Monday, June 28, 2010

The Real Reasons Our “Leaders” Are In No Hurry To Leave Afghanistan

Have you ever noticed that when Obama's right-wing pundit or Tea Party critics call him names; they use the terms “socialist,” “communist,” or maybe even sometimes “fascist.” For the moment, let's forget that they can't seem to make up their minds... Have you ever noticed that they never call him a “corporatist.”

Why is that?

When you think about it, calling any U.S. politician a “corporatist” would have some ring of truth. To get elected, they all have to take corporate campaign contributions. To stay elected, they have to bow to corporate interests. And to get anything done, they all have to compromise with the big-money powers-that-be.

Is President Obama a corporatist? Apparently not enough of one. It seems quite evident that those who pay those who tell us what to think are trying to push Obama to be more of a corporatist. Otherwise; the pundits would be name calling Obama a “corporatist.” It only makes sense. They don't call him a corporatist because that's what they want him to be.

They want Obama to sell out.

And here we are; not out of Iraq and it doesn't look like we'll be out of Afghanistan in 2011 either. What the hell happened?

The head of the CIA – that's right, the head of the CIA, Leon Ponetta, has estimated that there are only 50 to 100 Al Qaeda members operating an Afghanistan now. The United States presently has almost 100,000 troops in Afghanistan now. Yes, that would be 1,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan for every individual Al Qaeda member. And we still can't win. What a waste.

Why are we there anyway? To bring them “freedom” at the point of a gun?

To catch one man (Osama bin Laden), who is probably dead already anyway?

Or to make military contractors even richer on American taxpayer dollars?

Could it be because U.S. “interests” are to control the flow of oil?

Could it be because U.S. geologists estimate there is a Trillion dollars worth of minerals in Afghanistan?

Could it be because people within U.S. covert black operations are making too much money selling heroin? (Afghan heroin production is up 40 times since the invasion.) (Are you skeptical? Click here for some physical evidence of CIA involvement in the drug trade.)

Or could it just be that the U.S. has a nasty reputation of being the “bully on the block” (as General Colin Powell put it), and we don't want anyone to think they could beat us (though Viet Nam already has – sort of)?

Maybe it's some of all of these. And of course, maybe it's just politician's not wanting to be blamed for losing this “war” (that looks more like an occupation).

But that Trillion dollars in minerals looks pretty enticing...

I wouldn't be surprised that geologists studying Afghanistan with satellite imagery have suspected those minerals were there for quite some time – years – decades even. Maybe oil was only the secondary big-time profit motivation for invading and occupying Afghanistan?

Hey, if the oil companies could get us to invade Iraq, maybe the mining companies could influence us to invade Afghanistan. Of course, we were originally after Al Qaeda, but we could have had more than one motivation.

Need I remind you that the price of oil hasn't come down because Exxon and BP are getting sweetheart deals in Iraq. Don't expect the price of minerals to be any cheaper either. So, why bother to spend $7 billion a month in Afghanistan?

Well, some U.S. and international corporations stand to make a killing, and well, most of them don't pay any taxes anyway.

And yes, it's probably not their children dying over there either.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Blame GM for the Oil Spill

Is General Motors responsible for the oil spill in the Gulf?

Well no, not directly. But GM did hava a hand in it indirectly. How so? By facilitating the manipulation of demand for petroleum. How so? By refusing to market electric vehicles.

American demand for oil lead to drilling in deeper and deeper water. Our demand for oil has lead to taking bigger and bigger risks in the Gulf of Mexico. And GM could have reduced demand for oil. How so? With electric vehicles, such as the GM EV1 (which was canceled back in 2000 – for no good reason).

Even today, the Chevrolet Volt, GM's electric hybrid (scheduled for sale in 2011) will still burn gas. For ten years now, GM has avoided building an electric vehicle – and left American customers with no alternative but to buy electric golf carts to commute in.

GM has had the technology to build practical electric vehicles for a decade. And now they have even better battery technology, but still they refuse to sell an electric vehicle.

