Sunday, February 10, 2008

Khartoum?



We all remember the disturbing scene in Francis Ford Coppola's “The Godfather” where Tom Hagen goes to Hollywood to convince a recalcitrant movie producer to use Johnny Fontaine in his next film. The “Big shot” producer is finally persuaded to hire the young actor after he wakes up in bed next to the severed head of his prize thoroughbred. Did Bush make a similar “offer they could not refuse” to the various leaders of the Gulf States when he met with them earlier this month. Why would he choose to visit the Middle East just as his second term as president is winding down and there is no chance of success?

Unbelievable.....,

USAF Pushing Energy Alternatives

Here's where you know, if you read the signs and between the lines, how serious the situation has become. This also happens to be a VERY GOOD THING that we should each push our respective district congress critters to support aggressively and vociferously. Every branch of the U.S. armed services needs to get on this stick with the quickness because they have both the market moving scale to make it matter, and, they have the hierarchical social cohesion and reach into the social mass sufficient to drive such initiatives into the larger public domain.

Air Force pushing energy alternatives

A top ranking official said Friday the Air Force is striving to be a "market initiator" in developing energy alternatives and weaning the nation away from foreign oil dependence.

William C. Anderson, Air Force assistant secretary for installations, environment and logistics, wrapped up a two-day visit to Robins Air Force Base after briefing base leaders on the Air Force's energy strategy and receiving updates from the Advanced Power Technology Office at Robins. Anderson said the strategy is simple: Reduce demand, find new, domestically sourced, clean energy and change the Air Force culture for every airman.

"From the day an airman walks into basic training to the most senior ranks of the Air Force, we want to ensure they make energy considerations in every thing they do," Anderson said during an afternoon press conference. He said the Air Force mission remains to fly, fight, win and maintain sovereign options for the nation. "But we believe we can do that in a way that reduces demand on energy," he said, "and in a way that reduces the environmental impact."


The Power of Community - How Cuba Survived Peak Oil



In 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba experienced an 'energy famine.' Transportation and agriculture virtually came to a stop due to lack of diesel fuel and fertilizer shortages. This film explores what changes were put in place. The makers of the film 'The End Of Suburbia' went to Cuba to explore it as a test case for what the conditions after Peak Oil would look like. This is that story.

Cubans improved their health, sense of community, food and health of their land. A greater percentage of Cubans own their own home than Americans. More farmers own their own land. Free markets indeed....,

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Can the world afford a middle class?

By Moisés Naím February 8, 2008 LATimes

More countries are pulling themselves out of poverty, placing greater demand on food supplies and natural resources.

The middle class in poor countries is the fastest-growing segment of the world's population. While the total population of the planet will increase by about a billion people in the next 12 years, the ranks of the middle class will swell by as many as 1.8 billion -- 600 million just in China. The impact of a fast-growing middle class will be felt in the price of other resources. After all, members of the middle class are also buying more clothes, refrigerators, toys, medicines and eventually will buy more cars and homes. China and India, with nearly 40% of the world's population -- most of it still very poor -- already consume more than half of the global supply of coal, iron ore and steel. Thanks to their growing prosperity and that of other countries such as Brazil, Indonesia, Turkey and Vietnam, the demand for these products is booming.

Moreover, a middle-class lifestyle in these developing countries, even if more frugal than what is common in rich nations, is more energy-intensive. In 2006, China added as much electricity as France's total supply. Yet millions in China lack reliable access to electricity; in India, more than 400 million don't have power. The demand in India will grow fivefold in the next 25 years.

And we know what happened to oil prices. Oil reached its all-time high of $100 a barrel not because of supply constraints but because of unprecedented growth in consumption in poor countries. China alone accounts for one-third of the growth in the world's oil consumption in recent years.

South Africa in the Premature Long Emergency

The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-first Century is a book by James Howard Kunstler (Grove/Atlantic, 2005) exploring the consequences of a world oil production peak, coinciding with the forces of climate change, resurgent diseases, water scarcity, global economic instability and warfare to cause chaos for future generations.

The book's principal theme explores the effects of a peak in oil production, predicted by many geologists, on American society as well as the rest of the world. In both this book and in his other writings, Kunstler argues that the economic upheavals caused by peak oil will force Americans to live in more localized, self-sufficient communities.

Letter from a farmer to Kunstler; It began with a few potholes in the roads, the odd interruption to the water supply in the suburbs, a couple of days with strike action preventing the delivery of municipal services – no garbage collection, protest action disrupting the mining industry and picketing & toy toying at shopping malls…It continued over the next couple of years, largely with disregard for the disruptions, a little irritation to daily commercial and home life by the lack of service provision in food, gas, water and power.

