Thursday, July 31, 2008

Soul Technology?

What did you mean when you said our civilization would follow its own past?

What was here before you was very great. It uncovered the secret to which you are blind, the secret of communion with the dead. It began to be able to use intelligent energy in its technology. To use souls as tools. Look at the carvings at Dendera in Egypt. Those strange objects in the containers are not electrical filaments or religious symbols. Those are souls. The walls of the containers bear a electrical charge of a type that imprisons them. Because of the use of such technology, elemental bodies extended their perception outside of the time stream, with the result that the school of the earth ceased to work as a place of change. Who knows the truth, cannot find their weakness, and that is your aim on earth. What was worse the knowledge of this power was kept from the common, ordinary people who have little self-will to begin with, and so are the only ones really capable of making good use of such abilities. The old world was destroyed because of its own greed and secretiveness. Those least evolved rose to the top, as happens here. Your leaders as you call them, are all people with damaged senses of self-worth The damaged goods run the civilization. That's why it cannot last.

extracts From: Whitley Strieber The Key

End of the American Land Yacht...,

Earlier this summer, I posted an obituary for the soon-to-be-extinct HumVee. This morning, I came across a legendary anti-SUV rant by Mark Morford in the San Francisco Chronicle. I love few things more than a good old rip-snorting flame session, and this one is excellent. Here are some choice morsels from the column;
But really, who didn't see the SUV's collapse coming a mile away? Who didn't note the beginning of the end when, a mere five years ago, the world's worst consumer vehicle ever took its place as the king of obscene stupidity, the poster child for all that went wrong with the condescending American ethos, the oil-sucking war-drunk Bush-mauled mind-set?

Ah, the Hummer H2. Has any consumer product embodied our misguided arrogance better? The ridiculous scale, the horrible handling, the crappy build quality, the contemptible road manners, the false machismo, the Cro-Magnon design, the ability to traverse 60-degree rockslides in a hurricane even though all you ever really needed to do was run over those little concrete bumps in the Wal-Mart parking lot. Dude! Righteous!

But I have to admit, this part of the tale makes me a little bit sentimental. Honestly, I'm going to miss the Hummer (and its simply fantastic byproduct, Hummer cologne), much in the same way I'll miss Dick Cheney when the Hellmouth swallows him home next year. Dumb villains simply don't come much more glaring, much more churlish and sad than that.

But baby, it's all over now. GM is trying desperately to dump the Hummer brand (maybe on China), SUV sales are nosediving faster than Miley Cyrus' career into the land of anorexia and Olsen Twin-certified rehab.
Comedy gold. But all that snarky irony isn't really very far removed from the underlying fact that American identity did get sucked into a 20 year spiral during which personal status was conflated with unsustainable and ludicrous automotive excess. Not to mention the market-making tax credits extended to light truck owners that served to heavily subsidize this insufferable and regrettable binge. It WILL take time and ever-increasing gas prices to wean folks from the silly and gross errors of the Sport Utility Vehicle debacle....,

Climate Change Racialization

I finally understand why the now banned commenter Josh "thordaddy" Farst was soiling his britches over anthropogenic climate change and my opinion relative to that topic.

I suspect he fundamentally misunderstood my baseline of generalized, cold, martian disdain...,

That said, this morning I came across this choice morsel of absurd political theater. Click on the image of moe, larry, and curly to the left to go and visit this decidedly ungodly confluence shills and liars for hire.

Bottomline, expensive gasoline isn't a civil rights issue. It is a laws-of-thermodynamics and declining net energy issue. All of you humans are in trouble. No point scurrying around pointing fingers and blaming one another in any manner, form, or fashion - at this juncture. Better work together for all you're worth if you want to get past the great filter looming just beyond that signpost up ahead.....,

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Take the Hit...,

In May 2006, at the height of the housing boom, Karen Trainer bought a $500,000 apartment in California - with money borrowed from her bank.

By this year, Karen still owed $500,000 on her mortgage, but her apartment was worth $200,000 less.

So she was deep in negative equity and, to make matters worse, the interest rate on her loan was about to increase.

"I thought 'this is crazy'," Ms Trainer says. "It just does not make financial sense."

As a successful professional, Karen could comfortably have managed the higher mortgage payments her bank demanded.

Instead, she decided to stop her mortgage payments altogether and let her bank repossess her apartment.

Her credit record will be badly damaged by the decision, but Ms Trainer expects this to recover soon.

"Generally speaking, within 5 years you are about back where you were, so my husband and I decided we'll take the hit and live with it."
America's house price time bomb; Faced with seemingly never-ending falls in the value of their properties, some American home-owners are taking radical action; they are choosing to walk away from homes and their mortgages.

A Little Less Flair.....,

Some Chotchkies bite the dust;
Several national restaurant chains were shuttered on Tuesday, possibly offering an early taste of what’s in store this year for businesses that depend on free-spending consumers whose budgets are now being squeezed.

The parent company of Bennigan’s, an Irish-themed bar and grill with about 200 sites across the country, filed for bankruptcy, a move that will put hundreds of employees out of work and leave many landlords with empty retail space during a painful time in the real estate market.

A sister brand, Steak & Ale, will also close. Franchise units of Bennigan’s will remain open for now, a spokeswoman, Leah Templeton, wrote in an e-mail message.

The restaurants are the latest casualties in the so-called casual dining sector, considered a cut above fast food. Soaring food costs and a surfeit of locations have hurt the companies’ bottom lines just as Americans are choosing to take more meals at home.

The closings are “something we’re going to see more of over the next 6 to 12 months,” said Amy Greene, a director at Avondale Partners who tracks the restaurant industry.
Bennigans was the shizznit in Framingham, for half a hot minute, in 1987 after the TGIF thrill was gone.....,

Speculative Food Chain Consolidation

Data points on the consolidating operations of the ancient absolute capitalistic hierarchial food powered make work enterprise - where it's absolutely obvious that food is gold.
Huge investment funds have already poured hundreds of billions of dollars into booming financial markets for commodities like wheat, corn and soybeans.

But a few big private investors are starting to make bolder and longer-term bets that the world’s need for food will greatly increase — by buying farmland, fertilizer, grain elevators and shipping equipment.

One has bought several ethanol plants, Canadian farmland and enough storage space in the Midwest to hold millions of bushels of grain.

Another is buying more than five dozen grain elevators, nearly that many fertilizer distribution outlets and a fleet of barges and ships.

And three institutional investors, including the giant BlackRock fund group in New York, are separately planning to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in agriculture, chiefly farmland, from sub-Saharan Africa to the English countryside.

