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The ANWR Oil Debate

by @ 12:09 am
Filed under: environment,financial,politics

Lately I've seen a number of Web sites and emails exhorting Americans to press their government to explore for oil in a parcel of land in ANWR, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the northeast corner of Alaska.

The ANWR debate is nothing new and it was a hot topic back in the 1970's oil crisis. Proponents argue that this location may hold vast deposits of oil which could bring relief to the current shortages of oil and thus tame the high prices in the US and the rest of the world. Opponents include the natives and environmentalists who fear that such exploration and subsequent drilling could endanger this natural setting robbing it and its inhabitants (humans and animals) of its ecological diversity and wealth.

I am not sure which side of the debate holds the better argument. Personally I don't like to see natural settings overrun by industrial concerns, i.e. the oil companies. What I do know is that Exxon-Mobil's earnings topped $40 billion in 2007 and surely they will easily exceed that figure this year. As people learn of these outlandish profits by the big oil while their savings are being squeezed, there is bound to be some backlash. That has manifested itself in the form of calls for special taxes on oil companies.

Couple that with the inevitable emergence of fuel economics and alternative energy and it's not hard to guess that oil companies are worried about their prospects. To me, these pro- oil exploration campaigns are not about alleviating oil shortages, but more about distracting the public from the abuses of the oil companies. Many go even further to shift the spotlight away from the big oil and cast it on the liberals, democrats, or Arabs in a shameless effort to create public sympathy and support for the oil companies. One wonders who the real authors are.

Oil companies already have millions of acres of land they can start exploring, but that's not enough. ANWR may hold large reserves of oil, but this campaign smells more like a land-grab and less like a sincere effort to help calm the oil crunch. Blaring their propaganda machine in times of panic and despair is always a good way to assure power and profits.

Review history and see how dictators and tyrants have come to power. Their reigns have almost always preceded by periods of unrest and panic when people are at their most vulnerable and can be easily deceived by empty promises and blustering rants. Once they tap into the herd mentality, they are assured of their golden positions. I want a way out of this oil mess too, but not enough to sell out this country to oil thugs. They're beyond rich enough already.


Sales, Politics, and Religion

by @ 11:09 pm
Filed under: marketing,politics,religion

For a brief period in my career I was encouraged to try my hand at sales. I was ok at it and made decent commissions but in the end I knew that sales wasn't my calling and I returned to my passion, technology, mainly programming. That brief stint taught me one lesson in salesmanship. When on a sales call, steer away from passionate topics, specially when you don't know which way the prospect is leaning. References to religion and politics should be avoided in favor of more neutral topics, unless the product is geared towards a certain persuasion.

Today I was shown an online demo of a Web product. The salesman had worked hard to secure a slice of my time to showcase his product. The part I found curious was the demo Web pages I was being shown. They included news articles about the Pope's Visit with Bush, Christianity, and the Church. Now I have no problem with these topics when used in the context of product demonstration, but I wondered if the salesperson knew about my liberal, religion-free mindset, would he have still picked these topics for his product demo.

The salesman never lead the conversation towards politics or religion, and we kept the conversation on-topic, centered around the features of the product and the cost of implementation. But I could imagine that another liberal person might have reacted negatively to all this and written the whole thing off.

The point is that avoiding emotionally charged topics such as religion and politics, however indirect, is a prudent policy when making a sales pitch to someone you don't know. This salesman may experience much higher success if he picks safer, more neutral examples for his demonstrations. For example, I'm not interested in team sports, but I doubt anyone would have a negative reaction to samples depicting baseball bats . Why take a chance on distracting or alienating your prospects when your goal is to secure their business?


Political Contextual Advertising

by @ 1:37 pm
Filed under: politics,web

When a site like this one makes the decision to put up advertising from ad networks such as Google Adsense, it loses some capacity to make a quick first impression.

Years ago when the fears of Indian outsourcing was at its peak and people in the U.S. were terrified of job losses, a company put up a Web site in defense of the American workers. When the company decided to monetize the site via Adsense, it was horrified to find out that most of the ads were touting outsourcing to countries such as India and Philippines. In other words the contextual ads were conveying a message opposite of the site's intended one and some users faced with those ads probably regarded the site as pro-outsourcing.

