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Monday, January 31, 2005

Statistics + Innumeracy

Tom Tomorrow belittles Instapundit's misguided humor:
IS THIS A GREAT COUNTRY, OR WHAT? Our drunks are more lethal than their insurgents.

This enigmatic little entry links, in turn, to a blogger who notes:
Number of people killed in Iraq on election day: 35 (source: The New York Times, 1/31/05)

Average number of Americans killed daily by drunk drivers: 47 (source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2003 data)

with this:
It's been more than ten years since I got a phone call late one Friday night: my mother's car had been rear ended by a speeding drunk, sent rolling down an embankment, killing her instantly. She was 55--twelve years older than I am today.

Of course I hate cars. I hate drunk drivers even more. And I plain pity the innumerate lawyer quoting those statistics. If Tom wanted to pile on, all he would have to do is point out that Iraq's population is 22 million; to properly pro-rate the election day carnage multiply the 35 by at least 10.

Prof. Glenn Reynolds, the gun worshipper, would have to add all the daily USA gun fatalities to take up the slack. And he would still be proud.

Like I said, pitiful.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Vulture Capitalists

A couple of venture capitalists, Peter Huber and Mark Mills, have written an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal Online (subscription here and cached here) arguing that conventional oil depletion will lead us to alternative non-conventional oil sources as soon as the market finds them cost effective. The scary thing is that the authors are not only venture capitalists but also a PhD in Mechanical Engineering and a physicist, respectively.

Maybe we should contact the schools the authors went to so we can ask to have their degrees retracted? I say that because what follows is my sentence-by-sentence deconstruction of the entire article. I count a couple of truthful assertions in the entire commentary. Not a good batting average for engineering.

Oil, Oil, Everywhere

January 27, 2005; Page A13

The price of oil remains high only because the cost of oil remains so low.
A meaningless misleading statement. One could even more truthfully state the tautology "The price of oil remains high only because the cost of oil remains so high.", and contradict the premise. Utterly vacuous.
We remain dependent on oil from the Mideast not because the planet is running out of buried hydrocarbons, but because extracting oil from the deserts of the Persian Gulf is so easy and cheap that it's risky to invest capital to extract somewhat more stubborn oil from far larger deposits in Alberta.
Again misleading. That stubborn oil in Canada they refer to is tar sands. Tar sands contains oil much like Wolfowitz's hair contains oil, i.e. it takes a lot of spit and polish to extract it.

The market price of oil is indeed hovering up around $50-a-barrel on the spot market.
One correct, sirs.
But getting oil to the surface currently costs under $5 a barrel in Saudi Arabia, with the global average cost certainly under $15.
And what about global transportation costs, etc.?
And with technology already well in hand, the cost of sucking oil out of the planet we occupy simply will not rise above roughly $30 per barrel for the next 100 years at least.
Unfortunately, these two never mention EROEI (energy returned on energy invested). At some point, you have to consider more than monetary cost. Energy to extract costs money, and if that energy exceeds the energy gained, BYE-BYE. Cheap slave labor does not count (although I wouldn't put it past them)

The cost of oil comes down to the cost of finding, and then lifting or extracting.
Plus transporting, plus refining, plus security (i.e. terrorism), plus ad nauseum.
First, you have to decide where to dig.
Pedantic. ... life started as single celled organisms, then dinosaurs appeared -- from these humble beginnings we eventually arrived at the brilliance of William Shakespeare ....
Exploration costs currently run under $3 per barrel in much of the Mideast, and below $7 for oil hidden deep under the ocean.
Which of course does not include the cost of exploration for oil that is not found, which will continue to increase as we deplete more and more oil.
But these costs have been falling, not rising, because imaging technology that lets geologists peer through miles of water and rock improves faster than supplies recede.
WTF. The units of imaging technology (in Einsteins?) do not match the units of supplies (in Barrels). These guys have engineering degrees?
Many lower-grade deposits require no new looking at all.
Yeah, like recycling the oily rags in the alley behind the Jiffy Lube. Low grade, sure, but right under our noses!

To pick just one example among many, finding costs are essentially zero for the 3.5 trillion barrels of oil that soak the clay in the Orinoco basin in Venezuela, and the Athabasca tar sands in Alberta, Canada.
You know what? You can extract an ounce of gold from a 10x10x10 yard cube of earth if you care to try that as well (numbers from Learn more about Precious Metals!).
Yes, that's trillion -- over a century's worth of global supply, at the current 30-billion-barrel-a-year rate of consumption.
No, you knuckleheads. You have to consider the EROEI costs of extraction first. You may end up using up a lot of energy (likely oil) to get at this "supply".

Then you have to get the oil out of the sand -- or the sand out of the oil.
Like I just said: a false premise.
In the Mideast, current lifting costs run $1 to $2.50 per barrel at the very most; lifting costs in Iraq probably run closer to 50 cents, though OPEC strains not to publicize any such embarrassingly low numbers.
The Iraq cost must be hypothetical -- as in we own it.
For the most expensive offshore platforms in the North Sea, lifting costs (capital investment plus operating costs) currently run comfortably south of $15 per barrel.
Bad move, you did realize that North Sea oil has peaked?
Tar sands, by contrast, are simply strip mined, like western coal, and that's very cheap -- but then you spend another $10, or maybe $15, separating the oil from the dirt.
Is that $10-15 in hard labor? No. It is the cost of energy -- it's the EROEI, stupid.
To do that, oil or gas extracted from the site itself is burned to heat water, which is then used to "crack" the bitumen from the clay; the bitumen is then chemically split to produce lighter petroleum.
Such simplicity: use energy to create energy from the energy that you have recovered from using energy that you have recovered from.... Brilliant. In the blurb to their book on Amazon.com, we find the reference to this line "[f]uels recede, demand grows... but logic ascends, and with the rise of logic we attain the impossible--infinite energy, perpetual motion and the triumph of power." How could MechEng PhD Huber advocate perpetual motion?

In sum, it costs under $5 per barrel to pump oil out from under the sand in Iraq, and about $15 to melt it out of the sand in Alberta.
Melt as in smelt? Alberta, meet the closed taconite mines of northern Minnesota, and the energy-and-water expensive technique know as iron smelting..
So why don't we just learn to love hockey and shop Canadian?
No problem, as the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame is on the iron range of northern Minnesota. Heck, unemployed iron-rangers would move, fishing's better north of the border anyways.
Conventional Canadian wells already supply us with more oil than Saudi Arabia, and the Canadian tar is now delivering, too.
News flash: Canada has peaked in conventional oil extraction. In any case, sliding the minimal tar sands output into the argument is pure marketing B.S.
The $5 billion (U.S.) Athabasca Oil Sands Project that Shell and ChevronTexaco opened in Alberta last year is now pumping 155,000 barrels per day.
Which if it all went to the US, would provide less than 1% of our consumption needs.
And to our south, Venezuela's Orinoco Belt yields 500,000 barrels daily.
Not tar sands, but extra-heavy crude. Guys, why the deception?

But here's the catch: By simply opening up its spigots for a few years, Saudi Arabia could, in short order, force a complete write-off of the huge capital investments in Athabasca and Orinoco.
And Microsoft can engage in monopolistic practices as well. So? Plus, the premise is hypothetical; no one knows if Saudi Arabia can increase output.
Investing billions in tar-sand refineries is risky not because getting oil out of Alberta is especially difficult or expensive, but because getting oil out of Arabia is so easy and cheap.
Two correct, sirs.
Oil prices gyrate and occasionally spike -- both up and down -- not because oil is scarce, but because it's so abundant in places where good government is scarce.
No, prices fluctuate wildly when reserves are tight. See the problems of the silver market for an introduction to this behavior.
Investing $5 billion dollars over five years to build a new tar-sand refinery in Alberta is indeed risky when a second cousin of Osama bin Laden can knock $20 off the price of oil with an idle wave of his hand on any given day in Riyadh.
But I thought you said that we currently get more of our oil from Canada than from Saudi Arabia, right? And this situation applied before last year's huge oil price increase? Most depletion analysts don't buy this possibility anyways. As Rumsfeld would say: "It's the physics". As I would say: "It's the physics of EROEI, stupid".