In recent months, at the receivables end of the supply chain, there was a little aggravation at the delays, the lack of service, the shortage of a few consumer luxuries in the retail shops…, ‘but hey, what the hell, this is a great country, we cannot fault the lifestyle, the weather…’. For a couple of months, perhaps a year back or so, there seemed little or no reason to change our way of life, our lifestyles…a little further down the road and the disruptions become more frequent, we learn to cope, learn to accept the rising cost of living, gas supply shortages in the Winter of 2007, the intermittent water disruptions, the odd power outage and the potholes. Potholes may well be the singular measure of the calamity we are in or about to face.

As we head into February, it will be interesting to see the economic figures; theoretically the revenue generation for the period should be down by at least 25% or something similar to the power outage percentages. Notwithstanding that the stock market took a bend downwards and followed the USA crash and the antics of the Societé General rogue trader. (Well done on the foresight, James). The South African property market is following suit, as well.

And just as we were wondering how the effect, implications and opinions of an emergency would pan out into daily life, what the tell tail signs would be… it happened, all of this is the short space of about 2-3 weeks, the realization dawns that it has begun, the country is experiencing and living through the beginning of the Long Emergency, rather unexpectedly and certainly too prematurely.

I proffer that the events in South Africa, tragic as they are, as they play themselves out, will give a good indication of the events that the USA and other countries will realize in the years to come as The Long Emergency’ comes to pass.

The Inner Life of the The Cell

Friday, February 08, 2008

Dirt Cookies

It was lunchtime in one of Haiti's worst slums, and Charlene Dumas was eating mud. With food prices rising, Haiti's poorest can't afford even a daily plate of rice, and some take desperate measures to fill their bellies. Charlene, 16 with a 1-month-old son, has come to rely on a traditional Haitian remedy for hunger pangs: cookies made of dried yellow dirt from the country's central plateau.
The mud has long been prized by pregnant women and children here as an antacid and source of calcium. But in places like Cité Soleil, the oceanside slum where Charlene shares a two-room house with her baby, five siblings and two unemployed parents, cookies made of dirt, salt and vegetable shortening have become a regular meal.

"When my mother does not cook anything, I have to eat them three times a day," Charlene said. Her baby, named Woodson, lay still across her lap, looking even thinner than the slim 6 pounds 3 ounces he weighed at birth. Though she likes their buttery, salty taste, Charlene said the cookies give her stomach pains. "When I nurse, the baby sometimes seems colicky too," she said. Food prices around the world have spiked because of higher prices for oil, needed for fertilizer, irrigation and transportation. Prices for basic ingredients such as corn and wheat are also up sharply, and the increasing global demand for biofuels is pressuring food markets as well.

The problem is particularly dire in the Caribbean, where island nations depend on imports, and food prices are up 40 percent in places.
INSIGHTS: Why Ethanol Production Will Drive World Food Prices Even Higher in 2008;
We are witnessing the beginning of one of the great tragedies of history. The United States, in a misguided effort to reduce its oil insecurity by converting grain into fuel for cars, is generating global food insecurity on a scale never seen before.

The world is facing the most severe food price inflation in history as grain and soybean prices climb to all-time highs. Wheat trading on the Chicago Board of Trade on December 17th breached the $10 per bushel level for the first time ever. In mid-January, corn was trading over $5 per bushel, close to its historic high. And on January 11th, soybeans traded at $13.42 per bushel, the highest price ever recorded. All these prices are double those of a year or two ago.
Lester R. Brown in his office. (Photo courtesy Earth Policy Institute)

As a result, prices of food products made directly from these commodities such as bread, pasta, and tortillas, and those made indirectly, such as pork, poultry, beef, milk, and eggs, are everywhere on the rise. In Mexico, corn meal prices are up 60 percent. In Pakistan, flour prices have doubled. China is facing rampant food price inflation, some of the worst in decades.
This is what happens when the bubble making machine breaks;
the next great bubble will be a $20 trillion "alternative energy" bubble. In fact, Wall Street's already hustling biofuels, solar, wind, nuclear, geothermal and hydroelectric as the new alternative energies destined to replace oil, gas and coal in this next new economy. Timing? The new "alternative energies" bubble will last about 8 years, from a 2005 launch till a peak around 2013, when it will "creatively destruct," when all possible "fake wealth" is squeezed out, when investors wise up to the scam, when that new bubble pops.

Why The Price of "Peak Oil" is Famine

Peak Oil is morphing into Peak Food;
Vulnerable regions of the world face the risk of famine over the next three years as rising energy costs spill over into a food crunch, according to US investment bank Goldman Sachs.