“It’s going on big time,” said Brad Cole, president of Cole Partners Asset Management in Chicago, which runs a fund of hedge funds focused on natural resources. “There is considerable interest in what we call ‘owning structure’ — like United States farmland, Argentine farmland, English farmland — wherever the profit picture is improving.”
and this;
This is not a passing craze, according to Christopher Wyke, commodities product manager at Schroders. “We are in the early stages of an extended bull market [for agricultural commodities].”

He expects it to last 15 to 20 years, after the preceding 25-year bear market, during which affluent Europeans and Americans learnt to take food for granted. “The problem is that it is difficult to invest in agriculture. There are very few agricultural producers that are quoted.”
Remember, if you can lock down production and stockpile supply – you can control price. That's the endgame, checkmate.

Only in Wichita.....,

From the city which brought you the one and only BTK strangler, and my hometown;
A man whose girlfriend sat on a toilet for so long that the seat adhered to her body will spend six months on probation.

Kory McFarren pleaded no contest last month to a misdemeanor count of mistreatment of a dependent adult. A judge sentenced him Tuesday to six months in jail but granted the probation after the victim, Pam Babcock, asked for leniency.

"She didn't believe that her circumstances were his fault," Ness County Attorney Craig Crosswhite said.

Babcock's plight became known in February when McFarren called the Ness County sheriff, expressing concern about his live-in girlfriend. When authorities arrived, they found Babcock physically stuck to the toilet.

McFarren told police Babcock had refused to come out of the bathroom for two years. Medical personnel estimated she'd been sitting on the toilet for at least a month and said the seat had adhered to sores on her body.

She is now under the protection of a guardian who was appointed through the legal department at the hospital where she received treatment.

Also Tuesday, McFarren was sentenced to six months in jail for an unrelated charge of lewd and lascivious behavior for exposing himself to a teenage neighbor in March.
No matter how bad things get with the economy or anything else, just remember, there's always a subset of straight up reality casualties co-existing with you in this mortal coil. I've got two words for the tableau recounted here in pictures and words, the little still life that transpired in that rickety little old non-mobile, mobile home in that Ness City trailer park on the outskirts of wichititty, jes dayyum......,

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Argentina's Economic Collapse - Part 1 of 12

What's around that signpost up ahead (and why have *we* never seen these images of recent history from a country in the western hemisphere on teevee before?)

Supply and Demand

  • Peak oil is a fact: Sure, there's plenty of oil out there, but we'll never be able to make any more of it per day than we are right now (approx. 85 million barrels). What's more, we'll soon be making a lot less of it, as existing fields get depleted.
  • Barring a collapse of the global economy, the sky's the limit for oil prices--maybe $500 a barrel.
  • Given the world's dependency on oil, a global economic collapse is likely.
  • This is a fundamental supply/demand issue, speculators irrelevant (contributes $10-$15, max).
  • Oil now dropping to $70? "Keep dreaming."
Global oil production is now declining, from 74 million barrels per day to 60 million barrels per day by 2015. During the same time demand will increase 14%. (India/China economic booms?)

This is equivalent to a 33% drop in 7 years. No one can reverse this trend, nor can we conserve our way out of this catastrophe. Because the demand for oil is so high, it will always be higher than production; thus the depletion rate will continue until all recoverable oil is extracted.

Alternatives will not even begin to fill the gap. And most alternatives yield electric power, but we need liquid fuels for tractors/combines, 18 wheel trucks, trains, ships, and mining equipment.

India - Economic Boom No Climate Doom

India loves the UN’s climate change policies and so does India’s representative at the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri.

Why the love-in? The Indian government’s new “National Action Plan on Climate Change,” which Pachauri helped craft, plainly explains why: The UN formally establishes that global warming is a matter of secondary importance to India, allowing the world’s largest democracy to pursue its own best interests.

As the National Action Plan unapologetically puts it, the UN’s climate change convention “recognizes that ‘economic and social development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of the developing country parties.’ Thus, developing countries are not required to divert resources from development priorities by implementing projects involving incremental costs.”

And India doesn’t. Throughout its National Action Plan, India demonstrates that it will divert precious little of its scarce resources to solving the climate crisis. Where greenhouse gases will be curbed — for example, by aggressively building hydro dams or modernizing industry — the curbs will be a by-product of India’s national security concerns or economic development plans.

The UN’s climate change convention is even better than that — it’s a money-maker for India and a lever with which to obtain western technology. As the Action Plan makes clear, there’s only one condition under which India need spend a rupee to help curb global warming “— (if) these incremental costs are borne by developed countries and the needed technologies are transferred.”

Apart from wanting to develop, and wanting transfers of western wealth, the Indian government has one other reason for putting global warming on the back burner — although it agrees that climate change may one day pose a threat, the National Action Plan states boldly that man-made global warming may not exist, and that if it does exist, its existence may be of no account to India. India rejects climate doom, pursues economic boom.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Great Red Dragon

Foreign money power in the United States. Presented for your consideration, another interesting information resource site vaguely reminiscent in certain regards with the fabulous hypertiger wisdoms - which also provides insight into the doings of the TOP;
With fore-knowledge, we can defend ourselves against those whose misguided self-interest is to dominate and destroy others in futile attempts to satisfy their egos. I prefer to call them "psychopaths with attaches," and they do more damage, more injury, to more people, than "psychopaths with guns." These "psychopaths" have had one goal in mind for over 300 years, and that is to "own the earth in fee simple." Call it whatever you want; Globalization, Authoritarian Free Enterprise, or New World Order. It matters not. But age-old patterns are now showing up in amazing coincidences, and with the use of computers and the Internet, this may just be the final end-game for us against the "psychopaths."

The goal of this web site is to assist you in recognizing age-old patterns that you might not have seen before, and correlate them with what you see occuring now. Then you might have a chance to defend yourself, your family, and others that are important to you.

Please note that Edward Ulysses Cate is a pen name under which I chose to make this information available on the Internet. So don't go bothering people who happen to be named Ed U. Cate. I sincerely hope this web site will accomplish it's only goal, which is to "EdUCate." The message is important, not the messenger.

This web site is purely a singular and self-funded effort. If you feel that you derived benefits from my efforts and wish to help keep this site available for others, then simply tell others you respect about the "" site. Any email correspondence will be kept strictly confidential and personal.

This site IS NOT associated with any political, religious, state, or ethnic group or organization. I have NO affiliations with any group or interest, and have no personal agenda, other than to make this information available, free of charge, with the sincere hope that our children will at least be able to enjoy planet Earth as we have, and that we (or they) do not make our world worst in our attempts to make it "better."

