Critical Thinking and You

I’ve got a few things to say, so please, hear me out. I’m not trying to preach to anyone, nor am I claiming I have all the answers.

When we fall for media or political hype, we fall into the trap they’ve designed for us. Don’t get me wrong, the media has its role to play, but their bottom line is to make money for their shareholders/owners. Be they FOX or CNN or any of them, they follow the age-old adage, If It Bleeds, It Leads. In other words, they sensationalize anything and everything to draw in viewers and thus be able to sell more advertising. All media outlets have a bias to one degree or another. Some more than others, but all of them tell you the news from their perspective. This is neither good, nor bad it is simply the nature of the beast. The trick is to cut through the bias for the nuggets of real news, then do your own reasoning or research to reach a conclusion. For example….

Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. If all you did was listen to what the media has said about this case you’d assume that Zimmerman went out that night to shoot him a black guy. The media have so over-hyped this case that the truth and facts were the second casualty in this case right after that kid. None of us truly know what happened that day, none of us. There are only two people who truly know what happened and one of them is dead. We have NBC doctoring a 911 tape to make it seem like Zimmerman identified this kid as black, when the truth is, he never mentioned race until prompted by the 911 operator. Trayvon has been held up as a saint, cut down by a racist system and bigoted white people. The kid was not a saint and the man who shot him isn’t white. None of this justifies his death, but I say it to point out how the media has distorted and sensationalized every aspect of this case, before a trial has even started. Were mistakes made by the police, it certainly seems that way, but this too is nothing new when dealing with humans. It doesn’t show racial bias or nefarious goals, unless evidence comes out to support that claim. Furthermore, as sad and horrible as this case is, in the larger scheme of things , it’s actually a pretty run of the mill case.

Nothing is special about this killing in any way compared to the thousands of killings that go on every year in this country. Nor does it show rampant racism in this country, especially when you consider that 90% of the blacks killed in this country die at the hands of other blacks. Yet, you don’t see Reverend Al and others marching for these people. Aren’t their parents just as sad and distraught as are Trayvon’s? Don’t these victims deserve justice too? Are they less important than Trayvon? No, they are all equally important to their families, yet we hear nothing about them. The media can’t sensationalize their killings and try to paint America as a racist country so you don’t hear about them. It doesn’t bleed enough to fit the narrative, so they are forgotten , except by their grieving families and loved ones.

This case will soon play itself out in the courts and finally we will all know the facts of the case. Until then it is incumbent upon us to not fall into the mob mentality egged on by media hype. If it turns out that Zimmerman is guilty of a crime, he should and will be held accountable for his crime, and rightly so. Critical thinking would suggest that until that time, we don’t know what happened that night and should wait until we have more information before reaching for a rope. We are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, not the court of public opinion. Remember the Duke Lacrosse case? Remember that media frenzy and how it ultimately turned out? The lives of 3 young men were tarnished and dragged through the mud. Later, we found out the entire thing was a lie told by that stripper.If we don’t support the ideal of,innocent until proven guilty in this country, the next time something happens that gets plastered all over the media circus, it could be you, me , or someone we care about that is running from the lynch mob.

A different example of the need for critical thinking skills comes to mind, Oil and the price thereof. Everyone is jumping down the throats of those evil oil companies for their ungodly profits and so-called subsidies these days. Let’s look at some facts about how all of this works.

These subsidies we hear about in the news are not exclusive to oil companies, many large companies in America get those same subsidies from the government, GE , Microsoft, etc. Since it’s all about “fairness” these days, why not remove the subsidies for ALL of them? It’s harder to demonize these other companies for political gain so all we hear about are subsidies for oil companies. A lie of omission, is still a lie.

The price of oil is not controlled by the oil companies, market forces, both real and perceived control the price of oil. It is, at its core, a matter of supply and demand. The more supply of a product, the less that product costs, the less supply, the more it costs. The supply of oil in this world goes up or down in large part by oil-producing nations or groups, i.e. OPEC. They decide how much to produce each year and thus decide how much supply will be available to meet the demand of consumers. If that were the only factor affecting price , it would be an easy equation, but it is not.

