (Count as one as they are both being controlled by Dan Quayle who, fortunately, is too stupid to be conrolled by Satan)
07) Raymond, from "Everybody Loves Raymond". What a fucking asshole.

7 People I want to play too

1) Lil
2) MT Vanus
3) George Clooney
4) Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
5) Andy Partridge
6) Kim Jong Il
7) ?