fossil fuels

MAGA Time and Time For A Moon Shot

I was thinking about what the term “MAGA” means. I don’t mean the words; rather, the reference point.

If the goal is to make America great again, the construct requires an antecedent when America was deemed to be great, a glory from which we’ve foolishly slipped. That’s what the MAGA folks want to restore, it seems. Okay, when was that?

Could they be thinking about the Revolutionary War period, when the inhabitants of the Colonies were all engaged, shoulder to shoulder, in the great quest for freedom from King George III? If so, that’s misguided, because about 20% of the colonists were loyalists to the King and the vast majority were fence sitters. The revolutionaries were a small minority. That’s why Thomas Paine had to exhort colonists to enlist in the fight. Was America great then? There were heroics, to be sure, but probably not overall greatness.

It’s hard to imagine the Civil War period as great, as we killed 620 thousand Americans. Or perhaps that was a great time for some, proudly enslaving others and reaping the benefits and when poor Whites were pretty much our national trash. The White land owners were the undisputed kings of their realms. Maybe that was when America was great.

I’m not confident that the Reconstruction and Jim Crow periods qualify. Not a lot great there, if “liberty and justice for all” means anything, although we did manage to kill and displace uncounted numbers of Native Americans in our westward expansion and lynching was a semi-national past time.

Same problem with Freedom Summer in 1964, when Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman were tortured and murdered in Philadelphia, MS. They were there for the very American activity of registering citizens to vote. Their murders still stand as a symbol of the period. Was that a proud epoch in our history – a MAGA idealized period – when brutality ruled over civics and basic decency?

Maybe the MAGA folks think of the 1950s as the time when America was great. It did work pretty well for Whites. Ours was the only industrial economy left intact after WW II. Jobs were plentiful and wages were good. It was a time when “others” knew “their place.” And it was well before the radical Blacks and college kids were making trouble with all those pesky protest marches for civil and voting rights and against the Viet Nam war. Yeah, that was a great time to be White in America. That must be the MAGA reference point.

It seems to me that when the almost completely White* MAGA crowd spouts “Make America Great Again” what they really mean is to make the country great for them. Just them. This is the very definition of White supremacy, selfishness and the refusal of equal protection. It’s all for me and who cares about anyone else?

That’s what the enslavers said until the Civil War. They continued to believe all their lives that “The South will rise again!” touting their “Lost Cause” totem, and it seems to have done just that with our current insane far right populism. That’s what the Jim Crow South enforced. That’s what hundreds of years of cruelty and broken promises to native Americans were all about. That’s what Reagan worked to create, albeit with carefully written and highly choreographed terms that made selfishness sound patriotic.

And that is what Trump and all the ideological, far right extremists in Congress and elsewhere want to create. It’s about the absolute right of the individual over the common good. All for them and who cares about anyone else?

I should have told you that there will be a pass-fail exam. To prepare, you must watch the history lesson from Professor Heather Cox Richardson, as she digs into the deeper meaning of the Roe-killing Supreme Court Dobbs decision. It’s likely much farther reaching than you now realize. So, grab your cup o’ joe and listen up.

To close this section, here’s a fine and insightful, pre-massacre comment from the July 4th weekend:

“Even though our politics is toxically polarized right now, we don’t need fewer arguments right now; we just need less stupid ones.”

  • Eric Liu, CEO, Citizen University
  • PBS News Weekend, July 3, 2022
Time For A Moon Shot

Picture credit: NASA and Wikipedia

Surely, there can’t be many doubters left that we are at the whim of the fossil fuel industry. The craziness of U.S. gas prices that have gone over $6 per gallon is actually dwarfed by what customers are paying in Europe. So, let me say this with as much clarity as I can muster: We travel about and stay warm in the winter at the pleasure of and discretion (if any) of oil producers, and many of them have no interest at all in what works best for us. Think: Russia; Saudi Arabia; Iran – and even the myopically focused, shareholder and  C-suite-centric U.S. fossil fuel companies, still selfishly thinking Milton Friedman got it right. **

Add to that the actual, real life fact that we are in the process of cooking our planet, making huge areas uninhabitable, reducing crop yields, killing people in freak storms that are so common that they aren’t freaks anymore and incrementally drowning coastal land areas. It’s possible that the smart move is to let go of our petty insecurities and short term thinking that lead to nothing good and instead do something about what matters. Like staying alive.

