Friday, May 30, 2008

Pastor Problem

Like probably a million or so others, I watched the latest "pastor problem" video on YouTube. I sincerely hope that Barack Obama never sets foot in that church again.

Yes, that church. What bothered me more than the anti-white vitriol that the pastor was spouting was the enthusiasm with which the congregation was cheering the pastor on. Clapping and shouting "yes," even giving standing ovations in mid speech, this crowd was loving the content of this hate monger's racist rhetoric.

Is that what "black churches" are about? Fueling racial division? Certainly that's what this black church is about. The rhetoric of the pastors at Trinity does not necessarily give me pause about Obama's character, but the actions of the people in the pews does. These are the people he has been congregating with for twenty years and more, and there is no doubt in my mind that these people are very serious about their racism.

I do not think that my belief, held from childhood, that inequality based on skin color is wrong is a false belief. I do not believe that Dr. Martin Luther King was fighting the wrong battle when he argued for justice and decried revenge. I do not believe that African Americans as a people hate whites so badly that they want revenge more than they want justice.

But people can be led down an ugly path by demagogues, hate-filled angry men who preach revenge instead of love and peace and justice. That YouTube video, Trinity Church Chicago, is what it looks like when that happens. That video showed a very ugly place.

Barack Obama has a church problem, not a pastor problem.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Counting Out

Keith Olbermann on Countdown is spending the entire hour interviewing Scott McClellan. I have one thing to say about that: boring.
Make that two things: also boooorrrring.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Neat Web Thing

Yeah, I know, NBC and all that. I promise I'll get over my new kick soon, but I just discovered the new video thing at NBC News, which is a Macromedia Flash device. It plays really nicely and they offer a super cool "imbed" utility. I'm a little bit of a sucker for neat new utilities on the web. I'll quit now, unless there's something of really major content.

Hold Your Nose

Scott McClellan’s book makes the following (almost certainly very accurate) statement regarding the media's coverage of the lead up to the Iraq war,
"In this case, the 'liberal media' didn't live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served."

The media, all three networks, responded on the Today Show this morning. (You only need to watch about the first three minutes, thirty seconds, as the rest is just giggling self-adulation by the news media stars.)

Katie Couric, whose news show is the least watched and which, for the record, I cannot abide to watch, is the only one of the three who has the courage to come right out and say that the media did not do its job.
Charles Gibson is utterly disgusting, and you can find out more about just how completely dishonest he is by reading Glenn Greenwald’s post today on the subject at Salon.

Good God Almighty, our news media reeks.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Arming the Troops

During WW2 and Korea the main firearm was the M1 Garand, which fired the .30-06 cartridge. I trained with this rifle in the Navy and loved it, and I doubt that you will ever find anyone who used it who will speak ill of it.

Years later I bought an M1 carbine, which was also used in WW2 and Korea. It was a much lighter weapon, fired a smaller .30 caliber pistol cartridge, and was usually carried by officers. I enjoyed “plinking” with it due to the nice impact of the .30 caliber bullet and the relatively light recoil of the smaller cartridge. I later gave that carbine to my nephew, who has been in the Army for some 20 years.

I knew that the Army had gone to a smaller caliber during Viet Nam and that some controversy had ensued about the lethality of the smaller bullet, but I hadn’t thought much about it until this recent war in Iraq. A few small news items have cropped up to the effect that with our weapons the insurgents are taking several hits and continuing to fight, but nothing much has been said.

About a year ago the difference in impact of the Army’s new weaponry was brought home to me when I was talking to my nephew. He was talking about his wife having some interest in learning to shoot and I commented that the M1 carbine is “a great lady’s gun.” He looked at me sort of funny and, when I asked what was up, replied that he had fired the carbine and said, “I have to admit it rather intimidated me.”

I was a bit shocked. I thought the Garand was quite a lot of fun and the carbine was such a lightweight that I could fire it comfortably with one hand.

Full disclosure: I have never been in combat. I served in the Navy, in diesel-electric submarines. We didn’t need rifles a lot, although I stood shark guard in the periscope shears with an M1 Garand during swim call. When I got bored I would fire the rifle and watch the swimmers rise up and run across the top of the water back to the ship.

In the San Diego Union-Tribune today is an A-P article that brings this issue up again. It confirms that today’s smaller bullet tends to merely drill a small neat hole through the target, leaving him able to fight on another day, unless you hit him in a vital spot. The Army maintains that the answer is not a bigger and more lethal bullet, but better marksmanship.

The thing about the M1 with its .30-06 cartridge (and this is hearsay, not personal knowledge) was that if you hit a guy he went down. If you hit a guy in, say, the wrist he went down. He did not get back up, light a cigarette pick up his gun and drill you between the eyes, he stayed down. Today’s Army doesn’t seem to consider that a reasonable expectation of a weapon.

What it does consider a reasonable expectation is that, when surprised from behind, a soldier will spin around with his rifle and drill his assailant neatly between the eyes in a single heartbeat. If there are three of them, he will drill each of the three neatly between the eyes before one of them shoots him. The Army wants the soldier’s life to depend on his ability to make every shot a killing shot, no matter the degree of difficulty or haste required, sort of like Chuck Norris.

In part, the AP article defends the lighter weapon by saying that today’s military “has troops of varied size and strength.” And the troops in WW2 and Korea were all giants? Audie Murphy, WW2’s most highly decorated soldier, was barely over five feet. It seems to me that the smaller the soldier is, the bigger the weapon he might want to be using to defend himself.

An Army surgeon is quoted as saying that the problem is not the caliber but the rifles; that the barrels are to short to generate enough velocity. “Bullets that go faster cause more damage.” This guy should stick to surgery, because that statement is contrary to fact. High speed bullets drill through before they have time to expand or fragment, remaining largely intact and expending all of their energy on the distant landscape.

The administrators and generals cited in the article all seem to favor the existing weapons, but the grunts actually using them mostly seem to imply that they would like to have something with more stopping power.

Implied in the article is that the Army has billions of dollars invested in the smaller caliber weapons and ammunition, and that it is unwilling to consider really examining the process of re-equipping with a more effective weapon for reasons of cost. Most of the arguments that the Army uses sound to me like they are grasping at straws to conceal this very fact.

“Supporting the troops” includes giving them adequate weaponry.

Running Mate

Not too long ago some editorialist, opining on the subject of running mates, suggested that having Clinton as his VP choice would make it easier for Obama to get elected but much more difficult for him to govern. His opinion was that he should choose her anyway, because the main point was getting elected. I don’t recall who it was; I simply wrote him off as an idiot and moved on.

