DrumBeat: September 8, 2008

Algeria says OPEC cut to be discussed, oversupply looming

VIENNA (AFP) - Algerian Energy Minister Energy Minister Chakib Khelil said Monday the OPEC oil cartel would discuss a cut in production at a meeting here and that members saw "an oversupply problem" looming.

"Everybody agrees that we will have an oversupply problem of between half a million and one and half million (barrels per day) by early next year," said Khelil, who is acting OPEC president, as he arrived in Vienna.

Asked if OPEC would cut its output, he replied: "I don't know. I think there will be a discussion on that."

Russia's BP 'Signal'

BP managed to keep its 50% stake in oil-and-gas joint venture TNK-BP, and suddenly we're supposed to believe that it's safe to do business in Russia. "This is the right signal to the whole market," Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin crowed after Thursday's pact between BP and its Russian partners.

There wasn't a bullet in the chamber this time, but investing in Russia remains a dangerous game. The fact that BP stood to lose a multibillion-dollar investment over a disagreement with the Russian shareholders is the signal that markets will have received loud and clear.

Mexico's 2009 budget projects oil at $80 a barrel

Mexico's federal government is sending Congress a budget that projects improving world economic conditions.

The $270 billion plan projects the price of Mexican crude oil at $80 a barrel. Budget officials traditionally use a conservative figure for projected oil prices.

Chicago Transit Authority to cut jobs, overtime, maintenance

The budget crisis has been caused in part by soaring fuel and energy costs, which will be $37.3 million higher than last year.

Young, childless, and snipped

In a 2007 Pew Research Center telephone survey of 2,000 U.S. men and women, only 41 percent said children are "very important to a successful marriage." In 1990, that figure was 65 percent.

Turkey moves to diversify gas supply after Russia row

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey is seeking to diversify its natural gas imports as increased tensions with its main supplier Russia has raised fears of a shortage in winter.

Moscow has established a reputation as a reliable supplier to Ankara by increasing gas supplies to Turkey when Iran cuts its exports to meet domestic demand, a near annual occurance.

But fears about Russia's reliability as a partner have risen since a recent trade row that began when Russian customs officials curbed Turkish exports. Moscow has offered no explanation and Turkey has since responded in turn.

"Turkey is in a sort of a bind, because it is vulnerable to Russia for more than 60 percent of its natural gas and 50 percent of its oil. And it is vulnerable because we see there are no alternatives," said Wolfango Piccoli, analyst at Eurasiagroup.

Russia, Venezuela may hold joint naval maneuvers

MOSCOW, Russia (AP) -- A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said that Moscow may hold joint naval maneuvers with Venezuela, a deployment that comes amid increasingly tense relations with the United States.

Andrei Nesterenko said a squadron of Russian navy ships is to visit Venezuela before the year's end. Nesterenko said that deployment had been planned before Russia's war last month with Georgia.

Democrats compromise on oil drilling

Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, who long-resisted Republican-led calls to lift the ban on off-shore oil drilling, changed course over the recess and now say they will push comprehensive energy plans in September that will include expanded drilling.

But Democrats will insist energy bills also include their own priorities, such as repealing tax breaks for big oil companies, something many Republicans oppose.

Oil Crisis Hiding in Plain Sight; Pump Prices and Crude Still Way Ahead of Year Ago Levels

It’s time for a reality check. Oil prices are not plunging. Compared with this time last year, U.S. pump prices are more than 80 cents a gallon higher, while spot crude prices are roughly $30 a barrel higher.

Even if crude falls another $30 a barrel, that will still only put its price at roughly year-ago levels after a summer when Americans drove a lot less than the year before, precipitating all the talk about “demand destruction.”

Zambia: State Assures Nation On Fuel

GOVERNMENT has assured the nation that there will be enough fuel when Indeni Refinery closes down for routine maintenance in two weeks time.

Ministry of Energy and Water Development Permanent Secretary, Peter Mumba said in an interview in Lusaka yesterday that there was no need for people to panic.

He said the Government had put up adequate measures for the importation of fuel especially gas oil that was said to have been in short supply.

An urban legend to comfort America: demand for oil creates new supply

It is a race, and the clock has started. Will there be a gap in time between the decline old sources and the emerging new sources? If so, prices must spike during that period to destroy demand — priced-based rationing — so that supply and demand balance. Since many years (or even decades) will be required to build these new sources, fecklessness today could mean a long, deep recession like nothing we have seen in America since WWII.

South Africa: The Oil Crisis and the Search for a New Way of Living

It took five years from 2002-2007 for the oil price to go up by $60/barrel; but in the last 12 months, the price of oil surged by an additional $70/barrel.

The surge in oil prices is making life for everybody uncomfortable, as its ripple effects are being felt throughout the global and South African economies. It has, however, brought home the urgency to find solutions. The whole world is in the throes of a massive cycle of innovation. There lie two possible pathways before us.

Kurt Cobb: It's just a phase

Some deep ecologists have suggested that agriculture was a fundamental mistake in human evolution and has created more ills than it purports to address. There is perhaps a larger group of people who believe that it was the discovery of fossil fuels and their contribution to the industrial revolution that constitute a critical wrong turn in human history. After all, the power which fossil fuels put in the hands of humans has enabled them to affect the ecosphere in profound ways that not only threaten the human future, but the future of every living thing on the planet.

Then, there are those, probably an even larger group, that believe we have simply misused our technological prowess, and that if we could turn that prowess toward harmonizing ourselves with nature, we could preserve ourselves and our technical society while allowing nature to flourish once again.

Power firms try to duck £1bn energy saving plan

Britain's big power producers have been making last-ditch attempts to prevent them being forced to contribute to a £1bn energy-saving scheme that the Government is hoping to announce tomorrow.

After Prime Minister Gordon Brown's decision to shelve proposals for a windfall tax on gas and electricity companies, the Government is now looking at longer-term plans to make homes and businesses more energy-efficient.

Iraq expects to sign Shell gas deal within a month

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq expects to sign a natural gas deal with Royal Dutch Shell within a month, the Oil Ministry said on Monday.

Iraq's cabinet on Sunday approved a preliminary deal between the energy giant and the state-run South Oil Company that covers the venture in southern Basra province.

DOE to deliver 250,000 barrels of oil to Marathon

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Energy Department said on Monday it will deliver 250,000 barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to Marathon Oil Corp.

Shell May Shut Crude Unit at U.K.'s Stanlow Refinery Next Month

(Bloomberg) -- Royal Dutch Shell Plc may shut a crude unit at its Stanlow refinery in the U.K. next month, cutting fuel output at a time when Europe's biggest plants will also undergo maintenance, two people familiar with the work said.

Frequent fliers: No more free ride

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The old adage - Nothing in life is free - is the new reality for frequent fliers.

As a struggling airline industry looks for new ways to alleviate high fuel costs, it is becoming increasingly difficult for passengers to cash in miles and expect them to cover the cost of a ticket.

Is it better to lease, hire or borrow than to buy?

But given that the average power drill is used for just four minutes every year – a slothful work rate matched by many other garden and DIY tools – it makes sense as a consumer to join a tool-sharing scheme, or even to start one.

It all helps to take the ecological heat out of consumerism, a strategy that needn't only be applied to prosaic stuff such as washing machines. You can even take a transumerist approach to that icon of contemporary fashion, the 'it' bag. Yes, with an annual subscription to a bag library (www.be-a-fashionista.co.uk) you can borrow a Birkin or lease a Louis Vuitton and nobody will be any the wiser.

Meet the greenshifters

For the first time in generations, more people are moving to the countryside than are leaving, chicken keeping is the UK's fastest-growing hobby and for many self-sufficiency is no longer a pipe dream.

Electronic smog 'is disrupting nature on a massive scale'

Mobile phones, Wi-Fi systems, electric power lines and similar sources of "electrosmog" are disrupting nature on a massive scale, causing birds and bees to lose their bearings, fail to reproduce and die, a conference will be told this week.

The Challenge of Population Growth

The world's population reached six and a half billion in 2006, and is quickly approaching 7 billion. It appears to be increasing at a rate of about 6.5 million a month or 78 million a year. From a purely mathematical point of view, at the current growth rate of 1.16 per cent per year, the world's population will double in 60 years. However, it is being projected to grow to 9 billion by 2050 (as per the United Nations). If this projection holds, it would be an improvement over an earlier forty-year period (1960 to 2000) during which the population of the world practically doubled, from 3 to 6 billion.

The key point here is that the world's population keeps growing and will continue to grow unless there is a conscious effort by us to limit its growth, or nature imposes some kind of control (like the recent earthquake in China, or the cyclones and tsunami in South and Southeast Asia).

Wind of change on farms as cows help to save the Earth

Chopped straw and hay are the vital ingredients to settle a cow's stomach and reduce emissions of methane by 20 per cent.

This material is used as bedding for cattle and cows usually have little appetite for it. But just as children are coaxed to take their medicine by cloaking it in a syrup, cattle are being fed a blend of foods that makes it irresistible.

The secret is to cut straw or hay into strips 6cm-7cm long and to mix them with silage, wheat, maize, soya or sugar beet. A dairy cow needs only 4.4lb (2kg) a day, a tiny percentage of the 130lb daily ration of forage it would otherwise eat.

New York Times Columnist Calls for a Green Revolution: Read an Excerpt From Thomas Friedman's Latest Book, 'Hot, Flat and Crowded'

In a follow-up to "The World Is Flat," his book about globalization, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman brings a new perspective to climate change and the energy crisis.

In "Hot, Flat and Crowded," Friedman argues that the new presidential administration must take strong and decisive steps to create a green revolution in order to save the planet, "reknit America at home [and] reconnect America abroad."

Thaw of polar regions may need new U.N. laws

OSLO (Reuters) - A new set of United Nations laws may be needed to regulate new Arctic industries such as shipping and oil exploration as climate change melts the ice around the North Pole, legal experts said on Sunday.

They said existing laws governing everything from fish stocks to bio-prospecting by pharmaceutical companies were inadequate for the polar regions, especially the Arctic, where the area of summer sea ice is now close to a 2007 record low.

"Many experts believe this new rush to the polar regions is not manageable within existing international law," said A.H. Zakri, Director of the U.N. University's Yokohama-based Institute of Advanced Studies.

Where did all the oil men go?

Oil has been one of the most discussed subjects in recent years. Of the many concerns we have about the energy sector, the labor shortage worries me most.

According to industry reports, the average age of workers at major oil companies is between 48 and 50 years.

As retirement looms in the next five to seven years, the potential loss of industry expertise may threaten the sustainability of this sector as a whole.

How low can the oil price go?

Now that international crude oil prices have retreated to around $106 (about Rs4,706) a barrel from a high of $147, the question everybody is asking is how much further can they ease. If we assume we’re going to have a global recession similar to the one we had after the bursting of the technology bubble, then it’s worth our while checking what happened to oil prices at that time.

Azerbaijan at crosswinds of a new cold war

The crisis in Georgia is, however, a powerful wake-up call to Baku concerning "roads not taken". On the one hand, Baku is interested in cultivating closer military ties with the West, in light of the Azeri parliament's recent ratification of an action plan for greater military cooperation with the US. A top US State Department official has recently called for a strategic, trilateral cooperation between US, Azerbaijan and Turkey. And yet, on the other hand, this is precisely the kind of initiative that Baku would be wise to stay away from, unless it is prepared to embrace serious backlashes from its powerful neighbors, Iran and Russia.

Mideast spot cargo market may stay discounted

SINGAPORE: Spot Middle East crude oil cargoes may continue to be mired in discounts next week in Asia, even though several producers have slashed their monthly official selling prices.

While these term price cuts, particularly on lighter sour grades with a high yield of money-losing “clean” products such as gasoline and distillates, have lent support, soft demand and a lingering risk aversion continue to weigh on sentiment.

No place like suburban home: Many happy outside cities, despite cost of commute

Hallahan's roughly 15-mile commute takes at least 25 minutes and, with a few errands thrown in, costs $200 a month. He said that's up from about $150 a year ago, when gas was cheaper. But instead of bailing on suburban life, the family has absorbed the increases by cutting back on discretionary spending, Hallahan said.

"I don't think 50 bucks a month is enough to make you live somewhere else," Hallahan said.

Hallahan is typical of most Capital Region suburban dwellers who, several months into America's modern day energy crisis, do not have buyer's remorse, residents, planners and home association leaders say.

Congress must act: Ensure electricity remains affordable

For most Iowans, the summer of 2008 has been one for the record books as the price of gasoline has blasted a hole through family finances. While gasoline may grab the headlines, it is essential that U.S. policymakers address another equally urgent energy concern: ensuring affordable electricity at a time when the cost of power and demand for it are rising and when climate-change goals loom.

Welsh methane discovery may ease UK energy crisis

Test drilling in Wales has revealed huge quantities of high-quality methane gas, which could be piped out and used to help Britain's growing energy crisis.

India: Tired of persistent power-cuts, residents dash letter to CM

That the suburbs are facing a bad time when it comes power management is nothing new. However, in a bid to make their power problems heard by the government, a local consumer body has adopted a unique method. The body has sent a missive to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra requesting him to ensure that the government offices keep their ACs switched off in this dark hour and set an example.

Off-shore liquefied natural gas terminals get poor marks from ocean advocacy group

TRENTON -- An ocean advocacy group released a report Wednesday that lambasts liquified natural gas and three different proposals to build liquefied natural gas terminals off New Jersey's shore.

The report, which characterizes liquified natural gas, or LNG, as expensive, dirty and a threat to the nation's energy independence, is meant to jumpstart Clean Ocean Action's effort this fall to lobby state lawmakers and Gov. Jon S. Corzine to stop the LNG terminal projects off the coast of Monmouth and Ocean counties from moving forward. Corzine's final Energy Master Plan is expected this fall, and the group's leaders said they're working to ensure LNG doesn't make it into the report.

Russia aims to corner energy market: U.S. official

ROME (Reuters) - Russia aims to extend its control over energy deliveries to the West and it is important that European countries push forward on efforts to diversify routes for oil and gas supplies, a senior U.S. official said on Monday.

As Vice President Dick Cheney visited Italy to seek support for Georgia after its brief war with Russia, the official, said: "The fact is Russia has worked hard to try to corner the market, so to speak, and is working to foreclose options to transit for those energy products across Russia.

"They want everything to come out through Russia and a lot of us think it's more important that there be diverse means of gaining access to those resources," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"No one country ought to be able to totally dominate those deliveries."

OPEC ministers gather, set for no change

VIENNA (Reuters) - OPEC ministers on Monday gathered in Vienna ahead of a meeting to review output policy, but were widely expected to leave formal targets unchanged, especially as a powerful hurricane could lift oil prices.

Iran leads calls for OPEC oil cut

VIENNA (AFP) - Iran led calls on Monday for OPEC to cut output ahead of a meeting of the oil producer group, with analysts expecting the cartel to begin scaling back production to help support prices.

Oil prices have plummeted from their highs of 147 dollars a barrel in July to about 107 dollars, with the OPEC meeting on Tuesday seen as a test of what price level the cartel wants to defend and its power to influence the market.

OPEC to Pump at Near Record as Prices Stunt Growth

(Bloomberg) -- OPEC, the supplier of 40 percent of the world's oil, will probably keep producing at a near record pace as $107-a-barrel crude squeezes the global economy.

Iran sees possible oil over-supply in 2009: report

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Continued OPEC production at current levels would lead to over-supply of its crude in the first half of 2009, causing prices to drop, Iran's OPEC governor was quoted as saying on Sunday.

Mohammad Ali Khatibi, speaking two days before OPEC ministers meet in Vienna, also told the official IRNA news agency that oil prices could not fall below $80 per barrel as this was the production cost cited for some new fields.

How the West is losing the energy cold war

Russia's victory in Georgia is having far-reaching effects as its neighbours rethink the wisdom of selling gas and oil to Europe.

China marches past USA to stake a claim to Iraq's oil

While China opposed the Iraq war and stood back from post-war rebuilding, Beijing has quietly outflanked its global rivals to grab a large slice of Iraq's oil industry. The pioneers of its overseas quest for fuel are already exploring vast tracts in the Kurdish north of the war-torn nation.

With an extensive foothold in the only part of the country where new oil wells have been built since 2003, Chinese firms are already believed to have more personnel than their American rivals.

UK: Warning over growing fuel poverty

Almost a quarter of the population will be in fuel poverty by next year and those on low incomes will be especially badly hit, new figures have shown.

A report published by the National Housing Federation shows that by the end of 2009 5.7 million UK households will be spending at least 10% of their annual income on energy bills - an increase of 100% since 2005.

A future without oil

South Africa cannot pin its hope on a miracle to rescue it from the coming global oil crisis, and needs to take urgent and radical steps to avoid an "unprecedented" meltdown in the country's economy and transport network.

All the signals point to a rapid and irreversible decline in world oil production within the next five to 10 years - and unless South Africa acts fast and intelligently, the country could be forced into taking draconian measures like petrol and diesel rationing, slashing speed limits on the highways or reserving fuel for essential services such as the police, army, ambulance services and farmers.

Gas crisis threatens to derail Bangladesh economic growth

CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh (AFP) - An acute gas supply crunch caused by lack of hydrocarbon exploration is threatening to derail Bangladesh's record industrial expansion, officials say.

The South Asian nation's economy has been growing by more than six percent annually over the last four years -- its strongest pace since independence in 1971 -- thanks to unprecedented double-digit manufacturing growth.

But industrialists say trouble looms as a severe gas crisis has left scores of big factories without power and halted some of the impoverished country's most ambitious industrial projects.

Kazakhstan lays out oil tax plans

A new oil tax proposed by the Kazakh government will apply to about 60% of the country's crude output next year, Economy Minister Bakhyt Sultanov said today.

Sultanov was presenting a reform package designed to shift the tax burden onto the oil, mining and metals sectors - mostly through a new mineral extraction tax - to foster the development of other industries.

Operator says Dubai oil rig remains shuttered

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - The operator of the oil rig involved in last week's deadly helicopter accident off the Dubai coast said production remained halted on the platform Sunday.

The rig serves the Rashid oil field, one of four offshore deposits controlled by the government-run Dubai Petroleum. Work in that field was suspended after a Bell 212 helicopter carrying contractors crashed into the platform and sparked a fire on the main deck Wednesday evening.

