Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Road Ahead (COMIC ART)

This is the road to Arkham Asylum.


Why Interest Rates Must Go Up

It adds fodder to the argument that higher interest rates are having no effect on the initial drivers of inflation: rising international food and fuel prices.

NVDL: Actually, high interest rates will start to have an effect, even indirectly, on food and fuel prices. The cost of credit or of borrowing, when it goes up enough, begins to impact negatively on consumption, which impacts negatively on the equilibrium price level. People operating out of their personal circumstances will have a lot to protest about, but the reality is that interest rates must go up. Consumption/demand, needs to be reined in. I don't like it, you don't like it, but it's the only way to get people to change their habits as it pertains to consumption.

Why oil costs over $120 per barrel

Oil is still cheap

At $2 per liter bottled spring water costs $318 per barrel.

Oil is still very cheap. Bottled spring water at $2 per litre works out at $318 per barrel. Oil is fundamental to our lives for transportation and a myriad products ranging from plastic to pesticides. Unlike spring water, oil is finite and costs significantly more to find and produce. The price of oil will continue to rise until the world as a whole decides it can do with less or until meaningful volumes of energy substitution take root.

Secondary factors and excuses

There are a range of secondary factors impacting the day to day fluctuations in oil price such as:

  • Speculation
  • Political unrest in producing countries
  • The depreciation of the $US
  • Prime exploration acreage that is off limits to OECD corporations


Financial speculation in oil futures is being offered increasingly as the reason for high oil prices. True, speculation is rife. However, the futures market is a zero sum game. For every long position there is a short position and the price is ultimately struck by the individual who takes delivery of the oil - which is then refined and purchased by a consumer. For so long as consumers keep demanding oil at ever higher prices, the price will continue to rise.

The only way speculation could impact the oil price is under accumulation. Inventories of crude oil and refined products have been falling for a year (see figures 14 to 17).

Political unrest

True, political unrest in exporting countries such as Iraq and Nigeria means that less oil is being produced. But this situation has prevailed for many years now and is likely to get worse as energy poverty begins to bite.

The depreciation of the $US

True, the depreciation of the US$ has contributed to the rise in oil prices. But the oil price has risen in € too.

From Countdown to €100 oil by Jerome a Paris.

Off limits exploration

True, there are vast tracts of the USA that are under-explored in the ANWR and off the east and west coasts where the US has placed a high price on protecting their own environment. But it is not true that the Middle East and Russia are under-explored and that greater access to these areas by OECD companies would transform the current situation.

In summary these secondary factors touted by the MSM, politicians and oil companies are nothing more than an excuse and a distraction from the core problem which is demand growth running ahead of supply growth for over three years now. If the USA, Russia or Saudi Arabia could turn on the taps and produce an additional 3 mmbpd, the oil price would fall tomorrow. But they can't and the only way the oil price will come down is by reduced demand brought about by pricing poor people out of the energy market and by deepening recession.


We are now in the early stages of a full blown energy crisis that was predictable if not wholly avoidable. Politicians are awaking to the crisis now that escalating energy costs make its existence plain to see. It is highly unlikely that politicians will now grasp the gravity of the situation that the OECD and rest of the world faces and the responses will likely be ineffectual and too little too late.

The principal reason for current high oil price is the proximity of a peak in global oil production. Politicians must understand this and then grasp that natural gas and coal supplies will follow oil down by mid century. Reducing taxes on energy consumption right now is the wrong thing to do. Taxation structure needs to be adjusted to oblige energy producing companies to re-invest wind fall profits in alternative energy sources on a truly massive scale.

Energy efficiency should be the guiding beacon of all policy decisions and this must apply equally to energy production and energy consumption.

Posted by Euan Mearns


Friday, May 30, 2008

The Joke's On You (COMIC ART)

Dodgy Dodge Marketing, and Your car is shedding value by the minute

Tim Shriver, the chairman of Special Olympics: “So Dodge wants to sell you a car you don’t really want to buy, that is not fuel-efficient, will further damage our environment, and will further subsidize oil states, some of which are on the other side of the wars we’re currently fighting. ... The planet be damned, the troops be forgotten, the economy be ignored: buy a Dodge.”

Chrysler are offering a credit line for fuel that doesn't change for 3 years, in order to move their products into the market, allowing customers to pretend that fuel prices aren't a factor for a little bit longer.

Your car is shedding value by the minute:
A car dealer in the states said he deducts $200 each day from the trade-in price for every $1-a-barrel increase in the OPEC price of crude oil. When you see the rows and rows of unsold S.U.V.’s parked in his lot, you'll understood why.

Rice Spin

"I am not going to comment on a book that I haven't read," she said, referring to McClellan's scathing memoir, "but what I will say is that the concern about weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein's Iraq was the fundamental reason."

"It was not the United States of America alone that believed that he had weapons of mass destruction that he was hiding," Rice said, dismissing suggestions that the administration knew the intelligence was incorrect.

"The story is there for everyone to see, you can't now transplant yourself into the present and say we should have know what we in fact did not know in 2001 and 2002," she said. "The record on weapons of mass destruction was one that appeared to be very clear."

Those who were skeptical should have spoken up at the time and argued against U.N. sanctions such as the oil-for-food program, she said.

"The threat from Saddam Hussein was well understood," Rice said. "You can agree or disagree about the decision to liberate Iraq in 2003, but I would really ask that if you ... believe he was not a threat to the international community, then why in the world were you allowing the Iraqi people to suffer under the terms of oil-for-food."

The heart of the McClellan book concerns Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq, a determination McClellan says the president had made by early 2002 — at least a full year before the invasion — if not even earlier.

"He signed off on a strategy for selling the war that was less than candid and honest," McClellan writes in "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception."

During the "political propaganda campaign to sell the war to the American people," Bush and his team tried to make the "WMD threat and the Iraqi connection to terrorism appear just a little more certain, a little less questionable than they were." Something else was downplayed as well, McClellan says: any discussion of "the possible unpleasant consequences of war — casualties, economic effects, geopolitical risks, diplomatic repercussions."

NVDL: Nothing new there, except that Rice and her cohorts are still doing that. She uses the words 'weapons of mass destruction' wherever she can. Anyway, at least we don't have to worry about the USA spinning their way into another war, with, say Iran. I mean, there are no weapons of mass destruction there, in Iran, are there? I'm just concerned when Ms. Rice wakes up and realises a country that hates the USA and has proved they have nukes - North Korea - already exists. When she does I think we might well hear a speech like this from her:
I think because of the weapons of mass destruction there we need to use our very underutilised weapons of mass destruction because if we don't use our weapons of mass destruction first someone else will use their weapons of mass destruction first, and we can't have anyone usinbg weapons of mass destruction against us. Did I mention that we are very concerned that some nations might have weapons of mass destruction and we reserve to make sure that they don't have weapons of mass destruction, even if it means using our weapons of mass destruction...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Blogging is like Marriage, and why I still have a bone to pick with Lynne Slettevold

Marriage is a public institution. You and your beloved make your feelings known publicly. Part of the reason is so the public knows what you've decided to be, and that knowing this, they can respect you and your beloved's decision. Naturally, while these may be the overt intentions, it is expecting an awful lot from both society and one's beloved to behave honorably ad infinitum, forsaking all others until death us do part, forever and ever amen. What that means is can we rely on our partners (blogs) to be faithful to us, and can we rely on the public not to interfere into what ought to be certain private places in our public enterprises that are, shall we say, relatively off-limits (eve if just off the beaten track), or else - and worse, ought we to expect the public and the media to commit adultery with our beloved? Of course not.

