Thursday, July 10, 2008

Arctic Zeppelin

Named the Jess Heavy Lifter after Pete Jess, SkyHook International's president, the JHL-40 is designed to address the limitations and expense of transporting equipment and materials in remote regions and harsh environments such as the Canadian Arctic and Alaska. Conventional land and water transportation in these undeveloped regions is inadequate, unreliable and costly. When flying without a load, the JHL-40 will have a ferry range of 800 nautical miles (921 miles), so it will be able to deploy itself to remote locations where it is needed.

St. Louis, Mo.-based Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, the Boeing unit that will build the JHL-40, says it already has received from SkyHook the first increment of a multi-year contract to develop the new aircraft. Privately owned SkyHook expects the JHL-40 to support several industries, including energy, mining and logging.

"There is a definite need for this technology. The list of customers waiting for SkyHook's services is extensive, and they enthusiastically support the development of the JHL-40," said Pete Jess, SkyHook's president and chief operating officer.

"Companies have suggested this new technology will enable them to modify their current operational strategy and begin working much sooner on projects that were thought to be 15 to 20 years away," added Jess. "This Boeing-SkyHook technology represents an environmentally acceptable solution for these companies' heavy-lift short-haul challenges, and it's the only way many projects will be able to progress economically."

The Pickens Plan

From U.S. News; Billionaire oilman and corporate raider T. Boone Pickens is taking his fight for American energy independence public today, outlining his plan to wean America off its $700 billion-a-year foreign crude habit.

"Our dependence on imported oil is killing our economy. It is the single biggest problem facing America today," Pickens said. "As we import more and more of our energy, we are participating in the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind, sending billions of our dollars overseas to buy oil for a commodity that lasts 90 days until burned in our gas tanks."

Here's his list of fixes, from a characteristically bombastic press release:

Step #1: Using the United States' wind corridor, private industry will fund the installation of thousands of wind turbines in the wind belt, generating enough power to provide 20 percent or more of our electricity supply

Step #2: Again funded by the private sector, electric power transmission lines will be built, connecting these wind power generating sites with power plants providing energy to the population centers in the Midwest, South, and Western regions of the country.

Step #3: With the energy from wind now available to operate power plants serving the large population centers in key areas of the country, the natural gas that was historically utilized to fuel these power plants can be redirected and used to replace imported gasoline and diesel as a fuel for thousands of vehicles in our transportation system.

Pickens, a vocal promoter of "peak oil" theory, has already signed on to build a $2 billion wind farm in the Texas Panhandle and reportedly could spend $10 billion on the project.

He's also funding an advertising campaign to garner support in pushing the incoming administration to act on his plan. His website is live today, and Pickens told USA Today that he wants to "elevate that question to the presidential debate, to make it the No. 1 issue of the campaign this year."

For those of you who enjoy watching rich Texans draw on whiteboards, here's the Pickens' Plan pitch:

As Oceans Empty of Fish, Fishermen Cling On....,

George Monbiot brought the hardline; All over the world, protesters are engaged in a heroic battle with reality. They block roads, picket fuel depots, throw missiles and turn over cars in an effort to hold it at bay. The oil is running out and governments, they insist, must do something about it. When they've sorted it out, what about the fact that the days are getting shorter? What do we pay our taxes for?

The latest people to join these surreal protests are the world's fishermen. They are on strike in Italy, Spain, Portugal, France and Japan, and demonstrating in scores of maritime countries. Last month in Brussels they threw rocks and flares at the police, who have been conspiring with the world's sedimentary basins to keep the price of oil high. The fishermen warn that if something isn't done to help them, thousands could be forced to scrap their boats and hang up their nets. It's an appalling prospect, which we should greet with heartfelt indifference.

Just as the oil price now seems to be all that stands between us and runaway climate change, it is also the only factor which offers a glimmer of hope to the world's marine ecosystems. No east Asian government was prepared to conserve the stocks of tuna; now one-third of the tuna boats in Japan, China, Taiwan and South Korea will stay in dock for the next few months because they can't afford to sail. The unsustainable quotas set on the US Pacific seaboard won't be met this year, because the price of oil is rising faster than the price of fish. The indefinite strike called by Spanish fishermen is the best news European fisheries have had for years. Beam trawlermen - who trash the seafloor and scoop up a massive bycatch of unwanted species - warn that their industry could collapse within a year. Hurray to that too.

It would, of course, be better for everyone if these unsustainable practices could be shut down gently without the need for a crisis or the loss of jobs, but this seems to be more than human nature can bear.

Map of Pain


That's the current IMF map of food and fuel cost pain. This is a summary of the Freakonomics analysis of where the climate change apocalypse is likely to hit hardest; Let’s say you are convinced that climate change is a huge threat and will have catastrophic consequences for humankind in the foreseeable future. How exactly do you envision that catastrophe playing out?

Most people I speak with, and most accounts I’ve read and seen, lean toward the apocalyptic. But what are the mechanisms by which disaster strikes? Where does it occur? Who is most likely to suffer?

According to a fascinating new working paper (abstract here; download available here) by Melissa Dell, Benjamin F. Jones, and Benjamin A. Olken, the answer to that last question may be an easy one: poor countries.

This answer may not surprise you very much, but Dell, Jones, and Olken have done a good job of showing the relationship between climate and the economy, and their paper may substantially inform the way that people — especially in the U.S. and other rich countries — consider the possible effects of climate change.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

More Exploitative Distraction from Faux News...,

The Rev. Jesse Jackson apologized today for comments he made about Barack Obama's speeches in black churches during what he thought was a private conversation with a reporter.

Jackson told CNN's Wolf Blitzer today that his comments made Sunday were in response to a question from a Fox News reporter about speeches on morality the Democratic presidential candidate has given at black churches.

The civil rights leader said today he felt there were other important issues to be addressed in the black community, such as unemployment, the mortgage crisis and the number of blacks in prison.

Jackson told The Associated Press today that he doesn't remember exactly what he said Sunday but that he was "very sorry" for his comments about Obama.

His apology came a few hours before Fox News was scheduled to air the remarks.

Jackson called his comments "a side light in a broader conversation about urban disparities."
Billo the clown will of course be leading with this sidelight on his show tonight. It will be his top story and the subject of his talking points memo and in the fashion in which he's been deployed here-to-date by Roger Ailes - Billo will work this distraction in hopes of gaining traction and continuing his relentless, non-issue oriented identity politics oriented memetic assault on Obama.