David Brooks has an op-ed piece in the New York Times today suggesting the opposite. He suggests that the effect of governance on that choice is much more important than the electability issue. How refreshing it is to hear a voice of reason. My goodness, governing well is important.

One suggestion he had for Barack Obama was Sam Nunn of Georgia.

I lived in Georgia when Mr. Nunn was one of the two Senators from that state, and the only thing that would please me more than seeing him on the ticket with Barack Obama would be to have seen him run for president four or eight years ago. Sam Nunn is a gentleman and a statesman, and would be a great asset to the nation as well as to the administration he served.

I think Sam Nunn would be an asset on the campaign trail as well. He is from the South and is very well liked. He has outstanding defense and foreign policy credentials, having served on the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence Committees, and he has an excellent relationship with the armed forces. He is currently working in international affairs, co-chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, preventing the spread of nuclear materials.

He is personally in tune with the goals of Barack Obama, that our government regain its integrity and become more responsive to the needs of the people of this country. In fact, the government’s divergence from those positions was precisely why he decided to leave the Senate. His experience in government and his personal integrity make him the ideal helpmate for the ambitions expressed by the man that I hope to see become the next President of the United States.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Wasting Water

San Diego has Atlanta beat by a mile. Well, not so much. We tripled our water rates, but have done nothing about 80-year-old cast iron water and sewer lines. The money has gone into the general operating fund because the city government has been unwilling to propose any tax increases.

Beaches are generally closed after even minor rains because runoff washes into to ocean. Well, you can go to the beaches, just don't go in the water.

The Cost of War

Most of us know that more than 4000 of our soldiers have died in Iraq, but death is not the only price that soldiers pay. There are some who might say that it is not even the highest price, given the nature of some of the casualties inflicted by this gruesome conflict.

Santa Monica is a city in California with a population of about 85,000 people. You’ve almost certainly seen pictures of the Santa Monica Pier, with its Ferris wheel and bikini-clad roller bladers. Suppose that something happened that caused every single person in that city to be killed or badly injured. Every single person. 85,000 people dead or maimed.

That’s how many of our soldiers have been killed or badly injured in this thing in Iraq. The casualties of Iraq could populate a California city.

Juan Cole points this out at Informed Comment,
We aren't told the scale of the sacrifice by our corporate media or Washington officials. Michael Munk has done a fine job of focusing in like a laser on the real numbers of casualties for the Iraq War. Here is the last dispatch I have from him, dated May 6, 2008:
'US military occupation forces in Iraq suffered at least 108 combat casualties in the week ending May 6, as the official casualty total reached at least 65,500. The total includes 33,325 dead and wounded by what the Pentagon classifies as "hostile" causes and 32,175 (since over a month ago on March 1) dead and injured from "non-hostile" causes.

The actual total is over 85,000 because the Pentagon chooses not to count as "Iraq casualties" the approximately 20,000 casualties discovered only after they returned from Iraq - mainly brain trauma from explosions.

Yes, we properly remember those who have died in defense of freedom on this Memorial Day. But we need also to remember those who have paid the price of freedom and have not died, those who are still paying that price.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Baseball Game Politics

Okay, I don't even follow baseball very closely; watching a baseball game is just watching a bunch of guys standing around scratching their private parts and spitting. But this guy had me rolling on the floor laughing. You need to go read it.

Random Thoughts

Sunday morning here in sunny Alaska California. My neighbors are all out for their morning walks in their down jackets and heavy sweatshirts, arms wrapped around themselves, wondering about this global warming thing.
The furnace is roaring away, preserving life as we know it in the Jayhawk household.

Offshore, bubbles are rising in desultory fashion from where the Clinton campaign is resting on the bottom. Pieces of its shattered timbers wash onto the beach from time to time, but souvenir hunters spurn them in favor of shiny shells.

My wife and are both uttering excited murmurings of "Indy" but have two different things in mind. I'm talking about an open-wheel auto race, she's talking about a movie we're going to later in the day. She's more excited than I am, but the day bodes well.

If you see a gas station in San Diego selling unleaded regular at $3.999 per gallon, it's because they have an older type of pump and they cannot set the price higher than that. The average here is now $4.04 per gallon, and would be higher if there weren't so many stations with those older pumps. All signs either read the lower figure, or they jump to $4.14 or more.

My niece's blog post this morning described how the "enter" key has quit working on her keyboard, and it reminded me of a time that the "w" key quit on mine. You don't realize how often you use the "w" either, Barbara, until you can't. I would be cursing and pounding my finger on the offending key, and one day I realized there was a lesson there in personal dynamics.

What I realized was that the computer didn't know I was pressing the button because it had disconnected that button. As a result, the pressee was calm and collected, and the presser was losing his cool. The person pressing the button expects a certain response and, when the button has been disconnected, doesn't get it. Pressing a disconnected button is infuriating to the presser. It doesn't bother the one with the button who has disconnected it.

I realized, somewhere along the way, I didn't need to make the world stop pressing my buttons. I could just rewire the buttons.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Nail the Coffin Shut

Before you tell me that we should not be jumping on what was nothing more than a slip of the tongue by the Clinton person, nothing more than unfortunate and awkward phraseology, just how quickly did she and her campaign hop on the “bitter” comment by her rival? And that Obama remark was not made for public consumption as hers was.

Enough has been said about the nature of her remark and what she may or may not have meant by it. Almost enough has been said about her non-apology, so I will add but little.

“…I regret if the remark was offensive..” That not only is not an apology and does not address the person to whom it gave the most offense, it does not acknowledge that the remark is offensive, tasteless and without tact.

“I did not intend…” When offering an apology, one’s intentions are irrelevant and offering a lack of intention is an excuse not an apology.

She followed that with some gibberish about looking to our past leaders for inspiration, being honored to hold Robert Kennedy's seat in the Senate, and admiring the Kennedy family. What that had to do with her remark is undecipherable, and she sounded like a three-year-old trying to justify an extra cookie at snack time.

But there is a larger point demonstrated here, and not for the first time, and I have not seen it addressed by traditional or cable media.

Years ago I watched a movie about a Navy destroyer chasing a Russian submarine during the Cold War, trying to force it to surface. The chase went on for several days with the destroyer crew continuously at battle stations. On day three, befuddled by tiredness and stress the gunnery officer misinterpreted an order from the captain and fired a nuclear torpedo, starting WW3 by accident.