No reasonable and rational public or public entity would dare to operate in a way to fly in the face of public decency. Or...else...? Interestingly, there is even a
Divorce Act which rightly protects the interests of both parties (including from one another) but also from media intrusion. Note this is post marriage. Sunday Times went to court recently to challenge this law, citing a right to publish and the public’s to receive information[on parties going through a divorce]. Whether the Sunday Times won their challenge, I'm not sure. After all, even Billy Gundelfinger has stated:

“For me, the mechanism for protecting the identity of the parties should be maintained, if only to serve the interests of children,” said Gundelfinger. “In my experience it is not at all rare that children are harmed in divorce actions, and would suffer irreparable harm if their identities were made known.”

Billy Gundelfinger said he feared a return to the practice of some newspapers in the ’70s – before the introduction of the law — in which “whole pages” were devoted to a round-up of divorce cases, including “all the gory details”.

Here is an interesting case where the media, pleading for the law to keep step with the 'changing values of society' is asking for the right to make public confidential and sensitive information pertaining to private family information in particularly trying circumstances. To test whether this is something that should be allowed, simply ask: if you were getting divorced, would you like the newspapers to cover it, including what your partner thinks and feels about you? But everyone knows how protective and controlling the media is of bloggers reporting on their own/internal and thus sensitive corporate information. Isn't this a double standard? Once again, in terms of the law, and how it applies to blogs and all the sensitivities involved, there ought to be a simple application and observance of logic, common law common sense, and ordinary manners.

What I am saying essentially is that while blogs operate in the public domain, so do marriages, and in an obvious and ordinary sense, ordinary rules of decency apply. So, for example, if a blogger makes a mistake at work (or even if he/she doesn't), or if a blogger aims to make a case against an aggrieving party, to what extent is handpicked content from the complainants blog relevant in the aggrieved party's rebuttal? To what extent is the public's right to what happens in a marriage/divorce relevant to ordinary work/civil processes, even if it is ostenibly a relationship concluded in the publid domain? In fact personal details do not belong to one's colleagues, one's boss...except as a useful means to smear and besmirch? Is that where the exception is allowed? The answer is, blogs are probably not very relevant until they say something that is of and in itself relevant.

But recent history has shown that those outsiders (managers/bosses, people in positions of authority) who want to use blogs against their blogging owners have been allowed free reign to do so. This is likely to change, as ordinary common laws come to into play, and as these situations arise more and more frequently. Because what seems to some to be very fuzzy math is actually about plain old good and decent manners at the end of the day.

So am I wrong to mention someone who has displayed bad manners? It depends how honestly/maliciously I make that representation. What are my underlying intentions. And I think the impact of the communication has to be balanced against the injury experienced. Lynne Slettevold is an example, and I'd like to re-address that experience here, because it's relevant.

Imagine you are climbing a mountain. A high mountain, not just any mountain. You and your guide agree that when you get to the top, your guide will take a photo of you, to prove you have climbed the mountain. You have many important reasons for climbing the mountain, but part of the reason to do it is to have testimony, evidence, of your achievement. Perhaps you need to prove to the world you reached the top in order that other climbers who wish to do the same will pay for your services. Except when you come back down the mountain, your guide, inexplicably refuses to hand over the photographic evidence. Thus to a large extent, the great costs, the various resources employed in this very laborious expedition, all the ambitions behind the project, are to a large extent effectively laid to waste.

The mountain in this analogy is code for a Photo Exhibition I held. It's a case of unrepentant and unacceptable bad manners. But that's all it is. Tomorrow there's a post about fitness, the next day about good food, the next about insomnia. Life goes on, and of course if Lynne felt so terrible about whatever she did, she could call me up at any time and say, here's what we agreed. Then I would naturally feel - wow, now what I said in the past no longer applies. Except that that hasn't happened, and so what I said does apply.: Someone didn't do something they were supposed to do. Boo hoo. End of story. But if I were to expand on that and start to violate her right to privacy (where she lives, where she works, placing photos of her on the net, describing my skewed insights into her private light) then suddenly the ultimate perpetrator of bad manners is me. And I think that is easy to see.

I think as a blogger one also has to walk the fine line between addressing things and venting. I once vented over a cyclist, B, and although I remain really pissed off about what happened that day (during a 180km cycle race), I didn't realise she would read the vent herself. But then I didn't write it necessarily for anyone to read. In a sense it was like a diary entry, because for goodness sake, if 50% of your readers are from the UK, and the USA, and your South African visitors are 50% random, and those who aren't aren't interested in cycling, then it's not even going to be boo hoo to them. But if no one is going to read this super-personal stuff, why blog it? Why indeed. So in that particular case I don't think there was much point. All I achieved was to actually worsen the situation, which was not my intention, although I don't feel like I had any malicious intent other than to express my misery and misfortune in a bicycle race. The end certainly didn't justify the means, but having clearly expressed my pain and heartache, I also learned subsequently the extent of her lack of remorse. Eeek. Stop writing about this!

Anyone can apply the basic model and moral of fairness and manners to the internet (and to the media) in order to test whether our use of information is warranted, in the public interest - truly - or simply bad manners to whatever end.

Blogs are going to be up for grabs and up for scrutiny a lot more going into the future, and probably will initially lose 'challenges' against them. But blogs and bloggers are becoming more powerful every day, and even if sanity does not prevail, perhaps the cyber-lynching sensibilities of the blogging masses will.

Oil Prices Are Dropping - Phew, we survived that...let's go back to normal now

So oil prices hit a record $135 a week ago, then they dropped back down to $127. No big deal. It went up a lot, but the markets just got excited.

Umm...just to be clear, we're talking about some topsy turvy behaviour that is still north of $120, and for that matter, $110. If this rollercoaster ride says anything, it is that the markets are now VERY volatile. By the way, just before they went down to $127, they went back up to $133 (from $130). This means there is a lot of tension pushing and pulling at that price.

Oil prices fall below $127 a barrel

A friend was also saying that since 65% of the UK oil price is comprised from taxes, the actual price of oil isn't even expensive. Exactly. Oil is still very very cheap. The prices producers are paid is still very little. So, you say, why can't we just remove these government taxes? 2 reasons:
1) because that would increase demand, which is exactly what we don't want to do.
2) because these fuel taxes are a primary source of income for government. Without them, most departsments would be crippled. What is happening in any event is while those taxes remain in place, economies are increasingly tipping towards recession as disposable incomes increasingly fail to achieve parity with these higher price levels. Thus higher fuel prices also begin to erode the income of entire governments.

Model For the 21st Century Newsroom (GRAPHIC)

Spend $10 Today, Be Out $100K Tomorrow

Little amounts can make a large difference to your finances.