The one consolation is that Arabia faces a quandary of its own.
As in Middle-East terrorism?
Once the offshore platform has been deployed in the North Sea, once the humongous crock pot is up and cooking in Alberta, its cost is sunk.
I guess they weren't referring to terrorism.
The original investors may never recover their capital, but after it has been written off, somebody can go ahead and produce oil very profitably going forward.
Sounds like a good economic plan -- hope for someone (the original investors) to fail first. Then let the vultures take over. Yea, that's the ticket.
And capital costs are going to keep falling, because the cost of a tar-sand refinery depends on technology, and technology costs always fall.
Not if technology costs are related to energy costs. Something these dimwits are not willing to admit.
Bacteria, for example, have already been successfully bioengineered to crack heavy oil molecules to help clean up oil spills, and to mine low-grade copper; bugs could likewise end up trampling out the vintage where the Albertan oil is stored.
The grand prize in stupidity. It took millions and millions of years of bacteria and algae activity to generate our current fossil fuel supply. Delusional thinking to expect bioengineering to provide an overnight solution.

In the short term anything remains possible.
Monkeys can fly out of my butt (according to Heisenberg).
Demand for oil grows daily in China and India, where good government is finally taking root, while much of the earth's most accessible oil lies under land controlled by feudal theocracies, kleptocrats, and fanatics.
And how does either premise advance your argument?
Day by day, just as it should, the market attempts to incorporate these two antithetical realities into the spot price of crude.
As far as ambiguous economic theory goes. Three correct, sirs.
But to suppose that those prices foreshadow the exhaustion of the planet itself is silly.
No oil analyst ever used the price of oil to foreshadow geological depletion.

The cost of extracting oil from the earth has not gone up over the past century, it has held remarkably steady.
Idiotic statement. Those oil platforms in the North Sea -- chump change.
Going forward, over the longer term, it may rise very gradually, but certainly not fast.
Ambiguous weasel words, what is gradual? what is fast?
The earth is far bigger than people think, the untapped deposits are huge, and the technologies for separating oil from planet keep getting better.
More qualitatively ambiguous weasel words.
U.S. oil policy should be to promote new capital investment in the United States, Canada, and other oil-producing countries that are politically stable, and promote stable government in those that aren't.
Apparently the new-and-improved Neo-Con agenda (more here).

Messrs. Huber and Mills are co-authors of "The Bottomless Well: The Twilight Of Fuel, The Virtue Of Waste, And Why We Will Never Run Out Of Energy," just out from Basic Books.
Basic Books? How about Kindergarten Cut-and-Paste?

Thursday, January 27, 2005

That is wild, weird stuff. I did not know that.

Only after reading the tributes to Johnny Carson did I realize how few scientists have appeared on network TV since he retired. I seem to recall many episodes with astronomer Carl Sagan; the two of them seemingly genuinely interested in whatever milquetoast (in retrospect) topic that had current relevance. I suppose all the slack today is being taken up by second stringers willing to appear on Art Bell radio broadcasts.

   Steve Martin
Your Nebraskan pragmatism - and knowledge of the magician's tricks - tilted you toward the sciences, especially astronomy. (Maybe this is why the occultists, future predictors, spoon-benders or mind readers on your show never left without having been challenged.)
His whole "Carnac" act apparently went beyond mocking fortune tellers.

   Richard Roeper
In the year 2000, Carson made more than $1 million in charitable donations, including $100,000 to the James Randi Education Foundation of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. James Randi is better known as the Amazing Randi. He's the professional debunker (and occasional "Tonight Show" guest) who has a standing offer of $1 million to anyone who can prove the occurrence of a paranormal, supernatural or occult event.

Apparently, Carson had such little tolerance for hucksterism that he sent Randi a six-figure check just a couple of years ago.


Update: Archived audio of a Carson interview with Gore Vidal from 1981. No longer does this kind of interview happen with any kind of regularity on broadcast TV. When it does occur, ala Gore Vidal on Susan Sarandon's Late-Late-Show guest-hosting stint, people get their panties in a bunch

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Starkness on the Edge of Town

Why does black & white photography capture dread so well?

Bouphonia on land use:
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TheCorrection on resource use:
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Jogged Universe

Pictures taken during a winter run:
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A person of apparently some fractional significance is honored by naming a street underpass after him. The next picture comes from the vantage point of the unnamed pedestrian crosswalk adjacent to the vaunted train trestle.
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Image Hosted by ImageShack.usI vote to name the pedestrian crosswalk in honor of a clever cocker spaniel.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The Ponies

With winter not yet over, the beast has awakened from his oil industry hibernation:
Most the international oil companies (Exxon, BP, Shell, Chevron-Texaco, Total, Repsol) are following a strategy stupidly termed "capital discipline". I call it "scared shitless to make a business decision". The people running these companies are what I would call "Holocaust Survivors". They grew up in the oil industry in the late 70's and early 80's when the price of oil was soaring and the oil industry was drenched in cash. Then in the mid to late 80's the bottom dropped out of the price of oil. This low price world lasted for about 15 years. Then around 2000 things started to change again for fundamental reasons - namely that the world's thirst for oil is exceeding the available supply. Most major energy companies are continuing to invest as if the price of oil will never exceed the mid $20's. The 15 years these guys spent wandering in wilderness of low prices has shell shocked them into a mindset that they can't get out of. The first one of the major companies that breaks with the pack and starts investing for a $50/bbl world is going to make a killing.

Sometimes my job in the oil industry feels like shopping in a Soviet Safeway. You are hungry, your pocket is full of rubles, but there is nothing to speak of on the shelves. And what there is doesn't look very fresh or appetizing. But since we all have to eat we buy the crap that's on the shelves and convince ourselves that it really is much better than it first looked.
Sounds like the oil suits may continue to bet the farm on a "system" that echoes every (LasVegas | StockBrokering | LottoPlaying) gambler's rationalization. Gar-un-teed. The long-term visionaries may try something different. Yet, since investment involves gambling, even the new strategies have no guarantee.

"It was sad to it watch unfold to the bitter end. They'd churn their account into dust, chasing that initial success, running after the high that inexorably comes with making easy money. The tragic comedy was that such a trader would keep doing whatever arcane stupid shit they were doing, even in the face of sustained, consecutive losses, because they ardently believed in their 'system'. They'd been variably conditioned, Las Vegas style, to pursue that ghostly, fleeting, reward. Like a clueless gambling addict who believes they have finally discovered a way to beat the house, they were convinced, even as their trading losses mounted, that sooner or later the system would kick in, and their fortunes would reverse. So they'd keep priming the trading strategy with cash, with loans on credit cards, with the college savings earmarked for children, and even with their safe money, until they lost a good chunk of their net worth, or until an angry spouse would catch wind of what was going on and shut them down."
"And thus was born the neocons 'system'. Use of lightning fast, small elite military units backed by airpower to dislodge uncooperative regimes, free market policies installed rapidly in the vacuum thus created, and an atmosphere which would encourage business, free trade, and middle-class consumerism would emerge as a matter of course. This would produce democratic, US-friendly, nations. And so, any conduct which might be a bit duplicitous, could be excused in the pursuit (of) their lofty, noble, goal."

Oil Depletion Marginalization

Two premises to consider:
  1. When oil is cheap, people become wealthy
  2. When oil is expensive, people become wealthy
No one can, or really should, challenge the first premise. The current global economy revolves around the concept of cheap oil. And certainly, at least in the short term, some select group will benefit by scarce expensive oil, thereby justifying premise and conclusion #2.

Unfortunately, largely because of the second premise, oil depletion alarmists such as Matt Simmons can leave the wrong impression on many an enquiring, suspicious mind.

As a case in point, arguments put forward from the re Searched blog suggest that we look more closely to ulterior motivations of "peak oilers":
First off, in disputing the peak oil platform, I am not disputing the role oil had in the war in Iraq. Nor am I disputing the need for renewable energy-on the contrary. Global warming is a real threat to our future. The more we focus on the end-time ramblings of diminishing resources, we are turning a blind eye to the damage being done to our planet in the imperialistic race to seize these resources. Frequently, I have seen the peak oil "experts" incorporate population control into their lengthy discussion on diminishing resources, which is a potentially controversial approach to this environmental crisis . Part of the controversy here is that the heads of oil companies are the ones funding the "population at crisis levels" message and this is the message that the left uses to support the peak oil platform. Strange bedfellows, one might say. Even stranger, when you consider that a few of these "experts" also profit off of 9/11 conspiracy theory.
Lots of links embedded here that I have stripped out; read the original posts to get a flavor of the references. Seriously, this line of reasoning can get tangled up in complex conspiracy and counter-conspiracy threads. The conspirators chearleaded by Michael C. Ruppert of FromTheWilderness.com and the counter brow-beating supplied by the Dave McGowan one-man spittle crew.

Not that I agree completely with Ruppert, who has to his credit, alerted quite a few people to oil depletion issues based on his "tin-foil hattie" theories around 9-11. It's just that complex theories often can get deconstructed by simply summoning the obvious ulterior-motivated questions. For example, the standard framed argument of "governments always lie" can be used to refute or support any side of an argument.
  1. Saudi Arabia reports new proven reserves (False, governments lie)

  2. United States has essentially used up all its oil resources (False, governments lie)
So in fact, no matter how objective the proof, hackles of suspicion always accompany every argument that comes down the pike.

