Mental Health

Why not consider unhappiness a mental illness? If you are unhappy, something is wrong.

This seems to be the era of mental illness. Looking around it sure seems like everyone is going over the top. We didn’t talk about it much back in the day, and now everyone is talking about it. We went from a stigma to almost looking it is used as an excuse for laziness, lack of ambition or responsibility. I can’t do this or that, because I’m sad. I have to take care of my mental health.

What’s wrong with people these days? 

Are people less healthy than they ever were?

The thing is, we are not the happiest country in the world, far from it. And we haven’t been for a long time. People are getting therapy and medications to help them deal with reality. Life. But do we really need to teach people, or drug people, do deal with reality? Maybe that’s a problem with reality.

If people are unhappy because they are stressed about money, or health, or how difficult life is, or politics, or sexism, or social injustice, or even just because they go to high school, maybe what we really need to do is change society.

Until we can to that, coping is something that they may need assistance for, but at the point at which it becomes a nationwide phenomenon, accompanied by an epidemic of suicide and even when it doesn’t get that far, anxiety, depression, and straight up unhappiness, we need to think about the real problem.

I applaud the fact that people are being open about it. Even though it bothers me if a child of mine seems lazy and unmotivated. I moved out when I could. I supported myself. I did what I needed to do. Why can’t they do what I did? But was I happy? Am I happy now? No. Quite frankly no. Watching them struggle is making me even more unhappy, but I don’t want to fault them because they expect to be happy, because they won’t settle. They shouldn’t have to adjust that expectation, like I did.

Maybe therapy and medications are only a temporary solution.

The more permanent solution?  Don’t laugh. Higher taxes. The countries with the highest taxes also have the happiest people.

That’s because they get a living wage. That’s because if they were to lose their job, they don’t also lose their health insurance, if they even had any in the first place. That’s because they don’t have to pay for their education. Maybe they can afford housing. Maybe they can afford childcare. Maybe they can get help if they need it, and that helps alleviate anxiety, even if they don’t need it. Maybe they have pensions when they’re old. They have services for their taxes. Safety nets. And the gap between rich and poor is less, but more importantly there are less poor, period, and more middle class.

Here in the US of America, too many of us think that taxes is a redistribution of wealth from rich people who earned it all by themselves and deserve to keep it.

Let’s correct that. The rich didn’t earn everything they made in a vacuum. They have benefited from a lot of help. No man is an island. We are all in this together.

395 days

I am planning on retiring.  And this is my diary to countdown the days.

395 days until.

What is my final year going to look like?  So far I have put a lot of pressure on myself to leave my team in a good place, to achieve long sought goals. To teach and transition for a seamless exit.

I have been frustrated, and it’s an old issue. I say, “these are the resources I need to guarantee success,” and I am told, first that they agree, and then but…. or something akin to no, like, here are the hoops to jump through, or the cases to prove, and alternatives to explore. Or, I could just fail….

Truth be told, I never wanted to be an accountant. I wanted to make money, sure. Accounting is a good career. I recommend it for people who want financial independence. I wanted to move out of my parent’s house. I wanted to buy freedom for myself, eventually, with the money I made doing something that didn’t particularly have a lot of meaning to me.

I did move out of my parent’s house, but for the most part the sacrifices I made working, didn’t always feel like they got me what I had dreamed about.  I had a family, and I enjoyed that, but I could have had a family with less money.  I could have been more present for my family, if I was happier. Did I have money in the bank for the sacrifice I made? For many years I had debt. I eventually turned that around. But did I have things I wanted? What did I want besides time off? My feelings towards working waxed and waned. As a contractor I had some freedom, and at times worked flexible hours. At other times took months off, but only to return.

None of that matters now, because I am almost there. I am retiring, a little bit early, but not really. I’ll be 59 ½ when I retire, a magic number at which I can withdraw from retirement accounts without penalty.  Better than many, but not that early. As I struggle for a successful last year, it becomes obvious that the conflicts and challenges I have to navigate, are the same as I’ve always had. It feels, still, like I am responsible for successes that I am not given the authority or resources I think I need to achieve. For years I have said we need more people, more technology and for years it falls on deaf ears. I have complained that I will inevitably miss something. I’ve asked “how badly do I need to fuck up before someone listens when I say we are at risk.” I have argued that my team is too small to plan for succession, to cross train, to have the levels of review I think we should have.

