Grassroot Perspective – July 7, 2003-The News in Review; ‘Body of Evidence,’ Get It?; Down This Road Before; Are We Running Out of Oil?

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“Dick Rowland Image”

”Shoots (News, Views and Quotes)”


– The News in Review

The Jayson Blair affair may be mainstream journalism’s last, best
chance to arrest its steady slide into irrelevance. The New York Times
is not going to dry up and blow away due to one renegade reporter, but
the attitudes and beliefs that enabled Blair’s frauds extend to the
very core of American journalism.

Many major metro dailies are absolutely obsessed with racial diversity
among their staff and on their pages. Supporters of these polices will
deny it, but there can be no serious debate that had a white reporter
made the same kind and quantity of mistakes as Blair, he or she
would’ve been cut loose long ago.

A single tortured paragraph from the Times’ 7,200-word account of the
matter illustrates just how strong the denial remains:

“Mr. Blair’s Times supervisors and Maryland professors emphasize that
he earned an internship at The Times because of glowing recommendations
and a remarkable work history, not because he is black. The Times
offered him a slot in an internship program that was then being used in
large part to help the paper diversify its newsroom.”

Blair’s earliest writing presaged trouble for anyone willing to read
what the words actually said. In an essay written to get his
internship, Blair said, “my kindred spirits are the ones who became
journalists because they wanted to help people.”

Why should such a sentiment impress the top editors of the Times? Why
does a newspaper have to function as a social service adjunct? Once
“helping people” becomes enshrined as the overarching goal of the
staff, accuracy is by definition a secondary concern. Blair was telling
his future employers he knew how the game was played: Write stories
that “help people” and all is good.

As the Times account makes clear, Blair had powerful backers in
managing editor Gerald Boyd and executive editor Howell Raines. Boyd is
black and headed the committee that promoted Blair to full reporter in
2001 despite some trepidation from another editor who tallied errors at
the paper. Raines is a Southern white liberal who may well see Klansmen
behind every social problem. His brief tenure at the Times has been
marked by a penchant for running off established reporters to create
slots for people who will owe their allegiance to him completely. It is
a management approach that worked well for Stalin.

Even after Blair’s problems resulted in a leave of absence and repeated
warnings, Times readers were kept in the dark. Worst of all, Raines and
Boyd hid Blair’s problems from the editors who got his copy while Blair
was on the Beltway Sniper beat. These editors go on record to say
putting a reporter with Blair’s track record on a complex, highly
competitive story like the sniper was not a good idea. In truth it
represented nothing less than total disregard for the paper’s readers.
But nothing was going to get in the way of Raines’ experiment in social

That gets us to the ultimate challenge the Blair case presents to the
Times and the profession it represents. When will the deceptions and
secret agendas come to an end? When will readers be able to read a
story and be confident the writer is on the page because of intrinsic
qualities such as competence, rather than incidental ones such as skin
color? When will readers know that a multi-part series on sprawl or
farm runoff, or public school dilapidation comes to its copious column
inches because editors truly think it’s important and not because it
conforms to some “public service” category in one journalism contest or

It is not enough to be accurate, not when the facts of most any matter
can be had with a few keystrokes. Transparency also matters. It is
legitimate to present facts in a way meant to advance a particular
argument — that taxes are too high, that taxes are too low, that taxes
are too complex. What is illegitimate — and yet describes much
American journalism both before and after Jayson Blair — is hiding
those intentions behind facile claims of objectivity.

Above article is quoted from Reason Express May 13, 2003

– ‘Body of Evidence,’ Get It?