The goal of oil depletion analyses, and "Peak" theories in general, has historically been to simply estimate when the effects will take place. Unfortunately, those seeking to marginalize depletion, such as the Abiotic followers to the right and the Big Brother worriers to the left, need extra consideration. So here's some simple advice:
The RightThe Left
ignore at no riskuse facts and reason

Monday, January 24, 2005

Which one is a fluke?

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[suitable for framing]

Inspired by Outposts of Empire; Power, Petropolitics and "The Great Game" (tip from ~DS~)

Hide in Blame Sight

But wasn't Saddam Hussein hiding in a spider hole?
Asked why the administration has so far failed to locate Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks, Bush said, "Because he's hiding."
Probably just practicing for the eventual question -- Why haven't we found all the oil we need? "Because it's hiding."

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Menopause and the NeoCondition

Some consider David Gelernter a god of the CompSci world. God in the sense of showing all-around brilliance in advancing the state-of-the-art and providing visionary insights into the future of computing. His big claim to fame came in the parallel processing arena via the Linda project, where he tried to educate everyone on the concept of "tuple"-space. I never really understood the significance of this; tell anyone else what a "tuple" is and the best explanation to offer is to say they are "arguments" or "parameters" passed between concurrent applications. No big whoop in my opinion. Yet surprisingly, a cleverly coined term can do wonders for a reputation.

Gelernter also escaped from the evil clutches of the UnaBomber. This evidently counts for something in a Warhol-ian sense.

But he ain't a Chomsky when it comes to transferring heavyweight technical credentials to the general purpose intellectualizing sphere of influence. Evidently a right winger, as he regularly rights for The Weekly Standard, his essay on "Americanism - and it's Enemies" makes no logical sense to me. For that quality alone, it remains a fascinating character study on how technical minds can misfire. Kind of like understanding Michael Crichton, but in a non-Hollywood-tech-geek sense.

Gelernter's essay tries to relate traditional Puritanism to current day Americanism, claiming direct lineage between the two.

Given that Gelernter considers software his expertise, he should know enough not to start parsing the Bible to back up his arguments. As a software engineer colleague once said to my group, "This here technical document is like the Bible; it can mean anything to anyone." We call those things in the software world, "ambiguous requirements" or "ambiguous specifications" depending on where in the software life-cycle you sit. Don't go near that stuff with a 10-foot pole if you can help it. On the other hand, if you must use an ambiguous document, you might as well just start making crap up. The point to remember with this attitude -- bet the farm that either (1) the customer does not know what he wants or (2) consider him gullible.

I found his use of a "tuple"-like word very revealing. The word "climacteric" shows up in his essay to indicate key turning points in his argument (apparently once used by Winston Churchill during WWII). However, according to the hyperdictionary, we find current usage for climacteric:


1. [n] the time in a woman's life in which the menstrual cycle ends
2. [n] a period in a man's life corresponding to menopause

In the end, Gelernter shows us the technical road to becoming a neocon:
  1. Show Reputation and Credibility: Skills in techno-speak
  2. Show Integrity: Overcome Vietnam-era protest mindset and survive the UnaBomber
  3. Induce Gullibility: Write tripe

For a much better read on Puritanism in our current culture, seek out George Monbiot's Guardian essay, Religion of the Rich.
So why has this ideology resurfaced in 2004? Because it has to. The enrichment of the elite and impoverishment of the lower classes requires a justifying ideology if it is to be sustained. In the United States this ideology has to be a religious one. Bush’s government is forced back to the doctrines of Puritanism as an historical necessity. If we are to understand what it’s up to, we must look not to the 1930s, but to the 1630s.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

I'm Not Dead ... Yet

You talkin' to me?

Which begs the follow-up question to the previous post: Why does the ESA hate NASA?

Methane /= Abiotic

Floridian ~DS~ live-probed an interesting narrative of the Huygen's descent into the atmosphere of Saturn's Titan on the Inscrutable site.

Of course, as the European Space Agency largely spearheaded this collaborative mission, it hasn't received the vast publicity in the states that a NASA-led project would have (insert American ego here). Considering the Old Europe source, I am not surprised to learn that the code on-board the Huygen's probe was actually software engineered. Not to imply that NASA is completely overrun by hackers (source to an amazingly well-structured open-source robotics library package by NASA/Goddard's Stephe Leake is here), just that ESA has historically had a good track record of sticking to sound software development and defensive programming practices1 . NASA, JPL, and their brethren have taken the route of fixing everything by debugging en-route, ala the Mars Pathfinder. Likely the result of the fallout from former NASA head Goldin's faster, cheaper, better initiative from several years ago, most of the recent NASA missions have been either outright disasters (here) or successes clouded by extremely embarrassing glitches (at least to real-time software types like yours truly).

But that's just the nuts and bolts. The ulterior motive for the missions remains to expand human knowledge. Or as the science marketing guys would cliche spew, "to do good science".

So we get some seriously puzzling news reporting from the event and subsequent data crunching. This article (Methane Rain, River Beds Found on Titan) makes little sense to me. Apparently it drove a poster at the peakoil.com news site to proclaim that the methane discovered may support the chestnut Abiotic Theory.
I know that the Abiotic theory is considered false by most Peakers, however:
 ...blah blah...
Why limit this to Peakers? Is a geologist a Peaker? Would a geologist care to pursue every wacky theory that comes down the pike?

The "aliens manufacture the Earth's twinkies" theory is also considered false by most sane people. However, it wouldn't be hard to convince at least a few rubes to its authenticity.

That article is a crock, let's parse it:

  Scientists believe methane gas breaks up in Titan's atmosphere, forming smog clouds that then rain methane down to the surface.

  "We've got a flammable world, and it's quite extraordinary," said Toby Owen, a scientist from Honolulu's Institute for Astronomy.

OK, so the article says the methane recirculates back to the surface.

  But unlike Earth, where water constantly circulates back into the atmosphere, Titan's methane never evaporates back into airborne smog.

OK, so the article says the methane does not recirculate back to the atmosphere.

  "There must be some source of methane inside Titan which is releasing the gas into the atmosphere. It has to be continually renewed, otherwise it would have all disappeared," said Owen.

OK, so the article says the methane does circulate to the atmosphere.

Logically contradicting itself TWICE in the span of 3 sentences.

The article does lead with Methane as being the carbon variation of Earth's water (H20), a covalent bonding with hydrogen. But with the ridiculously confusing argument put forth, one can ask: why doesn't all the water disappear from the earth? This is utter crap science reporting.

As to the reputation that methane gets as being solely an abiotic agent, these clueless idiots have been smelling their own flatulence for far too long. Remember that CO2 is also abiotic by that same logic. To the Abio-idiots, take a breath mint and some Beano© and stay the hell away from those of us interested in "good science".

1 ESA's Ariane-5 explosion notwithstanding

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Silent Protest

Notes: Washington D.C. - 1/20/2005 - Imperialistic Puritanism codified

On this day, Inauguration Day, I combined Gasoline Boycott Day and Not One Damn Die by riding my bike to work while not spending any money. In my case, a slushy protest to slush funds everywhere.

MonkeyGrinder points out a relevant reference:
"One can drive today for miles through American suburbs and never glimpse a human being on foot in a public space, a human being outside a car or a truck"
One might expect such behavior in northern climes during the winter, but I was astounded by witnessing this in-action fully realized in Orange County, California last year. I took a long 17-18 mile run on what I considered a pleasant evening down to the ocean and back. Over the course of 3 hours, I saw maybe 2 kids biking and maybe one person walking down the sidewalk.

By the way, I didn't see any other hardy peds or cyclists on the road today, either. As Marc Maron would say, "Wake Up, Sheeple!"

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

School of Hard Knocks

Joking about a hypothetical home-schooled graduate degree barely rates a chuckle compared to true educational fraud. The mail-in diploma mills ("Since there's little, if any, coursework required, call it education by osmosis.") offer the best route to a pathetic downfall. This story is worth 100 Dilbert cartoons plus one bonus Office Space movie for comeuppenance.
("Dr." Laura) Callahan later warned him in a memo not to question her qualifications again. "Please be advised I will not tolerate any further derogatory comments from you about my knowledge, qualifications and/or professional competence," she snapped in the March 3, 1997, memo.
The whistleblower in this case is in a league with Sen. Boxer of the Barb on how to provoke defensiveness:
RICE: "And I would hope that we can have this conversation and discuss what happened before and what went on before and what I said, without impugning my credibility or my integrity.
Senator, we can have this discussion in any way that you would like. But I really hope that you will reframe from impugning my integrity. Thank you very much."