As gasoline and food prices continue to rise, the squeeze to make family budgets balance each month becomes more of a struggle. After the big savings have been found and taken, smaller savings have to be found to make ends meet.

This can be frustrating as it can feel like everyone is being nickled and dimed to death. That's why it's important to realize how these small amounts can make a huge difference in your overall financial health.

You've likely heard about the little ways to save money a million times. Money-saving advice includes standards like packing your lunch instead of buying it at work, skipping the Starbucks and making your coffee at home and watching videos at home instead of going out to the movies. While you may have grown tired of hearing them, they are still as true as ever and even more important when the economy is struggling.

More from

Use Your Pantry to Pinch Pennies

Minimum Payments Cause Maximum Financial Pain

Ten Strategies to Fight Bank Fees

Saving small amounts of money is good advice for everyone, it's not as essential for people that are currently living well below their means. If you spend $5 on a cup of coffee each day, but you're still able to put away five times that amount toward your savings, that coffee splurge isn't going to hurt as much as for someone who isn't saving anything. For those that are barely making ends meet, spending small amounts of money can be the difference between deep debt and a nice retirement account.

When you are faced with a budget that isn't balancing, you have two main choices: earn more money or cut more expenses. Unfortunately, many turn to a third alternative. When they can't seem to make their budget balance, they decide that it's acceptable to place the difference onto a credit card. Even though the monthly shortfall in the budget is small, placing it onto credit cards is one of the worst financial moves that a person can make. The result will be a downward cycle that will not only keep you in debt, but also create a tremendous amount of stress.

There is often a false assumption that saving $10 and spending $10, although opposite, are relatively the same. For example, if a person saves $10 a day, after a month their account will have $300 while if a person spends $10 a day, that will result in a debt of $300. While on the surface this makes perfect sense, the problem lies in that these numbers fail to take into account the interest that can be gained or charged on this money. It is this failure to understand the concept of compound interest and the dramatic effect it can have that greatly changes these results.

It's important to understand that it takes very little to start sinking into debt. For most people, spending $10 a day would not be considered extravagant spending by any means, but $10 can result in tens of thousands of dollar of debt. It's simple to see when you compare the results of what happens when one person saves $10 a day while the other spends $10 a day that he doesn't have.

If a person were to save $300 a month (approx. $10 a day) and invest it to get a 5% yearly return, that person would have $20,402 in the bank after five years. On the other hand, if a person ends up spending $300 a month more than he has and puts it onto a credit card that he doesn't pay off over the same 5 year period, that person will owe $36,259, assuming a 26% credit card interest rate. After five years, the difference between saving $10 and spending $10 each day results in a $56,661 gap in net worth between the two.

Add another five years to the same patterns, and the results are even more dramatic. After 10 years, the person who saved $10 a day would have $46,585 in the bank, whereas the person who spent the $10 he didn't have would be $167,470 in debt, resulting in a net worth difference of over $210,000.

Of course, there are many other factors that could alter these calculations. The interest you can earn and what your credit card interest rates are will vary from this example. There is a minimum amount that the person would need to pay on a credit card each month. If debt to this extent began to occur, the person would have their credit cut off long before this amount accumulated and would likely need to declare bankruptcy. The point is that over time, small amounts added to debt can result in far more debt than most people realize.

Once you learn that saving a small amount and overspending a small amount aren't simple opposites, you understand the importance of having a budget and strictly sticking with it. If you are able to fight through the hard times and keep your budget balanced, then you set yourself to reap great financial rewards when the economy finally turns around.

by Jeffrey Strain

NVDL: Credit cards are just plain evil. But whether the economy will 'finally' turn around...I'm afraid we are not headed in that direction.

Seven habits of obsessively connected people

1. Obsessive compulsive blogging disorder: Marked by intrusive thoughts and repeated posting, the syndrome typically involves constant, irrational worrying about comments on the latest blog posts and feelings that something bad will happen if he or she does not post at least 20 times a day. It is related to obsessive searching disorder, whose telltale signs include excessive use of Microsoft and Yahoo search engines.

2. Social network schizophrenia: Disturbed moods, thoughts and behavior that make it difficult for the patient to distinguish fact from Facebook. Hallucinations include friends throwing sheep at them. People with social network schizophrenia believe their hallucinations are real and the rest of the world is nuts, making it difficult to communicate with them or even attempt to help without using the Superpoke feature on Facebook.

3. Digital depression: Dark moods, feelings of loss or lower self-esteem resulting from being dissed by conference-roving Twitter mobs, getting unfriended, unlinked or unfollowed on your favorite social network or microblogging platform -- or getting zero comments on your blog posts.

4.FriendFeed phobia: Characterized by a deep-seated fear that if you use FriendFeed, you will find out you actually have no friends.

5. Twitterer's Syndrome: Related to Tourette's syndrome, an involuntary, sudden, rapid, recurrent 140-character typing tic. To wit: "I'm not sure what's noisier. Twitter or my baby who is teething. I think the baby wins, but not by much," Scoble says.

6. Binge surfing disorder: Consuming more page views in a single sitting than most average people could in a two-week period. Characterized by abnormal craving for updates from Valleywag and VentureBeat. Side effects can be severe. Treatment varies. Consult your shrink.

7. Post-traumatic inbox disorder: Feelings of helplessness... and loss of control triggered by overwhelming influx of e-mails, resulting in an inability to sleep, work or enjoy life. It is related to post-traumatic update disorder: the failure to update your status on Facebook and other services, which leads to generalized anxiety.

Cultural schizophrenia

The modern condition born of a disconnection between attitudes and behaviors, between the world as it is presented and the world as we intuit it to be. Cultural schizophrenia occurs whenever society begins to reinvent its vision of how it will conduct affairs in the future.

NVDL: In other words, it is underway.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Shoe Shine, Car Shine and Sex in the City

So after gym I am so deur die blare (through the leaves) that in the parking lot basement at work, in the process of trying to create the leaning tower of my dairy, access cards and my lunch, I manage to throw out a small container with my lunch over the passenger seat...and beyond. It basically looks like someone just hurled mince, and mushrooms, and pieces of pepper and onion over my handbrake, gear shift and inside those little tracks that the chairs run on. I try to pick up grubs of meat, but the damage is done. Small curls of steam emerge out of both ears. When I get back my car is gonna smell like beef stew. STOOOPID.

So in my lunch break I went to a valet service at a great garage in Lower Houghton, and had the thing completely cleaned. Even played a bit of golf on a small green nearby. While I was standing there some kid offered to shine my shoes. Why not?

After work I was stuck in a gargantuan ruby traffic jam - I think we left at about 5:45pm and got there at around 7pm. Lots of people, famous names (don't ask me to mention any, I just heard a few gasps), some nice free drinks and goodies. The Sex and the City Premiere was well attended. The movie itself was...let's see...funny, heartwarming, witty and sexy. It's a chick flick, but there's enough porn and hot chicks to make it worthwhile for the guys. Umm...scratch that. It's a chick flick that feel like 4 episodes crammed into one. It's a good movie, good story, but it would have been great if they could have sliced one episode's worth out. I think we went in at 8pm and came out at 11pm. We didn't even stay for dessert. Sarah jessica reminds me so much of my sister.

