Dangerous Dan Thoughts and musings on the world

3/16/2007

Ethanol Foolishness

Filed under: General — Dangerous Dan @ 10:19 pm

There are few more foolish movements right now than the drive towards biofuels, specifically ethanol. This drive has gained momentum due to President Bush's cheerleading since he wants something… anything… to make him sound like an environmental president. Add on to this the massive corn lobby, led by ConAgra, and you get an enormous boondoggle that will benefit a few at the expense of everyone else.

There are several problems with ethanol, which in the U.S. is made almost entirely from corn. The first is that it's not clear that you get a net gain in energy from its production. The feds say you get nearly a third more energy from ethanol than what's put into it, but other studies have indicated that there's actually a net energy loss once you calculate fuel used for transport (due to its water-absorbing nature, it can't be shipped via pipeline), fuel used in tractors, fertilizers and pesticides used, harvesting, conversion, etc., etc. This means that far from increasing energy independence for the U.S., an oft-stated justification, it's actually increasing how much fuel and energy we use. It's frankly difficult to get a good gauge on the net gain or loss of energy concerning ethanol because most of the reports and studies are from folks in the pocket of one industry or another.

Ethanol also doesn't produce as much energy as gasoline. There's a reason we use gas as a fuel, after all, and it's because the liquid has a tremendous amount of energy packed into it per unit. Ethanol is not nearly as energy efficient, meaning that you lessen the mileage in vehicles.

The other sizable problem is that recent increased ethanol production is driving up prices in the entire food sector. Whether you realized it or not, corn is used in a wide variety of food products, including as the sweetener in damn near everything. Due to so much corn being diverted for ethanol production, the price for corn is going up; it's doubled in the past year. We already know about the riots in Mexico because prices for corn tortillas are on the rise, but it goes further than that. High-fructose corn syrup is more expensive and therefore everything that uses high-fructose corn syrup will become more expensive. Meat prices are also going up because ever-pricier corn is used to feed livestock. Even prices for other crops are increasing because farmers are planting more corn instead of things like soybeans. The end result is that food producers are either going to lose money or they're going to pass along their expenses to the consumer. Guess which one it will be? According to Labor Department stats (for which I couldn't find a link, but these are from 3/16/07 Wall Street Journal, page C1), "prices for 'crude foodstuffs and feedstuffs' were 18.8% above year-ago levels" and "wholesale consumer food prices were 6.8% above year-ago levels." That the latter stat is lower than the former just means that it hasn't yet caught up, but it will get there. A nearly 19% or 7% increase in just one year is big and most of it can be attributed to corn-based ethanol. Thanks, Iowa! I hate you!

In short, the results of the pipe dream of a renewable fuel are that the fuel possibly uses more energy than it generates, it contains less energy than fossil fuels, and it's raising food prices for all consumers. This is potentially the most worthless – no, costly – endeavor ever pushed by the federal government and there's plenty of competition for that august award. Ethanol is a bum deal that hurts everyone and benefits Big Corn almost alone. It's nice to know that their lobbying money is paying off for them. Meanwhile, I'd prefer it if the feds would stop meddling in the market, stop endorsing foolish technologies, and if Bush would just shut the hell up about ethanol… like maybe not mentioning it in the State of the Union address as he has at least the past three years.

Schwarzenegger-related Premonition Watch

Filed under: General — Dangerous Dan @ 8:55 pm

Nearly two and a half years ago, this blog expressed its worry over rumblings of a Constitutional amendment that would allow foreign-born American citizens to become President. My concern was that this would validate a reference made in the terrible yet entertaining movie Demolition Man, a film already with one true prediction in that it listed a 'Scott Peterson' as a criminal in the cryo-prison.

I am now frightened that events may be unfolding such that the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle Total Recall may be proved prophetic. Scientists have just announced that they think there is a massive ice deposit up to 2.3 miles thick at Mars's southern pole. In the movie, Arnold activates an alien machine that takes a massive ice deposit somewhere underneath the surface of Mars and somehow converts it into a breathable atmosphere.

Next Schwarzenegger movie thing to come true? Male pregnancy? Clones? He's like a crystal ball, that Arnold!

3/5/2007

Stupid Kettle

Filed under: Politics — Dangerous Dan @ 10:07 pm

John Edwards, in an interview with beliefnet.com, played the Jesus card.  He said, "I think that Jesus would be disappointed in our ignoring the plight of those around us who are suffering and our focus on our own selfish short-term needs.  I think he would be appalled, actually."

