Friday, May 23, 2008

Friday Kitten Blogging


I still nawt gawt dis hole "Daylite Sabings Tiem" fing down...stooped hoomens! Why you take a hour off wun end ob da day and steck et on da udder????

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) The big note for this weekend, after you've seen the new Indiana Jones movie, there will be a new Mars rover landing on Sunday night...and you can watch live on the Science Channel.

2) NOAA has made its predictions about the hurricane season and they are not good. However, there was a similarly pessimistic forecast last year and we ducked many bullets. You might recall, however, the Pacific was inundated with cyclones.

3) Given the number of tornadoes this year already, as well as some of the bizarre places they have popped up, I'd have to say it's already been a tough weather year.

4) Oh....speaking of Indiana Jones...the movie is worth the price of admission, just don't get your hopes up about it. After all, you've found the Ark of the Covenant AND the Holy Grail, what can you possibly do for an encore that's going to bring the same level of tension and excitement? Answer is, not much, so you slap in some silly plot around a couple of really good car chases. Russians, don't worry about missing it, much

5) Not gonna happen. I'm not sure why this keeps getting kicked around. The Big Dog might be sending up a flare to try to keep her lieutenants in line.

6) This, I think, is the first of many backlashes against well-intended laws that go too far. While it's clear that many of the children in this sect have been sexually abused, the sweeping separations of the original child authority was probably out of line.

7) Still, it's a stupid-but-creepy story.

8) You haven't heard about this story. Why? The Zimbabwean election controversy is spilling over into one of the few stable democracies in Africa, threatening to incite at the very least a regional conflict intense enough that the South African government has had to call in troops, yet you knew all about the Texas sect.

9) Somebody came to their senses, at least, but too late for how many thousands of people?

10) Yea, I can't see any problem with this...*snark*

Thursday, May 22, 2008

In A Twin Killing Of An Eye

Overnight, oil prices jumped more than $5 a barrel.

They had been heading upwards, inexorably, all year, with one or two hitches in the road. This past week, however, has seen it rapidly soar past $130 a barrel.

Conventional wisdom on Monday pointed to such obvious things as the heated rhetoric in the American political campaign, the situation in Africa, a jump in demand from Asia, the summer driving season, all of which together could explain a spike like that. some of us guessed, there was a bigger story in play:
Oil prices leaped above $135 in overnight trading on Thursday, a new record that underscored the growing pressures that runaway energy prices are placing on some of the biggest names in global industry.

By midday Thursday, oil had fallen back and was trading at $131.95, down $1.22 from Wednesday’s close. But in a week that has seen the oil price rise by $4, the economic consequences of high fuel costs continued to mount.

[...]Thursday’s gains came after a series of unsettling reports that suggested world oil supplies may not be able to keep up with future demand, a situation that could potentially lead to even higher prices.

On Wednesday, weaker-than-expected weekly inventory data in the United States stoked fresh worries over oil supplies in the world’s biggest economy ahead of the busy summer driving season, sending oil prices up $4.19 a barrel on the day.

Some investors reacted to a report on Thursday in The Wall Street Journal that the International Energy Agency, an Paris-based policy advisory group for industrialized countries, was concerned about a reduction in the long-term world supply of crude oil.
The IEA has usually used the reports of the individual nations of OPEC and other oil producers to estimate world oil supplies.

Needless to say, nearly every nation inflates their reserves. The report, therefore, is clearly unreliable.

Indeed, in this month's National Geographic Magazine comes a report about a renegade industry analyst in Saudi Arabia who's estimates indicate that, not only has Saudi Arabia passed peak oil, but that its reserves are draining faster than anticipated.

Many skeptics point to several reserves of oil that are a litle harder to get to, but now that oil prices have climbed, are cost-effective.

However, when we've seen oil prices spike in the past, they have been accompanied by fervent & frenzied attempts to find more oil, discoveries of which have provided smaller and smaller finds. Indeed, the price drop of the 80s and 90s in crude prices was due in large part to the discovery of oil to tap into.

In this current spike, there has been zero, nada, nil, increased effort to find new oil sources. For example, Exxon Mobil, while increasing the exploration budget over 20% this year, still spends more on maintaining existing oil wells than it does on exploration, and their goal is to increase oil production by 2010 by a measly 725,000 barrels a year, and that 20% increase barely makes up for the past eight years of sitting on a budget line item like they were drowning it in the bathtub, as prices steadily inched, then rocketed, upwards.

I predicted earlier this year that once oil hit $130 a barrel, we could expect to see $5 a gallon gasoline.

I was wrong, but I had not anticipated that it would take weeks rather than months to reach that level, and expected that interim oil prices would be absorbed into the price structure. However, I can report that here in NYC, premium gas is bumping andexceeding $4.50 a gallon already.

OK, so that's the good news.

Here's the scary part:
[In 2005, the IEA] said that if investments didn’t keep pace with the growth in consumption, the world might face a shortfall of as much as 15 million barrels a day by 2030. Instead of growing to reach 116 million barrels a day, global supplies would struggle to increase to 100 million barrels a day by then, up from today’s average of 86 million barrels day.