Can anyone tell me the difference between the defensive posture exhibited by a beltway tool who bought her "PhD" for $3500 and a beltway tool who was just plain bought, hook, line, and sinker?
Sen. "Numb" COLEMAN: Can you reflect a little bit on the oil-for-food impact on U.N. credibility and how do we move forward?

RICE: Yes, absolutely. I would agree with you that it is -- I'll use the word scandal. I think it is a scandal what happened with oil-for-food.
simply Shocking. Shocking. Shocking (what? U.S. a willing participant?)

But this is the actual truth -- Boxer quoting Peter Bergen:
We invaded an oil-rich Muslim nation in the heart of the Middle East, the very type of imperial adventure bin Laden has long predicted was the U.S. long-term goal in the region

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Abra Hog

The local Air America Radio station runs probably half their commercials as public service announcements (PSAs). One that pops up quite frequently urges listeners to visit the DOE's Energy Hog web site for energy conservation tips. I didn't quite have the patience to navigate the Flash-based tour, but with a speedy internet connection, I would think that grade-schoolers would not get bored while learning a few things.

One very strange thing I noticed. Something about a resemblance.


Monday, January 17, 2005

Texas Tee?

Googlemen, $$$, Texas, and something curiously named Gasoil,Inc. A conundrum wrapped in an enigma, leading nowhere -- for the moment.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

What I Believe

It's the aim of existence to offer resistance to the flow of time.

I have decided to get my hands on some of the money earmarked for Faith-Based Initiatives coming out of the Bush Misadministration. As faith is more about a strong belief system than anything else, I really think I can step up too the plate in this regard. As Bush has said himself: "I know what I believe. I will continue to articulate what I believe and what I believe--I believe what I believe is right." -- Rome, July 22, 2001. From what he said, it appears that Bush has done his homework on the musings of punk poet Pete Shelley:
"I Believe", The Buzzcocks
I believe in the worker's revolution
And I believe in the final solution
I believe in the shape of things to come
And I believe in I'm not the only one
I believe in the immaculate conception
And I believe in the resurrection
I believe in the elixir of youth
And I believe in the absolute truth
I believe in perpetual motion
And I believe in perfect devotion
I believe in the things I've never had
I believe in my Mum and my Dad
I believe in original sin
And I believe what I believe in
I believe in the web of fate
And I believe in I'm going to be late
So I'll be leavin' What I believe in

I believe that I should be able to grant college degrees for home-schoolers, even grant graduate-level degrees. Given the number of tots going the home-learnin' route, I think a new institution could skim from the cream of the crop, as they will likely steer away from the traditional college route. Note the evidence:
What the educators are really worried about is the fact that a group of kids is not under their control -- and that these kids are showing up their proteges in every field imaginable.
His emphasis, not mine. Even though DuToit has no references for this assertion, you might be willing to believe him as he later compares home-schooling to how mother bears raise their cubs. The last thing we want to do is raise our kids the way a wild lioness would! And what better way to show up proteges than a home-schooled advanced degree diploma!

I will start my home-schooling college with degrees in punk (Buzzcocks undergrad level) and post-punk (Sonic Youth graduate level). I figure that lots of would-be punks are iconoclastic enough that they would be the first to sign up. The historical record is good on punk geniuses:
  1. Greg Graffin of Bad Religion - punk Zoology PhD
  2. Greg Turner of The Angry Samoans - punk Math PhD
  3. Metal Mike Saunders of The Angry Samoans - punk Certified Public Accountant
  4. Milo Auckerman of The Descendents - punk Microbiology PhD
  5. Ethan Port of Savage Republic - funk punk Math PhD
  6. Dexter Holland of The Offspring - metal punk Microbiology PhD
  7. Karl Precoda of The Dream Syndicate - guitar punk Interdisciplinary Studies (highly rated teaching skills)
  8. Bill Graber of Arcwelder - punk Controls Engineer (denies working for NASA though)
  9. Graeme Downes of The Verlaines - post-punk Music PhD
  10. Phil Alvin of The Blasters - roots punk Math PhD
  11. Warren Zanes of The Del Fuegos, roots punk Cultural Studies PhD (bandmate Tom Lloyd at CalTech)
  12. David Grubbs of Squirrel Bait - punk English PhD studies at U.Chicago (DNF)
  13. Sterling Morrison of Velvet Underground - pre-punk English PhD
  14. Steve Taylor of The Fugs - pre-punk English PhD
  15. Mira Aroyo of Ladytron - techno/glam-punk Genetics PhD from Oxford
  16. Robert Schneider of Apples in Stereo - indie Math PhD (pending?)
  17. Michael Gerald of Killdozer - punk Law J.D.
  18. Santiago Durango of Big Black - punk Law J.D.
  19. John S. Hall of King Missile - punk Law J.D.
  20. "Dr." Eugene Chadbourne of Shockabilly - Not really a doctor1
Several things to note from this list. Many of these bands are personal faves (Dream Syndicate, Verlaines, the rest recommended save Offspring). Next, the lawyer John S. Hall from King Missile should not be confused with that other lawyer, Ass Missile (aka HindRocket, aka John Hinderaker), even though Hall is also a political activist and had a great political talk-poem-song on Morning Sedition a few months ago (yeeha! AirAmerica finally has audio archives). A couple of non-punk 70's era exceptions to the list, non-punk Brian May of Queen who pursued a PhD in astronomy but fell short of diploma, and Tom Scholz of Boston who mastered in Electrical Engineering at MIT, made a fortune in arena-rock, patented all types of gizmos, and sounds like a true progressive dude. I bet Scholz could solve some of our energy issues if he put his mind to it.

To gain insight, one could also create the list of supposedly home-schooled historical figures, the ones who "showed everyone else up"; the list includes: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, William Henry Harrison, Theodore F. Roosevelt, Patrick Henry, Booker T. Washington, Thomas Edison, Andrew Carnegie, John Stuart Mill, George Bernard Shaw, Irving Berlin, Charles Dickens, C.S. Lewis, Abigail Adams, Martha Washington, Florence Nightingale, Agatha Christie, Pearl Buck, Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, Douglas MacArthur, and George Patton. I believe that the list could go on if we can go back a few more centuries.

Looking at the historical home-schoolers, I first need to distinguish the difference between home-schooling and the early-American one-room schoolhouse. We also need to understand why only Booker T. Washington and Thomas Edison were the lone entries even close to being considered scientists. We also need to ask the question, considering his namesake, why the living Booker T. Jones is continuing his non-home-schooling with other tight timesters. This from a man who finished his original non-home-schooled music degree in the late 60's. Liverpudlian punk Julian Cope is our best bet to analyze in terms of what home-schooling archeological science has to offer.

I also believe in evolution. On this I side with Greg Graffin, the aforementioned PhD from Bad Religion. He only recently completed his thesis about the religious beliefs of evolutionary biologists. The non-home-schooled professor PZ Myers professed concerns about Graffin's methods, and wittily notices the musical prerequisites needed to get a start in evolutionary biology. Clearly, even though we find differences of opinion among all academics, according to Brian Regan author of "Human Evolution: A Guide to the Debates", every biologist agrees in the scientific basis for evolution, and that the Intelligent Design theory would wreak havoc with their entire field of study if true.

I also believe in the free flow of knowledge. The Wikipedia tries to organize the world's intrinsic knowledge, giving the public free reign to self-regulate a repository of all things pertaining to facts and figures. Some thinkers, best represented by Stirling Newberry's "Wingnutpedia?" post, get worked up over the Intelligent Design entry. I agree totally in the absurdity of this entry's existence, and even more that it tries to argue for both sides of the issue. How anybody could populate this entry with "knowledge" while trying to keep a straight face, I don't know. My theory is that home-school teachers hand this out as a morning assignment to their students. "Now kids, I want you, Jeffy, to update Intelligent_design and you, Billy, to update Dinosaurs". I went and edited the "argument for" Intelligent_design section to lead with "This is crap"; but it disappeared a day or so later. I guess I don't have the dilligence of the home-schoolers. In any case, this is all you have to remember about Wikipedia : it has a Festivus entry. This means that the Wikipedia isn't for them, it is for the rest of us.
And I believe in equality, equality for everyone.. no matter how stupid they are, or how much better I am than they are.