Classic line, Carrie: I need to get out of this Mexicoma. There's more witty dialogue, I'm just to sleepy to remember any of it clearly. But I like the idea of getting married in a court building, something modest and un-traditional. Oops. I think I've spoiled it for you now. But then again, who in their right mind gets married in the first place? I guess...people who really love each other, that's who.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008 Web 2.0 fails to produce cash

Many members of the Web 2.0 generation of internet companies have so far produced little in the way of revenue, despite bringing about some significant changes in online behaviour, according to some of the entrepreneurs and financiers behind the movement.

The shortage of revenue among social networks, blogs and other “social media” sites that put user-generated content and communications at their core has persisted despite more than four years of experimentation aimed at turning such sites into money-makers. Together with the US economic downturn and a shortage of initial public offerings, the failure has damped the mood in internet start-up circles.

“There is going to be a shake-out here in the next year or two” as many Web 2.0 companies disappear, said Roger Lee, a partner at Battery Ventures.

“These are challenging macro-economic conditions,” said Shawn Hardin, chief executive of Flock, a browser maker that raised $15m in venture capital last week.

Yet that has not stopped a continuing round of venture capital fundraising and acquisition activity at high valuations as investors and corporate acquirers hunt for businesses capable of rising above a crowded field.

“If you look at some of the valuations, you wonder what fantasy of revenues they’re based on,” said Mitchell Kertzman, a partner at Silicon Valley venture capital firm Hummer Winblad.

In one sign of the continued hopes for start-ups that have yet to alight on a solid business model, several financiers expressed support for the private fundraising being undertaken by Twitter, one of Silicon Valley’s most talked-about companies. The “micro-blogging” service, whose users post messages no more than 40 characters long, has yet to find a way to make money, but its early adoption by a group of enthusiastic users is seen as a sign that it will eventually be successful.

Other recent venture capital deals have included fundraisings that have put valuations of about $500m each on Slide, a maker of “widgets”, small applications that are carried on social networks, and Ning, a social networking platform founded by Marc Andreessen, a co-founder of browser maker Netscape.

Despite the slow start to money-making by Web 2.0 companies, the trend towards more social online behaviour that it embodies is widely claimed by insiders to be of lasting significance.
By Richard Waters and Chris Nuttall in San Francisco.
From here.

NVDL: I been sayin' it. I have a question though. As we enter this period of 'post-oil' contraction, will the internet play a role in maintaining our sense of community? I hope so, but I fear no. Because let's be honest - has the internet really served as a connector, has it allowed us to meet new people, to socialise more than we otherwise would have? I'm not sure I know of anyone who can say that that is the case.

After all, even the internet requires energy to run, and if there's one thing we can anticipate more and more it is the disruption of energy supplies. Which begs the question: Does the internet have a future? Once again, it seems to be predicated on the future of our electricity networks, and the levels of stability of those communities tasked with maintaining this infrastructure. Kunstler predicts that the grid will go off. In time, it may be degraded to such an extent that we won't really have the expertise on hand to keep it running. At this point it's anybody's guess.

"Oh my God, the house is gone!" (TWISTER VIDEO)

NVDL: "Are you not entertained? Are you NOT entertained? Isn't that why you're here?"

The Most Beautiful Woman In The World (and she's Korean) - PHOTOGRAPHY

IEA inquiry into whether oil supplies will run dry by 2012

SIMON BAIN May 26 2008

The International Energy Agency has ordered an inquiry into whether the world could run out of oil in four years' time, it was reported yesterday.

The IEA has concerns about what might happen in 2012, when demand for oil, boosted by the rapid growth of the Chinese and Indian economies, is expected to have reached 95 million barrels a day. Global supply at that point is projected at only 96 million barrels a day. Such a thin margin would be vulnerable to any sudden supply crisis in volatile countries such as Nigeria, Venezuela or Iraq, now estimated to have overtaken Saudi Arabia as the biggest oil nation.

The IEA said its inquiries would form part of short and long-term forecasts to be published in July and again in November. Its energy research chief, Lawrence Eagles, said: "Up to now we have believed that supply can cope with demand. One caveat is that we don't know for certain whether estimates of reserves in countries such as Saudi Arabia are entirely accurate.

NVDL: Weren't they saying like a minute ago that we were fine until 2040 or 2070? Now suddenly it's 2012. Errr...I'm looking at my watch. That's 4 years from now...not 40...4.

By the way, we will never make 90mbpd, we peaked at about
87.5 mbpd, [In 2006, the world oil production took a downturn from 84.631 to 84.597 million barrels per day] and we've fallen off since. 87 is the most we'd ever produce, and anything above that is an interesting if pointless fantasy. People are also saying that a US and UK recession will bring oil prices down. I'm no so sure its true. When you starve a drug addict of a fix, do they want it more or less? So now, oil will start galloping soon. It's stuff too precious to be driving out to the movies, or the mall. This stuff is used to grow food, to fight the insects that eat crops, and we drive it out on happy holidays and to get take-out. Very silly humans!

Kunstler: Anxious Hiatus

In the U.S., data released on Friday showed that highway miles driven in March fell 4.3 percent from a year earlier, the first time this has happened in March since the last major oil shock in 1979.

Loveliness was everywhere this holiday weekend in upstate New York, and it was probably hard for many to believe that the wayward nation would return to the dread uncertainty of life in the crash lane when the barbeques were over. There was even a wan overtone to the late-night sports news about the Indy 500 race -- as though the spectacle of cars droning round and round a speed oval symbolized the futility of American life in this moment of our history.

I had a discussion with one guy at Sunday night party about the prospects for hydrogen-powered cars. We rehearsed the usual reasons why such a system was unlikely to get up-and-running -- and then he said, "...but what if we took all the money from the war and put it into something like the space program and... they came up with some way to make it happen...!"

This is certainly the golden heart of the great wish out there, as the empire of Happy Motoring begins to run down on $4 gasoline. It seems inconceivable that a society so bold as to put men on the moon (fer crissake) can't overcome such a prosaic problem as finding something other than oil byproducts to run our cars on.
From this holy font all cognitive dissonance flows.

It seems inconceivable, but it begins to look like that's the way it really is, and we just can't accept it.
Of course, one of the reasons that Americans are so anxious to get away on a holiday weekend from the places where they live is because we did such a perfect job the past fifty years turning our home-places into utterly unrewarding, graceless nowheres, where the private realm of the beige houses is saturated in monotony, and the public realm has been reduced to the berm between the WalMart and the strip mall. Now, we barely have the gasoline to run all this stuff, let alone escape from it for a weekend.

We're at a dead end with all this and a lot of Americans are paralyzed with fear about what's next. This may actually be a deeper fear than the anxiety about money and banking in 1933, when Franklin Roosevelt was sworn in and tried to reassure the nation. Back then, despite the grave problems of capital, we still had plenty of everything: plenty of good productive land, plenty of manpower earnestly eager for hard work, plenty of ore in the ground, shining cities equipped with excellent streetcar systems, a railroad network that was the envy of the world, sturdy small towns and small cities fully equipped with locally-owned business, and a vast number of small family farms that could re-absorb family members unable to get wages in the cities. Most of all, we had plenty of oil in the ground, and the world's biggest industry for getting it out and selling it. What we didn't have in 1933 was cash money.

