Saturday, October 08, 2005

Energy Hog Feeds On You

The GOP muscle in Congress has given the oil companies more tax breaks so they don't have to spend their record profits to invest in the creation of more oil refineries in the U.S. The House vote was supposed to take 5 minutes, but was held open for 50 minutes so they could get passage of a bill, which hopefully the Senate will kill, but more likely they'll just trim the edges. It echoes the rule-twisting vote in July on CAFTA.

2004 profits for ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, and ConocoPhillips broke records across all industries. In fact, last year, at over $25 billion, ExxonMobil booked the highest profit of any company in any year in history. Yet, oil company memos show that they made part of these profits by constraining refining capacity to drive up prices. These record profits have not only more than doubled CEO salaries, but they have driven up political contributions, a staggering $450 million in the past six years. So, while consumers are paying at the pump, oil companies are getting billions in tax breaks and sweetheart deals from the Bush administration and their congressional allies." via American Progress.

Add to this the most idiotic public service campaign I've ever seen from the Department of Energy, with the stupifying and ridiculous "Energy Hog" as emblem of conservation. It's aimed at children, ages 8 to 13, as if THEY were the ones who are the Real Power behind high energy prices. It is sponsored by the DOE, Home Depot, The North American Insulation Manufacturers, the National Fuel Fund Network, as well as about 20 state energy offices.

The hog is chowing down - on you.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Camera Obscura - And Now, The News

First, the news - "Stately Wayne Manor" is still standing. Early reports cited that the house once used as the home of the 60s TV version of "Batman" had been gutted by fire, but turns out the fire destroyed another house.

In other superhero news, it turns out that Nicolas Cage is Superman's father!! Yes, Kal-El is a member of the Coppola family. I wonder if that means Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes expected child will be named Lex Luthor?

David Straithairn as Edward R. Murrow

Since we're on television topics, one movie on its way to theatres now captures a tense and terrifying time, which echoes our own current plight - a nation terrified and the media's fear to speak opinions outside the approved talking points. "Good Night and Good Luck" is a tour de force based on journalist Edward R. Murrow's volatile collision with a legendary liar, Sen. Joe McCarthy in the early 50s. Actor David Stratharin brings life to Murrow thought McCarthy is instead played by himself via existing TV footage. Smoky, jazzy, and black and white, the movie by director/actor George Clooney has a little budget and rave reviews.

As the current networks struggle to deal with the losses of all its major news anchors - Jennings, Rather, Koppel, Brokaw - and the endless rapid-rerun cable news, Clooney brings a reminder of just how television got it's chops. Comparing the ultra-cool savvy of Murrow to today's crowd of shrill talking-heads reveals a benchmark level of intelligence and truthfulness that has somehow slipped away.

It isn't easy to make a movie about the news biz that has the knack for grabbing and audience, and one of my favorites is the 1931 classic, "Five Star Final." Made in grade-A, Pre-Code style by director Mervyn LeRoy, the movie was nominated for a Best Picture and showcased a new rising star, Edward G. Robinson. With machine-gun dialog and editing, the story follows a rotten newspaper staff as they dish up dirt on a 20-year old murder case to increase sales.

Sordid, tasteless and cruel, the newspaper operations are ghoulish and the shock of this old murder case literally takes lives as the movie unspools. Hollywood has yet to top this one and it has a hard-boiled, gritty and nearly documentary-level reality that can rattle any audience.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Job Growth Puts TN 43rd

Tennessee ranks 43rd in the nation when it comes to Job Growth, according to the latest FDIC study, as is noted in Facing South in a post by R. Neal. The state is still tops in the nation (again) when it comes to personal bankruptcy filings. As I reported in earlier posts, the unemployment rate in the surrounding ET counties has been steady at 6 to 7% or higher.

And whatever you earn now, look for more tax hikes and tax bites out of your pay. The school system wants a segregated "international" school it can't pay for, which shifts the burden to county tax-payers, and the city won't even talk about it unless the county commits to funding it. The city is engaged in a wasteful $20 million creation of a cable, internet, and phone company to be operated by the utility system -- have you seen any ads for those jobs?? Nope. Guess they already know who they plan to hire. The latest stats on Bristol's jump into the media business show it's a huge loss:
Bristol, Virginia, operates a municipal communications utility that it launched in 2002. It’s had net operating losses and negative free cash flow each year, which isn’t surprising for a start-up.
What is surprising is the utility’s advertising, programming, and finance costs are all rising faster than expected, making it unlikely it will ever achieve positive free cash flow. It was originally funded by a $15 million revenue bond issue, then refunded in 2004 at $27.5 million, it has borrowed $14.9 million from the electric utility, and it has had operating losses (including cost of capital and interest) of $8.6 million so far." via The Heartland Institute.

