Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Boy at War: A Novel of Pearl Harbor

I learned of A Boy at War while I was substitute teaching last year. I was in a 5th grade class, and one of the students had done a book report on it. I asked him if it was a good book, and he said yes. So, I added to my list of "books to check out". I have a number of things on my "wish list" with Barnes & Noble, so when I need a little something to bring my order up to the free shipping level, I've got some things to pick from. A Boy at War: A Novel of Pearl Harbor, by Harry Mazer, arrived yesterday. I finished reading it this evening.

It is 1941 and fourteen-year-old Adam Pelko and his family have recently moved to Hawaii. Adam's father is a lieutenant in the United States Navy, assigned to the USS Arizona.

Adam has a little trouble making friends at his new school. Before, he'd always gone to school with kids like himself, who had fathers in the military. In Hawaii, he's going to school with civilians. As his father reminds Adam, he might be the one wearing the uniform, but the whole family is in the Navy... Adam does make a connection with a Japanese American boy named Davi.

One day in early December, Adam runs into Davi while he is out riding his bike. Davi invites him to join his team in a game of "coconut ball"; the other team - of native Hawaiian boys - has five players, but Davi's team only has four. Adam knows one of the Hawaiian boys, Martin, from school, too. Adam watches the clock and starts to head home, so he'll be back by 1800, per his father's orders. Davi goes along with him. On the way home, Adam doesn't notice a pothole and rides his bike into the hole, breaking the bike. Davi convinces him to bring it to his house - his dad can fix anything. Adam will be late getting home either way, but if he goes with Davi, at least he won't be coming home with a broken bicycle. Mr. Mori fixes it, but won't accept any payment for it. While at Davi's house, Adam sees a picture of Hirohito on the wall. Davi explains that his parents, born in Japan, are issei, but he, "born here", is nisei, and is "One hundred percent American." Before Adam goes home, Davi invites him to go fishing with him, to meet at six o'clock the next morning.

When Adam gets home and explains why he was late, his father tells him he cannot be friends with Davi. Lt. Emory Pelko understands war is coming with Japan, and that while it was okay to have a Japanese nanny or gardener, it was not okay to have Japanese friends. Then, Adam goes with his parents to the movies while his little sister, Bea, stays home with Koniko, the nanny. When they return home, Emory has a message; he calls the base and finds out that he is needed to cover for the duty officer, who has a family emergency. He tells his wife he should be home by Sunday afternoon...

Adam decided not to tell his parents about his invitation to go fishing. He doesn't want to have to tell Davi that he's not allowed to be friends. When Davi and Martin show up a little late, Adam can't bring himself to say they can't be friends, and they head off to go fish. Davi leads them through a fence onto the naval base. Adam isn't sure about fishing in Pearl Harbor. But, he follows Davi and Martin through the fence anyway, while thinking about what his father had said the night before: "What you do reflects on your family;" but he decides that he wouldn't ruin his father's career by fishing.

They can see all the ships along Ford Island. Adam identifies the ships for his new friends and tells a little bit of what he knows about them: how many guns, how big they are, how many sailors on the crew. They find a rowboat along the shore and decide the fishing would be better if they took it out into the harbor than if they stayed on the pier.

Once they had rowed out into the harbor a bit, they can hear the bugle calling reveille and the ship bands playing The Star-Spangled Banner. Adam then worries that his father might see him in the little boat out in the harbor from the Arizona, and that it might be better if they moved elsewhere.

Just then, a group of planes flies overheard, some "coming in low over the water". At first, Adam thinks it must be some sort of exercise, a war game. But then, he also realizes that those planes don't have American markings, that they appeared to be Japanese. There is an explosion on Ford Island. It's almost like the news reels before the movies. It doesn't take Adam long to realize this is all very real. However, Davi doesn't seem to notice that the planes are not American, and is standing up in the boat, cheering. Adam gets angry and attacks him. Martin breaks them up, and they start rowing for the shore:

They rowed hard, away from the battleships and the bombs. Water sprayed over them. The rowboat pitched one way and then the other. Then, before his eyes, the Arizona lifted up out of the water. That enormous battleship bounced up in the air like a rubber ball and split apart. Fire burst out of the ship. A geyser of water shot into the air and came crashing down. Adam was almost thrown out of the rowboat. He clung to the seat as it swung around. He saw blue skies and the glittering city. The boat swung back again, and he saw black clouds, and the Arizona, his father's ship, sinking beneath the water. (p. 45)


Everything happened at once. The plane...bullets darting across the water...screams...the boat shooting up into the sky.