Personally, I'm of the opinion that 99% of any group of people, at any place in our world, just wish to make the best living they can, raise children (if desired) and enjoy their lives the best they can without directly hurting or interfering with anyone else. I also feel that each member of this same group generally gets off (that is, feels good inside) when helping another person.

But there's a 1% (or less) group of folks that must have some sort of genetic or mental defect, because they get off making others miserable. If they didn't, why would they work so hard at it? Do we not call such actions "evil?" We all are aware of someone like that, right? We try to stay away from them, and try to keep them from adversely affecting us. And usually they're relatively harmless because they are NOT normally financially rewarded for their not-so-good behavior. They're usually out-numbered and identifiable.

A Long Wait at the Gate to Greatness

Or why the Middle Kingdom won't be projecting a global hegemony anytime soon.
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is the latest, predicting earlier this month that the Chinese economy would be twice the size of ours by the middle of the century.

There are two problems with predictions like these. First, in the universe where these reports are generated, China's graphs always go up, never down. Second, while the documents may include some nuance, it vanishes when the studies are reported to the rest of us.

One important nuance we keep forgetting is the sheer size of China's population: about 1.3 billion, more than four times that of the United States. China should have a big economy. But on a per capita basis, the country isn't a dragon; it's a medium-size lizard, sitting in 109th place on the International Monetary Fund's World Economic Outlook Database, squarely between Swaziland and Morocco. China's economy is large, but its average living standard is low, and it will stay that way for a very long time, even assuming that the economy continues to grow at impressive rates.

The big number wheeled out to prove that China is eating our economic lunch is the U.S. trade deficit with China, which last year hit $256 billion. But again, where's the missing nuance?
Nearly 60 percent of China's total exports are churned out by companies not owned by Chinese (including plenty of U.S. ones). When it comes to high-tech exports such as computers and electronic goods, 89 percent of China's exports come from non-Chinese-owned companies. China is part of the global system, but it's still the low-cost assembly and manufacturing part -- and foreign, not Chinese, firms are reaping the lion's share of the profits.
It's most interesting to note that the Chinese - by-and-large - do not own the economic engines driving the country.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Meta-Group's Geostrategic Goal

The fact that the United States will use drug traffickers as geostrategic assets does not at all mean that Washington and the traffickers will necessarily have the same agendas. In theory at least, the contrary should be true. Although the United States may have used known traffickers like Zaman and Qadir to regain access to Afghanistan, its stated ultimate goal, and the one assumed by the mainstream media, was to reimpose its own kind of order. Whether the country is Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Colombia, or Kosovo, America's national interest is said to be to install and then protect pipelines. And pipelines require peace and security.

The prime geostrategic goal of the drug traffic in Afghanistan is precisely to prevent peace and security from happening. It is true that the international illicit drug industry, like the international oil industry, is polymorphous and flexible, relying on diversified sources and markets for its products in order to maintain its global dominance. But for the global drug traffic to prosper, there must always be key growing areas where there is ongoing violence, and state order does not prevail. However, in speaking above of America's stated national interest, I do not assume that a U.S. government will always represent that national interest. Something else has happened in recent decades, the growth of the drug trade to the point that it now represents a significant portion of national and international wealth. And it has to be said that the American free enterprise system, like every other dominant political system in a current nation with world pretensions, will tend above all to represent the interests of the wealthy. Thus Bush Administration policies cannot be assumed to reflect the national goals of peace and security, as outlined above.

On the contrary, its shocking underfunding of Afghanistan's recovery, like its complex and destabilizing interventions in Georgia, suggest that it, as much as the drug traffic, hopes to utilize instability – as a pretext for maintaining unstable U.S. bases in countries like Uzbekistan, whose people eventually will more and more object to them. These policies can be said to favor the interests of the drug traffic more than the interests of security and orderly development.

A test of the Bush Administration's true intentions in the War on Terror came as early as November 2001. The Americans had learned, correctly, that Osama bin Laden was holed up in the caves of Tora Bora. While storming the caves was a difficult military challenge, surrounding and isolating them was well within the capacity of U.S. military strength. However General Franks, the United States commander, entrusted the task of capturing bin Laden to two local commanders: Hazrat Ali and Haji Zaman. As we have seen, Hazrat Ali and Haji Zaman were not only drug lords, they were earlier part of the 1980s heroin trail to Soviet troops that had been organized "with the blessings of the CIA." Thus the U.S. could hardly plead ignorance as to these men's activities and interests, which clearly involved making sure that the writ of Kabul would never extend to their own Nangahar Province. For the drug trade to thrive in Afghanistan, it was necessary that the influence of Osama and the Taliban be preserved, not extinguished. The folly of using Hazrat Ali and Haji Zaman was brought to Franks' attention at the time:
Military and intelligence officials had warned Franks and others that the two main Afghan commanders, Hazrat Ali and Haji Zaman, couldn't be trusted, and they proved to be correct. They were slow to move their troops into place and didn't attack until four days after American planes began bombing – leaving time for al-Qaida leaders to escape and leaving behind a rear guard of Arab, Chechen and Uzbek fighters.[110]
The failure to use U.S. troops cannot be attributed to the motive of appeasing local sentiments:
Pir Baksh Bardiwal, the intelligence chief for the Eastern Shura, said that he would welcome a massive influx of U.S. troops. He believed that the Pentagon planners were making a grave mistake by not surrounding Tora Bora.[111]
A U.S. journalist who was there, Philip Smucker, claims that the treachery of the local commanders went beyond their slowness to surround Tora Bora. He describes hearing how one lower level commander
whom Ali had assigned to guard the Pakistani border, had acted as an outright escort for al Qaeda.... "Ilyas Khel just showed the Arabs the way out of the country into Pakistan".....That Ali had entrusted [Khel, who had once served under the military commander of Osama's friend Younis Khalis] suggested to us that the escapes were part of a much broader conspiracy to assist al Qaeda right through to the end.[112]
How high up did this conspiracy go? Certainly Ali's failure to capture Osama could have been and was predicted. But if capturing Osama was indeed the U.S. goal (as announced at the time by Colin Powell), the real question is why the task was not entrusted to U.S. troops. In the wake of 9/11, Sibel Edmonds, a former FBI translator, has claimed to possess information linking the American 9/11, and much else, to massive drug-trafficking which has corrupted high level U.S. officials. Among other things, she has claimed that the U.S. has never gone after top-level drug traffickers, because
this would upset "certain foreign relations." But it would also expose certain of our elected officials, who have significant connections with high-level drugs- and weapons-smuggling – and thus with the criminal underground, even with the terrorists themselves.....[113]
After Ms. Edmonds reported improprieties to her FBI employers, she was fired. She has appealed her firing, but the Bush administration has invoked the unusual claim of the "state-secrets privilege" to prevent the lawsuits she has filed from being heard in court. At this point we know little more than that what concerned her involved arms-dealing, drug-trafficking, and Turkey. It is I think a matter of national priority to learn more about the American links to Far West, Ltd., the group accused of staging the Russian 9/11. It is a matter of more than purely historic interest to learn if that group's Islamist and American connections could have supplied a meeting-ground for staging the American 9/11 as well. Lobster Magazine - The Global Drug Meta-Group

Do Bears Sh*t in the Woods?

