Thursday, May 29, 2008

Exxon Mobil CEO Takes Aim at Environmentalists

DALLAS -- Rex Tillerson, chairman and chief executive of Exxon Mobil Corp., the world's largest oil-and-gas company, came out swinging Wednesday against the environmental movement, arguing the science of climate change is far from settled and that his company views it as its "corporate social responsibility" to continue to supply the world with fossil fuels.

Speaking to reporters after the annual meeting of shareholders, at which much-publicized proposals by the Rockefeller family calling for new investment in renewable energy received little support, Mr. Tillerson also said he expects little delay in the $8-billion Kearl oilsands project in Alberta, after a court challenge by environmental organizations this month resulted in the withdrawal of a key federal permit, halting important work.

"I am optimistic that the permit will be restored and we'll be able to get back on track with very little loss to the schedule," he said. "My understanding is that the project ... has been given a very high priority by the government of Canada and is moving along at a fairly rapid pace." Exxon Mobil owns Kearl with its Canadian affiliate, Imperial Oil Ltd.

Read More.......

Sunday, May 25, 2008

My View on Drugs.....

I have been getting emails asking about my drug references. I want to clarify, I do not do drugs, just smoke weed and to me weed is a plant.....Google it.

As Katt Williams says, it ain't no drug. Drugs you have to do things too. Weed just grows that way.

I think no kids who enjoy the scene should be doing the drugs like everyone else is. Especially the XTC. That stuff is made in labs by college kids and you never know what you are eating. Too dangerous.

Now I will not lie, I have taken XTC, but I do not suggest it to anyone. It is a horrible drug that has side effects that we do not truly know about yet. Shit, in a few years we may have a whole generation of adults with violent shakes. We do not know.......

Now, weed has been around for thousands of years, and until the industrial revolution was legal. During WW I & II farmers were ordered to grow it for rope and other things that could be made from it. It was big oil and big fabric companies that lobbied to get the plant illegal. It was corporate America's choice, not the people's that weed would become a drug.

To me, until you stop selling cigarettes, alcohol and other addictive, body destroying chemicals legally, you cannot tell me to not smoke weed. Weed is the less of my worries about what I have put in my body. Shit, some of the food I have eaten is probably more lethal than the weed.

So again, I do not do drugs..............just weed................and these damn cigarettes which are a REAL drug. Cigarettes are 17 times more addictive than heroin, and they are legal!

Dan the Man

With Energy Fears Looming, New Survivalists Prepare


BUSKIRK, N.Y. (AP) - A few years ago, Kathleen Breault was just another suburban grandma, driving countless hours every week, stopping for lunch at McDonald's, buying clothes at the mall, watching TV in the evenings.

That was before Breault heard an author talk about the bleak future of the world's oil supply. Now, she's preparing for the world as we know it to disappear.

Breault cut her driving time in half. She switched to a diet of locally grown foods near her upstate New York home and lost 70 pounds. She sliced up her credit cards, banished her television and swore off plane travel. She began relying on a wood-burning stove.

"I was panic-stricken," the 50-year-old recalled, her voice shaking. "Devastated. Depressed. Afraid. Vulnerable. Weak. Alone. Just terrible."

Convinced the planet's oil supply is dwindling and the world's economies are heading for a crash, some people around the country are moving onto homesteads, learning to live off their land, conserving fuel and, in some cases, stocking up on guns they expect to use to defend themselves and their supplies from desperate crowds of people who didn't prepare.

The exact number of people taking such steps is impossible to determine, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the movement has been gaining momentum in the last few years.

These energy survivalists are not leading some sort of green revolution meant to save the planet. Many of them believe it is too late for that, seeing signs in soaring fuel and food prices and a faltering U.S. economy, and are largely focused on saving themselves.

Some are doing it quietly, giving few details of their preparations - afraid that revealing such information as the location of their supplies will endanger themselves and their loved ones. They envision a future in which the nation's cities will be filled with hungry, desperate refugees forced to go looking for food, shelter and water.

"There's going to be things that happen when people can't get things that they need for themselves and their families," said Lynn-Marie, who believes cities could see a rise in violence as early as 2012.

Lynn-Marie asked to be identified by her first name to protect her homestead in rural western Idaho. Many of these survivalists declined to speak to The Associated Press for similar reasons.

These survivalists believe in "peak oil," the idea that world oil production is set to hit a high point and then decline. Scientists who support idea say the amount of oil produced in the world each year has already or will soon begin a downward slide, even amid increased demand. But many scientists say such a scenario will be avoided as other sources of energy come in to fill the void.