I also believe in sticking up for rights in which you believe in. I have the right to go cross-country skiing along the shoreline of every mansion I come across on Lake Minnetonka. And I have the right to ski up to the high-water shoreline without fear of trespassing. So, with a renewed confidence, I took a shot at circumnavigating Minnetonka by XC ski. The lake has many inlets and back bays, which tempts you to take shortcuts across open ice. But, you have to think twice about this, because other skiers have had run-ins with motorized snowtrolls. Sensing dread from somewhere in my memory banks, I could swear that a Lake Minnetonka skier was killed attempting to cross one of the bays. In fact, he was only run over and left for dead by a group of 8 snowmobilers. Granted, it was at night, but no one ever caught the scoundrels:
From a Lakeshore Weekly News editorial: "My question is why are you protecting the person who did this? What does this say about our community and snowmobilers in general? Have you no conscience?"
So we know that snowmobilers like to go out there in droves. Big groups, like the Hugh Hewitt contingent from last year, had the bloviating radio talk show host snowmobiling on Minnetonka with the Northern Radio Alliance (about a group of 8 people) with speeds hitting 75 MPH.

That whole Northern Radio Alliance has strong beliefs. Bill Cooper, Powerline blogger Scott Johnson's boss, shows his meddle:

"Last year, he spent about $10,000 to overturn a ticket he was issued for speeding on a snowmobile on Lake Minnetonka."

Scott Johnson, says "Bill Cooper is one of my heroes". And the other Patriots from the Patriot radio station just mock us iconoclasts. From the Taxpayers League Live radio show hosted by David Strom, on before the Northern Radio show, a guest says "It's no fun to ski on flat land." and "But, we have a whole industry dedicated to saying it's fun to ski on flat land." Well, I don't believe that Strom is a prick, but I believe that I would have a hard time distinguishing him from a fire hydrant wearing a tunic. Strom actually stated the following on his show: "Who are the heroes of the liberals? Castro, Stalin?". Well, I guess that the heroes of the right are CEOs of large banks.

As Short Trunk's rabbi1 relates:
I told him that I had met him (Bush) one time before when he was running for election when he came to Minnesota for a fundraiser, and former Senator Rudy Boschwitz invited me to this estate (CEO Cooper's) at Lake Minnetonka where this fundraiser was held. President Bush gave a speech inside a room that housed an indoor pool. The room itself in this house held hundreds of people.

I also believe I have the right to find out when The Big Trunk blogs. The following is a table of all blog posts made by The Big Trunk since Powerline started. He has posted over 3400 times since the middle of 2002. Over a fifth of his posts occur during what most consider banker's hours (9 AM to 5 PM). Remember that the Big Trunk is Vice President in charge of TCF National Bank's legal affairs.
1 am 8 1 4 1 1 0 1
2 3 4 3 1 2 1 2
3 1 6 1 5 4 2 4
4 2 11 5 5 11 6 4
5 12 24 36 16 30 4 5
6 am 88 98 98 88 98 42 10
7 48 59 64 81 79 98 75
8 31 20 33 31 29 72 50
9 17 29 26 26 26 41 11
10 15 36 21 14 39 42 15
11 am 14 25 26 18 26 28 22
noon 11 18 13 11 12 11 39
1 pm 9 13 14 15 12 8 25
2 18 22 17 16 20 6 21
3 12 17 19 25 13 10 16
4 18 11 17 16 21 18 18
5 21 11 26 22 27 17 27
6 pm 21 16 7 21 15 10 16
7 21 10 18 8 7 5 9
8 35 15 28 26 85 16
9 54 38 29 28 12 8 20
10 26 22 9 18 8 5 19
11 pm 3 8 3 3 2 8 6
midnite 1 0 5 1 3 0 0
Completing the entire exercise, from setting up a Unix shell script to parse the archived pages, and creating the table, was quite educational -- and probably something a home-schooler could do just as easily. But my money is still in that frickin' bank, and I have a right to find out how the suits are wasting their time on their "job". So, even if the amount of time I spend on this task is the same as some financial guru tracking down stock derivatives, it will be well worth it.

I also believe that this is all public information, and my little exercise pretty much sums up what Ashcroft and his successors have in mind for the future. Ashcroft's disciples will likely spend time fact checking every move we make. They will be able to find out that Johnson posts most of the time between 6 and 7 weekday mornings, and that he starts an hour or two later on the weekend. It's curious that his daytime minimum is around lunch time, the usual time for most office web surfing. Chalk it up to PowerLunching for the PowerLiner.

I also believe that CBS News be given a second chance; not that they did anything wrong in the first place. If you consider that Seymour Hersh nearly blew his legendary cred status reporting on the fake Hitler diariesKennedy/Monroe contract a few years back, give him credit for keeping at it over the ensuing years. So, in the end, Seymour Hersh has a couple of fine bookends to his career, first the reporting on the My Lai massacre in the 1970's and now Abu Ghraib ... and his career isn't over. So too, maybe the same portends for CBS's Mary Mapes, who having first reported Abu Ghraib to the public airwaves, will make a resurgence sometime in the future.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us For now, the Right's belief system has expanded to some sort of Inverted Shroud of Turin; a holier-than-thou proof that something didn't occur. It wouldn't surprise me if replicas of the Killian memos get placed next to a 10 Commandments plaque outside some courthouse. Wasn't it Mel Brooks who said: "I present you the 15 . oops. I present you the 10 commandments." Well here they are, the extra five:
  1. Thou shall not investigate the party in power, IOKIYAR
  2. Thou shall not denigrate educators, IOKIYAR
  3. Thou shall not project, IOKIYAR
  4. Thou shall not frame, IOKIYAR
  5. Thou shall not play the mighty wurlitzer, IOKIYAR

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
The right's current mantra, "I believe in the inauthenticity of the memos" is basically a topic perfect for home-schooling, and something that has infiltrated the Wingnutpedia. I spent a minute or two updating the "Killian memos" Wikipedia entry to reflect that the CBS Report did not pass judgement on the authenticity of the memos. (The entry actually claimed that the CBS Report stated them as being fraudulent) It will be my life's passion to protect that Wikipedia entry from the untruth. It only pains me that I don't have an army of little home-schooled tykes to do my grunt work.

If the memogate is all just a perceived joke, check the experiences of the punk sound-collage pioneers Negativland. They hatched a simple marketing scheme spun in such a way that the ones targeted for ridicule actually fed the flames.

We can learn a lot from the punks, especially when it has nothing to do with music.

Lastly, I believe that Joel Hodgson reigns over Mike Nelson.

1 "Dr." Chadbourne, although considered a loony genius in his deconstruction of early rock&roll, apparently left a crazed legacy at the Calgary Herald which carries on to this day, as reported in a previous post. According to his CV, the Dr. is the youngest writer and editor in the Calgary Herald paper's history.
2 Hmmm, nickname due to circumcision accident?

My relative motion is just an illusion from stopping too fast

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Epilogue: (Not A Quinn-Martin Production)

Excerpt: "August 1, 1972 Memorandum. This memorandum suggests that Lt Col Killian verbally suspended Bush from flying status. However, the official Bush records document that it was then-Col Hodges who suspended Lt Bush and that he did so solely because Lt Bush had failed to take his flight physical and not for the additional reason that he had failed to meet TexANG standards."

There we have it. The Right Side of the Loogysphere has been formally vindicated and made it A-OK for every National Guardsman to miss their physical, yet retain exacting military standards. And plus they get to be suspended from duty, much like a vacation, yet retain exacting military standards. And plus they get to try out experimental drugs while on vacation because they know they can bypass their physical, all the while upholding high military standards. Plus while they are on suspension, they can avoid having to fly dangerous helicopters and planes, while significantly meeting exacting standards. Also while on suspension, they can avoid going to war in Iraq, simply by upholding exacting military standards. And to almost top it off, they can avoid getting killed in Iraq, thus accommodating some misfortunate stand-in to get blown up by a roadside bomb, just by paying attention to rigorous standards.

Working together, the fortunate sons can continue to use political connections to pen oil deals and receive sweetheart contracts, both here and abroad, for years on end.

But, and this is a big but, the ANG fellow can't do this forever, because they will drag his butt back in when he is 55 or older into some dreadful war over oil, long after his suspension has ended, but his John Hancock not forgotten.

Excerpt: "Instead, 60 Minutes Wednesday answered with an unyielding and strident defense and lost the battle."

Pay no heed, truth-seekers. The snots who have just won the battle do not necessarily end up winning the war.