International Biochar Conference Uses False Claims to Promote Dangerous Technology in the name of Climate Change Mitigation

Campaigners today warn that an international conference on biochar, which will be held in Newcastle, UK from 8 to 10 September, will be misleading governments and the public with claims that biochar - a by-product of second generation agrofuel production - can curb climate change and improve soil fertility.

Jason and the secret climate change war

A shadowy scientific elite codenamed Jason warned the US about global warming 30 years ago but was sidelined for political convenience.

Just ordered the only copy of JSR-78-07 The Long Term Impact of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide on Climate on Amazon. Can't what to see what a super-secret science report looks like. JSR-78-07 does show up in several citation indexes and is described somewhere as a report prepared for the Department of Energy.

Check out the wiki link and see, once again, the politicization of science at work. I'm not referring to the actual JASON working group, but DARPA's sudden desire to handpick members.

DARPA's decision [to stop funding JASON] came after JASON's refusal to allow DARPA to select three new JASON members, none of whom fit the membership criterion of academic excellence. Since JASON's inception, new members have always been selected by its existing members. "This selection process maintains Jason's autonomy," Holt wrote, "and ensures that their decisions are not based on any obligation to the Department of Defense. Allowing the Department of Defense to choose Jason's members would compromise the objectivity and independence of the group's advice."


DARPA's decision [to stop funding JASON] came after JASON's refusal to allow DARPA to select three new JASON members, none of whom fit the membership criterion of academic excellence.

This was in 2002 - more of GWB's meddling.

The Republican War on Science

Interesting about those JASON folks.

Any one of them could have talked about the conclusions.

Any of their later "club" members, upon learning of the report...likewise.

And they still could do this.

Academic question:

Since the Earth has biological processes that continuiously trap CO2 and lock it in fossil fuels... AND chemical processes that continuiously trap CO2 and lock it in calcium carbonate... And these processes have been going on for ages...

How big of a carboneaous comet/asteroid would be equivalent to the CO2 emissions that we put into the atmosphere during the entire 20th century?.. during all of 2005?

I can answer that for you. Including the CO2 contributed from estimates of biomass/landuse, the amount of carbon equivalent from 1901 through 2007 would be a carbon ball with a mass of 466,800 million metric tons. That would be a sphere containing about 7 cubic miles of carbon or if you think like a borg, a borg cube of pure carbon that is 1.91 miles on each side.

In just the 20th century, 406,100 million metric tons were added.

In 2005, approximately 10,350 miilion metric tons of carbon was added to the atmosphere.

Hmmm, I wonder if comets are responsible for the end of the last Ice Age? Nobody mentions them as possible factors in climatic change (volcanoes are always to blame). And if they exploded in the upper atmosphere - or impacted on a thick ice sheet - no direct evidence would be left.

Interesting speculation. I'm sure scientists have already considered that if it were at all likely. There are not, to my knowledge, any comets or meteorites made primarily of CO2. These have been well studied and their compositions are well known. Also, there are other more likely sources of CO2 such as volcanoes which are well documented. Finally, the coming and going of ice has been studied quite a lot, as you might imagine. It's not my area but my impression is that each coming and going of ice has its own story involving volcanic eruptions, wobbles in earth's orbit, changes in the distribution of continents, biological effects and probably other things I'm not aware of.

It would be great if some scientist would put out a book for the rest of us giving an overview of the state of understanding of this topic. If anyone knows of one please post it.

If you're interested in meteorites the best book I've found is this one. It is a bit dated (about nine years since being published) but good enough for a broad understanding of the topic. Pretty amazing the amount of information we've gotten from these rocks that have fallen from the sky.

Meteorites and Their Parent Planets
Harry Y. McSween
Second Edition

If you get a chance, read "Under a Green Sky" by Peter Ward. It's an easy read and provides a pretty compelling case as to why only one of major mass extinctions is directly attributable to a comet/asteroid collision.

It discusses the signature(s), that one would expect to find from an object large enough to cause mass extinction (and would collide with the Earth's atmosphere at something on the order of 40-50 miles per second).

Since this is a US government work not subject to copyright, would you mind scanning it and posting it online?

The rest of us would probably appreciate it.


I see that China is going to develop an oil field in Iraq. It seems that the Saddam-era contracts will be honored by the Iraqi government.

So much for the theory that we went in for the oil.

You have a very fitting nick. Just how does one oil field change anything.

I'm still waiting to see the details of the deal. The initial report shows that China will be doing the work for a fee only. They get paid $6 per bbl of oil produced. The report didn't say anything about China earning any interest in the oil. I suspect there's more to it then that. China's oil industry isn't geared towards being a service company. Even if China doesn't earn any of the produced oil I suspect they are doing it on some sort of an option or right of first refusal basis. In other words, Iraq can sell the oil on the global market but China has the right to meet the price and buy the oil before any other buyer. For at least the last 10 years China has been focused as much on securing access to oil as buying into existing production.

China sends money to Iraq.
Iraq spends money on US military items.

But the real answer is that we don't have to own the Iraqi oil or even force its sale to the US for the US to benefit. By conquering Iraq and allowing its oil to flow into the global market, oil prices are reduced for the whole global hegemony. That's the benefit of defending and maintaining a global market.

The oil was flowing into the global market from Saddam's Iraq just fine before we "conquered" it. The flow has been reduced since. That has been one of the reasons for the recent run up in prices (and the instability resulting from the "conquering").

As long as Saddam's hand was on the tap, the supply was not assured. While there have certainly been supply problems post-invasion, I believe that production rates are back to pre-invasion levels (plus we now have more control over the tap).

Yes! God knows he just hated profligate spending on palaces and such and was constantly shutting down production! Unlike those silly Westerners who never imposed any sanctions or limits on oil export!!!



Edit: .... perhaps I should be posting under a pseudonym. :~

No Guts, No Glory.

If you won't sign your name, how can you be taken seriously?
Besides, do you really think that you can hide from TPTB?

E. Swanson

We could've bought all the oil in Iraq for less money than we've spent on the invasion, conquest and occupation of that nation. Not to mention the lives that were lost or damaged.

The United States did not take over any Iraqi oil. Non-Islamic people were those who have suffered much at the hands of the Jihadis. They have been beheaded, kidnapped, robbed, forced to pay extra Islamic taxes, and driven from their homes to this day. The American forces were not able to prevent what happened after the uprooting of Sadaam's secular government and the rise of the Islamicists in Iraq. By one estimate given by a Christian leader from Baghdad, three-quarters of the Christians who once lived in Iraq have been killed, forced to convert to Islam, or driven out of their towns. I was saddened by American leaders proclaiming peace in Iraq after the surge while there is yet severe oppression and lack of freedom of religion that is prevalent in Islamic society.

I rechecked recent reports from Iraq. The part about recent beheadings cannot be confirmed. Christians were targeted by kidnappers demanding money. They are being driven out of their homes and communities. They were being forced to pay a tax imposed by decree of the Koran on non-Islamic peoples. Some were given the choice of converting to Islam or death. I would presume local Islamic gangs that gained control after the invasion were to blame. Many Christians have exhausted their savings and are suffering violence and poverty. Many have fled. The freedoms promised to the Iraqi people by the Bush administration have not been realized. No victory is proclaimed.

The strength of the dollar?

The dollar has not been able to return to prewar strength.

It's not a theory. We destroyed the country and engendered so much hatred among the people that no legitimate leader could obey us and survive, and we finally are so weakened that we must accept that, bit by bit. Our compensation for letting Maliki destroy Cheney's PNAC oil strategy is that we avoid more mass uprisings that would bring US casualties back to 2005 levels so we can claim we're "winning". Which could make the difference in the election.

We've lost. Our leaders can't even explain what victory means.

Victory is a Starbucks on every street corner.

Then we lost Australia.

And New Orleans.

We have eleven coffee chops on Magazine Street. One is a Starbucks,

Quite humorous ad by local chain with animated coffee cups getting off plane from Seattle, cold and stale, bewildered at the concept of chicory, while PJs (or CCs) has coffee roasted locally and delivered daily for a fresh cup.

Best Hopes for our indigenous coffee culture and coffee roasting industry,


GWB is just too incompetent to control what he invaded and conquered.

BTW: See the military's (Joint Chiefs) view of Iraq War policy.



I've never been particularly of the view that oil was a primary reason for the US push into Iraq, but if it had been, one possible reason why the US didn't get expected very favourable oil treatment was that the neocon's desired new president of Iraq


both fell out of favour with the neocons and achieved a much lesser position in the Iraqi government. When your crony doesn't get appointed most of your future plans fall apart.

So when Bush said "We must protect Americas intrests
in Iraq" he was talking about (A) sand? (B) Israel?
Since sand isnt of much value, at least if theres no oil under it. And Israel is LESS safe now because of the inability of the Bush admins to extricate themselves from the quagmire of Iraq...I say it was (D)Strategy
not just Iraqs oil....but military strategic placement
of military bases in a geograghicly strategic location
such as IRAQ! for control of middle eastern oil in total.
I sense you dont think strategically

Concerning the take over of the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac... how is that going to help? Cheaper loans, if too high, will still be too high.

Unless property prices drop... or salaries (for more people) go up... nothing much will change.

If I'm wrong, please let me know. I'd like to understand what I am obviously not seeing.

Yup - they will bail out the big boys but the average person will be left out.

I don't think we really know what's going to happen. But some have suggested that part of the reason for this was so China and other foreign investors wouldn't cut us off. So it screws over the taxpayers, but allows the government to keep borrowing.



Clusterfuck Nation: This weekend's big deal was the US government taking over the "government sponsored enterprises" (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that guarantee trillions of dollars in mortgages...Risk was theoretically dispersed among the holders of these bonds. This all seemed to work during the long stable period when our cheap oil economy was chugging along, and house prices maintained a consistent relationship with incomes, and people paid their mortgages dependably. The whole system ran like a reliable machine --

It was the end of cheap oil that catalyzed the housing collapse and, by extension, the current huge financial crisis.

Kunstler has been ranting for months about the Fed bailout of Bear Stearn's, trading hard cash for worthless collateralized securities. Now with the U.S. govt. takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac many think that is the tectonic shift that spells the end of the American Dream.

The American Dream - You have to be asleep to see it. George Carlin

There's an interesting article on Seeking Alpha about how the market was gamed so that the dollar is up against other currencies:

In March, a group of central banks planned a huge and coordinated currency intervention to buy dollars, in the world currency markets, to support the U.S. dollar [see here]. They have now started to act on their plans. To kick off the dollar intervention, the U.S. Exchange rate stabilization fund [ESF] sold about 6 billion euros in late June (see here). Where did the euros go? In my opinion, they were placed with three primary dealer banks, for the purpose of buying dollar derivatives.


The monkeys are pulling every lever they can find, from Freddie Mae and Mac, to Georgia, to the currency markets, and the net result is to enrich the elites, so perhaps they are not so stupid after all.

Also on Seeking Alpha today was commentary that the 'in' crowd obviously knew what was going on with F & F on Friday, so have made a killing from predicting the rise on Monday.

It's always important to remind ourselves that very few regard themselves as evil men, as we have a huge ability to rationalise.
So gross profiteering and cronyism becomes in the mind of the perpetrators 'preserving the free economy' or some such.

At the bottom of much of what is going on though may be fear that what is plainly criminal activity by the administration and the finance houses may be uncovered by a change of administration, unlikely though that seems to those of us familiar with the opposition's craven attitude to such things.

If this is the case, then should the election look in doubt, I fear a strike on Iran, or perhaps even some direct conflict with Russia, under a gloss in their own minds that it is vital to preserve access to oil supplies, and that the wicked are jeopardising this, and since they can't trust some Goddam liberal to do it, they must do the job themselves, although they labour in the garden thankless and misunderstood.

Failing that, assassination of Obama seems to me a real possibility, providing it can be done with deniability.


In response to your comments the other day about the Middle Ages, I posted a response on yesterday's DrumBeat for you.

I had posted it here but Leanan said it was too lengthy and off-topic for this thread, but she did give me permission to post it on yesterday's DrumBeat.

Anyway, if you care to go take a look it is at the end of yesterday's DrumBeat.

I posted a reply - I hope I have done your thoughtful post justice!
Thanks for the debate.

DaveMart - For what ever its worth (inflation adjusted) I used to dismiss you as an aerobic blog commenter who didn't have a life.

After reading your discussion with DownSouth yesterday I just want to say I was wrong.

Thank you both for your sharing of the by product of your little grey cells doing the bump, the hustle, and the Macarena.

I live for this.

If you are ever in the neighborhood soups on me.


It's a long, interesting, scholarly post.

I want to read it again and think some about it -- but off to work, unfortunately.

As first approximation, I would say that Sarah Palin is a perfect example of the near certain triumph of neo-feudalism.

It makes me very sad, because I invested my whole life in what I thought was right -- rational thought, justice for all, non-violent resolution of conflict, and all those other now-discredited elitist notions of the now-irrelevant "Libs."

When I was young, I read Robert Heinlein's future of Earth series -- remember "The Man Who Sold The Moon?" Revolt in 2100? He had it pegged 50 years ago.

However, my children seem oblivious and unconcerned-- and they are all doing fine-- so I have to conclude that people really can be happy in an intellectually dead orthodoxy, and perhaps intellectual freedom is really just a sort of thistle that pops up in the disturbed soil between settled orthodoxies.

... and the failed orthodoxy in this situation may well turn out to be science and technological progress. I, too, am a scientist and a "child of the Enlightenment," but it is clear that the rise of 21st century fundamentalism owes, in part, to a "loss of faith," in our technological society. Some have soured on a philosophy which promised -- if only by implication -- a better life for all.

To what do we owe this loss of faith? To environmental degradation, obscene wealth disparities, a mechanized militarism and the hollowness of consumer society. When the masses realize that the punch bowl isn't bottomless, they'll be even more distraught.

So where did we go wrong?

The First World War did not do a lot of good to the idea that technical progress was all good.
Interestingly, that was the last time the youth of Europe marched off to war firm in the conviction that God was with them, and it was pretty much the death here of religious fundamentalism a la Palin.
America suffered less and changed less.

I'm a new political-science prof at a University in the deep south and a Spanish friend of mine here constantly asks me why Americans act the way they do and why the leaders we elect keep getting elected.

I simply point out to them that Europe learned a very different cultural lesson as a result of its experiences in the 20th than what America learned. I point out to him that Spain fought a civil war in the 1930s and suffered from a right-wing dictatorship until the 1970s. Europe was destroyed far more than the US by depression, war, and civil conflict. American's have not suffered in the same way as Europeans, so they see war, nationalism, unfettered capitalism, and fundamentalist religion far more favorably.

Europe's suffering undermined the legitimacy of these three things forever in the eyes of most Europeans... or at least the majority of those still alive today - and they built their post-war institutions, domestic and international, to ensure something like the World Wars, Depression, the Holocaust, and fascism never happened again. As a consequence, America and Europe have taken very, very different cultural paths since the mid-20th century - and the South is key to understanding that.

Four facts, in my mind, explains everything about these differences.

#1 - A good portion of the US was not a liberal democracy as we define the word today until 1964. African-Americans and other minorities were simply denied the vote in the South and it took federal power to impose democracy on the racist white elite that ran things down here in the century after the Civil War. Things weren't much better in the rest of the country, but racism wasn't nearly as institutionalized as it was down here.

#2 - The South was so poor throughout much of the 20th century that most folks down here didn't pay federal income taxes - so Roosevelt's New Deal went over well because it was seen as redistributing money away from Yankee financiers and funneling it into Southern economic development schemes like the TVA. This poverty of course made itself felt through education achievement rates - and, again, it wasn't until the mid-to-late 20th century that enough folks in the South began receiving a higher education that 'college or some college' became a demographic variable of consequence.

#3 - The South has a moral-traditionalist honor culture that places great emphasis on manners, communal insularity, and social hierarchy. This culture perhaps best manifests itself through the deep militarization of southern society. The military has long been a way to get ahead in a poverty stricken region while military service also appeals to the more aggressive male tendencies that tend to exist in honor cultures. As a result, military service, military tradition, and nationalistic fervor are embedded deep here.

#4 - The South, especially the rural heart of the 'Deep South' also has a weak grasp of the rule of law compared to the rest of the country. The South for most of history was so underdeveloped that 'government' was something that was informally handled by locals because central, legal authority was either too distant to efficiently handle settling disputes out in the hinterlands - or was either corrupted by entrenched economic powers OR beholden to perceived cultural aliens or both.

It is a mistake to think of the South as thoroughly modern like the Northeast, the West coast, or the industrial Midwest. Economic 'modernity' only came here in the mid-20th century. Cultural change, unfortunately, lags by a generation or two.

So, for this part of the country, the 'catastrophes' of the 20th century weren't the World Wars and the Depression! Those, in hindsight, can be seen as Golden Eras - especially the immediate post-war era of rapid growth and entrenched cultural conservatism. The 'catastrophe' of consequence for this part of the country were the cultural changes in the 1960s and 1970s that emerged out the South embracing economic modernity in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. These changes occurred in Europe too - but the reason why Europe progressed while the South was steeped in reaction was the degree to which each area's socially-conservative elites had been made more or less legitimate by the World Wars and the Depression. In the South, they were the helmsmen that brought prosperity. In Europe, they were the architects of disaster.

So, why is this important? Because of the way our constitution is set up, the South (and the inter-mountain West and the non-industrial Mid West, which share many characteristics with the South) receive a disproportionate amount of power and influence through the Senate and the Electoral College. The reality is that our Constitution empowers the interests of the most backwards and insular parts of the country over the interests of the more populous, advanced, wealthy, and cosmopolitan parts.

For all of the ripping on the South and Midwest, if it wasn't for that part of the country we would not have agriculture nor energy. The reason large metropolitan cities exist - which are not self-sustainable - is that elsewhere there are rural cities which provide the food and raw materials.

And take a look at California. A lot of the citizens there are advanced, wealthy, and live a cosmopolitan lifestyle. They also have budget problems, housing problems, some of the highest taxes in the nation which is driving out businesses, rolling blackouts, etc. yet oppose offshore drilling which the South has been able to do.

It's not an "us vs. them", "red vs. blue" state issue. We need both the rural and urban states. By default there are plenty more people in urban states but without the Electoral College that would give them an unfair advantage in national politics.