On the Web site, where upward of 800 people gathered on recent evenings, believers engage in a debate about what kind of world awaits.

Some members argue there will be no financial crash, but a slow slide into harder times. Some believe the federal government will respond to the loss of energy security with a clampdown on personal freedoms. Others simply don't trust that the government can maintain basic services in the face of an energy crisis.

The powers that be, they've determined, will be largely powerless to stop what is to come.

Determined to guard themselves from potentially harsh times ahead, Lynn-Marie and her husband have already planted an orchard of about 40 trees and built a greenhouse on their 7 1/2 acres. They have built their own irrigation system. They've begun to raise chickens and pigs, and they've learned to slaughter them.

The couple have gotten rid of their TV and instead have been reading dusty old books published in their grandparents' era, books that explain the simpler lifestyle they are trying to revive. Lynn-Marie has been teaching herself how to make soap. Her husband, concerned about one day being unable to get medications, has been training to become an herbalist.

By 2012, they expect to power their property with solar panels, and produce their own meat, milk and vegetables. When things start to fall apart, they expect their children and grandchildren will come back home and help them work the land. She envisions a day when the family may have to decide whether to turn needy people away from their door.

"People will be unprepared," she said. "And we can imagine marauding hordes."

So can Peter Laskowski. Living in a woodsy area outside of Montpelier, Vt., the 57-year-old retiree has become the local constable and a deputy sheriff for his county, as well as an emergency medical technician.

"I decided there was nothing like getting the training myself to deal with insurrections, if that's a possibility," said the former executive recruiter.

Laskowski is taking steps similar to environmentalists: conserving fuel, consuming less, studying global warming, and relying on local produce and craftsmen. Laskowski is powering his home with solar panels and is raising fish, geese, ducks and sheep. He has planted apple and pear trees and is growing lettuce, spinach and corn.

Whenever possible, he uses his bicycle to get into town.

"I remember the oil crisis in '73; I remember waiting in line for gas," Laskowski said. "If there is a disruption in the oil supply it will be very quickly elevated into a disaster."

Breault said she hopes to someday band together with her neighbors to form a self-sufficient community. Women will always be having babies, she notes, and she imagines her skills as a midwife will always be in demand.

For now, she is readying for the more immediate work ahead: There's a root cellar to dig, fruit trees and vegetable plots to plant. She has put a bicycle on layaway, and soon she'll be able to bike to visit her grandkids even if there is no oil at the pump.

Whatever the shape of things yet to come, she said, she's done what she can to prepare.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Federal Fingerprint Registry?

Fingerprints are considered to be among the most personal of information, and fingerprint databases created and proposed in the name of national security have generated much debate. Recently, “Server in the Sky” — a proposed international database of the fingerprints of suspected criminals and terrorists to be shared among the U.S., U.K. and Canada — has ignited a firestorm of controversy. As have cavalier comments by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff that fingerprints aren’t “personal data.”

Yet earlier this week, a measure creating a federal fingerprint registry totally unrelated to national security passed a U.S. Senate committee almost without notice. The legislation would require thousands of individuals working even tangentially in the mortgage and real estate industries — and not suspected of anything — to send their prints to the feds. The database and fingerprint mandates were tucked into housing and foreclosure assistance bills that on Tuesday passed the Senate Banking Committee by a vote of 19-2.

The measure the committee passed states that “an indvidual may not engage in the business of a loan originator without first … obtaining a unique identifier.” To obtain this “identifier,” an individual is requiredto “furnish” to the newly created Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System and Registry “information concerning the applicant’s identity, including fingerprints for submission” to the FBI and other government agencies.

The fingerprint provisions are contained in a “manager’s amendment” that was hammered out by committee Chairman Chris Dodd, D-Conn, and Ranking Member Richard Shelby, R-Ala., on Monday and attached the next day to a broader housing bailout bill that had been scheduled for a comittee vote. That bill, the “Federal Housing Finance Regulatory Reform Act of 2008,” expands the lending authority of the Federal Housing Administration and the government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to refinance the mortgages of troubled borrowers and banks.

The amendment adopted the fingerprint provisions in a section called the “S.A.F.E. Mortgage Licensing Act.” The fingerprints will be part of what the amendment calls “a comprehensive licensing and supervisory database.”

And the database would cover a broad swath of individuals involved with mortgage lending. The amendment defines “loan originator” as anyone who “takes a residential loan application; and offers or negotiates terms of a residential mortgage loan for compensation or gain.” It states that even real estate brokers would be covered if they receive any compensation from lenders or mortgage brokers. Since many jobs in both real estate and mortgage lending are part-time and seasonal, even some of the most minor players in the mortgage market may have to submit their prints.

