Monday, June 30, 2008

Tropical storm strengthens unexpectedly - Weather- msnbc.com

Tropical storm strengthens unexpectedly - Weather- msnbc.com

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Hoarding Nations Drive Food Costs Ever Higher

Hoarding Nations Drive Food Costs Ever Higher

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Calif. firefighters battle more than 1,400 blazes - Yahoo! News

Calif. firefighters battle more than 1,400 blazes - Yahoo! News

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Cries in the Dark - WSJ.com

How serious is America's energy crisis?
From the Pentagon to Capitol Hill, some often lonely voices are warning of big shocks to come if the U.S. doesn't wake up.
From Cries in the Dark - WSJ.com

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Dark Knight Trailer Hits the Web, Terrifies, Delights

Holy creepy Batman!

A second full-length trailer for The Dark Knight hit the web Sunday and it looks smokin'.

The newly cut preview shows a terrifyingly dark vision of Gotham brimming with disturbed baddies -- old and new -- out on the lam.

Watch it here.

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Futureshock: people with no money in a land with no resources (with manpower that has no discipline)

And by future I mean next week, and the week after that etc.

Kunstler: Worse Than Grandma's Depression

This isn't so funny anymore. Intimations of a July banking collapse rumbled though the Internet this weekend while mainstream news orgs like The New York Times and CNN pulled their puds over swift boats and Amy Winehouse's performance technique. Something is happening, and you don't know what it is, do you Mr. Jones...? to quote the master.


What's happening is that American society is sliding into a greater depression than the one Grandma lived through. On the technical side, there has been unending controversy as to whether we're gripped by inflation or deflation. It's certainly deceptive. Food and gasoline prices are rising faster than the rivers of Iowa. But the prices of assets, like houses, stocks, jet-skis, GMC Yukons and pre-owned Hummel figurines are cratering as America turns into Yard Sale Nation.


We're a very different country than we were in 1932. In that earlier crisis of capital, few people had any money but our society still possessed fantastic resources. We had plenty of everything that our land could provide: a treasure trove of mineral ores and the equipment to refine it all, a wealth of oil and gas still in the ground, and all the rigs needed to get at it, manpower galore (and of a highly disciplined, regimented kind), with fine-tuned factories waiting for orders. We had a railroad system that was the envy of the world and millions of family farms (even despite the dust bowl) owned by people who retained age-old skills not yet degraded by agribusiness. We had fully-functional cities with operating waterfronts and ten thousand small towns with local economies, local newspapers, and local culture.

We had a crisis of capital in the 1930s for reasons that are still debated today. My own guess is a combination of a bad debt workout that sucked "money" into a black hole (since money is loaned into existence, but vanishes if the loans are not systematically paid back) plus a gross saturation of markets, meaning that every American who had wanted to buy a car or an electric toaster had done so and there was no one left to sell to. (The first round of globalism -- 1870 - 1914 -- had shut down after the fiasco of World War One.)

Our debt problems today are of a magnitude so extreme that astronomers would be hard pressed to calculate them. By any rational measure our society is comprehensively bankrupt. From the federal treasury down to the suburban cul-de-sacs so much loaned money is either not being paid back, or is at risk of never being paid back, that the suckage of presumed wealth has passed through an event horizon out of the known universe into some other realm of space-time, never to be seen again in this realm. This would seem to be the very essence of monetary deflation -- money defaulted out-of-existence.

This condition is partly disguised by both the loss of credibility of US currency and real-world scarcities of oil and food, but the upshot will be something at least twice as bad as the Great Depression of the 1930s: people with no money in a land with no resources (with manpower that has no discipline), hardly any family farms left, cities that are basket-cases of bottomless need, comatose small towns stripped of their assets and social capital, an aviation industry on the verge of death, and a railroad system that is the laughingstock of the world. Not to mention the mind-boggling liabilities of suburbia and the motoring infrastructure that services it.

The banks have been doing their death dance for an entire year now, pretending that their problems are those of mere "liquidity" (i.e. cash-on-hand) rather than insolvency (no cash either on hand or in the vault and nothing else to sell to raise cash except worthless "creative" securities that nobody would ever buy). But the destruction of money (resulting from loans not paid back) is now so intense that the game of pretend has reached its terminal point. The question for the moment is exactly who and what will be crushed as these institutions roll over and die.