A major responsibility of any person in a position of high authority is to husband their resources so as to assure that they are able to perform the duties of the job properly at all times. We cannot have as president a person who is so unaware of their own limits that they consistently press beyond those limits and function erratically and with inadequate mental resources, unable to properly perform the awesome responsibilities that go with the leadership of the most powerful nation in the world.

The Clinton person has consistently demonstrated that she does not know her limits. The Bosnia lie was due to her being tired. We have heard other gaffes attributed to her being tired. She has even bragged about her “drive” and how she works for twenty-four hours without stopping. That is a mental disease, not an asset, and it repeatedly has rendered her “unfit for duty.”

This is just another in a long list of episodes that illustrate that this woman is constitutionally unfit to serve as the leader of this nation.

This corpse is beginning to reek; put a lid on the coffin and nail it shut.

Friday, May 23, 2008

McCain: Military Elitist

John McCain said yesterday that, since Barack Obama “did not feel it was his responsibility to serve our country in uniform,” he does not have the right to question McCain’s failure to support the new GI Bill which was at that time being approved in the Senate by a vote of 75-22. One vote was missing; only one; the vote of John McCain. John McCain was too busy at a fund-raising gala to attend to his duties as a Senator in the Congress of the United States.

Well I did “serve our country in uniform,” Senator McCain, and so even by your arrogant military elitist standards I am qualified and do have the right to question your failure to support our veterans with this bill. Your position is self-serving and wrong.

Your claims about retention are garbage on more than one level. What about those who, wounded or otherwise rendered unable, cannot serve multiple enlistments? Do we accept their single enlistment and then toss them out to a lifelong career at minimum wage?

With this bill perhaps we can improve recruitment such that retention is no longer the demand that turns the technicality of “stop loss” into a back door draft. Perhaps with a bill like this one we could secure sufficient recruitment that our men and women might need to serve only one tour in combat instead of the three and four, and more, that they presently serve. Perhaps with a bill like this one we could secure sufficient recruitment that we would no longer need to be sending wounded soldiers back into battle. Perhaps we could restore a rotation which actually allows our soldiers sufficient time to rest and retrain between deployments.

This “war” is supposedly the “ideological struggle of our time” upon which the very existence of our nation depends; this by your own statements. And yet the thanks that we offer to the men and women who fight this war are a pittance in comparison to those we offered to my father when he returned from the greater war that you use as the standard against which this one is measured.

You see, Mr. McCain, “I served my country in uniform.” As did my father, and his father. I remember one day when I was a small child and an olive-drab car drove up and took my father off to war. You have no corner on that story you arrogant jackass.

I will go further. When you use your military service as an instrument of self-aggrandizement and to secure for yourself wealth and power, when you suggest that your service makes you "better than" or renders others who did not serve inferior, you dishonor that service and you lose the right to have me in any way “respect your service.”

We have an all-volunteer military in this country. If you want to talk about the “responsibility to serve our country in uniform” then institute a draft. Until then, do not dare to arrogantly criticize those who do not choose the way of life that you have chosen merely because they did not make the same choice you did.

You owe an apology to Barack Obama, to veterans, and to this nation.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Clinton Crusade

I know I said only the one more blog about Clinton. I lied. Actually it was true at the time, but then I heard some of her speeches in Florida, some of her rhetoric about seating the Florida delegation despite that a) the election was declared in advance to be outside the Party rules and thus void, b) she and all of the other candidates agreed in writing not to campaign or participate in it.

“They should count [the Florida votes] exactly as they were cast. Democracy demands no less.”

“...people go through the motions of an election only to have them discarded and disregarded. We’re seeing that right now in Zimbabwe. Tragically, an election was held, the president lost, they refused to abide
by the will of the people.”

“I remember very well back in 2000. There were those who argued that people’s votes should be discounted over technicalities...”

“We believe the popular vote is the truest expression of your will. We believe it today, just as we believed it back in 2000, when right here in Florida you learned the hard way what happens when your votes aren’t counted and the candidate with fewer votes is declared the winner.”

“I have a lead in the popular vote that I added to last night,”
which is, of course, an outrageous lie.

Initially willing to negotiate, when Obama's campaign showed signs of flexibility on the issue, Clinton immediately hardened her stance and insisted that both delegations be seated in their entirety.

To every person who has voted for or supported her she is extending a clear invitation to believe that, when Obama is given the nomination, Clinton was cheated out of what is properly hers by virtue of this fictitious "popular vote majority." How many people in whom she creates this sense of having been cheated by the process that Clinton has called illegitimate will choose not to vote for the person whom she has labelled as usurper?

And she has the gall to claim that she is “fully committed” to supporting the cause of the election of a Democrat to the White House in November.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Truth in Labelling

To find out that Glenn Greenwald serves as a consultant to the ALCU comes as no surprise (in fact it’s one of those sort of “oh duh” things), but is immensely gratifying. Greenwald’s is one of the first blogs I read daily.

One of my favorite movie scenes is from An American President where Michael Douglas is at the podium and is responding to a charge from his opponent that he is “a card carrying member of the ACLU.” He describes the organization as one “which has as its sole purpose upholding the Bill of Rights,” admits proudly that he is a member, leans into the microphone and says to his opponent, “…and what I want to know is why aren’t you?”

That’s an old movie; additional evidence that there’s nothing new about guilt by false association and twisting words in a manner that, for instance, labels a bill that increases air pollution as the "Clear Skies Initiative."

One more proof that it is time for change that we can believe in.

And Barack Obama responding to the charge of being an appeaser kind of reminds me of Michael Douglas at the end of that movie. Sometimes pissing your opponent off is not your best move.

Delusional Politics

One last fling at Senator Clinton, just a couple more of her delusional claims that I feel the need to address, and then I will dump her on the slag heap of history.

She is claiming that she is winning now after losing for so long because she has finally “found her true voice” as the populist, beer- and shot-drinking champion of the “hard working” blue collar class. Apparently people who make more than $50K per year do not work hard for it. Hmmm. She better not say that in person to my wife.

Why should we believe that this is her true persona, anyway? It’s about the fourth or fifth one she’s tried. The “inevitable” one didn’t work very well, the “ready on day one” one didn’t work, the “obliterate Iran” one didn’t work… The truth is that there is no “real Hillary.” Hillary Clinton will become whoever she needs to be to get votes.

