Open Choke is the nom de plume of an anonymous oil and gas industry executive.
Open Choke's ideas and opinions do not necessarily represent the ideas or opinions of Drillinginfo.com, its owners, or employees.
Bein' a middle aged white guy, I have a fine menagerie of Pet Peeves. They make fine pets, Peeves... they don't shed or shit and they don't bite the neighbor kids. Here is one of my favorite Pets.
Famous authors, playwrites, or artists who refer to their less critically acclaimed spouses, who are also authors, playwrites or artists, as "the artist Joe Blow" or"the writer Jane Plain" in their bios. Why the The? It seems a huge affectation. I don't hear "The garbageman Dwayne Buggle". "The long haul trucker Jim Bob Snerbly". "The oilman Open Choke".
So let's all stop with the The, shall we? It just makes you look like a prick when the term is applied to you, and your spouse as an overly sensitive, unhappy, resentful, chip-shouldered loser when applied to him or her. Enough, I say.
Scott asked why I was so scared of Socialism, and then threw
out some statistics in regard to literacy rates and healthcare in some
socialistic countries.This is a
meaningful question, and I didn’t want to make an off-the-cuff response.So here goes.
The basic idea of socialism is that society in general, always with
government as its tool, should shoulder the responsibility of taking care of
its citizens, and that the means and products of commerce, and in fact, the
concept of private property in general, be shared amongst members of the society
to some extent or another.
This concept is predicated on the idea that the people, or,
in a democratic socialistic society, a simple majority of the people that have the same
values, desires, and wants, are thus justified in their numbers in
enforcing their wants and desires onto those that don’t share those goals, wants, or desires.Thus a simple majority can create a system
where they help themselves to the freedoms and properties of others, because the concept of “yours”
no longer means anything.
I believe that human rights are inextricably intertwined
with property rights.A system that recognizes
one without the other is suspect on its face.One can argue that our American Experiment has failed in many regards to
Human Rights, but the fact remains that our capitalistic Republic was not PREDICATED on the denial of
those rights, it just failed in its promise.Socialism, on the other hand, is actually predicated on a denial or subjugation of individual
freedom to the "greater good" however that is defined, on its most basic level.
So how to fix this problem where some force their will on others? In the twentieth century, in the revolutionary forms, it has , in every
case, depended upon mass executions in order to eradicate those that heretically believed
that their property or the fruits of their labor was somehow "theirs" or believed that they should be free to choose
their own path in life.That’s an unavoidable byproduct historically when you try to take what belongs to others without compensation or consent, regardless of
culture. Violence is always the
answer to that nagging residual cling to liberty of the few that have not “gotten
with the program”… the few eggs being broken to make the perfect society omelet, to paraphrase Lenin.
Populism, the appeal to class hatred in the name of
Democracy, is the standard tool of the 20th Century's most evil leaders.Pit a numerically larger demographic against another, while delegitimizing
the claims to liberty and property of the minority is a tried and true method
of gaining power, and never to the benefit of the People except in its most surrealistic abstract form, or human liberty.Conquest perhaps, or eradication of whole
religions or peoples certainly, but never for human liberty.Hitler is the obvious shining example, but he is mimicked
by Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and others within our own society.
That the idea that people can vote themselves to your property or your human rights with
impunity is not imemdiately discarded by those that value human liberty should be seen as the obscene absurdity that it is. Perhaps a final esample of the failure of our educational system, even.It is this very reason why we once had a Bill of Rights, one that
has been steadily eroded by two centuries of interpretive legalisitc revision to legally mean today exactly opposite what any five year old would say it means on reading.
Governments act like any other entity… they attempt to
survive and grow. As such, they are no more or less moral than a large corporation, without the accountability of actually having to sell stuff to a buying public (you know the old rubric... people vote for corporations every day using dollar bills as ballots). That governments have police
powers, the power to create business monopolies (what is a lottery but a State
Monopoly) and the power to “legitimize” the theft of your freedom and property makes them far more insidious thatn the largest "Evil Corporations", considering that there exists no controls over this beast. That government will evolve on its own to a decadent police state should be expected and foreseen.Our
founding fathers certainly did, and warned against it strongly, and did their
best to curtail it.As governments grow
in size, scope, and power, the more important it becomes for the individual to be in its good
graces, and the more tantalizing the opportunity to somehow coopt its extra-legal power for your own special
Some simply triangulate Corporations
against People. Ridiculous on its face, it is never that simple.It is some People that want to cram religion down your throat, some other People that
want to cram environmental ethics down your throat, some more People that want animals to
have human rights, People that have a myriad of special interests that are not
widely held, or more insidiously, not held by all.The all-powerful government cannot help but
become corrupted when so many of the People and the Corporations are trying to cram their own version of perfectibility
on those that don’t want to buy that brand of stuff that they are selling. Laws are passed to make people do things that they might otherwise not want to
do, or not do what they might otherwise want to do, and the culmination of law-making today is a society where nothing new is allowed, and every facet of life is thoroughly controlled.