Adam hung in the air. He saw the red circle on the fuselage, he saw the gunner in his black helmet, and below him he saw the empty rowboat. Then he was in the water, down under the water. Water in his nose and in his throat. He came up next to the boat - it was almost on top of him. He clung to the side, choking and spitting.

The boat rode up and down with the waves, and he hung there, staring at the ragged row of holes along one side. They were so regular they could have been made by a sewing machine needle.

Something awful had happened. The sky was black where the Arizona had been. "My god, my god, oh, my god." He clung to the side of the boat thinking, It's Sunday morning, and we were fishing.

Suddenly there was silence. He could hear the wind. The planes had cleared form the sky. Our side is coming, he thought, and he pulled himself half out of the water and looked around for Martin and Davi. He was afraid. He wanted to see them, and when he didn't, he didn't let himself think what he was thinking - that they were dead.

"Davi," he called. "Martin! Davi!" His stomach clenched. "Martin...Davi..."

He got in the boat. His back was burning, and when he touched it, there was blood on his hand. Had he been shot? He didn't know. Maybe a bullet had grazed him.

"Davi!" he shouted. "Martin!" He stood up. In the distance he saw something bobbing up and down in the water, maybe a piece of driftwood. Then an arm came out of the water and he saw Davi and, beside him, Martin.(pp.46-47)

With one oar, Adam rows out to Davi and Martin. Davi is okay, but Martin won't get in the boat. Adam then sees Martin has a "splinter the size of a pencil...sticking out of his chest.". Davi and Adam manage to get Martin in the boat and then onto the pier. Luckily, a car drives by and stops, looking to pick up any wounded, but not before some sailor sees Davi and hits him with a pistol, thinking he's "got a Jap". Adam intervenes with the sailor, and Davi and Martin get inside the car, while Adam holds onto the center post while standing on the running board.

Adam falls from the side of the car when an explosion nearly runs it into the harbor. The car keeps going without him, and Adam is alone. He goes back to the rowboat and just sits. Before long, an officer comes and assumes Adam is a sailor. He orders Adam to row. Adam begins to explain, but the officer says "Sailor, shut you mouth. Get this slop bucket moving." He is to head to the West Virginia. Adam speaks again later, trying to ask about his father, Lieutenant Pelko, from the Arizona.

"The Arizona? Take a look," he said furiously. He pointed to where the smoke was thickest. "There, that! That! That's what's left of it, that pile of scrap. The USS Arizona is gone," he said bitterly.

Adam isn't able to get through to anyone that he is just a kid and doesn't really belong there. He is conscripted to help. First, he carries ammo to the guns on the West Virginia - where he see a "colored sailor" (Dorie Miller, from the Author's Note) manning the gun - but also sees "pieces of the ship and pieces of men [rain] down around him. A foot. An arm. He saw everything through a red haze. He ran. He slipped in blood. The launch was still at the foot of the ladder, and he fled the ship." Then helps pull men out of the water, and when one burned sailor's skin comes off in his hands, he vomits. They take the wounded to shore and find out where to take them. Adam and the sailors he is with then get rounded up by a Marine sergeant who wants them cleaned up - they are covered in oil - before taking them to the armory. They are to go to the main gate for security.

Adam decides, with the crowd around the gate, that he should try to sneak away. He can only think of his mother and little sister alone in the house, not knowing where he is. He hitches a ride on a truck near the gate - the driver would like a guard, and Adam still has the rifle he was issued. Luckily, Adam had already known about guns, although he'd never handled a rifle before. He makes it home, and hides the rifle in the bushes before going into the house.

All the neighbors are in the house when he arrives. His mother is relieved to see him, but he won't explain things until he's been able to clean up. He falls asleep before he can talk to his mother. By the time he woke up, all the others had left and he spoke with his mother. He bring the gun into the house, and his mother reminds him to "set the safety".

Adam knows in his heart that his father is dead, but when talking to his mother, until they get official word from the Navy, there is still hope. On Monday, Adam's mother asks him to turn on the radio for the broadcast from the mainland. They hear President Roosevelt's address asking Congress to declare war.

They continue to wait, and try to sort out fact from rumor. Martial law had been declared: no school, no banks, no government offices are open. Adam sleeps on a cot in his mother's room with the gun on the floor under the cot to guard both his mother and his little sister, Bea.

Adam goes to Davi's house. He is okay, but Mr. Mori was taken away by the FBI on suspicion of being a spy. Davi and Adam visit Martin, who almost died, who is still in the hospital.

