Thursday, April 27, 2006

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Amazing how history repeats itself. Here are a couple posts I wrote last year that remain depressingly relevant.

From Corrente:
Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Happy Talk News

Dino Just as I suspected.

From this a.m.'s NYTimes:
"The region that produces and refines a major portion of the nation's oil and natural gas was largely shut down by Hurricane Katrina yesterday, further tightening strained energy markets and sending prices to new highs...

Crude oil prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange closed at $67.20 a barrel yesterday, up 1.6 percent, after touching a high of $70.80 a barrel in earlier electronic trading.
Natural gas futures soared 11 percent after operations at a major hub in Louisiana were temporarily halted. They closed at $10.85 a thousand cubic feet, after reaching a high of $12.07. Disruptions at refineries also pushed futures for gasoline and heating oil to record highs on Nymex. Gasoline contracts closed up 6.9 percent at $2.06 a gallon while heating oil gained 3.9 percent, to $1.91 a gallon..."
mobil You knew Big Oil wasn't going to miss this chance. And here's our Little Man, offering us up on the altar of the free market to please his gods at Exxon and Mobil:
"President Bush alluded to the energy situation today during a appearance in El Mirage, Ariz., where he was speaking on Medicare.
"You just got to understand that the situation we got ourselves into, dependency on foreign sources of oil, took a while to get there, and it's going to take a while to become less dependent," Mr. Bush said."
Not one fucking word about conservation, or reducing reliance on fossil fuels. Not one word.

But over at Clusterfuck Nation, Jim Kunstler and his guest columnist are thinking about it, you can bet the farm. In a piece rebutting the authors of the popular book Freakonomics, who wrote about peak oil in a rather soothing way, Dmitry Podborits quotes this point and responds:
"The authors claim:

"If oil prices rise, consumers of oil will be (a little) worse off. But, we are talking about needing to cut demand by a few percent a year. That doesn't mean putting windmills on cars, it means cutting out a few low value trips. It doesn't mean abandoning North Dakota, it means keeping the thermostat a degree or two cooler in the winter."

It appears to me that the authors somehow missed in their analysis that the decline of, say, 5% per year in consumption of fossil fuels (against the backdrop of, say, 1% of overall population growth due to demographic reasons and mass migration away from the areas hit the hardest) would translate into a roughly 50% of fossil fuel usage reduction after 10 years. That's the core of the PO argument with which the authors "are not necessarily arguing with" -- that past peak, the oil production will continue to fall, as it will take ever-increasing heroic expenses to keep it flat, and any successes in keeping it flat will be necessarily temporary.
So, in a dozen of years in this scenario -- probably still within the economic life time of a brand new Hummer H2, which has by then recently descended from a factory conveyer somewhere in the state of Michigan on the day the oil has peaked (that day will be known only post factum, of course), purchased through an employee incentives discount and financed on credit, the owner will have to cut a nonessential 50% of his overall driving, keep the thermostat a mere 25 or 30 degrees lower and face doing more of the same in subsequent years, all without abandoning North Dakota, or making any other lifestyle changes."
logo_esso_klein Yesterday on NPR they were predicting that gasoline would reach $3.00 a gallon very quickly now that Katrina has offered Big Oil the opportunity. And if it does, you'll never see $1.50 a gallon again. Ever. It will go back down to, oh, say, $2.75, and everyone will be so relieved they'll completely miss the huge ratchet upwards that never really went back down. That's how it's worked for decades now. And unlike in Europe, where they have a huge cushion for price manipulation because of high gas taxes, we hardly tax gas at all, and when it goes up, that's pretty much it...we're stuck.

Lay in a good supply of blankets, folks. I hear animal fat burns real good.

And from my own blog:
Sunday September 4, 2005


NOLA grave I think I'm done blogging for a day or two (though you never know what madness may grip me.) The enormity of what has happened, and the immersion in it over the week, has overwhlemed me. I'm still trying to understand what reason the authorities had for preventing the Red Cross from entering NOLA and stopping the residents from leaving while hundreds died and thousands suffered. And I'm wondering, like many others, just where the hell Dick Cheney, the second-highest official in the land, has been while his country has suffered through the worst natural disaster in its history? According to the San Jose Mercury-News, he waited until Thursday to mosey back to DC from Wyoming, but if he's done or said anything since, I've yet to find it. Maybe he's busy making sure the KBR and Halliburton are getting everything they need for their reconstruction contract to rebuild after the hurricane?

