The Fix is In – Soaring Winter Heat, 2008; or, Just Who Says So? And If We Know So Much Now, Why is Nobody Acting to Avert It?

August 6, 2008

Here we are in the summer of 2008 and already at mid-year, the local and national news has been fed the directives from its corporate masters and informed us that winter 2008-2009 will be appallingly expensive if you, as a human being who needs to avoid freezing to stay alive, want to heat your home. So, I want to know, who told them this? Where has this information come from? Which executives sat down and decided that home heating will be expensive this winter? Give me some names! Who are they? How do they know so far in advance what is going to happen? The media never tells us. We’re just told that the word comes somewhere from on high, so get used to it and tough shit if you don’t like it. History tells us in times of heavy speculation, prices soar. Guess what’s a popular commodity for speculation right now? That’s right, oil and gas. The fix is in folks. Let’s see if the corporate-owned politicians in either of the corporate-owned political parties will do anything about it when it hits. And, since we already know so much in advance, why is nothing being done these many months in advance to stop, avert, or ease the situation, or ensure fairly priced energy to average citizens? We have several months to take actions, but instead we’re just told we have several months to brace ourselves. Last winter, people had to borrow money to heat their homes, or got so far behind in their payments that they’re still playing catch up. Why are basic necessities that used to be manageable, marginal expenses in the monthly family budget, like heating and health care, now luxuries affordable only by Rockefeller types? The more deregulation we’ve gotten, the higher things have gone—which completely puts the lie to all the BS right-wing promises. Old people and families will freeze this winter, but that’s OK; it’s the free market, after all, and that’s the highest good to which we can aspire. Right? Remember when those Enron energy managers were overheard on an infamous telephone tape laughing at making a killing by shutting off power plants so that California’s grandmothers would have to pay out the ass for electricity? It’s happening again, folks. And what kind of answers do we get from apologists for this kind of system? None, just the usual nonsolutions, defense of the energy status quo and tired diversionary epithets: “Communist!” “Socialist!” “Whaddya want companies to give the energy away for nuthin’?” So, just what kind of fucking country and world is this becoming? Who runs the law in this country, corporations or citizens? Congress can pass a price cap in two seconds if we all demand it. But that won’t happen because we know who really runs the country. The Boston Tea Party looms; the warm cushy mansions harboring the fat and satisfied few will be invaded; the revolution is coming folks, and I’m there. -EG

Home Energy Prices Are Expected to Soar (at New York Times) http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/06/business/06fuel.html?ref=business

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We Don’t Need No Stinking Pensions Anyway

June 25, 2008

While the CEOs of the American oligarchy continue to reap obscene bonuses and raises, even when their profits and share prices slide, “our” legislate-whores—the ones who constantly kowtow to these captains of magic paper wealth (not so much of industry any more)—are voting to make life worse for average working people.

Instead of trying to find ways to fund future pension needs, Kentucky’s piss poor General Assembly “leaders” are taking the easy, expedient route to ensure the solvency of the state’s public pension fund by, voila !, reducing the amounts it will pay out in the future.

I’m sure that among all the charts and graphs to which those brave souls refer in making their decisions is the one showing how the cost of things will be staying the same or going down in the future?

They call it a pension “reform” bill. Reform, of course, rarely means what it once did, which was improvement. Now it just means cutback, and underlying that is the same insulting “code” philosophy that was behind welfare reform: those lazy bums are sucking too much off the public teat. Never mind that state workers pay their dues for decades in order to reap this so-called exorbitance.

But hey, what other kind of decision-making would you expect from these wannabes. After all, they’re only following the example of their CEO heroes, the ones hailed as geniuses for coming up with the original idea of cutting payrolls to boost profits. Wall Street always lauds them and corporate boards always reward them handsomely for it.

The legislators have gotten the message, cut the heart out of the peons and everything will work out OK.

“We live in dangerous times,” says an expert whose company protects CEO’s from kidnapping and other threats.

Yes we do, and just why might that be?