Adam also tries to get onto the naval base to find something out about his father, but they won't let him on without ID.

Koniko returns after two weeks, now wearing western clothes instead of her kimono.

A telegram arrives at the Pelko house. Mrs. Pelko asks Adam to read it:


Adam finds out that all dependent families are to be sent back to the mainland. Adam doesn't want to go. He feels like that would be abandoning his father. But, he has no choice. They leave on a troop ship with other dependent families and lots of the wounded. Adam says goodbye to his father as he drops a lei into the water near Diamond Head... dropping a lei in the water means that you are coming back...

In the Author's Note at the back of the book, there is more of the historical background: how the US didn't think Japan was enough of a military threat and how they were more concerned about sabotage from the Japanese on the islands; how the Japanese navy crossed the Pacific undetected; how they intentional attacked on a Sunday because they knew the fleet would be in port, the tally of the battle: 2,403 American servicemen dead but fewer than 100 Japanese, 5 U.S. battleships sunk and 3 destroyers and 3 light cruisers damaged, 5 Japanese midget submarines and one full-time submarine lost, the Japanese fleet escaped, 164 U.S aircraft destroyed and 29 Japanese planes that did not return to their carriers; how the attack failed in its objective of destroying the Pacific Fleet (although I do note that there is no mention of the fact that the American carriers were at sea at the time of the attack); how "Remember Pearl Harbor" became the rallying cry of the Pacific War; how persons of Japanese origin were interned on the mainland, but not in Hawaii; about how the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, all volunteers of Americans of Japanese Ancestry, fought valiantly in Europe; and how the Arizona was never raised and today serves as a memorial to all those who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

This book isn't for young children. It's recommended for 12 years old and older, but I think it would be suitable for children as young as the fourth grade, or about 10 years old. While the book isn't really gory, it does not shy away from the realities of war. It's not a long book, coming in at 104 pages, including the Author's Note. But, I do think this is a good book for children to make a connection to history through the eyes of a young man. And, with the United States involved in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, if may offer an opening for talking to older children about war without necessarily addressing the current conflict we are engaged in.

I do know that A Boy at War is not the only book by Harry Mazer about Adam Pelko. It is followed by A Boy No More and Heroes Don't Run, which I have not yet read.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue

Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue has long been a favorite piece of music. I never knew the story behind it, though, until I read Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue by Anna Harwell Celenza and illustrated by JoAnn E. Kitchel. If you don't think you know Rhapsody in Blue, Unites Airlines has long used it in their TV commercials - if you heard it, you'd know the piece, whether or not you know the name of it...

In January 1924, George and Ira Gershwin and their friend B.G. "Buddy" DeSylva are in a pool hall in New York City's Lower East Side. George and Buddy are playing pool while Ira is reading the paper. Ira comes across something he wants to share with the other two:

In an attempt to determine "what is American music," orchestra leader Paul Whiteman is organizing a concert entitled "An Experiment in Modern Music." This concert will take place in Aeolian Hall on February 12 and will be attended by the world's musical elite.
Included on the program will be a new composition by local composers. George Gershwin is at work on a jazz concerto that will be featured in the concert.

There was only one problem: George wasn't writing a jazz concerto. He'd discussed writing new music with Paul, but a concert had never been mentioned. George went to talk to Paul.

"You're looking a little steamed," said Paul. "How come?"

"How come?" replied George. "I just read in the paper that in a few weeks I am supposedly premiering a concerto that I haven't even started writing yet!"
"I can't do it," said George.

Paul convinces George to give it a shot. George looks for inspiration by listen to Liszt and Chopin, trying to improvise on the piano, walking in Central Park, even buying new paper and a pen. George also had to get ready for a new musical he had written that was opening in Boston. He had decided to call Paul and tell he him couldn't do it.

However, on the train to Boston, he found his inspiration:

As the train made its way north, George listened to the wheels rocking against the tracks - rattlety, rattlety, bang, rattlety, rattlety, bang. Soon his hands and feet began to imitate the rhythm - clappety, clappety, tap, clappety, clappety, tap.

George looked out the window and his mind began to drift. At first the rhythm of the train reminded him of the klezmer band at Ira's bar mitzvah years ago - clappety, clappety, tap. He could almost hear the wailing strains of the clarinet against the syncopated rhythm of the fiddle.