So why do I think now, just because it is my final year, that suddenly my leaders will trust my opinion? I told my team that I hoped this last year would be my best.  I joked that as I delegate everything, to pass along the knowledge, I’ll finally become the manager I should have been all along, and maybe even start loving the job. It’s a joke, but not completely. Then, the other day, I complained to the manager under me that instead, I am stressed. I want to achieve the same goals I have not achieved these past 5 years. But I’m beginning to understand why I never did. The pressure I put on myself leads me to anger over conflicts I have with my leaders about how to get there. And why? Why should I care if they hire more people, or implement the right software. Why should I care if I can’t create out of excel a complicated, yet easy to understand tax planning tool. I’m good at modeling, but I am not a computer programmer, and the parameters, the needs, the wants, that come from above are incompatible with the simplicity and ease of understanding that I am charged (or charge myself) with achieving.

I do care.

But if they won’t give me what I need to get the job done, then I just get the job done that I can. And if they accuse me of dogging it, even if they are wrong, that’s not my problem. Once I’m gone, they can continue to blame me. I’m ok with that, I told them as much. Protect yourselves, I said. I don’t mind if they say it, but I don’t actually want them to believe it. All of the things I want to achieve before I go are for them. But I will not be the one that struggles if I can’t provide them.

Reminds me of the semester before I left Bard College, to ultimately study accounting at Hunter College. I was active in the student government, and I cared about the issues that we dealt with. My sense of fairness and logic drove me to care. This had been a big part of my college experience, it was the part I liked, and not why I was leaving. So, I was arguing a position for something, I don’t remember what, alongside my best friend, who was staying. The person we were arguing with, John Carroll was his name, said to me, “YOU’RE NOT EVEN GOING TO BE HERE!” 

And it stopped me in my tracks. Because he was right. I realized that he was right. I shouldn’t have a say. And I shouldn’t really have a say in this case either. Except for one thing.

When I first gave my notice, over a year in advance, it was because I didn’t want to leave my team hanging. I told them at the time, that I could leave earlier, but I didn’t want to abandon people. I told them, that if I stay, I want to see them preparing for my transition, because if I were to make the sacrifice, I didn’t want to be in the same position a year from now.  I didn’t want it to be for nothing. At that time they told me that 1) They could promote the person under me without me having to leave.  2) They could backfill the headcount while I was still here, to afford the team the resources such that I could pass along my tasks and 3) I could take all of my vacation – I have pandemic year vacation that has rolled over, so I have a lot. And that would make my last year less stressful, almost part time. But, as has been typical, now they tell me they can’t do 1) or 2 (though they can’t stop me from taking my vacation). 

So, I could leave earlier. My subordinates can all be promoted. And I won’t have to be frustrated by the lack of trust that I feel when I can’t get anyone to respect my judgement, born of experience, and hear me. But, in truth, I don’t want to leave just yet. My finances are about there, but I like the idea of letting the market rebound a bit more and make one more year of pay, and one more bonus and one more year of benefits. So, staying is not actually the sacrifice I said it might be. But I also don’t want this last year to be stressful. And I don’t want to complain and fight about resources they won’t get for my team, because, as John Carroll said, I’m not even going to be here. I shouldn’t really have a say as to what the team is like after I’m gone. I should just do what I can with the resources they allocate now, and the rest is going to be up to them.

Whoopi Goldberg is Not Antisemitic

Granted there are black people that, unfortunately, harbor antisemitic feelings. I’ve seen it. This could have been influenced by Farrakhan, or maybe a real or imagined sense that certain music producers who happen to be Jewish may or may not have taken advantage of black artists. Maybe some black people, in their kinship with other oppressed peoples, sympathize with Palestinians. What does that have to do with Jews in Brooklyn? Or Jews in Israel on the left. Israel is a country. Do people hate all Americans because they disagree with Democrats or Republicans? The extrapolation from grievances towards specific Jewish people to Jews as a whole is the very definition of antisemitism. And this happens, and it is unfortunate.

But it bothers me to see, over and over again, the vilification, by self-professed antisemitic watch dogs, of black people who should be our allies in the fight against racial injustice as a whole.

Whoopi Goldberg is a perfect example. She said that the holocaust wasn’t about race, and was suspended without pay for daring to voice this thought, and then walked it back, said she was wrong, and the attacks persist. Dave Chappelle, who has also had similar charges levied against him made a good point in his defense of Kyrie Irving. He pointed out that although Jews have been through some really horrible stuff, one thing he is sure of, is that it wasn’t the fault of black people.