Lastly, strong and powerful government being the goal of
those that want to control us all, and socialism the grand scheme to carry out the dream, who
controls that government becomes more and more critically important. With so much power on the line, God or Gaia forbid that the Evildoers on the other side of the philosophic spectrum grab control of power. We must do whatever we can to keep them away! That road leads to Hell. That is why I like Small instead of Big, in both commercial dealings and governments. They tend to pay more attention to their customer and don't have the power to play stupid games with them or force them to buy crap they don't want to buy.
I can only wonder at what kind of life experiences the people have who, in my opinion, wildly and naïvely think that bureaucrats are the best stewards for dealing and balancing what is, at best, a stew of special interests with
competing agendas.If I need to choose,
I choose human liberty and freedom as a goal.Not subjugation to what someone else thinks will make me “happy”. But please don't tell my home-owners association I think that. They will make my life a living Hell for not getting with the program!
Mitsubishi, Nissan, GM, Honda... all of 'em have a common goal. Providing you, Joe Consumer, with a cool, coal-powered car! Even better, they will be selling it to you by telling you that it is "good for the environment"!
What? You say...
How could that be?
All these companies are betting the farm on All-Electric cars... plug 'em in and roll on down the highway. Us pinche carbons love this! Why?
Because, unknown to a majority of Americans, electricity doesn't come out of a socket. It has to be generated. In the US, the major generator of electricty is dirty coal, at 48.9%, followed by hydrocarbony Natural Gas at 20%, followed by scary Nuclear at 19.3%, followed by damming up pretty rivers at 7.1%, finally getting to praise the Lawd renewables at 2.4%. In other words, you couldn't find a filthier (at least CO2-wise) fuel for cars than electricity, at least in the US.
You see, these coal cars are actual Nuclear cars in France, where more than 70% of all electricity is sourced by nuclear reactors.
I have recently become acutely aware of the aw-shucks down home ads of good Americans eatin' barbeque and apple pie ownin' Citgo station owners and how they are just like us and a real fabric of the good ol' USA. Citgo, of course, is the oil-refining company owned wholly by Venezuela, and controlled wholly by Hugo Chavez.
The branded Citgo stations, just like their brethren Exxon, Chevron, and the rest, are independently-owned by beef its what for dinner chawin' 'mericans like you and me. Citgo the refinery is spending mucho dolares to make sure we think this about 'em because if we thought that they were Venezuelan or something, we might quit buyin'. Entonces mucho dolores por los jugistas.
I have an easy way to skim through the mush of these kinds of ad-prop campaigns. I just replace Venezuela or Hugo Chavez or the like with Satan.
Would these barbeque chompers station owners be just like you and me if they were selling for Satan? That they pushed a Satan Industries product? If Satan was a good corporate citizen and gave to United Way? Provided a lot of jobs?
Citgo/Satan is a huge part of the Corpus Christi (ironic, isn't it) economy, and provides a lot of American jobs. I feel sorry for the poor chumps that own branded Citgo stations. But you know what? I ain't buying. I ain't buying gas there and I ain't buying whatever is Venezuelan for Big Gulps or red hot burritos or beer from the Satan brand. Thus my fine American station owner brethren, towards whom I bear no personal animosity, can find the economic reason to Switch Brands. Yep. It is just that easy. These folks made an egregious mistake in choosing the brand that they sell under, and they need to rectify that mistake as soon as possible. Nudge 'em that way by driving past their station to the next one, whatever it may be.
The absurdist part of me loves the Looking Glass world we are rapidly manufacturing for ourselves.
Texas lawmakers are currently doing the People's Work, apparently, to make sure that anyone under 18 cannot avail themselves to a tanning bed without parent's permission. Melanoma is a risk, you know, and pubescent teens are apparently too stupid to assess those risks.