Contrast that with this (from NatGeo):
Last fall, after the International Energy Agency released a forecast showing global oil demand rising more than a third by 2030, to 116 million barrels a day, several oil-company executives voiced doubts that production could ever keep pace. Speaking to an industry conference in London, Christophe de Margerie, head of the French oil giant Total, flatly declared that the "optimistic case" for maximum daily output was 100 million barrels—meaning global demand could outstrip supply before 2020. And in January, Royal Dutch Shell's CEO, Jeroen van der Veer, estimated that "after 2015 supplies of easy-to-access oil and gas will no longer keep up with demand."
That is, within the next ten years, we will literally and effectively be running out of oil.

Get used to it, folks. This is going to hurt. A lot. And in ways you can't even begin to expect.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Life After Ted

It seems weird to think of Ted Kennedy as mortal, and yet, he is:
BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, was released from the hospital Wednesday morning, earlier than expected.

When doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital announced Tuesday that the 76-year-old Democrat was suffering from a brain tumor, the news was met with expressions of sadness and support from his Senate colleagues.

Kennedy's physicians said they would consult with him to determine the best course of treatment.

Kennedy is one of only six senators in U.S. history to serve more than 40 years. He is an iconic liberal champion of social issues such as health care, family leave and the minimum wage.
Ironically, he's probably done more for the poor and disenfranchised in this country than any other Kennedy, certainly more in his forty year Senate career than he would have had he won an election for President.

Fate, as Al Gore can tell you, sometimes forces your hand.

The subtext to today's story, that EMK has been released from Mass General Hospital earlier than expected, along with little clues dropped in the news coverage from other sources (Nancy Snyderman, the medical consultant to the Today Show, this morning all but declared Kennedy as dying), leads me to suspect the tumor is a lot further along than we'd be led to believe. Malignant gliomae are cells that reproduce quickly and are very aggressive.

And brain cancer doesn't necessarily have to be the origination of the cancer infestation. One can develop, say, prostate cancer and have it spread along the spinal cord to the brain, triggering this kind of tumor.

It is always fatal. They speak in terms of two to five years horizons. Arlen Specter, who also had this form of cancer, has managed to survive past the five period, but that might be the exception to the rule.

The last liberal in Congress, unless you want to talk about Bernie Sanders, who will replace this lion as the face of progressive politics?

It seems a damned shame now that Barack Obama is running for President, since clearly he could have the kind of impact Kennedy has had, over a far longer term, rather than hit-and-run some policies that will have zero effect once the next President after him is seated. He coulda been a contendah.

There's a pitifully short list of liberals in Congress. Even the people we believed could hold that lamp high, the Barbara Boxers, the Dianne Feinsteins, the Hillary Clintons, the Barack Obamas, have all demonstrated that power means more to them than principle.

Too, it says a lot about the make up of the American electorate that there is no real progressive liberal movement, especially when you contemplate what the liberal movement has meant to the average American (read the top of my blog: "Liberals got women the right to vote. Liberals got African-Americans the right to vote. Liberals created Social Security and lifted millions of elderly people out of poverty. Liberals ended segregation. Liberals passed the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act. Liberals created Medicare. Liberals passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act.")

Something to keep in mind for this year's election, one that *should* be a slam dunk for Democrats, but one that we simply cannot take for granted.

I think about the names of the Senators in Congress now...obviously my bias is for the Schumer and Menendez, Dodd and Lautenberg, Clinton and Collins...and I'm not seeing anyone who can replace Ted, at least not in the precious short time it appears we have him around.

This might be the death of liberalism for the foreseeable future. We should mourn.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Well, This Is Just Stupid...

I can't say I really support either of them in this dust-up, but I'd lean towards Obama's position:
CHICAGO — Senator John McCain put Senator Barack Obama on the foreign policy defensive once again Monday, criticizing him here in his hometown for saying Iran did not pose the serious threat to the United States that the Soviet Union once did.

Mr. Obama’s willingness to engage with adversaries like Iran was a source of disagreement between himself and his Democratic opponent, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, early in the presidential primary campaign. Now it is quickly emerging as a central issue in his likely general election showdown with Mr. McCain
It is true that Obama compared the Soviet threat to the Iranian threat and found it woefully small, and he is correct about that: Iran does not have the ability to wipe America off the face of the world, where as the Soviet Union did. Point to Obama.

The attack by Mr. McCain was prompted by comments Mr. Obama made on Sunday in Pendleton, Ore., where he urged engagement of the nation’s foes and said that “strong countries and strong presidents talk to their adversaries.”

“That’s what Reagan did with Gorbachev,” he said, adding: “I mean, think about it. Iran, Cuba, Venezuela — these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union. They don’t pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us. And yet we were willing to talk to the Soviet Union at the time when they were saying, ‘We’re going to wipe you off the planet.’ ”
And Obama went onto say how Kennedy and Reagan both spoke to the Soviet Union despite the adversarial relationship.