It’s not that black people can’t be antisemitic, or can’t be wrong about the holocaust, or that Jews can’t be racist either. It’s that Jews and Black people have both historically been oppressed. We can argue about whether the holocaust was worse than slavery or the genocide of Native Americans too. Maybe it was. It’s not really a contest. The history of all three of these peoples, and many more who suffer, are directionally the same. Our real enemies want us fighting. That’s how they win. The way we win is that we make peace with those with whom we have common ground.

We should be meeting at the table to learn from each other. We should not be joining the fray against other oppressed groups. It is wasted energy to attack Whoopi, or Dave, or Kyrie (Ye – he might be a different story). That energy is better spent elsewhere.

Does it really matter if someone doesn’t think the holocaust was about race? Is that thought so unforgivable? Judaism is a religion, isn’t it? Hitler may have viewed Jews as a race. Are we going to fight with each other over whether we all see it the way he saw it? Or he may have just needed a scapegoat for power. I don’t know. I could philosophize on this on either side without ever suggesting that exterminating 6 million jews, and 9 million people overall (and that doesn’t count those who died on the battlefield) was anything other than a blight upon humanity.

I know Whoopi. We grew up in the same very diverse neighborhood in New York City. Her mom and my mom worked together. We’ve hung out. She’s not the enemy, and the discussion that needs to happen won’t happen if people like Whoopie and Dave and Kyrie (and even Ye) don’t speak their minds.

We need to change the way people think and we need to know who is worth the effort. We need to strengthen our bonds with open minded people, like Whoopi, when they stand corrected. And even if they won’t change their minds, even if they won’t be made to apologize, we need to find common ground and stop wasting our time in-fighting.


Our dog, Cami, is very old.  I don’t know, 15 or 16 years. She’s a beagle mix (but she doesn’t look like a beagle). I know she won’t live much longer. I’m ok with that. But my wife and I are having a fight about her end of life.

Every time Cami shows signs of decline my wife gets very emotional, more than I do, and wants to have the “conversation.” When I argue with her, she says she’s not talking about “today,” but I think if I agreed with her, she’d have the vet come over and we might well do it today. If Cami stumbles up the step on our back deck, or pees on the deck, without going down the steps then it becomes “she can’t go down the steps anymore,” even though I see her going down and up all the time.

Cami is old, no doubt. She acts old, stiff when she first gets up, like me, frankly, I’m getting old too. I’m peeing more often too. I’m not going to kill her for that, though I’m not peeing in the house. Cami is. But I want to know that she is in pain. It seems obvious to me that her worst symptoms have come as the result of medication, but my wife seems to resist seeing the connection, despite that I spell it out for her. We’ve been here before, thinking it was the end, and then took her off some medications and she improved, but the vet left her on one, gabapentin, saying “it can’t hurt to have an old dog on that.” It’s an anti-convulsant that is prescribed for humans, but prescribed off label for dogs for seizures (which Cami doesn’t have) anxiety (also not – she’s less anxious because she can’t hear anymore, although if you sneak up behind her it will startle her; my wife cites that as evidence that she is anxious) and it is also prescribed for pain. Whether she has pain is up for debate in our house also, but that’s why she takes it. The assumption was that because she walks like an old thing, and has trouble getting up sometimes that she must be arthritic and in pain. When I tell my wife I don’t see the signs of pain, just loss of ability, she says that dogs hide their pain, which may be true, I don’t know. But if that were proof, then every dog every where at every age would have to be in pain. All that really means is that we don’t know. But I don’t buy it. Who decided that and how? Did some dog explain that to someone?

“You look good, what’s your pain on a scale of 1 to 10?”


If someone figured out that a dog was in pain even though it didn’t look like it, then there must be a way to tell. I think I could tell. She would be trembling, or she would not want to move (actually we’ve been there before when she hurt her neck and then she healed), or she wouldn’t be eating.

Lately she has had bouts of drunkedness, like she can’t even control her legs. She will walk sideways like one leg doesn’t work, and like she doesn’t know where she is or how to sit down. At it’s worst, her legs will splay out into a split. She won’t be able to stand up. It’s at these times that if we can even get her outside she does have trouble with the stairs. But then in the morning, she’ll be able to stand up and walk, she’ll be fine again, her normal old dog self.