George's thoughts drifted to the Palais Royale: dancing the foxtrot, cheek to cheek, with a beautiful girl. Clappety, clappety, tap - the foxtrot reminded him of ragtime. He remembered roller-skating to the Barron Wilkins Club in Harlem. Since he was just a kid then, he was never allowed inside, so he sat on the curb and listened to the intoxicating rhythms and harmonies - clappety, clappety, tap - ragtime and the blues.

Clappety, clappety, tap, clappety, clappety, tap. George listened to the rhythm of the train for a long time, and as he did, he got an idea about how he could write his concerto. "Instead of comping new melodies, I'll use the music that's already in my head," he thought. "Klezmer, foxtrot, ragtime and blues. My concerto will be a tuneful kaleidoscope - a rhapody about the music that surrounds me!"

Two weeks later, he returned to New York with his nearly complete concerto, which he played for his brother and their friend Buddy. He knew something was missing - something to tie it all together. Buddy suggested George needed a break, that he should join them for a party, "a real swanky affair", on Madison Avenue.

The party had a penthouse view and a grand piano, "and as usual, George was drawn to it like a bear to honey" and started to improvise; he found the missing piece the theme - to tie his concerto all together. "'It's a love song for New York,' he thought. 'All that time in Boston almost made me forget.'"

George thought of calling his new concerto American Rhapsody, but Ira thought it needed something "with more pep." Inspired by the names of the works by James McNeill Whistler (Nocturne in Black and Gold, Arrangement in Gray and Black [more commonly referred to as Whistler's Mother]), Ira suggested putting a color in the title. The result was Rhapsody in Blue.

George handed his piece off to a friend, Ferde Grofé, to write the orchestra parts. Rehearsals began on February 4th for the concert on the 12th. George would play the piano solos.

The night of the concert, the Aeolian Hall was sold out. But, the audience was getting angry because they weren't hearing anything new, and some people got up to go. Paul had George play his new concerto right then. "All at once, the clarinet let out a wail that made the fleeing listeners stop dead in their tracks." Everyone went back to their seats, and became more enthusiastic the more they heard.

George had somehow captured the spirit of modern life - the hustle-bustle rhythm and the electric energy of Manhattan. Rhapsody in Blue marked a new direction for modern music. George had composed an American masterpiece.

The Author's Note at the back gives a little bit more information about Gershwin, and gives Gershwin's own description of his inspiration for this magnificent piece of music, as well as why he chose the color blue: it is "a reference to George's use of blue notes (notes added to the traditional musical scale that help give jazz its distinctive sound) throughout the piece." Included with the book is a CD. The author explains "I relied on the 'commemorative facsimile edition' published by Warner Brothers in 1987, because this version comes closest to the score prepared for Whiteman's concert 'An Experiment in Modern Music.'"

While this book is recommended for children between the ages of 4 and 8, I think it can be used with older children, especially in the context of music education: it's not just about the music, but also about the inspiration behind it. Not ever learning to play the piano is a regret I have. There was never an opportunity as a child, since I didn't have access to a piano. I worked on it a little as an adult, when Lyric Mezzo and I were roommate and I had access to her fabulous antique upright (even if it was sometimes out of tune), but I never had the time it would have take to make any real progress. Even if I can't play the music, I have a great appreciation for it. Every child deserves the opportunity to gain an appreciation for truly great music, and Rhapsody in Blue is one such piece, and a truly American one, at that.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The problem with energy...

A month or so ago, Lyric Mezzo sent me an email pointing out a rant against "Big Oil" that Bill O'Reilly had done. It wasn't the first time he'd accused oil companies of "gouging" consumers. While I generally enjoy watching O'Reilly and think he often make intelligent points on the various issues he covers, I believe he gets a bit hysterical...

First, let me say I am by no means an expert on the oil industry. While I have one uncle who has worked for oil companies for decades (I believe his degree is in chemical engineering) and one cousin who works for an oil company with operations on the North Slope of Alaska, I've never talked to them about their work. However, I have some insight into the industry that the average person likely does not have. My undergraduate degree is in Accounting. One of the electives within my major was oil & gas accounting. Let's just say that class ensured I would never want to work within that particular field of accounting. Accounting for oil and gas enterprises is much more complicated and involved than most any other business, IMO. Now, on to the topic at hand:

Oil companies aren't gouging. Their actual margins are less than many other industries. The fact that they have "obscene profits" right now is directly related to the volume of their sales, not that they have been charging consumers an outrageously high retail price relative to the oil companies' costs. Oil is a commodity, and the oil commodities market sets the price, not "Big Oil". The United States isn't only nation with a large demand for this commodity. India and China have booming economies, so they are now demanding more oil than in years past: this energy source is lifting their large populations out of poverty.

