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August 24, 2005

On gas prices, Robertson and Fitzgerald

This 'n that...

Gas was $2.49 a gallon this morning at the place where I usually fill up. Probably be $3.49 by the time this hits print, given the news.

There's a tropical depression forming in the South Atlantic; might turn into a hurricane; hurricane might hit the Gulf of Mexico; oil production there might be affected; gas prices going up for sure.

The possibility of a storm might seem a pretty weak reason to hike prices, but it sure doesn't take much these days. Crude oil futures went soaring a few weeks ago when the king of Saudi Arabia died -- oh, woe and uncertainty, cried the oil crowd as they hiked prices. Course, the guy had been in a coma for 10 years and had nothing to do with anything. But nothing to do with anything seems reason enough to jack prices another dime, or quarter, per gallon.

Dead kings, storms and other such drivel aside, I'd say the real reason gas prices are soaring is that the oil companies are gouging us. Second quarter financial reports have rolled in:

-- Exxon Mobil reports profits of $7.69 billion, up 32 percent from the second quarter of 2004.

-- BP reports profits of $5.59 billion, up 24 percent from the second quarter of 2004.

-- Royal Dutch Shell reports profits of $5.24 billion, up 34 percent from the second quarter of 2004.

That's the bottom line, in more ways than one.

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Maybe we should steal a page from Tony Blair's playbook and lock up or deport radical clerics who advocate violence. Talking here about Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson, who told a television audience this week the U.S. should "take out" Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

OK, we can't deport Robertson since he's a U. S. citizen, and yeah, there is that First Amendment thing. And various U.S. officials did rush to say we'd never do such a thing to the democratically elected leader of a neighboring nation, even a guy who's the pain-in-the-butt that Chavez has turned out to be.

Some high official, recalling other Robertson-isms -- a hurricane hit Orlando because it hosted a conventions of gays, let's nuke the State Department, feminism is witchcraft, etc. -- should go further and proclaim the blunt truth: The guy's a nut case; ignore him.

At the least, we should give him a bib so that he doesn't get his shirt wet when he drools.

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The number of people indicted in Chicago's Hired Truck program scandal has soared past the 30 mark (23 people have already been convicted), and the minions of U. S. District Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald are zeroing in he most fascinating question in the whole mess: How did John "Quarters" Boyle end up in a position that allowed him to play a central role in it all.

Mr. Boyle, you'll recall, got his nickname because he stole millions in nickels, dimes and quarters from the Illinois Tollway Authority. Sent to prison in 1992, he was out of the slammer and on the city payroll by 1997 and was soon orchestrating the bribes-for-contracts operation of the Hired Truck program.

Already sentenced to seven years in prison for his new offenses, he's about to get hauled in front of a federal grand jury, given immunity from further prosecution and asked blunt questions about who hired him and how he ended up as the go-to man in the Hired Truck program. Mr. Fitzgerald will not be amused if "Quarters" doesn't cooperate. A lot of City Hall types won't be amused if he does.

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Speaking of Mr. Fitzgerald ... another of his grand juries, this one in Washington, D.C., has just more than 30 days, until Oct. 1, to report on its investigation into who leaked CIA agent Valerie Plame's named to the press.

The nervousness Mr. Fitzgerald arouses in Chicago's City Hall is nothing compared to that he's created in D.C. If the Plame report is even the tiniest part of the bombshell that's widely anticipated, it'll blow Chicago's scandals off the front page, even in Chicago.

Posted by jcb at August 24, 2005 01:22 PM

Comments

Now jcb, I don't know you, but from your photograph, I'm guessing we're about the same age. So I'm sure you remember the original gas hysteria in the 70s, when gasoline wasn't just expensive, it was nonexistant. Remember the lines at the pump? Remember the fist fights? OK, I thought so.

So it's been at least 30 years since we got the wake up call about getting real about petroleum products. Since that time, we have had Republican Presidents, Democrat Presidents, Congresses dominated by Democrats and Congresses dominated by Republicans, and every combination thereof. If the cause was really price gouging by the evil oil corporations, don't you think a Democrat President and a Democrat Congress would have worked together to fix it? Not that long ago, the Democrats did dominate both Congress and the Executive. Why didn't they fix it? Why hasn't anyone in the government fixed it over the last 30 years?

Yeah, inquiring minds want to know, but spare me your evil corporation explanation.