Is Afghanistan a Narco-State? Read the article describing the current state. Pasted here for your convenience are its preposterous conclusions;
The solution remains a simple one: execute the policy developed in 2007. It requires the following steps:

1. Inform President Karzai that he must stop protecting drug lords and narco-farmers or he will lose U.S. support. Karzai should issue a new decree of zero tolerance for poppy cultivation during the coming growing season. He should order farmers to plant wheat, and guarantee today’s high wheat prices. Karzai must simultaneously authorize aggressive force-protected manual and aerial eradication of poppies in Helmand and Kandahar Provinces for those farmers who do not plant legal crops.

2. Order the Pentagon to support this strategy. Position allied and Afghan troops in places that create security pockets so that Afghan counternarcotics police can arrest powerful drug lords. Enable force-protected eradication with the Afghan-set goal of eradicating 50,000 hectares as the benchmark.

3. Increase the number of D.E.A. agents in Kabul and assist the Afghan attorney general in prosecuting key traffickers and corrupt government officials from all ethnic groups, including southern Pashtuns.

4. Get new development projects quickly to the provinces that become poppy-free or stay poppy free. The north should see significant rewards for its successful anticultivation efforts. Do not, however, provide cash to farmers for eradication.

5. Ask the allies either to help in this effort or stand down and let us do the job.

There are other initiatives that could help as well: better engagement of Afghanistan’s neighbors, more drug-treatment centers in Afghanistan, stopping the flow into Afghanistan of precursor chemicals needed to make heroin and increased demand-reduction programs. But if we — the Afghans and the U.S. — do just the five items listed above, we will bring the rule of law to a lawless country; and we will cut off a key source of financing to the Taliban.
What a crock of unmitigated nonsense that entire little gubmint puff-piece was. The fact of the matter is really quite a bit more simple than all that. Bears will not be dissuaded from sh*tting in the woods unless and until there are either no more bears or no more woods.

Will Survivalists Get the Last Laugh?

Yesterday on AlterNet; This future cultural, environmental and geopolitical miasma is where the survivalist and the mainstream converge in agreement. Both camps, pardon the pun, are convinced that we're screwed down the road.

"The next Great Depression will be a tremendous leveler," Rawles prophesies. "If anything, life in the 22nd century will more closely resemble the 19th century than the 20th century. Sadly, the 21st century will probably be remembered as the time of the Great Die-Off."

"I don't consider it a total wipeout," Kunstler counters. "It's a very big change, but people are resilient and resourceful. Look, imagine if you were a person who had survived the Second World War in Europe, and you were walking around Berlin in the spring of 1946, a year after the end of the war. A once-magnificent city has been reduced to rubble. Your culture is lying in ashes. Yet, people pick up and rebuild."

That is, if they're sticking together. If they're scattered and fending for themselves, and taking armed retreat defense tips from SurvivalBlog, that makes rebuilding a bit more complicated. Which, in the end, is where survivalism is most ambiguous.

Is it a growing population of forward-looking realists who are smartly preparing for the die-off brought on by climate crisis and economic collapse, so they can pick up themselves and their people, and rebuild with that "can-do" spirit, as Rawles calls it? Or are they simply gadget-fascinated fundamentalists afraid of change and challenge, so afraid that they'd rather hide and hoard than join the fight?

The jury is still out. But, according to Rawles, it will soon have its diversity mirrored by survivalism's changing demographic.

"I think that in the next couple of decades," he explains, "we will witness the formation of some remarkable intentional communities that will feature some unlikely bedfellows: anarchists and Ayn Rand readers, Mennonites and gun enthusiasts, Luddites and techno-geeks, fundamentalist Christians and Gaia worshippers, tree huggers and horse wranglers. We welcome them all. Because the threats are clearly manifold: peak oil, derivatives meltdowns, pandemics, food shortages, market collapses, terrorism, state-sponsored global war and more. In a situation this precarious, I believe that it is remarkably naive to think that mere geographical isolation will be sufficient to shelter communities from the predation of evildoers."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Are feds stockpiling survival food?

In the Wall Street Journal, columnist Brett Arends warned, "Maybe it's time for Americans to start stockpiling food.

"No, this is not a drill," he wrote.

His concern was about various food shortages around the globe, and the fact that in a global market, prices in the U.S. reflect difficulties in other parts of the world quickly.

Professor Lawrence F. Roberge, a biologist who has worked with a number of universities and has taught online courses, told WND he's been following the growing concern over food supplies.

He also confirmed to WND reports of the government purchasing vast quantities of long-term storable foods.

He said that naturally would be kept secret to avoid panicking the public, such as when word leaks out to customers that a bank may be insolvent, and depositors frantically try to retrieve their cash.

"[These] circumstances certainly raise red flags," he said. WorldNet Daily

Friday, July 25, 2008

Something's Not Right

about how the MSM is covering this story. I have seen and dealt with situations resembling this one in many regards at least a half a dozen times. I suspect that the sysadmin being held in custody is not the bad guy he's being made out to be.

Now that it's been blown completely out of proportion this way, there really is no "happy ending" available to any of the parties. Somebody has GOT to take a fall given all the heat and light that have been focused on this standoff.

Definitely worth your following to the extent that it stays on the radar for another few minutes....,

American *Aerobics* in Beijing

A nightclub activity mostly considered the domain of strippers in the United States, pole dancing — but with clothes kept on — is nudging its way into the mainstream Chinese exercise market, with increasing numbers of gyms and dance schools offering classes.

The woman who claims to have brought pole dancing to China, Luo Lan, 39, is from Yichun, a small town in Jiangxi Province in southeastern China. Her parents teach physics at the university level.

“I’m not good at science like my parents. I’m the black sheep of my family, in that sense,” she said.[...]

“People here have never seen a pole dance, and for that reason they don’t associate it with stripping or women of ill repute,” Ms. Luo said. “I knew if I could give people a positive first impression of this as a clean, fun, social activity, people wouldn’t just accept it, they’d embrace it.” In today's NYTimes....,

Population bomb 'ticks louder than climate'

Global population growth is looming as a bigger threat to the world's food production and water supplies than climate change, a leading scientist says.

