Monday, June 30, 2008

Only Obama Ready to Put in Work....,

While the other wannabe, gonnabe, pranksters and wanksters pooh-poohed it at the time, only Sen. Barack Obama clearly asserted the narrative imperative to put in serious work in accordance with U.S. foreign policy stipulations regarding the global war on terror - in today's NYTimes;
Intelligence reports for more than a year had been streaming in about Osama bin Laden’s terrorism network rebuilding in the Pakistani tribal areas, a problem that had been exacerbated by years of missteps in Washington and the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, sharp policy disagreements, and turf battles between American counterterrorism agencies.

The new plan, outlined in a highly classified Pentagon order, was intended to eliminate some of those battles. And it was meant to pave a smoother path into the tribal areas for American commandos, who for years have bristled at what they see as Washington’s risk-averse attitude toward Special Operations missions inside Pakistan. They also argue that catching Mr. bin Laden will come only by capturing some of his senior lieutenants alive.

But more than six months later, the Special Operations forces are still waiting for the green light. The plan has been held up in Washington by the very disagreements it was meant to eliminate. A senior Defense Department official said there was “mounting frustration” in the Pentagon at the continued delay.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush committed the nation to a “war on terrorism” and made the destruction of Mr. bin Laden’s network the top priority of his presidency. But it is increasingly clear that the Bush administration will leave office with Al Qaeda having successfully relocated its base from Afghanistan to Pakistan’s tribal areas, where it has rebuilt much of its ability to attack from the region and broadcast its messages to militants across the world.
While Baraka was ready to ride, and caught flak for saying as much, flatfooted, greenhorn republican presidential nominees were making unintelligible mouth noises about staying in Iraq for another 100 years....,

Iran: The Threat

Thomas Powers in the NY Review of Books brings yet further insight into the makings of WW-III. First the escalation in foreign policy, then the escalating resistance to this movement from within the Pentagon;
At a moment of serious challenge, battered by two wars, ballooning debt, and a faltering economy, the United States appears to have lost its capacity to think clearly. Consider what passes for national discussion on the matter of Iran. The open question is whether the United States should or will attack Iran if it continues to reject American demands to give up uranium enrichment. Ignore for the moment whether the United States has any legal or moral justification for attacking Iran. Set aside the question whether Iran, as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently claimed in a speech at West Point, "is hellbent on acquiring nuclear weapons." Focus instead on purely practical questions. By any standards Iran is a tough nut to crack: it is nearly three times the size of Texas, with a population of 70 million and a big income from oil which the world cannot afford to lose. Iran is believed to have the ability to block the Straits of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf through which much of the world's oil must pass on its way to market.

Keep in mind that the rising price of oil already threatens the world's economy. Iran also has a large army and deep ties to the population of Shiite coreligionists next door in Iraq. The American military already has its hands full with a hard-to-manage war in Iraq, and is proposing to send additional combat brigades to deal with a growing insurgency in Afghanistan. And yet with all these sound reasons for avoiding war with Iran, the United States for five years has repeatedly threatened it with military attack. These threats have lately acquired a new edge.
Whether the threats of massive escalation materialize, or not, the consequences to the American way of life are going to be pretty much indistinguishable.
With its time in power rapidly running out, the Bush administration is mired in two frustrating wars, stretched thin militarily, living on borrowed money, and exhausted intellectually. It would be hard to name a time when the United States faced a wider range of political problems, or had better reasons to avoid additional military entanglements. Bush and Cheney concede nothing of the kind, but promise "serious consequences" for continued Iranian defiance. It is a strange fact that the locus of opposition to attack on Iran is not in Congress but in the Pentagon, where an insider told the reporter Seymour Hersh two years ago, "There is a war about the war going on inside the building." When the administration planned to add a third aircraft carrier group to the Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf, the move was blocked by the then newly promoted chief of Central Command, Admiral William Fallon, who told friends that war with Iran "isn't going to happen on my watch."

Until his resignation in March, Fallon often contradicted and undermined the tough talk of the administration, speaking dismissively about the prospects of war with Iran. "Another war is just not where we want to go," he told the Financial Times. "This constant drumbeat of conflict...is not helpful and not useful," he said to al-Jazeera television. In recent months Fallon also traveled in Afghanistan and spoke at candid length with the military writer Thomas Barnett, who was working on an article for Esquire. When the article was ready to go to the printer Fallon invited an Esquire photographer to Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Florida, to take his picture. War with Iran, yes or no, Barnett wrote, would "all come down to one man"—Fallon. The White House was not happy with Fallon's interference, Barnett reported. Washington rumor said Fallon's time was short. His removal, Barnett predicted, "may well mean that the president and vice-president intend to take military action against Iran before the end of this year...." A week after Barnett's piece appeared in Esquire, Gates announced that Fallon was retiring at his own request. The Esquire article had been the talk of the Pentagon nonstop; leaked stories were coming from all directions. Fallon wasn't just on his way out; Gates said he would be gone by the end of the month.

Fallon's open and outspoken resistance to the idea of war with Iran represents something new and extraordinary—maybe. It is too early to be sure. But beneath the surface of recent statements by Fallon, Gates, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, something large seems to be swelling up—resistance by the Pentagon to passive acceptance of a wider war. To see the shape of the conflict one must first accept the seriousness of both parties—the administration in making its threats to stop Iran's nuclear program, and Pentagon officials when they say a wider war would be practically difficult and strategically unnecessary.

This showdown—if it is truly taking place—has been a long time coming. Ten years ago a young Army major, H.R. McMaster, published a history of American escalation of the war in Vietnam, Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam. McMaster's argument, stripped to its core, was that against their own best judgment the joint chiefs passively acquiesced to White House pressure to expand the war. Johnson, with his eye on a second term, did not want to be the first American president to lose a war, and the joint chiefs did not want to run their careers aground. Despite the harshness of McMaster's conclusion his book was widely read in the Pentagon and made a deep impression on a generation of rising officers, many of them now of flag rank and in positions of responsibility.[*]
National bankruptcy with or without the reorganization and force majeure of world war is going to prove a wrenching and protracted period in the history of the republic no matter what.