Also, there is much speculation in the oil futures market - this has been driving up the price. Also, the US dollar has been very weak when compared to other currencies: this makes oil more expensive for us, and cheaper for those using those other currencies.

Lucky for us, the price of oil has been dropping. So, what is likely responsible for the recent drop in the price of oil, which has dropped about $30/barrel from the high of about $145/barrel? It would appear that $4 a gallon gasoline is the tipping point at which American consumers change habits: we, as a nation, have cut back on our usage of gasoline in response to the high price of gasoline.. I know I have - the past two summers, I hardly missed going to an Express baseball game. This season, I have only been to a handful of games that weren't on a Saturday or Sunday; it's about a 70-mile round trip for me, and I can't afford that for an 8-game homestand... Americans are driving less: consequently needing to buy less gasoline; American airlines are parking lots of airplanes, reducing their need for jet fuel. The law of supply & demand is at work here, folks...

Also, since President Bush lifted the executive ban on off-shore drilling, the price of crude oil has dropped dramatically. This ties back to those "evil" oil speculators. There is now one less obstacle to the United States drilling for its own oil, so the speculators have been betting on lower oil prices in the future. Now, Congress needs to get their sh*t together and remove those remaining obstacles to the United States accessing its own energy resources so we won't be beholden to countries like Iran or Venezuela, both OPEC members with no great love for the United States. Drilling in the US would help reduce the speculatory rise in crude oil prices.

One thing I am sick and tired of hearing from those in the anti-drilling crowd, who just happen to be Democrats as far as I can tell, is the "we won't get any oil for 10 years from new drilling". Well, you know what? If we'd started drilling in ANWAR when it came up under the Clinton Administration, we'd now be getting our first barrels out oil out of it... They seem to have absolutely no forward thinking when it comes to proven sources of energy. If the worst should happen in the Middle East, say an open, direct confrontation with Iran (not this proxy war they've been fighting with Israel through Hezbollah and with the US in Iraq) that disrupts the flow of oil coming out of the Persian Gulf, we need to have another reliable source of oil. Our need for crude oil isn't going anywhere, no matter what the environmentalist say. We use petroleum for far more than powering our automobiles...

We need to drill in ANWAR (the people of Alaska want to...), we need to drill in the Gulf (and not just off the Texas/LA coastline). We currently can't drill off the coast of Florida, but China is, with Cuba's help. With the price of gas being so high, it is now becoming cost-effective to drill for harder-to-get-to oil. We need to build nuclear power plants, too. Biofuels aren't the answer, but I'll get to that later. I have no problem with reasonable conservation measures - I know that fuel economy has always - even before gas prices got so high - been a huge factor in my choice of car. I won't even consider something that doesn't get an EPA estimated 30 mpg. And I keep my tires properly inflated. And I make sure to get my car in for regularly scheduled maintenance. That's just not smart fuel economy, it's smart economics - I plan to drive my car for as long as I can - as long as the upkeep is more cost effective than buying a new vehicle.

Now, for the insight I gained from the O&G accounting class all those years ago... These "windfall profits" the Democrats keep talking about make up for the times when oil companies were barely getting by (anyone remember the "Oil Bust"? It had a huge impact on the Texas economy back in the day...), and also help fund new exploration.

There are many expenses related to finding and extracting crude oil. I know, in general terms, that methods of exploration have gotten more sophisticated since I was in college, but I'm sure the basics still hold true. An oil and gas company will have a general idea, based on geology, where they think an oil or gas deposit is. If they want to do more than just speculate on what is there, they will have to obtain the rights from the property owner to come in and do surveys of what is underground. I think today, they can do a lot of this without having to sink exploratory holes into the ground.

Now, if they find a deposit they think is worth extracting, they will have to pay for the mineral rights to that property. Now, one thing I never thought about prior to taking that class is this: the owner of the mineral rights isn't necessarily the same as the owner of the ground level property. So, there may be two entities that have to be compensated for the privilege of drilling. Once the appropriate leases and mineral rights and what-not have been secured, there is the work of actually getting to the deposit. They'll have to drill. Drilling is a very dangerous bit of work. The people who do this work must be fairly compensated for the dangerous and skilled work that they do.

Once the drilling is successfully completed, it will have to be converted into an actual well, pumping the oil or gas to the surface. After that, it needs to be transported for refining. I', am not really up on what all needs to be done to natural gas to make it "market ready", beyond adding that inert gas to give it that smell so you'll know if you have a gas leak. For oil, though, what happens will depend on what the end product is supposed to be, and the quality of the crude pumped out of the ground (or from beneath the ocean floor).