If there is a coming revolution, breakdown, apocalypse or whatever in this country, our so-called leaders are bringing it on themselves. –EG

House to Vote On Pension Reform Bill (Courier-Journal)

Keeping the CEO Safe Can be Costly (Wall Street Journal)

Why CEOs are Giggling (Jim Hightower)

-EG


Ethanol Madness: Shove a Corncob You Know Where

June 12, 2008

I’m not a religious man, but I’m pretty sure that if there is a God he never intended corn to be burned for fuel, and to pollute the atmosphere on top of that.

The resulting squeeze on foodstocks and price rises that result in a time when so many are hungry has got to be a sin. (Not to mention the senselessness that producing corn in order to burn it wastes more energy than is ultimately produced). Surely, there must be a limit to the free market when it inflicts this much pain on so many. Those who really deserve the pain for letting this happen—the farmers who sell food to burn, the Archer Daniels Midland-type executives profiting from this insanity, and the politicians like Bush who allow it to continue—should all have big fat corncobs shoved up their asses.

-EG


$5,000+ These Fuckers Didn’t Get From Me

April 22, 2008

I’m sure all of you saw this motley crew of oil execs assembled before Congress a few weeks ago, mainly so legislatewhores could posture and put on an impotent display of righteous indignation in lieu of actually doing anything to push real alternative energy solutions. While most of you out there have been grumbling but continuing to line the pockets of these oilmen (and their multi-wifed brethren in the Middle East) I have been taking the bus to work, in tandem with my bicycle (and yes, winter doesn’t stop me).

It was two years ago this month (April) that I began this daily ritual, and in the process lost 30 pounds, increased my muscle tone and improved lung capacity, heart health, metabolism, blood pressure, circulation, digestion and so on—not to mention notching piles of unread books on the 20-mile journey each way.

Oh yes, there’s much to be recommended about the complete lack of stress resulting from letting someone else do the driving, not having to swerve and avoid maniacs and playing stop and go with my feet on a gas-guzzling pedal. I can sleep, read, dream, whatever. And I’m inside a vehicle bigger than a tank, so it’s pretty safe.

And it costs $29 a month. See how much gas that gets you–and how far you can get on it.

AS for me, I ride for free because one of my perks of employment is free unlimited TARC rides with an employee ID.

But the most satisfying thing of all is that the oil industry and the profit-gluttonous CEOs who are sucking up all that cash from you got no more than $6 from me over the last two years. (Had to fill up my lawn mower a few times; otherwise most weeks I use a gasless Scott’s reel-mower, just like my grandparents did.)

So adding that up, that’s about $5,000 or so that Big Oil didn’t get from me in the past two years.

And although I know this is an overused picture on the Internet, there is just no better F-YOU! photo ever taken than this one of Johnny Cash. So Big Oil, let Johnny Cash send my message to you loud and clear.

-EG


Product Test Spectacular: Gravy Bread Examines 2x Concentrated Laundry Detergent

March 24, 2008

As savvy shoppers know, the current spate of outrageous grocery inflation is not something that has suddenly happened in recent months but has been continuing unabated for many years in the form of a deceitful, backhanded form of inflation that we all know as product downsizing—a form of inflation that doesn’t get counted by the bogus Consumer Price Index. That’s why the “regular”-size $1 paper towel roll is now as thin as a baseball bat and the Sun Ships that were 11.5 ounces last week are 10.5 ounces this week. The reduction in bag size is so slight that the corporate scumbags hope you won’t notice. And I wouldn’t have been able to tell, if it weren’t for the grocery still leaving the old ounce size on their shelf price tag. Caught red-handed.

One tell-tale sign that a product has been reduced in size slightly is a redesign of the shape of the container or a change in the label design. (“New design, same great taste!” is a typical diversionary strategy. What the new label should say is “Same product—and less of it!”).