The crisis at hand now goes way beyond a crisis of capital -- though that is certainly part of it. Notice how many of the things we had in 1933 are gone now. Our cities, with a few exceptions, are imploded husks. Our small towns and small cities (Schenectady, home of G.E.!) are gutted, especially in terms of locally-owned business. Our passenger rail system is worse than anything a Soviet ministry might produce (while the airline industry that replaced it is dying of a kind of financial hemorrhagic fever). Our local transit hardly exists anymore. Family farms have all but disappeared. We have plenty of manpower earnestly eager to become American Idols (but certainly not for heavy labor). Our oil industry now supplies only a fraction of the world's daily supply (and not even enough for half of our own needs).

What happens now? We face not just change but convulsive change. The public senses the rapid unraveling of our car-centric arrangements. In the week before the holiday, gasoline prices went up several cents each day -- in upstate New York, it crossed the $4 mark and kept going up. The trucking system faces collapse as diesel fuel price-rises exceed even the rise in gasoline, and the vast number of independent truckers who make up the system confront the individual calamity of a personal business failure. American Airlines last week announced severe measures to keep operating through the fall of 2008. But none of the airlines can feasibly carry on as usual with oil prices above $120-a-barrel -- and the ominous message is of a business model that has no conceivable way to adapt to the new reality. Most likely, in a very few years air travel will no longer be a "consumer" enterprise.

In the background of these practical problems -- "off screen" during the holiday of car races and ball games -- is a crisis of capital orders of magnitude worse than the one faced by Franklin Roosevelt in 1933. For, behind the "liquidity" (i.e. insolvency) issues faced by the big institutions lurks the Godzilla of the derivatives trade, which has evolved into a black hole capable of sucking all notional "money" into oblivion. That "money," which represents the aggregate value of our society, also amounts to the emperor's new clothes of an empire in serious trouble. As the black hole of derivatives sucks away these "new clothes," America will stand naked against the elements of fate.

NVDL: Whether it's summer or winter, we're heading for winter, one of the grimmest in history.

Twisters plucking up Americans like hungry frogs

About 100 people have died in U.S. twisters so far this year, the worst toll in a decade, according to the weather service, and the danger has not passed yet. Tornado season typically peaks in the spring and early summer, then again in the late fall.
Iowa Homeland Security administrator Dave Miller said seven people were killed Sunday by a tornado in northeast Iowa — five from Parkersburg, a town of about 1,000 some 80 miles northeast of Des Moines — and two from nearby New Hartford. At least 50 injuries were reported.

"Occasionally we have a death but we have warning system. Seven deaths. It's been a long time since we've had those kinds of injuries and deaths reported," Miller said.


How not to NOT go to gym

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! That is the internal primal scream response that emanantes from a small reserve area of my brain that has sparked to life - a few billion nerve endings, that's all - in response to my freaking bleeping phone. It's 6:40am and there are my gym clothes, laying in wait. My eyelashes flutter weakly against the pillow, like a pair of sleepy moths.

Now I remember. I was up until 2am typing out that damned script - WHY THE WORLD NEEDS BATMAN. There is NOOOOOOO way in Gotham that I am going to get up and lift weights now. I get up and type an sms into my phone:
SOZ LATE NIGHT. WILL GYM LATER TODAY. NJOY. And off it goes. I'm supposed to be meeting A at 7am, and everybody knows (and he will soon) that there is no way that that is going to happen.

I get up to do some voiding, vaguely aware of a repetitive dream that has hooked in my consciousness. Something about a waterfall, with not much water in it, but it looks like there is...and some female leader going down it because it's a sort of a rite of passage. And then I went down. And it was supposed to flow into the sea not far away from there. Very bizarre.

So I'm back in bed, my body is basically weeping quietly (from being woken up) and I'm expecting the sandman to dump a truckload of sand on my face any minute. I glance at my watch. 7am. Then there's that irritating buzz, like a fly against a freaking window, from my phone, with a message that has come through. I resist the urge to look. Unfortunately my irritation now infects other nerve centres - previously dormant - and a few cursory thoughts flicker through my brain. WORK! BOSS! STATS! SEX AND THE CITY! I rub my nose in my pillow. Noooo. Just...nooo. I turn and check the sms:

I lay back down. It's 7:12 anyway. GRRRRRR. Too late to go to gym. 7:15. 7:16. Jeepers I can't go back to sleep. At 7:21 I am out the door, in my car, and by 7:27 I am in the gym, doing pull ups. It turned out to be a lekker session - the core stuff was especially hard.

Moral of the story? Just get out the door, no matter how cold, no matter how little sleep you've had. You'll be glad you did, and it beats beating yourself up, or rehearsing excuses for why you didn't go.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Look into the mirror (ART)

The Grim Reaper stretches his legs

The news is pretty grim - have you had a look?

China: 69 dams in danger after earthquake
South Africa immigrant violence leaves 25,000 displaced
Tornadoes rake Oklahoma as Midwest tallies damage
Fed warns on inflation as oil prices continue to rise
Bangladesh reports first human case of bird flu
Myanmar still in emergency after cyclone: UN aid
Buffett sees "long, deep" U.S. recession

In an Olympic year, China is scrambling to deal with imminent dam bursts, 80 000 estimated dead in earthquakes with continuing aftershocks, meanwhile the Olympic torch has been shelved. No one is thinking about that now.

South Africa, another country hoping to host 'world games' (the Soccer World Cup in 2010) is facing a lot more crisis than China. The xenophobia/mob violence is perhaps the most troubling. It ought to be obvious by now that if such large scale rioting can erupt with no warning, it can happen in 2010 without warning (that's if it dissipates in the interim), which is an unconscionable threat to the safety of tens of thousands of foreign visitors. Given the inflationary pressures at work, I predict that this violence and criminality will pick up speed towards 2010. South Africa also has many other troubles, including a dodgy electricity network, virtually no public transport and a deep seated corruption in government. The last may not seem to be a problem, except that government will say everything and do nothing, meaning we can't reasonably expect the country's problems to be solved any time soon.

The USA is experiencing crappy weather, and we will have to see whether we have another season of big hitting Hurricanes. While Americans are seeing the worst property market figures in 20 years, they are also facing stagflation - rising prices of goods, but zero growth. And as the world's largest consumer of energy (and largest polluter), at 25% (China consumes 9%), America is being winded by some very hard economic right hooks. The presidency is looking increasingly like a booby prize for whomever is unlucky enough to win it.

H5N1 has been placed on the back burner, but it hasn't disappeared. It's kicking around in Seoul, one of the most densely populated cities in the world. It's also dancing around Bangladesh, Japan and Indonesia.

Finally,if your country hasn't been mentioned above, the bad news still extends to you, because we are now moving fairly rapidly towards a global recession, and then a depression. We can expect oil prices to cruise to about $150 and obviously those commentators yelling 'bubble' will hopefully have their own thought bubbles popped. I had hoped for more sanity in our response to $135 oil. But we remain caught up in a collective sense - a delusion - that everything is just going to carry on humming. Normal is gone.