Hmmm… yes.  Edwards is worth at least $13 million (possibly up to $60 million) and has a 28,200 square foot house, which includes two garages and a 15,000 sq ft recreation building.

Edwards also said Jesus would be upset with "the country's willingness to go to war 'when it's not necessary.'"

Edwards voted for the Iraq war.  If Edwards is right, then somebody's gonna burn: Edwards.

Ads in the Personals Section Will Be Next

Filed under: Media,Politics,World — Dangerous Dan @ 9:28 pm

ABC is reporting that the CIA is rushing resources into Pakistan to find Osama bin Laden:

Armed with fresh intelligence, the CIA is moving additional man power and equipment into Pakistan in the effort to find Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al Zawahri, U.S. officials tell ABC News.

"Reports that the trail has gone stone cold are not correct," said one U.S. official.  "We are very much increasing our efforts there," the official said.

People familiar with the CIA operation say undercover officers with paramilitary training have been ordered into Pakistan and the area across the border with Afghanistan as part of the ramp-up.

Apparently when these undercover officers arrive in Pakistan, they plan on finding bin Laden by driving around in firetrucks with the sirens going while shouting on megaphones, "Osama!  Osama, are you there?!  Ummm… candygram."

Honestly, who are these "U.S. officials" who are leaking what would seemingly be top secret and very important information that you probably don't want, you know, being broadcast to the world.  Either this is part of some kind of scheme against bin Laden or some idiot in the CIA with loose lips and a feeling of self-importance needs, in this order, a swift kick in the balls, a pink slip, and an indictment for revealing state secrets.

2/25/2007

Trivial Miracles

Filed under: General — Dangerous Dan @ 12:35 pm

You know how occasionally you get those cases where people see the Virgin Mary in grilled cheese sandwiches, a spot under an overpass, or a mold clump in the bathroom?  The latest incarnation, coming out of Houston is that the image of Mary, on Ash Wednesday no less, appeared on a school cafeteria baking sheet that had recently been used for pizza.

On Wednesday, Rodriguez, a longtime kitchen worker, was leaning over the sink of the cafeteria at Pugh Elementary washing sheet pans — the kind that normally hold rows of chocolate chip cookies or chicken nuggets.

It was with the last pan, pulled from the cold rinse, that the Virgin appeared, Rodriguez, 59, said.

"I started looking at it, and started looking at it, until I realized it was the Virgin," she said.

The pan appears to be stained, maybe by grease, with an image several inches tall. A splotch of missing color resembles the Virgin Mother's down-turned face, a slight rainbow stain running alongside this could be a shawl.

This example of pareidolia is now being hailed as a message from God and as a miracle.  The pan has its own shrine outside a PTA member's house where crowds are coming to pray before it.

It's a grease spot. 

My opinion on such things is that if the God of the universe – who created existence as we know it, whose power is beyond fathoming, whose previous miracles included such things as healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, and resurrecting the dead – has been minimized or reduced to executing such miracles as producing curiously-shaped grease spots on a cafeteria baking sheet, then we're all in a lot of trouble.


The miraculous grease spot.  We're doomed.

Trivial Miracles

Filed under: General — Dangerous Dan @ 12:33 pm

You know how occasionally you get those cases where people see the Virgin Mary in grilled cheese sandwiches, a spot under an overpass, or a mold clump in the bathroom?  The latest incarnation, coming out of Houston is that the image of Mary, on Ash Wednesday no less, appeared on a school cafeteria baking sheet that had recently been used for pizza.

On Wednesday, Rodriguez, a longtime kitchen worker, was leaning over the sink of the cafeteria at Pugh Elementary washing sheet pans — the kind that normally hold rows of chocolate chip cookies or chicken nuggets.

It was with the last pan, pulled from the cold rinse, that the Virgin appeared, Rodriguez, 59, said.

"I started looking at it, and started looking at it, until I realized it was the Virgin," she said.

The pan appears to be stained, maybe by grease, with an image several inches tall. A splotch of missing color resembles the Virgin Mother's down-turned face, a slight rainbow stain running alongside this could be a shawl.

This example of pareidolia is now being hailed as a message from God and as a miracle.  The pan has its own shrine outside a PTA member's house where crowds are coming to pray before it.

It's a grease spot. 

My opinion on such things is that if the God of the universe – who created existence as we know it, whose power is beyond fathoming, whose previous miracles included such things as healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, and resurrecting the dead – has been minimized or reduced to executing such miracles as producing curiously-shaped grease spots on a cafeteria baking sheet, then we're all in a lot of trouble.


The miraculous grease spot.  We're doomed.

2/9/2007

Smith’s Killer Identified!