Never forget this. Never. George Bush and the Republican machine created the underfunded, impotent, dumbass, stripped-out neoconservative Norquistized "government" that stood by with its hands in its pockets while thousands died. And it WILL be thousands. The horror stories have yet to begin (like Abu Ghraib, you haven't heard anything yet). Every time Bush asks for his way with one of his subversive, drown-it-in-the bathtub nominees, remember this. Everytime he comes forward with another bright idea to change the regulations on pollution, or twists the NIH to cook the science on global warning, or blows off the need for funds toward our deteriorating infrastructures in order to send money to a war we didn't need, or offers a Federalist Society anti-government bible-thumper for a judicial appointment, remember this. Everytime he tells you that we need to "stay the course" in Iraq and things couldn't be going better, remember this. Everytime you pull up to the pump and see that gas has gone up yet another 20 cents, and find the cost of produce at the store has gone through the roof because of trucking costs, and see that perishables everywhere are getting awfully high, and then everything else is going up as well except your paycheck, and realize you have to change you vacation plans and cut back on food and maybe Christmas won't be so generous this year, and then you start cutting back on everything else when the cost of heating your home hits the roof this winter while the energy companies get those subsidies from Bush's budget, and you wonder why the price-gouging at the gas station was allowed to go on so long, remember this.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Stress Positions

stress positionToday's NYTimes gives us a heads up on the expectant skyrage to come:
"The airlines have come up with a new answer to an old question: How many passengers can be squeezed into economy class? A lot more, it turns out, especially if an idea still in the early stage should catch on: standing-room-only "seats."

Airbus has been quietly pitching the standing-room-only option to Asian carriers, though none have agreed to it yet. Passengers in the standing section would be propped against a padded backboard, held in place with a harness, according to experts who have seen a proposal..."
pilchardsThat's's Cornish pilchard time! But don't let this deter those of you with a fistful of cash, because, as you'd expect in the Dickensian world of Social Darwinism, them that's got shall get:
"Even as the airlines are slimming the seatbacks in coach, they are installing seats as thick and heavy as ever in first and business class — and going to great lengths to promote them. That is because each passenger in such a seat can generate several times the revenue of a coach traveler.

At the front of the cabin, the emphasis is on comfort and amenities like sophisticated entertainment systems. Some of the new seats even feature in-seat electronic massagers. And, of course, the airlines have installed lie-flat seats for their premium passengers on international routes."
And what's the likely upshot of all this? Envy, hate, anger, and boiling frustration, mixed with a healthy dollop of the kind of pain one experiences on an 8 hour intercontinental flight when one's limbs are pinned behind a seat like a dead butterfly's wings:
"Here are some examples of "air rage."

...was fined $50,000 by United Airlines after he assaulted an attendant and then defecated on a first-class food cart during a Buenos Aires-to-New York flight.

...removed his pants and then "simulated having sex with the back of his own seat."

...put his hands around the throat of a flight attendant and threatened her because she spilled a drink on him.

...grabbed a flight attendant by the arms and twisted her wrists. Levy was traveling with three children and explains that she lost her temper because her 20-month-old was crying, had wet pants, and there was no way to get to the bathroom."
And this is nothing new. Reports of "air rage" were climbing through the mid-90's, according to one report from 1998, tied to the increased stress of tight quarters and reduced amenities for extended periods of time.sardines
"What's happening here? Chris Marquet, a New York-based senior managing director for corporate travel consultants Kroll Associates, believes cabin fever is the inevitable result of airline greed.