John McCain Google AdsenseThe image to the right is exactly about the same issue. Here is an ad by John McCain that has been coming up on this site for a few days now. It's quite possible that visitors to this site, upon seeing the ad, infer that this site is about politics or it's even pro-Republican.

Yes, I am interested in politics, no, I'm not pro-Republican (certainly not in its neo-con incarnation), and right now I don't really have a strong opinion about McCain or any other potential candidates. I do consider most politicians as greedy hypocrites and I may indulge in a rare pro-liberal banter in my blog, but this site as a whole is politically neutral. Anyone from any camp is welcome here, yet I wonder how many visitors, seeing this ad, would actually make that distinction.


Spitzer and Morality

by @ 9:57 pm
Filed under: politics,religion,social

When I first heard of Spitzer's scandal, my first thought was, "you live by the sword, you die by the sword." But as deserving as Spitzer's fate was, his legacy as an Attorney General and as a Governor was probably a positive one. On balance he did more good for the people of New York than the final damage done by his hubris and his sanctimonious posturing.

I see nothing wrong with prostitution. In fact I'm all for legalizing the profession. But in the end, the biggest lesson in Spitzer's downfall is the pervasive hypocrisy among the men of power. He certainly isn't alone in that respect. The next time you listen to some fiery speech about morality, truth, and justice keep in mind that the person on the soapbox is probably the last person to heed his own advice.

That politician, priest, rabbi, or imam advocating the best qualities of man, quite possibly embodies the worst qualities of mankind. Be it molesting young boys, stealing public money, or exhorting young men to commit murder in the name of god, most are pathetic self-serving narcissists out to enrich themselves.

These cults of personalities may come with different sizes, names and agendas, but most are part of the same sleazy fraternity. Have our moral compasses gone so awry that we need their phony guidance? Listen to your own sense of right and wrong and toss their lectures and speeches on a trash heap. You'll do just fine without their drivel. It's the old "do as I say, not as I do."


Energy Policy? Daylight-Saving Time (DST)

by @ 11:44 pm
Filed under: business,financial,money,politics

Here we go again. As if this whole idea of daylight-saving time (DST) wasn't bad enough, this year the US has decided to tweak the time-shift and spring forward 3 weeks in advance. I received an email from one of our vendors a few days ago regarding the change and this was a part of it:

On August 8, 2005, President George W. Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005. This Act changed the time change dates for Daylight Saving Time in the U.S. Beginning in 2007, DST will begin on the second Sunday in March and end the first Sunday in November. The Secretary of Energy will report the impact of this change to Congress. Congress retains the right to resume the 2005 Daylight Saving Time schedule once the Department of Energy study is complete.

What kind of moronic "Energy Policy" is that? Someone's ought to tell these people in charge that wasting time with a stupid idea is not a good use of our tax dollars. Those dollars can be used for better ideas than just fiddling with a bad idea.

I wrote about this 2 years ago and I grumble about it every year. Some may say, why waist time complaining, or just do as you're told like the rest of the people, herd mentality. Here we are, in a democracy, and we're expected to follow a lame idea like sheep in a herd. Only those with narrow intellectual capacities would buy the energy conservation claims. There has been no credible evidence linking energy conservation with DST. Even if there are miniscule savings, they can never outweigh the negative effects, namely the so called mini Y2K issue that many people have been busy averting. The mini Y2K refers to the problem of computers losing and gaining one hour during these time changes. A lot of time and resources have gone into making sure that critical systems are not adversely affected because of this latest change. What a waste.

In my view, the real answer behind the DST is the same answer behind just about any other question, money. I've always known that the DST had little to do with saving energy and more to do with profits. Maybe kicking people out of bed earlier and having them outside for longer hours translates into more opportunity for spending. It could also mean more hours of work for employees, many of whom will see little compensation for the additional work. Always follow the money, it'll lead to the truth.

So while you're yawning in your car driving to work on Monday with bloodshot eyes, consider that fact that you (and I) are nothing but sheep in a big herd driven by the big business and their insatiable quench for more money. And the guard dogs? Politicians, of course.

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