About that Roger Ailes; Roger Eugene Ailes (born May 15, 1940) is the president of Fox News Channel and chairman of the Fox Television Stations Group. He was a media consultant for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush, as well as Rudy Giuliani’s first mayoral campaign in 1989.

Presencing of the Other...,

"Whether the subject is crop circles, orbs, alien abductions, UFOs, miraculous appearances of the Virgin, spirit encounters in psychedelic states, and so on, we face the question of the existence of "the Other," of entities or intentionalized energies that seem to exist largely beyond the current range of our perceptions, yet touch upon our world. Philosophers would agree that we don't know "things in themselves," but only those aspects of a thing that can be perceived by our senses and cognized by our mind. It is also clear that perception involves a tremendous amount of choice, and that choice is based upon our psychological disposition. We don't see the world as it, but to a large extent we see the world as we are.

I think this is true with all phenomena, but it is especially true with phenomena that lingers on the outer edge of the cultural imagination, such as otherworldly apparitions. It is almost as if we require a multisensory approach to these areas, as ordinary sense itself - logic or rationality - seems too limited. Rudolf Steiner defined higher modes of cognition as intuition, imagination, and inspiration. We can seek to make use of the faculty of "intellectual intuition" as a tool for exploration, taking care not to confuse thinking about something from believing in it, or feeling something from thinking we have knowledge about it. Making sure to keep thinking, feeling, believing, and willing separate requires intellectual discipline, and is the only way to approach what Steiner described as "the spiritual world" without getting lost in our own projections.

In my personal explorations of shamanism and my study of extraterrestrials, spirits, and so on, I have developed the hypothesis that this phenomena is neither real or imaginary. What seems to be happening is something subtler and harder to define: the alien "Other" is coming to presence within the human Psyche." Daniel Pinchbeck at Glastonbury this weekend.

Psychogeography

Psychologists have shown that human personalities can be classified along five key dimensions: agreeableness, conscientiousness, extroversion, neuroticism, and openness to experience. And each of these dimensions has been found to affect key life outcomes from life expectancy and divorce to political ideology, job choices and performance, and innovation and creativity.

What's more, it turns out these personality types are not spread evenly across the country. They cluster. And how they cluster tells us much: What city someone might want to move to, the broader character of regions, and even the creative and economic futures of broad swaths of the nation.

Drawing on a database of hundreds of thousands of individual personality surveys compiled by psychologists Jason Rentfrow, Sam Gosling, and Jeff Porter, my team and I were able to map the distribution of personality types across the United States. The result is a fascinating new way of looking at the country's terrain.

Click on the maps image to access the original article in the Boston Globe.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Space Based Solar Power Generation

So a momentary heavy-thread erupted over at Prometheus 6's blog. P6 is one of the original, heavily political bloggers and he has developed national recognition and a high-profile platform from which to hold forth. He is heard from time to time on Farai Chidaya's NPR blogger's roundtable. What instigated the discussion was an assertion that P6 posted about - in which it was claimed that the deep structure of Obama's thinking is opaque and mysterious. I instead argued on that thread that Obama is not a mystery, but that his campaign and election production company - headed by David Axelrod and giving every appearance of being a firmly establishmentarian Brookings Institute production - may instead by hobbling Obama's public pronouncements and policy agenda by preventing the Senator from tapping into the powerful, open-source intellectual groundswell that has marshalled in support of his candidacy.

My respected colleague PTCruiser summed up my concern most elegantly;
"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."

I have been troubled too by the lack real participation and penetration.
In the course of the discussion, I pointed out some very specific policy agendas that could be driven exclusively by the POTUS and which could have a profound impact on the current perfect storm crisis affecting energy, the armed services, and the finance and banking arenas. Specifically, I referred to the mass and scale of the DoD as a change agent in both energy market practices, and, as the primary employer of research scientists in the U.S. as the potential source of major energy resource innovation. This topic has previously been addressed here at Subrealism with no small measure of disappointment in the direction that the USAF has decided to take. In the interest of fairness, I want to share the other parts of what is possible and doable if the political will and popular support are marshaled in time to make it so.

Full-monty here - excerpt from the paper's conclusion; Several major challenges will need to be overcome to make SBSP a reality, including the creation of low‐cost space access and a supporting infrastructure system on Earth and in space. Several past studies have shown that the opportunity to export energy as the first marketable commodity from space will motivate commercial sector solutions to these challenges. The delivered commodity can be used for a variety of purposes to include base‐load terrestrial electrical power, wide‐area broadcast power, carbon‐neutral synthetic fuels production, or as an in‐space satellite energy utility. Solving these space access and operations challenges for SBSP will in turn also open space for a host of other activities that include space tourism, manufacturing, lunar or asteroid resource utilization, and eventually expansion of human presence and permanent settlement within our solar system.

A repeated review finding is that the commercial sector will need Government to accomplish three major tasks in order to catalyze SBSP development. The first is to retire a major portion of the early technical risks. This can be accomplished via an incremental research and development program that culminates with a space‐borne proof‐of‐concept demonstration in the next decade. The second is to facilitate the policy, regulatory, legal, and organizational instruments that will be necessary to create the partnerships and relationships (commercial‐commercial, government‐commercial, and government‐government) needed for this concept to succeed. The final Government contribution is to become a direct early adopter and to incentivize other early adopters much as is accomplished on a regular basis with other renewable energy systems coming on‐line today.

For the DoD specifically, beamed energy from space in quantities greater than 5 MWe has the potential to be a disruptive game changer on the battlefield. SBSP and its enabling wireless power transmission technology could facilitate extremely flexible “energy on demand” for combat units and installations across an entire theater, while significantly reducing dependence on vulnerable over‐land fuel deliveries. SBSP could also enable entirely new force structures and capabilities such as ultra long‐endurance airborne or terrestrial surveillance or combat systems to include the individual soldier himself. More routinely, SBSP could provide the ability to deliver rapid and sustainable humanitarian energy to a disaster area or to a local population undergoing nation‐building activities. SBSP could also facilitate base “islanding” such that each installation has the ability to operate independent of vulnerable ground‐based energy delivery infrastructures. In addition to helping American and Allied defense establishments remain relevant over the entire 21st Century through more secure supply lines, perhaps the greatest military benefit of SBSP is to lessen the chances of conflict due to energy scarcity by providing access to a strategically security energy supply.

This interim report accomplished a significant review of the overall concept and many components in a very short period of time and no cost. As has been demonstrated repeatedly in the new internet‐interconnected world, this type of horizontal, collaborative approach to problem solving is very effective in rapidly collecting and building knowledge. It has also had the effect of rapidly building (almost exponentially) action networks and informing otherwise disconnected individuals of this concept. It is a model that the DoD may wish to consider for future problem‐solving endeavors.