"We've never been at a point in commodities where we are today," said Jeff Currie, the bank's commodity chief and closely watched oil guru.

Global oil output has been stagnant for four years, failing to keep up with rampant demand from Asia and the Mid-East. China's imports rose 14pc last year. Biofuels from grain, oil seed and sugar are plugging the gap, but drawing away food supplies at a time when the world is adding more than 70m mouths to feed a year.

"Markets are as tight as a drum and now the US has hit the stimulus button," said Mr Currie in his 2008 outlook. "We have never seen this before when commodity prices were already at record highs. Over the next 18 to 36 months we are probably going into crisis mode across the commodity complex.

"The key is going to be agriculture. China is terrified of the current situation. It has real physical shortages," he said, referencing China still having memories of starvation in the 1960s seared in its collective mind.

While the US housing crash poses some threat to the price of metals and energy, the effect has largely occurred already. The slide in crude prices over the past month may have been caused by funds liquidating derivatives contracts to cover other demands rather than by recession fears. Goldman Sachs forecasts that oil will be priced at $105 a barrel by the end of 2008.
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The current "supercycle" is a break with history because energy and food have "converged" in price and can increasingly be switched from one use to another.

Corn can be used for ethanol in cars and power plants, for plastics, as well as in baking tortillas. Natural gas can be made into fertiliser for food output. "Peak Oil" is morphing into "Peak Food".

quoth Submariner;

meaningful change will occur as a response to a combination of imminent external threat and a mass domestic outcry.

To which I respond;

When all prior assumptions are rendered moot and a dizzying number of variables are in play - meaningful change can mean a lot of different things.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Transformation or Extinction?

Turner Classic Movies is showing my all-time favorite;



Cliff Notes for the impatient and those without cable teevee.

Warsocialism?

Speaking of founding criminals..., I gladly yield the floor to the ultra hardcore Jay Hanson who in various lists and newsgroups over the past decade or so has laid it all out for your collective consideration.

Nowhere is there to be found a more succinct and damning appraisal of what precisely has gone wrong with the path chosen for us by those who we have permitted to rule us.
Our Founders, for excellent reasons, didn’t trust government, so they founded [1] a government that was controlled by the rich. It’s based on three core assumptions:

1: The best way to solve social problems is through economic [2] growth.

2: Individuals know best how to improve their lives.

3: The best way to increase economic growth is to simply ask people who are good at it for advice. That’s why lobbyists are absolutely necessary to the function of our government. Without lobbyists, our corruptible-but-otherwise-unqualified elected officials and their appointed cronies would have absolutely no idea what to do!

In other words, elected officials ask the factory owner what government can do to increase his profit so he will build more factories, provide more jobs, and then individuals can make themselves better off. Keep giving the rich a greater fraction of the economic pie and they will keep increasing the size of the pie.

That’s how our Founders designed it, and that’s how public policy is made today:

“The policy formation process begins in corporate boardrooms... where problems are identified as issues to be solved by new policies. It ends in government, where policies are enacted and implemented.” – William Domhoff

Our Founders saw the “common good” as the sum of “individual goods” which could be measured by spending [3] – the more, the better. Obviously, now that we are entering a decades-long period of declining global economic activity (in the physical sense – not GDP), all of our Founders’ core assumptions are known to be wrong …

Which hardcore appraisal is why - in a nutshell - I'm not wetting my pants about the prospects for genuine or lasting change. I have yet to hear a single policy initiative that deviates from the core warsocialist modus operandi.

How about you?

Sonoluminescence

Bro. Makheru sends me to the stacks - to dust off something I haven't looked at in about 7 years;
Brother Nulan, Do you see any validity in the Cold Fusion Theory?
To which I enthusiastically though somewhat crabbily respond; Do you think these humans will be "allowed" to put a star in a jar given their nasty, brutish, killer-ape mentality and behaviours?

Bro. Makheru, on purely superstitious and curmudgeonly grounds, my answer to you is that I am confident that it is possible, but I am even more confident that our species will not be permitted to achieve it - given our current level of consciousness. I believe that we will be tantalized by the prospect, - because it appears to be so simple - but nothing more than that.

here is a summary of what I would consider to be the state of the art - along with a little history of how long folks have known about this enigmatic phenomenon.
The mechanism of the phenomenon of sonoluminescence remains unsettled. Theories include: hotspot, bremsstrahlung radiation, collision induced radiation and corona discharges, non-classical light, proton tunneling, electrodynamic jets, fractoluminescent jets (now largely discredited due to contrary experimental evidence), and so forth.

