Saturday, November 3, 2007

Oil

Oil prices have been insanely high recently. I suppose it does have a good side, since people who own gas-guzzling vehicles will be less likely to drive their polluting cars. Well, that's not good if you actually own one of those cars. Prices are bad enough if you own a car with decent mileage per gallon.
Oil companies recently have been very greedy. I remember only a few years ago, it was considered craxy if a gas station had prices above $2, and now those prices are sailing above $3 per gallon. These prices are definitely denting the wallets of those who aren't as well off as others, and the oil companies prosper.
Well, anyway, here' a post from "Greg Mankiw's Blog" about oil prices.

Where have all the oil shocks gone?
Oil prices are near record highs, which raises a fascinating question. In recent years, the U.S. and world economies have typically shrugged off oil price increases. By contrast, oil price increases are a major part of the conventional story of the economic turmoil of the 1970s. Why the difference?
We economists do not have a complete answer, but we have some clues. One important clue is below (via Carpe Diem):
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_djgssszshgM/RyReHT4csNI/AAAAAAAAAKA/ZM55jYNzEbw/s400/energy.jpg
The economy is far more energy-efficient today than it was in the past, in part because economic activity is based more on services and less on manufacturing. As a result, energy prices matter less today.
In their research on the topic, Blanchard and Gali also give credit to more flexible labor markets, better monetary policy, and a bit of luck.
Another hypothesis: The macroeconomic effect of high energy prices may depend on whether the high prices are the result of reduced supply or increased demand. Perhaps in the 1970s high oil prices were largely the result of supply restrictions, whereas in recent years high oil prices are driven more by increased demand from a booming world economy.
One final conjecture: Maybe the recent increase in oil prices has been less sudden, making it easier for other prices and thus the economy to adjust. In particular, it may not have affected the skewness in the distribution of relative-price changes in the same way as previous oil shocks did.
We have no shortage of theories. The definitive study on the macroeconomic effect of oil prices is still waiting to be written.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Stephen Colbert

As many of you probably know, Stephen Colbert has decided to run for President. He's admitted that he doesn't actually want to be president; he just wants to run for it in his native state of South Carolina. Colbert said that he had wanted to run in both the Democratic and Republican Primaries because he'd "like to lose twice." While he missed the deadline for the Republican primary ballot, on Thursday he'd filed for the Democratic ticket and paid the $2,500 filing fee. However, only hours later, the party's executive council voted 13-3 against allowing him on the ballot (the eight other major Democratic candidates were accepted).

While Colbert makes a living by making a mockery of America, I feel that now he's going too far. Yes, there is unfortunately a lot to mock today, but actually trying to be on a Presidential ballot is unneccessary. I enjoy watching his shows, but I wholeheartedly agree with the Democratic party's executive council decision. Nobody I know is satisfied with our current government, but some actions hurt more than they help, and some are just plain stupid.

Exxon

As some of you may know, several years ago, there was a terrible oil spill up near Alaska. It was devestating to the environment, coating birds and other sea animals in oil and killing many of them. This happened when an oil tanker from Exxon Mobil crashed and spilled its dangerous cargo all over the ocean.
The company, of course, was supposed to pay for the cleanup of the environment, and it was also supposed to pay a large fine. But now the Supreme Court is saying that they may not make Exxon pay the rest of the fines (because Bush has all of his people in the courts and he doesn't want to punish oil companies for anything they've done wrong).
I don't know about you, but this makes me furious. How can they just let these people off! It's terrible that the Bush administration wants to let these people off paying the rest of the fine, even after they caused so much damage to the eivironment.
Well, here's the link to the actual article.

http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_7319369?source=rss&nclick_check=1

Sigh. None of my articles have been very cheerful. That just shows how easy it is to find sad stories in the news. Oh well.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

India Activists Decry Gap Child Labor

"With Gap Inc. under fire for selling clothes made by children in India, activists and police raided a sweatshop in New Delhi where 14 boys were embroidering women's garments Monday, illustrating the widespread problem of child labor in the South Asian country."

When I first read this, I thought that it was the same old line about how horrible child labor is and that it must be abolished at all costs. Don't get me wrong, I believe that child labor is horrible (how could I not?) but I feel that sometimes it is neccessary to make third-world countries less impoverished. However, the article went on to state that, " India's transformation in the past decade into an emerging global economic power has done little to alleviate the country's widespread poverty - and the problems that go along with it, such as child labor."

It should also be noted that about 13 million children work in India, many of them in hazardous industries, like glass making, where such labor has long been banned.