The Big Sort

This goes SO MUCH DEEPER than the red state blue state political dichotomy that's used to delineate the phenomenon. I heard the story on Talk of the Nation on my way to a meeting downtown yesterday and couldn't wait to post it for your consideration this morning. Well worth your listen I believe.

In 1976, less than a quarter of Americans lived in places where the presidential election was a landslide. By 2004, nearly half of all voters lived in landslide counties. When people move, they also make choices about who their neighbors will be and who will share their new lives. Those are now political decisions, and they are having a profound effect on the nation's public life. It wasn't just my neighborhood that had tipped to become politically monogamous.

Discovering the Big Sort
The "red" and "blue" states shown on television maps during the past several national elections depict a country in a static standoff. On this scale, politics is a game of Risk. What will it take for Republicans to capture Michigan? For Democrats to regain Ohio? But people don't live in states. They live in communities. And those communities are not close to being in equipoise, even within solidly blue or red states. They are, most of them, becoming even more Democratic or Republican. As Americans have moved over the past three decades, they have clustered in communities of sameness, among people with similar ways of life, beliefs, and, in the end, politics. Little, if any, of this political migration was by design, a conscious effort by people to live among like-voting neighbors. When my wife and I moved to Austin, we didn't go hunting for the most Democratic neighborhood in town. But the result was the same: moving to Travis Heights, we took a side and fell into a stark geographic pattern of political belief, one that has grown more distinct in presidential elections since 1976.

Over the past thirty years, the United States has been sorting itself, sifting at the most microscopic levels of society, as people have packed children, CDs, and the family hound and moved. Between 4 and 5 percent of the population moves each year from one county to another — 100 million Americans in the past decade. They are moving to take jobs, to be close to family, or to follow the sun. When they look for a place to live, they run through a checklist of amenities: Is there the right kind of church nearby? The right kind of coffee shop? How close is the neighborhood to the center of the city? What are the rents? Is the place safe?
The political *sort* is symptomatic of far deeper psychological tendencies emergent in collectives. These authors have drilled down to some extent on the phenomenon, but the questions left begging are rather dazzling.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Asleep at the Spigot

The NYTimes made another incremental disclosure in the direction of peak oil yesterday;
Over the last 25 years, opportunities to head off the current crisis were ignored, missed or deliberately blocked, according to analysts, politicians and veterans of the oil and automobile industries. What’s more, for all the surprise at just how high oil prices have climbed, and fears for the future, this is one crisis we were warned about. Ever since the oil shortages of the 1970s, one report after another has cautioned against America’s oil addiction.

Even as politicians heatedly debate opening new regions to drilling, corralling energy speculators, or starting an Apollo-like effort to find renewable energy supplies, analysts say the real source of the problem is closer to home. In fact, it’s parked in our driveways.

Nearly 70 percent of the 21 million barrels of oil the United States consumes every day goes for transportation, with the bulk of that burned by individual drivers, according to the National Commission on Energy Policy, a bipartisan research group that advises Congress.

SO despite the fierce debate over what’s behind the recent spike in prices, no one differs on what’s really responsible for all that underlying demand here for black gold: the automobile, fueled not only by gasoline but also by Americans’ famous propensity for voracious consumption.
Beginning with the indictment of our way of life - and sequeing into the fundamental complicity of our political processes in service to this way of life.
According to energy policy experts, it was in the late 1980s and early 1990s — during the administrations of President George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton — that things began to go wrong.

Before that point, the country reaped the benefits of the first fuel-economy standards, passed in 1975, known as corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE. Between 1974 and 1989, the efficiency of a typical car sold in the United States almost doubled, to 27.5 miles per gallon from 13.8.
Bringing us back full circle to Mark Whitaker's notion about the political barriers to sustainable living;

He proposes that instead of sustainability being an issue of population scale, managerial economics, or technocratic planning, an overhaul of formal democratic institutions is required. This is because environmental degradation has more to do with the biased interactions of formal institutions and informal corruption. Because of corruption, we have environmental degradation. Current formal democratic institutions of states are forms of informal gatekeeping, and as such, intentionally maintain democracy as ecologically “out of sync”. He argues that we are unable to reach sustainability without a host of additional ecological checks and balances. These ecological checks and balances would demote corrupt uses of formal institutions by removing capacities for gatekeeping against democratic feedback. Sustainability is a politics that is already here—only waiting to be formally organized.
Should be interesting to hear what the man of the moment has in mind for addressing the sociopolitical Great Filter that we're presently up against? I can't find it in his position statements, and I don't see it in the coalition he's built. Maybe I should just join the faithful and "believe" - confident that when wishes become horses, all we beggars will ride...,

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Now it's Catalytic Converters!!!

Will the wonders of crystal methamphetamine fueled collapse criminality never cease? First it was gas drilled out of gas tanks, now it's catalytic converters sawed right out from the undercarriage for their miniscule concentration of precious metals. What's next in this increasingly Mad Max looking vehicular ecology?
A half-dozen office colleagues had told him about that roar after their own catalytic converters were stolen, a crime that has been rising rapidly across the country from riverside parking lots in Cincinnati to highways along the California coast.

The pollution-reducing converters contain small amounts of the precious metals platinum and palladium, and they've joined copper wire and sewer grates on the long list of metal items targeted by thieves eager to cash in on climbing metal commodity prices.

Converter thieves slip under vehicles with battery-powered saws, sometimes in daylight, and in a matter of minutes leave owners with shocking repair bills.

The thefts were only a sporadic problem nationally until about a year ago but have grown to a near-epidemic, said Frank Scafidi, a spokesman for the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Scafidi received an overwhelming response when he recently questioned bureau agents.

"Everybody was seeing reports of this, hearing reports of this, talking to the local cops — all over the country," he said.
Better start booby trapping these jalopies with some nasty surprises to deter this funky invasive scavaging.