What do you think about Cold Fusion Makheru? What do you believe our prospects are for breaking through to harness the power of the sun?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

How Harvard students perceive rednecks: The neural basis for prejudice

I've been saying this for longer than I can remember, and have caught no end of grief from fundamentalist victims of the racist memeplex - mechanically spouting their unfalsifiable theories of the world via obsessive, compulsive, addictive, circular arguments founded in childish deductivism.

The source of many of the world's woes might be tracked to a specific brain area responsible for identifying people that are not of our ilk. If so, a study on the neural bases of prejudice and its modulation (read abstract or download the pdf), by Jason Mitchell and Mahzarin R. Banaji, of Harvard University, and C Neil Macrae, at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, published in Neuron in May 2006, could be as important to the burgeoning field of social cognitive neuroscience as Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech was to the American civil rights movement.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Southern Fried, Extra Crispy...,

The Christian Science Monitor weighs in on the southeastern drought;
How the South responds to the improbably dry weather may affect the broader US economy, since the region's booming metro areas and job growth have so far fended off a national recession.

"The coincidence of having [potential] recession plus drought is a tough one for the economy," says Jeff Humphreys, an economist at the University of Georgia in Athens. "It's coming on top of the housing recession and the oil price shock, making our economy more vulnerable than would otherwise be the case. I don't think the drought alone is able to produce a recession, but it adds to negative forces that are already out there."

And on it drags, as recent rains have failed to refresh exhausted reservoirs. As an unusual bank of fronts in the West channeled the South's usual rains into deluges in Texas and the Midwest, the drought interfered with rural baptisms and put landscapers out of work, with losses in that industry totaling nearly $1 billion. A pool ban alone would wreck Georgia's $150 million pool-maintenance industry, experts say.

"The economic impact of long-term water shortages could be profound because water is so central to daily living, power generation, and manufacturing," noted a recent report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

Some nuclear power plants in the Southeast, which require huge amounts of water to operate, could be forced to throttle back or temporarily shut down later this year because drought is drying up the rivers and lakes used to cool the reactors, the Associated Press reported last month. Such shutdowns probably wouldn't cause blackouts, utility officials say. But they could lead to shockingly higher electric bills for millions of Southerners, because the region's utilities could be forced to buy expensive replacement power from other energy companies.
Trickle down from bursting economic bubbles, global warming, and the karmic laws of unintended consequences.....,

Energy War

So we go from total subject matter obscurity to panoramic coverage at the fringes of the mainstream almost overnight. Energy War now showing on the Sundance Channel. Enjoy!



What are the geopolitical consequences of the price of oil? As New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman contends in Shuchen Tan, Ijsbrand van Veelen and Rudi Boon's documentary, as the price of oil rises, petro-states like Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Iran hinder democracy's pace and ignore complaints of human rights abuses from countries in need of energy. ENERGY WAR forecasts the primary struggle of the 21st century will be a fierce contest to discover alternatives to oil and gas and ensure a nation's place as an energy superpower.

Ever See An Iceberg From Top To Bottom?

update: thanks to Cobb, I now know that I've been hoodwinked, bamboozled, played like a dub, caught bent over trying to retrieve the soap - and I bet that all I hadda do was run that joint through snopes.com.

This came from a Rig Manager for Global Marine Drilling in St. Johns, Newfoundland.

They actually have to divert the path of these things away from the rig by towing them with ships!

Anyway, in this particular case the water was calm and the sun was almost directly overhead so that the diver was able to get into the water and click this pic.

Clear water huh?!

They estimated the weight at 300,000,000 tons.

Hat tip to my buddy Davera for sending this to my attention.

Monday, February 04, 2008

What If: The Oil Runs Out


A watershed event has made its way to mainstream teevee. (well sort of...,)


The Science Channel is running a 60 minute special that actually does a pretty good job of depicting some of what is yet (soon?) to come.

Check your local listings then check out this show.


Slowly a consensus has emerged. Oil, the lifeblood of modern societies, is going to peak then decline irreversibly. Oil will be used for decades to come, but the era of surplus, conventional oil is ending, and we are not prepared.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Pop Go the Cables

Update: Fourth cable "broken".

Coincidence?

Cable reported cut Friday off Dubai in Persian Gulf. An undersea cable carrying Internet traffic was cut off the Persian Gulf emirate of Dubai, officials said Friday, the third loss of a line carrying Internet and telephone traffic in three days.


Extensive Internet failure has affected much of Asia, the Middle East, north Africa

What's going on here? What are the military, financial, and communication implications of something like this?

Is it just me, or does a cluster of three transoceanic "backhoe incidents" effecting this large region of the world at a time of very interesting political foment seem peculiar?