The Chevrolet Volt is expected to have a 375 lb battery module with a capacity of 16 kWh. Had the final design GM EV1 had these batteries, it's battery module would have weighed 440 lbs less – reducing the EV1 curb weight by 15%. In automotive design, that's significant.

The EV1 had a 75 to 150 mile (and more) range. With a 15% reduced curb weight, its range would have been significantly greater. Also, the EV1's acceleration would have been significantly quicker than 0-50 in 6.5 seconds.

These specs show that the technology for a practical all-electric car, made by GM; is well within the capacity of GM. In fact, hybrids such as the Volt are more complicated. With a hybrid, you have to develop two systems instead of one. For a Volt to be all-electric, all you have to do is leave out all that secondary gas-powered stuff (and all that hybrid controls stuff), and add more batteries. With this knowledge, it is easy to see that an all-electric Chevrolet Volt would have been easier to build first.

So why didn't GM build it?

An all-electric Chevrolet Volt's range would have been limited, which would have resulted in a smaller market. But, so what? The all-electric Volt would just have to be marketed differently. A company called “Better Place” appears to be doing just that. And, of course, Nissan will soon be selling the Leaf electric car (at a reasonable price). Which leaves GM still selling fossil fuel cars – when they had the first modern electric vehicle on the road a decade ago.


The answer may lie in how the GM EV1 was canceled back in 2000. Although almost all EV1 lease customers were very happy with their electric cars, they legally had to return them when GM recalled them (for no good reason). All of the EV1s were destroyed (which was never done with any discontinued GM car). And most damning; Texaco ended up with the patent to the EV1 NiMH batteries, which they never sold again – and sued to keep other companies from using.

GM's story of what happened is that the EV1 would never have been a commercial success. This could be true. But if so, why did Texaco (now Chevron) buy the patent to those batteries? If the project wasn't practical, the patent would have been worthless. No. GM's story doesn't make sense. Especially when just six months after acquiring the battery patent, the Chevron subsidiary Cobasys sued Toyota in what resulted in Toyota halting it's Rav4 electric vehicle program too.

What does make sense is that Texaco likely offered GM an astounding amount of money for that battery patent. Texaco may have offered GM way more than they ever would have made selling and leasing the EV1. Without risk, GM could make more profits than they ever expected, right up front. And Chevron could sue any other company that used this battery technology. Hence, no other electric cars could be made using these batteries – slowing down by a decade the production of electric vehicles – and likely increasing petroleum profits by billions.

But you'll never hear this from GM. They probably couldn't tell us if they wanted to. They likely signed a non-disclosure agreement with Texaco (now owned by Chevron). Who knows, maybe they even made a back-room deal not to build electric vehicles at all... that seems like the only good reason GM hasn't even tried to build an electric vehicle in the last decade – and still won't.

As I have pointed out here, it would have been easier to design an all-electric Chevrolet Volt. In fact, GM already did it a decade earlier with EV1. GM simply sold out when they sold their battery patent to Chevron ten years ago. And now; when we're so desperate for oil we've been willing to risk it all in the Gulf of Mexico – we get inevitable results.

Who knows; this isn't likely the end of the story. Maybe this could happen again. Maybe some oil company will try to buy up the patent for these newer batteries. I wouldn't put it past them.

Which brings me to my point:

Abuse of patent law like this should be illegal.

No one should be able to buy a patent to something to keep it from being built. That was never the intent of patent law. And until we force our government to change this law; we too will be partially responsible for the oil spill in the Gulf, the pollution we poison ourselves with, and the climate that is becoming less and less habitable for an advanced society.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Investors Are The Root Of All Evil

In case you hadn't heard; a Louisiana Judge has ruled against the U.S. moratorium on offshore oil drilling. You probably already knew that. But what you might not know is that the very same judge just happens to have a number of investments in offshore drilling.

This judge failed to recuse himself, even though it is quite obvious he had one huge conflict of interest. Personally, I feel that this judge should lose his job. Even if the judgment is correct, it is tainted by a judge who should have never have been the one to make that decision.