I never had to pay more than $3.999 when filling up my car, but the $40 it took to completely fill my tank from "E" is more than double what it cost me when I bought that car four years ago. I filled up the other day for $3.699, but when I drove by the same gas station on the way home from work Friday, it was down to $3.619. I have a friend out in California who pays a much higher price, and I have a friend in Arkansas who has actually been paying a little less (but I think she and her husband sometimes even fill up just over the state line in Missouri for a little less than they would pay "at home" - the difference likely being taxes). Why the big differences in the price of gasoline? The gasoline that can be sold in Texas - or Arkansas and Missouri - likely isn't the proper blend to be allowed to be sold in California. All these blends are in existence because of environmental regulations. If I recall correctly, there are at least a dozen different blends of gasoline required to meet the regulations of various states and municipalities around the country. Oil refineries can't make all the different blends at one time. They'll make one kind, then they have to switch over to be able to make another kind. All these blends make the cost of turning crude oil into gasoline go up. That's one reason the price of gas went up so much after Katrina and Rita in 2005, also. Refineries along the Gulf Coast were offline, so other refineries had to make up for the decrease in refining capacity: fewer refineries still having to put out the same number of blends that are required around the country.

Once the gasoline has been refined, it now has to be transported to gas stations around the country so it can be sold to American drivers. All that costs money, too. Oh, and let's not forget all the taxes we pay to various governmental entities - in some cases, a set amount per gallon (I think that's how all the taxes work here in Texas, thank goodness!), in others, a percentage of the sale price (so when the price of a gallon of gas goes up, so does the tax you have to pay). Often, the various taxing entities make more money off of a gallon of gasoline that the oil companies do...

With regard to refineries, no one wants them in their own backyard. I've been near the refineries around the Houston area. They stink something awful. But, we need new refineries. As far as I know, we haven't built a new refinery in the United States in over 30 years (though I may have heard recently about one new project somewhere...). Environmental groups - and some in the NIMBY crowd - do their damnedest to prevent construction of new refineries. Never mind a new refinery would likely be much more efficient than the existing ones.

Now, back to biofuels. At this point in time, biofuels are not a viable alternative to gasoline. Ethanol is contributing to an increase in food prices, as acreage is going from growing food plants to growing fuel plants - and I heard on the news recently that in whatever South American country that makes biofuel from sugar beets is destroying rainforest to get more land to grow food plants because they've used so much of existing farmland to grow those sugar beets... While it is my understanding that sugar beets are a fairly effective biofuel, in regard to the amount of energy you can generate from a given amount of acreage, corn isn't so effective. But, we have corn farmers here in the US successfully lobbying Congress to push this less-effective alternative biofuel. Maybe that's why so many politicians pander to Iowa when they want to run for president - that corn lobby is pretty influential, it would seem. Biofuels might become a viable alternative, but not any time soon - certainly not any sooner than it will take to get crude oil out of the ground if all the unnecessarily obstacles were removed. And Congress needs to butt the he|| out and let the market take care of what - if any - biofuel is most effective.

What else would help solve the energy problem? Nuclear power. We have a NIMBY problem here, too. Listening to the radio this past week, one of the "local" news reports was about a proposed nuclear power plant near Victoria, Texas. The news report had a gentleman who didn't want that power plant near his town. Democrats seem to want to emulate Europe so much when it comes to failed socialist ideas, but they don't seem so keen on emulating their intelligent use of nuclear power. I'd like to see it much easier to build nuclear power plants. And, hey, they don't produce those evil "greenhouse gases" the environmentalist say are contributing to anthropogenic global warming (which I think is a bunch of hogwash, but that's a separate discussion...). Ability to get to the oil shale that is now cost-effective to recover with the current price of a barrel of crude. Clean coal technology. But the first thing that would have the most immediate impact on energy prices would be for Congress to eliminate all the road blocks to the United States accessing its own energy resources. Recent reports say that, when you combine all the resources that are currently off-limits, the United States has more oil than Saudi Arabia. If you don't think that would have a dramatic effect on crude prices, you haven't been paying attention, or you are being willfully obtuse.

Drill Here. Drill Now. Pay Less. And support the "rebel Republicans" who haven't taken a vacation and are keeping up the good fight to get Nancy Pelosi and Congress to do the right thing when it comes to America's energy. But even don't get me started on the "Gang of 10"...