Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Brazilian asks, "why corn?"

Posed by our Brazilian friend:

I just read an interesting article (in Portuguese, I'm sorry) comparing the sugar cane alcohol (biodiesel) produced and used in Brazil and the one produce in the US based on corn.

Bottomline: the sugar cane alcohol is cheaper to produce (R$ 0.35 per liter vs R$ 0.82 per liter), and not only that but the sugar cane alcohol production is about 500% more efficient than using corn.

The article is here if you want to try and babelfish-it...

Now, all that said, more than 30% of the sales of cars in the country are now bi-combustible ones (Gas and alcohol).

The same manufacturers producing these cars in Brazil exist in the US. Chevrolet, Ford, Volkswagen...

Why isn't sugar cane the actual option people are discussing, instead of corn? It is a renewable source, burns clean, performs reasonably well, and even if sugar cane can't be produced here, it could be imported cheap from several tropical nations - including Africa, which would help those nations get up on their feet.

Why the discussion is kept on corn?

ZadPolBlog response:

Why keep the discussion on corn? Duh, because it wouldn't be a viable solution. Remember the correlation between election poll results and the terror alert levels? The motivation is distraction, not solutions.

There is a GREAT motivation to keep us on foreign oil. There are occasional distraction sound bites sent out to the contrary, but the forces at work are firmly entrenched in power. The free market is NOT allowed to operate in this area, and besides, a real solution needs focus like a Manhattan Project or TVA. Current leadership is not interested in the long-term health of the populace.

The corn talk around here is for producing ethanol, not biodiesel, AFAIK. To me this sounds like a fine experiment and area to explore, has modest potential benefit, but is not a solution. Neither is sugar cane in this climate. There are other crops that would make much more sense and need less tending because they're weeds, not higher-maintenance grass like corn. Plus, this doesn't have to be done exclusively on a industrial farm scale. Just like farmers bring their loads to large, central grain elevator, anyone with land should be able to grow these weed crops on part of their land and exchange them for energy. That would work, but requires central organization. I could imagine a leader like Gore having the guts to initiate this, but clearly not the sludge currently in power. Instead we get tax breaks for Hummers, tax subsidies to big oil companies despite their record-setting profits and reduced emission and mileage standards for frivolous SUVs.

There is great potential in used veggie oil to create homebrewed biodiesel as a partial solution. There can be industrial digester to turn slaughterhouse and other bio waste (or infected animals instead of feeding their matter to healthy animals) into hydrocarbons that can also be used in diesel engines.

There is also a solution in the works - cold fusion. Like Kyoto, you can imagine what the motivation for pulling the US out of that was.

Remember, most large cities in this country had streetcars. They were efficient and cost-effective for cities. One by one, they were (almost) all ripped out due to the purchase of politicians by oil and rubber companies. We're still suffering the consequences of that, and the oil companies are stronger than ever to the point where they can effectively get the US Army deployed just to secure more reserves to further increase their profits.

november election reflection

4/24/06 banter between a few friends. Names removed, oh just cause...
1002 days left
That's when the shrub can go back to clearing brush on the texas plains.

I hope this email doesn't piss off (folk on mailing list), but I think it is important to take back the House of Reps this November. If you have the means and are interested in helping, out go to
and give a little bit.

Oh my election dilema will soon rear its ugly head again ... I want republicans out, but I really don't want to vote *for* democrats :: other than a handful of dems, I can't find much to recommend them (there are a smaller handful of republicans I might be able to support even).

Its the difference between voting against someone or voting for the opposition ...


Give me a representative government, and I wouldn't have to worry about throwing my vote away.
A desire for Nadar, fraudulent vote tallying, voter suppression and lying all worked together to give us 8 years of destroying our economy and environment for the future, inching us towards a police state, destroyed the outpouring of goodwill that the world had for us, oh shit could I go on and on...

The current state of the Dems are far from my idea of governmental utopia. But doing anything other than voting for them is de facto desiring to perpetuate the new neocon movement, and all that comes with it. There are many a good Republican, however, to a person they are too damn spineless - every single one of them, including McCain (remember the Bush camp's slander against him in the 2000 primary?) bowed to the will of the neocon agenda, even when it was against the fundamental best interests of their constituents and country. Rest assured, the neocon movement is not the shrub. Shrub is just a spokesperson for something much larger than he is, and that will continue well beyond 2008. Do NOT think that a GOP shrub replacement would be any different. They will find a new spokesperson and will NOT support someone of integrity, and they're in control of the GOP pursestrings.

Sorry, but to paraphrase the shrub, you're either against him, or you're with the neocon agenda.
I totally agree with ZadPolBlog, although I was going to put it much more succinctly:

If you think the Dems and Republicans are the same then I would say you haven't been paying attention the last 6 years. And while the Dems are far, far from perfect and generally spineless for fear of have the Rove smear machine unleashed on them, they are generally more moral and compassionate than the Republicans. It's not shades of grey to me.

ZadPolBlog is also right about the NeoCons - They've been at it a long time. The following letter should be read by everyone. Especially take a look at date it was written and the signers names at the bottom. Most of them are in the government now. It's no accident we went into Iraq; it's been in the works since at least 1998.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Social Security "Crisis"

"Social Security is bankrupt" is much like "Saddam is going to attack us with WMDs". It is a lie meant to stir deep emotions in order to override actual facts and common sense. Any claims that there is a crisis should be met with a skeptical eye for a hidden agenda. The plain truth is that if Social Security goes completly unchanged, it will continue to pay full benefits for 37 more years. That is a simple fact.

Yes, Social Security will not be able to indefinitely match the current rate of payout with its current intake. At the current rate, that will happen between 2042 and 2052. It can be solved by any one of several different means, and by "solved", I mean being put into the black permanently:
  • raise the cap on SSI tax withholding (i.e. the rich still don't have to pay as much, proportionalty, as the working class, but slightly closer to it)

  • repeal just 25% of Bush's tax cuts for the very weathiest of Americans

  • change the cost-of-living from wage-based to consumer-price-index-based

  • make small changes in retirement ages (i.e. cut benefits)

Social Security needs some updating. It does not need to be privatized. Privitization will cause three transfers:
  • Power from the people and government to corporate CEOs

  • Money from taxpayers to plan administrators

  • Retirees' faith from US government to the benevelence of Wall Street investment firms and plan administratiors

Would I prefer to have a private account instead of social security? You bet, I would profit from it. But the Social Security Administration is not supposed to be about bestowing profit on a few. It's supposed to be about … well, social security.
So, where is the financial crisis? Here's some perspective. The long-term cost of the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy is five times the budget office's estimate of Social Security's deficit over the next 75 years. Bush's 2003 prescription drug bill (designed to enrich drug companies, not help those who need medication) alone increases the deficit more than the projected rise in Social Security expenses.

See also
Some friends' discussion thread
CNN/Money: a brief summary
Motley Fool: myth busting
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: Bush's plan to cut 46% of benefits
Paul Krugman: health of social security
Wall Street Journal: Bush's hidden plan to cut benefits

(political cartoon credit to Steve Sack)


Just adding a little perspective on this topic, because it is misused so often.

Blood for oil is NOT pro-life. Crippling the search for a cure to cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes and Parkinson's is NOT pro-life. Demanding that blastocysts be destroyed rather than potentially benefit humanity through scientific research is NOT pro-life. The current incarnation of the Republican Party says they are "pro life" when it suits them politically, but the reality of their position is to be found in Iraq.

If you believe yourself to be pro-live and a Bush/GOP supporter, I humbly suggest that you need to rethink one of those ideals, because the simple fact is that they contradict each other.