Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Afterlife; Civilization and Its Discontents (Transgender Fish, Polar Bears, People.)

A man told his wife that if he died before she did and there was an afterlife, he would find a way to let her know.

The man died first. Apart from some disappointing seances, his wife never revealed whether or not he contacted her.

A story that would be of no interest except that the man was Harry Houdini.

Civilization and Its Discontents

Farm Subsidies Lead to Ocean Dead Zones
Ocean Dead Zones Causing Transgender Fish

Hermaphrodite Polar Bears
Pesticides May Affect Penis Size

Perhaps this is what lies behind the 'emasculation' of the Democratic Party(?)

China: Draft; Oil Businessman Imprisoned for Protest; Shipping Routes, Tankers, Dutch; Archive Studies E.China Seas

Businessman Imprisoned for Protesting Oil-Field Takeover
Avoiding the Draft

Maritime Ventures
Explores New Shipping Routes
Orders Eight Oil Tankers
Take-over of Dutch Company

Archive Studies of East China Seas

Saturday, July 15, 2006

When Last Week's Terror Seems Like History

Jenna Orkin

When last week's terror seems like history
as with an addict who seeks newer thrill,
the mutual destruction of Israel
and Arab world replacing Kim Jong Il,
When leaders who should model saving grace
are, rather, all-consumed with saving face,
and hopes of peace grow by the day more faint,
allusions to it brushed aside as quaint,
When hurricanes swirl metaphorically,
sooner, more intensely than before,
the dollar falls as the sea level climbs
so even Murdoch longs for boring times,

In refuge from outrageous Fortune's slings,
it helps merely to contemplate true things.

Bezdek: Reducing Oil Imports; Vnz Supplies; Nat. Gas/ China; ISI/Mumbai?; Goose Guts

Study to Cite Plan to Reduce Oil Imports by 2030
The author of the report, Roger Bezdek, was one of three co-writers of the "Hirsch" report of 2005. This new report points up the shortcomings of the corn-to-ethanol solution but promotes Fischer-Tropsch, wood chips, etc.

Venezuela Pledge: Will Keep Supplying Oil to U.S.

Huge Natural Gas Discovery in S. China Sea

ISI Denies Involvement in Mumbai Attacks
Most articles alleging Pakistani involvement focus on the organization known as Lashkar-e-Tayyiba ("The Army is pure.") This article alludes to involvement higher up on the food chain.

The Case of the Missing Goose Guts
Another chapter from that infinite source of creepy diversion: The Bird Flu Capers.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

China+ India//N.Korea/Lessons; Iran Rigs; Aussie PO Video; U.S./E. Africa

For those of you who are seriously worried about warlords:
Free Chinese Lessons Online, courtesy the Chinese Government

Iran Facing Shortage of Oil Drilling Rigs

Australian Video-Clip on Peak Oil Featuring Jeremy Leggett who puts peak at some point before 2010. The clip points out the ubiquitousness of oil in plastic products at the mall but neglects to mention its role in food production via pesticides and fertilizer.

India, China May Jointly Bid on New Oil Ventures

China Oil Deal with North Korea

U.S. Military in East Africa on Good Will Trip (Archive)

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Other New Yorker Article: Bodine Intervention in Human Affairs

Jenna Orkin

There's a 9/11 article in this week's New Yorker and it isn't by Seymour Hersh. It's by Lawrence Wright and it's called "The Agent." The subtitle is "Did the CIA stop an FBI detective from preventing 9/11?"

Sit down. It's not an expose about Dave Frasca or visits to Osama in the hospital in Dubai. It simply bolsters the shaky 'incompetence' theory with a more solid 'wall' theory according to which FBI agent Ali Soufan was stymied in his efforts by inter-agency turf wars. (So disillusioned did Soufan become with the way the government worked that in 2005, he quit the bureau to become director of international operations for Giuliani Security and Safety where he is presumably fulfilled.[?])