I don't know about you, but I think there has been a gut feel - among many ordinary people - that we have been heading for trouble for some time. That we just couldn't continue carrying on the way we have been. Reality may take a while still to dawn, and unfortunately when it does, people will have nervous breakdowns, systems will also break down - because even the real world can't stand too much reality. Our world has picked up a terminal disease, and has started dying.

Why is there Xenophobia in South Africa? Why now? Who is behind it? Here's a clue

When you Google Xenophobia or Johannesburg Violence you come across plenty of assessments for why this is happening. 9/10 miss the point. The clue behind this mob behaviour is that in every instance it is associated with looting, with ordinary people running around with someone elses stuff. That speaks volumes. It's a zero sum game mentality - us or you, you go (or die) and we get what you leave behind.

This is difficult for people to understand who have cars and televisions. When you see people squabbling over a stolen bag of flour, messing the snowy powder over themselves in the tug of war, it begins more obvious just how desperate the poverty must be in some of these areas. And many of the poor are suffering the highest levels of AIDS attrition. Commonly, AIDS lays waste to those old enough to work - parents. And there have been alarming reports of large numbers of youths making up these mobs.

So there you have it: poverty - which induces resentment - Aids - which induces desperation - an influx of foreigners - which provides a convenient target (for now) - ongoing price increases and Zimbabwe's continuous decline - providing a combined sense of hopelessness and fear.

My concern is that as inflationary pressures increase, this mob violence will spill over into ordinary suburbia. Its the have nots (and there are millions) against the haves.

Harry Potter actor stabbed to death iover mobile phone

Police said the killing was not gang-related and yesterday, as friends laid flowers at the murder scene, close to Sidcup railway station, Lee Bentley, manager of the Metro bar, said the attack appeared to have been triggered by a row over the alleged theft of a mobile phone.

“Nine days ago, a guy came to the bar and caused trouble,” said Bentley. “He accused [Knox’s friend] Dean Saunders of stealing his phone and hit him in the face. We cleaned up Dean and barred the man.”

But the man, who is black and in his twenties, returned on Friday night armed with two knives and tried entering the bar, where Knox was a regular drinker.

What happened next is unclear, but Jade Nicholson, an assistant bar manager, said: “I saw Rob go outside and shout, ‘You pulled a knife on my brother, someone call the police’.”

Tom Hopkins, 18, who was drinking at the bar, said: “Rob had been trying to stop the trouble, it wasn’t his fault.

“All I remember was seeing Rob get stabbed in the chest. I ran over and me and my mate Tarik both tackled the black man. I jumped on top of him and he said, ‘I’ve got a knife, I’ve got a knife’. As I tried to grab the knife I didn’t realise he had another one in his other hand and he cut me in the back of the head.

“I was wrestling with him in the bushes and there were a lot of other people who were helping me out. It felt like it went on for six or seven minutes until the police arrived and then I walked around the corner from the bar. That’s when I saw Rob — it’s too horrible to describe what I saw. It was just red blood.”

Police said they were called to “a large disturbance” at the bar on Station Road at 12.07am, but Knox’s life was already seeping away. A friend, who asked not be named, said: “I had him in my arms. He said, ‘I just want some help’ and I laid him on the floor. When the paramedics came, they put pads on his chest to try to revive him, but it was obvious it was too late.”

Knox was taken to Queen Elizabeth hospital in Woolwich, southeast London, where he was pronounced dead just before 1am. A post-mortem is due to be carried out today.

Three other people were seriously injured in the attack, including Saunders, 21, who was stabbed in the neck and remains in hospital. Police said his injuries were serious but not life-threatening. Two other friends, aged 16 and 19, also received treatment.

A 21-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder.


Cracks Appear in World's Engine

NVDL: Did you know that Saudi Arabia's output is the highest it's been in two years, and even so we're still seeing oil prices go up? The Financial Times reports the following:

Normally it takes a war to lift oil prices $10 a barrel in a week. Not this week.
A market that started on Monday wondering if a fresh record of $125 a barrel was sustainable ended by witnessing spot prices above $135 and, crucially, long-term prices moving as high as $145 a barrel.

... veteran oil traders and analysts still say $150 a barrel is possible as it becomes clear that a supply crunch will hit the market in the next five years if demand growth does not slow.

NVDL: Is demand growth slowing? Did you drive less than usual this weekend? Have China and India said to their 1 billion plus populations, "Sorry guys, guess we're not invited to the party. Let's go back to the farms. Ja, just leave your cars and go back to where you came from. " No, governments and individuals will find any excuse, elect any leader, that allows them to continue consuming as we are now. Even so, it's not going to continue for a lot longer, even if we insist that that's what we want. Demand Destruction is a factor, and we're seeing demand eroding in the collapse of airlines now, but it will take longer to filter through to less vulnerable businesses, but, it will. Recession and the complete collapse of housing/property markets is the long term consequence of these high prices. The markets will choke on them, and globalisation will kick back into reverse.

Kevin Norrish, of Barclays Capital, says: "Strong oil demand, in particular from emerging giants such as India and China, along with disappointing non-Opec supply, continues to underpin oil prices."

Taiwan, Malaysia and Indonesia, [have] started cutting their expensive fuel subsidies, a change that signals that the first cracks in the world's engine of oil consumption are appearing.

Francisco Blanch, head of commodities at Merrill Lynch in London, added: "The oil market is avidly looking for a demand-destruction level." He said that several airlines had started cutting back flights and that high prices were hurting other transportation companies. This week's surge in prices - with spot prices up about 7 per cent and long-term prices up 15 per cent - has triggered concerns that the commodities market has become a bubble, after the booms in dotcom shares and housing.

But Hank Paulson, US Treasury secretary, said high oil prices reflected tight supplies and growing global demand and were not driven by market speculators. "I don't think this is about financial investors," Mr Paulson told CNBC. "This is about long-term supply and demand."

By , more.

Bombing Iran: The Clamor Persists

The Dark Knight on Xenophobia + Trailer (VIDEO)

Bruce Wayne: I knew the mob wouldn't go down without a fight. But this is different. They crossed the line.
Alfred Pennyworth: You crossed the line first, sir. You hammered them. And in their desperation they turned to a man they didn't fully understand. Some men aren't looking for anything logical. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

Scary Quote of the Day

Every one-cent increase in gasoline prices means Americans pay $1.42 billion more a year for gas, according to Stephen P. Brown, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Nearly two-thirds of that goes to foreign producers. - JAD MOUAWAD and MIREYA NAVARRO

From New York Times.

Xeno or Homo? What does the 'phobia' part imply?

John Moore / Getty Image
I've just seen a man, Mustav Khan, on the verge of tears, who lost everything he has invested in his store. While there is undoubtedly an existing attitude targeting foreigners (pamphlets were handed out telling foreigners to leave or be driven out), personally I believe the focus on just 'xenophobia' is too narrow, and to do so is a great risk. Jordaan (tasked with delivering a 2010 World Cup) has announced that he doesn't expect the xenophobia to continue. What crystal ball are you looking into dude? Perhaps a look at the economic markets would be more rational.