It’s because of these tactics that I have been leery of late to buy any of the downsized laundry detergent bottles that are now pretty much all that is offered in every store now. From Target to Kroger to Wal-mart and beyond, these 50-percent reduced in size laundry detergent bottles are now the de-facto size on every shelf. I still had an old 120-ounce (“plus 20 percent bonus”) or 38-loads size of Purex detergent in the laundry room. So, for the sake of comparison I decided to go ahead and buy the new Purex 2x-concentrated formula 60-ounce (“plus 20 percent bonus”) or 38-loads size that is now being offered instead (at the same price at Target of $3.49).

To compare the old formula against the new 2x formula, I simply washed two large loads on the large/cold setting on my washer. Into the first load I poured one cap of old formula Purex (up to the fill line, which is about 3/4’s from the top of the cap). For the second load, I poured the new 2x formula into the new bottle’s smaller cap up to its fill line. Just to make sure, I poured that into the old bigger cap to see if it came halfway up the fill line of the old cap, and it did. Theoretically, half the amount of the new formula should produce the same amount of suds as the old formula and get the clothes just as clean.

Well, let’s see.

The following photo sequence shows the procedure described above, and I’m happy to report that the suds produced by both products were comparable and the cleansing power of both was the same.

Ultimately, this all begs the question: Why did the detergent companies sell us watered-down product all these years, in huge, bulky non-biodegradable plastic containers that are horrible for the environment?

-EG

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Postal Service Joins the Price Gouge Parade: or, Peanuts Don’t Cost Peanuts Anymore

May 14, 2007

costbill.jpgI knew postage would be more expensive today. The news media has been saying so for weeks. And I was prepared for a modest hike.

But consider this.

In order to help myself get by in this increasingly expensive world, I sell small items on Amazon and sometimes Ebay, mostly VHS videotapes and CDs that are out of print or rare or relatively so, and mostly at $6 or less.

Normally, sending a videotape via media mail has cost $1.59, almost without exception.

Today, it was $2.13, each. That’s $4.16 just to send two videos, one of which I only sold for $6, minus the various fees and commissions. (First class would be even more, around $2.50). In the end, the best I made in profit was $1.50.

Guess where all my $6 videos are going from now on? In my mother’s yard sale. I’d rather clear a straight up $2 than put up with any more of this shit.

So, thanks USPS for joining the price-gouge parade and driving the super-small businessman further into the fringes of the black-market economy.

For my part and doubtless the thousands of others who will follow, Amazon will get a taste of this when I de-list several hundred small items from my current listings.

I know Amazon is in no danger from this and that they don’t care.

Everytime Amazon ups the amount they charge buyers for shipping costs, the amount they reimburse me is supposed to increase to cover that, but in fact is always eaten up by the concurrently rising commission that Amazon, Ebay and the rest always end up charging.

So, enough’s enough.

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You can add postage to the list of things that used to be marginal, insignificant costs of living that now have gotten out of control and become luxuries: things like health coverage (remember how this used to be like, $25 a month, and that was with real insurance, not HMO crap). My family coverage—and this is not even the high-end product—is more than $500 a month. In other words, not too far from the cost of a home mortgage.

And I’m stuck with it.

Despite the spurious cost-of-living index malarkey we’re always fed (somehow the index never seems to surpass 1 percent even as gasoline, home heating oil, health insurance, car insurance and everything rises in double digits), you literally have to be Rockefeller today just to eke out a pale imitation of the decent middle-class lifestyle we had in the 1970s and before.

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A couple of bucks worth of peanuts

A can of peanuts, and I’m talking a tiny 9 ounce can of lowly Planters Cocktail nuts, pushes the $3 to $4 range.

Are you friggin’ kidding me?

And paper towels. not only are they now about the circumference of a measley baseball bat, but they all cost more than $1 each. A two-pack is more than $2.

Give me a friggin’ break.

One item that seemed to be holding the line was Vo5 Shampoo. This staple bottom-of-the-price-line hair cleaner always stayed under a dollar, but not anymore. Kroger finally succeeded in getting even that to surpass its vaunted dollar price point: $1.05.

There’s a lot of stuff I wanted to comment on regarding how this all came to be, but I just don’t have time to do the analysis.

I’m too busy trying to make enough bread to buy peanuts. Or should I call them “caviar on trees”?

-EG