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The Price of Gasoline Keeps Falling And My Spirits with It

5 December 2008

What’s wrong with the media?  As usual, they are covering the financial crisis that engulfs our nation and the world in only the most superficial way.

matthews-chris

Chris Matthews

David Gregory

David Gregory

Yesterday afternoon as I watched Hardball with Chris Matthews and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with David Gregory, I gathered two pieces of information that quickly emerged, then submerged.  The first was a little-known fact that even I, a Texan, was totally unaware of.  It was this:  Several Southern states, Texas among them, used taxpayer dollars to BUILD the Japanese auto assembly plants that are within their borders.  I am aware of this pass-along-to-the-taxpayer mentality that dominates a so-called conservative agenda in my region of the country.  Many years ago, when I lived in Corpus Christi, Texas, the Reagan Administration offered to make our little city a Home Port if we, the taxpayers, would pay up the money needed to build the necessary facilities.  We were bribed with the idea of job creation in what was then a bad economy for the oil states.

Oilers' Earl Campbell in Jan. 1980

Oilers' Earl Campbell in Jan. 1980

We have also seen this tactic used by our professional athletic team franchises.  We lost the Oilers to Tennessee because we in the City of Houston refused to build them a new stadium.  It seemed that the Eighth Wonder of the World, the Astrodome – the nation’s first – was unfit for them to play in.  So, the taxpayers of Tennessee were asked to pony up for a new stadium and facilities for what are now the Tennessee Titans.

Getting the message loud and clear, we football-crazy Houstonians were blackmailed by the NFL into building a new stadium right next to the Astrodome in order to get a new NFL franchise.  It should be noted that Los Angeles refused, citing that their historic two-time Olympic stadium, The Coliseum was quite sufficient.  We got the franchise, our Texans, and they are still the largest city in the US without an NFL team.

Houston Astrodome, new Reliant Stadium behind

Houston Astrodome, new Reliant Stadium behind

Lesson learned, the taxpayers of Houston have now paid for a new arena for our NBA franchise Rockets and a new ballpark for our Major League Astros to play in, leaving the Astrodome a largely small empty shell taking up parking space next to Reliant Stadium.  Now our Major Soccer League team is asking for a taxpayer-built stadium for their use.  Of course, lost in the deep desire to be supportive of athletics in our sports-crazed city, is the fact that each of the multi-million-dollar enterprises with their multi-million-dollar players/stars, are making a lot – I mean a LOT – of money, all on the backs of local taxpayers.  So the idea that Toyota and Honda would do the same thing across our region hardly seems noticeable.  But it does cast yet another light on the hypocrisy being practiced by our elected officials and the New York/Washington media.

200299895-001The other story was actually more troubling to me due to the fact that I had suspected as much but had managed to maintain a certain level of denial up to that point.  It seems that due to the drop in gasoline prices, the only American-made automobiles flying off the dealership lots are gas-guzzling SUVs.  OUCH!  Here we go, again!  That story plunged me into a deep funk that has lasted well into this morning. I might have felt better if it had been

Tucker Carlson and Elena Grineko

Tucker Carlson and Elena Grineko

mentioned again today – either story – but it was not to be. The nattering nabobs over at Morning Joe just kept saying exactly the same things they have been saying for weeks now on the whole issue of autos and the economy as a whole.  Tucker Carlson, who I think was separated somehow from his idiot sister Sarah Palin somewhere along the line (IQs don’t lie!) – actually defended the God-given right of Americans to “drive gas guzzlers that get four miles per gallon.”  He ranted that it was all the Government’s fault that Detroit was failing because of fuel efficiency standards.  At least the idiot is consistent.  I wish we could vote him off all of television as easily as the viewers did in the first round of Dancing With The Stars.  Now, that might REALLY start to lift my spirits.

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL)

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL)

On a morning when there was a report that 533,000 more jobs have been lost in our nation, Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), stood firm on his demands that Detroit be denied any government support while dismissing the self-interest of his own state’s Japanese auto industry, which I now know the taxpayers of Alabama subsidized to begin with.  Can you say, HYPOCRISY?  I knew that you could.  That 533,000 job loss represents the greatest single-month figure since 1974.  As one who ate a lot of peanut butter sandwiches in 1974,

Talking with the folks there, it seemed the explanation for at least some people was that they had lost everything, including their identification. They couldn't work without ID, and couldn't afford the fees to get new ID. Many of the people had been made homeless by the hurricane.  My impression overall is that much of New Orleans is not being rebuilt at this point due primarily to political problems - lack of federal action, and local race/class political dynamics (there are people who would like to see the poor neighborhoods redeveloped for a pretty different demographic than lived there before).

They had lost everything, including their identification. They couldn't work without ID, and couldn't afford the fees to get new ID. Many of the people had been made homeless by the hurricane. My impression overall is that much of New Orleans is not being rebuilt at this point due primarily to political problems - lack of federal action, and local race/class political dynamics (there are people who would like to see the poor neighborhoods redeveloped for a pretty different demographic than lived there before).

I can assure you that times were pretty tough back then.  It also boosted the unemployment percentage for our nation to 6.8%.  That’s not good, especially considering that the number only represents the number of Americans – real people, I might add – who are currently receiving unemployment compensation, leaving out of the report those who have exhausted that benefit.  Lots of people like to talk about how we’re not at the Great Depression levels of unemployment, but we don’t really know how many people are unemployed.

I will end on the one bright spot in this morning’s offerings on Morning Joe.  The author of the Book, “The Green Collar Economy,” Van Jones was a guest.  He is an advocate of harnessing the wind corridor that runs down the center of our nation as the answer to our economic woes.  He pointed out that the manufacturing of the windmills needed to generate all that energy could be done by American workers right here in America.