Occupation Plan for Iraq Faulted in Army History

The NYTimes brings you all the history you can use on the U.S. debacle in Iraq. The story of the American occupation of Iraq has been the subject of numerous books, studies and memoirs. But now the Army has waded into the highly charged debate with its own nearly 700-page account: “On Point II: Transition to the New Campaign.

In 2005, the RAND Corporation submitted a report to the Army, called “Rebuilding Iraq,” that identified problems with virtually every government agency that played a role in planning the postwar phase. After a long delay, the report is scheduled to be made public on Monday.

But the “On Point” report carries the imprimatur of the Army’s Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth. The study is based on 200 interviews conducted by military historians and includes long quotations from active or recently retired officers.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Preparing the Battlefield

In next week's New Yorker, Seymour Hirsch continues his coverage of activity prefatory to the outbreak of WW-III in earnest, enjoy.
Late last year, Congress agreed to a request from President Bush to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran, according to current and former military, intelligence, and congressional sources. These operations, for which the President sought up to four hundred million dollars, were described in a Presidential Finding signed by Bush, and are designed to destabilize the country’s religious leadership. The covert activities involve support of the minority Ahwazi Arab and Baluchi groups and other dissident organizations. They also include gathering intelligence about Iran’s suspected nuclear-weapons program.

Clandestine operations against Iran are not new. United States Special Operations Forces have been conducting cross-border operations from southern Iraq, with Presidential authorization, since last year. These have included seizing members of Al Quds, the commando arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and taking them to Iraq for interrogation, and the pursuit of “high-value targets” in the President’s war on terror, who may be captured or killed. But the scale and the scope of the operations in Iran, which involve the Central Intelligence Agency and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), have now been significantly expanded, according to the current and former officials. Many of these activities are not specified in the new Finding, and some congressional leaders have had serious questions about their nature.
quoth my man T3; Is not the government of this nation b.r.o.k.e.? busted? de-looted? on "e"? Sho' nuff...and for years at that.

If the gubment wasn't called a gubment and was just called a bully - what would you call a bully with a big-ass club, no job and fewer and fewer kids from whom to steal lunch? A hungry muhphukkin' bully. That's your "global economy" of too-day.

$200 just means the bully is gonna will have officially eaten everyone's lunch.

Peak Phosphorus?

Battered by soaring fertiliser prices and rioting rice farmers, the global food industry may also have to deal with a potentially catastrophic future shortage of phosphorus, scientists say.

Researchers in Australia, Europe and the United States have given warning that the element, which is essential to all living things, is at the heart of modern farming and has no synthetic alternative, is being mined, used and wasted as never before.

Massive inefficiencies in the “farm-to-fork” processing of food and the soaring appetite for meat and dairy produce across Asia is stoking demand for phosphorus faster and further than anyone had predicted. “Peak phosphorus”, say scientists, could hit the world in just 30 years. Crop-based biofuels, whose production methods and usage suck phosphorus out of the agricultural system in unprecedented volumes, have, researchers in Brazil say, made the problem many times worse. Already, India is running low on matches as factories run short of phosphorus; the Brazilian Government has spoken of a need to nationalise privately held mines that supply the fertiliser industry and Swedish scientists are busily redesigning toilets to separate and collect urine in an attempt to conserve the precious element.

Dana Cordell, a senior researcher at the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology in Sydney, said: “Quite simply, without phosphorus we cannot produce food. At current rates, reserves will be depleted in the next 50 to 100 years. From the U.K. Times Online.

u.k. rural gangs move into the oil business

Now from the Guardian;
It may not be quite like the film Mad Max out there, with violent gangs roaming Britain in search of the few remaining drops of fuel, but for farmers like Eddie Cowpe it feels a little bit like it.

He returned to his farm shop in Lancashire recently to find that thieves had emptied his 10,000-litre diesel tank. What they did not take they let drain away on to his stone yard and into the water course, leaving Cowpe facing a bill of almost £70,000 for the fuel lost and the clean-up.

"I said two years ago that this country was going to see serious civil unrest and riots because of food and fuel shortages," said Cowpe. "It's going to come true. It's a frightening scenario. These people are morons and vandals. They just don't care. I don't know where it's going to end."

In the week that Rosemary Dove, a farmer's wife from Co Durham, collapsed and died after an alleged diesel raid, the fuel crisis is hitting farmers, truckers, motorists and householders in the pocket - and making them feel rather less safe.

With oil prices jumping to another record high yesterday to break through the $142 a barrel level, it is likely to become an even more attractive target for thieves.

Oil prices have been on an upward trend since the millennium, when they were around $10-20 a barrel. The huge increases have led to gangs of thieves in lorries or vans fitted with drums and pumps roaming the countryside, often tailing tankers so they can be sure of finding freshly topped-up containers.
It appears that Collapse Criminality is rife throughout the anglosphere....,

Bully in Decline....,


By pumping out money in an effort to forestall recession and paper over balance sheet problems, the Federal Reserve is driving up commodity and food prices in general. Yet American real incomes are not growing. Even without jobs offshoring, US economic policy has put the bulk of the population on a path to lower living standards.

The crisis that looms for the US is the loss of world currency role. Once the dollar loses that role, the US government will not be able to finance its operations by borrowing abroad, and foreigners will cease to finance the massive US trade deficit. This crisis will eliminate the US as a world power.

Paul Craig Roberts says what T3 said......,

10 Million Fewer Cars on U.S. Roads

A new forecast calls for gasoline prices to hit $7 (U.S.) a gallon in the next two years and oil to soar to $200 a barrel by 2010.

The report by CIBC World Markets also predicts there will be 10 million fewer cars on the road in the United States by 2012.

“Over the next four years, we are likely to witness the greatest mass exodus of vehicles off America's highways in history,” Jeffrey Rubin, the lead author, wrote in Thursday's report.

Economist Benjamin Tal, who co-authored the report with Mr. Rubin, said Canadians can expect to pay about $1.85 to $2.00 per litre of gas at the pumps by 2010. Mr. Tal also expects the numbers of Canadian vehicles on the road to drop by 700,000 by 2012 – much less than the 10 million predicted in the U.S.