A good percentage of the price of oil derives from real or perceived fears of a sudden loss of supply. If you’ve paid attention lately you will have noticed that this latest run on oil began around the time that the Iranians started chafing under the threat of sanctions over their nuclear program. They very publicly announced that if the West went through with these sanctions or tried to forcibly stop their nuclear programs they would close the Straits of Hormuz.

Anyone that knows anything about geography knows that this is a major choke point at the entrance/exit of the Persian Gulf. Nearly 20% of the world’s oil supply comes through this strait. If that were suddenly closed to shipping, it would drastically affect the world’s ability to get the oil it needs to survive economically. Thus the fear of this loss, even though it hasn’t actually happened, began to drive up the cost of oil, and thus gasoline.

Another reason is the weak U.S. dollar due to our own economic crisis and the Federal Reserve printing more and more money in the form of Stimulus. The more dollars that are out there , the less each one of them are worth ( supply and demand in a sense ) Since oil trades in U.S. dollars worldwide, this increases the cost of oil worldwide.

Yet another factor affecting the price of oil is the basic equation of supply vs demand. Demand remains high, yet the supply has not been increased to meet that demand. OPEC has decided to not increase their production of oil. Our government has decided to not open the floodgates and began to seriously tap the oil reserves we have here in the United States.

Conservative estimates by even our own government show that when you factor in all the various sources of oil available to us here, we have as much or more oil than the combined output of Saudi Arabia and many other oil-producing nations. Estimates show that we have enough oil to supply our own needs for the next 200 years. We have natural gas reserves so large that only Russia has anywhere near the amount of natural gas we have right here in America.

All of these factors  affect the price of oil, and thus the price of gas at the pump. It’s not a conspiracy by the oil companies to gouge us, they make about 8 cents  for every gallon of gas sold in the U.S. Our own government brings in around 40 cents on every gallon of gas sold here through taxes, who is gouging whom here? Put another way, oil companies run on an 8% profit margin, the U.S. government operates on a 40% profit margin and they don’t do anything at all to produce that oil, nor do they assume any of the risks involved.

One last factor that affects the price of gas in this country that our government could solve tomorrow. Every spring and fall , our refineries have to shut down and retool to produce the 18-20 different blends of gas required by the various states. That increases costs because they have to support separate pipelines for each blend of gas. They have to shut down their plants while they retool, if the refinery isn’t operating, it’s not producing gasoline and this affects the supply.

If the government said it was going to tell the oil companies, you only need to produce one blend of gas for the entire country, this would lower the price of gas by upwards of 40 cents a gallon. I’m not talking bout the different octanes you see at the pump, I’m talking about the additives put into gasoline for winter and summer blends.

All of these factors affect the price of gasoline we put in our vehicles. But if you just listened to the media and certain politicians, you’d think these oil companies were greedy and raising the costs on purpose to increase their profits.  Their profits are up because the price of oil is up.

High oil prices lead to inflation in our economy, along with our devalued dollar. Anyone who’s gone to the grocery store lately will know that food is much more expensive these days. This is because it costs farmers more to produce the food since they have to fuel their equipment. It costs shippers more to move the produce since they have to fuel their trucks. It costs more to fly because the airlines have to buy fuel for their planes etc. Some of this we can control, some of it we can’t, but to abdicate our responsibility to reason for ourselves we are at the mercy of media and political hype.

Without critical thinking skills and their use, you easily fall victim to media hype and mob mentality. The media count on this from the public, it helps their profit margins. Don’t fall for the hype, think about what they’ve said, then apply critical thinking skills to decide whether they’re full of shit. You’ll soon find out that 9 times out of 10, the media isn’t even close to the true picture. Same holds true for politicians and political parties.

P.S. and no, doubling down on green energy won’t solve our problems. You can’t drive your car with sunshine or wind. You can’t fly planes with it either. Nothing wrong with continuing to develop and use these technologies where we can, but like it or not, for now…Oil is what makes the world go around so we’d better get off our butts and go out there and get more of it.

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3 Comments

Filed under Politics

3 responses to “Critical Thinking and You

  1. Indeed, it is our call of duty to put the effort into critical thinking. As Thomas Jefferson said, “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.”

  2. Pingback: Critical Thinking and You ..Part Deux | The Funny Farm

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