I'm a big fan of the electoral college. I think Alan Natapoff is right:

Math Against Tyranny

The more Natapoff looked into the nitty-gritty of real elections, the more parallels he found with another American institution that stirs up wild passions in the populace. The same logic that governs our electoral system, he saw, also applies to many sports--which Americans do, intuitively, understand. In baseball’s World Series, for example, the team that scores the most runs overall is like a candidate who gets the most votes. But to become champion, that team must win the most games. In 1960, during a World Series as nail-bitingly close as that year’s presidential battle between Kennedy and Nixon, the New York Yankees, with the awesome slugging combination of Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Bill "Moose" Skowron, scored more than twice as many total runs as the Pittsburgh Pirates, 55 to 27. Yet the Yankees lost the series, four games to three. Even Natapoff, who grew up in the shadow of Yankee Stadium, conceded that Pittsburgh deserved to win. "Nobody walked away saying it was unfair," he says.

Runs must be grouped in a way that wins games, just as popular votes must be grouped in a way that wins states. The Yankees won three blowouts (16-3, 10-0, 12-0), but they couldn’t come up with the runs they needed in the other four games, which were close. "And that’s exactly how Cleveland lost the series of 1888," Natapoff continues. "Grover Cleveland. He lost the five largest states by a close margin, though he carried Texas, which was a thinly populated state then, by a large margin. So he scored more runs, but he lost the five biggies." And that was fair, too. In sports, we accept that a true champion should be more consistent than the 1960 Yankees. A champion should be able to win at least some of the tough, close contests by every means available--bunting, stealing, brilliant pitching, dazzling plays in the field--and not just smack home runs against second-best pitchers. A presidential candidate worthy of office, by the same logic, should have broad appeal across the whole nation, and not just play strongly on a single issue to isolated blocs of voters.

He argues that without the electoral college, the US may not have survived as a nation.

Of course, whether it will survive peak oil is a whole 'nother story.

But to become champion, that team must win the most games.

The problem is that these aren't equal games on equal playing fields.

He argues that without the electoral college, the US may not have survived as a nation.

It's almost didn't with it - see the Civil War, 1861 - 1865 and 600,000 dead.

The states are like the rotten boroughs in England before parliamentary reform - devices used to ensure reactionary power retains control over the central government.

The problem is that these aren't equal games on equal playing fields.

But that has nothing to do with the electoral college.

Another interesting thing Natapoff discovered is that gerrymandering doesn't work. At least, it doesn't work the way many expect it to. (As Tom DeLay found out.)

But that has nothing to do with the electoral college.

It has everything to do with it.

The EC and the Senate were specifically designed to preserve the influence of small states in the larger central government.

One of the effects is that the small states are economic parasites on the larger states - they use their political influence to siphon off funds from the larger, richer states for their own use.

Another effect is that it makes rural backwaters more important in our electoral process - not because there are more people there - which is what democracy would find important - but because the artificial , constructed 'rules of the game' say this division on the map called 'Iowa', 'New Hampshire,' or 'Alabama' are important.

And small-state influence in the Senate REALLY brings to bear the power differences. The Senate confirms appointments (SUPREME COURT) and ratifies treaties (Kyoto)- does it make sense that Alaska, with less than 700,000 people has an equal voice with California, the 7th largest economy in the world, on issues like abortion, gay marriage, environmental change, war, and peace, and so on? Why are those 700,000 Alaskans so special?

Another interesting thing Natapoff discovered is that gerrymandering doesn't work.

Of course it works - else no one would spend the time and energy trying to do it.

The EC and the Senate were specifically designed to preserve the influence of small states in the larger central government.

Of course.

Another effect is that it makes rural backwaters more important in our electoral process - not because there are more people there - which is what democracy would find important

Again, I disagree. That way lies "the tyranny of the majority." As the article puts it:

A well-designed electoral system might include obstacles to thwart an overbearing majority. But direct, national voting has none. Under raw voting, a candidate has every incentive to woo only the largest bloc -- say, Serbs in Yugoslavia. If a Serb party wins national power, minorities have no prospect of throwing them out; 49 percent will never beat 51 percent. Knowing this, the majority can do as it pleases (lacking other effective checks and balances). But in a districted election, no one becomes president without winning a large number of districts, or "states" -- say, two of the following three: Serbia, Bosnia, and Croatia. Candidates thus have an incentive to campaign for non-Serb votes in at least some of those states and to tone down extreme positions -- in short, to make elections less risky events for the losers.

You continue:

- but because the artificial , constructed 'rules of the game' say this division on the map called 'Iowa', 'New Hampshire,' or 'Alabama' are important.

Yes, it's arbitrary, but I think that's fine. The ideal district size varies by the closeness of the election, so there's no ideal size.

Of course it works - else no one would spend the time and energy trying to do it.

It works, but not the way many think.

Ideally, too, no bloc should dominate any district. This consideration, by itself, probably makes the 50 states a grid that’s closer to ideal for electoral voting than, say, the 435 congressional districts. For example, in heavily black districts, no single white or black person’s vote would be likely to change the outcome, if blacks in that district tend to vote as a bloc. Each of those voters, black and white, would have more national power in a districting scheme more closely balanced between black and white. For this reason, Natapoff says, gerrymandering can be counterproductive even when undertaken with the intention of boosting some national minority’s power. The gerrymandered district might guarantee one seat in Congress to this minority, but those voters might actually wield more national bargaining power with no seat in Congress if representatives from, say, three separate districts viewed their votes as potentially swinging an election. Anyway, Natapoff says, the point of districting is to reduce the death grip of blocs on the outcome. "This is a nonpartisan proposition," he says. "The idea is to be sure all votes in a district have power." Ideally no single party, race, ethnic group, or other bloc, nationally large or nationally small, will dominate any of the districts-- which for now happen to be the 50 states plus Washington, D.C.

A tyranny of the majority isn't any worse than a tyranny of the minority that we have now. The point is to avoid tyranny of any sort, and frankly, that's the job of the constitution and the bill of rights, etc, which is damn hard to change without an overwhelming majority. The other (better) way to ensure minorities have a voice is proportional voting and representation systems. The electoral college is horrible way to either prevent tyranny or provide minorities with a voice.

Since you are in the South, perhaps you have heard of Georgia's use of the so-called County Unit System. Georgia has 159 counties, a left over from the days when the county seat was one day's ride on horseback from any part of the county. When I was younger, each county was given either 2, 4 or 6 votes(?) in primary elections. A primary winner in a county got all that county's allotted unit votes. Given that there were few counties near Atlanta, where most of the population was located, the rural counties tended to dominate the political process. It was declared unconstitutional in 1963.

E. Swanson

By default there are plenty more people in urban states but without the Electoral College that would give them an unfair advantage in national politics.

God forbid we try a concept like 'one man, one vote.'

Our institutions are designed to empower small states and rural backwaters. All else follows.

That may be what the original intent was.

But the current effect is that it empowers minorities of all kinds.

“But the current effect is that it empowers minorities of all kinds.” Posted by Leanan

Yes, and unfortunately our whole political system seem to empower any small minority that is well organized, well funded, and goal oriented. This includes the one-issue fanatics on both sides of all the contemporary “hot-button” issues, but mostly the corporate and financial interests of greed. Nothing about our system encourages long-term, big-picture thinking.

Antoinetta III

Nothing about our system encourages long-term, big-picture thinking.

That's a separate problem, and I have to say...I sometimes wonder if democracy is just incompatible with sustainability. At least for any social group bigger than a large family.

Diamond sort of touches on this in Collapse. He points out that societies that successfully transitioned to sustainability had a king, who had incentive to think long-term because he expected his children to rule after him and inherit his wealth.

With a democracy, I fear there's a lot of incentive to loot the nation while you can, since you may be voted out next time.

Good point!

I once ran a simulation in one of my undergraduate classes that put students into the role of social groups living on a Caribbean Island. They had to form a constitution, form a government, create a budget, set social and economic policies, and so on. The kick was they got Extra Credit according to how much money they were able to accumulate in their fictional Swiss Bank accounts and how well government policy reflected their interests.

Invariably, the island devolved into civil war, dictatorship, or corrupt governance. One student amazed me when he manipulated the Island's legislature to extend his time in office as president, effectively making him dictator for the the whole simulation, wherein he proceeded to crack down on democracy and loot the treasury.

Was that Chavez, Bush or Putin?



Exactly - this is not good for the overall health of our system... or really ANY political system.

What happened to Republican Rome is a great example. The Republic was run in an oligarchical fashion by the city's leading aristocratic families that, in addition to holding all the wealth, held a common ethos which they shared with the commoners that tended to privilege stoic military service and sacrifice for the Roman state as the ideal 'value'. This engendered a sense of trust and among the Roman elite and the people they led that allowed them to cooperate so effectively that they were able to conquer the entire Mediterranean Basin, something that had never been done, in the space of a few centuries. When they had reached the limits of their power they began to turn on one another to control the empire their previous cooperation had created.

The point is that the Romans transitioned from a culture of cooperation and trust that allowed them create and sustain policies that made the pie bigger for everyone in Rome to a culture of conflict and distrust that made everyone look out for themselves. They went from being concerned with collectively baking a bigger pie to carving up that pie so as to grab as big a slice for themselves as possible.

I think the EC is facilitating the carving up of our country by these well organized, disciplined groups at the expense of the larger whole in the same way that Republican Rome's political institutions facilitated the carving up of the Empire by its warring Senatorial factions... which allowed Julius Caesar to eventually seize the state from a morally bankrupt, thoroughly illegitimate Senate

The point is that the Romans transitioned from a culture of cooperation and trust that allowed them create and sustain policies that made the pie bigger for everyone in Rome to a culture of conflict and distrust that made everyone look out for themselves. They went from being concerned with collectively baking a bigger pie to carving up that pie so as to grab as big a slice for themselves as possible.

I think you have cause and effect reversed. When they could grow the pie, it was easy to maintain a culture of cooperation and trust.

When they hit resource limits and could no longer grow the pie, cooperation and trust went out the window.

Do you really think having a direct presidential election, raw vote winner take all, would mean more long-term thinking? If so, how?

I think you have cause and effect reversed. When they could grow the pie, it was easy to maintain a culture of cooperation and trust.

Not so sure about that - the Empire extended to its fullest in the century or so after Julius and then remained 'stable' for centuries after that. The Eastern Roman Empire even continued on until the beginning of the modern era in the form of the Byzantine Empire. The Arabs even conquered a bigger empire after the Romans - and lets not forget Charlemagne's attempt to unify Europe under arguably worse economic conditions. The Republic could have reformed itself, but it didn't because the institutions and culture had become so corrupted.

It's a bit of a chicken or egg problem I suppose.

Fully 33% of Romans were slaves at any given time during the empires reign. when you say "making the pie bigger for everyone" you must have meant the ruling elite.

Yes, of course. Thanks for making me clarify.

Was it really 33%? Where did you get that number? Would be interesting to compare it to slavery rates in other ancient societies.

Ken Burns' "The Civil War" stated that the South in 1860 had 5 million free whites and 4 million slaves. However, I've heard a higher ratio of whites from another source.

South Carolina, the most politically extreme of the states and the first to secede, had a majority slave population.

Surely being "Roman", by definition, meant being a free citizen ? Or do you mean 33% of the inhabitants of the Roman empire ?

The city of Rome itself even, was comprised of approx
33% slave class. Of course a slave in the roman empire
could earn, purchase, be granted freedom. I left out
several other methods common of era at that time.
As the Roman empire grew, so did slavery. The largest
battles the Roman empire faced were not abroad but at
home with slave revolts. most historians place the % anywhere between %25-%40. Of course the rural areas had much higher percentages due to manual labour intensive agricultural and infrastructual methods employed during that era.


If you have genetic European material...your probably
decended from slaves.

Everyone together now and scream, "LET MY PEOPLE GO!"

No - it still empowers small states and rural backwaters at the expense of the rest. There are other effects - such as increasing the importance of the Jewish or Cuban vote in Florida - but the primary effect is still to give those smaller states vastly more power than the real drivers of American society - the big, populous states.

Above you talk about 'tyranny of the majority' - that's a problem, but we ostensibly deal with that through the protection of INDIVIDUAL liberties through the civil protections enumerated in the Bill of Rights in the US Constitution. What the EC does is to protect GROUP rights at the expense of the larger whole - a very different kettle of fish that is little different from the ethnic engineering that takes place in many countries in the developing world.

Frankly, when institutions are designed to protect groups rather than individuals, quite often they fail miserably. They haven't worked very well in the developing world where they've been adopted and, don't forget our institutions sidestepped the question of slavery, failed to stop and may have even encouraged the Civil War, and then protected a century of Jim Crow. That's what our system has produced. If the Great Migration hadn't taken place its quite likely Jim Crow could have lasted much longer than it did - because unchallenged vested interests in the American South would have simply used power at the Federal level to keep the status quo in place. Which is exactly what they tried to do throughout the Civil-Rights era.

I think the evidence indicates fairly well that when groups rather than individuals are the focus of institutional design, they tend to fail.

What the EC does is to protect GROUP rights at the expense of the larger whole - a very different kettle of fish that is little different from the ethnic engineering that takes place in many countries in the developing world.

But absolutely necessary, IMO, or the nation will dissolve.

Though I'm kind of expecting it to dissolve, anyway. Nations are not permanent.

Fair enough. Though I would argue necessary in the short to medium term. In the long run they may be detrimental - that's what happened in the Civil War. All the short-term options and medium-run solutions to the problem of Slavery had run their course.

But the current effect is that it empowers minorities of all kinds.

What about minorities that are concentrated in large, urbanized states? How does the EC enhance their power?

No, it empowers the minorities who combine white tribal leadership with fanatical devotion to inequality. The rest of the whites keep giving in to the temptation to come along for the ride, until the country gets too screwed up to avoid a crisis.

1776-1860: plantation owners backed by religion-addled peasants

1865-1932: factory owners backed by immigrant-hating peasants

1980-???: finance & war pushers backed by suburban morons

It's time to hear from some of the other minorities for once, but they can rarely control a state election because of their concentration in urban areas. If that changes, you just watch the right-wingers change the rules via their pet Supreme Court.

And take a look at California. A lot of the citizens there are advanced, wealthy, and live a cosmopolitan lifestyle. They also have budget problems, housing problems, some of the highest taxes in the nation which is driving out businesses, rolling blackouts, etc. yet oppose offshore drilling which the South has been able to do.

What the heck? Have you ever been to California? It is a HUGE diverse state. There is a lot of rural area. Miles and miles of farms.

We have budget problems like many other states, ditto housing problems. Rolling blackouts???? We had the Enron-induced problems years ago but we don't have grid failures like the northeast.

Yeah we have high taxes but they can't be that bad since all of those Silicon Valley businesses seem to cope.

So offshore drilling is supposed to make this place utopia? If any state adjusts to oil depletion it will be California - the state that has the lowest per capita Gasoline Consumption.


CSS - on the beautiful Monterey Bay, surrounded by forrests and farms.

Tax levels are not an absolute measure of the health of a society like body temperature. It is more important how taxes are spent. You can have two nations side-by-side, both with 50% tax rates. If one invests in infrastructure, education and health and the other invests in bombs and the military guess which one has a better standard of living.

People often point to high taxes in California but the reason so many companies locate here and thrive here is because of the rich infrastructure. The Bay Area alone has three (or more) world class universities, multiple world class hospitals, at least three large laboratories (Nasa Ames, Lawrence Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore), many great libraries, three international airports, multiple highly regarded public schools, and on and on. Much of this is supported by tax dollars and it is this environment that allows so many businesses to thrive.

I would counter that the taxes in many states are too low which is why the infrastructure is underfunded which has led to a poorer quality of life in those states. If you don't nurture the commons you can't expect the commons to support you.

I have a different view...the tax level is fine. Spending more than all the other countries of the world combined on the military tends to take away a lot of money that could be used elsewhere.

Aircraft carriers, for instance, cost approx. $4.5 billion and $160 million per year to operate. I don't know if that includes the aircraft themselves or just the ship. There are nine of these currently in operation.

The U.S. doesn't have a tax problem; it has a spending priorities problem. And a debt problem.

This is a fantastic distillation of the puzzle of "What's the matter with the South?"

Point #2 was the one I was missing. I do understand that ordinary Southern conservatives are hypocrites about free markets, but I missed the role of the income tax threshhold in switching their market loyalties as they became more prosperous. Southerners never turn down a Federal handout, which is why Newt Gingrich's district was the most rewarded in American during his time.

The Christian conservative principle is that anything that unequally distributes wealth in favor their kind (white more than black, men more than women, straights uber alles) is a mandate from God. So a nominal belief in free markets and private property is good as far as it goes, but God wants even more inequality! A Godly government must punish those high-tech liberals and black athletes and rap stars who dared outsmart a market only intended to reflect God's natural hierarchy. The urban poor, of course, must be starved into begging for Baptists and Pentecostals to come in and take over their lives.

This viewpoint has spread outwards from the evangelical South into the West. The West had both a bias against big government and a faction that believed in redistribution (see Sam Maverick). Its conversion to theocracy has simply divided big government into "good" and "bad" segments; the good being the military and police state plus any handout to recognizably "good" Americans. It reaches all the way to Alaska, as we have recently learned.

In the average western European country, there was no race bar to interfere with class consciousness. Workers were all the same color as their bosses and hated them with an organizing passion. World War I convincingly proved the bosses idiots in European eyes.

Now add to all this local views about one's entitlement to energy consumption. Southerners and Westerners don't believe in a free market in energy, they believe that the cheap energy that makes their dispersed, anti-urban culture possible is a state matter. As in war.

In the average western European country, there was no race bar to interfere with class consciousness. Workers were all the same color as their bosses and hated them with an organizing passion. World War I convincingly proved the bosses idiots in European eyes.

Ding, Ding, Ding - we have a winner ladies and gentlemen.

See Seymour Martin Lipset's [It Didn't Happen Here: Why Socialism Failed in the United States http://www.amazon.com/Didnt-Happen-Here-Socialism-Failed/dp/0393322548]

The US was divided up into so many different races, ethnic groups, and religions that it was easy to split them apart and use one against the other.

That's what brought down a bunch of the old Democratic machines in many parts of the country. They were run by white ethnics who hated blacks. When the 60s and 70s effectively brought black emancipation - guess who didn't want to share their political and economic power?