Filed under: General — Dangerous Dan @ 9:09 am

I know who killed Anna Nicole Smith. 

It was Lisa Marie Nowak 'cause this was the only thing that could replace her nuttiness as the top story on every conceivable news outlet. 

I've been watching CNN and the Today Show.  Smith's death has so far led each hour, each half hour, each quarter hour, and about each five minute cycle.  About to go to commercial?  Talk about Smith's death.  Coming back from commercial?  Talk about Smith's death.  And here's the sum total content of everything they've been saying: She's dead, we don't why, she had some tragic events recently (most of all her death).

Now, this isn't the first time this blog has mentioned Anna Nicole Smith.  I talked about her show once back in August of 2002.

1/22/2007

The Other “F-Word”?

Filed under: General,Media,Society — Dangerous Dan @ 12:18 am

While I'm talking about vapid entertainment news, another recent brouhaha has embroiled Grey's Anatomy's Isaiah Washington.  According to reports, back in October while on-set, Washington referred to his co-star, T.R. Knight, as a 'faggot.'  Knight is gay.  Though this wasn't publicly known as the time, it seemingly was the cast and crew.  The incident was apparently privately resolved when it happened.

Earlier this month, however, it started prickling entertainment reporters' ears and then Washington was asked about it backstage at the Golden Globes, to which he replied, "No, I did not call T.R. a faggot.  Never happened, never happened."  People are now demanding Washington's head for uttering the term at the Globes… not so much for the angry invocation of it in October.

This is bizarre.  Washington wasn't using it maliciously on the latter occasion, he was using it in context (and denying its use at that, lending to his dislike of the term) as prodded by reporters.  While I quite agree that the word is inappropriate, I also think it should still be used given the proper contexts, such as, "One should not refer to someone as a 'faggot.'"  Given the uproar with Washington, however, it seems improper to use it in even this way.  Washington in his lengthy mea culpa, for example, apologizes for "using a word that is unacceptable in any context or circumstance."  If this is the case, then I cannot but wonder why no uproar has arisen against media outlets that reprinted the term.  Weren't they also quoting or using it in context as Washington was?

It seems that 'faggot' is now going the way of 'nigger' in that the term is so frighteningly offensive, it can only be referred and alluded to by some silly euphemism.  For the latter, it's 'the n-word.'  Unfortunately for the former, 'the f-word' is already taken by another very versatile obscenity, so it will have to come up with something else. 

Let me be clear that I am against the malicious and/or discriminatory use of either term and both should be used with some prudence.  But it seems simply ridiculous that any term should be so loaded with meaning, that no one dare utter it, even when it's being quoted or used in a context such as the above.  Using a euphemism for it is akin to a child using gustatory terms to refer to his/her personal anatomy.  Words are not to be feared, only their improper use.  The euphemisms already do language an injustice.

The argument has been made that the euphemism for 'nigger' is used because the term is so fraught with hideous meanings and implications that sensible African-Americans and anybody with a reasonable conscience will and/or should have fainting spells upon hearing it.  Poppycock.  The euphemism actually succeeds in a strange paradox in that it strengthens the fear of the word while simultaneously removing it's meaning.  People come to fear the word itself for the use of the euphemism makes it plain that the term is to be feared.  At the same time, the meaning of the actual term slips away as it is never directly used in any context.  The word itself is feared and not what it stood for.  It's becoming a linguistic 'boo!' – something that is itself supposed to frighten though it has no real meaning.

As best as I can remember, the use of the 'N-word' euphemism first came into vogue during the O.J. Simpson trial.  Detective Mark Fuhrman was on tape using it numerous times and the media outlets felt queasy using it context.  While I don't care at the moment to wade through the transcripts, I believe Simpson's attorney, Johnnie Cochran, used it in the trial.  This was a brilliant act of courtroom theatrics since he was trying to discredit Fuhrman.  By acting as though the word were so offensive to him and civilized people that he could only allude to it by a euphemism just made it seem so much magnificently worse than anyone imagined, and Fuhrman that much more of a monster for having said it, thereby completely impugning his character.  How curious that the euphemism was given birth and popularity in the cynical, theatrical service of freeing a double-murderer.  Not an auspicious birth, to be sure.

1/21/2007

American Idol Flack

Filed under: General,Media,Society — Dangerous Dan @ 11:25 pm

Ah, it's American Idol time.  This is when the show starts up with plenty of bad singers, fame-coveting no-names, and twits who just want to get on TV, show up and perform poorly while the few talented make it through to further potential cuts.  This is also the time when people start whining about how mean the judges are.  It's now become an annual rite as some are complaining about comments made during the auditions that were televised last week.  This is all somewhat amusing because I remember quite well last season when there were complaints about how mean the judges were being, how it was much meaner than in the past, etc. – pretty much everything being said now.  The public has a short memory.

