Sunday, November 06, 2005

Brutally Honest Rant - 11/02/05

Brutally Honest Special: November Thoughts
Audio Transcripts

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(Computer: This week's program has been made possible thanks to...)
(Music intro: "Real American Remix 2" - by David Matthews 2)

Good evening, and welcome to this week's Brutally Honest Rant. I'm David Matthews 2, writer of the weekly online column Brutally Honest.

Well here it is, November... Halloween is behind us... the holidays are just about here... and there are two issues that I want to discuss tonight.

First up: the passing of Rosa Parks.

Rosa Parks died a few days ago, and I'm sure just about every air-fluffed reporter in America has told the story about how she as a black woman refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man. She got arrested for that, and that one event fifty years ago ignited the civil rights movement. And you know what? At the time it was the right thing to do! It was a battle worth fighting.

But I've got a few thoughts about that event that should be expressed.

First of all, this wasn't a woman who decided that she was going to change the world. She didn't believe that it was her mission in life to right the wrongs. She didn't wake up that morning and say "today I'm going to go to jail and make a spectacle of myself just so I could get some attention." She didn't oppose the law because she wanted to hear her name on radio and TV stations all across America! That's a certain quality that is absent in today's self-professed "social champions".

And yes, she refused to give up her seat because she was TIRED! Sure, this was a working woman who was working her fingers to the bone so she could help make ends meet, but it wasn't just about physical exhaustion. She was TIRED of the ABUSE. She was tired of the systematic abuse she got from the bus system and of that bus driver in particular. There was some bad history with that bus driver.

That's the other half of the story. The bus driver's name was James Blake, and on the day in question, he was an a-hole.

But more than that... James Blake was an agent of the GOVERNMENT. If you work for the municipal bus authority, then you're an agent of the government. Sure he worked for a company, but it was a company that still officially represented THE GOVERNMENT. That's what PUBLIC transportation is... it is GOVERNMENT transportation. So he essentially had a LICENSE to be an a-hole! He was allowed, as an representative of the government to set whatever rules he wanted to on that bus, and those rules could not be challenged or questioned. And in fact at the time there were several complaints about those rules and how those rules were enforced.

However... James Blake's excuse all the way to his grave in 2002 was that he was just "following the law". It was a bad law. A racist law. But that didn't matter. And you know what? He had more than enough discretionary authority to say "this is a tired woman, it's a long day, I'm not going to make a fuss if nobody else complains." But no, he CHOSE to be a government a-hole, and because of that choice, Rosa Parks got arrested, and it started the civil rights movement.

And that's something that people in the government STILL DO NOT understand! There comes a time when the abuse of government just goes too damned far and that people have had ENOUGH. And it doesn't have to be something dramatic or horrific. It could just be something simple as being told to give up your seat after a long day at work.

Rosa Parks' simple act of disobedience was simply the spark of something that was building for quite some time. There were other protests previous to hers, including one by famed athlete Jackie Robinson, but they didn't get the ball rolling as hers did. Rosa Park's arrest was the social straw that broke the camel's back. She didn't set out to start the Civil Rights movement. She was just there for the start of the ride, but there are plenty of people who are grateful she did.

That's where true change comes from, folks. It doesn't come from people who call themselves "crusaders" or who claim to be on a "mission from God". It comes from a long string of abuses where the people just say "NO MORE".

(Audio clip: "Mad as hell")

Okay, the next thing that I want to talk about is the oil industry.

You probably heard the news that Big Oil made a KILLING in the financial world! Record profits for the past fiscal quarter! You know... I wish I had some stock in even one of the oil companies when that little tidbit hit the wire services. I probably could pay off all my monthly bills on the dividend alone.

Of course at the same time, the rest of America was getting RAPED at the gas pumps. Gas prices that had been inching up and up for several months literally SPIKED after two hurricanes hit the Gulf.

And there are two prevailing trains of thought about this... the first is that the oil companies were intentionally, deliberately, and systematically GOUGING people, and they need to be punished for it. And the second is that, hey, it's the FREE FRIGGING MARKET. Companies shouldn't be PUNISHED for making a profit, right?

Now normally... I would be on the side of free markets here. Companies SHOULD NOT be punished simply because they make a profit. The whole purpose of being successful in America is to make a profit... no matter if you're a big corporation or just a family of four.

BUT there is one little thing about this issue that throws a monkey-wrench into the whole "free market" argument...