Speaking at a CSIRO public lecture in Canberra yesterday, UNESCO's chief of sustainable water resources development, Professor Shahbaz Khan, said overpopulation's impacts were potentially more economically, socially and environmentally destructive than those of climate change.

''Climate change is one of a number of stresses we're facing, but it's overshadowed by global population growth and the amount of water, land and energy needed to grow food to meet the projected increase in population. We are facing a world population crisis.''

Thursday, July 24, 2008

MSM Meltdown Coverage

It's very interesting to read, compare, and contrast the guarded coverage given to the meltdown of the American financial system in the mainstream media. Time for a new coinage perhaps? "financial correctness" - describing that paradoxical limbo state in which a commentator wants to write a powerful truth yet durst not do so for fear of engendering a self-fulfilling prediction. Funny stuff, when all the established models, methods, and jargon are found wanting to describe the goings on in the fin d'siecle absolute capitalist hierarchial food powered make work enterprise. In the NYTimes - Bank Investors Expect Less as Losses Mount;
It has now been a year since the credit crisis erupted, and, so far, the optimists have been proven wrong time and again. Skeptics say it could take years for banks to recover from the worst financial crisis since the Depression. And even when things do improve, the pessimists maintain, banks’ profits will be a fraction of what they were before.

There are many reasons for caution. Home prices continue to decline, and defaults are accelerating on a wide range of loans. As lenders struggle, loans are becoming even more scarce for hard-pressed consumers and companies. That, in turn, could slow any recovery in the broader economy.

For now, at least, some investors seem to have become so inured to the bad news that results that would have once been viewed as disastrous are now seen as good, or even great. The sober phrase often used on Wall Street to describe solid corporate results — “better than expected” — has been replaced by “not as bad as feared.”
In the Washington Post - A Depression? Hardly;
The specter of depression stalks America. You hear the word repeatedly. Are we in a depression? If not, are we headed for one? The answer to the first question is no; the answer to the second is "almost certainly not." The use of "depression" to describe the economy is a case of rhetorical overkill that speaks volumes about today's widespread pessimism and anxiety. A short history lesson shows why.

The Great Depression of the 1930s -- the last time the term rightly applied -- was industrial capitalism's worst calamity. U.S. unemployment peaked at 25 percent in 1933; it averaged 18 percent for the decade. From 1929 to 1933, 40 percent of U.S. banks failed. People lost deposits; businesses and consumers lost access to credit. Over the same period, wholesale prices dropped a third, driving farmers and firms into bankruptcy. Farm foreclosures, shantytowns (called "Hoovervilles," after the president) and bread lines followed.

This was a social as well as economic breakdown. Our present situation bears no resemblance to this. In June, unemployment was 5.5 percent, slightly below the average since 1960 of 5.8 percent. It's true that banks and investment banks -- Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, Wachovia -- have suffered large losses. But on the whole, the banking system seems fairly strong. Although profits in the first quarter of 2008 were down 46 percent from 2007, they totaled $19 billion even after $37 billion set aside for loan loss reserves. Overall corporate profits are still running at a near-record annual rate of $1.5 trillion.
The unmentionable turd in the proverbial financial punchbowl is the unmentionable (and largely unperceived) end of the era of cheap energy. Though the normative economic claptrap is the equivalent of pre-Copernican astronomy - and not seeing Peak Oil is the equivalent of believing that the sun revolves around the earth - it is what it is, the dominant narrative constraining folks understanding of what's around that signpost up ahead.

The Oil Man Cometh

Really good op-ed in today's NYTimes;
There he is, the sound of money in a wizened Texas drawl, the tired realist looking a bit like the John Huston character from “Chinatown” as he warns in national television ads that we should just listen here and do as he says.

And what the 80-year-old T. Boone Pickens says, in a $58 million campaign, is that we can’t drill our way to lower gas prices. By implication, anybody who tells you otherwise — including the fellow Texan he helped put in the White House — is a fraud.

This is a political parable for the ages: the guy who was behind one of the knockout punches to John Kerry four years ago is now doing Democrats the biggest favor of the election by calling Republicans on their phony energy campaign.

“Totally misleading” is the way Pickens describes Republican attempts to convince the public that if we just opened up all these forbidden areas to oil drilling then gas prices would fall. He’s not against new drilling, but he is honest enough to say it wouldn’t do anything.

Republicans are furious at their longtime benefactor. Senator John McCain is currently running an ad in which he directly blames Barack Obama for $4-a-gallon gas at the pump — as bogus a claim as anything yet made in 2008.

Then along comes Pickens, Texas oilman and billionaire corporate raider, overwhelming the McCain attack with a saturation message that has the added value of being true, as Henry Kissinger once said about another matter.

Pickens was a geologist before he found a deep pool of money, so when he says “the geology just isn’t there” to reduce oil imports through new drilling in offshore areas, he has some cred.

But, more importantly, Pickens is betting $10 billion in constructing what he says will be the world’s largest wind farm in the gusts of West Texas. If the mighty winds of the American midsection were harnessed, it could free up plentiful natural gas for vehicles — a relatively quick step away from foreign oil.

Would it enrich him further? Yes. But perhaps it’s not about money. In “Chinatown,” the old man played by Huston was asked by Detective Jake Gittes what more he could possibly buy at his age.

“The future, Mr. Gittes. The future.”
I watched old dood give some of his testimony in congress and I found it shockingly convincing.

A City’s Police Force Now Doubts Terror Focus

Time to stop clowning and playing make-believe.
Flush with federal domestic-security grants, the police department acquired millions of dollars’ worth of hardware and enrolled officers in training courses to detect and respond to a terrorist attack.

But much has changed. Now, police officials here express doubts about whether the imperative to protect domestic security has blinded federal authorities to other priorities. The department is battling homicides, robberies and gang shootings that the police in a number of cities say are as serious a threat as terrorism.

The Providence police chief, Col. Dean M. Esserman, said the federal government seemed unable to balance antiterror efforts and crime fighting.
The domestic side of the GWOT boondoggle is about to have to begin winding down. There haven't been any instances, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the *preparations* (i.e., spending like a drunken sailor on useless crap with which to wage a make believe war to defend the homeland) Of course, just like with the so-called *war on drugs* - none of the allegedly grown folks charged with waging the *war* spoke out against the opportunity to play dress-up, cowboys, cops and robbers and live their very own little overextended fantasy against non-violent offenders - while the big drug wholesalers and manufacturers grew richer and more powerful with little or no threat of police interdiction.