“We don't have the same story in the sense that most low income Canadians have better access to public transportation,” he said, referring to the report's U.S. calculations that estimates that about half the cars coming off the road will be from Americans who make less than $25,000.

In Canada, the decrease will be mainly come from middle-class families that own two or three cars, Mr. Tal said. From the Globe and Mail.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Final Warning

This is the article that accompanied the dangerzones interactive media map below. Available to NewScientist subscribers only, I found a copy at TMC.net, enjoy.
a few well-placed explosives, an energy-sapping cold winter or an unusually intense hurricane season could send shock waves across the globe. The potential consequences are so serious that governments are drawing up emergency plans to cope should the worst happen. According to one analyst who took part in a simulation of just such a crisis, the situation most experts fear is what they call a "psychological avalanche".

Here's what happens. A small, distant country one day finds it can no longer import enough oil because of a spike in prices or problems with local supply. The news media whip this up into a story suggesting an oil shock is on the way, and the resulting panic buying by the public degenerates into a global grab for oil.

Most industrialised countries keep an emergency reserve as a first line of defence, but in the face of worldwide panic buying this may not be enough. Countries in which the oil runs out face transport meltdown, wreaking havoc with international trade and domestic necessities such as food distribution, emergency services and daily commerce. Without oil everything stops.

The roots of our oil addiction can be traced back to the end of the 19th century, when petroleum began to be pumped from wells across America. It wasn't long before it become obvious what a great transport fuel it could provide. Oil-based fuels paved the way for intensive farming and extensive road networks; they drove the influx of populations into cities, drove growth in shipping and eventually made mass air travel possible. "Oil has shaped our civilisation. Without crude oil you'd have no cars, no shipping, no planes," says Gideon Samid, head of the Innovation Appraisal Group (IAG) at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.

And it's not just about fuels. A giant chemical industry relies on oil as its feedstock, and without it many of the products we now take for granted would vanish. "You'd see no plastics, no bags, no toys, no cases on TVs, computers or radios. It's absolutely everywhere," says Samid.

"Much of the economic expansion and growth of the human population in the 20th century is directly tied to the availability of large amounts of cheap oil," says Cutler Cleveland, director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Studies at Boston University. "There isn't a single good or service consumed on the planet, except in rural economies, that doesn't have oil embedded in it. Oil is the lifeblood of the global economy."

The secret of oil's success is its portability and extraordinarily high energy density. One barrel of oil contains the energy equivalent of 46 US gallons of gasoline; burn it and it will release more than 6 billion joules of heat energy, equivalent to the amount of energy expended by five agricultural labourers working 12-hour days non-stop for a year.

The vast majority of oil is consumed by transport. In the US, that sector accounts for nearly 70 per cent of the 20.7 million barrels the country gets through each day.

More than half of the world's oil comes from seven countries, the leading supplier being Saudi Arabia, which produces more than 10 million barrels a day. Then come Russia, the US, Iran, China, Mexico and Canada. Twenty years ago, there were 15 oilfields able to supply 1 million barrels a day. Now, there are only four. The largest is the Ghawar field in Saudi Arabia.

Danger Zones

A huge proportion of the world's oil supply flows through just a handful of pipelines and shipping lanes. Knocking out just one of these would have dangerous consequences. Click on the image to visit the interactive map and drilldown for the salient details.

The Bonga Offshore Oil Platform Attack

On the heels of this weekend's Saudi Oil summit, Nigerian production has dropped to the lowest level in 25 years. This was in part because militant attacks shut in as much as 345,000 barrels per day of Nigerian production in the past few days. The Nigerian militant group MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta) has demonstrated a continuing ability to interrupt production from Nigeria's mature, onshore fields. However, the future promise of Nigerian oil is not onshore. Rather, it is the 1.25 million barrels per day of offshore production scheduled to come on line in the next 6 years. Analysts previously believed these offshore facilities were out of MEND's reach.

This assumption--that far offshore facilities are beyond the reach of militants--must now be reconsidered. The week's most successful attack, shutting in 225,000 barrels per day, came against Shell's Bonga facility. At 120 km offshore, the Bonga attack demonstrated a new militant capability in the offshore environment. As Nigeria is one of the few states with the geological potential to significantly increase oil production and exports, the Bonga attack may prove to be an extremely important development.

Offshore facilities are highly complex and vulnerable feats of engineering. While they are generally engineered to withstand extreme natural environments, they may not be well fortified against intentional attack. We do not know the extent of fortifications, as the specific security considerations and plans for each platform are not publicly available. It makes sense, however, that to the extent the threat from MEND was considered to be non-existent at the time that all scheduled Nigerian megaprojects entered development, fortification against attack was not a significant design criteria.
Full Monty at the Oil Drum. Be sure to read the conclusion and discussion of geopolitical feedback loops.

Fertiliser shortage hits India's farms

From the BBC News;
Increasingly many countries across the world are beginning to recognise that expensive fertilisers, or even a supply shortage, is not just a problem for the farmers.

It has a direct effect on the cost and availability of food. Across the world countries are looking at farmers to produce a bumper crop this year to overcome global food shortage. As fertiliser prices go up – food prices go up as well, threatening to force millions of poor people into starvation.

Back on the farms, Mr Sehrawat is still waiting for his supply.

"It is really urgent that we get our supplies," he says.

"You can wait for monsoons - that's not under anyone's control - but you can't be made to wait for fertilisers.

"At this rate, people have to keep waiting for rice on their plates. Nothing is going to grow on our fields."

With general elections next year, the government in India could suffer the political consequences of poor agriculture output.

And the anger of unhappy farmers who cannot reap the benefits of a good monsoon.
It's always the details that come around to bite really, really hard. Fertilizer - as we all know - is a petrochemical dependent on natural gas feedstocks.
India consumes millions of tonnes of fertiliser each year.

Production costs have risen on the back of soaring crude oil prices.

Globally fertilizer rates have tripled in the last year.

Prices of the three main fertilizers, nitrogen, potash and phosphate, have gone up by almost 300%.

Diammonium phosphate costs nearly $1,300 (£650) per tonne whereas farmers in India pay around $250.