"Space is tight. Planes are full," he explains. "When there are delays, when the flight's crowded, and you've got a lot of people in a small area, you've got the potential for some airline rage."
In a 2000 health insurance magazine article lamenting the growing dangers from passengers faced by flight attendants, Kristin Kloberdanz writes:air travel luxury
"Deregulation may well have contributed to the rise in in-flight abuse. Patricia Friend, the international president of the AFA, says that cramped planes and frustrating delays, together with airlines' liberal alcohol policies and a society-wide decline in civility, make an explosive combination. "The reality of the crowded airplane and the reductions of in-flight service's amenities offered is completely the opposite of the advertising the airlines do, in which they advertise this wonderful, marvelous experience. You fail to meet people's expectations."
Even in good old laid-back Canada, an academic article from 2000 charted the rise of such incidents, with these explanations:
" 'Air rage' first manifested itself to flight attendants with the introduction of the Boeing-747 and the beginning of mass air travel inthe early 70's....

High-density aircraft seating configurations designed to maximize profitability create conditions enabling heightened passenger tension. The enclosed environment, the lack of humidity and fresh air, severely restricted passenger mobility; scarcity of food, drink and washrooms and the loss of personal control contribute to stress and social tension in the cabin environment. Being a well-adjusted passenger becomes a challenge, even to the most ingenious and experienced traveler."
Even Boeing knows how miserable the experience can be, judging by the list of horrors on their "Tips for the Traveler" page. The truth really comes home when you realize that the exercises they suggest to stave off muscle spasms and embolisms can be done by the intrepid whether in an airline seat or buried alive.

el325The last time I flew on a 8+ hour flight from NYC to London (on Virgin, Richard, and I did it as a favor to you because you overbooked the flight I'd been reserved on for 6 months), I was trapped at the back of the plane in the smallest space I can ever remember. It caused terrible, escalating pain from my shoulders down through my back into my legs---and for hours on end it only got worse, made even more insufferable by the seat-hopper who sat down next to me and pushed his way into my space as he snoozed. Maybe it wasn't Abu Ghraib, but I would have told them anything just to get an extra 5 inches on all sides. When that kind of nagging ache sinks into your bones, it's all you can think of. Every noise, every inadvertent invasion of "your" space, every bodily need not immediately assuaged becomes magnified, and irritation easily balloons into fury.

What's amazing is how long these problems have been around, and how often they've been highlighted, yet no real solution has been offered other than the usual, after-the-fact punitive ones. A 1999 Salon article lists a depressingly long array of incidents, tells a tale of the "passenger from hell", and suggests that we know very little about the real problem:
"Because the FAA records only those incidents that airlines choose to disclose, the actual number of assaults is seriously underreported...United Airlines, to its credit, is one of the few U.S. carriers willing to disclose accurate information. In 1998, America's largest carrier reported 635 incidents of disruptive behavior by passengers. Of these, 61 were assaults.

In 1998, 84 U.S. carriers transported 614 million passengers on countless commercial flights. If a single airline (United) reported 635 incidents of disruptive behavior, and the FAA recorded only 283 incidents occurring on all 84 carriers -- well, passenger misconduct data collection methods are laughably incompetent.

David Fuscus, vice president of communications at the Air Transport Association, a trade organization representing U.S. airlines, believes there are at least 5,000 acts of passenger misconduct every year. The reasons, he claims, may be rooted in a stressful air-travel environment. "Planes are more crowded, passengers are less comfortable," he says."
Boston psychologist Tom Cottle explained it this way:
"...air travel is a breeding ground for anxiety: fear of death, discomfort in crowds, separation from home and family, fouled-up sleep cycles. The 'mysterious sociology,' he said, also includes restrictions on where to stand or park your car, language that's used nowhere else ('your final destination'), class tensions evoked at the baggage counter: 'This line, which is very short, is for the first class, and this line is for the rest of you slobs.'"
Recent incidents of air rage show that, while still under-reported, things continue to get worse. Last December some poor soul who hadn't gotten his meds started screaming nonsense, and was shot dead by air marshals. This year even swimsuit models are losing it.

And now we're being warned of that fashion forward bete noire, the sexual predator, prowling the friendly skies:
"According to research by federal prosecutors in Boston, sexual assault on airplanes is much more common than realized...