Limits to Growth V 2.0

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

More Parasitic Delusions V. 2.0

Reading the current issue of Technology Review, it occurred to me that the business of scavenging infrastructural metal appurtenances for scrap shares a great deal in common with the the gossipy business of scavenging information concerning the personages and doings of folk in the *industries*. I suppose in the former, at least something useful is being pilfered and trafficked, while in the latter?

Nothing brought this notion home more clearly than the opening letter from the editor of the Review titled "The Next Bubble";
I know a little about Web bubbles.

From 1996 to 2002, I was the editor of Red Herring, a magazine the Wall Street Journal dubbed the "bible of the boom." We described the startups of the first bubble, explained their innovations, and chronicled their wonderful capacity for "wealth creation"--our polite shorthand for the fortunes their investors and employees made on a speculative stock market.

While we issued stern warnings about financial euphoria, we profited from it, too. By the middle of 2000 we had some 500,000 enthusiastic readers. Every month, we published two issues of more than 600 pages, whose editorial content was written by expensively recruited journalists from Forbes and the Journal, and whose ads were bought by startups keen to announce their existence, technology vendors frantic to sell products and services, and investment banks eager to brag about the public offerings they had underwritten. It was big business, at least for publishing: in the first six months of 2000, we earned more than $100 million in circulation, advertising, and sponsorship revenues.
The name Red Herring is a reference to the practice of calling a preliminary investment prospectus a "red herring" as a warning to investors that the document was not complete or final. The name reflects the publication's mission: providing a first look at the companies and trends that are shaping the business of technology.

With the exception of a small handful of ventures that facilitate and disintermediate a specific class of commercial transactions,, ebay, google, etc..., the web 2.0 focused on trying to monetize *social networking* - i.e., scavenge value from human relationships - has proven to be a complete and abject boondoggle. None of the social networking sites makes any money. Other than trading on the personal information of social networking site users for sale to advertisers and others, there's no plan on the horizon for adding value to the users and generating revenue in return for tangible value added;
The new development in 2000 was the Web's alchemical ability to make markets for books, software, or stocks more efficient. In 2008, it is the collaborative, social functions of Web 2.0 that excite investors. The trigger for the dot-com collapse was multibillion­-dollar sell orders for bellwether tech stocks that were processed simultaneously soon after NASDAQ reached its high of 5132.52 on March 10, 2000, leading to an unprecedented selloff. Today, the collapse of the housing market and its derivative securities might close the market for initial public offerings and so discourage further investment in Web 2.0 ventures. The Web companies of both eras, however, reveal the same structural problems: they have no clearly understood business, but float on investors' capital and hope that getting big quickly will lead to profits.

As Bryant Urstadt explains in "Social Networking Is Not a Business", last March Microsoft bought a 1.6 percent stake in Facebook for $240 million, giving the social-networking site a notional valuation of $15 billion. Yet according to Mark Zuckerberg, the company's chief executive, Facebook will lose $150 million this year. Similarly, Google paid $900 million in 2006 for the right to deliver ads on MySpace, the largest of the social networks, for three years--but Google says the results have been disappointing. So far, no one has much idea what will do for Web 2.0 what keyword advertising (the source of most of Google's 2007 revenues of $16 billion) has done for search.
Not only am I reminded of the pathetic plague of utterly alienated metal scavengers - I'm reminded of the unfolding spectacle of the collapse of the consumption-driven parasitic American financial house of cards built on a foundation of meringue..., didn't any of these folks ever listen to some Billy Preston back in the day?

Mining Urban Streets for Metal

Nice little slideshow visually documenting the state of affairs, and efforts to combat it serving as the accompaniment to the article Philadelphia Streets Unsafe for Manhole Covers.;
Francis McConnell is a field supervisor for the Philadelphia Water Department, but lately he is acting more like an undercover police officer.

Several hours a day, five days a week, he stakes out junkyards. Pretending to read a newspaper, Mr. McConnell sits near the entrances and writes down descriptions of passing pickup trucks and shirtless men pushing shopping carts.

His mission is to figure out who is stealing the city’s manhole covers and its storm drain and street grates, increasingly valuable commodities on the scrap market. More than 2,500 covers and grates have disappeared in the past year, up from an annual average of about 100.

Thieves have so thoroughly stripped some neighborhoods on the city’s north and southwest sides that some blocks look like slalom courses, dotted with orange cones to warn drivers and pedestrians of gaping holes, some nearly 30 feet deep.

Two adolescents were injured in recent months after falling into uncovered holes, motorists and cyclists are increasingly anxious about damaging tires, and the city is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars — $300,000 at last count — to replace the missing covers.

“They used to say the streets around here will swallow you up, but they were talking about drugs and guns,” said Keith Thomas, 32, as he hoisted a radiator he collected onto a scale at a junkyard in a drug-ravaged section of the Kensington neighborhood on the city’s north side.
It's indicative of where we're at, that thieves have been systematically stripping the available appurtenances of the infrastructure on which the communities - in which they themselves reside - depend. These people are fundamentally at odds with their own physical and social environment - scavenging from communal life support because they are no longer supported or self-supporting in that context. The folks doing this are canaries in the proverbial American coal mine....,

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Debt Capitalism Self-Destructs

The once-dynamic US economy has turned itself into a system in which it is difficult to find any institution, company or individual not over their head in speculative debt. Undercapitalized capitalism, also known as debt capitalism, has been the engine of growth for the US debt bubble in the last two decades. This debt capitalism cancer is caused by a failure of central banking.

In the face of a broad systemic collapse of debt capitalism, where capital has become dangerously inadequate and new capital hazardously and prohibitively scarce, having been crowded out by massive debt collateralized by overblown assets of declining value and with a credit crisis that clearly requires systemic restructuring and comprehensive intensive care, those in the US responsible for the financial well-being of the nation seem to have been reacting tactically from crisis to crisis with a script of adamant denial of obvious facts, symptoms and trends, with no signs of any coherent grand strategy or plan to save the cancerous system from structural self-destruction. Says Henry C.K. Liu in today's Asia Times Online.

Hell Hath No Limits....,

Nice essay by Wendell Berry in the May Harper's Magazine apropos of our Faustian predicament;
The general reaction to the apparent end of the era of cheap fossil fuel, as to other readily foreseeable curtailments, has been to delay any sort of reckoning. The strategies of delay, so far, have been a sort of willed oblivion, or visions of large profits to the manufacturers of such “biofuels” as ethanol from corn or switchgrass, or the familiar unscientific faith that “science will find an answer.” The dominant response, in short, is a dogged belief that what we call the American Way of Life will prove somehow indestructible. We will keep on consuming, spending, wasting, and driving, as before, at any cost to anything and everybody but ourselves.