Commodity Ecology

Here's a fascinating premise, and, an intriguing and creative method for using blogger. Not to mention the content which appears to be a treasure trove well worth your consideration.
Launched to provide a parallel information service connected with Toward a Bioregional State, the book; this parallel blog is the commentary, your questions and my answers, on technological and material science news from around the world related to the issues of sustainability and unsustainability and how to institutionalize it in particular watersheds anywhere in the world, in a running muse on various issues of concern or inspiration.
Mark D. Whitaker is a comparative historical researcher on the politics of environmental degradation and sustainability. Toward A Bioregional State is his novel approach to development and to sustainability. He proposes that instead of sustainability being an issue of population scale, managerial economics, or technocratic planning, an overhaul of formal democratic institutions is required. This is because environmental degradation has more to do with the biased interactions of formal institutions and informal corruption. Because of corruption, we have environmental degradation. Current formal democratic institutions of states are forms of informal gatekeeping, and as such, intentionally maintain democracy as ecologically “out of sync”. He argues that we are unable to reach sustainability without a host of additional ecological checks and balances. These ecological checks and balances would demote corrupt uses of formal institutions by removing capacities for gatekeeping against democratic feedback. Sustainability is a politics that is already here—only waiting to be formally organized.

End of the Anthropocene

In which my man Rembom brings us to a discursive plateau of sorts - in the comments;
The Western consensus reality vacated even an attempt at understanding our actual ground, dating from 'round about the Nicean Creed, substituting a hollow, literal, power-based, controlling interpretation of wisdom in place of a practice geared toward a genuine relationship with truth.

You can lead a horse to water, but if the poor bastard refuses to drink, he's just gonna be one dried out dead mofo.

So then you have a hygiene problem, living with all the carcasses.
and with a little recommended reading;

Although the idea of the "Anthropocene"--an Earth epoch defined by the emergence of urban-industrial society as a geological force--has been long debated, stratigraphers have refused to acknowledge compelling evidence for its advent.

At least for the Geological Society of London, that position has now been revised. To the question "Are we now living in the Anthropocene?" the twenty-one members of the Commission unanimously answer "yes." They adduce robust evidence that the Holocene epoch-the interglacial span of unusually stable climate that has allowed the rapid evolution of agriculture and urban civilization--has ended and that the Earth has entered "a stratigraphic interval without close parallel in the last several million years." In addition to the buildup of greenhouse gases, the stratigraphers cite human landscape transformation which "now exceeds [annual] natural sediment production by an order of magnitude," the ominous acidification of the oceans, and the relentless destruction of biota.

This new age, they explain, is defined both by the heating trend (whose closest analogue may be the catastrophe known as the Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum, 56 million years ago) and by the radical instability expected of future environments. In somber prose, they warn that "the combination of extinctions, global species migrations and the widespread replacement of natural vegetation with agricultural monocultures is producing a distinctive contemporary biostratigraphic signal. These effects are permanent, as future evolution will take place from surviving (and frequently anthropogenically relocated) stocks." Evolution itself, in other words, has been forced into a new trajectory.
Of course the article goes way beyond this simple observation of fact. Indeed, it concludes on the horns of some of our most urgently pressing moral dilemmas and begs the literal, apocalyptic, human hygiene question....,

Saturday, July 05, 2008

New age America is entranced by Obama's electoral aura

A curious side-story in this year's election campaign is that the new age movement in the US has embraced Obama even more fervently than most of his supporters. New agers are traditionally liberal, so it's no surprise that they're backing the Democratic candidate. But the question that's been gathering steam among them in recent weeks goes much further than that, and brings - shall we say - a whole other dimension to the race: could Obama be a "lightworker"?

"Many spiritually advanced people I know ... identify Obama as a lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who [can] actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet," wrote the San Francisco Chronicle columnist Mark Morford in a piece headlined "Is Obama an Enlightened Being?" On the higher astral planes of the blogosphere, the notion met with enthusiasm. "He may play a major role," one blogger wrote, "in bringing us to [what] the Hopi Indians call the Great Shift." The endorsement of Oprah Winfrey, increasingly involved in new age spirituality, underscored the point.
from the UK Guardian.

This is the U.S. on Drugs

We've previously noted the extent to which CA has detached itself from the mainstream political chain - comes now a level of direct and honest discourse (hat tip to P6) that would in less politically and economically interesting times have been described as "career decisive".

Reprinted here in its entirety;
The United States' so-called war on drugs brings to mind the old saying that if you find yourself trapped in a deep hole, stop digging. Yet, last week, the Senate approved an aid package to combat drug trafficking in Mexico and Central America, with a record $400 million going to Mexico and $65 million to Central America.

The United States has been spending $69 billion a year worldwide for the last 40 years, for a total of $2.5 trillion, on drug prohibition -- with little to show for it. Is anyone actually benefiting from this war? Six groups come to mind.

The first group are the drug lords in nations such as Colombia, Afghanistan and Mexico, as well as those in the United States. They are making billions of dollars every year -- tax free.

The second group are the street gangs that infest many of our cities and neighborhoods, whose main source of income is the sale of illegal drugs.

Third are those people in government who are paid well to fight the first two groups. Their powers and bureaucratic fiefdoms grow larger with each tax dollar spent to fund this massive program that has been proved not to work.

Fourth are the politicians who get elected and reelected by talking tough -- not smart, just tough -- about drugs and crime. But the tougher we get in prosecuting nonviolent drug crimes, the softer we get in the prosecution of everything else because of the limited resources to fund the criminal justice system.

The fifth group are people who make money from increased crime. They include those who build prisons and those who staff them. The prison guards union is one of the strongest lobbying groups in California today, and its ranks continue to grow.

And last are the terrorist groups worldwide that are principally financed by the sale of illegal drugs.

Who are the losers in this war? Literally everyone else, especially our children.

Today, there are more drugs on our streets at cheaper prices than ever before. There are more than 1.2 million people behind bars in the U.S., and a large percentage of them for nonviolent drug usage. Under our failed drug policy, it is easier for young people to obtain illegal drugs than a six-pack of beer. Why? Because the sellers of illegal drugs don't ask kids for IDs. As soon as we outlaw a substance, we abandon our ability to regulate and control the marketing of that substance.

After we came to our senses and repealed alcohol prohibition, homicides dropped by 60% and continued to decline until World War II. Today's murder rates would likely again plummet if we ended drug prohibition.

So what is the answer? Start by removing criminal penalties for marijuana, just as we did for alcohol. If we were to do this, according to state budget figures, California alone would save more than $1 billion annually, which we now spend in a futile effort to eradicate marijuana use and to jail nonviolent users. Is it any wonder that marijuana has become the largest cash crop in California?

We could generate billions of dollars by taxing the stuff, just as we do with tobacco and alcohol.

We should also reclassify most Schedule I drugs (drugs that the federal government alleges have no medicinal value, including marijuana and heroin) as Schedule II drugs (which require a prescription), with the government regulating their production, overseeing their potency, controlling their distribution and allowing licensed professionals (physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, etc.) to prescribe them. This course of action would acknowledge that medical issues, such as drug addiction, are best left under the supervision of medical doctors instead of police officers.

