Watch the soap: “As The Government Turns”

The machinery of the federal government is gearing down toward a halt. I know this from personal experience, but I will not go into it just because. No, I could relate some of that familiarity but I see no reason to, it being fairly pedestrian. Besides, we still have more than eight hours to go even though I don’t believe in miracles — at least when the federal government is concerned. By federal government, I include Congress.

Give us your tired, your poor and your idiots, the latter of whom will make our laws.

Military men and women aren’t happy campers, reports Navy Times, for the same reason I am not doing cartwheels. The threat of no pay sometime down the road is on our minds. The American Federation of Government Employees, a mighty fine labor organization I might say, a.k.a. AFGE, is seeking an injunction which would prohibit military and other federal workers who are deemed essential from having to work without pay. The AFGE says they have the Constitution to back them up.

“Hundreds of thousands of federal employees will be required to work during a shutdown, and there’s no guarantee that Congress will keep the administration’s promise to pay those employees once the shutdown is over,” AFGE National President John Gage said.

The suit charges that the Obama administration is violating the Appropriations Clause and Thirteenth Amendment by requiring federal civilian employees to work without pay during a period of lapsed federal appropriations.


Really, there isn’t anything to do but sit back and watch all the foolishness and silliness in this gargantuan soap opera played out by the people who govern the “greatest nation on Earth.”

For a little insanity not directly related to the government shutdown: BP has bought an eastern-facing beach of Cat Island, a barrier island in the Mississippi Sound. The part of the beach is the top of the “T” of the T-shaped island that is about eight miles south of Gulfport, Miss. Parts of the island were long in private hands. So, says a BP press flak,  it would be easier for the company to clean up the beach, due to the massive Deepwater Horizon explosion-caused oil spill which happened one year ago this month, than to have to deal with the regulatory niceties of cleaning up private property. You break it, you buy it, I guess. Candy, I bet. S**t, I reckon.

On that note, I know I am off from my part-time job until at least Tuesday. We shall see if it is longer than that, and if I will be back to begging for donations on the blog if the threatened shutdown materializes.



110 years ago today in our town — 110 years later in our world

” … and up from the ground came a bubbling crude, oil that is, Black Gold, Texas Tea.”  From “The Ballad of Jed Clampett” written by Paul Henning

That description of good fortune found by Jed, of “The Beverly Hillbillies” fame, fits to a “tea” what happened in real life about three miles from where I live. The crude began bubbling — exactly 110 years ago today (January 10, 1901) — at place known as “Spindletop.” A very informative article about the history of Spindletop that was written by Robert Wooster and Christine Moor Sanders, and published in Handbook of Texas Online describes the pivotal moment of the World’s most important oil gusher ever:

“The startled roughnecks fled as six tons of four-inch drilling pipe came shooting up out of the ground. After several minutes of quiet, mud, then gas, then oil spurted out. The Lucas geyser, found at a depth of 1,139 feet, blew a stream of oil over 100 feet high until it was capped nine days later and flowed an estimated 100,000 barrels a day.”

It is pretty safe to say nothing of such far-reaching magnitude ever occurred since in Jefferson County, Texas, located on the easternmost Gulf Coast of the Lone Star State. Although I wasn’t around for Spindletop, I bet that not even Janis Joplin’s triumphant return in 1970 to her 10th graduation anniversary at Thomas Jefferson High School in Port Arthur could have matched Spindletop as a colorful and raucous event. And, from what I saw on local TV, Janis coming home freaked out a lot of folks.

The geyser, simply stated, started the modern petroleum industry as we know it. Some of the world’s most important oil companies had their start within a 25-mile radius of Spindletop: The Texas Company, later Texaco; Magnolia, later Mobil and even later ExxonMobil; Humble Oil, later Exxon and ExxonMobil, Gulf Oil, Sun. The companies read like a who’s who list of the petroleum industry.

Some who share my occasional liberal thoughts seem to believe “oil” is a four-letter-word. But the truth is not even those people can with any type of ease live without the fruits of hydrocarbons. While the oil industry made some people filthy rich and others just filthy, many modest livings — read: above average middle class — came from refineries, drilling and other facets of the petrochemical world. Why yours truly has made even a very modest amount of dough off oil and gas wells that I inherited. Certainly not much, albeit the low five-figure range over 25 years.

Most of the folks in the area I grew up in certainly knew the worth of oil as the industry paid for a lot of those people’s pickup trucks, bass boats, nice houses and for the most part a comfortable life. But other than immediate jobs, those who lived in the area I am from and now live in had no clue 110 years ago how Spindletop would transform the worldwide economy.

Those were certainly heady times, back in 1901.

But all was not quiet.

In September at a state fair that year, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt first mouthed his foreign policy mantra: “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Four days later, President William McKinley was shot at the Pan American Exhibition in Buffalo, N.Y. He died eight days later.

McKinley’s assassin, 28-year-old Leon Czolgosz, was an avowed anarchist although none of the known anarchist groups would claim him as a member and some reportedly thought him to be a spy for the government. Before the month of September was out, a jury convicted Czolgosz. In really swift justice he was executed in the electric chair at New York’s Auburn Prison about a month later, his last words being: “I killed the President because he was the enemy of the good people – the good working people. I am not sorry for my crime.”