I have no real problem with her staying in the race, and I don’t even really object to her using some rather delusional arguments as to why people should vote for her. I do object to her using arguments that weaken the Democratic Party and which delegitimize the eventual winner, such as her claim the she is leading in the popular vote.

As has been pointed out elsewhere, that claim can only be supported by including Florida and Michigan and by eliminating all of the caucus results. The states of Florida and Michigan are invalid not just because the Democratic Party declared them to be, but because an unknown number of voters stayed home for those elections knowing that those elections would not count. They simply cannot be considered representative elections.

Not only do you have to include Florida and Michigan and eliminate all of the caucus states to support Clinton’s claim, you also have to assume that not one single person in Michigan voted for Obama; that more than a quarter of a million people who voted “uncommitted” were actually voting for some imaginary person with that name or were expressing with their votes that they did not care who won.

Hillary Clinton is insisting that the eventual nominee will either be a person who had fewer popular votes, or a person who had fewer elected delegates, one or the other. She is insisting that the Democrats field a nominee who can be claimed to be not a legitimate winner of the nomination process. In the same breath she is claiming to be “fully committed” to supporting the cause of the election of a Democrat to the White House in November.

That’s her delusion; not that she can win; that she is supporting her party.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


It almost makes me ashamed to be a blogger. I’m tempted to try and think of another term for this exercise so that I don’t have to refer to myself as a blogger, or as a person who blogs, or even have to admit that I know what the hell a blog is.

An excerpt here from a post by Ian Welsh at The Agonist on Monday,
This has caused a certain stir amongst liberal bloggers, because Obama doesn't invite us to his calls, and never has.

Obama reached our audience without going through us, and sees no reason to bother with outreach to us. Bloggers who now support Obama do so despite the fact that Obama can't be bothered to do blogger outreach.

Obama only works with groups who can deliver votes he can't easily get on his own. So SEIU has a voice. We do not because we did not deliver our readers, he got them on his own.

There’s more. You can click the link above and read the whole thing if you want, but the rest of it is the same silly tripe as this. Sort of a Rodney Dangerfield meme of, “I don’t get no respect.” Most whining teenagers don’t.

Barack Obama has promised to change the Washington practice of catering to “special interests.” What is “liberal bloggers” if not a special interest group? Mr. Welsh thinks that Obama should cater to liberal bloggers because it’s the right special interest group, his special interest group, but that isn’t what Obama promised. He didn’t say he would cut off the conservative groups, or the ones with money, he said he would not cater to special interest groups and did not qualify that as to type.

One certainly cannot say that Obama does not know how to reach out on the internet. Where did a large part of his campaign money come from?

Also this from Marc Ambinder at today,
Obama clearly intends to use the Web, if he is elected president, to transform governance just as he has transformed campaigning. Notably, he has spoken of conducting “online fireside chats” as president.

He proposes creating a public, Google-like database of every federal dollar spent. He aims to post every piece of non-emergency legislation online for five days before he signs it so that Americans can comment. A White House blog—also with comments—would be a near certainty. Overseeing this new apparatus would be a chief technology officer.

I have advocated in this space for Barack Obama for almost a year to at least some degree. I have certainly advocated against Hillary Clinton for a similar period. I have done that for the satisfaction of self-expression, and it has served that purpose very well. At times I have seen evidence that this blog has served to carry my opinions to others and to serve as an instrument of persuasion, and that is a valuable bonus. I do not expect that Barack Obama should call or write and thank me for my help.

But then I’m a bit more than seventeen years old.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Lionel Van Deerlin

 Lionel Van Deerlin Lionel Van Deerlin died in his home yesterday morning at age 93. He will be missed.

I always looked forward to reading his columns. I did not always agree with his opinions, but he always made me think about my own and there is, I believe, no greater gift that one person can give to another than to make them think. He wrote with great clarity and with a wit that was never unkind or sarcastic but was, nonetheless, often razor sharp.

You can read about this fine man’s life in today’s San Diego Union-Tribune.

“Van” was married to Mary Jo Van Deerlin for 67 years and survived her death by just seven months, a not-uncommon story that I always find deeply moving.

Fog of War

This “fog” is usually cited to mean the confusion that exists within the noise and turmoil of battle itself, but I’m thinking of the confusion that has prevailed in civil discourse for so long regarding our presence in Iraq. After five years, we can’t seem to agree on why we are there, or what constitutes grounds for leaving.

There was this yesterday by paradox at The Left Coaster:
It’s always been extremely interesting to me that Senators Clinton and Obama proclaim with varying degrees of intensity that the United States is going to leave Iraq, not that in fact we’ve lost the war. One would think in the natural order of things leadership would state the obvious fact we’ve lost, thus we are leaving, but employing logic has never been a strong American political trait.

I agree with the two named senators that we should leave, and do so forthwith, but I find it difficult to find the grounds upon which paradox bases his claim that we’ve “lost the war.” I’m not sure I have any claim that we’ve won it, either, but any claim to loss or victory depends on why we are, or were, there and that has certainly never been all that well established.

If we were there to find WMD’s, well, then we should have been on our way home several years ago. The fact that we didn’t find them is a failure of objective, but it’s hard to see how it counts as losing a war.

If we went there to depose Saddam Hussein then we have won.

If we went there to create a democracy then, at least on the face of it, we’ve done that. It’s time to declare victory and head home.

If we went there to defeat Al Queda then we were just insane. Al Queda wasn’t there. That’s like the batter coming from the dugout with his bat over his shoulder and standing at first base to face the pitcher, or the quarterback lining up with his hands under the tackle as he calls the snap count. Nothing good is going to come of it when you are in the wrong place.

Al Queda is a stateless entity and cannot be defeated by fighting it in one location, assuming it can be defeated by fighting at all. Against Al Queda, victory and loss are meaningless terms in Iraq and should have no influence on our decision to leave.

If we went there for a lot of less noble reasons; like to become the dominant military power in the Middle East, or to establish permanent military bases, or to control a major oil producer, or to establish occupation and dominion over another sovereign nation, then we seem indeed to failed in those objectives. If any or all of those were our reasons then I might agree that we have “lost the war.”

But is that why 4000 soldiers have died and 30,000 have been maimed? Is that why a million families have been torn apart for five long years? Is that why a trillion dollars have been spent and our economy wrecked?