Update: Palast

Wednesday, January 12, 2005




ON THE December 30, 2004, Calgary Herald HEADLINE

"For the Record"

Concerning The World's Earthquake Activities

January 12, 2005

Ass J.H.Missile, Esq.
Small S.J.Appendage, Esq.
1800 Power Lane, S.W.
Lake Minnetonka, MN 54321

Counsel to the Independent Review Panel

On December 30 2004, Calgary Herald's front page featured a story entitled "Tsunami death toll could pass 100,000" (the "December 30 Headline" or the "Headline") concerning the World's Earthquake activities.1 The first part of the Headline was a statement of carnage. The second part of the Headline highlighted a photographic reproduction2 obtained by the Calgary Herald just prior to going to press. This photo was allegedly "taken from" the personal files of somebody somewhere. The photo, which was said to provide new information on the World's earthquake activities, showed:
  1. The Earth, via a large wave, forcing people to flee.
Within hours after the photo went to press, questions about the authenticity of the photo were raised, initially in an outpouring from the so-called blogosphere3 on one of the Internets. These early questions focused mainly on the pixels within the photo. Specifically, it was claimed that since the specific arrangement of pixels matched the pixelation of another photo, they must be fakes because cameras in existence at the time the photo was taken (a few days ago) did not feature a backward time-traveling lens to replicate the previously pixelated pixels. This was quickly followed by a raging media firestorm ("maelstrom") on all the Internets about the photo's authenticity. In response to this crisis of confidence, the Calgary Herald remained silent for a time. Finally, the Calgary Herald issued a statement that said, among other things, "The Herald sincerely apologizes to its readers for the error."

A short time ago, the Calgary Herald was not made aware of the appointment of an Independent Review panel consisting of James Watt, former Secretary of the Interior of the Unites States, and Paul Harvey, the senior Paul Harvey of Paul Harvey News and Commentary (the "Panel") to examine and pontificate as deemed appropriate.

The first part of the Headline suggests concerns to the Panel. For example, the excerpts pertaining to carnage conveyed the unmistakable impression that the World caused the Earthquake. The Panel finds that the vetters should have asked more questions about the ultimate source of the photo. Given the importance of the photo to the Headline and the high sensitivity of the story, it was critical to understand precisely and in great detail how the source came to acquire the photo. Moreover, the Calgary Herald had started to march into dangerous and ultimately unsustainable territory: the notion that since the content of the photo was felt to be true, demonstrating the authenticity of the photo became less important.

The Panel's investigation including watching TV, listening to the radio, and surfing the Internets, of whom knowledge of the content of the photo could be discerned. Some fraction of consensus thought the photo was not authentic and the content incorrect. Another thought the photo was "not right" but the general content was "about right". However, we will not talk about her opinion too much because she is kinda old, and that she did not have any personal knowledge about the thrust or content of the photo itself.

The panel expects that some may ask why it took several days for the Panel to issue its Report. All we can say is: "This is hard work. It really is hard work".

Newspapers operate on the presumption of "Sh*t happens", and somebody needs to get the scoop. The Calgary Herald was created to appeal to a "younger and jazzier" demographic group than what attracted old-timers to notices tacked on to the barn door common during Calgary's frontier days.

Charlie Rose, a 60 Minutes Wednesday correspondent, also hosts a show on PBS.

Basically, bosses directing lackeys, flunkies, peons, and interns with various degrees of experience. Some may be relegated to do stories on movie actors, perhaps someone like George Clooney. Notably, none of the staff were courageous enough to break the Abu Ghraib prison story.

A. Calgary Herald Standards: The standard is "accuracy and fairness" and to try to publish all the news that fits.

B. The World's Earthquake Alert System: The chief function of the earthquake alert system in the early 70's was to be on alert for possible attacks from the south, most likely from Cuba. Some people, who were not full-time employees would normally have one duty per weekend and then a two-week duty period during the summer. I suppose we can ask some of these people what went on, but come on, who actually remembers the freckled kid from summer camp thirty years ago.

C. Photograph Authentication: See Appendix 2.

This long chapter deals with the Panel's efforts to establish a chronology of events leading to publication of the Headline.

Seemingly out of the blue, a never-before-seen photo was provided by the Calgary-based World Job and Food Bank to the Calgary Herald. This may have been deemed the "Holy Grail" for which they had been searching. Further, various background information needed to be assembled. Finally the entire Headline needed to be thoroughly and carefully vetted, particularly since this involved a highly sensitive investigative story about earthquake activities.

Somebody claimed to have seen several photos of the earthquake activity in a trash can. This person declined to meet with the Panel under acceptable conditions.

Someone named Smith claimed that he had a "tasty bricket" of information. It was not clear what Smith meant. When he later said, "If his leg is sexy and useful then we are going to do whatever it takes to help him in those areas", we found no further paper trail. The Panel wonders why (c.f. World o'Crap).

Finally, an expert consultant opened up to the Herald in a formal interview, He essentially repeated over and over: "the earthquake activity `happened' and that a person would have to reach that conclusion when reviewing the photo unless you're the village idiot". This excerpt was apparently cut from the published story out of "fairness", but it was generally understood to go to press with the Headline.

Incidentally, the records also showed that "someone" did miss a key 24-hour active alert mission to safeguard against surprise attacks in the southern United States.

The Panel does not feel that it is unfair hindsight to have expected the vetters to have probed far more deeply at the staff meeting prior to going to press. This was an extraordinarily sensitive and significant story that was being "crashed", which should have caused great care and thoroughness in the vetting process. This clearly was not achieved.

The clear inference from the Headline excerpt is that earthquake activity did occur. The Panel is troubled that this excerpt was used when other information contradicted, or at least weakened, the implication.

Calgary Herald staff indicated the Headline had to "mesh" well together with official records. The Panel addresses the meshing claims in this chapter. The Panel concludes that while several excerpts from the Headline mesh well with official earthquake activity-related records in terms of content, there exist several significant inconsistencies that undercut the meshing notion. At a minimum, the inconsistencies should have prevented an unqualified assertion as of the publication date that the photo fits precisely into the pattern of the official earthquake activity.

Accordingly, it bears repeating that the Panel simply finds that its meshing review has revealed inconsistencies between the official earthquake-related activities and the Headline photo that have not been satisfactorily explained.

In the Panel's view, if the Calgary Herald had simply acknowledged the issues raised and told its readers promptly that it would seek to re-verify what the Calgary Herald had reported and would correct and apologize if it found anything wrong, the panel would not be writing this Report. (James, Good one, P.H.)

The Panel is troubled by this apology.


The fact that other news organizations such as the Channel Nine and Sky News in Australia fell victim to publishing and airing similar questionable photos allegedly of the earthquake-related activities, but has not been criticized by the Panel to the extent that the Calgary Herald has been might imply some political motivation -- on the Panel's part. Surely, you can't believe the Panel would have that motivation, just because Australia is a solid partner in the War on Terror and Canada is against us.

You have been warned. The Panel recognizes that other media outlets may decide that this recommendation should pertain to them as well.. So, you have been warned too.

Let the Panel begin concluding with this quote: "Ladies and Gentlemen, this is Chewbacca. Chewbacca is a Wookiee from the planet Kashyyyk who carried a gun and ran from the mob. But Chewbacca lives on the planet Endor. Now think about it. That does not make sense. Why would a Wookiee, an eight-foot-tall Wookiee, want to live on Endor with a bunch of two-foot-tall Ewoks. That does not make sense." Well, that quote does not apply to this Panel's findings. Trust us. And good day.


Exhibit 1A: Copy of December 30 Calgary Herald Front Page

1See Headline
2This large photograph on the front page is known as "the photo". The troubling caption reads "An incredible deadly tidal wave sweeps up crowds on a beach ..."
3A blog is a website that contains an online personal journal, often with reflections, comments, and hyperactive links provided by the writer.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Fueling the Force of the Future

This article from the Logistics Management College came out in 1999, but it didn't click until now that the Army's recent re-gearing thrust to lighter and more agile (or more facile as Mr. Bush the Lesser said in one of the Kerry debates) vehicles has been driven by energy issues as much as anything else in Rumsfeld's strategic vision.

Of course, lighter vehicles means less armor on the battlefield, leading to more susceptibility to roadside bombs and explosives. Even though having the extra armor does not guarantee safety, such as the events leading to the loss of 7 men in a 35-ton Bradley Fighting Vehicle last week show, it certainly helps in the long run.

In any event, the article provides some good numbers:
Therefore, AAN (Army After Next) technology is centered on improving the fuel efficiency of armor and aviation systems. It takes approximately 565,000 gallons per day to fuel a ground armor division and 350,000 gallons per day to fuel an air assault division.
meaning that 10 such paired divisions use the equivalent of 1% of the total U.S. consumption. This is likely the equivalent to North Dakota's total consumption.
The present fuel distribution system is not very fuel efficient. For example, a CH-47D Chinook helicopter consumes 130,000 gallons of fuel in its effort to refuel the force with 200,000 gallons.
This seems an utterly incomprehensible waste of fuel; kind of like filling up a car at the gas station and letting 40% of it splash away down the sewer.