Personally I feel that if we, as a nation, don't trust offshore drilling practices; we should have every right to put it on hold until we are convinced that its safety has been improved. Everyone's health should have priority over any extractive industry's paychecks – period.

This corrupt judge revelation has exemplified quite accurately just what's wrong with our system.

Once money starts to flow in a certain direction, those who get the money don't want that flow to stop – no matter what the consequences.

I feel for the unemployed drillers. But if they're actually unemployed killers, I want them unemployed.

This is the key to what is wrong with our society:

The amassing of money has become more important than doing the right things.

Making more money is NOT more inherently rewarding. It only appears that way.

Our seafood is being poisoned.

Our water is being poisoned.

Our air is being poisoned.

Our soil is being poisoned.

Or decedents are going to live a far less healthy life.

Our government has become corrupted.

Our economic system has become critically unstable.

...Everyone's lives will be less healthy and less happy.

And our climate is slowly becoming less habitable for humanity.

No amount of money will counter that.

And eventually, no one will be able to pay for a rescue to a haven that simply isn't there.

Who's responsible? Of course, the captains of industry are. They make the calls. But they are not dictators. Just ask any one of them They have people to satisfy. And with what our economic and legal systems have devolved into, they have limited options. America is still addicted to oil. Drillers still desperately want jobs. And investors still relentlessly want profits. Most of the captains of industry are focused on short-term profits, because that's how they'll keep their jobs.

Our society has allowed our economic and legal systems to force us into a box canyon. The outlook is verging on desperate. How many times now have you heard intelligent Americans say that our system is broken? With just a little more apathy, the practically inevitable next step is collapse. That's right, I'm talking about the collapse of the United States – and worse. We need patriots, genuine patriots with legitimate causes, now more than ever.

The Government isn't going to fix this – unless we force them. That's because so many of the rich and powerful don't think there's a problem. In a way, they can't see outside of their mansion walls. But more importantly, they're more concerned about losing their investments than losing our future.

Which brings me to the root of all evil in our system. Investors. Essentially, investors together make the big calls in decisions that critically effect everyone's future. Yet, their decision making process is the ultimate in irresponsibility. You know the driver in this decision process; “what will make me the most money in the shortest time.” Well, let's see; robbing from the future, raping the land, oppressing the weak, and socializing the costs.

Yet, on the other hand, who always seems to get off the hook when these bad decisions so heavily impact us, our health, and our future? Investors. When it comes time to take the blame, it's like they don't exist. Blame it all on the CEO. Do we see anyone blaming the investors in BP? Why not? Who has been pushing so hard for BP to cut corners to increase profits? Investors. And they don't even have to say a thing. They can just instantly take their money away when someone else can promise a higher return.

Investors are the driving force behind the race to the bottom. Investors are the real source of the problem. And most likely, they don't even realize it.

Wall Street is not inherently evil. In fact, Wall Street has an enormous potential for good. But if we allow the sleaziest, greediest, most uncaring fiends to take control of Wall Street; well, we get what you expect - robbed of everything.

If we don't care enough to fix this, what we'll likely get is the total loss of wealth of most of the population, the collapse of our nation, and eventually the collapse of our civilization. It's that important.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

BP's Weapons of Mass Distraction

We're missing the point.

We have every right to be infuriated with BP (formerly British Petroleum, soon to be some other name, or names, when they inevitably “restructure”). But if our anger stops there, they have successfully distracted us.

The spill in the Gulf of Mexico is just a wake-up call. Oil spills have happened many times before and are happening all the time now. Apparently, a spill similar to the BP oil spill has been happening in Nigeria, and we didn't even know about it. Also, natural gas fracking (hydraulic fracturing) right here on U.S. soil is perpetrating disastrous environmental results. This is just what happens when you drill for fossil fuels for decades all over the world. And as far as the fossil fuel industry is concerned, it's just a part of the costs of doing business.

For close to 100 years now, the fossil fuel industry has monopolized the transportation industry. And they have NO intentions of giving up on the billions of dollars in profits they squeeze out of us, no matter what the long-term costs to society, our civilization, or even the health of the planet.