And that’s just our cost. We don’t even know how many Iraqis have died because we don’t care enough about them to count. They are the enemy, they are supposed to die. By some estimates more than a million have. More than four million have been driven from their homes. An entire nation has been laid waste, made rubble, and city after city turned into a series of walled ghettos.

All for the failed objective of an American Empire?

I profoundly hope that the fog of war, the fog that prevails in the political rhetoric here at home, has confounded and clouded a more noble purpose for all of this than mere empire. For five long years, though, our leadership has never wavered in committing blood and treasure to a war for which the reasons have been as fickle as a maiden’s heart.

I feel certain that when we no longer know why we are fighting a war it is time to stop the trivia about whether we are winning or losing. When we no longer agree on the enemy or the cause then neither term has meaning.

Just stop this madness, and bring them home.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Stifling Discourse

I just read a post that used the term "pro-life" as a euphemism for "anti-abortion" and it set me off. What arrogance. If I suggest that a woman be allowed to choose, if I suggest that you are not the arbiter of my morals, if I suggest that you do not have the right to dictate my actions unless they directly impact your life or your freedoms, then I become "anti-life"?

Chris Matthews was a guest on Countdown last night. He was talking about the use of words like "appeasement" as a hammer to prevent political discussion. If someone disagrees with government policy today, they are labelled as unpatriotic or accused of appeasement or charged with being akin to Hitler. He went on to make the very good point that the same kind of use has become common in all aspects of discourse. We use "loaded" words as labels to prevent open and honest discussion of serious and important issues.

I think that is in play with this term "pro-life." By using that term instead of admitting that they are trying to deny others the ability to decide what is morally and physically right based on their own religious and spiritual values, those "pro-lifers" are trying to put their opponents into a position whereby the mere statement of disagreement with them is in and of itself a heinous disregard for life.

Matthews made the point, and I completely agree, that rather than disagreement with government policy being unpatriotic, an open and honest discussion of policy is the very heart of patriotism.

And it seems to me that using labels to define positions tends to close minds rather than open them.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Cat Blogging

The Agonist does a cat blog every Friday. Their Friday Cat Slagging post today is entitled "Pissed-off Democrats" for reasons that are only half clear to me. (I don't know what Democrats have to do with it.) Can you tell which two of the four kitties are not actually pissed off?

Hint: check out the ears. Ears are a dead giveaway.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Wierd Politics

From Wired Science yesterday:
The confounding part: among college-educated poll respondents, 19 percent of Republicans believe that human activities are causing global warming, compared to 75 percent of Democrats. But take that college education away and Republican believers rise to 31 percent while Democrats drop to 52 percent.

My brain just exploded.

And from John Cole at Informed Comment:
The debates were broadcast on BBC World that weekend. Unfortunately I don't think you can get it in the United States. My DISH network just gives me this awful "BBC America" which replicates in a British accent the worst features of American television. Apparently we are not considered grown up enough for real news.

And down went my brain again.

And the Clinton campaign has become totally irrelevant. I watched parts of an interview with her by Brian Williams, and she looks like a wind-up doll. When asked any question she flips a switch: engage facial expression #2, and start tape #7, go. If asked what she thinks the stock market will do she would engage the tape about waiting until everybody has had a chance to vote, and it's only three weeks until June 4th, and Michigan and Florida, and the minds of delegates, and "we'll see where we stand then." And, of course, Williams never says, "Yes, you said exactly that in response to my last question. Are you going to say it again in response to my next question about global warming?"

Yes, I changed the blog format to open the comments in a popup window.
If I get enough angry comments I'll change it back, but it seems to be a popular option, and I like it when I use it on other blogs that I read and comment on. No, Bruce, you can't display the post, but it's still there in the original window, and when you close the comment popup/window the blog window is undisturbed. With the comment in the same window, by the time you post the comment sometimes it's hard to get back to the original blog.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Train of Thought

My sister responded to a post my niece made on her blog to the effect that she (my sister) had a fairly low opinion of Chicago. Or maybe Chicago police; the reference was something less than crystal. If the former, I don't really share it, as I have had some really good times in Chicago, but it brought to mind an episode that made me feel more like a hick than I usually do.

This was right after I left the Navy, so it would be in the mid sixties. I was living in Milwaukee and my girlfriend's parents lived in Chicago so we went down on weekends quite often to visit them.

On one such occasion I got stopped by a policeman, purportedly for speeding, only I had not been speeding. I was arguing with the cop about the issue and my girlfriend was poking me with her elbow, making faces at me, hemming and hawing at me and generally carrying on. I couldn't decide who I was getting more angry at, the cop or my girlfriend, and the whole thing was becoming rather heated. The cop and I were both using language which would have been much more appropriate to a Navy ship than a downtown Chicago street, and I thought my girlfriend was trying to tell me not to argue with and swear at a policeman.

The policeman finally left without arresting (or shooting) me, at which point my girlfriend pretty much took up calling me all of the names that he had omitted. Seems she had been trying to tell me to just shut up and give the cop a twenty dollar bill, which had actually been the purpose of the whole exercise. In Chicago, in those days, a cop pulled you over, you gave him $20 and all ended well. Who knew?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Excitement Tonight

There is a primary election today in a state in the East, a state so small that there will probably be fewer people voting than North Carolina had counting votes. The outcome is preordained - Clinton by 25% or more. Its effect on the nomination process is also known - zero. Despite her claim that this day will "turn the tide" for her, Clinton has lost the nomination race and everyone who isn't blinded by a severe case of Clinton Adoration Syndrome knows it. I can't be sure, but I suspect that even Hillary Clinton knows it. Mark Penn may not know it.

Nonetheless Keith Olbermann and Tweety will begin a marathon special program at 6:00PM Eastern Time to discuss today's primary election in West Virginia. They will talk about the importance of it (none), about the demographics of it (everybody was white, and they all voted for Clinton), they will wax breathless about the suspense (none), and they will do all of this after they declare a winner precisely when the polls close at 6:01PM. So after having kept us in breathless suspense for all of one minute, they will treat us to totally meaningless blather for God only knows how long before MSNBC returns to its normal business of showing us all about daily life in various prison systems. The coverage of the election may last longer than the election itself.

I am so glad I kept the payments current on my cable bill.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Demonizing Big Oil

I am certainly no fan of the current level of corporate power and influence on our society and government, but placing the blame for gas prices on oil companies alone is unhelpful oversimplification at best. Most of the oil that comes out of the ground is controlled by states, not companies, and the price of that oil is set by commodity exchanges and the oil traders who populate them. The price of gasoline is influenced by a multitude of factors, only one of which is corporate greed.

