My car uses diesel fuel. On a recent drive down from Roseville (north of Sacramento) to L.A., I passed big truck stops with prices of $6.60/gal. and lots of smaller vendors with $6.00 fuel. Notice that the large, chain vendors with mass purchasing power had the highest fuel prices. They also get the benefit of government subsidized, easy off-on freeway access to drivers.
We taxpayers subsidize them while they charge the highest prices. Capitalism.
On the same drive, the news and business reports reminded me that months before Czar Vlad invaded Ukraine, the big oil corporations were reporting about $200 BILLION in PROFITS, not gross income, but net profits, for 2021.
Less reported in the corporate “liberal media,” is the fact that the Biden administration has issued thousands of drilling permits for oil lease holders to drill on public lands, but holders of those permits have decided not to drill. And that oil corporations have the right and power to drill on private lands without government permits, but are choosing not to do so.
The rightwing blathersphere keeps whining that Biden has cut off U.S. oil production. He’s done this, they say, by shutting down a pipeline that wasn’t yet built, and that was designed to transport Canadian oil to the gulf of Mexico to be refined and exported - never to be sold in the United States. They don’t mention the oil corporations’ refusal to drill for U.S. oil using the permits and private access they already have.
But some Democratic candidates are beginning to talk about such things. They are breaking from the Democratic Party discipline of not criticizing corporate donors, and talking directly to people about things that affect their wallets. This is good news, and would be better if more liberals and progressives worked on spreading it.
We hear terrible things about how Czar Vlad is shutting down or censoring any dissenting press in Russia, and targeting journalists in Ukraine who are reporting the facts of his invasion of that small democracy. But how different is that from corporate “liberal media” voluntarily refraining from criticizing Big Oil? In Russia, journalists have to worry about not-so-secret police coming after them if they report the wrong things. In the USA, journalists have to worry about advertising being pulled if they report on problems with advertisers’ products.
Problems caused for autocrats, present and aspiring, by independent journalism is why agencies like NPR and the BBC are under attack by anti-accuracy and anti-democratic forces. It is the same reason that public schools are under attack here in the USA and where ever populations are trying to throw off colonial or imperial rule. An educated, informed population is always a threat to people who would be rulers.
Which brings us back to fuel prices and the oil companies’ new twist on war profiteering. The corporations spend millions paying liars to blame their high profits on Czar Vlad’s new war. But to some extent it doesn’t matter. Some states and municipalities are bypassing the who-caused-what debate and moving directly to solutions. Good news.
Across the nation, states and cities are installing electric vehicle charging stations. In their greed, the oil corporations are funding a new “Field of Dreams” moment - if you build it, the electric car drivers will come. PG&E and So. Cal. Edison are in the business of renting electrons to people. No electric company is going to say, “No, we can’t supply enough to meet the demand.”
Using artificially raised prices to raid drivers’ pockets, the oil companies push more people to look at electric cars and trucks. By installing more charging stations, cities and states give people confidence that an electric car will be practical. And once people start experiencing the vastly lower operating and maintenance costs of electric vehicles, more will join the bandwagon. The cleaner air and reduced public infrastructure maintenance on everything affected by oil will be less obvious, but important background effects of the short term greed of the oil giants. More good news from a bad situation,
Similarly unintended good news is emerging from Czar Vlad’s invasion of Ukraine. It turns out that the ferocious, frightening Soviet bear has clay feet. We’ve been taught for decades that Russia was our greatest threat. We’ve been told that we had to throw trillions of dollars at war profiteers to build fantasy war toys to defend us from the threat of communist domination.
Now Ukrainian civilians are using off-the-shelf drones similar to what children can buy at Costco, to deliver deadly explosives against Russian troop and supply convoys. Sure, the Ukrainian army is also deploying U.S. Javelin and Stinger missiles against heavy armor and aircraft. But like the Vietnamese peasants with WW-I era bolt-action rifles, the Ukrainians are reminding us that local patriotism can be a potent force against high tech colonial powers.
We have been taught to be scared, to be terrified. And in our terror, to lavish our tax dollars on corporations that promise to deliver war toys that will protect us, or at least assure us of vengeance after any feared attack. But what are we learning? It wasn’t necessary.
Russian troops are not being fed, or equipped with proper clothing. Why? Because Czar Vlad’s kleptocracy has diverted funds from modernization projects and supply contracts. This is the same kleptocracy, but in a different language, that led our Pentagon’s contract colonels to approve slapping a “milspec” label on a $49.95 Mr. Coffee machine, thus justifying a Pentagon price of $15,000, for use ‘near’ war zones. This is the same kleptocracy, in a different language, that led the Pentagon to buy counterfeit helicopter and other aircraft parts from Chinese factories, with no oversight over material or machining quality.
The Russian army is bogged down in Ukrainian mud, with vehicles running out of fuel, because the big terrifying Soviet army isn’t run on military principles but on the need to please an unstable führer / Czar. Of all nations, the one which beat Hitler’s invasion force in WW-II should know the folly of obeying the führer rather than experienced military planners. But the lessons of obeisance to the man, rather that science or strategy just repeat through history. The good news here - the KGB superspy, who has the Donald wrapped around his finger, turns out to be a common thug, with little more understanding of history than the Donald, and is as much a slave to ego as the Donald.
After the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, experts studying the aftermath revealed that a major problem for first responders was that each individual agency had its own, proprietary radio frequencies, and no one had implemented contingency planning to coordinate communications during emergencies. Rudy Giuliani was New York’s mayor back then. Now, more that 20 years later, New York has still not organized such emergency communications plans.
As ridiculous as it may sound, intelligence reports say that the Russian military launched an invasion without systems to coordinate communications, and with “high security, encrypted” radio systems that could not communicate with actual troops in the field. This is the terrifying Russian bear that was supposed to be such a threat - not learning from U.S. post-9/11 mistakes. The terrifying Russian bear sounds more and more like a paper tiger.
Of course, Czar Vlad may have thought that he could communicate needed orders to his troops in Ukraine by simply telling them to watch Fox News. Which leads us to the good news that Fox News, by embracing Czar Vlad as a sort of unprincipled colonial war monger role model for Republican Party extremists, may have inflicted a grievous self wound.
Americans seemed to line up behind Ukraine, even before the kleptocracy crippled Russian army got bogged down. As Tucker Carlson lavished praise on Czar Vlad, civilian deaths mounted. As Ukrainians stood up willing to die for freedom, Fox News gave a platform for eight Republican congress people to align their party with Czar Vlad’s stumbling efforts, looking so much like the loud braying of American rightwingers in 1940 who called for us to join with Hitler.
It will be good news IF Democrats and other patriotic citizens spread the word that such Republicans are not only out of touch with reality, but also that a Republican victory in the midterm elections will bring us closer to such kleptocratic autocracy in the USA.