Posted by: paladin at August 24, 2005 03:33 PM

Maybe we should get Pat Robertson to slip lower gas prices into his prayers of assassination and deaths of judges.

But seriously, I don't get the logic of the non-involvement of Democrats explaining how big oil isn't gouging us. They are under the collective thumb of big oil, although maybe to a lesser extent than their counterparts. So I guess the short answer is no, I would not expect either party to take on evil oil companies.

Prices will continue to go up until people change their driving habits (which they haven't). Then they will level off (maybe even go down a little) for a couple years, after which we will get gouged again.

Personally, I hope prices get high enough to change the way we drive and what we drive here in the US. I drive over 100 miles a day to and from work but I think it would be worth it to see fewer SUVs and jackasses going 95mph on the road.

Posted by: t at August 25, 2005 02:25 PM

The '70s, hmmm ... oh, yeah. If you remember the '70s you weren't there. Or was that the '60s? One of those, or both.

Anyway, Paladin, I'm with t. I don't get why you think the fact that the D's controlled government for portions of that time has anything to do with curbing corporate greed, particularly that of the oil corps. Oil money's been polluting politics ever since there was oil money. Pretty even-handedly, too.

The oil money has been drifting more toward the GOP in recent years, but there's still plenty of it feeding the D's, too. Here's opensecrets.org's sector report on oil and gas industry donations. Perhaps it will lessen your touching faith in the D's.

Posted by: jcb at August 25, 2005 11:17 PM

Hmmmm. With all this talk by t and jcb about how Congress is powerless to control corporate greed and perfidy, I can only conclude that both t and jcb were in a coma during the recent Enron kerfuffle, and the resulting Sarbanes-Oxley.

I do understand why falling back on the old bromides is comforting to some---it's so much easier than actually thinking about a problem. The oil situation is complex and it surprises me that someone like jcb would resort to cliches.

t's mention of Pat Robertson is instructive. It's been interesting to see how the press shapes the news by giving far more publicity to extremist wackos like Robertson and Cindy Sheehan than they deserve. Then Robertson and Sheehan are held up as representative of "the other" by partisans like t.

Posted by: paladin at August 26, 2005 10:39 AM

You've labeled me "partisan" twice here. That's funny coming from someone who seems to blame all the country/state/county's problems on Democrats.

pot. kettle. black.

The funny thing is I don't care for either party all that much and (like most people) my preference changes over time along with the respective parties. I voted twice for Jim Leach and I would probably vote for John McCain to be president. I don't see how that makes me a partisan, but anyway...

I mentioned Pat Robertson (tongue-in-cheek, might I add) because he was mentioned in the original post. But I have watched the 700 club (late nights on ABC family) enough to see him pray for changes to the Supreme Court (basically praying for judges to die) and I have seen him on there this week defending his assassination remarks. I didn't need that to be spoon-fed to me by the media. I don't think Sheehan or Robertson are representative of their groups and I don't recall ever writing that.

But I do understand why falling back on the old bromides (liberal media distorting things, anyone who disagrees with you being a "partisan") is comforting to some -- it's so much easier than actually thinking about a problem. ;)

And about that oil problem, I'm all ears.

Posted by: t at August 26, 2005 01:36 PM

But t, isn't it interesting that Robertson's wingnut rantings have been playing all over the media, while Cindy Sheehan's quotes about how "This (USA) country is not worth dying for", "George W. Bush...needs to be tried for war crimes and go to jail", "I am not paying my taxes for 2004. You killed my son, George W. Bush, and I don't owe you a penny...you give my son back and I'll pay my taxes" (it seems the Constitution gives the Executive the power to raise the dead!)and the classic "get America out of Iraq and Israel out of Palestine and you'll stop terrorism." Somebody get this lady a job at the State Department!

I'm with you, t, I backed McCain in 2000, and am not a big Bush supporter, but I'm fascinated by how the press presents "facts".

If it seems I blame Democrats for all that happens, it is because I have lived in this area for 30 years and I don't believe a Republican has ever been in the Rock Island County courthouse. I torment my Democrat friends by saying that Lane Evans and Saddam Hussain have something in common----the both got 100% of the vote in 2000. In Rock Island County there is no one else to blame but the Democrats.

Posted by: paladin at August 26, 2005 02:46 PM