So before we decide that the oil companies need to be tarred, feathered and ridden out of town on a rail, let’s take a breath and try to think with the rational side of our collective brain.

You cannot scoop crude oil into the tank of your car and happily drive to the corner grocery store. Even if you could, you don’t have any convenient way to get that crude oil out from under the sands of Saudi Arabia and into the tank of your car in downtown Los Angeles.

Somebody has to pump the crude oil out of the ground, transport it across the ocean, refine it into useable form, transport that finished product and make it available for the consumer to conveniently pump it into the cars and trucks that will convert it into high-speed motion. Doing all of that requires a massive investment in capital equipment and a vast expenditure of money to purchase the raw material, pay the workers and maintain the equipment involved in that effort.

When the investment cost of equipment rises because the equipment becomes more expensive; when the oil becomes more costly to remove from the ground; when the governments that own the oil charge more to allow its removal; when the costs of transporting it increase; when the wages of the people involved in that industry have to be increased; when the costs of refining the product increase; when pollution controls become more strict and more expensive; and so on, then the selling price of the final product increases.

As the cost increases, which results in selling price increases, then the revenue increases and one would certainly expect the amount of profit would also increase. It has to do that for the companies to be able to continue providing the essential service of turning a useless mass of subterranean goo into a useful product at the point of sale.

Are the increases in profit disproportionate to the increases in cost? That is not an easy question to answer. The revenue statement of Exxon Mobil that I researched in an earlier post suggest that the profit levels certainly cannot be described as anemic. Neither would I describe them as outrageous, assuming that the books they publish are accurate and complete.

We need to keep watch on the practices of oil companies; the financial practices, bookkeeping, and the operations in the field and marketplace. When demand outpaces supply there is opportunity for greed and honest overenthusiasm to do harm to the public interest. Openness and fair regulation are essential, and it is by no means certain that we have those today.

When the public suffers, blame must be apportioned where it is caused and not merely to the companies most visible and easiest to point at. They may indeed be the cause; they may be only part of it, or they may be as much along for the ride as the rest of us. We need to find out before we start applying punishment.

In the meantime, the media blaring the “record amounts” of oil company profits in a manner devoid of context is inflammatory and diversionary. It detracts from the real problems of undersupply and overuse, and fixates on the lesser problem of what oil companies may or may not be doing. They certainly should be making profits.

“The worker is worthy of his hire” and a business is worthy of a fair profit earned on the delivery of goods and/or services.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Dissent on Campus

The President of San Diego State University had information that led him to believe that not only was there drug activity on his campus, but that the drug activity was on a scale that was beyond the ability of his campus police to deal with and might even press the limits of the San Diego police forces. Out of an abundance of concern for his students, he asked the US DEA to investigate and, sure enough, a major drug bust was the result.

I can appreciate that not everyone would agree with the president’s action, especially not the drug users on campus, but I would rather expect his faculty to support him. Especially in light of the outcome which illustrated that he was pretty much correct in his concerns.

Not so much according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, (emphasis mine)
Carole Kennedy, a political science professor and head of SDSU's faculty union, said she was dismayed by the level of drug activity on campus. But Kennedy said she also was disturbed that the university's president “unilaterally allowed” undercover federal agents to gather intelligence from student organizations.

It sets a bad precedent, Kennedy said.

“Now it's drugs,” she said. “Maybe next time it's about political dissent. . . . What happens when you have students talking about federal income tax policy, saying they're not going to pay their taxes? Are they going to bring in IRS agents?”

What is this woman’s point, and what does she think he should have done?

Does she really think that the university's president’s unwillingness to tolerate illegal drug activity on his campus is indicative of an unwillingness to tolerate political dissent? Does she see any relationship whatever between illegal drugs and legal political dissent? Or even illegal expression of legal dissent?

Does she think that as an expression of his espousal of political dissent the university's president should permit illegal drug use to flourish on campus?

If this is the caliber of what we have teaching political science in our universities, then it is small wonder that politics is so bollixed in this nation. I would not want this woman teaching my dog how to take a dump on the grass.

She probably taught the people in Clinton’s campaign staff.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Gas Price Bite

Updated: Friday, 10:00am

The word is that the price of gas is seriously hurting the people of this country. Items in the national news, on blogs and in my local paper all say the same thing; that something has to be done about the price of gas because it is damaging this fine nation of ours and hurting its citizens.

I think not. Pure unadulterated bullfeathers.

When I drive in San Diego, and I will bet that your city is no different, more than a third of the cars around me, and frequently closer to half, are oversized low-mileage SUV’s or pickup trucks. Ninety percent or more of the vehicles have a single occupant, the driver. Virtually 100% of the cars on the freeway, other than at rush hour, are driving at 70 mph and faster, and at rush hour there are so many cars on the freeway that they are barely moving at all.

All of this is hugely wasteful practice and serves no actually useful purpose. The extra 20 mph gets you where you’re going a few minutes earlier, but only if it doesn’t cause an accident which results in you not getting there at all. Meanwhile it uses an extra gallon of that high-priced gasoline that America complains about having to pay for.

If the price of gas were really a problem America would be ride sharing, and car pooling. San Diego built car pool lanes on our freeways and then had to sell passes for single-occupancy users of them because there weren’t enough multi-occupancy automobiles on the freeway to keep those lanes occupied. With gas at $3.93 per gallon those lanes remain under-utilized.

"Your actions speak so loudly I can't hear what you say."

When I see San Diego freeways where the majority of cars are high-mileage economy models with three or four occupants driving at 55 mph because the traffic is so light at rush hour, then I will believe that the price of gas is affecting the people of this country.

Until then, just shut up with the whining.

Update: Friday morning
Seems I'm a little bit off target with this rant. Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly reports today that driving is down and public transportation usage is up this year. Not by enough to completely invalidate my point, but enough that fairness dictates mentioning it.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


Of all the metaphors used to describe the Clinton campaign, so far I have not seen this one. As far as I know it is original and I offer it with great glee and delight.

All her masts are stumps, she's down by the head and listing to starboard. Her hull is badly holed, her scuppers running red, her railings in splinters, her guns unhoused, her powder barrels empty, and her gunports awash. And she is no John Paul Jones.

Update, Wednesday afternoon
Yes, Bruce, a Navy man. And I happen to be re-reading Patrick O'Brian, as in Master and Commander, at the moment. I think this is my third reading of the entire series, but it will be the fourth for some of the books.