Here’s the kicker. We only give her the gabapentin at night and her worst symptoms are only at night. Not only that, but sometimes, like two nights ago, she won’t eat her gapapentin, she manages to leave it uneaten in the bowl, all by itself. That night, she came in from outside hopping around excitedly like a puppy. I actually thought she might hurt herself jumping around like that.

Gabapentin is a people medicine, and I found a description by a person of what this medicine does to them, weakness, and even bladder problems. Dogs can’t talk, but people can.

I’ve also found comments on a page about this drug from dog owners who describe the same kinds of symptoms that I am attributing to the gabapentin to their dogs, and worse.

My wife says the peeing in the bed is a sign. “Dogs just don’t do that,” she says. But they do, if they can’t get up because they’re drugged.

I am ok with letting Cami go. Sometimes I hope that she just passes peacefully in the night so that we never have to make a decision. I will be relieved. I look forward to having the freedom of not having a dog again. She’s had a long life, longer than average, she was there for all of our kids until they became adults, and she can’t live forever. I’m ready, but I’m not impatient. I want to wait until she’s ready. If I thought she was in pain, or if she had cancer, and I knew the pain would come, I would be able to ease her over.

But she can still get comfortable. She still gives and receives love, maybe more than she used to.

I don’t want to be fooled into thinking this is the end because she’s taking a medicine that she doesn’t even need that makes her seem even older than she is. If we take her off it, and she seems like she has some pain, there are alternatives.

My wife is getting so mad at me because I am pushing back on her. She thinks she’s the one protecting our dog. She’s convinced Cami must be in pain, even while lamenting that dogs can’t talk and tell us what’s going on. Cami has her moments, good and bad, but so far when she does seem bad, it’s still temporary. She keeps recovering.

Let her enjoy her last days, that’s all I want. We can deal with the pee. Maybe taking her off the medicine will help with that.

I gave her some of my breakfast this morning. She was very excited about it. I can still make her happy.

Why should I deny her that? I’m not going to. Not yet.

Addressing Roe

I’m disappointed with how i see the left framing the overturning of Roe. The issue is not as clear cut to me as voting rights, or racism or freedom of speech. Is it so hard to understand someone who sees that embryo’s potential? Are they hateful, selfish, uncaring and mean, for caring about the baby?

I know, it’s just potential. There is potential in every egg and sperm. They can’t all be babies. Maybe it was never meant to be. Maybe it was never going to be. But it is not unreasonable, to think this is no longer just spilled seed,  no longer just an egg that passed in the night.

I consider myself pro choice and anti-abortion. Is anyone actually pro-abortion? There is an opportunity here to cast a broader net to bring in more supporters of choice, regardless of their reasons. If we can acknowledge that the issue isn’t just about whether that baby is real, but about whether anti-abortion laws work, then maybe we can agree that making something illegal doesn’t always make things better. Sometimes it doesnt achieve the result we’re looking for. Sometimes it makes things worse.

Anti-abortion sentiment, doesn’t just reside with the religious right. It can come from anyone who loves kids. But they can understand that there are better ways to lower the rate of abortion, than making it a crime. And we can and should seek broader support for those solutions.

But the religious right support policies that lead to circumstances favoring abortion, and then they expect to be able to reverse all that by creating a law. They seem to forget that before abortion was legal, women still had them, felt forced by circumstance to do so, and sometimes died trying. They don’t want to support effective measures to lower abortions maybe because they’re committed to an absolute that will never come to pass, illegal or not. If anyone thinks they can ever completely eliminate abortion, they are denying reality.

The religious right is against contraception. They are against pre-marital sex. They are against welfare. They are against national healthcare, They are against free education. They are against minimum wages. They are against all of the safety nets that would make it easier for people to choose life, to make life easier in general, to actually promote family, and to top it off, they judge and ostracize women who get pregnant out of wedlock, but not typically the men who put it there, even sometimes in cases of rape. They are against family planning in general, other than abstinence – the failure of which is known, and to think otherwise is another denial of reality. 

Put simply, their policies lead to abortion, putting more women into the circumstance in which they must contemplate what has been made into an impossible choice. Should they sacrifice their own dreams, or live a life of second guessing? Because abortion is not, and this is something I wish the left would acknowledge a little more often, without it’s emotional toll on the woman who chooses it.  