A 30-year-old New York City model who attempted to march topless in the
city’s annual Mermaid Parade settled her false arrest lawsuit against
the city for $10,000. Seems the police thought her costume, essentially
a thong and body paint, fell under the city’s anti-public exposure
statute. She claimed her costumes was “public entertainment,” and the
body of evidence she presented obviously worked in her favor. From the
National Law Journal

– Down This Road Before

John Banzhaf, a professor at George Washington University, helped
concoct some of the curious medical and legal theories that eventually
brought the tobacco industry to its knees. Among those was the concept
that people ignore the warning labels on cigarette packs and continue
to smoke because nicotine is more addictive than heroin. Now, having
failed in his first attempt to help justify a suit against the fast
food industry for causing obesity, he is back with a cigarette
look-alike argument. As reported in the London Telegraph, Banzhaf
claims a recent Princeton University study found that rats fed a
high-fat, high-sugar diet similar to eating fast food suffered
withdrawal symptoms, similar to those experienced by nicotine and
heroin addicts, when the food was removed. He said a failure by the
industry to put cigarette-like addiction warning labels on fast food
could be the basis for another suit.

Above articles are quoted from The Heartland Institute Lawsuit Abuse
June 2003

”Roots (Food for Thought)”

“Editor’s note: Those of us who know and practice some economic
applications are fond of saying that resources are always limited. We
follow that by advising that “trade-offs” are required. One of the
‘trade-offs’ for scarce resources is an increase in price or

“Lo and behold, when it becomes individually profitable to find or
discover new resources, such are found. Read the following carefully. I
predict you will never listen to the Sierra Club again until they get
real.” — Richard O. Rowland

– Are We Running Out of Oil?

By David Deming

In 1998, Scientific American published an influential article entitled
“The End of Cheap Oil.” The authors, predicting that world oil
production would peak in the year 2002, said, “What our society does
face, and soon, is the end of the abundant and cheap oil on which all
industrial nations depend.” Similar admonitions were published in
authoritative scientific journals. Given the current price of gasoline
in the United States, these warnings loom large. Are high energy costs
due to short-term geopolitical factors, or is the world about to run
out of oil? An historical perspective is enlightening.

In 1855, four years before the first oil well was drilled in the United
States, an advertisement for “Kier’s Rock Oil” advised consumers to
“hurry, before this wonderful product is depleted from Nature’s
laboratory.” In 1874, the state geologist of Pennsylvania, the nation’s
leading oil-producing state, estimated there was only enough oil left
in the United States to keep kerosene lamps burning for four years. In
1918, a writer in the Oil Trade Journal noted that in the 25 years he
had been following the oil business he had witnessed repeated instances
of people saying that the world’s supply of commercial crude oil would
be exhausted within a few years. In May of 1920, the US Geological
Survey announced that the world’s total endowment of oil amounted to 60
billion barrels. This estimate proved to be slightly below the mark. By
the year 2000, 900 billion barrels had been produced, with some 2,100
billion barrels remaining.

In the twentieth century we went through eight separate instances of
oil-shortage scares. The most recent of these was the “energy crisis”
of the 1970s. After the 1979 political revolution in Iran, the price of
oil soared to over $75 a barrel in inflation-adjusted 2001 US dollars.
In 1981, a respected and widely used textbook on economic geology
acknowledged that geologists had “cried wolf” too many times in the
past, but warned, “finally, however, the wolves are with us.” The
authors predicted that the US was entering an incipient 125-year-long
“energy gap.” The moralistic tone was implicit: we would have to change
wasteful and decadent lifestyles based on high rates of energy
consumption. The predictions of the 1970s were followed in a few years
by a glut of cheap oil. By 1986, oil prices had collapsed to one-third
their peak value in 1980. Throughout the 1990s, world oil production
continued to increase, and prices were generally stable in the
neighborhood of $20-30 a barrel.

It is a geologic fact that the total amount of oil in the Earth is
finite and cannot be replaced in a human life span. However, the
world’s total oil endowment has apparently grown faster than humanity
can pump petroleum out of the ground. In 1950, geological estimates of
the world’s total oil resources were around 600 billion barrels. From
1970 through 1990, estimates increased to between 1,500 and 2,000
billion barrels. In 1994, the US Geological Survey raised the estimate
to 2,400 billion barrels, and their most recent estimate (year 2000)
was 3,000 billion barrels.