In Europe (proper Northern Continental Europe) blood is thicker then a piece of paper.

Place of birth is irrelevant and children get the citizenship of their parents (or mother). This prevents alien cultures from having a vote.

Sadly they have been Americanized to some extent to where there now are mechanisms, even if slow and onerous, to eventually grant them some sort of paper citizenship.

Prodigal Son,

Nice post. One thought: you mention that in Europe they learned a lesson about nationalist fervor from WWI and WWII, but in the South they learned something different. But what about the U.S. Civil War? The south was devastated after this, there was a "lost generation" of young men who never came home (and the ones who did probably had post-traumatic stress disorder something fierce). Large portions of the most fertile crop-land had been burned, e.g., the Shenandoah valley and everywhere from Atlanta to the coast and northwards, and some major metropolitan areas were devastated (Atlanta, Richmond). Why shouldn't have the southerners learned the same lessons the Europeans did after that? After all, what was driving the war according to the southerners was nationalist fervor, only they considered their nation to be their state rather than the U.S.

My impression is that some of the awful treatment of the African americans in the south might have been retribution for this, and I've been told there some evidence in railroad investment that shows the south was being punished by the north after the war for causing it. According to this, WWII supposedly wiped the slate clean and the south was "forgiven". I don't know if this is true or not, I haven't looked that deeply into it. If it is true, this might answer my own question, just look at what happened in Germany after WWI, they were blamed for the war and their resentment manifested itself politically.

*edit* This idea of "punishment" also explains why there was little economic prosperity in the South from the civil war to WWII.

Rail freight rates were heavily biased against southern manufacturers for many decades after the war. Pittsburgh steel was cheaper to ship into much of the south than was Birmingham steel, even when the train went through Birmingham Alabama (as I was told from a couple of sources).


Relatively poor, militaristic peoples who are racially similar to those who have conquered them tend to have a different history.
The defeated Germany after the 1st World War had a radically different attitude to the great losses they had suffered, focussing on the camaraderie and valour rather than the folly of war, as was done by the victorious French and British.
They had no larger body politic to be absorbed in, and the potential to go for round two, which was not an illusion open to the American South, anymore than to the Scottish highlander, who, with relatively poor prospects of advancement and a poor and oppressed land, became the shock troops of the British Empire, just as the good 'ol boys were the bedrock of the American army.
Patriotism displaced into a strange mixture of obedience and resentment.

Excellent point.

Yeah, I think Dave is pretty close to nailing it. Germany and the Old South were both predisposed by feudal/militaristic culture to view war irrationally and thus judge war outcomes absurdly. The winners of WW1 and the Civil War - or their ordinary citizens - quickly came to view those wars as embarrassing mistakes, which quantitatively they were. This hampered later efforts by their governments to enforce the terms of victory and reform the losers' culture. The losers viewed defeat as the start of a vendetta because their elites had to shift the blame from themselves.

Of course Germany after 1945 is a very different geographical locale; the Russians did us the favor of keeping the heart of Prussia and beating it (and its militarism) to death, while we got the saner parts and lavished them with Marshall Plan money. This might be vaguely corresponding to LBJ's massive bribery to the Old South in exchange for capitulation to the Civil Rights Act, but no lesson was learned by its people at the school of hard knocks and they went out hunting for new scapegoat groups required by Southern social dynamics.

Good question - if I recall correctly Southerners weren't keen on US overseas expansion in the decades after the Civil War. But I think a major explanation here is that A: folks forgot about the horrors of the Civil War; B: the South was incorporated after WWII into the military industrial complex; and C: like with the Scots vis-a-vis England after the Act of Union or the Latin vis-a-vis Rome, they found that their participation in expanding the 'empire' could further their own economic interests and increase their political influence within the central state.

Plus, the Civil War's 'lost cause' mythology has gone a long way in romanticizing the war - like how the Serbs romanticized their defeat at the hands of the Turks so many centuries ago. It's now part of a quasi-nationalist myth that's used for political purposes in the South. If you ask many folks in the South the war wasn't about slavery, it was about Northern aggression.

I read a book some years ago that argued that both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War were all about taxes. The reason the Canadians didn't join the Revolution was that the tax collectors were much nicer people than those in Boston. The book argued that our most celebrated patriots were either smugglers or businessmen who bought their wares from the smugglers. Parts of the American Constitution like the right against unwarranted search and seizure were a result of the tactics used to collect taxes.
The Civil War was about the Federal government's ability to collect import tariffs and the first battle was in a port where local authorities did not support the collection of tariffs. The plain folks of the North wouldn't support a war about tax collection so the issue of ending slavery was one that got them to join the fight.

The American settlers often disliked and came into conflict with the British over their rather more moderate attitude to the native Indians, which somewhat restricted their ambitions to grab land.
Something rather similar was observable in the Spanish part of the continent, where Madrid rather ineffectually tried to protect it's new subjects, as did the Catholic church, with many of the now frowned upon mass conversions being a desperate ply by the priests to give the Indians the minimal protection from torture afforded by Christian status.

The Civil War was about the Federal government's ability to collect import tariffs and the first battle was in a port where local authorities did not support the collection of tariffs. The plain folks of the North wouldn't support a war about tax collection so the issue of ending slavery was one that got them to join the fight.

Bull. The war was about slavery. Why were tariffs important? Slavery.

Bull. The war was about slavery. Why were tariffs important? Slavery.

Exactly! I have lived in the South all my life and have heard every excuse in the book for the reasons why we fought the war. States Rights is the usual one toted out when a Southerner does not want to admit the war was about slavery. But the war was fought between slave states and free states. It was all about slavery pure and simple.

But the war was fought between slave states and free states. It was all about slavery pure and simple.

Actually, IMO, the secession was about slavery. The war was about the right to secede.

That was the basis Abe fought it on - it was not until later that he dared make the issue of slavery overt, as many of his countrymen, notably some of the Irish, regarded such social distinctions to have merit.
Perhaps another example of ignoble instincts being diverted to noble ends, but then again Hitler would certainly have regarded his attempt to turn the German people into Wagnerian heros nobler than their present swinish indulgence in comfortable living and Mercedes cars, so perhaps one should distrust politicians bearing gifts, even when it is nobility.

Vice President of the Confederacy Andrew Stephens:

"Our republic is founded upon the principle that the Negro is not the equal of the White man."

The mutation in the respectability of the idea of racial and religious discrimination at different times in different societies bears examining.

It starts off with discrimination being a given, an elite attitude, and the lower classes, who probably had no opinion on the matter never having met any of the people in question being co-opted.

So, for instance, the Prussian conquest of the slav was natural because of their inferiority.
At a later stage, when the conquest has been successful, the elite could not give a damn about the ethnic, or often religious identity of the various elements of the lower classes, save that they still have to pander to relatively powerful sections of the old 'homeland people' - the Roman Empire would be a good example of this, where the first identity was as a Roman, but that later became progressively broadened, so that the expectation of the lower class Romans that their sacrifices would entitle them to a share of the spoils were falsified - the Punic wars are a classic case - by the time the soldiers got home everything they owned had been pinched by the rulers.

In the present era, it is discriminatory to be anti-immigration, which, purely by chance, happens to greatly favour those who own property, whilst disadvantaging those who do not, as demand for accomodation is greater, whilst holding wages down and avoiding some of the inconvenience of paying more wages.

The elites manipulate the respectability or otherwise of racial and religious homogenity, encouraging division when they need to set up a gang to seize some spoils, then welshing on it before sharing them with the proletariat, and suddenly being in favour of the equality of man.

There is no place in a modern society for slavery. You loose too much sunk capital in a depression if they starve - why do that when you can sack them them if they are 'free'?

But the war was fought between slave states and free states

Except Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri

The Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to them.


PS: One of my Kentucky ancestors fought as a Captain for the Union until the Emancipation Proclamation, when he resigned his commission as the reason for the war changed from preserving the Union to eliminating slavery.

Being raised in the South, the schools taught me that the War was over economics. My Northern friends told me that they were taught that the War was over slavery. Later on I realized that slavery was the economy of the Southern ruling class - that's what allowed them to become rich off of their large landholdings. The different teachings were just two different names for the same beastly institution.

I recall that in the Spanish-American crisis of 1898, the South was very loudly among those in favor of the seizure of Spain's empire. Of course that was just the opinion of the elites, but that's all that counted. It may have been an echo of antebellum Southern ambitions to enslave Mexico and Central America.

William Jennings Bryan ran with a campaign poster of an US Flag and the motto "The Flag of a Republic Forever, The Flag of Empire Never". He won the South but lost the national election.


Ive asked thousands of southerners about the civil war. Without exception they deny it was about slavery
and all parrot, "It was about states rights".
Then I ask them if it was about states rights to own
slaves? And the argument turns circular. Test this and see its true.

One of my Kentucky ancestors fought as a Captain for the Union until the Emancipation Proclamation, when he resigned his commission as the reason for the war changed from preserving the Union to eliminating slavery.

He was fighting to put down the Great Rebellion, not to end slavery.


Thanks guys for your comments. Davemart, I was thinking of Scotland quite a bit too. For instance, I'm not sure who dreamt it up, but it was a great success for the British to allow the highlanders to wear their kilts and play their bagpipes, but only if they were in the military.

Another example to look at is East and West Germany. East Germany was essentially bought by the west in 1990 and east germany was (is?) viewed as a inferior in the unified republic. I guess they resent this, but I haven't seen much beyond skinhead gangs and the some conservative or communist politics. There was a great movie made about it actually, "Goodbye Lenin!"

My understanding of the situation of Germany and Japan is that the American idea of investing so heavily in rebuilding infrastructure after WWII we've avoided some resentment by these peoples for the war. One has to wonder then if in the U.S. the south was forgiven after WWII, does this mean that this sort of obstructionist politics the Republicans tend to practice sometimes will fade? I hope so, but maybe the opposite will happen, in its resentment, the south will bring down the rest of the country to a lower level. It certainly seems to be having some success at that looking at the political climate -- intelligence is viewed as a liability because you get branded as an elitist and this is a predominantly a point made by republicans, who win southern states. This isn't healthy.

*edit* Incidentally, Prodigal Son, my grandfather used to refer to it as the "war of northern aggression." :) There is some truth to it, in that the southerners did view the abolitionist policies as aggressive because as they saw it, their economy was based on slavery and so the northerners wanted to destroy their economy.

I think you're on to something there...the South was devestated after the War Between the States - many people were lost, the economy was cut in half, and an external power tried to upend the social order. For decades afterwards, the South was the economic colony of the North. The resentment this engendered is similar to what happened in Germany after WWI - the South had The Lost Cause, while Germany had The Stab in the Back myth. Both show the defeated side as noble victims, although one blamed the generals while the other made them heroes. It took WWII to break this mythology in Germany. In the South this mythology seems to have transitioned to a new one in the post-civil rights era where the South is not so much the wronged victim but the keeper of virtue.

Robert Penn Warren's Legacy of the Civil War is great reading on the psychological results of the War. The "Treasury of Virtue" that the North gained by freeing the slaves seems to echo through several of our military adventures - how many times have we been called out again to free the slaves? The Spanish-American War? WWI? WWII? Cold War? And the current wars?

One thing I like to point out about the Iraq war is the similarities between what we're doing there and what happened to the American South in the War Between the States. Both the South and Iraq's economies were ruined. Both regions have lost a generation of fighting men. In both cases an external power not only imposed military defeat, but upended the social order (freeing the slaves, majority Shia rule in Iraq). And both are honor-bound societies. How long has the South held a grudge? 150 years and counting. How long will the Iraqis?

Just some random thoughts....

I don't know where to stick this in this discussion but what southerners had/have was a sense of "place." When I worked in the north of the south, all the local boys had a "history" of "being there." This might be remembering when so and so blew up a farmers two holer or when someone chained the cop's car to the pole. An analogy might be Lynard Skynard's song Sweet Home Alabama. The same thing was true of "Little Italy's" or Japan towns.

I've lived in the boondocks for a long time and the people create a shared history - good or bad. This history is what makes the community work. And, I believe it is the glue that makes America work. That glue has been dispersed in the name of lots of reasonable sounding goals. But, the glue has been destroyed.


I keep wondering how many of these places were Mountains that subsequently got removed for Coal-power. I remember the feeling of being in a NYC without the trade towers, something THAT big that was suddenly just gone. It must be something to live near Mountains that go away on you.

I remember the feeling of being in a NYC without the trade towers, something THAT big that was suddenly just gone. It must be something to live near Mountains that go away on you.

Yup. The mountain/building goes away and you are left with a pile of toxic rubble.

The part about the "Treasury of Virtue" may explain something about the rise of the Republican Party in the post-Vietnam South.

Think of yourself as a mainstream white Southerner in 1975. For the last dozen years you have supported the losing side in two wars; one against Martin Luther King, and one in Vietnam. What's worse, you were reviled in the media in both wars as a bully, racist and murderer. You have seen both the civil rights marchers and the anti-war marchers adopt a strategy of appearing as victims in front of the TV cameras. I admire MLK's long-term analysis of the need for non-violence, but I understand that his short-term media strategy was to get beaten in front of a camera.

So maybe you have a subconscious desire to get to play the virtuous victim for a change. In 1975 we seem to be losing the Cold War, the Arabs have us over an oil barrel, the courts are on the side of personal freedom, and capitalism stands accused of environmental crimes.

I read in the Houston Press that Jerry Falwell never preached against abortion before 1976. There it is. Protestants grabbed the anti-abortion issue from Catholics after they needed to proclaim themselves the victims, and the liberals the bullies. Abortion clinic protestors (really!) compared themselves to the Abolitionists. Reagan skillfully expanded that into a broad fantasy of good folk under assault from inferiors - when in truth they were under attack by their own outsourcing bosses and war debt.

Austria in 1914, Germany in 1932, America since 1980, Russia since 1998. Very powerful, dangerous nations using self-pity to justify God knows what. We're running out of room for this stuff.

Great post Prodigal son. I have a question for you and Super390. I have long wondered how much of the South's turn to fundamentalism is due to the South's turning to faith-based schools as a means to subvert racially integrated schooling resulting from the Civil Rights movement. I was sent to faith-based schools in the South in 70s and put it this way, the agenda was not education in the sciences and the humanities, logic and critic thinking, but rather blind faith and obedience. (I do give credit to a couple of subversive teachers within the system who did try to educate.) I think parents deliberately sent their children to faith-based schools to avoid integration, but the schools had their own agenda of brainwashing children into being followers of a fundamentalist blind faith. The timing (30-40 years) seems about right to me. I have been shocked about the growth of fundamentalist militarist christianity that I have witnessed in my lifetime (I was born in 1963). Truth to tell, it frightens me badly. It was not always so, at least in the big Southern cities. Please comment on this idea of mine anyone.

I have long wondered how much of the South's turn to fundamentalism is due to the South's turning to faith-based schools as a means to subvert racially integrated schooling resulting from the Civil Rights movement.

Good question. I think fundamentalism has always been there - it just wasn't politically important until after Northern Catholics found common cause with fundamentalist Baptists over culture-war issues like abortion and gay rights.

But, yeah, the growth of fundamentalism is deeply troubling - but not unprecedented. It's a reaction to the changes modernity brings and we've seen it before. Spain in the 1930s. Germany and Italy after WWII. Iran in the 70s. Folks are grasping onto something they know is 'true' in a world full of ambiguity.

I'm too lazy to find the title of the Karen Armstrong book I read on this subject, but I think several of her books deal with fundamentalism. She wrote that, ironically, fundamentalism is a modern movement. In other words, it uses methods unknown to a genuine traditional society (political organization, ideology, propaganda machines) to fend off the negative effects of modernity.

What I still don't understand is why fundamentalism has struck deepest at the top of the capitalist system, in the boomtown Sunbelt of America, and the bottom, in the Arab and Persian worlds that refused to capitulate to foreign takeover. I see the similarity in masculine resentment. I see that conservative American elites whipped up religious extremism in both the South and in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region to crush the left (Charlie Wilson's War shows us a woman involved in both movements). That's about it.

Right! The south did not turn to fundamentalism, the south was always fundamentalist. If anything it is lest fundamentalists than it was half a century ago. What has changed is the Democratic party. Fifty years ago they were just as religious as the Republicans. Now the Republican party is the party of fundamentalism and that is what has turned the south into mostly red states.


It may have been more direct than that. While hardly any church congregations in the South that I know of became integrated during the civil rights movement, some white denominations and/or congregations eventually supported integration and civil rights. I'm thinking particularly of mainstream Protestant denominations, such as the United Methodist Church in which I was raised. The racists/segregationists may have turned to fundamentalist churches directly, turning away from the [more] integrationist mainline Protestant churches, due to the mainline denominations' political stance. In other words, their actions may have originated on Sunday, rather than Monday through Friday. Of course, the jim crow academies were part of the whole alternative universe the segregationists tried to create. Glad to see you escaped to the real world.

I always was stubborn and the harder i was hit for thinking and speaking my mind, the more I continued thinking. I was also helped by a few subversive, undercover gay, humanist, or feminist teachers who actually valued critical thinking and education. They should be honored. But it's pretty scary what people try to put in children's minds. I despise how a gentle rabbi of the school of Hillel who tried to challenge people to act more compassionately and to think of who they were excluding as inferior or not worthy to live has been turned into the justification of militant, christo-fascist fundamentalism which is frankly enamoured with dealing violent death and repression to so many. Thank you Brother Kornhoer for your insight about the turning away from the mainstream protestant churches once they accepted Civil Rights. But I seem to be the only one of my circle who escaped.

Born in 1964. White Texan father (USAF). Japanese mother. I was a right-winger until I realized Nixon was a crook and Reagan a Victorian kook. I was a Christian maniac until I just couldn't buy that crap anymore. So I'm scared and disgusted now.

Luckily I went to very secular DoD public schools overseas, but I did spend a creepy week at a Baptist Bible camp in Bataan, the Philippines. When I grew up the military had just had a terrible scare with racial mutinies due to Vietnam and it was obsessed with racial sensitivity, with constant public service announcements on TV, race relations counselors, a very strong onus against the n-word, etc. It worked on me; when I came back to the States in '79 I was shocked at the pervasive bigotry and was radicalized. (For all you readers who wonder why I'm so obsessed with race.)