May in San Diego

May GrayThe political climate is considerably more cheerful than this today, but this is not unusual for San Diego in May and June. Sigh. The sun will be back in late June or in July. Even the cat gets depressed.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Breaking News

I can walk from my house to the campus of San Diego State University, and I can't walk very far. Several close friends are graduates of or have attended that school.

So this item, 75 students arrested in San Diego University drug bust hits close to home, and not in a funny way. Of 96 arrests, 75 were students.
It doesn't say how many were faculty or staff or, indeed, if any of them were; one can hope not. Saddening indeed.

Gender Wars

Sid Ceaser and Nanette Fabray are too cool for words.Thanks to Andrew at the Daily Dish for the tip.

Food Blogging: Election Day

You’d think I would be blogging about the “horse race” today. You know, half the remaining delegates are at stake, “game changer” and all that sort of thing. Yeccch. Today almost certainly changes nothing. They will split and the disgusting mess will drag on indefinitely to some sort of ugly and ultimately unsatisfying conclusion. No winners here.

I’d rather think about what we had for dinner last night. The store had some nice meaty short ribs and I couldn’t find a recipe I liked, so I invented this one. It turned out so good that my wife complained that I didn’t make enough (“Well you could have bought another package.”), and I had pretty much the same feeling. Quantities are sort of guessing, as I did not measure when I put it together, and I doubt they are critical.

Braised Beef Short Ribs

2 lbs beef short ribs
1 large juice orange
½ cup white wine (Sauterne, Pinot Grigio)
¼ cup dark brown sugar
4-5 whole cloves
2 cups water (or as needed)
bacon drippings for browning (I’ll forgive you if you use olive or canola oil)

4-5 carrots (optional, but they turn out really good)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Put the brown sugar, wine, water and cloves in a bowl. Cut the orange in half and squeeze the juice into the bowl, then cut it up so that you can scrape as much of the pulp as possible in there without getting any of the rind in. Stir well and set aside.

Brown the ribs on all sides. You are not cooking them, just brown them all around. No flouring needed you notice. Put them into your covered roasting pan or dutch oven and pour the liquid in. Add more water if need to at least nearly cover the meat. Let this cook at 325, covered and undisturbed, for two hours.

Peel the carrots and cut them into about 1” pieces. Add them to the pot, let cook for another hour and serve.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Party of Defeat

David Horowitz spoke on BookTV yesterday, a channel that I watch frequently on weekends. I watched because I want to be exposed to both sides of any issue, because I have an open mind, because I have a sense of fairness... Actually because I had a few moments of insanity and forgot who he is. He wrote a book about the Democrats with a title the same as this post.

Nonetheless, I decided to go ahead and listen to him telling me what "traitors and liars" the Democrats are. And yes, he used those words, repeatedly. It didn't make me angry, it was mostly just boring. When he finally reached the point of saying, "No Republican ever accused anyone
of being unpatriotic, but the Democrats..."
I changed the channel.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Dream Ticket

Updated: Monday, 7:30am

The "Dream Ticket" idea seems to be surfacing again; Andrew Sullivan is positing Clinton as VP on the Obama for President campaign in November as some sort of solution to all of the divisivness of the Democratic primary.

I can think of only on thing that would prevent me from voting for Obama, and that is the presence of Clinton on his ticket.

Monday update
There is posting on Sullivan's blog, the Daily Dish about this suggestion as people have written him, pro and con, regarding his suggestion. He says, among other things, that Clinton would not be running for president in 2012 if she were in his administration in 2009.

That shows how poorly he understands Clinton. Not only would she be running in 2012, she would be undermining his presidency from the day of his inauguration to enhance her chances of winning that furure election. That's why I would not vote for the ticket that contained her.

Weather Blogging

This satellite image struck me as interesting. It's from about 8:00 this morning, and it shows the Pacific, northern Baja California, a bit of Arizona, and Southern California in the center portion. Marine LayerThe mass of clouds over the Pacific is the "marine layer" and, as is common this time of year, it extends pretty well inland. We are right at the edge of it at the moment, and the sun is just starting to peek through the edge of it as I write. When the desert gets a little warmer the marine layer will extend farther inland and will remain there pretty much all day, giving us "May Gray" and "June Gloom" weather.

Notice how smooth the marine layer is out at sea and the eddies at the coast. That's pretty typical, and it's caused by the air movement past Point Conception to the north.

What's interesting, though is that batch of clouds over eastern San Diego and western Imperial counties. There is a plume of moist air flowing from southwest to northeast which is, of course, not seen in this visible satellite image. When that moist air hits the mountains it is lifted up and those clouds are formed. The sharp beginning of the cloud formation and the degree to which it streams to the northeast suggests that the air is quite moist and that the upper level air stream is moving pretty fast. The limits of the cloud formation also illustrate that the plume of moisture is quite narrow. I love stuff like this.

If it bores you, you can just scroll down and read about the cat.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Record Profits

I'm a big fan of putting things in context so as to keep them in perspective. The news media, of course, prefers to keep things more dramatic. For instance, they are blaring the news that Exon Mobil made a record profit of $10 Billion in the first quarter of this year. That provides an un-named politician with fodder about "taking on the greedy oil companies."

But Exon Mobil also had record sales in the first quarter, so I would rather hope that they made record profits. When you are operating a business and have stockholders, profit is a good thing. Excess profit might not be good for society, but merely knowing the amount of an oil company's profit does not really tell us much about that company's way of doing business.

In fact, Exon Mobil's net profit after taxes of $10.3 Billion represents just 9.3% of its sales, which does not strike me as an outrageous profit margin at all. Nor does it seem that the company is very successful at dodging the tax man, since it paid 46% of its income in income taxes.

Exon Mobil also has a huge investment in equipment and real property to provide that income, and it turns out that the supposedly usurious profit is reaping them a whopping 8.0% annualized return on that investment; nice, but hardly outrageous.

So, what exactly is all of the uproar about?

Coolest Site Ever

Coolest siteI spent about half an hour longer than I meant to here.

Fewer Jobs = Lower Unemployment

Yes, we performed that seeming miracle last month, and our Beloved Great White Father in Washington even spoke cheerfully about it in a press conference yesterday. He is giving almost daily press conferences now, presumably to give himself something to do, or perhaps to give the press something to do.

So how do we reduce jobs by 20,000, add an unknown (but not small) number of people to the population, and reduce the percentage of the population which is unemployed? Well, there are several methods.