True. To a point. Those high-level talks were preceded by months if not years of lower level talks aimed at setting the terms and conditions of any discussions at the summits.

Obama has, emphatically and repeatedly, said he would hold no preconditions over any discussions with any nation.

In this regard, McCain's charge of "betray[ing] the depth of Senator Obama’s inexperience and reckless judgment" holds some truth to it.

After all, wasn't it just a few years ago that our esteemed President, Dumbya, looked into Vladimir "Pootie Poot" Putin's eyes and declared "I was able to get a sense of his soul". A few years later, it turns out, not so much.

While I doubt Senator Obama is as bad a judge of character as Dumbya, I have to say that neither is he as GOOD a judge of character as John Kennedy, or even Ronald Reagan. After all, the Wright incident speaks volumes to this loony's inability to even stop listening to a crackpot.

But that brings us back to McCain, who is just flat out wrong when he inflated the threat Iran poses to Americans. Iran poses about the same credible threat to America as North Korea, a country we might be reminded is in talks with the Bush administration as this idiotic scene unfolds.

Yes, it's true, Iran is a state-sponsor of terrorism, and is one of the main forces attacking Americans in Iraq. But Iraq is a place no American should even BE in, in the first place, so it's silly to call Iran a "grave threat". That's like calling the tiger in the cage you've just fallen into, "dangerous", when you had no business being in there in the first place: you make an idiotic mistake, you ought to understand there are consequences to those errors.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Pot To Kettle: You're Black!

President Bush is in the Middle East to press Arab leaders to moderate their cultures: create economic reforms, increase opportunities for women, and embrace democracy.

Yea. Um. Hullo?:
SHARM EL SHEIKH, Egypt — After a showy celebration of America’s close ties with Israel, President Bush was expected to present Arab leaders with a lengthy to-do list on Sunday, telling them that if Middle East peace is to become a reality, they must expand their economies, offer equal opportunity to women and embrace democracy.

Mr. Bush’s three-day stay in Jerusalem last week has drawn criticism from Arab leaders, including the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, who say he has been insensitive to the plight of Palestinians. He came to this Red Sea resort city to try to soften that impression and reassure regional leaders he is committed to their cause.

But in prepared remarks released ahead of a Sunday afternoon appearance at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East, a gathering of world leaders, diplomats and business executives, Mr. Bush seemed to chide as much as reassure.

“Too often in the Middle East, politics has consisted of one leader in power and the opposition in jail,” Mr. Bush said in the address, adding, “The time has come for nations across the Middle East to abandon these practices, and treat their people with the dignity and respect they deserve.”
Now, granted, neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton is in any danger of being thrown in the hoosegow...altho the Rezko trial ain't over yet...but to say others must embrace democracy as we erode it away is a little like starting a land war in South Asia: idiotic.

The liberties we've given up, quietly, with little fanfare, are astounding. You can't travel anyplace out of the country without first being vetted. You can't open a bank account without proving every detail about your life, right down to your utility bill. You can't rent a movie or borrow a book from a library without some flunky at the DHS glancing at your activity.

You can't make a telephone call, cell or landline, without popping up on a list and god help you if that call is to a Muslim nation!

This is a democracy only in form and even there, with the imminent threat of stolen elections dangling over our heads, perhaps "name only" is a better way of putting it!

Similarly, "economic reforms" for Arab countries is code for "share the wealth". Emirs and sheiks control the lion's share of revenues flowing into nations from Saudi Arabia to Qatar.

For America, which now sees the largest single inequity in personal income since at least the Great Depression, to chide any other nation about its income structure is absurd, particularly as we worked hard these past seven years to institute a formal recognition that, indeed, the rich really DO get richer, off the backs of the working classes in this nation who create that wealth.

You know... Clinton voters.

A true acknowledgment of this terrible situation would see Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee, sweeping to election in November. Clearly, the middle classes are terrified of this. After all, the middle class relies deeply on the rich to create the cushy middle management jobs upon which they rely on to work without getting their hands calloused and dirty. We survive and subsist on the scraps of the rich, but those scraps are just big enough to keep us complacent.

Nevermind that job security and company loyalty no longer work both ways.

And yes, let's focus on Bush's other point for a second: women.

It's great to see a woman actually contend for the highest office in the land and arguably the most powerful job in the world.

It's highly symbolic, at the same breath. Look at how many Obombers and McCainistas claim she got there by dint of her husband.

Neither Obama nor McCain has exactly made it on their own either. Cindy McCain was independently wealthy, freeing John to be a politico, and Michelle Obama appears to have a fair amount of money in her own right, seeing as all these shady real estate deals were done in her name only.

That would be an interesting sidelight to an Obama administration: can the First Lady be imprisoned?

And it is this perception, that a woman somehow need a magical "leg up" while men do not, despite the fact that the old boy's network has been up and running for hundreds of years in America, must change. It is this segregated thinking that marginalizes women...and yes, minorities, too. And while it's not as pervasive as blatant discrimination can be, it is nonetheless insidious and affective.

So, Dumbya? Clean your own house first before you go around talking about the trash in other people's kitchens.