The article also mentions the potential of hydrogen fuel for driving the Army After Next. (Coincidentally, GM will show a demo hydrogen-powered car at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next week. Doubly coincident, GM has started the FastLane blog to allow some public discussion on future directions on their product line.)

As a precursor to Army After Next, the Future Combat Systems (FCS) lineup of ground and air combat vehicles scheduled to be deployed in less than 10 years shows much of the headway in this strategery (as Bush the Lighter himself would admit). With many of the vehicles using hybrid-electric/diesel engines, lots of lightweight unmanned ground and airborne vehicles, and the manned ground vehicles limited to less than 20 tons, they may be halfway there.

So to summarize: we have the Bradley weighing 35 tons and the equivalent FCS ICV weighing less than 20 tons. Likewise we have the original Crusader self-propelled howitzer (on the drawing board until a few years ago) at 60 tons now down to less than 20 tons in the FCS variant. And the biggest Abrams tank goes from 67 tons down to the less than 20 ton MCS FCS "tank". Of course, what goes first is the armor protection, a significant part of the weight, and secondly firepower. As Rumsfeld would say, "It's basic physics".

I hope FCS does not turn into Future Coffin Services.

But, at least our surviving soldiers can say they are doing their job in battling the energy crisis.

Monday, January 10, 2005


Jared Diamond has a new book out called Collapse about the history of failed civilizations. Although I have not read it yet, a few bloggers have reached a mini-consensus in saying that the parallels that history portends for the future should not be given as much weight as Diamond suggests. In particular, man's evolving culture and technology has a bigger impact than any environmental effects that Diamond espouses.

When listening to these kind of arguments I immediately think to how antiquated gun control laws would evolve if framers knew about laser weapons. And then there was the question of "What if Eleanor Roosevelt Could Fly?". This SNL skit featured experts soberly considering what an asset the first lady could have been to the Allied forces in World War II had she been able to hover over enemy territory.

In any event, I tend to agree that history won't repeat in any way similar to what happened on Easter Island and elsewhere.

But one thing that the critics probably can't dispute is the effects of resource depletion. For the fact that Diamond makes this a strong theme probably makes it worth recommending.

Update: A couple more links Majikthise and Jared Diamond in NY Times:
Such questions seem especially appropriate this year. History warns us that when once-powerful societies collapse, they tend to do so quickly and unexpectedly. That shouldn't come as much of a surprise: peak power usually means peak population, peak needs, and hence peak vulnerability. What can be learned from history that could help us avoid joining the ranks of those who declined swiftly? We must expect the answers to be complex, because historical reality is complex: while some societies did indeed collapse spectacularly, others have managed to thrive for thousands of years without major reversal
and then Diamond sums up his opinion piece:
I also draw hope from a unique advantage that we enjoy. Unlike any previous society in history, our global society today is the first with the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of societies remote from us in space and in time. When the Maya and Mangarevans were cutting down their trees, there were no historians or archaeologists, no newspapers or television, to warn them of the consequences of their actions. We, on the other hand, have a detailed chronicle of human successes and failures at our disposal. Will we choose to use it?

Update #2: Commenter Santos points out an editor who likely has not heard of Diamond here. Howler line: " The Saudis, to whom oil reserves are everything, are basing their forecasts on solid science, not on wishful thinking. "
Enlightenment: No. Easter Island: Yes. Bwhahahaha.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Blog Of The Year?

Right-wing blogs will never mention oil depletion issues because raising future challenges does not work out in their best interest. I do not frequent all the winger and theo-thug sites, but given the fact that when even conservative financial rags pay lip-service to peak-oil and energy independence, the fact that nary a whisper emanates from the right-side of the blogosphere leads me to question their worth (apart from entertainment purposes). For instance, I googled the powerlineblog.com domain and found only a couple of hits with combinations of the terms "oil", "depletion", "crisis", and "independence", examples (here and here). And nothing referencing "Peak Oil" itself.

And when they talk about it at all, it gets wrapped in politics:
I thought President Bush's speech was excellent. The beginning was dramatic and, while nothing in politics leaves me colder than laundry lists of new and expanded government programs, I thought the domestic portion of the speech was OK. In some instances, Bush may or may not have called for bold initiatives. For example, pledging greater energy independence has been standard practice for twenty-five years. But I'd like to see Bush really push the issue of drilling for oil on the North Slope, and force the Democrats to defend their priorities.

Say, assMissile, did you notice that Conoco deals ANWR drilling a blow, showing that "two of the largest operators on Alaska's North Slope are no longer actively advocating exploration in the refuge". Better off trying to force massive corporations to defend their priorities.

So now, Time Magazine selected the PowerBoatLine bloggers as the blog of the year. Besides speed-typing doctrine, they have recently maintained in what may turn out an endless vendetta against Mpls Star-Tribune columnist Nick Coleman (but not the similarly paid Star-Tribune columnist James Lileks) for speaking his mind.

As part of his opinion pieces, Nick Coleman had the temerity to suggest to readers that they consider pulling their money out of TCF National Bank, where one of the PowerLiner's has a "day job".

I proposed a similar idea last month on the MOBJ blog when a Friend of PowerLine (FOP) dismissed the "It's all about oil" idiots and I responded:
What else to do but boycott the companies that these guys work for. I am seriously considering pulling all my money out of Twin City Federal National Bank, where Scott Johnson, Esq. works as a Vice President, and explaining to TCF management exactly why I am doing that.

And dog-gone it that I was not ridiculed by another FOP:
Why would you do that?
Scott Johnson didn't say that. Why not just correct The Elder? Here is your forum. Blog back! What one thing did The Elder say that wasn't correct, that wasn't true? Nail him on it, if you can (Which you can't, by the way). You just don't like being put in your place, and I can't blame you. No one does. But get over it. It's not a fist fight. It's the internet; where we flame our opposition with witty and sometimes spiteful jabs. Prove you're as talented a blogger. Prove I should read your page. Taking your money out of TCF is like taking your toys and going home. Are you a blogger or a mouse? Sheees!

And I know that FOP and Northern Radio Alliance cohost "The Elder" himself knew about this post, having memory-holed it from his FratersLibertas site here.

But now look who has taken their toys and started the long walk home:
Bill Cooper, Chairman and CEO of TCF Financial Corporation, wrote the following letter to the Publisher of the Star Tribune:
While I have disagreed with the Star Tribune on many issues, I respect with all my heart your right of freedom of the press and free speech. Apparently Nick Coleman does not share these values.

To suggest that customers of TCF Bank should move their money because of a TCF employee's blogging activities (an exercise of free speech) is just wrong. To suggest that an employer of an individual who exercises free speech rights should be punished is, I am sure, a violation of journalistic ethics and perhaps a legal issue.

Just for the record, the first time I ever heard of Power Line (which I have never read) was when I read about it in Time Magazine. To suggest that TCF or I am somehow the creator or supporter of Power Line is simply not true. Incidentally, Mr. Coleman never contacted me to ask if I was behind it (another example of great journalism!).

One thing I can assure you of is that if your columnists can suggest that people stop banking at TCF because of the political activities of one of its employees, TCF will never spend another dollar on advertising in the Star Tribune as long as I am Chairman..
-- emphasis provided by uncorrelated
Very rich indeed, one Bill Cooper, former Chairman of the Minnesota GOP, not being aware of this future-changing technology that Powerline and HughHewitt go ga-ga over. The fact that TCF management is obviously so clueless about both their own employees and cutting-edge technology only strengthens arguments to pull money out of the bank (synopsis of TCF's modus operandi here).

This is where the power lies:
Former President George Bush visits fund-raiser in Minnetonka
Bush mingled with guests at the private reception at the Lake Minnetonka home of Bill Cooper, CEO of TCF Financial Corp. and former chairman of the state Republican Party.