The mission of the criminal justice system should always be to protect us from one another and not from ourselves. That means that drug users who drive a motor vehicle or commit other crimes while under the influence of these drugs would continue to be held criminally responsible for their actions, with strict penalties. But that said, the system should not be used to protect us from ourselves.

Ending drug prohibition, taxing and regulating drugs and spending tax dollars to treat addiction and dependency are the approaches that many of the world's industrialized countries are taking. Those approaches are ones that work.

David W. Fleming, a lawyer, is the chairman of the Los Angeles County Business Federation and immediate past chairman of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. James P. Gray is a judge of the Orange County Superior Court.
Truth this stark, presented in broad daylight, in the mainstream, by reputable citizens of some standing, is worth preserving because it happens so rarely.

Gorbachev to the Candidates On Warsocialism

There has been unusual interest throughout the world in the U.S. presidential race.

Skeptics, of whom there are quite a few, say the campaign is just a marathon show that has little to do with real policymaking. Even if there's a grain of truth in that, in an interdependent world the statements of the contenders for the White House are more than just rhetoric addressed to American voters.

Major policy problems today cannot be solved without America - and America cannot solve them alone.

Even the domestic problems of the United States are no longer purely internal. I am referring first of all to the economy. The problem of the huge U.S. budget deficit can be managed, for a time, by continuing to flood the world with "greenbacks," whose rate is declining along with the value of U.S. securities. But such a system cannot work forever.

Of course, the average American is not concerned with the complexities of global finance. But as I talk to ordinary Americans, and I visit the United States once or twice a year, I sense their anxiety about the state of the economy. The irony, they have said to me, is that the middle class felt little benefit from economic growth when the official indicators were pointing upward, but once the downturn started, it hit them immediately, and it hit them hard.

No one can offer a simple fix for America 's economic problems, but it is hard not to see their connection to U.S. foreign policies. Over the past eight years the rapid rise in military spending has been the main factor in increasing the federal budget deficit. The United States spends more money on the military today than at the height of the Cold War.

Yet no candidate has made that clear. "Defense spending" is a subject that seems to be surrounded by a wall of silence. But that wall will have to fall one day.
In yesterdays International Herald Tribune - From Russia with alarm, questions for the candidates. Obamamandius is challenged to become the least parochial, most broadly encompassing president in U.S. history. The singular nature of this challenge calls for a unique capacity to maintain that rorschachian quality onto which myriad folks project their interests and priorities and come out the other end with at least a little something they can articulate in their post hoc rationalization of the many things this administration will be called upon to do.

Foreign Rule

Federal officials say they are preparing to propose a series of regulatory changes to enhance American competitiveness overseas, attract foreign investment and give American investors a broader selection of foreign stocks.

But critics say the changes appear to be a last-ditch push by appointees of President Bush to dilute securities rules passed after the collapse of Enron and other large companies — measures that were meant to forestall accounting gimmicks and corrupt practices that led to those corporate failures.

Legal experts, some regulators and Democratic lawmakers are concerned that the changes would put American investors at the mercy of overseas regulators who enforce weaker rules and may treat investment losses as a low priority.

Foreign regulators are beyond the reach of Congress, which oversees American securities regulation through confirmation proceedings, enforcement hearings and approval of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s budget.

The commission is preparing a timetable that will permit American companies to shift to the international rules, which are set by a foreign organization and give companies greater latitude in reporting earnings. Companies that have used both domestic and overseas rules have, on average, been able to report revenues and earnings that were 6 percent to 8 percent higher under the international standards, according to accounting experts.

Though foreign accounting standards are stronger in some ways than American accounting principles, they are weaker in some important areas. They enable companies, for example, to provide fewer details about mortgage-backed securities, derivatives and other financial instruments at the center of today’s housing crisis and that have troubled many Wall Street firms, including Bear Stearns.
This is the most innocuous of all possible tellings of how the table is being set for additional, massive flight of capital flight from the ravaged carcass of the U.S. economy. Combined with the IMF audit of the Fed, to me, this looks like the writing on the wall that says there will be no imminent outbreak of WW-III bankruptcy and reorganization for the benefit of the U.S.. We will instead - I suspect - be left to our own pathetically attenuated devices. Read it and see what you think. Accounting Plan Would Allow Use of Foreign Rules

Gazzaniga on the Radio

Roger Sperry and Michael Gazzaniga have done yoeman's work shedding light on the structure and functions of the human brain. Tonight on Coast to Coast AM - he'll be interviewed by George Noory - who will hopefully prove himself up to the challenge and provide a stimulating counterpoint. The below from wikipedia as Gazzaniga's UCSB site is down this morning;
In 1961, Gazzaniga graduated from Dartmouth College. In 1964, he received a Ph.D. in psychobiology from the California Institute of Technology, where he worked under the guidance of Roger Sperry, with primary responsibility for initiating human split-brain research. In his subsequent work he has made important advances in our understanding of functional lateralization in the brain and how the cerebral hemispheres communicate with one another.

Gazzaniga's long and distinguished publication career includes many books accessible to a lay audience, such as The Social Brain, Mind Matters, and Nature's Mind. Works such as these, along with his participation in the public television specials The Brain and The Mind, have been instrumental in making information about brain function generally accessible to the public. He recently published The Cognitive Neurosciences III, from MIT Press, which features the work of nearly 200 scientists in 94 chapters and is recognized as the sourcebook for the field. His book The Ethical Brain was published by the Dana Press in June 2005.

Gazzaniga is well known for his teaching and mentoring, including beginning and developing Centers for Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of California, Davis and at Dartmouth College; supervising the work and encouraging the careers of many young scientists; and founding the Neuroscience Institute and the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, of which he is the Editor-in-Chief Emeritus.
The split brain and lateralization of brain function is one of the foundation stones of contemporary understanding of brain science.

Friday, July 04, 2008

The Greatest Stick-up in History

Naomi Klein in today's Guardian;
Several of the architects of the Iraq war no longer even bother to deny that oil was a major motivator for the invasion. On US National Public Radio's To the Point, Fadhil Chalabi, one of the primary Iraqi advisers to the Bush administration in the lead-up to the invasion, recently described the war as "a strategic move on the part of the United States of America and the UK to have a military presence in the Gulf in order to secure [oil] supplies in the future". Chalabi, who served as Iraq's oil undersecretary of state and met with the oil majors before the invasion, described this as "a primary objective".