But the article does offer some interesting details about the interventions of Ambassador Barbara Bodine in security measures and FBI investigations:

On the aftermath of the bombing of the USS Cole:

"Security was a great concern, considering that automatic weapons were ubiquitous in the country, especially in rural areas, but Barbara Bodine, the American Ambassador, refused to allow the agents to carry heavy arms. She was concerned about offending the Yemeni authorities."(p. 65)

Remember, this was after the bombing.

And on FBI investigations:

"Just before Thanksgiving, the FBI pulled [John] O'Neill out of Yemen, apparently as a concession to Ambassador Bodine, who felt that the FBI presence was straining diplomatic relations between America and Yemen." (p. 69)

O'Neill, you remember, was the FBI agent who became head of security at the World Trade Center shortly before dying there on 9/11.

Ambassador Bodine, who is currently a Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, has multiple credentials in the area of security. Her bio credits her tour in Yemen with "s[eeing] enhanced support for democratization and increased security cooperation, as well as the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in 2000."

Not letting that little incident get in her way, "In 2003 Ambassador Bodine served as coordinator for post-conflict reconstruction for Baghdad and the central governorates of Iraq... In her last assignment, she served as Senior Advisor for International Security Negotiations in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs at the Department of State."

So sleep well tonight; the security of the country is in competent hands with a solid track record. But you already knew that.

Interview with Lawrence Wright

African Archives

Central African Oil Production Expected to Fall

OPEC Moots Extending Membership to Angola, Sudan

U.S. Military Plans Joint Exercise in West Africa

Angola Sets Up Bank Against IMF Advice

Iran Asks for Activation of Mine in Guinea

Island Dispute Not In East China Seas

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The FTW Burglary

Jenna Orkin

If you've just read Mike's account of the burglary at FTW you're probably a little shell-shocked. We knew that all seven computers had been smashed with sledgehammers. Yet hearing the ruthless details told methodically and dispassionately by the person most passionately involved; seeing the pictures and hearing Mike say matter-of-factly, "The only way to describe the damage is that it has been utterly devastating from business, emotional and professional perspectives," - well, this gives a person pause.

Rather than dwell on such a horror, the normal human response is to want to do something.

But here we're stymied. Apart from scribbling a check, one is at a loss to know what to do to help.

This blog is also at a loss but on two fronts:

1) Mike and FTW
2) All of you.

It's probably most beneficial right now for the blog to act as a forum for us to express our reactions to the events described in Mike's article and to exchange ideas. It's unlikely that ideas suggested here will find direct enactment at FTW. But it's quite possible that they can evolve or be adapted to useful notions.

It could also be helpful to all of us to hear from each other at this dark hour.

Thank you all for your extraordinary contributions so far to the various threads, that circulation system through which the lifeblood of your ideas flows.

Osama; Iran Gasoline; F16s to Pakistan; EU/Congo/Russia; N. Korea Missile

Did U.S. Cut Deal to Let Bin Laden Stay Free?

Osama Not in Kazakhstan
“I hear this for the first time. Still, I am absolutely sure of what I am saying,” [member of the Parliamentary Committee on International Affairs, Defense and Security Tokhtarkhan Nurakhmetov] said.

Iran May Run Out of Gasoline Next Month

U.S. to Sell F16s to Pakistan
Also see "India: 'Navy Adopts Russian Anti-Ship Missiles'" posted July 2

North Korea Test Launches Six Missiles

EU Troops in Congo 'Committed to Neutrality'
Also see "China's Interest in Raw Resources of Congo" posted July 4

EU Pitches Russia Free Trade for Fuel

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Strange Bedfellows: Making Friends in a Post-Peak World

Part One

Jenna Orkin

One of the hallmarks of addiction is that you use escalating amounts of the substance you're addicted to. Our economy, which is based on interest, guarantees addiction. Not only is growth inevitable; it's essential. The substance which feeds that growth - energy - must by definition become addictive.

No wonder that when interest was introduced in the sixteenth century, it was forbidden by the three major Western religions. [See correction in Comment 1.] They knew that when you tried to get something for nothing - when you lent a hundred pounds and got back 105 without even sharing in the risk of the enterprise for which you'd loaned the money - something was wrong. They must have said to themselves, "Where will this end?" For, preoccupied though they might have been with loftier matters, they knew that on the earthly plane, things do end.