And before anyone tells you different, let me state is plainly - I do promotional work for Charter Commnunications, hosting a question and answer program with Charter executives about local issues and general questions about their operations. I am not a paid employee. And yes, this blog is monitored by certain local officials who fear the facts.
That said, if anyone wants to hire me, I am available and searching for jobs, like many many others in Tennessee.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

There's a Bomb in Your Mouth?

I don't know which is stranger -- the idea of telling people you have a bomb in your mouth as you attempt to rob a bank, or the picture with that story of an explosives robot probing that same dude's mouth.

Taxpayers often know their money goes down the drain, but sometimes the drain itself is a tax recipient. That is one expensive pay toilet.

It also appears that the courts are trying to figure out when, if, or how the name Bill Monroe can be used. Maybe there's a bluegrass song that can explain it all.

Since we're on the subject of music, Sen. Bill Frist somehow managed to sell off his shares of the Jim Reeve's Museum just a week before it was demolished. Sen. Frist, under investigation by the SEC for selling stocks in his daddy's company, apparently became a fan of the legendary Reeves in college and even got tagged with the nickname "sweet lips," after a line from the tune "He'll Have To Go", according to the Nashville Scene. (OK, that one is in The Fabricator section, so it's, well, you know, fabricated. But all the other ones today are real.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Supreme Cronyism

The president's nomination for the next Supreme Court justice has to be a joke, right? Or pure distraction from all the Bad News over the GOP's corrupt leadership? Maybe a distraction from the 2nd indictment against Rep. Tom DeLay?

Other than being an office-bound ally for first Governor and then President Bush, what knowledge does the nominee have about the Constitution? She's been an attorney, head of the Texas Lottery Corp., and a "pit-bull" in the Bush corner. Yeesh.

What has she done with her career?

Miers also introduced Bush to Alberto Gonzales, who served as Bush's counsel in Austin and later in Washington, before being named U.S. attorney general.

During Bush's first term as governor, Gonzales used information turned up by Miers to persuade a local judge to excuse Bush from jury duty, a civic task that would have forced him to disclose his 1976 arrest for drunken driving in Maine. The incident was not divulged until the waning days of Bush's 2000 campaign for the White House."

Other than the achievement of knowing President Bush, this attorney isn't exactly setting the world on fire.

Which One Are You?

After the last few weeks and months of constant bickering and whining by the political parties about who is to blame for one issue or another, I think it is more clear than ever that our current two-party domination of politics is broken and can't correct itself. The constant fundraising excludes any participant not a millionaire, million-dollar fundraiser, lobbyist, or large corporate company. Too often the issue gets ignored and the argument is made that a vast right-wing or left-wing conspiracy is the source of the problem and WHOOSH -- the issue disappears as the elusive "wings" take flight.

I know there are centrists and extremists within both parties, and it has become an easy shorthand to say left, right, Democrat, Republican. Any non-party person who seeks office at any level has as much chance as a snowball in hell of just getting on a ballot. The media - large and small - won't give them a sight of their sacred backsides. Ultimately, we are a people without real choice in elections. Some 15 years ago the nation was eyeing a third party and seeing some success, but that has become a joke. The Libertarian Party has been successful in very limited areas. As voters, we are left with a shrill debate that plays more like a Third grade "Did!" and "Did not!" screaming fit.

I have friends in both parties and they too feel these constrictions, and that should concern us all.

Over the weekend, I noticed some blog folks were using a "test" from an online dating company called OkCupid (sorry, no link for you on my site) to discover their political place. Yeah, if they can get you a date then OF COURSE they can help you define your political views. Yeah, sure.

Let's be honest, here. The corruption is thick and reform is a buzz-word signifying nothing. Think I'm wrong? Then look at this page, which though written in humor, reveals the Third grade argument in clear form. And it should tell you we need some fresh options instead of the exact same debates served up again and again and again and again.