Invading countries to seize their natural resources is illegal under the Geneva conventions. That means the huge task of rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure - including its oil infrastructure - is the financial responsibility of Iraq's invaders. They should be forced to pay reparations, just as Saddam Hussein's regime paid $9bn to Kuwait in reparations for its 1990 invasion. Instead, Iraq is being forced to sell 75% of its national patrimony to pay the bills for its own illegal invasion and occupation.
quoth Big Don - The lesson here is the importance of defensive/military strength. If you don't have *that*, you can lose everything. The MIC is the greatest thing America has going. Would you complain if that property you live on was successfully reclaimed by the remnants of the Native American tribes that originally possessed it...??

Energy Shortages

Energy Independence Day

Drill Here. Drill Now. Pay Less.

Facts about U.S. Oil and Natural Gas Resources Closed To Development:





* 38 Billion Barrels of U.S. Oil Resources Inaccessible.


* 1 Trillion Barrels of U.S. Oil Shale Illegal to Develop.

Research:

* Majority of Floridians Favor Increased Exploration for Oil and Natural Gas Off Florida’s Coasts

* Rasmussen: 67% Support Offshore Drilling, 64% Expect it Will Lower Prices

* New Poll: 81% of Americans Support Greater Use of Domestic Energy Resources

* 73% of the American people agree that with appropriate safeguards to protect the environment, we should drill for oil off America's coasts to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

* Get the Facts: Why a Drill Here, Drill Now Approach Will Help America Pay Less at the Pump

An America First Energy Plan

America First should be the rallying cry. We have the natural resources to become the Saudi Arabia of coal and the Saudi Arabia of oil. Lift the moratoriums. Stop attacking our own businesses. Put technology to work. Put venture capital to work, with rock-bottom capital-gains and corporate tax rates. Stop being mau-maued by the extremist greenies who have prevented energy production for over three decades. America First. Unleash our free-enterprise energy sector: 2 trillion barrels worth of shale; 90 billion barrels of offshore oil; at least 10 billion barrels up in ANWR and more throughout Alaska, both onshore and off.
(click the picture to read the townhall.com editorial - this is my 4th of July fair and balanced homage)

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Fed, Bend Over and Cough....,

From Der Spiegel, because you absolutely will not see this in the U.S. press.
The IMF's board of directors has ruled that a so-called Financial Sector Assessment Program (FSAP) is to be carried out in the United States. It is nothing less than an X-ray of the entire US financial system.

As part of the assessment, the Fed, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the major investment banks, mortgage banks and hedge funds will be asked to hand over confidential documents to the IMF team. They will be required to answer the questions they are asked during interviews. Their databases will be subjected to so-called stress tests -- worst-case scenarios designed to simulate the broader effects of failures of other major financial institutions or a continuing decline of the dollar.

Under its bylaws, the IMF is charged with the supervision of the international monetary system. Roughly two-thirds of IMF members -- but never the United States -- have already endured this painful procedure.

For seven years, US President George W. Bush refused to allow the IMF to conduct its assessment. Even now, he has only given the IMF board his consent under one important condition. The review can begin in Bush's last year in office, but it may not be completed until he has left the White House. This is bad news for the Fed chairman.

When the final report on the risks of the US financial system is released in 2010 -- and it is likely to cause a stir internationally -- only one of the people in positions of responsiblity today will still be in office: Ben Bernanke.
Now the IMF has the audacity to say that the Federal Reserve and the US government have cooked the books. The U.S. is about to be shown as the Enron of the international community. Do you remember what happened in the wake of the Enron meltdown? Those countries and companies holding US currency, bonds and loans will be trying to get rid of them just like the shareholders at Enron when it collapsed.

The Impact of Iowa Flooding

Moneyweek - Why floods could bring America to its knees;
A catastrophe for Iowa farmers will not be just a catastrophe for Midwestern Americans. In the Iowa floods, we’ll see more evidence of how the problems of weird weather (climate change) combine and ramify the problems associated with Peak Oil. In this particular case they lead to an inflection point sometime around the 2008 harvest season, which will also be our time of political harvest.

These are not your daddy’s or granddaddy’s floods. These are 500-year floods, events not seen before non-Indian people started living out on that stretch of the North American prairie. The vast majority of homeowners in Eastern Iowa did not have flood insurance because the likelihood of being affected above the 500-year-line was so miniscule — their insurance agents actually advised them against getting it.

The personal ruin out there will be comprehensive and profound, a wet version of the 1930s Dust Bowl, with families facing total loss and perhaps migrating elsewhere in the nation because they have no home to go back to.

Iowa in 2008 will be an even slower-motion disaster than Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Beyond the troubles of 25,000 people who have lost all their material possessions is a world whose grain reserves stand at record lows. The crop losses in Iowa will aggravate what is already a pretty dire situation. So far, the US public has experienced the world grain situation mainly in higher supermarket prices. [...]

Like a lot of other activities in American life these days, agribusiness is unreformable along its current lines. It will take a convulsion to change it, and in that convulsion it will be dragged kicking-and-screaming into a new reality. As that occurs, the US public will have to contend with more than just higher taco chip prices.
We’re heading into the Vale of Malthus — Thomas Robert Malthus, the British economist-philosopher who introduced the notion that eventually world population would overtake world food production capacity. Malthus has been scorned and ridiculed in recent decades, as fossil fuel-cranked farming allowed the global population to go vertical. Techno-triumphalist observers who should have known better attributed this to the “green revolution” of bio-engineering. Malthus is back now, along with his outriders: famine, pestilence, and war.

We’re headed, it seems, toward a fall 'crunch time', and that crunching sound will not be of cheese doodles and taco chips consumed on the sofas of America.
I think we’re heading into a season of hoarding. As the presidential campaign moves into its final round, Americans may be hard up for both food and gasoline. On the oil scene, the next event on the horizon is not just higher prices but shortages. Chances are they will occur first in the Southeast states because oil exports from Mexico and Venezuela feeding the Gulf of Mexico refineries are down more than 30% +over 2007.
Still holding out for truth and a plan of action from either of these two *candidates* for POTUS? You are on your own. Get ready.

Mexico in Uproar Over "Torture" Videos

Videos showing Leon police practicing torture techniques on a fellow officer and dragging another through vomit at the instruction of a U.S. adviser created an uproar Tuesday in Mexico, which has struggled to eliminate torture in law enforcement.

Two of the videos - broadcast by national television networks and displayed on newspaper Internet sites - showed what Leon city Police Chief Carlos Tornero described as training for an elite unit that must face "real-life, high-stress situations," such as kidnapping and torture by organized crime groups.

But many Mexicans saw a sinister side, especially at a moment when police and soldiers across the country are struggling with scandals over alleged abuses.