Apparently, Coal State Joe doesn’t care about his grandkids.

This just might be the moment to rally the U.S. and perhaps the world to a moon shot, a dramatic shift from fossil fuels to renewables that won’t kill all of us. This just might be the time to create incentives for solar panels on every roof, for far more fields of wind generators, for the development of power from tides and all the rest of the things that we will eventually do anyway. The only question is when our circumstances will have become sufficiently dire and scary for us to break out of our denial and do the obvious.

Right now is the time for that moon shot. We can start with a Presidential call to action and by firing all politicians who refuse to accept reality. I’m thinking about you, Joe Manchin (D-WV), as you abandon any concern for your grandchildren (see the graphic to the left). You, too, Marco Rubio (R-FL), as you mealy mouth about climate warming, while the Mayor of Miami Beach is on Highway A1A and the sea water is over his ankles. Read a related CBS story here.

In the face of Manchin’s Luddite refusal to support fighting global warming and the Supreme Court having hamstrung the EPA’s power to regulate, read Four Ways the United States Can Still Fight Climate Change. It’s not enough, but it’s something.


* Don’t let a few Black faces in the audience behind MAGA speakers fool you. They’re placed where they are to make these hate rallies look more inclusive for TV viewers, but there are actually very few non-Whites attending. If you want to test that, watch any video of the January 6 insurrection and count the non-White faces.

** Friedman Doctrine: “An entity’s [corporation’s] greatest responsibility lies in the satisfaction of the shareholders.” Friedman’s tortured logic said that focusing solely on maximizing return to shareholders would result in the best outcomes for all stakeholders (employees, customers, suppliers, the community, etc.).

Today’s era of high inflation is caused, in part, by whimsically puffed up prices (whatever the market will bear) for energy, transportation, food and more. Per corporate reporting, this has resulted in greatly inflated corporate profits and, therefore, a far greater return to shareholders.

Is that resulting in the best outcomes for all stakeholders, as Friedman predicted? How is Friedman’s notion working for workers and small businesses? How is that working for you, as you stand at the gas pump and watch the numbers climb?

I really don’t think that Gordon Gecko (“Greed is good“) was entirely right. Self-interest is fine, but not in the absolute and certainly not to the exclusion of everyone and everything else. If we’re to keep this planet habitable, it’s going to require us all to work for the common good, irrespective of shareholder satisfaction.


Our governance and electoral corruption and dysfunction and our ongoing mass murders are all of a piece, all the same problem with the same solution:
Fire the bastards!
The days are dwindling for us to take action. Get up! Do something to make things better.

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  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
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  3. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
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Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

We’re A Very Entertaining Species & BHB

Here’s a Fourth of July message, because this is how we define ourselves. This is how we do things. This is how we plan for the future. Be advised that we can be a very entertaining species.

Read this from Wikipedia:

The oil depletion allowance in American (US) tax law is an allowance claimable by anyone with an economic interest in a mineral deposit or standing timber.[1] The principle is that the asset is a capital investment that is a wasting asset, and therefore depreciation can reasonably be offset (effectively as a capital loss) against income.

The oil depletion allowance has been subject of interest, because of the relationship of big oil with the US government, and because one method (percentage depletion) of claiming the allowance makes it possible to write off more than the whole capital cost of the asset.[2][emphasis mine]

The oil depletion allowance applies to most extraction commodities – anything pulled from the Earth, like fossil fuels. The allowance is basically a subsidy to those industries and to those who profit from them.

Once we’ve sucked all the oil out of the ground it’s gone. We don’t have another 60 million years to wait for more supply. So we pretzeled our tax code to give the industry billions of dollars in tax reductions so the oil barons would have a soft landing when all the holes are dry a long, long time from now. We surely wouldn’t want to burden them with the awful mental labor of figuring out what’s next. They just want to go on cashing their checks.