This belief was always indefensible—the real names of global warming are Waste and Greed—and by now it is manifestly foolish. But foolishness on this scale looks disturbingly like a sort of national insanity. We seem to have come to a collective delusion of grandeur, insisting that all of us are “free” to be as conspicuously greedy and wasteful as the most corrupt of kings and queens. (Perhaps by devoting more and more of our already abused cropland to fuel production we will at last cure ourselves of obesity and become fashionably skeletal, hungry but—thank God!—still driving.)

The problem with us is not only prodigal extravagance but also an assumed limitlessness. We have obscured the issue by refusing to see that limitlessness is a godly trait. We have insistently, and with relief, defined ourselves as animals or as “higher animals.” But to define ourselves as animals, given our specifically human powers and desires, is to define ourselves as limitless animals—which of course is a contradiction in terms. Any definition is a limit, which is why the God of Exodus refuses to define Himself: “I am that I am.”
The psychosocial machinery required to pull back from the abyss is broken. The political spectacle only serves to show exactly how broken our beliefs and practices have become. I took a shuttle bus ride through the airport in Houston yesterday morning and paid close attention to the details that I'd previously smugly ignored. The energy intensity of heavier than air travel is simply staggering. To look at it, is to know in no uncertain terms that this can't keep going for very much longer.

McCain's Pump Ad....,

This John McCain campaign teevee ad begs the question, no screams the question, just how stupid do you expect your constitutents to be?

I honestly wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my very own eyes on C-SPAN this morning. But I guess given y'day's news that McCain has likely gotten Dobson's endorsement - that there's now just no limit on the depths of stupid that the McCain campaign will seek to mine for votes.

It's not like either candidate is saying anything suggestive of the possibility of "Jesus in a Jug" leadership - but - making prima facie absurd pronouncements like this ad does, just seems beyond the pale....., if Obama can be conflated in the mind of any single American voter with the root cause of rising prices at the pump - when we know good and well the root cause of rising prices at the pump then we absolutely and positively deserve whatever leadership that we get.

Brass Thieves Hit Fire Hydrants

And they don't quit, and they don't stop...., Dogs aren't the only ones casting a longing eye at fire hydrants these days. Fire departments across the country report that thieves are twisting the brass nuts off the tops and selling them for scrap, raising concerns that the hydrants won't work when needed most.

Firefighters responding to an April house fire in Hesperia, Calif., found that the five closest hydrants were useless because thieves had taken the nuts needed to get to the water. They called in special equipment, but by the time they got the fire under control, the house was a total loss.

"It definitely delayed us. It's become a real problem," said Tracey Martinez, spokeswoman for the San Bernadino County Fire Department, whose firefighters now carry spare parts to access hydrants that have been tampered with, though using them can cost valuable time.

Brass parts are fetching higher prices at scrap recyclers, though a single hydrant nut is unlikely to be worth more than $10 even in the current inflated market.

Fire hydrants aren't the only target — thieves have stolen brass ornaments from graves in Chicago and West Virginia, chrome-plated brass piping from men's bathrooms at fast-food restaurants in Pennsylvania, and brass plaques from churches in Houston.

But the hydrant thefts raise unique safety concerns. Officials in Prince William County in northern Virginia recently found that nearly four dozen hydrants had been stripped of their brass nuts, rendering them inoperable.

"This is an extremely high priority concern because of the potential devastation it can cause," said Assistant Fire Chief Hadden Culp, who has never seen such a problem. "We're not used to pulling up to a hydrant and it not working."

Monday, July 21, 2008

Too Big To Fail

as American debts swell and foreigners hold more of it, nervousness grows that, some day, this arrangement will end badly. The dollar has been declining in value against other currencies. Some foreigners have begun to hedge their bets by buying more euros. “Obviously, this is going to come to an end,” Mr. Schiff said. “Foreigners are not charitable organizations, and they’re going to demand that we pay them back.”

No single country owning large amounts of dollar-based investments is inclined to dump them abruptly; nobody aims to start a panic. But fears have begun to grow that one day a country may get spooked that another is about to dump its dollars — and that could trigger pre-emptive panic selling.

“Foreigners could decide it’s just not worth the risk and sell,” says Andrew Tilton, an economist at Goldman Sachs. “The really dire scenarios have become a lot more likely than they were a year or two ago.”

Still, as Mr. Tilton and others are aware, one fundamental reality continues to offer assurances that foreigners will still buy American debt:

In the global economy of the moment, the United States itself is too big to fail.

The logic for that assurance goes like this:

The American consumer has for decades served as the engine of world commerce, using borrowed cash to snap up the accoutrements of modern living — clothes and computers and cars now manufactured, in whole or in part, in factories from Asia to Latin America. Eliminate the American wherewithal to shop, and the pain would ripple out to multiple shores.
In which the Freddie and Fannie bailouts serve as a metaphor for the economic house of cards built on a foundation of international meringue sustaining the dollar....., in y'day's NYTimes week in review.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Global Balance of Oil Wealth Shifts Towards Africa

From the UK Telegraph; By 2015, America will buy one quarter of all its oil from Africa, compared with about 15 per cent from Saudi Arabia, and the continent will become the superpower's largest single supplier, with the sole exception of Canada. Two reasons lie behind this crucial change in the global pattern of oil production.

First, Africa possesses a large proportion of the world's untapped reserves, mainly in offshore fields.

For decades, oil companies steered clear of Africa and conducted relatively little exploration. While new fields were discovered in the Middle East, the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska and South America, Africa was neglected.

Hence Africa now accounts for a high proportion of discoveries. Of the eight billion barrels of new reserves found in 2001, seven billion were in Africa.

While this figure was unusually high, at least one third of all global oil discoveries since 2000 have taken place in Africa, mainly in the Gulf of Guinea along the coastlines of Angola, Nigeria, Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

Thanks to high oil prices, it makes economic sense to develop these new fields and conduct further exploration. Angola's proven reserves now exceed 11  billion barrels. But there could be two or three times as much oil still lying undiscovered along the country's vast Atlantic coastline. The central goal of America's energy policy is to diversify suppliers.

Golf Course Environmental Profile - Water

Interesting full series can be reviewed here. Some elements, pesticide, energy use - haven't been published yet, but are scheduled for later this year.
  • The average person in the U.S. uses 100-175 gallons of water every day at home….
  • In Africa, the average family uses 5 gallons a day.
  • 15 billion is spent annually on bottled water in the U.S. 24% is ordinary tap water repackaged by major soft drinks companies. More than 70% of the plastic bottles are not recycled; 38 billion bottled end up in U.S. landfills.
  • The United States uses about 346,000 million gallons of fresh water every day.
“When it comes down to it, it’s up to each community to decide what is a fit use for water,” Lyman says. “That’s where the percentage that golf uses is important — at the local level. I think where golf needs to be at the end of the day is to be known as an efficient user of water. If it is, it justifies a seat at the table to help decide how communities use their water.”