And to add insult to injury, these same supporters of the political right care little about gun control, little about whether the babies already born have the right to survive elementary school.

The left, if it wants to win on all of these issues and more, needs to cast a wider net, and marginalize the extreme by including in our fight, those reasonable people who don’t like abortion, for obvious reasons. Together, we can support children, families, women. We can minimize abortion by minimizing unwanted pregnancies. Does it need to be pointed out that people don’t typically abort pregnancies they got on purpose? And we can make it easier for those on the fence to choose life by supporting people better.

We can tie all of this into the many liberal values that make life, in general, better and more civilized.  Making something you disagree with illegal isnt the answer. It’s often nothing more than symbolic. What has the drug war done other than promote crime, the creation of stronger drugs and overdose deaths?

There are better more effective ways to address these issues. Reasonable people should work together to do so.


What’s the Big Deal About Stock Buybacks?

When a company makes money, and in particular when a company has cash on hand (free cash flow) from its operations, there are a limited number of things that the company can and should do with that money.

They could make charitable contributions, and they could contribute to the communities in which they operate and they could find other ways to be good stewards for society, joining the fight for diversity and the health of the environment and it can pay its employees well, and contribute to their health and retirement, etc, and many companies do some of that, for the goodwill of the community, if not altruism.

But their main purpose, why they exist, why people own them (such as in their 401ks), is to make money.

And so the three main uses for their free cash are as follows: 

  1. Invest in the business to grow it
  2. Pay down debt, if they have it
  3. Return profits to shareholders

Companies do all of those things, but in particular, a lot of focus is put on the return of profits to shareholders because that is the real reason companies exist.

And there are two ways to do that

  1. Dividends
  2. Stock buybacks

Stock buybacks seem to be very political lately. I am a democrat. But I don’t agree with how this issue is framed, by democrats, as if it is a way to unfairly manipulate stock value, which, to me, demonstrates a lack of understanding. Or maybe some complain, not unreasonably, that it defers tax, because it can increase the value of the stock and that increase in net worth is not taxable until stockholders sell, while dividends are taxable immediately. But it also encourages some to sell (the company buys back from someone), and if they’ve held long enough to be in a gain position, that could accelerate tax. 

The real reason that corporations do this is because there are times when it is just a more efficient way to return money to shareholders than dividends.  When? When the company thinks the stock is undervalued.  Making that determination can be complicated, and subjective, based on factors such as the value of the assets, earnings, and growth potential. They could be wrong, but the management inside the company should know the company better than anyone. Assuming it is undervalued, buying back stock makes more economic sense than paying out dividends. Here is a simple, less subjective, example of why that’s true.

Assume that a company sells a million shares of stock for $1 a share.  Now the company is holding $1,000,000 in cash, and absent any expectation of earnings and growth, the shares should be worth $1 a share, because each share represents 1 millionth of a million dollars.  

But suppose for some reason the market doesn’t recognize that value and the market price is only .50 cents, meaning that if I wanted to sell my shares I can only find people willing to pay .50 cents for it. It doesn’t have to make sense. The market doesn’t always make sense. But let’s also assume that at some point in time, a time we’ll call “true worth,” all value will be recognized by the market and the stock will be at $1 per share.

If the company decided it didn’t need $1,000,000 and it wanted to return $500,000 to its shareholders, it could pay a dividend of .50 cents per share (technically if the company hasn’t made any money yet, that’s a return of capital, not a dividend, but nevermind that).  Now, after everyone gets their dividend, there are  1,000,000 shares and $500,000 cash in the corporation, so at true worth, each share will be worth .50 cents. Owners would have paid a dollar, got .50 cents back in cash, and still have stock worth .50 cents.  They haven’t made any money, they haven’t lost any money.

Let’s assume instead that the company took that same $500,000 and decided to buy back as much stock as it could at .50 cents a share, the undervalued market price, and give whatever is left as a dividend.  And let’s assume that shareholders were willing to sell 500,000 shares at that price, and the rest wanted to hold on.  So now the company spends $250,000 to buy back 500,000 shares. The owners that sold have lost money, but they didn’t believe in the company, and maybe they think they could have lost more, that was their choice. 

