Are the arts revealing our insensitivities, aging Orin's way, when the Legislature's cuts hit Main Street, 'Linsanity' and the Asian American stereotype, and should photos of a man who killed himself be published?
Gasoline prices, you may have noticed, are rising again. Can you have a recovering economy and lower gas prices? Perhaps it depends on how much war talk is going on.
Many of the experts say the price of a gallon could soon hit $4, and they're probably right. The question is how much higher than that they'll go.
Forbes suggests today that gasoline could hit $7 or $8 a gallon if strike in Saudi Arabia spreads:
"This is another one of those possible flash points in the region," says Georgetown political scientist Paul Sullivan, "that could become a much bigger fire if it is not contained early on."
Sullivan is referring to an internal rebellion in Saudi Arabia.
According to Bloomberg, fighting is getting worse in the east of the country, with police and armed Shia protesters. The protesters killed 11 police in October. Since then, police have killed seven Shia, according to human rights observers.
Here's what makes the situation so volatile: The east is where the Saudi oil is. It also has a majority population of Shia Muslims -- in a nation ruled by Sunni Muslims for the last 80 years. We have been talking about it a lot, but the fact is you don't need an Israeli or U.S. attack on Iran to drive gas prices up dramatically.
Generally, the price of gasoline is pegged to the demand for it, so naturally a warming economy pushes energy prices higher. But Bloomberg says the price has been going up while demand has continued to drop. What gives?
Strangely, the current run-up in prices comes despite sinking demand in the U.S. "Petrol demand is as low as it's been since April 1997," says Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service. "People are properly puzzled by the fact that we're using less gas than we have in years, yet we're paying more."
Kloza believes much of the increase is due to speculative money that's flowed into gasoline futures contracts since the beginning of the year, mostly from hedge funds and large money managers. "We've seen about $11 billion of speculative money come in on the long side of gas futures," he says. "Each of the last three weeks we've seen a record net long position being taken."
Refineries have also been getting squeezed by higher crude prices over the past several months, forcing some of them to shut down rather than operate at a loss, says Stevens. "The price that refineries have been paying for crude was roughly flat, while the price they were getting for gasoline was lower than what they needed to make their crack spread," he says. A crack spread refers to oil refineries' profit margins and is roughly the difference between what they pay for crude oil, and what they make by "cracking" crude into petroleum products such as refined gasoline. As the U.S. refining capacity has decreased, prices have begun to rise.
How bad is the current price? When adjusted for inflation, not that bad. Around the Twin Cities, for example, some chains are selling gas for $3.39 a gallon. That's nearly the same price we paid in 1981, when today's $3.39 was equal to yesterday's $1.37 (the 1981 price).(13 Comments)
Today's climate change debate is stoked by news of a "leaked" attempt by the so-called Heartland Institute to create a K-12 curriculum on climate change that appears to undermine the generally accepted science.
Discover's Bad Astronomy blog says the documents appear to be legit:
[Dr. Wojick's] effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain - two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science.
That seems clear enough, doesn't it? From that, it sure sounds like they want to dissuade teachers from teaching science. I imagine there will be a lot of spin about how this quote is out of context, or a typo, or something alone those lines. Perhaps. But I remember all the hammering real scientists took when they used jargon in their emails to each other, jargon which was gleefully misinterpreted to make it seem as if these scientists were faking data. Interesting how this is pointing right back at them. Just as I said it does.
When it comes to all this, the comparison to "Climategate" springs to mind, but there's one enormous difference: Climategate was manufactured, a made-up controversy (what I call a manufactroversy) that had no real teeth -- as was its failed sequel. The emails released weren't damning at all, and didn't show scientists tinkering with or faking data. As much as the media made of it, as much as climate change denial blogs played them up, it has been shown again and again that Climategate was all sound and fury, signifying nothing.
These new documents, though, look different, especially given that quote above. The next few days should be very interesting as people start digging into them, especially if they prove to be authentic.
In a memo, the group says it's creating the curriculum because principals and teachers have adopted "the alarmist perspective," which -- if this memo is legit -- is a phrase used as a substitute for another one -- "science."
The site, Deep Climate, carries segments of the report that identify potential friendly media personalities to spread the word:
Efforts at places such as Forbes are especially important now that they have begun to allow highprofile climate scientists (such as Gleick) to post warmist science essays that counter our own. This influential audience has usually been reliably anti-climate and it is important to keep opposing voices out. Efforts might also include cultivating more neutral voices with big audiences (such as Revkin at DotEarth/NYTimes, who has a well-known antipathy for some of the more extreme AGW communicators such as Rornm, Trenberth, and Hansen) or Curry (who has become popular with our supporters). We have also pledged to help raise around $90,000 in 2012 for Anthony Watts to help him create a new website to track temperature station data.
Not yet clear in the still-developing controversy is how widespread it is that curricula created by outside organizations are adopted by schools, and what science is applied to vetting them (if any).(33 Comments)
The Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport has installed a baby grand piano in the baggage area with this invitation to play it. This afternoon, it was silent. Perhaps this sign offers a clue as to why.20 Comments)
The Legislature might be about to wade into an emotional issue, if it takes up a resolution aimed at Congress and President Obama.
The resolution, filed today, calls on Congress and the president "to amend federal veterans cemetery law to expand eligibility for burial in state veterans cemeteries developed with federal funding to include allied Hmong-American and Lao-American veterans of America's Secret War in Laos."
This is not currently an allowed practice, although a separate bill was also filed by the resolution's authors to allow Hmong veterans and their spouses to be buried in state veterans cemeteries.
The effort dovetails with similar efforts in Congress to open up national cemeteries, such as Arlington and Fort Snelling, to the Hmong veterans. A bill was filed in Congress last October that would open the cemeteries up to 6,900 Hmong veterans, although Rep. Jim Costa says fewer than 3,000 would likely be interested.
Currently, these benefits extend only to American military personnel and members of the Philippine Armed Forces.
The issue gained more prominence more than a year ago when Gen. Vang Pao, who led the Hmong insurgents in Laos on behalf of the CIA, was refused burial in Arlington National Cemetery.
Costa's bill has gone nowhere since it was filed last October.(6 Comments)