Justifications listed in the bill for this database include “increased accountability and tracking of loan originators,” “enhance[d] consumer protection,” and “facilitat[ing] responsible behavior in the subprime mortgage market.”

I conducted a wide Internet search and found fingerprint provisions in some state bills, but I don’t know if any, or how many passed. But in my search, I could find no arguments explaining how, specifically, collecting the fingerprints of loan originators would better serve borrowers getting mortgages. I called the Senate Banking Committee asking this question, but my call has not been returned yet. (I will update OpenMarket readers when and if it is.)

I imagine that, yes, a fingerprint registry might stop an ex-con from handling loans, but I doubt it will make even a dent in the lending problems the bill aims to stop. And I would venture to guess that the vast majority of the problem mortages were handled by employees with no criminal record. Rather, this seem like another thoughtless idea that lets politicians brag that they are “getting tough” about a particular problem.

But this fingerprint database, in addition to the privacy violations, might create a host of new problems of mortgage fraud. Identity theft involving fingerprints is becoming a major concern among data security experts. Security consultant Bruce Schneier has argued that hackers can steal electronic images of fingerprints directly from the databases they are stored in. And there is virtually nothing in this bill about security procedures that would apply to this database.

It amazes me. We have wrenching debates about privacy and freedom vs. national security when it comes to proposed anti-terrorist programs. But then a smililar scheme is done in response to an economic problem, and it almost escapes without notice. A similar thing has happened with anti-money laundering requirements that mandate that banks effectively spy on their customers for possible violations of everything from drug laws to the tax code.

Carlos Mencia Steals Jokes

Friday, May 23, 2008

Is Every New Orleanian Deep Down a Libertarian?

According to this latest assessment of the Recovery by the national policy magazine, City Journal , New Orleans and its rebuilding successes show that…

“.....restoring neighborhoods is a job far better suited to citizens and organizations than to government. ” - City Journal

The piece goes on to explain where it thinks government should be more of a leader in areas like blighted properties and crime.

I’ve always found it fascinating how the battle of ideas constantly influx in Washington squared off time and time again in New Orleans over the last three years. From charter schools, to charity, to housing, and to law enforcement, it was a non-stop fight. Now, it seems some ideas are clearly winning out. This piece is a classic example (see Paul Vallas and charter schools for another).

I’m honestly not ready, however, to declare a winner or a loser, much less who I agree with more. I would point out that its only natural for the people of New Orleans who have been failed by government so catastrophically on multiple levels to lean towards the concepts of self-reliance and remain skeptical about government effectiveness in certain areas. Yet, that doesn’t mean we should all be ready to make New Orleans into Paulville either ( btw this is actually not a joke).

The glaring hole in the City Journal piece was a complete omission of the New Orleans communities that are still struggling (aside from a ‘yay for Brad Pitt’). It is likewise the glaring hole in the libertarian-esque argument championed by these prevailing policies and ideas in New Orleans schools, housing, and law enforcement. Why haven’t these great virtues of self-reliance, free-market forces, and choice worked as well for those communities ie for everybody? Before we can declare these ideals as universally superior over their competitors, it would seem to me that would need to be addressed. That or we would need to admit that these principles aren’t actually universal, mainly in those communities like most of New Orleans East, the Lower 9th Ward, and Central City.

My guess is that the answer lies somewhere in the subtler parts of the City Journal piece.

“True, a strong government role was necessary at first to set the stage for New Orleans’s progress. Federal agencies, especially the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Army Corps of Engineers, worked with contractors to clear millions of tons of debris from lawns and streets, unclog waterways, and provide trailers so that New Orleanians could live in their driveways while fixing their houses. They also repaired levees and are working on upgrading flood-control infrastructure in general—crucial steps in making homeowners more confident about weathering future hurricanes. But government, while critical for acute recovery, hasn’t driven the long-term rebuilding work.”

Mainly that one can embrace a shift in his/her relationship with government for a particular circumstance without embracing an entire political philosophy whose blueprint doesn’t ever provide a perfect fit for the real world. That goes either way, whether its libertarianism or big government liberalism.

Because while it may be a battle of ideas in Washington or in the City Journal, this stuff is real life in New Orleans.

Don't Drink the Milk

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I'm a Slacker...........

Political Quote from Katt Williams

"I'll say this white people. If there EVER was a nigga that you were going to vote for, THIS is the nigga to vote for this nigga cuz this is nigga light..."

- Katt Williams on Obama