Because our economy depends on growth and therefore on the oil on which that growth in turn depends, we have become oil addicts. So what should we do now that it's heading down its post-peak production slope?

One option is, we can change drugs. We can build nuclear power plants, thereby switching our addiction from oil to uranium supplemented by ethanol, coal and renewables because suddenly, now that Mother Nature is striking back with a vengeance in the form of earthquakes and hurricanes, we care about the environment. That way we don't have to wean ourselves from addiction at all.

Or we could go into Rehab. That would take a real effort and severely cramp our style. It wouldn't be fun but we might be willing to do it as long as no one else was having any fun either.

Trouble is, everyone else is an actual or aspiring addict too. What if we go into Rehab but we're surrounded by crazed addicts? They'll get all the good stuff which will fuel them with a manic energy to grab even more.

That is the prisoner's dilemma that we're faced with.

The original prisoner's dilemma is this: Two suspects get arrested. The police don't have enough evidence to convict either of them and need testimony. If one prisoner testifies against the other and the other remains silent, the betrayer goes free and the silent accomplice receives the full 10-year sentence. If both stay silent, the police can sentence both prisoners to only six months in jail for a minor charge. If each betrays the other, each will receive a two-year sentence.

Each prisoner must choose whether to betray the other or to remain silent. However, neither prisoner knows what choice the other prisoner will make. For the best total outcome, a sentence of six months for both prisoners, each prisoner has to rely on the honor or shrewdness of the other prisoner.

That's the dilemma we face if we go into Rehab with respect to our energy addiction. If everyone goes into Rehab, fine. But if one country reneges on the deal, they get all the good stuff or in this case, resources.

Can we trust other countries to stick to the deal?

Only if it's in their own best interest.

Will they perceive it to be in their own best interest?

Only if they feel they need us.

Do countries need each other?

Not if they're at the top of the heap.

So that is what everyone has decided to do: To scramble to the top of the heap because they think they have a chance of making it.

Thus there's a lot of saber-rattling going on. Recently Iran conducted Holy Prophet naval exercises complete with flying boats to show their neighbors their "peaceful intentions." By way of response, the United States conducted naval exercises in the Bahamas in order to show our peaceful intentions towards Venezuela, which has sought closer ties to Iran as well as to our erstwhile pinko enemies, Russia and Cuba. And India sent a ship to the Maldives to patrol the Exclusive Economic Zone, a phrase which refers to fishing and seabed mining.

Certainly no one's putting brakes on their economy. Those U.S. wannabes, China and India, are obsessed with feeding theirs, like the doting parents of monster children who refuse to see that when those children grow up, they'll eat their parents too. Since neither country is endowed with the necessary natural resources, they're doing what anyone does who needs something: They're making friends.

China is jumping into the Free Trade Agreement fray with New Zealand, expects to sign a Free Trade Agreement with Austalia in two years and has pledged $374 million in loans to Pacific allies to boost economic cooperation. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said, "the loans would target various industries including mining, agriculture, forestry, fisheries and aviation."

"China has funding and technical expertise," [Jiabao] said. "The island countries are rich in natural resources. Herein lie huge potential for bilateral cooperation."

Translation: "We'll provide the money to help you help us ravage your country."

Jiabao maintained that the agreement came with no political strings attached. But it included only those South Pacific countries whose governments have diplomatic relations with China -- the Cook Islands, Fiji, Micronesia, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu and excluded six countries that have relations with Taiwan -- Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

The One China Policy was also a feature of China's recent expressions of harmonious intent towards Malaysia and the Sudan whose army is getting 'cooperation' from Chinese forces.

This 'cooperation' may be the underlying reason why the United States has recently become preoccupied with the human rights abuses for which the Sudan is notorious. Our concern is ironic because, according to a Human Rights Watch Report of 2003, many of those abuses are the work of foreign oil companies.........