The Southwest agronomic region leads in annual water use per facility with 149.5 million gallons, followed by the Upper West/Mountain region with 97.9 million gallons. The Northeast region uses the least, 13.8 million gallons per facility. Interestingly, in total annual water use, the Southeast, with more than 3,200 facilities, consumes 260 billion gallons, while the North-Central, with 4,125 courses, uses 92 billion gallons.

The second survey of GCSAA’s Golf Course Environmental Profile is in, and results are being released this summer. The survey estimates that U.S. golf courses account for just 0.5 percent of the country’s daily water use. Photo courtesy of The Toro Co.

The survey divided the U.S. into seven agronomic regions — Northeast, North-Central, Transition, Southeast, Southwest, Upper West/Mountain and Pacific — and Lyman found it interesting that significant differences in water use, irrigated acres, costs, etc., surfaced across the regions.

“This study really documented the diversity of use in a way that we haven’t known before,” he says.

For instance, of the estimated 762 billion gallons in total annual water use on U.S. golf courses, the use per facility ranged from almost 250 million gallons a year in the Southwest and Upper West/Mountain regions combined — 2,300 courses — to only 29 million gallons in the Northeast and North-Central regions — 6,800-plus courses. Likewise, the annual cost of irrigation water in the western three regions is far above the rest of the country (topped by nearly $108,000 per course in the Southwest). Moreover, the proportion of courses that pay nothing for water is well over half of those in the four eastern regions.

The differences by region in the number of acres of irrigated turf on 18-hole facilities follows the pattern, but in far less dramatic fashion. Irrigated turf acreage, however, sticks out in the survey results as one of the issues that is a bit disconcerting to the golf course industry.

The Southwest region has the highest irrigation water costs at $107,800 per facility a year. The Pacific region is the next highest at $42,400 per facility. The lowest annual costs are in the North-Central region, $4,700. In recent years, irrigation water costs have increased at 27 percent of U.S. courses and have decreased at only 3 percent of the facilities.

Oil prices Impacting Golfers

From today's New Zealand Herald; The time is coming when golfers will have to choose - pay more to cover the increasing cost of oil or play on scruffier courses with longer grass?

That's the conundrum posed by the New Zealand Sports Turf Institute in the latest New Zealand Golf Update. Their fact sheet reinforces that golf, more than any other sport, will have to make significant adjustments.

Maintenance and grooming of grassed properties at least 40ha, means machinery fuel, fertilisers, pesticides and other chemicals, many of which are oil-based.

The Sports Turf Institute has taken a pragmatic view. Firstly, it asks if all the course, especially areas not intended for play, really need to be mowed and maintained. It suggests some areas off the fairway, well away from where you're supposed to hit the ball, could be re-vegetated with cluster planting of native species requiring no further maintenance. It may make the course more difficult to play - but is that a bad thing?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sovereign Funds Shift to Asia

From Reuters; Sovereign wealth funds, controlling over $3 trillion in assets, are likely to turn to investments in Asia, a move likely to push the U.S. dollar lower against Asian currencies including the Japanese yen.

"This is not a euro-dollar story. It's going to be a developed world versus developing world story," said Stephen Jen, who heads up Morgan Stanley's global FX strategy.

Authorities in Kuwait this week said the state's sovereign wealth fund, which manages its massive petro-dollar assets, will not buy future Fannie or Freddie debt, opting instead to boost investments in stocks, bonds, and real estate in China, India and Japan.

A Chinese think-tank also said the travails at the two U.S. government-sponsored enterprises add urgency to China's goal of diversifying its $1.8 trillion stockpile of currency reserves.

Limits to Growth

Friday, July 18, 2008

Blackouts Spread

The daily synthesis comes courtesy Falls Church News Press.
Unfortunately, several major countries appear to be on the path to an energy shortage-induced economic and perhaps political collapse within the foreseeable future which obviously will have serious consequences for us all.

Currently, the most serious situations appear to be in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Both are nations with populations in excess of 150 million people that are ensnared in devastating power shortages that have destroyed their export industries. Both are facing water and agricultural problems that threaten their food supplies. Liquid fuels are running short and reductions in exports threaten their ability to import oil and natural gas. It was recently revealed that the Saudis already are forgiving $6 billion of Pakistan's $12 billion annual oil import bill.

On top of this, Pakistan has nuclear weapons and its strategic location is vital to the course of the insurgency in Afghanistan. Worsening blackouts, the liquid fuels shortage and probably the food situation are likely to lead to serious political instability before the year is out.
Where race/caste, cornucopian/population, peak oil/energy and Mayawati musings all blend together to form a vaguely coherent whole.

India's Obama

Here's a data point I suspect you may want to begin to follow, if you haven't done so already.
Kumari Mayawati, a daughter of so-called untouchables and India’s most maverick politician, stunned the nation last year when she won majority control of India’s largest state with an inventive political coalition that fused votes from up and down the ancient Hindu caste pyramid.

Now, with national elections only months away, Ms. Mayawati has emerged as the most important low-caste politician in India’s history, and she is asserting herself as a rainbow coalition leader, a woman whom all Indians can trust to be their prime minister one day. How far she will rise remains to be seen. But there is no disputing her importance.

While the advance of so-called low-caste, or Dalit, politicians like Ms. Mayawati has reshaped Indian politics for 20 years, no one from her social rank has so shaken up the country’s traditional political order. Dalits represent roughly 16 percent of the population and have traditionally been shunted to the lowest rungs of Indian society.
Also in today's NYTimes.

Blind Governor Can Clearly See....,

David A. Paterson, in his first major speech to a national audience since becoming governor of New York, said on Thursday that even as black Americans rejoice about the possibility that Senator Barack Obama could become president, they cannot lose sight of the serious social and economic ills that plague their community and should remain mindful of the racism that still exists.

“The gap between the haves and have-nots right in our own community is wider than it has ever been before,” Mr. Paterson told a crowd of thousands at the N.A.A.C.P.’s annual convention here.

“No matter how prosperous we are, no matter how well heeled we may be, no matter how ambitious and successful we have been, we still can be cast under the same net regardless of our circumstances.” In today's NYTimes - Paterson, at N.A.A.C.P., Warns of Racism’s Power