But back to the title of this post. If you're homophobic, does that mean when you encounter a homosexual you can reasonably be expected to drive them out of your community, or at worst, beat them with concrete slabs and set them alight (as xenophobes have done recently)? Of course not. I feel the same license is being used with this word 'xenophobia', it's a name for something that is actually reinforcing the idea of it now that it has a name (and as such, a license). And when you use it with such liberty, more and more people begin to see themselves either as belonging to some group, or not belonging to one. Because conceivably, blacks can accuse every white person of being a 'foreigner', and all this because someone allowed the hysteria around xenophobia to be hijacked and essentially legitimised (even if based on an illegitimate psychology). That said, I am not sure if it isn't inevitable - people associating with people like themselves - when things fall apart.

While I am on the subject, I have a question for everyone out there (even me). If you go into a gym (or prison), and you you find yourself surrounded by an aroused population the same sex as you are (in plain language, you're going for a shower in a gym, and all the men around you are, and you're also a man), wouldn't that make the average person uncomfortable? Now, since my boss or employers might be reading this, and this would be a gem post to haul me over the coals over, I'm not going to go into too much detail on this topic, except to say, I think mild homophobia (discomfort, not hatred) is not uncommon, say in a gym situation where nudity comes with the territory, and let's face it, gays love gym locker rooms.

I sometimes feel fearful and uncomfortable in gym, for example when getting into the jacuzzi with another naked dude you've never met. When you're not doing that every day, when you do it it's kind've weird, but you know, it shouldn't be. But then, as I say, there is a preponderance of gay lads in the gym (certainly the gyms I go to), and so my perception is that it's not as though your average oke is unlikely to be gay. The other end of that spectrum of 'uncomfortable' feeling is discrimination and hatred, but the entire spectrum belongs to the term 'phobia'. Doesn't it?

Understanding 'PHOBIA'

Why are there phobias against homosexuals, and are they rational? Are they inherited through traditional (religious) beliefs, or is being a homosexual in point of fact, unhealthy,and sensible to...want to exercise moral control over (as Christians do)? Apologies for being so graphic: any person who masturbates has essentially had a same-sex (homosexual) experience. If you're a woman, and you've masturbated, then you've experienced stimulation by a woman (even if its you, in the absence of male gadgety - well, one assumes), and if you're a man, then the same applies (the hand replaces the vagina, not a great substitute, but sometimes you have to make do). Based on the above analogy, homophobia is somewhat misplaced. I think. I'm not sure. I'm just offering ideas into the ether.

Could you be gay if you had to?

To take the argument further, how come prison populations give themselves over so easily to homosexual living? This demonstrates - doesn't it - how easily our constructs can be altered in the name of necessity and in order to cope with extreme frustration. And the question is, whatever we think of homophobia (maybe we are or we aren't), what would we do in a same-sex prison, serving a life sentence?

In my own experience, at least where it extends to homosexuals, I believe there are 5 types:

1) Au Natural - the born and bred homosexual (these homosexuals are aware of their sexual orientation from the start, and I can hear the Christians howling in protest already)
2) The Rebel - the parents can have a strong affect in modelling the child's sexuality. For example an overbearing and aggressive mother can model a wimpish, cowardly son, but so can a father. The rebel might be a genuine homosexual, but might also be confusing the sexual desire with a simpler and more basic desire for 'acceptance' from a sector in a sexual category (perhaps seeking a particular parents permutated approval)
3) The Mixer Upper - this is where someone has so much sex (or so little) the boundary between the natural response becomes muddied, and somewhat 'unnatural'. As I say, these apparently 'bisexual types' may have either experienced an enormous amount of partners and so lost their appetite in a certain direction, or remained virgins so late in life that they become vulnerable to preying homosexuals.
4) The Liberated - these are intellectuals often, or hippies, who see sex as an expression of connectedness
5) It's Just A Job - where necessity is the mother of perversion

In all cases though, I'm pretty sure that one sex is always preferred over the other, for whatever reason. We may feel the same way about races, even if we'd like to believe otherwise. To the extent that we have a 'phobia' I believe we really need to get closer to understanding those we are obviously afraid to understand any better than we do. We may be influenced by these 'other' people, sure, but by cathecting with others fear may well be replaced by friendship, and discomfort fizzle into a warmer sense that begins to reflect a truer diversity running through more genuinely integrated communities.

It starts, see, with a mindset that is willing to try to learn more about others, and by implication, ourselves.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

H5N1 outbreaks in Korea, Japan, Bangladesh

These stories were posted today: Bangladesh reports first human case of H5N1 bird flu, and Korea and Japanese outbreaks believed to be linked.

This story was posted May 5: Five suspected H5N1 human cases reported in Seoul and in April:
Seoul hospitals on alert for bird flu
S. Korea confirms 25th outbreak of H5N1 strain of bird flu

SA Bloggers Make BBC News on Xenophobia, but it's really looting, perhaps the start of a revolution, and a growing trend worldwide

What do South Africans think about what is happening in their country? One of the best ways to assess public sentiment on a large unfolding event is simply to look at what ordinary folk are saying on their blogs. This happened during the UFS racist videos, and now with the world's eyes on SA's Xenophobia, people want to know what is going on in ordinary South African's hearts and minds.

While a reporter can go to the trouble to visit the country with a camera and document what is happening, blogs are already there, embedded, reporting for free - free to air. It's already written, with opinions, concerns and insights freely offered, sometimes even accompanied by photos (and if you're lucky, video), and best of all, it's searchable. What more could you want?

BBC article: SA bloggers want end to violence

Well, having looked at the article it comes across touchy feely. Because the correct assessment (and even the news media fail to see this) is that the cause of the xenophobia/violence is the sudden onset of worsening prospects for the poor. Xenophobia itself is just a symptom of the underlying cause - the increasing fury and frustrations of the poor, which is clearly linked to South Africa's worsening economic prospects. And the implications are obvious and dire: with fuel prices increasing the xenophobia/violence will increase in lock-step with these pressures, meaning, it is going to spread. And it is spreading. Blaming is going to become the new hobby for hordes of people, but really, the high energy prices are a fact of life, and casting blame is really beside the point. It's reality.

This article, by Chris Moerdyk, is excellent: South Africa: Communications Chaos Over Xenophobia Crisis although Moerdyk also seems convinced that the cause is racist xenophobia, with no underlying driving force: The worst was a provincial MEC for safety and security, whose name I cannot remember but who wore a garish, shiny suit and pork-pie hat and calmly stood in the chaos and bodies with a smile on his face, claiming that there was nothing xenophobic about all the bloodshed. Obviously there is xenophobia involved, but as I say, it's merely an instrument to activate the poor and get them out there looting. We've already seen South Africans become targets, and unfortunately, that may well continue. What is the word for have-nots attacking haves? Looting? Revolution? Think that's far fetched?

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said the violence reflected growing global tensions.

"The underlying factor is basically poverty," he said. "We are witnessing an increase in the number and intensity of crisis that generate displacement around the world. We are very worried."