The lead whiner is The View's Rosie O'Donnell.  Rosie is apparently a human PR machine for The View as she has made a habit of picking fights with other quasi-celebrities and utterly manufacturing controversy where there none existed.  Thus far, she has publicly feuded with Kelly Ripa, Donald Trump, The View's own Barbara Walters, and now American Idol.  Be warned not to peek inside Rosie's teapots lest yea be blown away by the tempests.

All that said, yes, American Idol is a silly, somewhat unfair show.  At each city audition, there's one or two rounds of cuts before people get to see Randy, Paula, and Simon.  Plenty of talented people are assuredly turned away in those cuts, and many clearly talentless self-deceived people are sent through for the sole purpose of being ridiculed by the judges and the American public.  It's a talent show, but it's also a reality show and events are unfairly manipulated for TV.  Once you realize this and get past the hang-ups, it's possible to be entertained by it.  I am entertained and I know it's quite silly; I am entertained because I know it's quite silly.  I am as much amused by the absurdity of it all as by the amount or dearth of talent.

As to Rosie's comment that the American public doesn't like the fare being provided by the show, this seems to be an eminently disprovable statement through empirical evidence: the two shows last week had nearly 40 million viewers.

12/30/2006

Saddam: A Retrospective Gallery

Filed under: General — Dangerous Dan @ 11:43 pm

Now that the Butcher of Baghdad is burning in the depths of hell, let's look back at some of the lighter times:

Statue coming down
Here we have Saddam's statue coming down.

Spider hole
We found his hidey-hole!

Santa Saddam
He was making a living as a mall Santa in Tikrit.

Open wide
The great tyrant, whose palaces had gold toilet fixtures, gets checked out, for lice among other things.

Teehee
No need to ask the question of boxers or briefs at the MTV Q&A.

On trial
Once the ruler, then on trial.

12/29/2006

Saddam is Dead – RIT (Rest in Torment)

Filed under: General — Dangerous Dan @ 10:05 pm

Saddam Hussein has been executed.

Now this coupling can finally happen.

Burn in hell, Saddam

12/23/2006

Holocaust Misuse

Filed under: General — Dangerous Dan @ 12:14 am

I hold a special irritation for those who use the Holocaust in poor comparisons in order to make their plight seem as dire as what happened to the Jewish people. Not only is it disrespectful, but it inevitably works in the opposite direction by making the actual Holocaust not seem as bad as it really was. This is why PeTA and their moronic "holocaust on your plate" campaign deserve nothing but contempt.

The latest example comes from Hispanic groups who didn't like the recent crackdown on and deportation of 1,300 illegal immigrants. Representatives from these groups are comparing such roundups to the arrest and imprisonment of Jews during the 1930's:

"This unfortunately reminds me of when Hitler began rounding up the Jews for no reason and locking them up," Democratic Party activist Carla Vela said. "Now they're coming for the Latinos, who will they come for next?"

Unless the Hispanics in question were U.S. citizens who were arrested for absolutely no other reason than that they were Hispanic, and unless they were then sent to concentration camps where they were forced to engage in slave labor until they died and/or were killed in mass executions, this seems like a bad comparison. In fact, those Hispanics who were arrested were not U.S. citizens and were actively breaking U.S. law by being in the U.S., they were treated well while in custody, fed, and returned to their countries of origin. This was absolutely nothing like Germany of the 1930's and comparing in this way is not only disgusting, it is irresponsible. Don't cry genocide where it doesn't exist or nobody will pay attention when it actually does occur – that or the severity of genocide will be thought relatively insignificant due to such false comparisons.

12/22/2006

It’s Been How Long?

Filed under: General — Dangerous Dan @ 11:52 pm

Yes, I'm still alive. Just little time to post. Lest I end the year without any more posts, though, here are a couple.

9/11/2006

9/11 Five Years Later

Filed under: General — Dangerous Dan @ 4:11 pm

I am, as always now, quite busy. I also have nothing more to say about 9/11 than what I wrote on the 1 year anniversary back in 2002. I will thus continue my tradition of directing you to what I wrote on 9/11/02 here, here, and here. I have reread them and my sentiments are still the same. When they change, I will say so.

8/29/2006

Blogging’s Future

Filed under: General — Dangerous Dan @ 6:41 am

The Blorg

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