Those who remain are the ones who really believe in the company, and they now, collectively, own 500,000 shares of a company that has $750,000. At true worth, each share will be worth $1.50  If the remaining $250,000 is paid out as a dividend, they get .50 cents and then they still have stock worth $1 per share, because the company has $500,000 and there are 500,000 shares.  Either way they are 50% better off, and the company hasn’t even made any money, because it took advantage of being unappreciated when it returned value to shareholders.  

This doesn’t work if the shares are overvalued. If the company paid $2 a share to buyback shares, they’d end up with 750,000 shares outstanding with $500,000 and true value would be .75 cents a share, which would have rewarded those who sold, and punished the remaining shareholders, by pushing the true value down. That ultimately hurts shareholders including executives of the company that still hold shares (and most do – even though they might sell some from time to time).

Buying back shares when the stock is undervalued also helps the market recognize the true value, because it weeds out the owners that don’t see it, buying back, by mutual agreement, their shares, and leaving the owners who are committed, which in turn also protects against an opportunistic takeover from some big money source that recognizes the bargain. What if I noticed that I could buy a company that had $1,000,000 for $500,000? I could do that, screwing all the little guys who had this stock in their 401Ks and making $500,000 for myself. And then maybe I just raid the cash and fire all the employees. Is that what we want? 

Not this democrat.

Where Should We Draw the Line?

I’m losing patience. At first, I’m like, yeah, we, the US and the rest of Europe, shouldn’t engage with Russia directly. World war III. Nukes. All that.

I thought, this is a test. Can we isolate Putin with the heaviest sanctions ever? Can we show the world that we can end war without engaging in the war, without escalating? And I’m still worried about nukes, don’t get me wrong, but does the line we’ve drawn make sense?

We are giving weapons and aid to Ukraine. Putin already complains that we are escalating by waging “economic war.” We are clear about whose side we are on. It’s no secret to Putin. Ok, Ukraine is not part of NATO, and we have no pact that binds us to consider an attack on them an attack on us, but that doesnt mean that it isnt one. Putin’s invasion is an attack on the west. There is no other way to look at it. He attacked Ukraine because they are our friends. He attacked Ukraine because he thinks he can because they are not in NATO. He attacked them because they are a democracy, like us.

We are giving them weapons, but we balk at giving them planes. They use our weapons to kill the invaders, but we try to pretend we aren’t in this fight. The only reason he might not consider that an escalation is because he might think it’s not enough to defeat him. And what if he’s right? Are we holding back because we think Ukraine can win? What if we are wrong? Even if we’re right, how many innocent lives have to be lost that might not need to be?

Why do we draw the line at direct engagement with NATO? We could draw another line. We can say that we won’t go into Russia as long as Russia doesn’t attack a NATO country, but why shouldn’t we go into Ukraine? Putin did. They’ve invited us in. He wasn’t invited

The combined forces of NATO are vastly superior to Russia. But we’re being pushed around by a weaker opponent, because he’s a bully who threatens to use nukes.

Well, I ask this, what if he wins? Then the bully who threatens nukes is still around. And what if he starts losing without us in the fight, whose to say he won’t use nukes anyway. And then what are we going to do after its over.

I’ll tell you what. We’ll have to wait for the next time. Like we did the last time. Bullies don’t stop, until you make them.

So, yes, I’m scared. But he must lose.

And I don’t really understand the logical distinction between supplying Ukrainians with weapons and firing them ourselves, where one keeps us out of it and the other doesn’t? If we engage directly with Russian troops in Ukraine, when they have no business being there, how are we the ones escalating? Who started it?

Maybe there is hope that the sanctions will work, that the Russian people will rise up. Maybe we need to give it a little more time, I don’t know. But how much time does Ukraine have?

No Right to Cheap Gas

I am for managed capitalism, that is, I do not think the free market works, without regulation. I am in support of helping those who are in need, for whatever reasons, including gas prices when their level of poverty means they need it. But I am not for ensuring that everyone can have cheap gas whether they can afford it or not.

Gas should be expensive. Here’s why:

Believe it or not, oil and gas companies don’t generally want gas to be too expensive. 

They want to make money, as much as they can, of course, and for that they certainly like prices that are high enough, but not so high that there is demand destruction. Selling less oil at a ridiculous price doesn’t necessarily make them more money than selling more oil at a reasonably high price. Once people are pushed into alternatives, whether it is by finding ways to use less, because they simply can’t afford it, or by investing in solar, wearing sweaters, driving more fuel efficient cars (or electric), some of those changes could become permanent which then brings prices down anyway, and reduces demand long term. Eventually oil companies sell less at more reasonable prices.