More News Analysis: What is behind xenophobia in S. Africa

The Dark Knight (WALLPAPER)

"Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?"

The Good Ol' Days (PHOTOGRAPHY)

Peak Oil: Ken Deffeyes On Radio 4BC

Listen here to a discussion from an oil geologist Ken Deffeyes.

Work for a Big Company? Odds Are Good Your Boss is Reading Your E-Mail: Study

Worried your boss is reading your email at work? Your worst fears may be real. Of 301 large U.S. companies surveyed 41 percent say they hire staff to read and analyze outgoing mail. The numbers come from Proofpoint's annual Outbound Email and Data Loss Prevention survey which conducted the study this past March of U.S. companies with 20,000 plus employees.

Among the businesses surveyed 44 percent said they investigated a suspected e-mail leak of company secrets, 26 percent said they fired people for violating e-mail policies. So much for privacy.

Web 2.0 Privacy Worries

Email is not the only concern among businesses either, according to Proofpoint. Web 2.0 modes of communication such as blogs, message boards, media sharing sites and mobile devices have the boardroom suits quaking in their designer boots too.

According to Proofpoint, 27 percent of businesses have expressed great concern over data loss via mobile device. One in five have expressed concern over data loss by way of employee use of blogs or message boards. And another 12 percent of firms have looked into the confidential information leaks on media sharing sites. Lastly 14 percent of businesses surveyed said they have suffered from electronic data theft or been adversely impacted by other exposure of company information in some way.

E-Snooping = On the Job Stress

It is not surprising in this cyber-connected world we live in that companies are worried about leaks, and the impact on businesses is real enough. However, the idea that your job could be on the line every time you send an e-mail or make a blog post is a little unsettling to say the least.

If you want to see the complete report visit Powerpoint's Web site (registration required), and for the lighter side of e-mail gaffes check out the comments section on this Freakonomics blog post.

CREDIT - PC World contributor Ian Paul

NVDL: The good news is that as blogs become more powerful, and bloggers become more savvy, they can also - using clever software - track, and keep tabs on who is snooping for what, and where it's coming from. Furthermore, while companies have some control over employees with blogs, once they fire these employees (for whatever reason) they run the risk of drawing a shitstorm towards the very sensitive information they've endeavoured to protect, and this can sometimes turn the blogger into a celebrity, and certainly provide a publicity boost for the blog.

An example of counterintuitive corporate muscling/bullying, is when McDonald's sued Helen Steel and David Morris, who were part of a group who were distributing pamphlets in London indicating that McDonald's wasn't healthy. McD took them to court, and lost the PR battle (big company bullying two helpless, good hearted, not well off people). It became the longest running court case in British history, and all McD succeeded in doing was creating a massive PR campaign against themselves, and also providing a larger platform for the activists (TV coverage, acres of newspapers) than their pamphlets were ever going to get.

While Morris and Steel didn't work for McD, it ought nevertheless to serve as a cautionary tale for those companies who might be tempted to press their heels on someone they consider a sitting duck, or an irritating insect, only to find their foot caught in the vice of a crocodile's jaw.

Xenophobia? South Africans Might As Well Be Poles Apart

On eTV news at 10pm this evening there was excellent footage of looting in progress in Cape Town. The area was called DuNoon. The cameramen were running and moving between policemen, and actually recorded shots going off, police smacking and throwing around looters.

In one scene the camera was inside a shop (known as a spaza store, often built inside a shipping container, made of metal, offloaded in a poor township) and a number of looters were making their way out. Carrying bags of sweets, one old overweight woman was hauling a large plastic tray with various treasures on it. People were dancing, and jubilant as they gained access to these booty prizes. Outside two women scuffled over hard won spoils, one spilling flour over herself. Is this Xenophobia?

What is crazy are these messages on TV, and on blogs, broadcasts that chide, or warn or plead with these perpetrators... The reality is, no one is listening, because the people who are experiencing the violence are in the poorest corners of South Africa. They are not watching television. They may not even have homes, or beds. They are people with sick and dying daughters and husbands, who celebrate getting their hands on a 1kg packet of flour. These are not people who own televisions, and certainly don't have the luxury of computers with an internet connection.

Poor people in South Africa make up a SUBSTANTIAL fraction of the population. There are enough poor people to overrun this country if they decided to do so. If there is any culpability for their condition, it is not just the government's, it is everyone's. A friend who visited from the UK once admonished me, saying: "How can people living in large mansions with swimming pools manage to ignore huge swathes of land covered in squatters? How do you live with yourselves with so many people suffering in abject poverty right next door?" We should have addressed these people sooner. We should have found ways to get them employed, even if it was simply dedicating the lands around these townships to the intense cultivation of vegetables. Most middle class South Africans will agree that we have shut them out, out of our thoughts, out of our hearts; they simply haven't figured in our calculated lifestyles, because they are out of sight and out of mind.

No more. With the violence having erupted, and the sheer ubiquity of the attacks - middle class South Africans have grown increasingly alarmed at the escalating state of affairs. And we should be alarmed. With petrol prices set to continue, the poor are entitled to feel even more gloomy and hopeless about their prospects. So yes, we should feel threatened...the poor are lashing out, struggling to survive, and soon, that frustration, desperation and anger will spread to the lower middle classes. The resentment will begin to build between the haves and the have-nots, who remain poles apart, but a fiery bridge of violent criminality is slowly forming across the abyss. It's not racism. It's not xenophobia. It's people with nothing trying to survive, and resorting to opportunism, stealing and thieving, to address their problems of scarcity. These poor people can no longer afford the basics, and we can no longer afford to ignore them, or to shout at them over television screens and internet connections. Go to them where they are, and see that they are simple people with tremendous difficulties in store for them. At a time when it feels harder to be generous, to listen, to learn about a world beyond our street, we must try to give even more, m,uchj morte of ourselves.

Click here to link to a video.

Fat Free Living

So it's taken me 4 or 5 weeks to get back into the gym (I've lost count, I can't be sure, that's how bad it is), and so here I am sitting on the bike at some dark chilly hour of the morning, and I'm trying to get my heart rate monitor to acknowledge my existence.

So I'm riding and starting to sweat and the HRM just won't pick up any signal. I say to the oke next to me stuff about the market not acknowledging $135 oil prices as fair value, about the market not realising that there is a simple supply/demand problem, and all the while my heart rate monitor still won't pick up my heart beat. I let my body heat up, and as the sweat begins to trip I try again. Still nothing. I probably go through this process 5 or 6 times.

I start saying to the guy next to me that maybe I haven't lost much fitness. I say that on fietstoer you can transform yourself rapidly in a week, but obviously from very high levels of activity each day. How fit can you get in one day?

I look at my heart rate monitor. Still dead. I lift my shirt, feel fat rolls, and say grimly, absently: you know this thing probably can't feel my heart through all this fat. It probably reckons this is a false alarm anyway, like I am not going to bother to record this fat slugs heart rate once in a while like this.
And like magic, after I had uttered these self deprecations, the heart rate signal began to pop. Once the bubble of our silly fantasies pop, we can start working on the project of living. Real living.