The Indian government subsidises the price by nearly 85% for farmers, which in turn means India's subsidy bill is getting bigger each year. At the current forecasts it amounts to almost 2.5% of the country's gross domestic product.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

U.S. Cities Cut Services

Surging fuel prices are forcing cities across the United States to cut back on services and dip into cash reserves to keep their fleets on the road, according to a survey released on Friday.

Ninety percent of the 132 mayors surveyed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors reported that climbing fuel prices have had a significant impact on city budgets and operations.

The average retail price of diesel used in city buses and garbage trucks has shot up 65 percent over the past year. Gasoline prices jumped about 35 percent over the same period, as many local governments are feeling the pinch of the wider nationwide economic slowdown.

"It's just a snowball. It all hits at once. So, governments, mayors are having to make tough choices," said Mayor Douglas Palmer of Trenton, New Jersey.

"Everything is on the table except for a reduction in public safety."

from Reuters

Taxpayers Fund Bank of America's Countrywide Takeover

According to Bloomberg.com
Bank of America Corp.'s $3 billion takeover of Countrywide Financial Corp. will be financed by 138 million tax-paying Americans.

Bank of America, led by Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Lewis, can use tax write-offs to pay for Countrywide, the country's biggest mortgage lender, said Robert Willens, a former managing director at Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. who now runs his own accounting firm. Taxpayers may pick up about $5 billion of Countrywide's losses over 20 years, he said. Countrywide shareholders approved the sale today.

``Ken Lewis got a break,'' Willens said. ``What these losses do is reduce the effective cost of the deal so the headline price isn't really what they're paying. It's entirely possible that the entire equity purchase price could be financed by tax savings.''

The tax benefit may explain why Lewis continues to back the purchase even as analyst Paul Miller of Friedman, Billings, Ramsey Group Inc. said he should ``walk away.'' Miller, the top-ranked analyst in Bloomberg's latest survey of stock-pickers, estimates Countrywide will lose as much as $33 billion on bad home loans. Lewis said this month Bank of America, the biggest U.S. consumer bank, will come out ahead even if home prices drop by more than 25 percent in the next two years.
Countrywide and its CEO, Angelo Mozilo, were sued yesterday by the states of California and Illinois for hiding fees and using false marketing claims, said California Attorney General Jerry Brown and Robyn Ziegler, a spokeswoman for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Countrywide was the biggest U.S. subprime lender in 2006 and 2007, according to Inside Mortgage Finance, a Bethesda, Maryland- based industry newsletter. Subprime mortgages were available to borrowers with bad or incomplete credit histories.

Illinois to Sue Countrywide

The Illinois attorney general is suing Countrywide Financial, the troubled mortgage lender, and Angelo R. Mozilo, its chief executive, contending that the company and its executives defrauded borrowers in the state by selling them costly and defective loans that quickly went into foreclosure.

The lawsuit, which is expected to be filed on Wednesday in Illinois state court, accused Countrywide and Mr. Mozilo of relaxing underwriting standards, structuring loans with risky features, and misleading consumers with hidden fees and fake marketing claims, like its heavily advertised “no closing costs loan.” Countrywide also created incentives for its employees and brokers to sell questionable loans by paying them more on such sales, the complaint said.

In reviewing one Illinois mortgage broker’s sales of Countrywide loans, the complaint said the “vast majority of the loans had inflated income, almost all without the borrower’s knowledge.”

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Suburb-Exurb Flight Sprawl "Reconsidered"

In today's NYTimes;
Across the nation, the realization is taking hold that rising energy prices are less a momentary blip than a change with lasting consequences. The shift to costlier fuel is threatening to slow the decades-old migration away from cities, while exacerbating the housing downturn by diminishing the appeal of larger homes set far from urban jobs.

In Atlanta, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Minneapolis, homes beyond the urban core have been falling in value faster than those within, according to an analysis by Moody’s Economy.com.
Americans have felt the periphery was most desirable, and now there’s going to be a reversion to the center. Should be socially interesting.....,

Pandering and Promises is NOT a Plan!

Gas at $4 brings promises, pandering on campaign trail; few prospects for results
"Like two rival filling-station owners across the highway in long-bygone price wars, Democratic Sen. Barack Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain keep putting up flashy signs and offering new incentives in hopes of attracting customers battered by $4 gas prices.

McCain is offering a summer break from the 18.4-cent federal gasoline tax, and holding out the promise of more offshore drilling to help you drive more cheaply to the beach. He wants to build 45 new nuclear reactors to generate electricity. On Monday, he proposed a $300 million government prize to anyone who can develop a superior battery to power cars of the future.

He may even wash your windows.

If you pull into the Obama station, he'll promise you cash back from the windfall-profits tax he plans to slap on Big Oil. Check the tires? How about promises to go after oil-market speculators who help drive up prices as well as big subsidies for solar, wind, ethanol and other alternative-energy projects? The Illinois senator likens his energy package to the Kennedy-era space program.

Oil and gas prices that have doubled in the past year have squeezed aside the war in Iraq as the No. 1 issue this election year and both parties are blaming each other for the price spike – and for apparent congressional paralysis."
It's not that difficult. State an objective and formulate a plan for getting there. Unless of course, all this slipping and sliding into economic darkness IS the plan?

Oil Market is Saturated

"Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has dismissed calls for oil producers to ramp up production in response to high prices, saying the market is over saturated with more crude than it was consuming.

"I feel that oil prices are going up artificially. There is a game going on behind it," said Ahmadinejad in an interview with state television focused on his controversial handling of the economy.

"The market is now over saturated and oil is being pumped beyond consumption. Consumption growth is less than production," he said.

Iran, the No.2 producer in OPEC after the oil cartel's kingpin Saudi Arabia, has responded much more coolly than the kingdom to calls for producers to hike production in response to record prices.

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah condemned oil "speculators" on Monday at a summit of leaders that debated the spiralling price of crude, which has doubled over the past year."

Oil market is saturated: Iran president

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Back to the Future

A view of the only possible future we have, excerpted from Vietnam's traditional past.