Of all crimes on airplanes investigated by the FBI in 2003, federal prosecutors said 12.5 percent involved allegations of sexual assaults. The number of sexual assaults on airplanes could be significantly higher in reality when considering the estimated number of reported cases is believed to represent just a percentage of actual events."
364-1God help us, people! The idea of hanging passengers like slabs of meat from inclined morgue tables is going to catch on here in the States faster than you can say soaring oil prices. The more of us that kill each other off in a stress-induced frenzy, the more room American and United will have for another row.

Maybe down in the cargo hold.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Bush Shrugs

gas pricesNot a hint, not a whisper of a solution, or even an attempt to seek one. The Decider decides that, so far as the gasoline crisis, you’re on your own, chumps:
“But even as the president stressed Saturday that the government was making efforts to protect consumers from price-gouging, he said there was little he could do in the short term to alleviate the impact of higher oil prices.

"We've got a real problem when it comes to oil. We're addicted, and it's harmful for the economy, and it's harmful for our national security," he said.”
So we’ll be having a War on Oil, then, eh? Another conservative success story.

A Good Excuse Never Wears Out

War crimes under the guise of self-defense.

Where have we heard that before?

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sunday Night At The Movies

I finally saw Why We Fight, the documentary by Eugene Jarecki, via Empire Burlesque, a wonderful website run by Chris Floyd and Richard Kastelein that I highly recommed for its exquisite in-depth commentary and video work.

You can watch the movie below, but be aware that it's about 1 1/2 hours long, and requires Flash and an excellent broadband connection.

Regardless of whether you see it here or not, buy the DVD when it comes out, and spread the word.

In the meantime, here's another gem to watch. Link to this powerful short by Floyd and Kastelein, and spread it around.

At some point maybe our level of pissed-offedness will exceed our level of despair and ennui to the point that we may actually drag this worthless shit and his cowardly cohort swho stole our presidency off to the earthly reward they so justly deserve. Till then, we have to keep tearing our hearts out making and watching these endless cries for help.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Impeach The Bastard

shell-gameOn September 18, 2001, Christie Whitman's EPA gave us the news:
"We are very encouraged that the results from our monitoring of air quality and drinking water conditions in both New York and near the Pentagon show that the public in these areas is not being exposed to excessive levels of asbestos or other harmful substances," Whitman said. "Given the scope of the tragedy from last week, I am glad to reassure the people of New York and Washington, D.C. that their air is safe to breath and their water is safe to drink," she added."
But today the NYTimes tells us:
"In the cold, clinical language of the autopsy report of a retired New York City detective that was released this week, there were words that thousands of New Yorkers have come to anticipate and to fear.
"It is felt with a reasonable degree of medical certainty that the cause of death in this case was directly related to the 9/11 incident," stated the report from the medical examiner's office in Ocean County, N.J.
That "reasonable degree of medical certainty" — coroner language for "as sure as I can be" — provides the first official link made by a medical expert between the hazardous air at ground zero after the trade center collapse and the death of someone who worked in the rescue effort."
A death that could have likely been prevented had everyone who worked in the area been given accurate information on the dangers. Instead, what they got was the patented Bush science shell game:
"In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center, the White House instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to give the public misleading information, telling New Yorkers it was safe to breathe when reliable information on air quality was not available...
A statement about discovery of asbestos at higher than safe levels in dust samples from lower Manhattan was changed to state that "samples confirm previous reports that ambient air quality meets OSHA...standards and consequently is not a cause for public concern."
Language in an EPA draft stating that asbestos levels in some areas were three times higher than national standards was changed to "slightly above the 1 percent trigger for defining asbestos material."
This sentence was added to a Sept. 16 news release: "Our tests show that it is safe for New Yorkers to go back to work in New York's financial district." It replaced a statement that initial monitors failed to turn up dangerous samples.
A warning on the importance of safely handling ground zero cleanup, due to lead and asbestos exposure, was changed to say that some contaminants had been noted downtown but "the general public should be very reassured by initial sampling."
The report also notes examples when EPA officials claimed that conditions were safe when no scientific support was available."
And who was responsible for ordering the changes in the report?

The National Security Council.

And who is in charge of the National Security Council?


If the deliberate and callous subversion of evidence that could have protected his own people and saved lives doesn't qualify as a high crime, what does? Impeach the bastard.