I have seen no studies on the effectiveness of the '60s segregation academies in indoctinating their graduates with fundamentalist ideas. Yet indeed where those schools were, the GOP has conquered. It would be grimly fitting if it turned out the Saudi monarchy's support of a vast global network of extremist Islamic schools was based on that model, but I expect it was a coincidence borne of a similar resentment against secular public schools seized on by ideologues.

Modern history says this thing will flame out in a generation. Peak Oil says we don't have that much time before we cease to be modern.

Very interesting discussion. I'm still mystified by the spread of political Christain fundamentalism beyond the old south -and even beyond the confines of the US. Thats what I find so distressing about the current situation. We also seem to have lost (or did we ever have) our appreciation for the truth (and the search for truth, even if not convenient), as the greatest virtue -and a great sin in the breath thereof. Now we seem to have cororate marketting, devoting to selling a version of reality, which is inveted to service their needs, and myth and propaganda are unapologetically used in furtherance of the agenda. And, we have a political party, which seems to have taken Goebels to heart, a lie told often enough becomes the truth, and made it a foundation stone of their campaign. And it seems to be working....

I've been trying to fight these tendencies. But, it looks to be a losing battle.

Fantastic post. I was born in 1968 and at least during my life I saw the change over from the super poverty and ignorance common in the south to decent living standards and really only recently say in the last ten years to a more modern culture.

However the northern cities where and arguably are not a lot better than the south they have a lot of poverty and until the 1980's things were really bad in a lot of the inner cities.

The point is your understanding of the fact that what we consider normal democracy has only existed for a really brief time certainly in the south as you mention but its true for other parts of the nation. Its only been 35 years that the US has not had significant poverty. And in my opinion from a bigger perspective this only lasted till about 1990-1995 with the last 15 years or so fueled by a huge debt bubble that will not be repaid.

What really interesting is this sweet spot of general real prosperity maps on the same time period as cheap abundant oil coupled with technical and educational advancement.

Although we look forward to a time of expensive oil it worth realizing that the nearest golden age was fueled by oil. If you discount the climate and other damage to the world cheap oil did create a wealthy society with a lot of equality for a brief period of time.

Of course we are now starting to live in the aftermath and its becoming increasingly obvious that this approach is unsustainable but it does hold out hope that at some point in the future with a saner society the same sort of general well being is possible again. Cheap oil fueled the American dream for most and it seems if we can change the dream to a less energy intensive version that we can still have a wealthy society.

After reading your BS about us, I am forcibly reminded how Yankee is four letter word. Since I'm a transplant, I could do without this feeling.

"The reality is that our Constitution empowers the interests of the most backwards and insular parts of the country over the interests of the more populous, advanced, wealthy, and cosmopolitan parts."

Its called democracy and if someone like you ever gets in power, it will be 1860 all over again only this time the factories have left. There is a reason we have guns down here and your ideas are a prime example. That is possibly the most elitest, obnoxious and arrogant thing I've ever read on the oildrum and that is really something. Congratulations on being my inspiration to....????? Possibly the only good thing to come from Balkanization of the states is that you'll get on your side of the line and STAY there. Honor culture yes, do you have any honor?....obviously not. Let me guess, for all your knowledge of the south you don't speak up much when down here?

I call 'em as I seem 'em. All the other transplants where I'm at feel nearly the same way. We only half joke about having our passports ready in case we have to flee.

If the country collapses - rest assured I'll flee to my side and make sure every weapon is used to keep you on your side.

Tribalism - isn't it wonderful? :-)

and the failed orthodoxy in this situation may well turn out to be science and technological progress.

That has crossed my mind. If science/technology fails to save us, people may turn against it. Even blame it for the disasters.

An excellent fictional treatment of this theme is found in Walter Miller's A Canticle for Liebowitz.

Excellent book.

It's more abstract work of historical sociology than science fiction in my opinion.

Then again, most good science fiction reads that way.

Just in case you missed it, Heinlein's 'Starship Troopers' encapsulates many of the attitudes you mention in the post above about southern militarism.
Then again, the whole point of generalship is to utilise and channel our instincts as stone-age people, to admire and encourage those who will defend our society, into the purposes of the moment.
A hero is a hero, and the politics of warcraft often that of bending noble intent to ignoble ends.

I think FDR's tricking Southern bigots into fighting a war against white supremacist fascism is more an example of bending ignoble intent to noble ends, but the victory culture the war spawned seems to have delivered us unto fascism in the long run. I guess you can't fool human nature.

I thought the book, A Canticle for Liebowitz, stunk to the high heavens. It had such promise but in the end Catholicism was spread throughout the Galaxy. Great ending and theme, if you are a religious ideologue.

So you didn't like it because it had an unhappy ending? Or did you think the ending was poorly written?

No, I did not like it because the author seemed to think Catholicism was the one true religion and deserved to be spread throughout the Galaxy. The book was nothing more than religious propaganda. And THAT was why I did not like it.

I did not like it because the author seemed to think Catholicism was the one true religion and deserved to be spread throughout the Galaxy.

Nothing in the novel suggests that. If that's the conclusion you drew from it, it's one you brought with you. I don't mean to offend, but I honestly don't think you understood the novel.

I thought the book, A Canticle for Liebowitz, stunk to the high heavens.

A valid opinion, but, again, one that does not seem to be widely shared (from here):

"Considered one of the classics of science fiction, it has never been out of print and has seen over 25 reprints and editions. Appealing to mainstream and genre critics and readers alike, it won the 1961 Hugo Award for best science fiction novel.
Inspired by the author's participation in the Allied bombing of the monastery at Monte Cassino during World War II, the novel is considered a masterpiece by literary critics. It has been compared favorably with the works of Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, and Walker Percy, and its themes of religion, recurrence, and church versus state have generated a significant body of scholarly research."

But since they had no Bible, just Liebowitz's grocery list, how could they have been Catholic? I don't know much about papal authority; I guess the institution of the papacy is more central to Catholicism than the Bible itself.

I didn't say it had a happy ending!

Heh - you gotta wonder about the altar boys on those long space flights....

I saw the Catholic thing more as a metaphor for the need for religious faith and religious institutions in a changing world.

that's inevitable. Laozi pointed that out some 2500 years ago regarding to knowledge in general: 绝学无忧.

We are now uncertain about everything: about science, religion, morality, philosophy, politics, and economics. We doubt whether we can tell truth from falsehood in any field, or even whether such a distinction might mean anything, if we found it, or could be meaningfully expressed. Faith in science, logic, and mathematics as means of telling the truth has in some ways been more thoroughly undermined than faith in religious texts or churches. Imperialism, I want to suggest in this chapter, bereft of its sustaining certainty, has been one of the conspicuous casualties in recent times of epistemological upheaval. It would be naive to look for the start of the process; today, however, in the second half of the twentieth century, when certainty is dead and buried, we can exhume it and pick out some of the oldest worms in the corpse.

Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, Millennium: A history of the last thousand years (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1995), 460.

Ten years on we can see even clearer the worms in the corpse of certainty. Ambiguity reigns supreme.

One advantage fundamentalism has, and will always have, is the certainty it offers its disciples.

It's an advantage shared by the neo-cons and the adherents of the "Project for the New American Century".

That's the glue that forged the alliance playing its hand in 2008 as it did in 2004 and 2000.

I wish a William James/John Dewey/Richard Rorty sort of pragmatism would filter down into our culture. Culture absorbed the enlightenment fairly well, but failed to absorb further updates that came along after that. A resolution to the inherent paradoxes of Cartesian dualism as well as removal of the underlying dependence on Greek and Christian philosophy is necessary for culture to move forward to a lesser dependence on Truth - when all we need is ephemeral truth. Truth needs to be downsized, essentially, else people revert to a fundamentalist view when our current Truths prove unworthy of the capital 'T'.

But nobody reads philosophy anymore. We're stuck in the Enlightenment, and everything that came after is denigrated as "post-modern crap".

One advantage fundamentalism has, and will always have, is the certainty it offers its disciples.

Freedom requires people to take responsibility for their thoughs and their actions. This can be terrifying to many people as Eric Fromm outlined in "Escape from Freedom".

Fromm's most well-known work, Escape from Freedom, focuses on the human urge to seek a source of authority and control upon reaching a freedom that was thought to be an individual’s true desire.

Argentina is blessed with abundant natural resources, a temperate climate, and some of the planet's best farmland. From about 1880 to 1929 it had one of the highest standards of living in the world - and then things started to go terribly wrong.

By the 1940's, they ended up with a military strongman, Juan Peron, and his popular wife Eva. What followed were bouts of hyperinflation, an increasingly fragmented society, and finally a "dirty war" by the military against opponents of the government. They haven't ever fully recovered.

Several posters here on TOD have a much better sense of sociology and history than I do, and so I would be interested in their views on the parallels between recent American events and those in Argentina during the early postwar period.

Whenever I see John McCain and Sarah Palin, I am reminded of Juan and Eva Peron - and I really hope that I'm wrong about what's coming next.

Let's be fair to the Argentinians; they didn't start the Great Depression. I understand that Argentina was so utterly overrun by
British capital in the Edwardian era that when the world was balkanized into currency blocs after 1929, Argentina got stuck in the pound sterling bloc. Looking at a map, I'd say that was insane.

First they hitched their prosperous wagon to the falling British star, then to the rapacious American machine, then to the IMF. Maybe those deserve as much blame as Peron.

You have it 100% wrong.

There is a good documentary about the Argentine troubles on YouTube


Even with the demographic differences (Argentina is 97% white) you can match characters with those we now have here.

Peron may have been a general, but he was very left wing and had no real support from the military, he was elected by the equivalent of the welfare establishment. It's also ancient history, the movie shows the relevant last 20 or 25 years.

The real parallels are with guys like Cavallo doing the IMF dirty work like Paulson and Bernanke here and now, and the election of Menem (who was of mixed blood) by the welfare class under false premises being paralleled by a possible Obama election. It took Menem less then 24 hours to betray everyone and the country went into massive economic collapse. The problems were there from the previous administration, but not anywhere to the degree that followed.

I would expect a military coup in less then two years if Obama is elected.

The only way to understand the reasoning and the parallels is to watch all 12 parts of the movie in the link. The translation is a little incomplete but otherwise very well done, which is unusual, that's what makes the movie a gem.

Interesting idea. I suspect this is true for a subset of the population. During the last decade or so the corporatist right wing has seen it in their interest not to confront science but just to cast doubt. This is clearly seen in the issue of global warming. Among scientists this is a settled issue. However, the right wing mouthpieces have been cranking out the idea not that AGW is wrong but that it is unsettled. They just need to stir up enough doubt to prevent government from taking action.

Odd that this would happen at a time when we have made fantastic strides in physics, chemistry, math and more.

Science does not and cannot provide the certainty that most people crave. Only religion does that and the reason it succeeds is that is predominantly patriarchal and consequently appeals to the need for authority in all of us. We evolved as a male dominated species and so it is part of our genetics. But evolution continues and many of our species have developed enough advanced brain power to see the problem and subsume the need for authority. People of Science can live with the uncertainty required by that point of view but most cannot.

Science does not and cannot provide the certainty that most people crave.

Which would be why da lord works in mysterious ways.

And why math can model many physical systems.

If you go back to the Bronze Age you would find most religions were either matriarchal or polytheistic of mixed genders. The Jews went to great pains to differentiate their patriarchal god from the goddess worshipers that surrounded them. The overt sexuality of the goddess cults were very appealing especially for farmers and herders who were so dependent on the fertility of the land. The fig was the bread and wine of many goddess cults and the writers of the Torah assumed everyone knew the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge was a fig. This concept was carried over to the gospels where Jesus curses a fig tree. The goddess worshipers also practiced baptisms in a mixture of water and lamb's blood. The early Christians adapted this concept by making Jesus the Lamb of God and the doctrine of being cleansed by his shed blood being central to the communion. Goddess cults persisted in Europe to the Middle Ages by the followers of Wicca and it took centuries to convince the people that Wiccans were devil worshipers. Catholic doctrine has deified Mary as a substitute for the goddesses of the pagans as part of converting Europeans to Christianity. Other Christians have asserted that the Holy Spirit is female.
We did not evolve as a male dominated species but as species which seeks cooperation between genders. It was the evolution of the concept of property which resulted in the creation of armies to protect (or steal) that property which made patriarchy dominate. Armies made exclusively of men were more successful than mixed gender armies and therefore led to domination of societies by whomever could kick ass the hardest. Soldier-Kings needed certainty of paternity in order to pass property and power down to their sons. It was impossible to keep watch over your women while out on the battlefield so an all seeing vengeful god was needed to keep the women faithful in more ways than one. This led to controlling the sex lives of women and in having them give birth to future soldiers. Any sex act that couldn't result in pregnancy was demonized by Judaism and the Christians and Muslims which claimed the same male God as their own. It also had the by-product of an emphasis on sexual morality over the morality of caring for the poor and other people's children. It made contraceptives and abortions into the worst of sins. Pre-marital pregnancies like a certain vice president candidate's daughter's though are quite forgivable if the people involved are formally married as soon as possible. There are just making future soldiers who will protect the property of the rich.

Odd that this would happen at a time when we have made fantastic strides in physics, chemistry, math and more.

At the same time this was happening, the barrier to entry to those studies, has become very high. Very hard core advanced math, that the vast majority of the population is unsuited for. So while lots of the vary young, -say 10year old, are very interested in learning science, the sense of rejection by the profession of the vast majority of the population feeds resentment of the profession.

Peak Oil Tarzan asks "So where did we go wrong?"

Yes...a burning question for our time. Particularly with a troubled election facing us and for many no choice at all.

So to answer the question. I am dusting off my old blog and putting a small dissertation thereon. Just as TPTB requested we do. I will put a small excerpt on an upcoming DB. I am very busy getting ready for the fall harvest but its been on my mind to make a large statement on how we 'lost it all'. At least as far as our previous society being mostly agrarian in nature. I was personally part of the whole transistion.

From a country boy milking cows and doing my lessons with a coal oil lamp, from cooking and heating with wood , to then coal and then natural gas and then on and on. I stood astride all the techonology advcances from teaching rocket guidance systems to staff programmer for the largest computer company, to now retired back to the farm and going backwards back to cooking and heating with wood. I have been part of and seen and experienced every last bit of it as it happened.

We are either going to have to rapidly start dealing with the truth or we will surely all gone down together. This upcoming election is to me a farce of the first water.

One should have to declare their running mates before the primary and not after its a done deal, as it has always been so in the past.

Airdale-God help for surely the politicos won't

Because we did not read, nor heed our Shakespeare. IIRC: "First, kill all the lawyers."

Do you think ol' Bill got screwed over by a barrister or two?

But where did it go? My theory is science became the new Western/Russo religion of the second half of the 20th century. The scientists were the new priests in the technological and ideological cold war. Of course, the myth and mystery of science is in itself self-negating, and therefore could not exist within the conscious realm of religion.

So the bottom-line, Reaganomics, financial class took over; and their time has come to an end too.

And here we find ourselves, children of the technocracy wondering why the icons have toppled, and the MO of the day is believing is better than knowing. I share this bewilderment, and yet I see the weak facade of our techno-worship as really unsuitable to the core human condition.

That is - and I extract this from some 20 years ago in my early post university days - we need to start living to the rhythm of the humans and not to the rhythm of the machines. (And that includes naps/siestas BTW!)

There is the nut of the matter...

As I was mentioning in a completely seperate post on Sunday, there have been multiple attempts to reconstruct feudalism in Europe and America. It drives me nuts because I can't see what's in it for those volunteering to become peons. If civilized people can't construct an argument for suburban rednecks on why a new Dark Age would be bad for them personally, then it will become the path of least resistance for a post-growth future.

Obviously I come to TOD as a radical voice, precisely because I fear that a return to past levels of economic activity is too easily assumed even by people at this site to mandate a return to past forms of injustice. Every day I find evidence that better alternatives were available to our ancestors, IF they had only had more information. For instance, on Saturday I was at one of the alarmist financial blogs and a post pointed me to info on Benjamin Franklin's project for the colony of Pennsylvania to issue paper money, bank-free, by lending it to farmers at 5% interest to deal with a liquidity crunch. The attempt by London to outlaw Pennsylvania's system after a couple of decades of success is credited as a main cause of the Revolution. Yet after Independence, Pennsylvania's system was not resumed. The bankers had succeeded in establishing a more complex system for money creation, more complex because it required the bankers to make a profit.

There are lots of isolated points of light in history that were drowned out by the momentum of feudalist wealth polarization. Democracy, land redistribution, confrontations over personal liberty, humanist philosophy, these things were happening in individual cities and countries, but they could not build a widely-known case against the paradigm of king-lord-church until the right conditions existed. Now the right conditions are slipping away.

The Revolution was more against the corporations than it was against English rule. But then again, at the time the two were conflated. The redcoats were exerting state power for the corporations.

super390, check out the "anti-federalists" and their arguments. The period between the revolution and the Constitution was very fertile. Too fertile perhaps. Certainly too fertile for the bankers and ownership class. But what they were discussing turn out to be exactly the sort of things people like Heinberg and Wendell Berry are discussing now. Or Nader, when he points out how our political system is a wholly owned subsidiary of the corporate class.

We are debating Palin and her list of books to be banned, but on the important arguments, there is only a silly millimeter's random difference between the candidates for most offices. I'd not thought carefully about how Hotelling model applies to politics until recently. How it applies at the tactical "move to the center" level is clear enough. What I'd not thought through was how effectively it destroyed any new ideas - no matter how pressing.

cfm in Gray, ME

We are debating Palin and her list of books to be banned

Not her list it seems.

No,it does not appear to be her list. However, we know that she had a list in mind, don't we? That fact is enlightening enough, as if there wasn't enough to qualify her as unfit before.

Now, if THIS is true - I look forward to the spinning.


While Sarah Palin was serving as the Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, the city charged victims of sexual assault between $300 and $1200 for their own rape kits. A rape kit is a sexual assault forensic evidence kit, used to collect DNA that can be used in criminal proceedings to assist in the conviction of those who commit sex crimes. The kit is performed as soon as possible after a sexual assault or attack has been committed.

Yeah, and I thought she was rather well read too. Still, "The Merchant of Venice" I couldn't figure out. Was it Jews as humans she objected to or was she (and her corporate sponsors) unhappy with the outcome of taking a pound of flesh as payment? Hmmm, is that in Greenspan's contract anywhere?