Why Lie?

video
Oil and natural gas powered the past. But the future? Fact is a growing world will require more, 45 percent more by 2030 along with greatly expanding alternatives. We have substantial oil and natural gas resources1 right here [NARRATOR STROLLS OVER MAP OF THE LOWER 48 STATES].2 Enough to power 60 million cars3 and heat 160 million households for 60 years.4 With advanced technology and smart policies,5 together we can secure America’s energy future.6 Log on to learn more.
(1) Only of fraction of those oil and natural gas resources are ever likely to be recovered for both economic and technical reasons. There is no guarantee that those that we do recover will come out at the rate we want them to.

(2) Includes all offshore areas such as Cape Cod, Hilton Head, Miami Beach, the Gulf of Mexico and the California, Oregon and Washington coasts. Also included are all wilderness areas of Alaska (not pictured).

(3) 60 million cars sounds like a lot, but that represents only a fraction of the more than 250 million highway vehicles currently registered in the United States.

(4) The “60 years” claim is theoretical (and perhaps mere fantasy). See footnote 1. Also, powering cars and heating homes assumes that the highest and best use of oil and natural gas is to burn them notwithstanding their critical roles as feedstocks for thousands of chemicals and others products that are essential to the modern world.

(5) “Smart policies” is shorthand for opening up all public lands and offshore areas in the United States to drilling.

(6) This doesn’t mean energy independence. The U. S. will still be importing more than half its oil by 2030 according to the U. S. Energy Information Administration. We won’t really be secure.

In fact, by suggesting that domestic oil resources could power 60 million cars, API is admitting that energy independence is a false hope even as it confuses viewers with the notion that we Americans will be more secure.

What might make viewers even more concerned is a second API ad which claims that we get two-thirds of our oil and natural gas from North America. This is a rough but reasonable estimate of the heat value of the oil and natural gas combined. But, once again we find ourselves watching API’s spokeswoman walking across a map of the lower 48 states as she delivers her message. Perhaps Canada and Mexico from whom we import significant quantities natural gas and oil are too large to represent on the map. Or perhaps it would be a little impolitic to treat Canadian and Mexican oil and natural gas as if it belonged to the United States. Better to leave both countries off the map and hope that nobody notices. People might begin to think inconvenient thoughts such as, “Why should the Canadians and the Mexicans simply sell us all the oil and natural gas we want? Maybe they’ll need it for themselves. Oh, and by the way, didn’t I hear that Mexico’s oil production is declining and Canada’s natural gas production is flat?” Clever and Deceptive: The Oil Lobby’s New Ads

Poor Dogs...,

Having lost her job and her three-bedroom house, Darlene Knoll has joined the legions of downwardly mobile who are four wheels away from homelessness.

She is living out of her shabby 1978 RV, and every night she has to look for a place to park where she won't get hassled by the cops or insulted by residents.

"I'm not a piece of trash," the former home health care aide said as she stroked one of five dogs in her cramped quarters parked in the waterfront community of Marina del Rey.

Amid the foreclosure crisis and the shaky economy, some California cities are seeing an increase in the number of people living out of their cars, vans or RVs.

L.A. seeing more people living out of their cars.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Beyond Brand Obama

Douglas Rushkoff asked some really salient questions a couple of weeks ago and speaking just for myself, these are questions I've not seen answered yet;
Where the Obama effort has always disturbed me, however, is in how branded it all feels. From the beginning of his candidacy, I felt as if the Obama name and image represented a new way of doing things more than it exemplified it. My own sense of cynicism reached a peak when Oprah Winfrey began campaigning for him. I've watched her similarly enthused by fakers from Tom Cruise to the founders of The Secret. Oprah's "energy," if you will, is that of national branding. Oprah + (insert your product here) = MegaBrand. Using Oprah to push Obama feels a bit like using rock to push religion. But it's not fair to criticize Obama for letting a powerful media celebrity attempt to teach her followers why he'd be good for the country, is it? He needs to get elected, after all.

Then there's Obama's efforts to reach out to new audiences online. And for sure, Obama's Facebook/YouTube/website representation is far beyond anything Howard Dean and his folks did last time out. Where Dean's people inserted their stock candidate into an online fund-raising campaign, Obama's message and media are more organically related to one another. His message is about invigorating bottom-up, grass-roots, community organizing - and the Internet is that, if anything.

Still, a closer look at Obama's online effort reveals many opportunities for work, and few opportunities for what I consider to be intelligent participation. We can sign up to make phone calls, send emails, volunteer in the streets, or become precinct captains. But where's the participatory democracy wiki? Where do we get involved in the conversations that help shape his policy positions? How is he incorporating the massive intelligence of his support network into his philosophy of governance? BarackObama.com is a great example of crowd-sourcing, but it's a far cry from even a fledgling effort at open source democracy.
Where does one get involved in the coversations that bring his policy position around to address the Peak Oil crisis, for example?

Oil, not democracy.....,

These wars are about oil, not democracy - in yesterday's Toronto Sun.
Four major western oil companies, Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP and Total are about to sign U.S.-brokered no-bid contracts to begin exploiting Iraq's oil fields. Saddam Hussein had kicked these firms out three decades ago when he nationalized Iraq's oil industry. The U.S.-installed Baghdad regime is welcoming them back.

Iraq is getting back the same oil companies that used to exploit it when it was a British colony.

As former fed chairman Alan Greenspan recently admitted, the Iraq war was all about oil. The invasion was about SUV's, not democracy.

Afghanistan just signed a major deal to launch a long-planned, 1,680-km pipeline project expected to cost $8 billion. If completed, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline (TAPI) will export gas and later oil from the Caspian basin to Pakistan's coast where tankers will transport it to the West.

The Caspian basin located under the Central Asian states of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakkstan, holds an estimated 300 trillion cubic feet of gas and 100-200 billion barrels of oil. Securing the world's last remaining known energy El Dorado is a strategic priority for the western powers.