The oil industry is NOT a "free market"! And if it ever was, it is certainly not so today.

First of all, we have been ADDICTED to foreign oil for DECADES now. The majority of the oil that we need comes from foreign sources, and it's done so by design by the UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT. The US Department of Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy along with a whole plethora of state and local agencies have limited where the oil industry could drill for oil in THIS country, FORCING those companies to turn to foreign sources. We don't have a choice here! So we are literally at the mercy of the oil barons in foreign countries, and we have to APPEASE them in order for them to keep supplies up and prices down. That sort of puts a pox on Pat Robertson's personal crusade against Venezuela.

Second, we have no choice where our oil comes from once it gets to this country! Again, those same GOVERNMENT agencies tell the oil companies "You WILL get your oil products from THESE SPECIFIC refineries, and they will ALL be refined as WE tell you to refine them." And they change those rules every year so that it gets more and more expensive to refine the oil to meet THEIR standards!

And again, the companies have no choice in this matter. So all the fuel that you get from the various gas stations all comes from the SAME refineries! They're all BLENDED the same way! It doesn't matter if you get your gas from a name-brand station or a no-name mom-and-pop operation, it all comes from the SAME place! There is no "mom-and-pop" refinery or a "mom-and-pop" pipeline. It's all one and the same.

Let's get brutally honest here... that's NOT how the free market operates!

In a REAL free market environment, oil companies could get their oil from the refineries that operate the cheapest, no matter where those refineries were located. Gas stations would not be limited to one specific GOVERNMENT-MANDATED supplier, but from a wide range of gasoline suppliers. So killer hurricanes like Katrina and Rita would not be able to sever the supply of oil in a real free-market environment, because the oil companies would still have plenty of other locations to choose from. They wouldn't have to wait for a temporary reprieve from the federal government to get their gasoline or home heating oil from another part of the country that wasn't damaged.

In other words, folks, as long as the GOVERNMENT has a heavy regulatory hand in the oil business, then there really IS no "free market" environment for them to crow about. There is no real competition between the oil companies, thanks to those same government regulations, so there's no real pressure for them to keep their prices low. They know that whatever price they charge, we'll pay it. We may hate it and we may scream bloody murder about it, but we'll still pay it because we don't have a choice. We need it to keep our cars fueled, and to keep our homes heated, and to keep the electricity going.

So if you want to get mad at oil prices and at oil company profits, don't just get angry at "Big Oil"... get angry with their willing partner, Big Government. Because they're just as guilty for both the price spikes AND of the record profiteering as the oil companies are. And they damn well know it, because they were the ones who created the conditions in the FIRST place!

But, of course, that's just a little too complex for some people to comprehend, even for those who claim to "know it all".

By the way... you probably noticed that gas and oil prices have gone down in the past few weeks. That's good news... but let's not forget the TIMING of it all. The price isn't going down because suddenly there's new pockets of oil that got tapped or because a new refinery got built. The price is going down because we're cutting back on our demand AND because of the news of those record profits. It's a little hard to publicly justify keeping prices high and then turning around and reporting that you're making a KILLING in the market.

But don't worry, you'll have more than enough rage this winter when the talk goes to home heating costs, and you start to hear about old people freezing to death. Just be sure to share your rage equally between Big Oil AND Big Government.

(Computer: sorry, you have to hear the rant to know what it is)
(Fade Music In: "Mythodea" by Vangelis)

You probably noticed that in both issues there was a very subtle government hand involved. Fifty years ago it was a representative of the government... and today a significant part of our energy problems come from the actions of the government on various levels.

This is why a true freedom-love like myself HAS to be skeptical of government getting involved in our lives. It's not that they can't do a good job. Sometimes they do. But it's when they DON'T do a good job... when their actions become abusive... or when their actions actually HURT us in the long run... that's when the real problems come in.

Those in government are ALWAYS seen as being above reproach. They can't be questioned. They can't be challenged. They can never be in the wrong. So when their actions ARE wrong and they DO hurt society, there's no way to correct those mistakes. And we continue to do ourselves a GRAVE disservice when we believe that (1) we should NEVER question the role of government, and that (2) we should get government involved into every aspect of our lives. We are only setting ourselves up for more problems when we to that!


Brutally Honest is a Get Brutal production, all opinions expressed are those of the commentator, and may or may not be shared by the online provider. This is David Matthews 2 saying good night, and I'll speak with you soon!

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