The new Republican president, Roosevelt, showed that year that he would not be  easily buttonholed as a politician when it came to his actions. There was  his bully pulpit rhetoric about carrying a big stick, but after becoming president he also told Congress he wanted trusts curbed reasonably and he also invited noted African American Booker T. Washington to the White House. The latter sat off riots and other unrest in the South.

On Saturday, January 8, 2011, almost 110 years to the day Spindletop blew in, Jared Lee Loughner, 22, allegedly shot almost two dozen people at a congressional meet and greet outside a Safeway store in Tucson, Ariz. Six people were killed including a 9-year-old girl and a federal judge. The target of the shooting appeared to be U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat. Giffords was shot in the head and remains in critical conditions although doctors say she shows encouraging signs that could signal improvement.

Loughner has left a lot of crazy writings behind as he sits in jail. The alleged assassin appears to be anti-government but like Czolgosz  also appears to be a lone nut job.

Perhaps in the days ahead we will learn just what were the motivating factors behind these shootings. Was the act because Giffords is a Democrat, or that she is Jewish, or that she supported President Obama’s health care plan even though she supported tough immigration measures and is pro-gun? Did the relentless cacaphony of political argument that passes for entertainment on cable news and talk radio play a part in driving Loughner over the edge?

We may never know. But just as the world turned 110 years ago today in the town in which I reside, giving rise to the world’s most important — although sometimes exasperating — industry so does our planet keep revolving where it seems no amount of good can ever completely snuff out the anger that lives in mankind.

I am painting broad brush here. But sometimes it does a body good to look at the world through the macro lens inward. Perhaps one must speak softly and carry a big magnifying glass.

The many different energy alternatives surface during spill

If some good is ever to emerge from the disastrous Gulf of Mexico oil spill perhaps it will be something later noted as a point in time that the United States became serious about energy independence.

Who knows how President Obama’s call this week — certainly not his first exhortation on the matter and not to be confused with extortion, which dip stick GOP Congressman Joe Barton accused the president of in getting BP to establish a Gulf damage fund — will really change any minds. But practically everyone in this country, whether they are oil and gas lobbyists or Earth Mothers with cloth shopping bags, knows energy independence is something this nation must eventually pursue. The question is when will that pursuit turn really serious?

Some of the ideas I get for my musings come from It is the best news aggregator that I know of which presents a wide range of news and views from a wide range of sources. Today, I looked up “alternative energy” and found a number of interesting stories on the subject such as a press release about an effort to make a documentary and book about driving a hydrogen-powered ’72 Mustang cross-country.

They want to make a documentary that is like Al Gore meets the Blues Brothers.

Steve Schappert & Steve Melycher, a.k.a. “Steve Squared,” will drive the Mustang “with a hydrogen generator that produces hydrogen on demand that has tripled gas mileage in similar vehicles. They will be meeting with other Hydrogen experts along the way and asking them to share some knowledge to see if we can all figure out how to make a car run completely on water,” according to a “PRLog” press release.

The movie concept, says the release, would be something like “Introducing Al Gore to the Blues Brothers.”

Meanwhile, other alternatives such as biofuels face challenges at a time when American energy independence has become an outcry in the country. Myra P. Saefong of “MarketWatch” writes that biodiesel and ethanol face difficulties in the marketplace if the biofuels continue to lack tax incentives.

Yet, Aaron Levitt writes in “Investopedia” that the geothermal industry has gotten a boost from a new round of Department of Energy grants.

Claire Pool writes in the “über-business “The Deal,” Why Not Natural Gas?

Then articles I scanned today take on the subject of oil sands, solar energy, wind, you can just about name it and it’s being cussed and discussed. And in the words of that classy broad and ex-con Martha Stewart, “That’s a good thing.”

But talk is also cheap, unless you are high up in the government. What we need is Action, Jackson! No, not Action Jackson, the 1980s movie starring Carl Weathers, Vanity, Craig T. Nelson and Sharon Stone, but action, Jackson, as in “action, you all” or as we say it in Texas, “ya’ll.”

I honestly believe that the only way this country will achieve both energy independence and the balance needed in switching from a hydrocarbon-based economy is through a “Moon Landing” sort of program. I speak, of course, of the project John F. Kennedy pushed to have an American on the moon in less than 10 years. Will such a project be expensive? You betcha, as “Drill Baby Drill” master Sarah Palin would say. Does such a prospect threaten to turn the World’s economic equilibrium on it’s ear? Could be.

Nonetheless, we have all these forms of energy out there that can substantially decrease this country’s use of foreign oil, or oil drilled by foreign or multinational corporations that blow up and come oozing onto our shores.

Oil is never going away, at least in my lifetime. But there are so many alternatives to it, so many people who are willing to drive great distances in cars more than 30 years old powered by water just to show others that we don’t have to use so much of oil. Yes, it would eventually help the environment. But also, yes, it could keep this nation from having to fight wars with nations that don’t particularly like us but with whom we are dependent on for their Black Gold.