But there are only two practical ways to get gas and oil out of land-locked Central Asia to the sea: Through Iran, or through Afghanistan to Pakistan. Iran is taboo for Washington. That leaves Pakistan, but to get there, the planned pipeline must cross western Afghanistan, including the cities of Herat and Kandahar.
So simple when viewed in its totality and in retrospect....,

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The expanding range of biowarfare threats

Scientists are developing new substances at the cross section of biology and chemistry--such as peptide bioregulators--that could be used to incapacitate and kill. These substances defy the typical biochemical threat spectrum that includes microbial pathogens such as the anthrax bacterium and toxins such as botulinum. In "The Body’s Own Bioweapons" PDF (March/April 2008 Bulletin), Jonathan B. Tucker, a senior fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, documents this research and its impact on existing arms controls. Tucker and his three fellow discussants continue the debate about the impact of these new lethal and incapacitating agents and suggest ways to discourage their development. A treasure trove of articles discussing bioweapons research at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

How evil can prevail in state-sanctioned biowarfare research

It's important to note that the South African clandestine chemical and biowarfare program developed after the Nuremberg Code and Helsinki Declaration, proving that while important, they aren't sufficient to protect people from dangerous political regimes. It could be argued that a democratic form of governance can prevent research abuses. But the Tuskegee and plutonium experiments show that even in democracies, research atrocities can occur. Democracies do, however, allow for a free and independent press--a critical component in exposing unethical research programs, as Welsome's journalistic tenacity proved.

And what about physicians in state-sanctioned bioweapon programs? Could another Ishii or Mengele appear in the future?

In some ways, medical training inadvertently encourages those who are predisposed to dehumanize others. For example, from the first day of anatomy lab, some medical students must mentally dehumanize their cadavers in order to dissect them. (See "Cadavers Give Docs Leg Up in Training.") And the long, grueling hours during internship and residency can lead to anger and frustration--particularly when dealing with difficult, abusive, and sometimes, violent patients.

Dr. Laura Kahn at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Evangelism in the 21st Century

The Pentagon seems to have decided that anthropology is to the war on terror what physics was to the Cold War. As an anthropologist, this makes me very nervous.

Where former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld believed that the United States would vanquish its enemies through technological superiority, his replacement Robert Gates has said that cultural expertise in counterinsurgency operations will be crucial in the future wars he anticipates.

For those anthropologists who don't judge the vitality of our discipline solely in terms of revenue streams, the Pentagon's new interest in culture is worrying. So far the Pentagon has announced two major initiatives to mobilize anthropological knowledge for war. The first is the Human Terrain Team system, to which Gates allocated $40 million in September 2007. The Pentagon plans 26 Human Terrain Teams--one for each combat brigade in Iraq and Afghanistan. The five-person teams include three military personnel. Each team also includes an anthropologist--or another social scientist--who will wear a military uniform and receive weapons training. Described as doing "armed social work" by David Kilcullen, an Australian expert in counterinsurgency who advises Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq, the teams elicit information from villagers for Pentagon databases and provide cultural orientation to U.S. military leaders.

According to a scathing article in Newsweek, thus far, few of the embedded social scientists recruited speak local languages or know much about local culture. For example, the best-known embedded anthropologist, Marcus Griffin of Christopher Newport University in Virginia, is mainly knowledgeable about Filipino hunter-gatherers and Freegan dumpster-divers in the United States. One wonders how useful his military colleagues find his "cultural expertise."

Last year, the Executive Board of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) issued a statement condemning the use of anthropologists in Human Terrain Teams. Why would the AAA object to anthropologists doing their bit for the war on terror? After all, perhaps anthropologists could help smooth out some of the cultural misunderstandings between U.S. troops and locals that have exacerbated violence in Iraq and Afghanistan? Is this political correctness run amok?

One cannot grasp AAA's concerns without understanding that anthropologists have a unique research method that brings with it special ethical responsibilities: We engage in what one anthropologist has called "deep hanging out" with people, passing the time with them, often day after day for months, painstakingly earning their trust and getting them to tell us about their worlds. What distinguishes anthropology from espionage (apart from anthropologists' impenetrable jargon) is that we seek the consent of our subjects, and we follow an injunction to do no harm to those we study. According to the anthropological code of ethics, our obligations to those we study trump all others--to colleagues, funders, and nation. (It's for this reason that Franz Boas, the father of American anthropology, famously condemned four colleagues for using anthropological research as cover for spying during World War I.)

Embedded anthropologists are on shaky ethical terrain because they cannot realistically get free consent from their interlocutors while dressed in camouflage and traveling with U.S. soldiers in Humvees. Similarly, they cannot control the use of the information they collect for the military, and thus, cannot ensure it isn't used to harm communities they study. For instance, during the Vietnam War, under Project Phoenix, anthropological knowledge was used to target villagers for assassination. The U.S. military's quest to weaponize culture

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Doomsday

Energy Future: A Significant Period of Discomfort

Energy expert Robert Hirsch says the world would need 20 years to prepare for peak oil. But declining global oil production could just be a few years away.

Read how we can prepare and ultimately “beat” this problem.

"We are racing towards a future that will be very difficult, and we have to do what is necessary to not economically kill ourselves."

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Illusion of Saving Nations from Themselves

It is an axiom of history that no government put in place by foreign troops, or needing to be maintained in place by them against internal opposition, can be considered a legitimate government.

The Taliban in Afghanistan are not the Russian army, overrunning Afghanistan with tanks and helicopters, or an invading British colonial army. If they were, the problem would be simple. They are Afghans, members of the 40-million strong Pathan (or Pushtoon) people, who make up the largest part of the Afghan population. If other Pathans, inside Afghanistan, who are not religious fundamentalists, and the Tajiks, Hazaras, and Uzbeks who make up the rest of the country’s population, do not wish to be ruled by Pathan religious reactionaries, they should not need 60 thousand NATO and U.S. troops to defend them. If they will not defend themselves, there is nothing the foreigners can do to save them from their countrymen.

The same is true of the Iraqis. The only foreign army that has invaded Iraq is the American army. The Iraq government is resisting long-term American extraterritorial presence in the country, and Iraqis are increasingly pressing the United States to get out. They are finding that the Pentagon and the White House have actually been planning to stay indefinitely (for 100 years?). This automatically will sooner or later produce a popular uprising against military occupation.

Then what will an Obama or McCain administration do? They might order the troops to pull out. They will be accused of surrendering America to forces of evil.

Or they might order the army and Marines to do again what was done to Falluja. They could forget about democracy and nation-building.

