The Occasional Muse
My humble opinion on current events
September 10, 2003
The 2nd Anniversary
To all Americans, that headline should say
it all. The evil terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 is still fresh in
our memories, as if it happened yesterday. Someday, it will probably fade
into the history books, and become another day that prompts a newspaper
article or two, like December 7 and Pearl Harbor Day. Personally, I hope
that never happens, but human nature being as forgetful and
live-in-the-moment as it is, it's probably inevitable. But not yet. No
It seems to me like it was just the other
morning, when I was driving into work and heard a news report that a plane
had flown into the World Trade Center. It sounded like it had been some
small private aircraft, so I wasn't overly concerned, except for the pilot
and whoever was in the plane's way.
I got into the office, booted up the PC,
and started my morning chores. As I often do, I checked some news web
sites, and was surprised to find that I couldn't access them. CNN, Fox
News, MSNBC, they were all down. I went to National Review Online, and got
to the home page, where it said that the twin towers had collapsed. I was
stunned. Then my mother called me and told me what was on the TV. Two
planes at the trade center. Another at the Pentagon. Another in
Pennsylvania. A bomb threat at the State Department, which later turned
out to be bogus.
My first reaction was hopelessly naive, and
showed that I had no grasp or understanding about our enemy. I wondered
how terrorists had managed to steal empty planes and fly them from the
airport. I couldn't imagine that any human could possess such vicious
barbarity, that they'd hijack loaded planes filled with innocents and kill
them in their suicide-murder mission. Who could be so cruel, so utterly
On that first day, that was what I couldn't
get out of my head, the idea that unsuspecting people who had done nothing
to these slimeballs could be used as instruments of slaughter. It still
burns me, to this very day - my heartbeat is speeding up even as I type
these words. Two years later, the terrorist attack on September 11 still
pisses me off.
I heard the other day that Howard Dean
thinks we should remove thousands of American troops from Iraq because Al
Queda has moved in to attack them. This abject surrender to our enemies
galled me. Now, we don't have to look for the terrorists - they're right
there in Iraq, just waiting to get trounced. We should send more troops
and wipe out every one of them. But Dean would prefer that we run
and hide in the face of the enemy. That's really smart. That sends the
People like Dean still don't understand our
enemy. They think we can reason with them, or negotiate with them, or just
leave us alone and they'll leave us alone. Don't do anything to make them
mad. Give them what they want and they'll go away. Play a constant game of
defense and hope we don't get stung too badly. Go on the offensive? Find
and kill them before they find and kill more Americans? Too expensive. Too
risky. Not worth the effort.
Lord help us all if Dean or a like-minded
fool wins the White House next year.
A Deep Breath
Okay, I really didn't intend to go off on a
rant about Dean. It just happened, and I got swept up in the moment. What
I meant to say was what I did last year - we
should never, ever forget what happened that horrible day, and we should
never, ever shrink from the challenge that faces us.
The day we do that, the day we lack the
will or the desire to defend America, is the day this country is doomed.
The Muse may have taken some time off, but
don't think I haven't been tracking our favorite liberal columnist of the
Arizona Republic. Last Sunday, he addressed the recent gasoline crisis in
You may have heard a brief blurb on the
news about it. A gas pipeline supplying about a third of the Valley's
gasoline busted, which caused price spikes, shortages, and long lines at
the pump. Though dire, the crisis was brief, lasting about a week, and I
know of few people who actually ran out of gas. Many companies (including
mine) offered employees a telecommuting day to help employees save fuel.
Most stations that had gas, which were the
minority, charged about two bucks a gallon for regular unleaded. A few,
though, really jacked up the price, charging close to four dollars a
gallon. While crude prices rose about four cents from late July to August
22, some suppliers raised the price to tankers by 50 cents a gallon,
forcing gas stations to raise their prices.
According to Pimental, who assures that he
fully understands the law of supply and demand, to ask if this is right.
Certainly these suppliers could have raised their prices to cover their
costs and make a profit, but did they have to make an obscene profit while
people were scrounging for gas? Is this right? Is this moral?
I'm sure Pimental understands supply and
demand, but it's not clear if he understands the role price pays in the
equation. Prices are more than what we pay for a commodity - they also
transmit information about what is going on in the market. A low price for
a fixed product like gasoline means supply is plentiful and demand is
normal, while a higher price means supply is restricted and demand is
That's why all gas prices increased during
the shortage. Fine - we all understand that. But, and I think this is what
Pimental overlooks, those stations charging four bucks a gallon were among
the very few that still had gas. Other charging two bucks were shut down -
they had run out. Why did they run out first? Because they were charging
less as consumers flocked to a lower price alternative.
Those stations charging four bucks a
gallon, and the suppliers increasing their prices by 50 cents, were
sending an unmistakable signal to the market: gas is in short supply. Come
here only if you can't find it anywhere else. Those high prices sent
consumers elsewhere, which kept those gas stations supplied. If they had
charged two bucks like everyone else, they likely would have also run dry,
which would have helped no one.
Now, did those suppliers profit like crazy?
Sure. But the public interest was also served, because it kept gasoline
available, albeit at a higher price. Those higher prices encouraged
consumers to conserve or find alternatives. Those willing to pay the
higher price did so.
In short, I don't see the morality problem