The most important point we need to recognize is that the claim that gas is cheaper than alternatives is quite simply a CON GAME! The price at the pump is a lie. That's not what we pay for gas. That's just what they have us believing we pay.

Depending upon how experts calculate it, the true cost of gasoline (what we really pay) is between 60% higher and 500% higher. The differences in the calculations are not error. They are differences in which externalized costs are considered. The low-ball estimate was calculated from straightforward costs we pay elsewhere; such as taxes the oil companies don't pay, or subsidies they receive – without actually getting the American people's approval. The high estimate, on the other hand, also includes things like lost fishing revenue, health care costs from breathing polluted air and drinking polluted water, the military costs of invading countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, the homeland security costs of dealing with increased terrorist threats, the costs of regulatory oversight and pollution cleanup, etc.

But even those estimates of the cost of a gallon of gas are likely extraordinarily low. They haven't calculated in the long-term costs of Climate Change. When we start to calculate in the cost of moving coastal cites because of sea rise, repairing weather damaged homes, farms, and businesses world-wide, dealing with melted glaciers in places like the Himalayas (and the consequential massive droughts in China), etc.; we start to talk in big percentages of world wide GDP.

We've been conned by fossil fuel monopolists into buying their product, no matter how dangerous it is.

This has been going on since prohibition, when alcohol was made illegal to possess. Think about it. Before prohibition; Model T's could run on gasoline or home made alcohol. After prohibition, they only ran on gasoline. Of course, abolitionists wanted to eliminate alcohol, but they didn't have the money to influence our nation's hard-drinking elected representatives. That's when John D. Rockefeller (of Standard Oil) stepped in with what would be the present equivalent of close to $70 million of donation money – that gave the abolitionists real power. The next thing you know, politicians are voting against their own drinking habits – and the only way left to get around in a vehicle was with gas and diesel.

The effort to monopolize the transportation industry parallels this story. The Milburn Electric car, and more recently the General Motors EV-1 are examples of electric cars that were desirable, functional, and had a consumer following. Yet, their production was shut down. Why? I would guess because the auto industry has worked hand in hand with the fossil fuel industry for quite some time now.

We could also consider the buyout of the Los Angeles public transportation system (trolleys) back in the 1940's. General Motors bought the system to dismantle it. They were convicted, and fined (get this) $1000. That's right, $1000. That's like you or me getting fined a penny.

And then, to top them all off, here we are in two “wars” (of occupation) in countries that have no interest to us at all other than oil.

We need to face the awful truth; the fossil fuel industry has essentially monopolistic control over transportation because that's what those who run it wanted. They sold out. They didn't do what's best for their customers. They didn't do what's best for our country. They didn't do what's best our environment. They didn't even do what's best for everyone's future. They maximized their short-term profits. That's what they're doing even now. (And I wouldn't be surprised to find out that in the dysfunctional system we live in that many of them feel that they have no choice.)

Just consider this; Forbes reports that ExxonMobil had a gross operating profit of $52 billion in 2009, yet they paid NO U.S. income tax. However, when it came time to make deals for conquered Iraqi oil ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, and ConocoPhilips were right there at the table. They have conned patriotic Americans into fighting, dying, and paying the taxes for the military operations that ultimately only benefit their oil profits. And our corrupt American politicians keep on giving them subsidies that give them an unfair advantage over renewables. DAMN!

This is so much bigger than the oil spill. Actually, this is more about an ill conceived effort to concentrate the wealth of the world into the hands of a few – no matter what the cost – no matter the pain inflicted – no matter the numbers who die; because that's just what they do. They are required by law to maximize short-term profits for investors – who simply invest in the corporations who give them the most short-term profits.

We are paying people we don't trust to stifle innovation, get us into unnecessary wars, poison us, ruin our environment, and cripple our economy. That is why we should be infuriated.

We have created a system that ignores reality in order to make a few people filthy rich, very quick. Those people also have power. This dysfunctional system has made them rich, so they don't want to fix it. Consequently, the situation just gets worse – until a total collapse is inevitable – and everyone loses. We can likely trace the collapse of a number of previous civilizations to essentially the same causes.