William Pfaff yesterday....,

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Status Trumps Propositional Faith...,

Speaking of serendipities - NPR carried a program this morning discussing the demise of the Poor People's Movement, and the demise of the Black church in America. Saying it without saying it, because I suspect that most folks have not deconstructed the motivational basis of the phenomenon, the historic Black church in America was not only the hub of Black free speech and autonomy, it was also concurrently THE place to see and be seen within the segregated but socio-economically heterogeneous Black community. Once the barriers of racial segregation legally fell, and there was economic flight out of the historic Black community reducing these communities to socio-economic ghettos, there ceased to be as much of a magnetic pull by the church as the hub of the place to see and be seen. No longer capable of harnessing this powerful drive, the churches were greatly diminished and they have not recovered since. In addition, powerful secondary and tertiary forces and factors have set in the still further reduce the magnetism of the historical Black church.
Poverty and Faith

OTOH - the past fifteen years has seen the rise of megachurches, and of particular note are the prosperity preaching megachurches. These temples of Mammon have overtly and explicitly harnessed and trumpeted their unrepentant commitment to the status drive - and in the process - become overwhelmingly popular and dominant;

Although not much has changed for many poor Americans, the role of religion in the black community has changed greatly since the days when King and others wielded such power.

Today, the civil rights movement and life in the black community converge at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., where the Rev. Arthur Price Jr. is now pastor. Four girls were killed at the church in 1963 when a bomb exploded during Sunday service. Price worries that all these years later, too few parents are bringing their children to church.

"I believe if we can get people engaged on the front end and teach them a good foundation, that some of the social ills that we have in our society will be less and less," he says. "We don't live in a box. We are in the culture. We are around the culture, and sometimes we have to preach against the culture."

Price teaches men how to become better fathers and helps first-time drug offenders turn their lives around. But he says the church's role in the black community has changed. Back in the 1960s, pastors dominated their neighborhoods — churches were the place where African-Americans shared their entire lives.

"If I can sum it up … I think we don't have a faith like we used to as a people. We've just, we've become so fragmented," says the Rev. Anthony Johnson, grandson of Alabama civil rights leader N.H. Smith Jr.

A Charge from the Pulpit

Over the past few years, megachurches have become more popular in black communities, just as they have in white communities. These megachurches have amassed influence and wealth partly because of their sheer number of parishioners. Some have created satellite churches and broadcast their gospel on television.

Many who were part of the civil rights movement and their heirs lament the trend.

"There still needs to be a voice crying out in the wilderness," Price says. "There still needs to be a charge from the pulpit to ignite people, to prick the consciousness of our brothers and sisters and to keep the mirror up in America's face, to let them know that they do have a responsibility to the least of these."
As always within American culture, as goes Black culture, so goes America. As the result of historical assignation within the American political economy, we are always merely the canary in the encompassing American coalmine. This story about the Poor People's Campaign and the demise of the Black church is fundamentally a story about America.

From the New Middle Ages to a New Dark Age

The Decline of the State and U.S. Strategy; Security and stability in the 21st century have little to do with traditional power politics, military conflict between states, and issues of grand strategy. Instead they revolve around the disruptive consequences of globalization, declining governance, inequality, urbanization, and nonstate violent actors. The author explores the implications of these issues for the United States. He proposes a rejection of "stateocentric" assumptions and an embrace of the notion of the New Middle Ages characterized, among other things, by competing structures, fragmented authority, and the rise of "no-go" zones. He also suggests that the world could tip into a New Dark Age. He identifies three major options for the United States in responding to such a development. The author argues that for interventions to have any chance of success the United States will have to move to a trans-agency approach. But even this might not be sufficient to stanch the chaos and prevent the continuing decline of the Westphalian state.

Dr. Williams suggests that analysts and policymakers are reluctant to acknowledge the pace and scope of state decline. He argues that continued assumptions about the central role and vitality of states-a phenomenon he terms "stateocentrism"-blinds us to emerging challenges and alternative forms of government.

He mentions the inability of states to meet the needs of their citizens.

He summarize that the US National Security Strategy has little sense of the tectonic shocks that might be ahead, whereas both the 2020 report and the JOE suggest that we will typically have to confront quakes that are magnitude 8 or above on the Richter scale. The problem is that future shocks could prove beyond the realm of current experience-creating what Nassim Taleb has called a "black swan" event.

Even if the notion of a New Dark Age is dismissed as a truly worst case scenario, a looming crisis of governance and widening security deficits are harder to ignore. They are inextricably linked to increasing global instability.

Williams gives and discusses the advantages and shortcomings of 3 major choices the US has in how it responds to this world of global chaos are:
interventionism, disengagement and mitigation.

The fixation with the centralized state needs to confront realities that point at least towards the serious consideration of alternatives. The problem is that the stateocentric mode of thinking is so highly normative that serious consideration of alternative forms of governance, which does more than treat them as threats, is typically regarded as heretical, irrelevant, or misguided. Yet if we fail to see the decline of the state and to recognize the underlying realities, the prospect of a cascade of strategic surprises and a series of strategic disasters is inescapable.

Global Stock and Credit Crash Alert

The Royal Bank of Scotland has advised clients to brace for a full-fledged crash in global stock and credit markets over the next three months as inflation paralyses the major central banks.

"A very nasty period is soon to be upon us - be prepared," said Bob Janjuah, the bank's credit strategist.

A report by the bank's research team warns that the S&P 500 index of Wall Street equities is likely to fall by more than 300 points to around 1050 by September as "all the chickens come home to roost" from the excesses of the global boom, with contagion spreading across Europe and emerging markets.

Such a slide on world bourses would amount to one of the worst bear markets over the last century.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

An Inconvenient Truth about any inconvenient truth

I have a backlog of work to attend to, so I plan on being scarce today. However, I wanted to bring this link up from the comments and submit it for your consideration because it nicely illuminates the scholastic and propositional nature of the national political spectacle unfolding all around us.
Technological illustrations of the inconvenience of any inconvenient truth relating to global governance

The simplicity, comprehensibility and communicability of an inconvenient truth is well-illustrated by:

* automobiles: which few are capable of making or repairing, although many (but not all) claim an ability to drive, and an aspiration to do so -- despite their dependence on non-renewable resources and their impact on the environment

* electronic consumer products: despite extremely widespread use of radio, music players, TVs, and computers, who is capable of understanding their operating principles to a degree enabling their design, development or repair, in contrast with the number whose familiarity with their use in practice obscures their inability in those respects? The classic example of "inability to program a VCR" is now matched by "inability to use a computer", let alone to program one.