But I digress.

cfm in Gray, ME

Failing that, assassination of Obama seems to me a real possibility, providing it can be done with deniability

This comment made me think of conspiracy theories, until I looked at www.intrade.com, where an active betting market on US presidential race still has Hillary Clinton at 3% odds. Now how could SHE be president -she isn't even nominated??
As of tonight there ar 8,000 contracts bidding 3.1 for her to win.

I have no clue in these things other than I put a small bet on Richardson earlier in the year to by VP because I think he knows energy better than anyone else. But if something would happen to Obama, what is the protocol? Has that ever happened before? Someone clearly is willing to take a punt on Hillary winning? Thoughts?

She's doubled then. After the Democratic convention she was trading at 1.5.

I guess assasination is what they are betting on.

I don't think it matters here whether something is possible. It only matters whether some people think it is possible.

These kinds of information markets aggregate people's perceptions into a market-price / probability.

Though it may be hard to believe... it seems that some people still perceive the possibility of HC being elected as a remote possibility.

As of tonight there ar 8,000 contracts bidding 3.1 for her to win.

Small risk to purchase at 3.1, large reward if it comes to pass (33 to 1). Dead money IMHO.

I looked through the The Charter and Bylaws of the Democratic National Party[PDF Alert] but nothing jumped out at me as to what would happen if a presidential candidate was unable to run after being nominated. Surely some wonk out there must know the answer, I'm just not too keen on googling "What would happen if Obama is assassinated before the election." :-0

EDIT: If you buy this at 3.0 or 1.5 or whatever, your "shares" will be worth 100 if Clinton is elected and they will be worth 0 if she is not.

what would happen if a presidential candidate was unable to run after being nominated.

A bit of confusion, then claims of 'just vote for the choice and we'll get it sorted out at the electoral college level.'

Because that is who actually selects - the 500 or so members of the electoral college.

I was never a fan of conspiracy theories, but the present administration more closely resembles the Corleones or some of the power elites within the ancient Roman republic than anything we learnt as children about constitutional government, and for such organisations assassinations do not cause any eyebrows to be raised.

An interesting tit-bit is that the legendary British SAS is reported to have killed several thousand in Iraq by assassination, would-be bombers we are told, and once the personnel are processed through into Blackwater-type organisations their deployment at home does not seem far fetched.
Special forces personnel are trained for loyalty to their units, and ethos, rather than schooled in the finer points of constitutional government.

I used to find the many films where the hero finds he is unwittingly targeted by shadowy figures in the administration and security services irritating, and dismiss them as schedule-fillers.

Not any more.

Last night on 60 Minutes Bob Woodward was talking about his latest book. He hinted that he had learned of some new technology that allowed the US to identify/track/interdict key enemy personnel. He likened it to be like the technological leap in warfare to the tank or the airplane.

Woodward: Military Opposed Surge

But beyond all of that, Woodward reports, for the first time, that there is a secret behind the success of the surge: a sophisticated and lethal special operations program.

"This is very sensitive and very top secret, but there are secret operational capabilities that have been developed by the military to locate, target, and kill leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq, insurgent leaders, renegade militia leaders. That is one of the true breakthroughs," Woodward told Pelley.

"But what are we talking about here? It's some kind of surveillance? Some kind of targeted way of taking out just the people that you're looking for? The leadership of the enemy?" Pelley asked.

"I'd love to go through the details, but I'm not going to," Woodward replied.

The details, Woodward says, would compromise the program.

"For a reporter, you don’t allow much," Pelley remarked.

"Well no, it’s with reluctance. From what I know about it, it's one of those things that go back to any war, World War I, World War II, the role of the tank, and the airplane. And it is the stuff of which military novels are written," Woodward said.

"Do you mean to say that this special capability is such an advance in military technique and technology that it reminds you of the advent of the tank and the airplane?" Pelley asked.

"Yeah," Woodward said. "If you were an al Qaeda leader or part of the insurgency in Iraq, or one of these renegade militias, and you knew about what they were able to do, you'd get your ass outta town."

"This is very sensitive and very top secret.."

i watched that segment also. if it is top secret why does bob woodward know about it ?

I guess no one can resist speaking with the reporter who broke the Watergate scandal. He's like Chris Hansen on that "To Catch a Predator Show". Once your within his sight, he uses a psychic mind meld to make you talk. A little more detail about the program...

Why Did Violence Plummet? It Wasn't Just the Surge.

Senior military officers and officials at the White House urged against publishing details or code names associated with the groundbreaking programs, arguing that publication of the names alone might harm the operations that have been so beneficial in Iraq. As a result, specific operational details have been omitted in this report and in "The War Within."

But a number of authoritative sources say the covert activities had a far-reaching effect on the violence and were very possibly the biggest factor in reducing it. Several said that 85 to 90 percent of the successful operations and "actionable intelligence" had come from the new sources, methods and operations. Several others said that figure was exaggerated but acknowledged their significance.

Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) responsible for hunting al-Qaeda in Iraq, employed what he called "collaborative warfare," using every tool available simultaneously, from signal intercepts to human intelligence and other methods, that allowed lightning-quick and sometimes concurrent operations.

Asked in an interview about the intelligence breakthroughs in Iraq, President Bush offered a simple answer: "JSOC is awesome."

Dude, I will like so totally miss having a president who uses the word awesome on a regular basis. NOT!

The secret is …………….

You make sure its your people and your plans that you are fighting against.

That way you produce and therefore easily control eventually suppressing the conflict.

Blow up the mosque even before the insurgents debate wither or not to do it.

Come on. How hard is that to figure out. Jeeze hasn't anyone ever played a video game before.

My 16 year old could game the hell out of this situation in 20 min.

We all act like TPTB are winging it. WTF?

and one has to wonder just how much the violence has actually decreased. we were hearing at one time how successful the patriot missles were, then we heard not so successful as reported by the "in bed with" media.

Yeah, yeah, Operation Phoenix rises again. Wipe out the
"troublemakers" but end up on the embassy roof catching the last chopper.

We never get the point. If we wage war against a people, we must destroy that people or properly govern them, or their natural leaders will keep coming against us. We never intended to properly govern Vietnam or Iraq.

Maybe in fact the Administration is using the spy thrillers by Dan Brown, Robert Ludlum, Ian Fleming and Ken Follett etc. to get its ideas: world domination and market manipulation, resource- cornering, etc.

Nate: Even though most on this site believe Phillip Berg is a nut case, his lawsuit is still in the system and growing more attention. I just heard it again on the radio yesterday ... the lawsuit is now two weeks old with no Obama response. A COLB is not a birth certificate. IF it's proven true (note big if), then the DNC is trouble to find anyone other than Hillary for President.

that makes much more sense. someone close to that story is taking a punt...

I wouldn't even put money on the Berg lawsuit at 33 to 1. When World Net Daily debunks your claims, you may not have such a good lawsuit. Jerome Corsi, who is the author of Obamanation and Unfit for Command (the book that 'swift boated' John Kerry) is a big critic of Dems and a regular contributor to their site.

Democrat sues Sen. Obama over 'fraudulent candidacy'

However, FactChecker.org says it obtained Obama's actual birth certificate and that the document was indeed real. The site discredited some of the claims of Internet bloggers, such as that the certificate as viewed in a scanned copy released by Obama's campaign lacked a raised seal. FactChecker.org also established that many of the alleged flaws in the document noted by bloggers were caused by the scanning of the document.

A separate WND investigation into Obama's birth certificate utilizing forgery experts also found the document to be authentic. The investigation also revealed methods used by some of the bloggers to determine the document was fake involved forgeries, in that a few bloggers added text and images to the certificate scan that weren't originally there.

I think this story is an example of BGW (bloggers gone wild) but I guess we'll see. Personally, I think if there were any merit to the claims at all, the right-wing hate-talk machine would be operating in overdrive to spread the word. So far I haven't heard a peep out of anyone but bloggers. Maybe they have the scoop and everyone is sitting on it until October, or maybe its much ado about nada.

actually it would make her 16:1 or so, since McCain is 50% so that means she is 6% or so to be democratic candidate?

Of course, there are TONS of addicted gamblers out there that just like to take longshots - perhaps this might be the case...

(but wouldn't someone, perhaps you, hit the bid on those 8000 contracts (around $80,000 US risk...)...

Who knows. Back to real life.

They could also be betting on something REALLY bad surfacing from his personal life.

Slept with Professor Goose?

Of course it is NOT factchecker.org, it is fastcheck.org and the only thing they have seen and certified as true is the "Certificate of Live Birth" (COLB) which is normally given when the baby is born somewhere other than a hospital with other than a doctor and brought in to be registered i.e. a certificate of a live birth. This would lend credance to the alleged Kenya birth and the flight a few days later to Hawaii.

There is so much on the WEB it is easy to get confused with truths, half truths, lies and God damned lies. I really thought Hillary put Berg up to it considering the timing just before the convention. Oh well, enjoy the story. Next Chapter, He becomes President and then we find he was born in Kenya ... how now Barry?

Bah. An act of Congress found McCain to be a 'natural born citizen', so Congress "in the interest of the nation" could do the same for the O dude.


It took an act of Congress to make John McCain a natural born citizen. See 110th CONGRESS 2d Session S. RES. 511 agreed on April 10, 2008.

Not too unusual. There have been many instances of people still trying to buy or sell stocks in companies that have gone bankrupt and the official value of the stock is zero.


Nate, the protocol is the John Warner Defense Authorization Act 2007 where GWB gets to impose martial law since he will declare the removal of a prime presidential candidate a "national emergency".

But that is just one possible outcome...

Sometimes Kunstler is brilliant. This quote illustrates my post below:

"One thing this points to is a truth that is uniformly overlooked by kibitzers: that what we developed over the past decade in America was not an "information economy" or a "consumer economy" but a suburban sprawl building economy, meaning an economy dedicated to building a living arrangement with no future."

how is that going to help? Cheaper loans, if too high, will still be too high.

Mortgage rates are now at about 6.3% and this is expected to take them to 5.5%. They are not very high right now and this will make them even cheaper. The rate is not the problem. The problem, right now, is that mortgages are very hard to get. A down payment will still be required and the qualifications are much more strict. Before too many people bought that could not afford to buy and they wound up in default. This will not, and should not, help that situation at all.

This was for foreign debt markets, the strength of the dollar and faith in the debt markets of other US banks. Freddy and Fanny had many bonds outstanding, many of them held by China and Japan. These bonds will now be honored. Before, there was a great deal of doubt about this. Shareholders however, will still lose their ass. The common stock of these two companies is not protected. They are trading for around a dollar this morning.

It was all to prop up the faith in our government and private debt instruments and in turn to help the total stock and bond markets. A failure of Freddy and Fanny would have sent ripple effects through the the stock and bond markets that could have had dire consequences for our economy as a whole. Not that this will stop anything but it will surely delay it for perhaps a year or two.

Ron Patterson

Will it really lower interest rates? Denninger predicted this would push 30-year money up to 9% "immediately."

That is part of the plan to 'recapitalise' the banks - apparently they make money on the spread between short-term and long term interest rates.

This could be interesting - or not. 600 point swing in the DJIA today?!


So Now It Begins (Credit Event Fnm/Fre)

Oh, this is what a little birdie was talking about last night....

"Thirteen ``major'' dealers of credit-default swaps agreed ``unanimously'' that the rescue constitutes a credit event triggering payment or delivery of the companies' bonds, the International Swaps and Derivatives Association said in a memo obtained by Bloomberg News today. Market makers for the privately traded contracts will discuss how to settle them in a conference call at 11 a.m. in New York, the document said."

So much for the law of unintended consequences.

What does this mean? Nobody knows. There's never been an event of this size.

It was seen as good news across the pond...

Computer bug halts UK stocks surge

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Trading on the London Stock Exchange was halted Monday because of a computer fault, interrupting a surge in share prices as markets reacted to a U.S. mortgage bailout.

Oh Dear….

How Sad……

Never Mind……..


traders miss out on 2 billion shares jackpot after computer crash cripples stock exchange
· By Sam Fleming

London’s reputation as a financial centre suffered a major blow after a computer collapse paralysed the stock market for nearly seven hours.
In a extraordinary fiasco, the London Stock Exchange (LSE) was forced to halt to share trading for most of today’s session because of ‘connectivity’ problems.
It was a massive setback for an exchange that normally sees £8billion of shares traded every day.

Fiasco: The London Stock Exchange froze after just over an hour's trading today amid frenzied deals after the bail-out of two U.S. mortgage lenders
It sparked furious scenes on dealing room floors, as investors helplessly watched frozen screens while shares on foreign stock exchanges were skyrocketing.

>>Traders were described as ‘incandescent with rage.’ One dealer called the meltdown an ‘absolute disaster. It’s disgraceful.’<<

Ha Ha Ha... Wait till the lights really go out laddie...

Wow. Seven hours is a long time for trading to be halted.

Yes, it is isnt it?

And seven hours is enough time for New York to wake up and start trading: what with the 6 hour time difference an all....

Funny that....

Its called tying your rivals shoe laces together...:-)


Its never happened before, this computer 'glitch'.

And now it happens.

On this day of all days...

The LSE's time advantage completely kiboshed at a stroke.

Within an hour of opening for business...

Now where did I leave my tinfoil hat?

What odds all the "Big Boys" got their trades made in that first hour of business?

Could this be the reason the UK stock market computers


I report...you decide...the no spin zone...yukkk
I just felt a chill go down my spine when I typed that. and a little puke came up in the back of my throat...yukky

I posted this on the thread started by Jerome a Paris. Thought it might go here as well.

Paul Krugman's "The Return of Depression Economics" had a paragraph on 1998 events titled "Saving the world for Soros". Perhaps when these events are chronicled the title will probably be "Saving the world for Gross" (CEO of PIMCO).

But there is a much more important side of this issue, which is seen only from the perspective of the physical limits to growth. And I am quite dissappointed this aspect is not being tackled in this discussion. So I will address it starting from this quote of Paulson's statements:

"I have long said that the housing correction poses the biggest risk to our economy. It is a drag on our economic growth"

If you are aware of physical limits to growth, and that Easter Island's society could have avoided catastrophic collapse if they had stopped building moais in time, it is clear that the housing correction is not the biggest risk, but the biggest HOPE for the US. Because when house prices fall below construction cost, residential construction grinds to a halt. Which, from a Hubbert’s Peak-aware perspective, is exactly what the doctor orders. Because construction of more suburban and exurban McMansions is just digging further in the already deep hole most of the US population is in, as inevitably higher fuel prices will turn those homes into traps for their occupants.

So, while the Preferred Stock Purchase Agreements part of the plan is completely justified and was necessary for the very reason stated by Paulson: ensure the GSEs can fulfill their EXISTING debt, thus saving the world for the People's Bank of China (a critical enough issue to warrant doing it for Gross at the same time) ...

"First, Treasury and FHFA have established Preferred Stock Purchase Agreements ... Under these agreements, Treasury will ensure that each company maintains a positive net worth. This commitment will eliminate any mandatory triggering of receivership and will ensure that the conserved entities have the ability to fulfill their financial obligations. ...

These Preferred Stock Purchase Agreements were made necessary by the ambiguities in the GSE Congressional charters, which have been perceived to indicate government support for agency debt and guaranteed MBS. Our nation has tolerated these ambiguities for too long, and as a result GSE debt and MBS are held by central banks and investors throughout the United States and around the world who believe them to be virtually risk-free. Because the U.S. Government created these ambiguities, we have a responsibility to both avert and ultimately address the systemic risk now posed by the scale and breadth of the holdings of GSE debt and MBS."

... it is the GSE MBS purchase part of the plan which is most unwise in the light of the physical limits to growth. Sure enough, that part, as Paulson says, would be necessary...

"to further support the availability of mortgage financing for millions of Americans, (...because...) During this ongoing housing correction, the GSE portfolios have been constrained, both by their own capital situation and by regulatory efforts to address systemic risk. As the GSEs have grappled with their difficulties, we've seen mortgage rate spreads to Treasuries widen, making mortgages less affordable for homebuyers."

What Paulson (and practically the whole political/economic/financial establishment) cannot see is that a decrease in the availability of mortgage financing is a GOOD thing for Americans, just as a decrease in the availability of drug financing is a good thing for a junkie.

Again, lack of mortgage credit -> house prices fall further -> eventually they fall below construction cost -> residential construction grinds to a halt, which, from the way and places houses are being built today, is a GOOD outcome.

And if the US Treasury does not know what to do with the pile of cash it is sitting on (?), here are a few areas where it could be used instead:
- Wind farm construction
- Upgrading the electric grid to handle the above item
- Electrifying the US freight railroads and replacing the double and triple tracks taken up in recent decades
- Building electrified urban rail

The last two items were proposed by Alan Drake here.

Another example of "virtually every solution from the powers that be makes matters worse". Sucking out every dollar and cent to float more stone heads.

cfm in Gray, ME

Speaking of Biochar (up top)...

I'm going to be giving a presentation about Terra Preta and what I've been doing for several years at the Bell Springs Road Farmers Market in Laytonville, CA this Wednesday at ~4PM. I'll have a handout. For more information, email me at detzel at mcn dot org.


   I wish I could come up that way and have a listen. But I'll be at work on Wednesday, and don't drive far these days anyway if I can avoid it. - I'm a couple hours south.

   I've been looking into terra preta off and on since discovering it last year (heh, online, not in the Amazon!), and more so recently, as I've recently graduated to "second level" comprehension of PO (actually changing my life because of the apparent probability of serious consequences).
   I decided it is one of the things I would start to learn for future use. I chose soil and electricity, to start with. Bought a book of Tesla's writings, and a 40 lb bag of natural mesquite charcoal which I proceeded to soften up with a sledge hammer (40 lbs. = 1 1/2 days of my carbon footprint! And I'm only about half the average. We're costly creatures indeed!)

   I was/am completely fascinated and intrigued by the concept and it's benefits, both for sequestering carbon and for a new self reliant, community based society's food needs. Though I'm not sure if I'm up for full on farming after hearing the stories from a couple of the folks here about their "return to the farm" adventures, I do seem to have an interest in soil "chemistry" (biology?) Though I know almost nothing about it at this point.    ...I'm currently a computer graphics geek.
   I figure I'll check the pH (power of Hydrogen, huh?) and try to build up (down?) the soil, and re-balance it, increase the NPK / nutrition in it and stuff it with 30-40%(?) bio-char over the next year or few, while I can afford to. It's just a medium sized yard of which I'll use a third or so, say maybe 15'x25'? Nothing too big. - Create my own carbon-sink of TP! Even if only for some future inhabitant of the area to discover. It should last quite a while if I do it right, yes?
   And maybe I can offset a whole month or two of my C footprint!