"They are teaching police ... to torture!" read the headline in the Mexico City newspaper Reforma. Full Monty at Forbes.com.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Not Your Grandma's Depression

James Howard Kunstler says what neither presidential candidate is willing to say;
We're a very different country than we were in 1932. In that earlier crisis of capital, few people had any money but our society still possessed fantastic resources. We had plenty of everything that our land could provide: a treasure trove of mineral ores and the equipment to refine it all, a wealth of oil and gas still in the ground, and all the rigs needed to get at it, manpower galore (and of a highly disciplined, regimented kind), with fine-tuned factories waiting for orders. We had a railroad system that was the envy of the world and millions of family farms (even despite the dust bowl) owned by people who retained age-old skills not yet degraded by agribusiness. We had fully-functional cities with operating waterfronts and ten thousand small towns with local economies, local newspapers, and local culture.
That was then, this is now;

the upshot will be something at least twice as bad as the Great Depression of the 1930s: people with no money in a land with no resources (with manpower that has no discipline), hardly any family farms left, cities that are basket-cases of bottomless need, comatose small towns stripped of their assets and social capital, an aviation industry on the verge of death, and a railroad system that is the laughingstock of the world. Not to mention the mind-boggling liabilities of suburbia and the motoring infrastructure that services it.
Promises to be a very wild ride indeed. Oh yeah, those are current pictures from the tent city in Ontario California.....,

Meanwhile, back at the ranch.....,

While it won't do a thing to strengthen that dollar, US politicians find ways to play on racial fears;
Andra Gillespie, an Emory University political scientist, said candidates in the U.S. have long played to people's fears and biases, but they're now using more subtle methods than politicians did in the days of the Dixiecrats, the Southern segregationists who split from the Democratic Party in the mid-1960s.

"You cannot be blatantly racist anymore," Gillespie said.

She said politicians now use tactics described by Princeton University political scientist Tali Mendelberg in her 2001 book, "The Race Card: Campaign Strategy, Implicit Messages and the Norm of Equality."

Mendelberg wrote about the use of images and buzz words to appeal to people's subconscious ideas about race. She called this "implicit priming."

"You're basically winking as you say 'antibusing' or 'law and order' — or 'welfare queens' as Ronald Reagan did in the 1980s," Gillespie said. "If you can sort of tap into those internal prejudices ... you can have the same effect as if you straight up use the N-word."
The more things change, the more they stay the same...., (p.s., I used the Vernon Robinson ad to illustrate this because it is the quintessential example of the art)

Iran says OPEC can't do much to cool oil prices

From the Sahara Samay;
Iran, the world's second largest oil exporter, today said it was "not happy" with the spurt in oil prices to a record high of USD 142 a barrel but said the cartel OPEC could not do much to cool the rates.

"Even we as (oil) producers are not happy with the (current) prices," Iran Oil Minister Gholam-Hossein Nozari said on the sidelines of the 19th World Petroleum Congress here.

Blaming the volatility in global crude prices to the weakening of US dollar against euro, he said the rise in demand in China and India had nothing to do with the spurt in prices.

"We have never said that the rise in demand in China and India is causing rise in prices. We do not subscribe to that," he said.
"I have always insisted that the spectacular rise is due to devaluation of dollar."

Besides, speculators have added to the rise, he said but could not quantify as what amount of the current prices had been a result of pure speculation.

"The market is well supplied," Nozari said.
"To a large extent, the increase in price is due to the weakening of the dollar."

The OPEC's second largest oil exporter did not see prices cooling down in near future. "May be it may rise further (than OPEC President Chakib Khelils prediction at USD 170 a barrel this summer)."

"OPEC can't do much about it (rising prices)," he said. Meanwhile, Khalil addressing the WPC today said OPEC was concerned that future demand for oil might not be strong enough to justify investment to boost oil production.
So now the question redounds to What can America do to curb the weakness of the dollar?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

NPR Disinformation

I listened to this story this morning while taking my daughter to sports conditioning. All during the broadcast, I was deeply intrigued by the apparent need to lie. Why the narrative imperative to mislead the public in light of the fact that the USAF has already taken its decision on what next vis a vis meeting its exorbitant thirst for fuel?
The Defense Department is the government's largest consumer of petroleum products, like gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.

And if it costs $100 to fill up an SUV, just imagine what it takes to gas up a stealth bomber.

The Air Force is the biggest user of fuel, consuming 71 percent of the military's gallons. Those huge aircraft that transport personnel and equipment all over the world are not economy boxes. Take the C-5 Galaxy, which can carry 135 tons: It gets .07 miles per gallon.

And the armies on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan aren't driving hybrids. In Iraq alone, the military burns more than a million and a half gallons a day.

Lt. Col. Brian Maka puts the Pentagon's fuel expenses in perspective. "Generally, a $1 increase in the price of a barrel of oil on the open market translates into an increase for the whole department of $130 million," Maka says.

Over the last six months, oil prices have increased by roughly $50 a barrel. Naturally, that translates into a huge spending increase.

The Defense Department prepares its budget 18 months in advance and had no way of predicting that oil prices would increase this much in such a short period of time.

"The implication of that is since these fuel costs go into our ... operations and maintenance budgets, those are going to be the budgets that are hit the hardest," says Dov Zakheim, a former controller for the Defense Department. "The problem is that those are the very same budgets that are ... paying for our operations in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. So it's kind of a vicious circle, and a very, very difficult one to deal with."

And it's probably not going to get any better any time soon.

"We anticipate over the next three months that the increase in fuel costs for the department [will be] $1.2 billion," Maka says, adding that the Defense Department will likely have to go back to Congress to ask for additional funding.

In Congress, several senators have proposed that Iraq should start paying for some of the military's fuel costs because of its large oil reserves.

But Zakheim says he doesn't think that's going anywhere.

"I'm just not sure that the Iraqi government would respond the way we might hope them to," he says.

Instead, Zakheim thinks the Pentagon will throw its considerable research and development resources into finding alternative fuels.

"My guess is that we are going to see something like other cases in the past where the Pentagon forged ahead in the science and technology world because it was impelled to do so," he says. "After all, the Internet did start with the Pentagon."

But that kind of research and development takes time. Meanwhile, the meter is still running — faster and faster.
Why is the public message at odds with the actual intentions released not too long ago into the public domain? Or, is this the USAF's way of gradually socializing coal gasification as the shape of things to come on both the mission and the domestic energy production fronts?

Back to the Great Depression

The UK Times Online had the temerity to post this article with a question mark.
“Some of it is clearly to do with the oil price but essentially what we are seeing is a slow-motion car crash,” said George Magnus, senior economic adviser at UBS.