* space rockets: whilst "reaching for the stars" has been promoted as a comprehensible ideal justifying allocation of resources as a priority to that end, who is capable of comprehending the complex control systems that renders them viable, and of developing the technology in practice? How was this allocation of resources rendered credible to those without that understanding?

In the light of such various degrees of engagement with technology:

* who is likely to to be able to envisage the requisite new "technologies" of governance appropriate to the challenges of the times?
* who might understand how to design and develop them in practice?
* who might comprehend their significance sufficiently to allocate resources to that end?
* who might have the skills to use them?

Again, the convenience of the explanation of any technology depends on it being significantly shorter than that required for its operationalization in practice -- implying that any remedial technique is necessarily both a challenge to implement and to justify funding for its development.

What inconvenient truth does this imply about the democratic global governance desirable for the future?
I believe this line of inquire also has direct applicability to the religiously themed exchange sparked by the questions I posed on Monday

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The sheer hypocrisy of this debate on oil

Oil makes hypocrites of us all. Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general who last year took office declaring that his main goal was to fight "man-made climate change", has spent most of his weekend in Jeddah attempting to persuade King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to ramp up the kingdom's oil production.

This is just the global edition of Gordon Brown's earlier plea to the Saudis to "do something" about the high price of oil; a remarkable display of diplomatic chutzpah from a man who, as Chancellor, spent a decade telling us that increasing the price of petrol on British forecourts through fiscal means was very much in the best interests of the whole planet.

Meanwhile the US Senate has threatened to launch a prosecution of OPEC for its alleged fixing of the world oil market, to the detriment of the American consumer. The American legislature's hypocrisy in this matter takes a different form to ours: the politicians who are now howling with rage about the shortage of oil supply are in essence the same people who have long blocked the oil industry from developing vast deposits both in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and off their own coastline – about 80 per cent of the US continental shelf is out of bounds, on environmental grounds.

I imagine that when King Abdullah told Mr Ban that "national policies in the West" were partly to blame for the current very high price of crude oil, the Americans' refusal to drill for oil in their own most geologically promising territories might have been one of the factors he had in mind.

Ban Ki-moon was not, needless to say, acting solely as an emissary for the United States: he was representing the teeming billions in nations as diverse as China, India and Malaysia. Yet if you look at this seizure in the oil market from the point of view of demand, rather than supply, then these same countries have also contributed directly to the problem they have asked Mr Ban to sort out for them.

All have for years had a policy of subsidising the price paid by their consumers and industry for oil products – and on a vast scale. According to the head of the International Energy Agency, Nobuo Tanaka, such subsidies are currently running at a rate of about one hundred billion dollars a year. In other words, these countries' biggest energy consumers are being shielded from the effects of high oil prices, and therefore are not adjusting their consumption downwards – quite the reverse, in fact.

This morning's commentary in the Independent.

The oil era reaches its desperate endgame

Saudi Arabia appears ready to cave in to demands from Western governments for the kingdom to make special efforts to increase its production of oil. Analysts forecast that the world's largest producer will shortly raise its output by half a million barrels a day. The United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, confirmed this impression at the weekend after emerging from talks with the Saudi monarch, King Abdullah.

What we are seeing in this desperate horse-trading is the endgame of the oil age. Even if we have not yet reached the inevitable moment of "peak oil", when production begins its inexorable decline, it is abundantly clear that the age of cheap fuel is over. The economic leaps forward by China and India represent a step-change in energy demand. The rate of discovery of new oilfields has failed to keep pace with the speed at which nations are joining the global economy. That means the price of oil will remain considerably above the level to which we have historically been accustomed.

That is the central fact that governments ought to be addressing. It is ridiculous for the Saudis to attempt to tell Western governments how they ought to tax fuel sales, just as it is ridiculous for Western governments to tell Saudi Arabia and other oil producers how much they ought to pump out of the ground. The debate ought to be about how best to break our economic dependence on oil.

From yesterday's Independent; The oil era reaches its desperate endgame

Monday, June 16, 2008

Overcoming the Status Drive?

The instinctive drive for status is remarkably efficient. It requires only that there be at least two people involved. Whatever the circumstances, small nuances will be enough to establish a status difference. This assures a constant motivation for action of some sort and with a small amount of discipline the action can be directed towards a productive result. Naturally, in a meritocratic context, those having superior abilities would tend to rise in rank. In hunter-gatherer times when meritocratic performance meant the difference between life and death, feast or famine, this drive served as an admirable adaptive attribute.

However, the social structures that have evolved in modern society suffer from a non-adaptive tendency. The social order seeks to perpetuate itself in part by preventing change and adaptation. This is built into present day America by the automobile centered design of our infrastructure. As fuel becomes more scarce, adaptation to walking, cycling, and public transport is hindered by the design itself, as was intended. In the system of American inclusive fitness, the driver will always seem superior to the walker, cyclist, or transit rider.

Automobiles, oil, roadways, and suburbia represent a great status structure. As fuel runs low, the culture itself will be a formidable barrier to change. Will it be possible to create a structure of conservation, recycling, and environmental virtue to supplant the automotive culture as the automotive culture supplanted the agrarian past?

Can any system that uses less energy have greater status than one that uses more?

Could religious paradigms be synthesized to meet this challenge?

Given the a priori nature of the inclusive fitness mandate, what beliefs, culture, law or other mores could serve to counteract the deep genetic drive?

Beliefs, culture, laws and other mores are secondary rationalizations.

If offered the choice between retaining status through aggressive violence or peaceful downsizing with loss of status, would enough Americans choose to downsize so as to make cooperative scaling possible?

How many Americans would choose aggressive violence in order to avoid the loss of status?

How many Americans are capable of surmounting their fundamental drives and acting in a way that is contrary to the normative logic, language, and values of American culture?