WRT the article up top...
   I guess I can understand the opposition to the corporate version of Terra Preta, if that is their complaint, but it seems a bit extreme. Shouldn't we be promoting the concept? Maybe with a bias towards it being a personal solution? I guess if there is money to be made though... I always was anti-corporate, even before I knew why.
   At first I was really mad that they don't have the ability to create carbon credits for burying carbon in the ground. I guess it still seems wrong to have them created by "not spewing carbon we could have released" but, then I imagined - A planet of creatures being eliminated by the consequences of too much atmospheric carbon, frantically burying all the carbon they could to save themselves ...consequently deforesting themselves!

Nate Hagens on "The Reality Report" with Jason Bradford at Noon EDT on Energy, Weather, and Sasquatch Hunting

Noon EDT on http://www.kzyx.org. Have a listen!

Since when are the suburbs low crime areas? I believe there can be just as much if not more crime in suburbs then in the inner cities.

I believe there can be just as much if not more crime in suburbs then in the inner cities.

Then you simply believe wrong. While there are some suburbs that reek with crime, they are by and large far safer than the inner city areas of major cities. The burbs that have a lot of crime are depressed low rent areas that have largely been abandoned by the middle class. It is the same thing that happened to the inner cities about half a century ago and is now happening to some suburbs.

So you must qualify your statement. Yes, there are some suburbs that are riddled with crime. Most however are far safer than the inner cities. You cannot simply say that THE suburbs suffer as much crime as the inner cities. In the burbs where 95% of the middle class live, you can walk the streets at night without worrying about getting mugged or murdered. And you do not have to worry about your child being killed in a drive by shooting.

The unsafe suburbs are easy to spot. There are hookers and/or drug dealers on every other corner. In most suburbs however, you do not see this. Basically it is the age old division between rich and poor. Or in this case, the middle class and the poor and the percentage of poor is rising. And as the number of poor rise in the burbs, the crime rate rises.

I'd like to qualify the following statement:

the same thing that happened to the inner cities about half a century ago

There are cities, even in North America, where this has not happened or at least not to the degree described.

Here in Seattle, many of the "inner city" neighborhoods are among the most desirable. And they're plenty safe. With sidewalks, bike trails and numerous striped bike lanes I feel completely comfortable letting my 12 and 14 year-old transport themselves to and from activities and friends' houses. I'd be much more concerned about their transportation safety if we lived in some of Seattle's 'burbs.

As Alan would say:

Best Hopes for a Rediscovery of Norman Rockwell Urban Neighborhoods.

-- Jon

And Portland Oregon too. Both cities are very very white, an observation I make not to denigrate non-whites, but rather to suggest that racism is an underlying factor in the problems (of inner city decay) experienced in most of America.

Consider the fate of most suburbs with the following conditions:

1) Severe recession
2) Rising gas prices (pick a number)
3) "Extremely limited" new buyers (suburbs are stone cold and values continue to drop + few buyers qualify for mortgages).
4) Rising vacancy rates, and more of the vacant properties are not maintained/boarded up.
5) Reduced "city" services, laid off police & fire, closed libraries, street maintenance, etc.
6) Rising real estate taxes
7) Major repairs come up due to poor quality construction endemic in US Suburbia.


Add the impact of an impaired food system - no grocery stores - and little capability for home-grown foods.

On the bright side - with restricted/laid off police, no enforcement of the laws against clothes lines, if the residents can manage to wash their clothes.

I can agree with your statements. However not all crime is visible as some of your statements suggest. People can make meth and grow pot inside there house, sexual deviants can patrol your local playgrounds and your neighbor with the sports car and the nice suit, he just stole your identity.

If you go on the basis of visible crime like hookers, vandalism then yeah I suppose the suburbs are safe.

more crime in suburbs then in the inner cities

Where do Greenspan, Gross, the hedge fund operators, the directors of Fannie and Freddie live? Yeah, as the number of poor rise, some types of crime rise. Tell me it's all personal responsibility. Sorry, I've long wondered when the african farmers recognize they can get a better EROI from an AK than biotech. And when the biotech is being used "legally" to kill them, their children and the planet, then what? I responded to super390's post above with comment about the anti-federalists. Shea's Rebellion, currency issues, Rhode Island's split government - that's why we have the Constitution.

Joel Salatin's new book is titled "Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal". Where is the crime? Salatin or the industrial food system?

cfm in Gray, ME

I lived near Chicago's Cabrini Green zone in the early 90's. It was dangerous, but if you walked through there and had to flee, you only had to flee half a mile.

Not true in a depressed 'burb.

wow - you must be a bad ass. I too lived in Chicago in the early 90s and the cabs would NOT go through Cabrini.

But I hear you - in the end you have to be surrounded by your tribe, however that is defined.

Cops wouldnt go through Cabrini Greens unless they had
a battalion. It first was a cruiser with two cops wouldnt enter the projects for reports of gun fire, untill gun fire ceased. Then progressed to waiting for backup and gun fire to cease. Then went further till gun fire never ceased and cops wouldnt enter.
It ended when they tore it down and moved everyone out
helter skelter and so did the crime wave, which became dispersed helter skelter.
Cabrini Greens looked like Beirut Lebanon after IAF bombed it.

There was an interesting study a few years ago published in a medical journal (sorry can't find the link) that showed that the risk of a child dying traumatically was equal in different living situations (rural, suburban and inner city). In rural areas car accidents, farming accidents and hunting accidents were prevelant. In suburban areas car accidents predominated with occasional violence. In the inner city, car accident fatalities were uncommon but death by violence was more common.

I thought this was pretty interesting from the NYT.

You could perhaps get some kind of tax break for putting an electronic limiter on your car's speed.


Unfortunately, their claims are unfounded and they fail to account for the fact that vast areas of land would have to be turned over to monoculture plantations to produce enough biomass.

Huh. Is that really what is being claimed? The only 'claims' I'm seeing for bio-char is that:

1) The charred carbon in the soil stays longer than non-charred carbon
2) Soaked in Nitrogen - it holds the N complexes longer than just pouring it on the ground -helping yeilds
3) The char acts as microbe homes
4) water is more able to be held in the soil

Not sure how the egov site leaped to its conclusion, but hey-whatever.

However, companies investing in this technology are already taking out patents on biochar, and one of the firms represented at the conference, BEST Energies, proclaims on their website "We are well positioned to win the current land grab in next-generation fuels" [4], blatantly disregarding the human rights abuses that are occurring as a result of global expanded demand for biomass.

Errr, it strikes me as that is a patent problem. As for ' blatantly disregarding the human rights abuses that are occurring as a result of global expanded demand for biomass.' - how is this different than the normal blatantly disregarding the human rights abuses that are occurring as a result of global expanded demand for RESOURCES?

The use of biochar might also reduce the need for some commercial fertiliser, so obviously all right-thinking people should treat it with suspicion.

I think the main point of the detractors was the the Biochar conference smelled of too much big business as usual, just under a somewhat greener banner. I am not sure if they've lost sight of the tremendous potential of biochar as an effective grass roots campaign (pun intended) in combination with local farms and gardens and overall reduced consumption.

Certainly biochar is not a solution that will scale to allow Americans current consumption habits.

From today's Dear Abby:

DEAR ABBY: I have been a volunteer at a veterans hospital here in Maine for the past five years. It has been extremely rewarding. Sadly, I won't be able to continue. Because of the price of gas, I can no longer afford to drive the 100-mile round-trip.

We would be concerned if we knew how much our present health care system depends upon a single-mother/certified nurse's assistant cruising the countryside in a rotting mini-van. No lie. My mother is disabled and gets a lot of help from these (generally) women. I've wondered how long this will be possible.

It's already causing serious problems with home health aides in rural areas. They make minimum wage, maybe a little more, and it doesn't cover the cost of gas.

And yes, it's even worse for volunteers. Many who used to work for free are now asking for gas money. It's also hitting churches, food pantries, etc. People who used to donate can no longer afford to, or even need help themselves.

Kind of brings to mind that bumper-sticker about how we should live long enough to see the day when schools are fully funded, but the Navy has to hold a bake-sale to build their next ship.

This story is another outgrowth of the lies about the 'ancillary' costs of this and most of our wars. We have war-profiteering going on at levels unheard of in past wars, and yet the VA is left swinging in the wind, losing critical services that are being offered by civic-minded and compassionate citizens. The layers of misplaced American priorities in this story goes far beyond our dependence on driving.

I wonder what kind of bennies the KBR and Blackwater employees are getting, and whether they have any clout when it comes to setting those terms?

As anti-war as I am, I would never joke that we would gain peace if the military were self-financing. Japan used to have an army in Manchuria that got to own the resources there, and it became a cancer that dragged the whole country to ruin.

That goes double for Halliburton.

And Mussolini had the army baking bread to feed the people. Go figure.

I see the EIA has posted it's monthly version of the International Petroleum Monthly. While May 2008 remained the "new" peak month, it dropped slightly from the previous estimate 74,481,000 BPD down to 74,412,000 BPD.

As a reminder, when the production value for May 2005 was intially posted, April 2005 was still the peak month. May 2005 became the new peak for one month (in the 1/2006 IPM) before being displaced by the estimate for 12/2005.

The peak month held at 12/2005 until 12/2006 when revisions put May 2005 back on top until just recently. It is also worth noting, that for most months that topped May 2005, they declined while estimates for May 2005 increased. A recent revision to May 2005 lowered the value slightly.

We may yest see May 2005 return to it's previous high-water mark stature.

Yes, they keep revising the category "Other" downward. Other is all the world's smaller producers rolled into one.

World production, after revisions, was down 40 kb/d. OPEC was up 178 kb/d while Non-OPEC was down 218 kb/d. Big gainers were Libya, up 40 kb/d, Mexico up 41 kb/d, nigeria up 80 kb/d, Oman up 46 kb/d and Saudi up 50 kb/d. Big losers were Canada down 112 kb/d, India down 42 kb/d, Norway down 245 kb/d, United Kingdom down 122 kb/d and the USA down 57 kb/d.

International Petroleum Monthly

Ron Patterson

To repeat a question I asked a few days ago, I wonder how much money has been spent to basically maintain a crude oil production plateau for about three years since May, 2005?

Of course, based on one key metric, the cumulative difference between what we would have produced at the 5/05 rate and what we actually produced--about 850 mb--the industry has not maintained a production plateau.

Using average production data and taking the EIA data (subject to revision) at face value, the shortfall between what we would have produced at the 5/05 rate and what we actually produced increased in the last seven months of 2005, in all of 2006, in all of 2007 and for the first six months of 2008 (albeit at a low rate in 2008).

“We may yet see May 2005 return to it's previous high-water mark stature.” Posted by Starship Trooper

I’m not sure May of ‘05 ever lost its “high-water mark stature.” Back in ‘05, C+C was just that, Crude + Condensates. In 2008 what is being called “C+C” is actually C+C+Tar-sands. In ‘05, the tar-sands were classified as “Unconventional Oil.” Deduct the tar-sands production from the supposed 2008 record, and you will be well below the May ‘05 record.

Just another example of TPTB tweaking with the stats to make them look better, like they have by citing inflation statistics that exclude food and energy.

Antoinetta III

In 2008 what is being called “C+C” is actually C+C+Tar-sands. In ‘05, the tar-sands were classified as “Unconventional Oil.” Deduct the tar-sands production from the supposed 2008 record, and you will be well below the May ‘05 record.

I was wondering if you could help me locate that change, in the history of EIA methodology, as you claim. Could you point me towards the change date, area, or document that shifts the counting of oil sands production into the Crude Oil Only category?



I agree. This seems to be a basic point of peak-oil literacy we should all be aware of.
If true, then there is a very real sense in which the May '05 peak could be said to still hold.
A much stronger PO argument to friends and colleagues than 'bumpy plateau'.

In 2008 what is being called “C+C” is actually C+C+Tar-sands. In ‘05, the tar-sands were classified as “Unconventional Oil.” Deduct the tar-sands production from the supposed 2008 record, and you will be well below the May ‘05 record.

I don't think this is correct. I believe the tar sands have been counted as C+C all along.

Ron Patteson

I'll scout around and see if I can find the link. I recall reading this in several comments here on the Oil Drum in discussions that came up (probably on Drum Beat) at the time the production figures for the claimed '08 record were published.

Antoinetta III

EIA IPM SEP 2008…it still looks like a plateau

The diagram (a larger version for improved viewing of the diagram is obtained by clicking on it and opening it in a new window or tab) above is based upon EIA IPM SEP 2008 and shows world crude oil (and condensate), NGL’s and other liquid energy supplies for the months January 2001 till June 2008 as stacked columns plotted towards the secondary y-axis.

The average monthly oil price (Brent spot FOB) is shown as yellow dots connected by a dark line against the primary y-axis.

How much of the increase in supplies is due to increased prices?
How would the supplies look like if they were adjusted for EROEI?

How would the supplies look like if they were adjusted for EROEI?

Thats the million dollar question that cant be answered. Graphing production vs finding costs might be first approximation.

Also, the coming depression (if thats what it is) is going to 'rationalize' the peak.

Hey what are CERA and the boys saying lately? I remember at about 125-130$ Mr. Yergin got bullish and everyone here said 'sell!'. He was right for a while...

For a while I wavered between inflation and deflation until I last spring found the bulk of arguments favored deflation….and depression.

From a PO viewpoint this is bad, as much needed attention for energy in general will most certainly erode, until we reaches a point where the circumstances will allow the policymakers to stimulate the economies to regrow just to find that the “fuel” for the growth literally isn’t there. With annually declines estimated at 4 – 6 % and a retreating oil price it will not take much time (it will still take a few years) before supplies (from above) meets demand………… and sets off a new cycle of vicious price growth………starts to sound like the recipe for “The Long(er) Emergency”.

To Leanan,

In addition to the oil price chart in the right column of The Oildrum, it would be very useful if you could also include the dollar index.

Yikes. Don't use the percent tags for charts and graphs. Makes them look incredibly ugly and unreadable if you have a large screen, and the image ends up bigger than life.

E-mail PG if you have a site design suggestion.

Sorry. Gail recommended to me to use the % tags and it sure looks good on my monitor which has a resolution of 1360x768 on a 32 inch HDTV and I'm not running full screen, either (FireFox is about (900x768).

It probably looks okay because you're not running full screen. Using percent tags to make an image smaller works a lot better than to make an image bigger. (And I edited your post to remove the percent tag.)

It's especially a problem if the image is very small. Blowing up a small image just doesn't work, especially if it has text.


No percent tag:

With percent tag:

If the image ends up smaller than actual on your screen, it tends to look better than it would if it's blown up larger, but it's kind of annoying for the user, to download a big image but only see a small one. (The percent tags don't change the file size.)

I just finished reading an article put forth by Jim Cramer of the street.com regarding the price of oil and where it is heading. His main thesis is that China's economy is slipping and that they're buying less oil than they were as recently as July. This is the main factor behind the price decline. Is there any data that can lend support to his opinion or is he using post hoc analysis to make sense of the decline in the stocks and the commodity. TIA

It isn't just oil that's falling in price, all commodities have been. The common theme is the value of the dollar (look above in this thread to see the dollar index). The real question is: why has the dollar made such a mighty leap. I'll give you my opinion.

The dollar has increased in value because there are fewer of them left since the credit crunch began. Credit is being deleveraged very heavily because of failures in the financial sector and that destroys dollars. The remaining dollars are just more valuable. In other words, we are deflating and I think that will become more obvious in the coming months. We better hope it doesn't lead to depression.

Just posted on Peak Oil with link (The FT server is swamped):
"One of the largest defaults in the history of the $62,000bn credit derivatives market has been triggered by the US government’s seizure of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, raising questions about how dealers will unwind billions of dollars worth of contracts."

Almost got run over by this thing during my lunchtime walk.


Cyclists don't need to be intimidated by cars anymore. For really agressive traffic, it also comes in a "Ben Hur" version :)

Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Thanks for that calgary. The only thing that is missing is a raised platform at the back for the guy with the whip.

how come the driver gets a special T-shirt?

...thats feudalism for ya.

The driver is the only one who doesn't have any pedals - he has a brake pedal (I think/hope).

When they were just starting out, he yelled to the pedal-pushers:

"Hey guys, let's go squash some joggers!"

Friendly bunch of people :)

Very nice Dude. But the pic also highlights the problem of scalability with PO solutions. It looks like they have 30 peddlers. Just a guess but with the frame and heavy duty wheels I'll guess this new "vehicle" weighs more than 30 bikes. Thus they've taken a fairly energy efficient means of transport and reduced the effect. Let's hope Detroit doesn't see this pic...we already have enough overweight cars moving folks around. It may take up less road space then 30 bikes but you'll need an oversized parking spot for it. But I'm sure they had a good time anyway.

I'll guess this new "vehicle" weighs more than 30 bikes.

I wouldn't try to dispute that. But at least in non hilly terrain most of the energy expended in cycling goes to overcome aerodynamic drag. Per person, I would think this thing has pretty low drag. Add in a fairing covering the whole thing, and I bet you could get it up to a pretty decent speed (say 40mph). With the appropriate modifications, you might be able to make a decent human powered medium range bus this way.

Skystone ran the length of the one km race in a time of seven minutes and four seconds, barely losing out to NovAtel's lightning time of six minutes, eight seconds.

Almost got run over by this thing during my lunchtime walk.

Were you asleep in the middle of the road? ;-)

This will not replace the bus because sometimes there are only two or three riders.

They need viking helmets, swords and shields. Maybe a big battering ram in front. A second or third
layer of people above and top it off with razor wire.

Only about 330,000 barrels of refinery capacity remained shut in today after Gustav. Oil companies were evacuating ahead of Ike.


Houston, Port Arthur, and Galveston import more than 2 million barrels of oil per day (2005).

Does anybody have links to good future production profiles for African countries? How about assessments of their reserves? I'm thinking of Algeria, Angola, Libya, Sudan and Nigeria.