For 50 years, the estimated size of the world’s oil endowment has
increased faster than the depletion due to human extraction. How can
this be? The answer lies in technology. The first American oil well was
drilled in 1859 by Colonel Drake in Titusville, Pennsylvania. The
actual drilling was done by a blacksmith known locally as “Uncle Billy
Smith.” The well reached a total depth of 69 feet.

Today’s drilling technology allows the completion of wells up to 30,000
feet deep. The vast petroleum resources of the world’s submerged
continental margins have been made accessible by offshore drilling
platforms that allow oil wells to be drilled in water depths of up to
9,000 feet. Traditionally, oil wells consisted of one vertical shaft
that limited the amount of oil that could be extracted from a rock
layer. New technologies allow multiple horizontal shafts to be bored
from the main vertical borehole, greatly increasing the amount of oil
that can be recovered. Four-dimensional seismic imaging allows a
subsurface petroleum reservoir to be seen in three spatial dimensions
and the fourth dimension of time. As engineers and geologists watch oil
drain from a reservoir over months to years, they can devise and
implement strategies to increase the efficiency of recovery. With every
passing year it becomes possible to exploit oil resources that could
not have been recovered with old technologies.

If the world’s total oil endowment is 3,000 billion barrels, how much
oil do we have left today? According to the US Geological Survey’s year
2000 assessment, there are 2,100 billion barrels remaining. In the year
2000, the total world oil production was 25 billion barrels. If world
oil production continues to increase at an average rate of 1.4 percent
a year, the world’s oil supply will not be exhausted until the year
2056. These considerations do not even factor in unconventional oil
resources. Conventional oil refers to oil that is pumped out of the
ground with minimal processing; unconventional oil resources consist
largely of tar sands and oil shales that require processing to extract
liquid petroleum. Unconventional oil resources are very large. Oil
production from tar sands in Canada and South America would add about
600 billion barrels to the world’s supply. The amount of petroleum
contained in oil shales is staggering. Rocks found in the three western
states of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming alone contain 1,500 billion
barrels of oil. Worldwide, the oil-shale resource base could easily be
as large as 14,000 billion barrels — more than 500 years of oil supply
at year 2000 production rates. Unconventional oil resources are more
expensive to extract and produce, but production costs will drop with
time as improved technologies result in greater efficiencies.

In the long run, an economy that utilizes petroleum as a primary energy
source is not sustainable, because the amount of oil in the Earth’s
crust is finite. However, sustainability is a misleading concept, a
chimera. No technology since the birth of civilization has been
sustainable. They have all been replaced as people found better and
more efficient ways of doing things. The history of energy use is
largely one of substitution. In the nineteenth century, the world’s
primary energy source was wood. Around 1890, wood was replaced by coal.
Coal remained the world’s largest source of energy until the 1960s when
it was replaced by oil. We have only just entered the petroleum age.
How long will it last? No one can predict the future, but the world
contains enough petroleum resources to last at least until the year
2100. This is so far in the future that it would be ludicrous for us to
try and anticipate what energy sources our descendants will utilize.

Over the next several decades the world will likely continue to see
short-term spikes in the price of oil and gasoline, but these will be
caused by political instabilities and interference in the market – not
an irreversible decline in supply.

OCPA adjunct scholar David Deming (Ph.D., University of Utah) is an
associate professor of geology and geophysics at the University of

Above article is quoted from Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs,
Perspective May 2003

”Evergreen (Today’s Quotes)”

“I now understood what had been to me a most perplexing difficulty — to
wit, the white man’s power to enslave the black man. It was a grand
achievement, and I prized it highly. From that moment, I understood the
pathway from slavery to freedom. … Though conscious of the difficulty
of learning without a teacher, I set out with high hope, and a fixed
purpose, at whatever cost of trouble, to learn how to read.”

Frederick Douglas, aged about 10, after hearings his master say
teaching him to read “would forever unfit him to be a slave.”
— Narrative of the Life and Times of Frederick Douglass

”’Edited by Richard O. Rowland, president of Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, 1314 S. King Street, Suite 1163, Honolulu, HI 96814. Phone/fax is 808-591-9193, cell phone is 808-864-1776. Send him an email at:”’ ”’See the Web site at:”’