A similar bunch of clown... I mean "officials" has recently held that parents have NO rights, alternatively, to know when their minor children get an abortion.
For all my fellow absurdists out there... how cool is that?
Bein' a Texas Oilman and all, Texas Barbeque (that's beef brisket and sausage to you Tah-heel pulled pork lovin' apostates) is a staple of the ol' diet. It's a cold, rainy day today and I was driving to Austin from South Texas and dropped off at one of my all time favorite joints, Luling City Market in beautiful Luling, Texas. After a 45 minute wait in line to get into the pit, I settled in with a coupla links of their superlative sausage and a pile of moist brisket, all on butcher paper, their fantastic and uniqe barbeque sauce, and a load of crackers. Oh yeah, and a bottle of Big Red. Can't stand the stuff by itself, but it somehow becomes sublimely delicious as you wash down barbeque with it.
I settled in with my mess o' que in the Barbeque den... on a dirty mattress on the floor, along with the hundred or so other junk... I mean patrons, and lay down to prepare for my castaneda-like journey into my que high. I remember the hazy figure of an old oriental woman coming by to prop my head up and feed more sausage into my drooling quivering mouth after I lost most of my motor skills. After laying there in a lethargic, dreamy high for what could have been anywhere between 15 minutes and 8 hours, I picked myself up, stepped over the other smiling, supine bodies lost in their own private reveries in the savory mist of barbeque smoke, and got into my truck, hoping I could drive.
Swiss Cheese, Swiss Miss, SwissAir, Swissle Sticks, Swissher Sweets... I am liking the Swiss more and more these days. The Swiss Federation has several Cantons (think of a Canton as something envisioned by our Founding Fathers as "States" before it was bastardized beyond all recognition beginning in the late 19th Century) that have very low corporate tax rates in order to attract businesses to locate there. And boy, have they drawn business!
American companies, particulalry energy-related companies, are fleeing Obamerica as fast as they can. Big companies, too, like Noble Corp., Transocean, Weatherford and many more. The only thing they lose is some feeble bitch slap like "you won't be part of the S&P Index anymore". Boo f**** hoo. Some Belgian EU bureaucrat weenie even had the audacity to whine that Cantons like Zug that offer low corporate tax rates were "in effect, state subsidizing their industries unfairly"! Wow! Not Taxing as a "Subsidy". Of course, that is exactly what Obama calls it for US oil and gas. Kinda like "Not hitting me in the face with a shovel is a special and deep kindness". Reall Mother Theresas, our leaders.
Can you blame these great Once American companies? The majority of their business is now overseas, and America's politicians have told them "we don't want your services, your know-how, or your presence" in the American market. But you are a traitor if you leave.
What is the term they have for the wife that stays with the physically, verbally, and mentally abusive husband? Battered Wife Syndrome?
You know, like most Americans, I give a fair amount of money to charity, and I
don’t write much of it off, because I really don’t really care if my charity goes to
an “official 5093B charitable organization”. In fact, I really prefer NOT to give to charitable orgs., because the slick offices and the "Directors of Giving" that pull in a hundred grand a year (those 'non-profits" need to go somewhere, don' t they?) seem venal, somehow.
If you doubt that dollars are more precious than God to an American, try this little exercise sometime.Pay
for the groceries of someone behind you in line.Pick up dinner for the old couple in the
corner at a restaurant. A few bucks... but, the recipients will be blown away. Why is THAT bit of grace, cheap on its face, so... rare?
In any case, you will get lauded for charity as a huge humanitarian for parting with sums that are less than what you
might piss away at a craps table or stuff into a g-string (if you are into that sort of thing...). It seems out of whack to me.
You know what I am really proud of?The companies I have founded or co-founded
today employ hundreds of people and have combined payrolls in the $10's of millions a year.This money pays for over hundreds of homes, hundreds of cars (and some harleys), countless meals, primary through college education for lots of
kids, and worthwhile, productive lives for hundreds of families, and dozens or hundreds of, yes, charitable contributions of time or money on the part of the individual. What he or she feels is a good use of their money. Not me dictating it.
Best of all, the beneficiaries of this “largesse” are hugely capable folks that don’t have the stigma of feeling that they are
charity cases at all.They find or create or sell things that other people want to buy.No
one is forced to buy… they WANT to buy. To be honest, the charitable giving we do corporately is marketing. Why do I think I can make better charitable decisions than my shareholders? Should I be using their money to support my charities? I decided I could not. They bought into a business plan, not a charitable giving plan. I am not against corporate charitable giving, per se, as long as it is up front in the prospectus and defined in a way that, as a shareholder, I would want to give on my own. Having some CEO use my money to gain accolades for his charitable contributions for causes I could care less about is a problem, however.