Try this one:

But for some reason this list does not have Sudan. But Sudan has about 6.4 billion barrels according to BP. http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article22437

I have the BP file, I guess I was wondering how accurate people think it is for Africa. I'm trying to put together some export projections.

I do not know where the Algerian Minister of Energy has got his information about a possible oil over-supply of 0.5-1.5 mbbl/day for next year?. Oil demand vary with the price, hence, what looks like an over-supply (at the price of (140) USD/B) may turn out to be a shortage at the price of say (80) USD/B. The question is then not whether there is an over-supply or a shrtage, but is to what is the price of oil that OPEC (and the word) are ready to conted with?.Of course the price will be determined by many factors such as, world oil reserves (overall)? and when are we going to attain a ( peak oil)? and how much nations are ready to pay for the BBL of oil (before real and drastic reduction in consumption will take place)? and then again, what will be the cost (and time frame) of alternatives to oil especially in the transport sector?.
I do agree that there is a limit to what OPEC can do to sustain supply of oil in the face of continued rising demand, but to talk about cutting production or otherwise should only come on the back of clear answers to the questions raised above and in full coordination with the consuming nations. I also believe that the UN may have a role to play in this regards.
Mundher Al-Saleem

I thought this British take on Ms Palin might amuse:

Imagine if there was a British candidate for Deputy Prime Minister who had a child called “JCB”, believed raped children should endure labour, dismissed evolution and regularly shot gigantic animals. It would be regarded as borderline sectionable behaviour.
In America, however, it makes them even hotter for Palin. To be crude, a tough chick with great hair who shoots things - that just turns America on. They like the idea of politicians who could hold their own in a bar brawl.


Anyone who is not a fan of the columnist, Caitlin Moran, has been missing out!

You may need to explain "sectionable behaviour" to your American audience.

If you are sectioned in the UK you get to play Jack Nicholson - in 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest'

I think I got it from the context...

A Face in the Crowd (1957)
Starring: Andy Griffith, Patricia Neal Director: Elia Kazan

More timely now, perhaps, than when it was first released in 1957, Elia Kazan's overheated political melodrama explores the dangerous manipulative power of pop culture. It exposes the underside of Capra-corn populism, as exemplified in the optimistic fable of grassroots punditry Meet John Doe. In Kazan's account, scripted by Budd Schulberg, the common-man pontificator (Andy Griffith) is no Gary Cooper-style aw-shucks paragon. Promoted to national fame as a folksy TV idol by radio producer Patricia Neal, Griffith's Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes turns out to be a megalomaniacal rat bastard. The film turns apocalyptic as Rhodes exploits his power to sway the masses, helping to elect a reactionary presidential candidate. The parodies of television commercials and opinion polling were cutting edge in their day (Face in the Crowd was the Network of the Eisenhower era), and there are some startling, near-documentary sequences shot on location in Arkansas. An extraordinary supporting cast (led by Walter Matthau and Lee Remick) helps keep the energy level high, even when the satire turns shrill and unpersuasive in the final reel. There's an interesting parallel in Tim Robbins's snide pseudodocumentary Bob Roberts: both these pictures have almost as much contempt for the lemmings in the audience as for the manipulative monsters who herd them over the cliff. --David Chute

"They want everything to come out through Russia and a lot of us think it's more important that there be diverse means of gaining access to those resources," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"No one country ought to be able to totally dominate those deliveries."

Who made those quotes? Dick Cheney.

Why? Because the reason the US got so tied up in knots about Georgia had nothing to do with the wellfare of the people of that country, but instead it was due to oil, much like it was and still is in Iraq.

You mean we can't just go it alone and slam Russia to the turf like the sanction shattered country of Iraq was? Ahh that's a shame! I can imagine how difficult it must be to know just how helpless the US is to do anything about it.

The US has had multiple chances to take a different direction in the last 30 years...it's taken none of them. It's fun to blame the current administration for our predicament, but they are only reflecting the values of the US public, as have most politicians.

There ya go. Pics of the new volt.


Looks to me to be sorta prius-ish.

And why are they blurring out the roof?
Are they covering up a solar panel?

why are they covering it up with the dork

That's Frank Weber vehicle line director.
They posed all the executives in front of the car for some odd reason.

It does look like he bought that suit off the rack though doesn't it?

The Ukrainian president has accused the Ukrainian PM of high treason. My sensitive antennae senses trouble :)

As I wrote (last week, I think), this country is ready to blow. During the pro-democracy "revolution" a few years ago, the Russian part of the population were the losers. Now they see how strong Russia has become, they are ready to settle grievances...

Now for some light on the TNK-BP affair

BP's Russian defeat a market victory
By John Helmer

MOSCOW - If anyone needed convincing, the paper that BP, formerly known as British Petroleum, signed on Thursday with Mikhail Fridman and his Russian shareholding partners proves that defying the law of gravity is unlikely to succeed for long; even if the world's weakest prime minister, Gordon Brown, and his disloyal foreign minister, David Miliband, have tried to stake their short-term political careers on it; and even if the Financial Times of London has tried to make the inevitable fall appear to be a masterly exercise in BP negotiating skill.

In the middle of 17th century Paris, Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac (that's the real one, not the 19th century stage character), wrote a fantasy about a voyage to the moon. He described several

Click Here

contrivances to get there, in addition to his own. One, which reportedly delivered the biblical prophet Elijah, involved a large magnetic ball and an iron chariot. To propel the latter into the sky, and thence to the orbit of the moon, the prophet tossed the ball into the air so that the magnetic force would draw the chariot after it. He was obliged to keep catching and tossing to sustain the upward momentum. When it was within gravitational range of the moon, the magnetic ball was tossed downward, and then upward again, to break the speed of the chariot's fall.

Russia isn't the moon. But BP has been trying a variant of the magnetic-ball-and-chariot to hang onto the 23% of its global oil reserves located there, 25% of its current oil production, and a comparable amount of its market capitalization. Rarely has so much value in global energy resource depended on such a theory of motion. Robert Dudley, chief executive of TNK-BP - the 50/50 joint venture BP has operated for five years with Fridman, Len Blavatnik and Victor Vekselberg - has also been using several quaint contrivances to defy the laws of gravity.

Dudley was found out, having tried to negotiate secretly with Russia's Gazprom the sale and purchase of the 50% stake in TNK-BP owned by the Russian trio - collectively known as AAR, reflecting the names of their holdings, Alfa, Access and Renova.

Dudley, BP chairman Peter Sutherland and chief executive Tony Hayward may have thought their proposed deal had the blessing of Gazprom's chairman at the time, Dmitry Medvedev, and Gazprom's chief lawyer, Konstantin Chuichenko. By the time the latter duo had moved into the Kremlin in May, Medvedev as president, Chuichenko as head of the president's Main Control Department, Dudley and his masters had also convinced their contacts in Downing Street and in the British Secret Intelligence Service that their scheme was a test of strength between, on the one side, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his deputy, Igor Sechin, who are usually in charge of such matters, and on the other, the new Russian president. Sechin is also chairman of the board of Russia's leading oil company, Rosneft.

Fridman identified the folly of foreign companies playing Russian politics against Russians, claiming publicly that Dudley's secret not only violated the terms on which he worked as chief executive, that is he should report to both sets of shareholders on the TNK-BP board. It also violated the elementary rules of Russian politics - there are no secrets, and there are no one-sided deals.

According to the Financial Times, Russian media reports and public statements by BP and AAR, the agreement between Hayward and Fridman - if it sticks - requires Dudley to be ousted by December 1. This was the first and principal demand of the Russians throughout the public conflict, since BP's hapless Gazprom deal was uncovered at the start of the year, and Medvedev lined up with Putin and Sechin to repudiate it.

Alastair Graham, head of BP Russian Investments, had told the FT six weeks ago that the campaign against Dudley was "a smokescreen for [the Russian] attempts to seize control of TNK-BP". In fact, BP had been trying to take control of TNK-BP from AAR.

If you believe the British company, you can declare the reported new deal a victory for BP. According to the FT, the agreement is BP's victory because it
preserves its 50% stake in TNK-BP after a struggle with its local partners that focused attention on the rights of foreign investors in Russia. The memorandum of understanding (MoU), agreed this week by BP's board, follows a long-running dispute over BP's most important international venture ... The outline agreement, steered by Tony Hayward, BP's chief executive, and chairman Peter Sutherland, was reached after fears that BP's interest in TNK-BP could be at risk because of its fight with its Russian oligarch partners. BP's control of TNK-BP had also come under pressure from multiple investigations by the Russian authorities into its labor practices. Under the deal, the 50-50 equity split of the partnership would remain unchanged.
In a briefing on the agreement he signed, Hayward claimed, "The outline deal announced today, provided the details can be agreed in good faith, is an acceptable compromise." Sechin announced: "We are pleased that the conflict has been settled and the parties to the negotiations have reached an agreement on the shareholder level without involving third parties, including the state. This sends the right single to the entire market."

If you are the Russian shareholders, you see the outcome positively, but not in the way the British side has reported. According to the press reports, the replacement for Dudley, and new chief executive officer of TNK-BP, must be independent of BP, and his powers will be substantially reduced from Dudley's prior mandate - a big loss for the men who sit on St James Square, BP's headquarters in London.

Other reported provisions indicate that the holding company for the joint venture will now have three independent directors and four each for BP and TNK-BP. But the affiliated and subsidiary companies will remain at parity between the Russian shareholders and BP. BP thus loses operational control. In addition to Dudley, its key financial and operational executives have already resigned, and more than half of its secondees on the TNK-BP payroll have lost their Russian visas and been reassigned.

The MoU between BP and AAR allows for an initial public offering (IPO) of up to 20% of shares in TNK-BP's assets, to be issued in a year or two. This allows both sides to sell into the market, and it means two things - TNK-BP's share price goes up in anticipation; Gazprom and Rosneft, the two state Russian energy companies, will consider what they would like to do. The current freefloat is only 5%. A larger freefloat ought to lift the market cap of TNK-BP - another plus for the Russian shareholders, compared with the status quo ante. Predictably, TNK-BP's share price jumped 8% in Thursday's trading.

AAR had been clear from the beginning that Dudley's plot had been to oust them from their shareholding at a discount to the value BP placed on TNK-BP's assets in its own capitalization. An independent audit by DeGolyer and MacNaughton confirmed last year that TNK-BP's total proved reserves were 8.225 billion barrels of oil equivalent, applying US methodology on a life of field basis. BP says its reserve figure is 17.8 billion barrels, and includes in the count its share of TNK-BP.

That makes TNK-BP's reserves 23% of the BP total. If you were imaginative, and applied that proportion of BP's market capitalization (at the time the conflict broke into the open) of 105 billion pounds sterling (US$213 billion) to value TNK-BP, you might figure that TNK-BP should be worth $53 billion. And that should indicate that a half share of TNK-BP, held by AAR, should be valued at $27 billion.

But in June, the market cap of TNK-BP as a whole was just $35 billion; the half share $17.5 billion. The fight, which BP and its supporters portrayed in the London press as a defense of foreign investment rights in Russia against local predators, was in reality about the $10 billion difference between the two prices, and the much bigger difference BP has calculated that might accrue to BP's reserve balance if Fridman and his associates were replaced as the TNK-BP partner with Gazprom, and its enormous reserves.
Today's share prices reflect the fall of oil in global markets, a worldwide contraction in economic growth prospects, a slowdown in Russian growth rates, the dwindling of the pound, and the rise of the dollar. BP is currently worth 94.8 billion pounds. BP's share price fell 1% on the Russian agreement; TNK-BP's rose 8% on the news, making the company's market cap currently $27.4 billion.

The trajectory of TNK-BP's share had been rising through much of the six-month conflict - but not from Dudley's or BP's magnetic pull. So long as the Moscow market judged that AAR stood the better chance of winning the contest for operational control of the company, TNK-BP became more valuable, and BP less so. A clever arbitrageur should have been betting on the widening spread between the two share prices. That in turn has meant that no one in the market believed what they were reading in the bulletins issued from St James Square to the dutiful FT.

That is to say, the Russian investment community has believed that TNK-BP will be worth more if BP loses its battle than if it wins.

And so it will be. By trying to fight Fridman behind the arras, Dudley, Hayward and Sutherland, at their own expense, are going to enrich their adversaries. By trying to play Medvedev and Chuichenko off against Putin and Sechin, they have substantially increased the likelihood that the IPO price for a 20% stake in TNK-BP will be considerably higher than Fridman's sale target, and that a Russian state company may enter the shareholding to assure firm Russian control of the oil reserves.

BP has been forced to give up the lucrative scheme in which it paid its executives through TNK-BP revenues. But it preserves what counts at St James Square - the market cap of BP, the BP share price, and the bonuses Sutherland, Hayward and their associates earn, so long as the Russian reserves continue to be booked on BP's ledger.

A minor footnote to the conflict is likely to be buried by the MoU. However, it tells more about BP's tactics and intentions than the company should have allowed to be known.

On June 30, as part of what the FT reported as tit-for-tat by the British against legal action by the Russians, BP issued a London lawsuit, informing the court and BP's shareholders that for at least 15 months their company had a legal claim to 8.5 billion rubles

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(US$366 million), payable by the Russian shareholders of TNK-BP.

On request, BP has produced a copy of the Short Claim filed by Linklaters at the High Court. It is captioned BP Russian Investments Ltd versus Alfa Petroleum Holdings Ltd and OGIP Ventures Ltd, both of London. BP declines to say if it has served the claim on the defendants, nor whether it has filed in court the fuller Particulars of Claim. The amount of the claim, including the court filing fee but not legal costs and interest, is "the US dollar equivalent of rubles 8,462,102,278.92". Michael Bennett is the Linklaters solicitor who signed the claim on BP's behalf.

In a single page, however, BP and its lawyer revealed details of BP's relationship with TNK-BP and AAR, which BP shareholders had not been alerted to before - and which BP may now wish it had not exposed at all.

The legal basis of the claim is that in 2003, when BP acquired a 50% share of Tyumen Oil Company (TNK) - then owned by Fridman, Vekselberg and Blavatnik - the Russian shareholders signed an agreement to indemnify BP in the event that the Russian government, prosecutors or tax agency filed claims against TNK for the period prior to BP's deal. BP officials were reluctant at the time, and subsequently, to admit to the existence of this and related indemnities, and for two good reasons: BP did not want a public demonstration of how little it trusted its new Russian partners in TNK-BP; nor would it acknowledge how probable it thought TNK was liable for heavy back-tax claims from the Russian government.

Clause 4 of what is called the Tax Deed of Covenant, dated August 29, 2003, is now identified as the operative provision by which BP is now demanding the money it says was paid out of its share of TNK-BP's profit in either 2006 or 2007. The Claim Form doesn't provide details of the tax levies on TNK-BP. Asked what these were, BP spokesman David Nicholas referred to BP's annual report for 2006.

This says that on October 23, 2006, tax audits of TNK-BP group companies for 2002 and 2003 resulted in "a payment by TNK-BP of approximately $1.4 billion in settlement of those claims". There is no reference to how much of this amount was paid out of BP's share of TNK-BP monies, and thus subject to repayment by TNK-BP to BP. All BP admitted to its shareholders was that "at the present time, BP believes that its provisions are adequate for its share of any liabilities arising from these and other outstanding tax decisions not covered by the indemnities provided by our co-venturers ..."

This language appears to refer to tax liabilities BP might have to pay the Russian authorities, after the 2003 transaction was completed. It omits to disclose to shareholders that BP and TNK-BP had apparently agreed at the board of directors, and with chief executive Dudley, that no money, out of the $1.4 billion tax paid in 2006, would be owing to BP.

BP refuses to explain why it has apparently changed its mind - and so recently. Nicholas told Asia Times Online: "We consider the correspondence between BP and the defendants and the contents of this correspondence to be confidential. We have filed our claim with the High Court and you now have a copy of the claim form. The details of this claim will be fully examined when the case comes to court. We don't intend to make further comment on it."

The Claim Form reveals that BP's first letter of demand for payment was sent to the Russian shareholders on March 19, 2007. But the amount claimed in that letter by BP is reported in the court document to have been 3.4 billion rubles. Further letters of demand followed, BP says, on August 1, December 24, and May 9, 2008. BP then makes an unusual admission: on May 22, BP received a letter from the defendants, the Russian shareholders of TNK, in which they acknowledged "that each Defendant was liable to pay 50% of Roubles 1,835,147,027.73 in respect of the sum of Roubles 3,402,745,865.00 claimed by the Claimant in the aforesaid letter dated 19 March 2007".

Read that carefully again - BP admits that in its letter-writing campaign from March of 2007 to May of 2008, its demand was for 3.4 billion rubles (about $147 million at today's exchange rate); and that the Russian shareholders had agreed to pay it all.

Notwithstanding, just 38 days after receiving this payment undertaking, BP filed suit for an amount that is exactly two and a half times larger. BP was asked to explain why it sued so soon after the Russians agreed to pay on May 22; and why the amount of the claim had jumped skyward. Spokesman Nicholas refused to say.

Can there have been an agreement in 2006 between the BP and Russians on the board and in the senior management of TNK-BP not to reimburse BP, and not to invoke the indemnities? Then, through 2007, when BP was dispatching its letter claims, was there an understanding with the Russians that they would be obliged to reimburse BP for considerably less than BP is now demanding?

The difference between what BP told the Russian shareholders it was willing to accept in March 2007 and what it sued for nine weeks ago is almost 5.1 billion rubles (about $218 million at June 30). In retrospect, this appears to be a sum Dudley, the BP representatives on the TNK-BP board, Graham of BP Russian Investments, and the BP board were all willing to sacrifice - without issuing a notice to shareholders. Perhaps a year ago, this was a sacrifice they judged prudent to maintain amity between the BP and Russian shareholders.

But once the BP plot to oust AAR had been exposed, the appearance of amity was shot, and the stock markets turned against BP, the English tried to protect their stake, keeping Dudley in place, with a writ worth $218 million more than both sides had agreed to accept and pay in May. In the old-fashioned sense in which Cyrano de Bergerac meant the word, this was lunacy. Hayward's signature on the agreement of September 4 certifies it. In a commonsense world, lunatics will also be defeated in the end.

Brown and Miliband face the same fate.

John Helmer has been a Moscow-based correspondent since 1989, specializing in the coverage of Russian business.