Van Jones

Van Jones

He also pointed out that those gigantic “propeller stacks” are made of steel, which would revive our steel industry.  Oilman/billionaire T. Boone Pickens has been pushing this idea in a big, public way for a few months now.  And perhaps this is truly part of the over-all solution we need in this nation.  BUT what we really need is LEADERSHIP in our nation.  61% of Americans surveyed oppose a “bailout” for Detroit because they have not kept up with Japanese technology on fuel efficiency, yet yesterday I learned that people who can actually afford to buy an automobile right now prefer an SUV.  The one thing that George W. Bush had right was his assertion that “America is addicted to oil.”  Of course, he didn’t do anything except enable that addiction under his watch in support of his cronies in Big Oil.  Now, with a dip in gasoline prices, once again our inner addict is craving the old drug of choice and rejecting any attempt to intervene.  May God help us!  We may be hopelessly lost.

Transit Station

Transit Station

The one thing I didn’t count on when I moved myself and Mrs. Jack up here to the country was the idea that gasoline would rise so precipitously and we would be so far from the nearest bus stop.  But the high price of gasoline eventually convinced me to stop at the transit center nine miles down the road toward Houston and catch a bus the rest of the way when necessary.  I actually enjoy riding the bus.  It’s very stress free compared to fighting my way through all those SUVs into Houston.  I don’t, by the way, drive an SUV, but most suburbanites and x-urbanites who commute to Houston every day do.  While gasoline was spiking over four dollars a gallon, the commuter busses were filling up with commuters who left their SUVs out here, but the numbers are down again, now that gas is well below two dollars a gallon.

metrorail-car-houstonHow in the world, without leadership, will we ever become sane about our fuel consumption in this nation?  President-Elect Obama, this question is directed at you.  This is your BIG chance to make some REAL CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN.  When gasoline was over four dollars a gallon I dreamed of a REAL mass-transit system for big cities in the Southwest like Houston and San Antonio – Dallas is actually responding ahead of the curve on this one.  We down here in Houston HATE Dallas, and they hate us right back.  But that’s a column for another day.  When I lived in London, I found The Tube, as they call their subway system, the greatest transportation value I had ever experienced.  And it was quick and easy.  I never

london-underground-tube-map_1_

London Underground System - Click to Enlarge

missed not having a car.  Boy, those were the good old days.  But now I live nine miles from the nearest bus stop.  That’s not adequate.  So, President-Elect Obama when you’re doling out some of that stimulus money, could you designate a portion for cities like Houston to build a workable mass transit system?  We have started but have an expensive, long way to go.  And would you stand up to the Tom De Lay’s of the world who get in the way.  We would have been a lot further along the way here in Houston if Congressman De Lay hadn’t blocked a rail line to his constituents in Sugar Land, Texas, replacing it with a toll road instead.  I think his rabid support for BIG OIL had something to do with it.

waving-wheat-02As far as wind energy, one of my fondest memories is of my childhood spent on the prairies north of Oklahoma City.  I remember running on a sun-drenched day through the open fields with the wind blowing in my face and through my hair.  This memory is probably bogus because my wind-cornfieldFather “burred” my hair off from March to November, but the memory persists and seems real.  I know from that memory that the wind never stops blowing there and could produce an endless supply of electricity for our nation if we would put it to use.  We must get started today.  We have no time to waste.

So wind energy and a public transportation system that would rescue me and thousands more of a similar mind from dependence on the Middle East or Detroit tops my early Christmas List.  How about it, Santa Obama?  I tried to be a good boy this year.

KEEP FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT!

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. 5 December 2008 2:25 pm

    Ford will build an electric rechargeable plug in car in China

    BUT NOT IN AMERICA!!!!

    MORE at http://www.blog.franklynch.org

    And at my Presidential Page http://www.franklynch.org

    I like your blog

    want to reciprocally exchange links?

    • Left-Eyed Jack permalink*
      5 December 2008 6:47 pm

      To: franklynchusa,

      I hope you’re wrong about the China thing. But I always distrust corporate America. They don’t seem to have the best interest of the people at heart in any way.

      I would be happy to exchange links with you.

      Welcome aboard!

  2. 5 December 2008 11:31 pm

    Jack,

    I finally think I have run out of words and that is something that never happens to me. The hypocrisy and double standards that exist out there never fail amaze me. It is always about half stories and half truths or simply filtered down to what people really want to hear. We have a long rode ahead of us but thankfully we now have people like you to straighten us out with the whole truth. Another great Left-eyed Jack post.

    ( I guess I still had a few words left )

    • Left-Eyed Jack permalink*
      7 December 2008 4:32 pm

      To: Willpen,

      And good words they were, too! You are not alone.

      KEEP FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT!

  3. Frank LI,NY permalink
    8 December 2008 12:32 pm

    We have one of the highest elec. rates in the country, and ocean breezes just about everyday. To harness the wind for our electrical needs would be an absolute plus, BUT! The “not in my backyard” mentality is alive and well.

    Not much different than buying an SUV, I guess.

    • Left-Eyed Jack permalink*
      8 December 2008 12:42 pm

      To: Frank LI,NY:

      You are so right. There are too many people who want others to have a windmill in their backyard and a fuel-efficient car in their driveway but make excuses for their own lack of action. That’s why we are desperate for leadership in this country.

      Thanks for stopping by and adding your comment. Perhaps someone will come up with some way to “pretty up” those wind machines.

      KEEP FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT!

  4. Frank LI,NY permalink
    8 December 2008 12:52 pm

    Actually, I think they are kind of soothing to watch. Then again, I’m easily amused. hehe

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