You'd think these types of events happen everyday judging from occurrences this past week. But as you can see from the cross sectional view of the cable, it's more than a notion to take out one of these cables. The idea that a trawlers anchor got to it just seems a little implausible. In view of the fact that trawlers cross the ocean constantly-- Internet companies would be sure to construct cables that would not be destroyed that easily or be that accessible to anchor dragging when the connection to a whole continent depends on them. And what is even harder to believe is that these cables are cut in separate incidents---a couple days apart(map of cuts below)

Ships have been dispatched to repair two undersea cables damaged on Wednesday off Egypt.

FLAG Telecom, which owns one of the cables, said repairs were expected to be completed by February 12. France Telecom, part owner of the other cable, said it was uncertain when repairs on it would be repaired.

Stephan Beckert, an analyst with TeleGeography, a research company that consults on global Internet issues, said the cables off Egypt were likely damaged by ships' anchors.

The loss of the two Mediterranean cables -- FLAG Telecom's FLAG Europe-Asia cable and SeaMeWe-4, a cable owned by a consortium of more than a dozen telecommunications companies -- has snarled Internet and phone traffic from Egypt to India. Officials said Friday it was unclear what caused the damage to FLAG's FALCON cable about 50 kilometers off Dubai. A repair ship was en route, FLAG said.

The two cables damaged Wednesday collectively account for as much as three-quarters of the international communications between Europe and the Middle East, so their loss had a much bigger effect.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Za'irajah

A branch of the science of letter magic, (practiced) among the (authorities on letter magic), is (the technique of) finding out answers from questions by means of connections existing between the letters of the expressions (used in the question). They imagine that these (connections) can form the basis for knowing the future happenings they want to know. Here we have something like puzzles and trick problems.835 There are many discussions of the subject by them. The most comprehensive and most remarkable discussion of it is as-Sabti's Za'irajah of the World. It has been mentioned before. Here, we shall explain what has been said about how to operate it. We shall quote the poem that, it is thought, as-Sabti wrote on the subject.836 Then, we shall give a description of the Za'irajah with its circle and the table written on the verso.836a Finally, we shall reveal the truth about it. It is nothing supernatural; (the indications derived from it) result from an agreement in the wording of question and answer. It is (just) one interesting way among others, and a curious one, for finding out the answer from the question with the help of the technique called the technique of "breaking down."

From the Science of Letter Magic THE MUQADDIMAH Abd Ar Rahman bin Muhammed ibn Khaldun

Very few people share the (self-scrutiny) of the Sufis, for negligence in this respect is almost universal. Pious people who do not get that far perform, at best, acts of obedience 464 freed from the juridical study of how to be satisfactory 465 and conforming (in the execution of the acts of divine worship). The (Sufis), however, investigate the results of (acts of obedience) with the help of mystical and ecstatic experience, in order to learn whether they are free from deficiency or not. Thus, it is evident that the Sufis' path in its entirety depends upon self-scrutiny with regard to what they do or do not do, and upon discussion of the various kinds of mystical and ecstatic experience that result from their exertions. This, then, crystallizes for the Sufi novice in a "station." From that station, he can progress to another, higher one.

From the Science of Sufism THE MUQADDIMAH Abd Ar Rahman bin Muhammed ibn Khaldun

America - The Broken Bubble Machine

February Harpers - Eric Janszen + The Next Bubble

What's next? More asset-backed bubbles. The dot-com '90s created $7 trillion in market value. The housing boom created $12 trillion in "fake wealth." Janszen predicts the next great bubble will be a $20 trillion "alternative energy" bubble.

In fact, Wall Street's already hustling biofuels, solar, wind, nuclear, geothermal and hydroelectric as the new alternative energies destined to replace oil, gas and coal in this next new economy.

Timing? The new "alternative energies" bubble will last about 8 years, from a 2005 launch till a peak around 2013, when it will "creatively destruct," when all possible "fake wealth" is squeezed out, when investors wise up to the scam, when that new bubble pops.

In his finale, Janszen admits that when the "alternative energy" bubble finally self-destructs around 2013, "we will be left to mop up after yet another devastated industry," while Wall Street "will already be engineering its next opportunity."

But be warned: Even before we near the end of the "alternative energy" bubble, the law of unintended consequences will trigger a meltdown, not of the bubble but of the "bubble-making machine" itself! The machine will implode, taking down Wall Street, Washington, Corporate America ... and with it, the "new economy," the "new paradigm" and the "bubble-making machine!"

(the photo is not actually a bubble, it's a Harold "Doc" Edgerton rapatronic photo of the initial burst of a nuclear weapon)