“The first act was the housing market, the second act was the credit crunch, and what we are now seeing in this third act is the bigger picture of a downturn that has a long way to run.”

Few are gloomier about that prospect than Albert Edwards, strategist at Société Générale in London. “America is leading the way, diving into deep recession as a collapse in consumer confidence induces the great unwind,” he said. Edwards compares the economy with a pyramid scheme that is poised to crash to earth and interest-rate changes can do nothing to avert it.

He thinks Wall Street and the other main markets have a lot further to drop, and will end up 70% below the peaks of last year. That would imply a level of just 500 for the S&P 500, which was at 1,280 on Friday, and 4,500 for the Dow, compared with Friday’s closing level of 11,346.

The FTSE 100, which closed at 5,530 on Friday, will plunge to 3,000, he predicts. The good news is that he expects the oil price, which was above $142 on Friday, to slump to $60 a barrel. The bad news is that he sees this occurring as a result of “deep” recession in the advanced economies and a sharp slowdown in emerging markets.
“The last time loan losses were at these levels was 1934,” he added. “I don’t believe we are going back to a 1930s environment with people living in tents.” That's because people nowadays lack the gumption and knowhow to pitch a simple tent to protect themselves from the elements and to survive. The 1930's environment was rife with folks who had initiative, knowhow, basic survival skills, and some semblance of community to which to turn in the face of systemic governance catastrophe.

Flat, Hot, and Crowded.....,


Thomas Friedman is such a ridiculous windbag. It's pretty clear that his Flat World puffery is out the window and one wonders why the Times/IHT would even trouble itself to publish anymore of his preposterous chindribble. Reading him three days late and three dollars short is a hoot;
I continue to be appalled at the gap between what is clearly going to be the next great global industry - renewable energy and clean power - and the inability of Congress and the administration to put in place the bold policies we need to ensure that America leads that industry.[...]If the old saying - that "as General Motors goes, so goes America" - is true, then folks, we're in a lot of trouble. General Motors' stock-market value now stands at just $6.47 billion, compared with Toyota's $162.6 billion. On top of it, GM shares sank to a 34-year low last week.

That's us. We're at a 34-year low. And digging out of this hole is what the next election has to be about and is going to be about - even if it is interrupted by a terrorist attack or an outbreak of war or peace in Iraq. We need nation-building at home, and we cannot wait another year to get started. Vote for the candidate who you think will do that best. Nothing else matters.
I continue to be appalled that a pompous gasbag incapable of seeing the writing on the wall years ago that spelled the end of the era of cheap energy and globalization is still permitted to write about anything of consequence in public. When in the same paper we find the following treatment of increasing global balkanization and contraction;
“People are in a panic, so they are buying more and more — at least, those who have money are buying,” said Conching Vasquez, a 56-year-old rice vendor who sat one recent morning among piles of rice at her large stall in Los Baños, in the Philippines, the world’s largest rice importer. Her customers buy 8,000 pounds of rice a day, up from 5,500 pounds a year ago.

The new restrictions are just an acute symptom of a chronic condition. Since 1980, even as trade in services and in manufactured goods has tripled, adjusting for inflation, trade in food has barely increased. Instead, for decades, food has been a convoluted tangle of restrictive rules, in the form of tariffs, quotas and subsidies.

Now, with Australia’s farm sector crippled by drought and Argentina suffering a series of strikes and other disruptions, the world is increasingly dependent on a handful of countries like Thailand, Brazil, Canada and the United States that are still exporting large quantities of food.
The Food Chain Hoarding Nations Drive Food Costs Ever Higher

Uh Oh......,

No special oil deal for the big'uns...,
Iraq is still negotiating with Shell, BP, ExxonMobil, Chevron and Total, and a consortium of other smaller oil companies, to develop six oil blocks and two gas fields, Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani told a press briefing.

"We did not finalise any agreement with them because they refused to offer consultancy based on fees as they wanted a share of the oil," he said.
Add that to no special 30 year leases, and this whole war for oil adventure has degenerated into an abject failure of epic proportions.

Amid concerns about foreign firms reaping huge financial rewards, Baghdad said the successful firms would have to have an Iraqi partner and give 25% of the value of contracts to locally owned firms.

The BBC's Nicholas Witchell in Baghdad said the move was highly significant since it paved the way for large foreign firms to re-enter a market they have been effectively barred from since Saddam Hussein nationalised Iraq's main oil company in 1972.

"It is not possible for Iraq, which has large oil reserves, to stay at the current level of production," said oil minister Hussain al-Shahristani.

"Iraq should be the second or third source of oil exportation."

Iraq's courting of foreign investment is at an early stage but has already attracted controversy due to claims that some contracts might be awarded without competitive bids.

Troubling National Sovereignty....,

U.S. Advised Iraqi Ministry on Oil Deals;
A group of American advisers led by a small State Department team played an integral part in drawing up contracts between the Iraqi government and five major Western oil companies to develop some of the largest fields in Iraq, American officials say.

The disclosure, coming on the eve of the contracts’ announcement, is the first confirmation of direct involvement by the Bush administration in deals to open Iraq’s oil to commercial development and is likely to stoke criticism.

In their role as advisers to the Iraqi Oil Ministry, American government lawyers and private-sector consultants provided template contracts and detailed suggestions on drafting the contracts, advisers and a senior State Department official said.

It is unclear how much influence their work had on the ministry’s decisions.

The advisers — who, along with the diplomatic official, spoke on condition of anonymity — say that their involvement was only to help an understaffed Iraqi ministry with technical and legal details of the contracts and that they in no way helped choose which companies got the deals.

Repeated calls to the Oil Ministry’s press office for comment were not returned.

At a time of spiraling oil prices, the no-bid contracts, in a country with some of the world’s largest untapped fields and potential for vast profits, are a rare prize to the industry. The contracts are expected to be awarded Monday to Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP, Total and Chevron, as well as to several smaller oil companies.

The deals have been criticized by opponents of the Iraq war, who accuse the Bush administration of working behind the scenes to ensure Western access to Iraqi oil fields even as most other oil-exporting countries have been sharply limiting the roles of international oil companies in development.

For its part, the administration has repeatedly denied steering the Iraqis toward decisions. “Iraq is a sovereign country, and it can make decisions based on how it feels that it wants to move forward in its development of its oil resources,” said Dana Perino, the White House spokeswoman.
Guess there'll have to be some recalibration on the viability and legitimacy of that Maliki gub'mint....,