There is a time limit for unemployment benefits, and right now jobs are becoming really hard to find. If your time limit for benefits runs out and you have not found a job, you are no longer unemployed. What you are may feel a lot like unemployment, in that you are not working and you have no income, but you are not unemployed because the government no longer counts you in the percentage of unemployed. This is the big method; lots of people are banging up against the time limit on unemployment benefits without finding new jobs.

Periodically during your unemployment benefit period you get asked if you are looking for work. Some people are honest enough to admit, "Oh, hell no, I gave up weeks ago." They live in a small town and have already applied and been turned down for all of the town's twelve job openings. Their unemployment benefits are terminated and, you guessed it, they are no longer unemployed.

Some jobs are seasonal. Fishermen can work only during the fishing season, for instance, so they do other things during the off season. These days those "other things" jobs have dried up so the fisherman don't get any work during the off season but they are not unemployed, they are "seasonally adjusted." Seasonal adjustment provides neither activity or income, but it is not unemployment.

Some people look for work but can't find any but are not unemployed because, while they do not have a job, they do have a husband and five children. I think the term for these is "second careerists" or something like that, but they are not considered unemployed because the government doesn't think they are really serious about working. They were just looking for a hobby, you know; a hobby to replace the job that their husband got laid off from. The husband is unemployed (for a while anyway), but the wife is not.

So only 5% of the country is unemployed, while a larger portion has no job and no income. How much larger nobody knows. Which is, of course, the whole point.

And Inflation Drops
While the price of gasoline went from $3.10 to $3.85 (in San Diego), inflation dropped from 4.28% to 3.98% in this country. The cost of everything else must have dropped a lot, right?

Well, no, the price of gasoline isn't accounted for in the inflation index. No matter what portion of your budget it represents, when it rises from $1.20 where it was at the beginning of the current administration to $3.65 where it is now, fully tripling in price, it has no effect whatever on the inflation index.

The government doesn't include the cost of any form of energy when calculating the inflation index. So when you see the electric bill go up (mine has more than doubled since 2001) and the natural gas bill go up (mine has tripled in that same period), don't see that as part of inflation. It isn't.

People are paying more at the grocery store, too, a lot more. Most would say we're paying more than a 5% increase at the grocery store, and they would be right. Food is another thing that is omitted from the inflation index.

Food and energy are omitted because they are "too volatile" to be included. (Of course, they were included for many years, but...) The real reason they were removed, by Nixon if memory serves, is because their costs were rising too fast at the time and were making the overall number look bad.

Interestingly, the two commodities that we cannot avoid buying are excluded from the inflation index. That index includes things like toys, carpets, new furniture and everything else that is entirely optional in life.

Someone once pointed out that if we measured them today as we did in 1973 then both unemployment and inflation would be in double digits. I suspect that is actually quite true, but no politician is willing to let that sort of thing become public knowledge.

Because then the public would know they screwed up with their votes.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Congress At Work

Since food prices have risen so high and farmers’ income is at its highest level ever, Congress is working feverishly on passage of the Farm Bill. Yes, that’s the bill that will provide billions in federal money to farmers, whose products are selling at all-time high prices, and whose profits are the highest they’ve been in many decades.

Home builders, construction workers, and retailers of products related to the building industry are at the lowest they’ve been in memory and are going bankrupt in droves, but Congress has not even conceived a bill to assist any of these groups at this point.

According to McClatchey News yesterday,
The specialty crop funding includes $499 million for a block grant program. The money will be distributed among all 50 states for help with marketing, promotion and food safety, among other efforts. In a separate research chapter, negotiators included $230 million for specialty crop research.

Why do our tax dollars fund “marketing and promotion” of any product at all? Let alone the product of an industry that is currently operating at record profit levels?

Congress is contributing long hours and great effort to this bill,
Congressional negotiators anticipated working into the night Thursday, though final approvals won't come until budget numbers are firmed up next week.

A bill which “will easily exceed 1,000 pages when all is said and done.”

No apparent progress on a housing relief bill, or on any kind of sensible energy policy bill, or on a bill to end a multi-dimensionally costly war which is not accomplishing its stated purpose (a purpose which changes frequently), nor on any kind of bill to reasonably re-regulate our financial sector, or on a bill to restore privacy to communication

No effort to even start a bill to end torture, or to restore the integrity of habeas corpus, or to prevent detention without charge or representation, or a bill to restore integrity to the Department of Justice.

None of those bills is important. The Farm Bill, which gives away money to people (currently wealthy people) who a) vote and b) provide campaign contributions is important.

That’s the Democratic Congress, which we elected to solve all of the problems that were being caused by having the Republicans in control. Remember that the next time you think that the problems this country faces will be solved simply by electing a Democrat, any Democrat, to the office of President.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Batting Zero

In an expedition that MSNBC labeled “Theatre of the Absurd,” Senator Clinton experienced a gas tank fillup and made the following remark, among others,
"I am tired of OPEC setting the price and determining how much supply there is, by any definition that is a monopoly."

Senator Clinton is not exactly renowned for the precision of her statements, but even for her this one is a little loose, and in more than one dimension.

The precise mechanism by which she thinks OPEC sets the price is left unclear by her statement, and would probably be of interest to the New York Mercantile Exchange or the Intercontinental Exchange which are under the impression that they actually set the price of oil. They will probably be a bit surprised to find out that it’s OPEC doing it without their knowledge.

OPEC sets production quotas for its members, but quite a few members get greedy on a regular basis and break those quotas. So OPEC can’t really determine how much OPEC supply there is, let alone how much world supply there is.

When I want the definition of a word I usually go to, and they define “monopoly” as follows,
Exclusive control by one group of the means of producing or selling a commodity or service

As of March 2008, OPEC controlled 35.6% of world oil production. That’s about, um, 65.4% short of a monopoly. In terms of the portion of the market it needs to control it’s about 200% short of a monopoly.

Perhaps she meant to say that OPEC has a monopoly as a supplier of oil to this country.

The largest supplier to this country is, oops, Canada. Last year the second largest was Mexico, but they are in third place this year. Unless Canada and Mexico joined OPEC when nobody was looking, two out of three of the largest suppliers of foreign oil to this country are not members of OPEC.

Here, too, OPEC is about 200% short of a monopoly.

So of the three parts of Senator Clinton’s complaint, precisely zero of them were accurate. Even for her that’s a pretty low batting average.