The article stated that the boys had not only been working 15 hours a day in a sweatshop with horrible conditions, but they were sleeping that same place. Many had been sold into this line of work years before; some had just left with promises of money for their families. However, they had never been given the promised wages.

The sweatshop had been found just a few houses down from the "now-shuttered operation that made Gap clothes." Gap said that the sweatshop was being run by a subcontractor who was hired in violation of Gap's policies, and that they won't sell any of the products in stores. At least, that's what it said in the second article I read about this. If you're interested in all the details you can find it at http://webcenters.netscape.compuserve.com/pf/story.jsp?floc=FF-APO-1333&idq=/ff/story/0001%2F20071029%2F1326021175.htm&sc=1333. However, the first article I read stated that, "Gap terminated the relationship with the subcontractor and said that all of the 700 blouses made there will be destroyed." That version sounds a lot more defensive, and the destroying of the blouses sounds a lot to me like destroying evidence. Personally, I think it would be better if they donated those blouses to all the impoverished families, and not just destroyed these kids' hard, un-paid work.

If you're interested in reading the first article I read, it can be found at http://www.pressdisplay.com/pressdisplay/viewer.aspx. Type in "New Delhi raids highlight indian child labor problems" in the search bar and you should be able to find it.

While Bhuwan Ribhu, a lawyer who works with Bachpan Bachao Andolan, or the Save Childhood Movement, said that, " International companies hire subcontractors and then forget about it. There is no monitoring at all," he places most ofthe blame on the Indian government, saying that it hasn't developed a way of monitoring factories at all. He added, "Where the Gap is concerned, at least they've taken a good pro-active stand against the subcontractors."

It seems like blame is shared all around, but for the sake of 13 million children, I hope something is done.

Democratic Debates

As you may know, the democratic debates were on tuesday. This is similar to the presedential debates, except that it's between those democrats who are running for the primaries (just in case you don't know). Of those who took part in the debates, Edwards, Obama, and Hillary Clinton seem to be the favorites so far.
Clinton, who has been doing well so far, unfortunately did not do as well during the debates as she could have. She didn't clearly answer some of the questions asked of her, not replying either yes or no. Apparently she didn't want to upset any potential oters with an answer they didn't think was satisfying. But many people think her lack of a decent response deems her untrustworthy.
Well, I still think she'd do a better job than Bush. And just think! The first female president. That would be a huge step forward for our country-to admit that women are just as capable of leading as men.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Deadly Household Items

On the news last night, I saw a segment about a product that Home Depot sells. Or sold. It's a grout sealer, that you spray on tiled floors of walls. By name, "Stand 'n Seal tile grout sealer." The problem is that this household do-it-yourself grout sealer has already killed two people and made many others very, very sick. When you go to spray this chimical onto the floors, some of it rebounds back into your face and can get in your lungs. And these chemicals are far from healthy.
This product was eventually recalled, but two months after, it was still on shelves, and innocent consumers of the product had no idea that this could cost them weeks of living in a hospital. Even though this product was so dangerous, Home Depot still sold it! How can people care so little about others?
So, watch what you buy, okay?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Bogus Reporters at Emergency News Conference

FEMA, the federal emergency management system, held a conference about the fires in Southern California. But no news people were able to arrive in time to attend the conference since there was very short notice. So instead they used their own staff members to pretend to be reporters. So these "reporters" asked stupid questions that made their company look good.
So, here's the link to the actual article since now you have the background. I thought this was very strange... How about you?

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2007/10/30/ED25T2RHB.DTL

Monday, October 29, 2007

Texas Chainsaw Management

Well, here we go. It's the first time I've ever posted anything on a blog, and I've been saving this article since this summer. I had to read it for one of my other classes, and I thought it would fit the blog.

http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2007/05/revolvingdoor200705

This article was very depressing to me, since I'm an environmentalist. This is the last thing the environment needs, but, of course, this is what you get when a person like George Bush is president. He puts people in top environmental positions who own lumber companies. Do you really think they're going to do something to help the environment? Of course not. That's why he put them in charge.
How about you? What do you think?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

10 sheiks kidnapped in Baghdad

More bad news from Iraq:
http://apnews.excite.com/article/20071029/D8SIKJJO0.html

This looks especially bad after a U.S. commander said the threat from Al-Qaida has been "significantly reduced".

I really don't see how we can permanently solve the problems in Iraq. It seems that we only hear more and more bad news about the occupation of Iraq. I hope this situation can be resolved.