Friday, January 07, 2005


Project censored released their annual Top 25 Censored Media Stories of 2003-2004
  1. Wealth Inequality in 21st Century Threatens Economy and Democracy
  2. Ashcroft vs. the Human Rights Law that Holds Corporations Accountable
  3. Bush Administration Censors Science
  4. High Levels of Uranium Found in Troops and Civilians
  5. The Wholesale Giveaway of Our Natural Resources
  6. The Sale of Electoral Politics
  7. Conservative Organization Drives Judicial Appointments
  8. Cheney's Energy Task Force and The Energy Policy
  9. Widow Brings RICO Case Against U.S. government for 9/11
  10. New Nuke Plants: Taxpayers Support, Industry Profits
  11. The Media Can Legally Lie
  12. The Destabilization of Haiti
  13. Schwarzenegger Met with Enron's Ken Lay Years Before the California Recall
  14. New Bill Threatens Intellectual Freedom in Area Studies
  15. U.S. Develops Lethal New Viruses
  16. Law Enforcement Agencies Spy on Innocent Citizens
  17. U.S. Government Represses Labor Unions in Iraq in Quest for Business
  18. Media and Government Ignore Dwindling Oil Supplies
  19. Global Food Cartel Fast Becoming the World's Supermarket
  20. Extreme Weather Prompts New Warning from UN
  21. Forcing a World Market for GMOs
  22. Censoring Iraq
  23. Brazil Holds Back in FTAA Talks, But Provides Little Comfort for the Poor of South America
  24. Reinstating the Draft
  25. Wal-Mart Brings Inequality and Low Prices to the World

I have no qualms with this ranking. The stories underlined have a strong basis of energy policy underlying their selection (one could also say that Iraq, Climate/Weather, Wealth, and some others have a fundamental energy component).

Even though #18 is the peak oil "kicker", the fact that the other energy issues rank above this should come as no surprise. Over the past year, energy depletion has actually been well reported by the media. But looking at #3, #5, #8, and #13, I notice things that did not cross my path this last year, even though I have tried to keep track of energy related issues.

The EPA altered a report on the environmental damage of a hydraulic fracturing process1developed by Halliburton, Dick Cheney’s former company. Hydraulic fracturing involves the injection of benzene into the ground, which in turn contaminates ground water supplies over the federal limit.

Another example is in Gillette, Wyoming where a significant amount of natural gas (coal bed methane) exists. The only way to extract the gas is by draining groundwater to the level of the coal in order to release it. The Bureau of Land Management estimates that if all goes ahead as planned, the miners will discard more than 700 million gallons of publicly owned water a year. The mining of coal bed methane is as expensive as it is wasteful, and the industry has received promises from Congress of a $3 billion tax credit to help them on their way. It makes little economic sense to drill for marginal coal bed methane when larger deposits are elsewhere. Meanwhile, the U.S. government agencies normally responsible for protecting the land now serve as customer relations organizations for mining companies.

Documents turned over in the summer of 2003 by the Commerce Department as a result of the Sierra Club’s and Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, concerning the activities of the Cheney Energy Task Force, contain a map of Iraqi oilfields, pipelines, refineries and terminals, as well as two charts detailing Iraqi oil and gas projects, and “Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts.” The documents, dated March 2001, also feature maps of Saudi Arabian and United Arab Emirates oilfields, pipelines, refineries and tanker terminals. There are supporting charts with details of the major oil and gas development projects in each country that provide information on the project’s costs, capacity, oil company and status or completion date.

But Schwarzenegger's aides won't reveal the identity of the people advising the governor on his energy plan. In a page pulled straight out of President Bush and Dick Cheney's playbook on government secrecy, Schwarzenegger's aides have refused to disclose the names of the individuals who helped write the governor's energy plan, the one that was sent to the state's Public Utilities Commission in April 2004.

If you read to the end of #13 in particular, you will notice that this under-reported story is actually the energy depletion story under a different name.

1According to the EPA, Hydraulic Fracturing is used to bring natural gas and oil to the surface.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Crop Circle Projection

A would-be troll on the Peak Oil message board associated peak oil doomsday consulting with a type of profiteering commonly found amid the alleged "crop circle" phenomena. The hidden agenda implied is that peak oilist consultants can probably rake in good money by writing books and giving lectures, much like crop circle evangelists can make money off of their fan-base.

On the surface, this argument has an absurd angle to it. Try Google searching for "crop circles" on the www.skeptic.com or www.skeptic.org.uk domains. You will find many hits. Do the same for "peak oil". You will find nothing. Basically, what this shows: there is no National Enquirer or Weekly World News or Art Bell fan-base that anyone can profit from.

So if someone thinks that peak oil doomsayers rate up there with crop circle enthusiasts, ask them to submit an article to one of the skeptics magazines. I would be interested in seeing what response you get from Michael Shermer. If you're unlucky, he might write volume 2 of " Why People Believe Weird Things" and include a chapter on crop circle projection.

Crop circle projection is the belief that any assertion that bucks conventional wisdom must first be compared to an arbitrarily chosen wacky theory. The strawman is then set up that since crop circles are discredited, then so must be the other theory, or (in this particular case) that the subscribers have the same motivation as the "projected" crop circle enthusiasts. QED.

Another weird item on the recent spate of tsunami image forgeries.

In comparing the allegedly forged Bush Memos that got Dan Rather in hot water, equally strange projections of media malfeasance have started to crop up over tsunami images of unknown origin. Check out the fraudulent images of the south Asia tsunami swamping beach crowds which appeared in Australian and Canadian papers. Do we act like the tsunami didn't happen because some media types made a mistake and published a bogus image?

And do we believe that Bush's Air National Guard record is spotless because some media outlet published a bogus memo?

My problem with the outcry over the Bush Memos lies with the amount of "chicken little" and "media bias' pronouncements that Rather has had to confront over the years. At some point, accusations of bad journalism and phony stories pile up so that you don't respond quite as quickly as you would under an objectively fair environment. The fact that one piece of the puzzle may be wrong should not necessarily project on the veracity of the entire story.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

I Huckabees

Movie review:
The movie's most vivid, appealing character, Tommy is struggling with a big question about life's big questions. He wants to know, "Why do people only ask the big questions when something bad happens and then forget about it?" He also considers America's oil consumption beyond disgraceful and has taken to riding a bicycle everywhere, even to fires. In one of the movie's sweeter scenes, he beats the fire truck to a fire and does a little dance of triumph in front of the burning house.

That's about right.

Spam Extremes

Not exactly a huge ground swell, but the Nigerian E-mail scams have started to refer to the promise of oil riches. The two following snippets appeared in my inbox within a day of each other:
Dear Sir/Madam
I am Dr. Fred Azu, Chief Accountant with Beagon Oil Nigeria Ltd, foreign Oil Company based in Lagos-Nigeria. Beagon Oil Company was involved in ...
Att= SIR
We write to inform you that we have thrown it out to search for an agent that will be marketing our Crude oil for us in foreign countries, that Nigerian gorvernment has given the Crude oil association the power to search for their own agent in over sea. ...

But then we find the oxymoronic sincere spam concerning oil depletion from the inbox of the Peak Oil blogger:
This non-commercial email is being distributed as a public service.

Peak Oil and the Extinction of Humanity
Global conventional oil production peaked in 2000 and has remained about level since then. We are at the top of the "bell curve" for global oil production. It is expected that we will start sliding down the back side of the bell curve starting about 2008. The decline in oil production will be precipitous and humanity is about to go over a cliff. By 2025, global oil production is predicted to be reduced by about 50%.
We will know all of this for certain when we have the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. However, oil experts are shouting from the rooftops now, if anyone will listen. Do an Internet search for "peak oil" or "oil production peak" and see for yourself.

Huge volumes of junk email and spam have gone under the bridge to get to these nuggets of wisdom:
If you deduct the energy cost of resource wars from the already low Energy Profit Ratio (EPR) of oil, it is readily apparent that these wars would be a waste of energy.
If you want to build a post-petroleum economy you need to do it while there is still enough oil.

I must be hitting rock bottom; reading other people's spam.

Hate to meta-blog, but this commenter's quote from the Libertarian Girl blog is too funny to pass up:
At 12/31/2004 03:28:16 PM, Henry said…

I'm jealous. You already have commenters and a readership on your 2nd day. The only people who read me, is well, me.

I finally got some random person, but I hate it when people post anonymously without leaving a name.

Just look at that photo, can you say g-r-o-u-p-i-e-s, Henry?

New Year's prediction: The photo comes down when she has to start paying for extra bandwidth.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Radio Shows

Peter Maass was interviewed on Air America's Majority Report radio show today. An excerpt of his Mother Jones article "A Touch of Crude" concerning Equatorial Guinea oil intrigue is available online. Given that it contains more information on Mark Thatcher's supposed dealings in a coup d'etat, it might be worthwhile to pick up the complete article from the rack.

James Howard Kunstler also called in to Marc Maron on Air America's Morning Sedition radio show this morning. Although not as raunchy as he got on the documentary "The End Of Suburbia", this guy is way too real and biting to appear in any other media. Seeing that monkeygrinder has him on his blogroll, I should catch up on his writings.

Update: Some more info is available from the Air America blogs. This photo history montage is illuminating.
Maass's opinion is that the US will not do anything while our current administration has corporate access to the oil (Chevron, etc). Janeane challenged that the US would likely go in to gain control should the eventuality of complete chaos set in.