It's time to maximize our systems' potential.

It's time to maximize our long-term profits.

It's time to maximize our real wealth, instead of merely our wealth indicators.

It's time to maximize our happiness.

And to truly maximize our happiness, we have to maximize everyone's happiness – even those who can't vote yet, vote here, or even vote at all.

...One more thought:

If a muslim were to put poison in your drinking water for money, he would be a terrorist, right? Then why is a corporation, that has better options but continues to take risks that will inevitably poison us, only considered a “polluter”?

America has become the victim of terrorism from the top. We need to stop them, tend to our wounded, and rebuild...And if we have learned from this, we need to rebuild even better than before.

Friday, June 18, 2010

I'm back... And yes, a little too soon.

My 7 day trek turned into a 3½ day trek.

My bike broke down – out in the middle of literally nowhere. Miles from the nearest paved road. Two hours from the nearest town (by car). And over 200 miles from the nearest city.

Actually, my bike had already broken down a number of times. It just finally broke in a way I couldn't continue to ride it.

On the second day, my chain broke. But I had a spare link. And then it broke again. At that point I pretty much realized I wasn't going to go as far as I had planned. ...Or maybe it was at the point when the chain braking somehow messed up the front derailleur. I thought the derailleur was bent, so I pried on it – until my front derailleur broke too.

At that point I had to admit to myself I would just ride it until it, or I, couldn't go any more.

The Details:

I figured if the chain broke again (and from the noise, it sounded like it would), I would just take out another link until the chain was too short to use. And I also figured that I would just leave the front shifter in the middle chainring. That meant 8 speeds instead of 24, and I wouldn't be able to use my lowest gears; but at least I was moving forward.

Until, on the third afternoon, a spoke broke. Just a spoke.

But not just any spoke. I was prepared for that. No – this spoke broke on the drive train side of the rear wheel. I wasn't prepared for that. Because in order to replace a spoke on the rear wheel on the chainring side, you have to remove the (freewheel) cassette. That would mean special tools – which I didn't have. Oh Oh....

I was able to deal with the first breakdowns. But this one was different. It's a matter of simple physics. The stresses that broke that one spoke are now added to the forces on the remaining spokes. And like some kind of a vicious chain reaction, more spokes were going to break. It was inevitable. And from my previous experience with broken spokes, it was going to happen soon.

Just before that point, I was feeling pretty strong after a few hours of rest and relaxation at an oasis-like stream in the Fortification Range. My energy was back, and I was really starting to appreciate being out there.

Of course, I still have a lot to learn. But for a moment; I was starting to feel positive about making it to at least Sunnyside (3 valleys away). I was beginning to realize, believe even, that this trip was really do-able. Actually, I was starting to really enjoy myself.

I have only broken spokes on my mountain bike once before – in 25 years of riding. (And even then I took it into the shop to fix it for me.) I was not prepared. I simply had never really looked that closely at my spokes. This is embarrassing. I had plenty of spare spokes, but I hadn't really thought about how to put them on – at least not on the side of the wheel that's most likely to break.

By riding in my middle ring, I didn't break my chain again. However, I was still strong enough to break my spoke. There was a short, steep (considering I was pulling a trailer) hill I blasted up right after my rest stop. And there was a sandy section I fought to get through up a little further. Somewhere between those two spots; my rear wheel must have been unable to hold up to the huge forces inflicted upon it by my awesome leg strength...

Hey, that's my story.

So, with my bike barely able to ride, I stayed put right there near water with four days worth of food left (in the Fortification Range) – and pressed the “help” button on my SPOT. (The SPOT is a satellite connected GPS that monitors your position, can call 911, tell your loved ones you're OK, or send one programmable message. My programmable message is “help, my bike is broken.”)

...I have to face the fact that I had to be “rescued” by my parents – in a vehicle. How embarrassing. But I'm glad they were there.