They don’t want that, but we do.

It’s good for the environment, and it’s good politically because we are less dependent on Autocratic societies like in Russia and the middle east and Venezuela and Iran (and the undue influence of big oil in general, even here in the US). 

Historically, oil companies could control production to avoid going too far.

Things are different right now.  During the pandemic when oil demand dropped steeply, and the price of oil actually went negative (because people had bought futures and then couldn’t take delivery and had to pay people to take it), we saw a lack of investment in new production capacity. Those investments take time to pay off. Now that prices are so high that we might expect oil companies to increase production, they can’t, not without lead time, which is exacerbated by supply chain and labor issues that linger from the pandemic. 

So, even if the prices of oil justify it, the capacity to increase production isn’t there.  That’s why the price of oil was increasing as demand was ramping up post pandemic. Add Putin to the analysis, and the desire to get off Russian oil, and we’ve got a supply problem.

Is it gauging? Why do companies have to charge so much, just because they can? Here’s why. If they don’t charge what the market will pay, then we will run out of oil, short term. There has to be some demand destruction in order to wean out those who can change their behavior, so that there will be oil for those who can’t.  Because we have a supply problem.

The silver lining in all of this is many fold.

Solar, unfortunately, can never provide the amount of energy that we get from other sources, but it can provide a bigger percentage. Imagine if you can borrow money to put solar panels on your house, and your debt payments are less than the monthly energy bills you were paying. Even if that’s because your energy costs with fossil fuels has tripled, it pays for itself immediately. Suddenly everyone is doing it.

Demand destruction and the replacement of fossil fuels with other energy sources is not in the oil industry’s interest, but their inability to ramp up production in the short run creates a perfect opportunity for us to push it. The environment will benefit. Solar will benefit. Democracy will benefit. Oil will profit in the short run, but in the long run, they lose, and we win.

I’m not rich, but I can afford the higher fuel prices. I already drive a Honda fit.  I am happy to pay for a more sustainable future, and also to support Ukraine in this conflict (and whoever is next, if we don’t stop Putin now). If you drive a big truck, I’m sorry. Maybe next time you’ll buy something more fuel efficient.

For those who can’t afford to get to their minimum wage jobs, or pay for the inflation that high gas prices infect on so many other businesses, there has to be another solution. But that is a separate issue and speaks to the general availability of a living wage, and safety nets.  For companies that suffer from higher fuel prices, and potential wage increases, that can also hurt our economy.  I would support addressing all of that selectively according to need. Keeping minimum wage low to help companies that make billions doesn’t make sense. Companies that need it, could get wage help, if it’s in the interest of society to have those businesses. But, like cheap gas, why do we feel like we have a right to cheap labor, whether we can afford it or not?

Rise up, gas. The era of cheap energy is over. Good riddance.

We Are at War

We are always at war, a war of ideas, at least.

This conflict in Ukraine isn’t isolated. It is a recurring symptom of the world we live in. We are paying more attention to it, for a variety of reasons that can be debated. We can complain about why we haven’t cared as much about other peoples in the past, or other conflicts going on right now, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care about Ukraine. You have to start somewhere. It’s not the first time Putin has done just this, and if we don’t stop him this time, it won’t be the last.

The ideologies behind the conflict in Ukraine, we fight here in the US too. Our previous president became our leader with the help of Putin’s meddling, and cozied up to him, and almost became president again, using the same kinds of tactics Putin uses, subterfuge, misinformation and force. And now he and some of his followers act like they are on Putin’s side, and maybe they are.

So the fight is here too, and it always has been. We, as a nation, are not innocent and have our own sins to answer for. But that doesn’t mean that we are hypocrites. A country is never truly united, nor should it be. We are also citizens of the ideas we support, allied globally with the like-minded, good and bad wherever they are. Russians protest this war. Germans opposed Hitler and were among his first victims.

We should not blame all white Americans for slavery, or the genocide of Native Americans, or Donald Trump. We shouldn’t blame all Israelis for Israel’s wrongs, or all Jews, certainly, without regard for where they live. 

But each of us must decide what side we’re on, and advocate, in some way, for peace, and freedom, and justice everywhere.

If we, as a race (the human race), are to rise to a greatness that often seems contrary to our nature, then we must at least acknowledge that the war (this war, that war) is never over.