I was pretty much broke when I first started
these endeavors.A good idea, hard work, a huge amount of luck, some great people, and being fiscally conservative, ie not betting the
livelihoods of those hundreds of people on risky deals, made it all possible. Even better, this isn't a one-off story. There are millions of people in
this great country that are trying to do the same thing at all different scales, and lots succeed.
What do these millions of humanitarians do? They make things or doing services that you might want to
buy.THAT is free-market capitalism. A beautiful thing. People thinking about what I miogth want and providing me a chance to choose to buy it. It is amazing how few Americans even understand that. Admit it. When you think "capitalism", you think Enron, Madoff, and failing banks caused by mind-bending things called derivatives that you don't really understand. That is no more capitalism than bak robbery is banking. Fraud is fraud.
You know what else? I don't feel sorry for people that lost money on Enron stock, or lost all they had with Bernie Maddoff, or are threatened with bankruptcy fromwalking away from their homes that they have no equity anymore, or that will have to sell their oil and gas assets because they got too highly leveraged when commodity prices were at the highest they had ever been in real dollars.
Why in the world would you invest your hard-earned money in something you didn't understand? Cons depend upon your greed. Madoff and Skilling used to deflect questions about their business using esoteric language or saying what they did was "proprietary". You wouldn't think about investing in a secret scheme that your neighbor Larry came up with and won't let you in on the details. But God forbid that Larry gets your other neighbor Delbert in and Delbert makes some money. Damn the details! I want in!
This is the formula for fraud. Learn to recognize it. The victims of this have a less than pure soul, that is why they got victimized. I learned these lessons the hard way a long time ago. I learned that it was my own larcenous nature that caused me these problems, and I altered my way of thinking. Hd someone made me whole because I was a victim, I would still have this spot on my soul.
So, people making things that other people want, and can choose to buy, or to buy from someone else that is selling it cheaper. That is free markets. When I drill a well in the US, I contract with, on average, 50 or 60 companies or entities to do all the work necessary to drill and produce that well. Because we don't have onerous regulations on starting businesses, I have a lot of choices of who to use. Overseas, where the hurdle rate is ten or more times higher than here, and there are only a handful of service companies to choose from, my costs are 4 to 10 times higher. That is the cost of bad law, bad policy, and too much needless regulation (as opposed to desireable regulation, of which there is some). Big business knows this. It knows it is not nimble. That's why it uses the power of government to write those precious regulations that keep small players out that are so beloved by lawmakers and "anti-business" advocates. Ironic, isn't it?
For a quick reference of how powerful small business is, lets compare the returns from a T-Bill and companies like mine. This is also a great proxy for classic charity. A perfectly run charity with no overhead can invest the returns of its endowment at the prevailing rates of return. Let's pretend it isn't -40% as it is today, but the T-Bill rate. To pay my payrolls, and thus support the hundreds of people I do today in exactly the same scale as they are today, I
would need to have invested over $1 billion dollars. For the guy with the corner bakery, who pulls in a net of $50k a year? Close to $4 million just for the profit! To pay for the salaries of the two people he has working for him? Add another $4 million. That little place that cost $50k to start provides the same amount of social good as a $10 million endowment that is operated with no overhead. THAT is the magic of what we have here. Best of all, if the guy with the corner bakery is selling more and more every year, he will probably spend his money expanding his facilities and hiring more people... investing in himself. I think, objectively, that the effective social goodness of my baker friend hugely overshadows the social goodness of my wealthy friend who chooses to charitably give away his inheritence.
Creating, growing, and supporting small (and
large) businesses, or at least businesses that provide stuff you want, and that don't look to the government to keep competition down via needless regulations or to subsidize the crap they make that we consumers are unwilling to buy ourselves. When they do so, they acknowledge their failure as a contributing member of society and now demand that we collectively pay for their failure... so F*** GM and Chrysler, as far as I am concerned. Maybe a company that cares about what buyers think can take their place. Maybe they can spin out VOLT and Cadillac as independent companies. I bet someone would buy those stand alone!
Thomas Jefferson had a great quote.“A government that is big enough to give you
anything you want is big enough to take away everything you have”.