On the other hand; I also made it for over three days out in the Nevada high desert – and covered 70 miles. While I was on dirt, I saw only four cars in three days, and two of those were on a well traveled road into the Great Basin National Park. I never saw another mountain bike rider. And of course, I had no expectations of seeing another mountain bike rider. The vast majority of the time; I was out there all by myself, surrounded by the world – with nothing to see but the natural world – as far as I could see – in every direction. Though I was headed somewhere, I was where I wanted to be. Experience's like that are mildly transformative.

I set out to have an experience that might help me relate to my ancestors, who once roamed the Great Basin on foot. And in one respect, I achieved the most important of my goals. I achieved some “perspective.”

The world seems so much bigger and more alive when you travel about it human powered.

Occasionally, a jet airliner would fly over – high in the sky, like a moving dot with a white trail behind it. Those people flying overhead had no idea I was there. The Great Basin, to them, looked empty. But the Great Basin is far from empty. To them; there were no lights in the valleys at night. To them, it was like flying over a huge black hole. But to me; there were millions of brush and trees, with life everywhere, scurrying amongst them – singing, chattering, or just soaking up the sun.

For a moment, I wasn't overlooking the obvious. And it was beautiful.

I have learned once again that I am still a mediocre bicycle mechanic. That may not seem so important to you. But it should. For I believe that my attitude is, in a way, a reflection of our society. I feel this is true for all of us.

We want things. And we want things to turn out well. But like mediocre mechanics, we have great hopes for our future, while we haven't thought through well enough how we'll actually get what we want. We, in our haste for success, have ignored all the possible pitfalls – and haven't really thought about how we are going to literally get where we want to be.

I relied on technology to carry me. But technology is just a tool. However, and this is my point; technology is a tool that can be improved upon.

We, as a society, have been so focused on “success” (as we presently perceive it) that we have ignored the fact that the seeds of our failure lie within our methods to get that success.

We need to improve our tools so as to do the right job. And one of those tools we need to improve is our attitude.

Success makes you stronger...

Failure makes you wiser...


I failed at my goal (of making it to Railroad Valley). But I had a wonderful time failing. I got through some scary predicaments with my life and my health intact. I would honestly say that I actually had a genuine adventure. For a few days, I felt truly alive. In fact, I might even be wiser now. And stronger too.

But most importantly, I saw the world in a different way. It was bigger, tougher, and more beautiful than I had ever perceived before.

This was so much more than a vacation. This was a learning experience. This was a life experience. This was an opportunity to feel human in a way that we, as a society, have tried to pretend we are above.

We have not tamed nature. part because we are not tame.

And that's the way we like it.

And that's good.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Great Basin Mountain Bike Trekking

Well, I start my unsupported mountain bike trek across the Great Basin (northernmost SNWA watergrab effected areas).

If you want to know my progress check this link:

Saturday, June 12, 2010

I'm Not Against Religion

I'm not particularly religious myself. The truth is I just don't know. I don't feel that a brain the size of ours has the capacity to truly comprehend a universe measured in light years. And when someone tells me that they know... well, I've met a lot of people who've told me they know – beyond a shadow of a doubt – and they don't all agree.

But I don't have anything against religion – at least not directly. I think it's beautiful that people share stories of the human condition. I believe there is wisdom in those stories. The stories we hear shape our lives. Our religious beliefs help shape functioning societies. Our diverse beliefs form our unique cultures. And our cultures are what make us human.

However, no human organization is perfect. And those who act like they know should quit pretending that their religion is above the flaws of humanity. Nothing in our world is perfect. We all have plenty of room to grow wiser.

I'm not against religion. I'm against the abuse of religion.

I'm against organized ignorance.

I'm against anyone trying to create a worldwide mono-culture.

I'm against focusing so much on the afterlife that we ignore the critical needs of this one.

I'm against a forced adherence to traditions to the point that it limits our capacity to grow as a culture.

I'm against an organizational hierarchy that cares more about the organization than the people in it.

And I'm against the abuse of a religion by the powers that be – to keep the masses in line.

People have the capacity to take something beautiful and turn it into something ugly. But we also have the capacity to create something even more beautiful. Let's do that.