It was a simple jump to taxing the profits of the oil companies – income tax – to make governments beholden to the revenues they received from Big Oil, Coal and Gas. That made politicians and the public protective of the fossil fuel industry because of all the services they funded. It also relieved our leaders of that same burden, the terrible entrepreneurial mental labor of figuring out what’s next. They, too, just want to go on cashing their checks.

So, congratulations to all of us for setting ourselves up for sclerotic brain functioning about what comes next. We aren’t in immediate danger of running out of fossil fuels. But we are in danger of running out of a survivable place to live, because we’re cooking ourselves in our own juice, even as we defend the source of what’s cooking us. It’s good for individuals and local, state and federal revenues to protect the status quo. Pay no attention to the people dying of heat in Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, or the water reservoirs going dry and agricultural fields drying up.

This is just another chapter in the Book of Reality Denial. Like most of the other chapters, you can get to the root of the foolishness by following the directive of Deep Throat: Follow the money.

We humans can be bought at such a low price. Every day there’s a blue light special in aisle seven and we stampede to it, heedless of our own coughing and wheezing. And that’s the BHB – Basic Human Behavior* – we have to overcome if we’re to save ourselves, because the Oil Depletion Allowance won’t grow food, provide water, stop mega storms or un-foul our air.

Be sure to wave your flag at your town’s Fourth of July parade (if it isn’t cancelled due to the pandemic). Watch for my traditional red, white and blue flag shirt as you pass by.

And wake up to the reality that a few more bucks in our pockets at both individual and governmental levels will be worth nothing if we’re scratching for existence. It’s time for us to see red, white and blue in a new way so that those colors will still be flying for our children and grandchildren.

Because ready or not, what’s next is coming.

If you’d like to have a look at our century-long subsidizing of and our squishy love affair with Big Oil, have a look at this piece from Mother Jones.


* BHB – Basic Human Behavior

Be clear that we humans have a nearly infinite capacity for self-delusion. Even today we see Governor Greg Abbott (R-TX) pledging to complete Trump’s border wall, at least in Texas, and he’s pledged $250 million of Texas tax payers’ money to do it. I guess Mexico just isn’t going to pony up any cash for a wall and, clearly, Abbott’s paltry fund won’t buy much wall, so he’s soliciting private donations. Abbott received $459,000 from duped donors in just a week. To learn why they’re duped, take this math test:

Trump’s border “wall” – sometimes it’s just a fence – cost over $22 million per mile. This was accomplished through the magic of Trump’s no-bid contracts awarded to his donor friends.

The Texas-Mexico border is 1,200 miles long.

How much would it cost to construct Gov. Abbott’s border wall?

Hint: $26,400,000,000


So, no, Gov. Abbott is not going to build that wall. You can be confident that the money he collects will go to the governor’s favorite campaign fund. And don’t be surprised if all that gets erected along the border is a weather beaten post with a bullet-riddled stop sign.

Politicians will fund raise on anything that tweaks donors. Stoking fear of immigrants has repeatedly proven to be an excellent stimulus for the emptying of citizens’ wallets into politicians’ piggy banks, exactly what Abbott is doing right now. Our BHB – Basic Human Behavior – allows us to be duped in this way over and over. And it gets even crazier than that.

Somehow Republican South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem thinks it makes sense for her to send South Dakota National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border. Yes, seriously.

And Tennessee (not South Dakota) billionaire megadonor Willis Johnson has pledged to fund Noem’s spectacle of trying to look patriotic. Yes, seriously.

VSQ (Very Serious Question): What do you suppose megadonor Johnson expects to get back as a return on his investment in Noem? Hint: Noem thinks she’s a 2024 presidential candidate and Johnson might want to be on Noem’s favorite donor list to get whatever it is he wants. He’s just another grifter and we allow ourselves to get duped by the megadonor 2-step nearly every time.

Click me

Like I said, we’re a very entertaining species.


More BHB

We Americans are making great progress in refusing vaccines. And we’re doing it just in time for the arrival of the Delta variant which is 140 times more contagious than the “that’s so 2020” Covid-19. Here’s a great summary.


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The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.


Copyright 2022 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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