American Elephants

Demolishing Demagoguery, Exposing Lies, Explaining the Price of Gas: by The Elephant's Child

According to polls, most Americans believe that the high price of gasoline is due to “oil company greed.” That is unfortunate, and wrong. This is called the BIG LIE. If you repeat erroneous information often enough , people will believe it. President Obama chooses to demonize “Big Oil”and to talk incessantly about the huge “subsidies” that Big Oil gets. He wants them removed. Congress turned him down, primarily because they are not subsidies, but the same kind of tax write-off that most companies get to compensate for the cost of doing business.

Did you know that ExxonMobil, for example, pays far more to the federal government than it get in profits? In addition to the massive income tax bills, energy companies are required to pay “royalties” and “bonus bids” for the right to explore for and produce oil and gas on federal lands. Rising oil and gas revenues have provided a “windfall”of new revenue for the federal government. For the fiscal year 2000, the taxpayer’s total return from royalty payments was $4.95 billion, $10.7 billion in 2006, and exceeded $20 billion for fiscal year 2008.

Oil is a world commodity. The price of oil is a futures price, based on what they expect the price of oil to be for the next tanker truck, or next oil tanker. The guy at your neighborhood gas station has to pay for gas the next tanker truck will bring, not what he paid for the last one, because in  a volatile market it will be different. Nobody knows what the future price of anything will be, but they have to plan ahead anyway. Some like to call the futures contracts that people buy and sell — speculation, and sneer at speculators as evil people. Some people are gambling, but most are simply buying contracts to protect themselves from future price hikes.  When you have a lot of turmoil in the Middle East where much of the world’s oil comes from, the future price goes up because they are worried about Iran threatening to block the Straits of Hormuz through which much of the oil must pass. Syria is a worry, and Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon.

(click to enlarge)
This chart shows you how much the Private Oil Companies (remember that most oil companies are huge state-owned outfits) pay in income tax (in blue) compared to their profit margin (in yellow).

Econbrowser has done a remarkable job of assembling a bunch of maps to explain why the price of gas is different in one place than it is in another. Here in Washington State we pay over 55¢ per gallon in gasoline taxes— higher than most, and the price at the pump is well over $4 a gallon and rising. But even after you subtract the gas taxes, the average cost is still different. Do click on this link to see the five maps that explain so much about the cost of gas. It is well worth your time, and you will understand more and worry less, or at least worry less about the wrong things, and you’ll be  less susceptible to political demagoguery.

Republicans Don’t Believe in Science, and Reject the Theory of Relativity. by The Elephant's Child

A paper published on Friday in the  American Sociological Review states that just over 34 percent of conservatives had confidence in science as an institution, in 2010, representing a long-term decline from 48 percent in 1974.  In 1974, conservatives were more likely than liberals or moderates to express confidence in science.

Well, ho-hum.  Climate Gate I, ClimateGate II, (conspiracy, collusion in exaggerating data, falsification of data), FakeGate (Peter Gleick uses false identity, fakes documents), retreat of Himalayan Glaciers, IPCC (at least 16 claims of impending doom in 2007 report were based on work done by GreenPeace activists, not peer-reviewed science), Indian Ocean and  Pacific Ocean sea level data (came from computer models by people who had never visited the sites in question), Kevin Trenberth,(plagiarism, politicization). And more and more.

Over at Ace of Spades, Arthur K points out a recent story

During a decade as head of global cancer research at Amgen, C. Glenn Begley identified 53 “landmark” publications – papers in top journals, from reputable labs– for his team to reproduce. Begley sought to double-check the findings before trying to build on them for drug development.

Result: 47 of the 53 could not be replicated.

And in the same article:

Scientists at Bayer did not have much more success. In a 2011 paper titled, “Believe it or not,” they analyzed in-house projects that built on “exciting published data” from basic science studies. “Often, key data could not be reproduced,” wrote Khusru Asadullah, vice president and head of target discovery at Bayer HealthCare in Berlin, and colleagues.

Of 47 cancer projects at Bayer during 2011, less than one-quarter could reproduce previously reported findings, despite the efforts of three or four scientists working full-time for up to a year. Bayer dropped the projects.

Bayer and Amgen found that the prestige of a journal was no guarantee a paper would be solid. “The scientific community assumes that the claims in a preclinical study can be taken at face value,” Begley and Lee Ellis of MD Anderson Cancer Center wrote in Nature. It assumes, too, that “the main message of the paper can be relied on … Unfortunately, this is not always the case.”

Conservatives, you see, have a long history of being anti-science. They opposed embryonic stem-cell research when it might have helped Christopher Reeve to walk again, just because of their stupid hang up about embryos — just a clump of cells. And they don’t believe in manmade global warming, when Al Gore’s movie told us all what a danger it is. There’s someone named Chris Mooney, who seems to be an English major who is a true believer in global warming,and  writes regularly on how dumb Republicans are, and, unsurprisingly, has a new book out called The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Don’t Believe in Science. It may be entertaining.

It seems that Republicans get all their scientific information from something called “Conservapedia,” the right-wing counterpart to Wikipedia, which is anti-science and doubts Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. I never heard of it, but lefties seem to be the major contributors.

Liberals remain astonished that anyone could find anything unconstitutional in ObamaCare, and are looking for confirmation that we are indeed unusually stupid. This finding turns up regularly in one academic study after another. A favorite pastime in academe.

Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion addresses the differences between liberals and conservatives and their moral stereotypes. The authors surveyed two thousand people asking one-third to answer in their own voice, one-third to answer as “a typical liberal” and one-third to answer as “a typical conservative.”

The results were quite striking. Conservatives and moderates were adept at guessing how liberals would answer; but liberals, especially those who considered themselves as “very liberal” were very bad at guessing what conservatives would say about issues of care or fairness. For example, most thought that conservatives would disagree with statements like ‘One of the worst things a person could do is hurt a defenseless animal’ or ‘justice is the most important requirement for a society.’

Haidt, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, found that liberals and conservatives alike form their political beliefs according to three values: caring for the weak, fairness, and liberty.  Yet conservatives also hold to three other values: loyalty, respect for authority, and sanctity.  This accounts in part for the liberal failure to understand conservative viewpoints. Conservatives can understand the morality of liberals, but much of conservative morality is alien to their opponents.  Haidt had been a liberal — but became a centrist after this study.

In an article entitled “Is the Tea Party Racist?“Dr. Timothy Dalrymple explains:

But the problem is not merely ignorance. Liberals are also alienated from core conservative values. Liberals are trained to believe that many of the traditional American ideals and values that conservatives inherit in their families and churches are cruel and intolerant, imperialistic, and implicitly racist, sexist, and classist. They are trained, for instance, not to be motivated by patriotism and American exceptionalism, but by an ideal of world citizenship and parity.

Liberals consistently misinterpret what motivates conservatives because they really cannot see the world from the conservative perspective. Liberals cannot imagine that Tea Partiers are really motivated by concern for their country, and by frustration with a White House hemorrhaging red ink and a government less concerned to represent the interests of the citizenry than to pay off the special interests that fund their campaigns.

“Liberals, Dr. Dalrymple says,” are unable to see a rational and noble motive at the center of the Tea Party movement, so they supply a darker and more convenient motive instead.” The problem is not that liberals dislike the principles promoted at Tea Party rallies: the problem is that liberals dislike the kind of people who go to Tea Party rallies.

So if you have been puzzled by the strange things liberals say, there you go.

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