Complicating matters is a global oil predicament that is really not hard to understand, but which the organs of news and opinion have obdurately failed to explicate for an anxious public. Call it Peak Oil. There are only a few elements of it you need to know. 1.) that demand has now permanently outstripped supply; 2.) that new discoveries are too meager to offset consumption; 3.) That under under the circumstances, the systems we rely on for daily life are crumbling. I've called this situation The Long Emergency.

Our chances of mitigating this, and of continuing our current way-of-life is about zero. I've tried to promote the idea that rather than waste remaining resources in the futile attempt to sustain the unsustainable (i.e. come up with "solutions" to keep suburbia running), that we should begin immediately making other arrangements for daily life -- mainly by downscaling and re-scaling everything from farming to commerce to the way we inhabit the landscape -- but my suggestions have proven unpopular even among the "environmental" elites, who are too busy being entranced by new-and-groovy ways to keep all the cars running.

So where we are at now is the equivalent of standing in the slop by the ocean shore under a gathering hundred-foot-high wave that is about to come crashing down on our heads. Since I sure don't know everything, I can't say how this will all play out in the months ahead, especially with the presidential election coming at the exact moment that voters will be turning on their furnaces for the cold and dark winter beyond. I would venture to say that so far our society as a whole has done a piss-poor job of comprehending the situation. [I agree] But there is still the possibility, with four months of politicking left, that the nature of our predicament can be articulated in a way that few can fail to understand, the way Mr, Lincoln articulated the terms of the Civil War on the eve of its fateful outbreak.

Gay runs 100 in windy 9.68 to make US Olympic team - Olympics - Yahoo! Sports

Gay runs 100 in windy 9.68 to make US Olympic team - Olympics - Yahoo! Sports

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Brent Crude Oil Closes in on $144 - Now $143.73 UP 2.44%

Oil at $150 ‘may be the tipping point’
High oil prices ‘could put SA in recession’

NVDL: Could?

CARACAS — Oil price hawk and major exporter Venezuela said at the weekend there was no evidence that record crude values were hurting demand despite economists’ predictions that the cost could dent demand and trigger a sharp price fall.

NVDL: ...because we are addicted to oil, demand will not come down by much, even if we try. Did you drive in your car today? Yesterday? Will you drive tomorrow? It's an addiction to a limited resource that is now becoming very limited.

Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez reiterated the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec ) member’s position that oil markets were well supplied.

The comments come as oil continues to set new records, with oil surging to within a whisker of $143 on Friday. [Oil is right now almost $144]
More.

9 in 10 see rising gas prices causing family hardship

Like a plague that does not discriminate by economic class, race or age, soaring gas prices are inflicting pain throughout the U.S. Nine in 10 expecting the ballooning costs to squeeze them financially over the next half year, an Associated Press-Yahoo! News poll said Monday.

Nearly half think that hardship will be serious. To cope, most are driving less, easing off the air conditioning and heating at home and cutting corners elsewhere. Half are curtailing vacation plans; nearly as many are considering buying cars that burn less gas.

More here.

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Oil prices pass $143 a barrel - Yahoo! News

Oil prices pass $143 a barrel - Yahoo! News

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June 30, 1908: A VERY Close Encounter of the Second Kind

...had the Tunguska meteorite struck 4 hours, 47 minutes later, it would have obliterated St. Petersburg, then the capital of imperial Russia. Given the events that would shortly torment that nation -- and all of Europe -- for the better part of the 20th century, one is left to wonder how history might have changed in those circumstances.

Read Wired's: June 30, 1908: A Very Close Encounter of the Second Kind

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The Iran Plans

“This White House believes that the only way to solve the problem is to change the power structure in Iran, and that means war,” he said.

Read more here.
Watch Yahoo! video here.

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Beauty (PHOTOGRAPHY)

The View From My Bicycle (COLUMN)


The oil genie emerges

I watched a movie on Friday - Kung Fu Panda. It features an overweight Panda (an endangered species)voiced by Jack Black that becomes the 'Dragon Warrior', the most dangerous and feared warrior in the world.

Tai Lung: You... you're just a big... fat... panda!
Po: I'm not a big fat panda. I'm *the* big fat panda.

The Panda loses no weight in achieving this feat of skill - it achieves glory thanks to legend and 'believing in himself' and some incidental practise over a short period of time. This 'wishful thinking' is the seat of our delusion as society. That by believing something (in the spiritual theme of 'The Secret'), we can be something, we can get 'something for nothing'. No effort or real change is actually necessary. Easy huh?

Po: Legend tells of a legendary warrior whose kung fu skills were the stuff of legend.
The movie also stars the voices of Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu and Dustin Hoffman.

I enjoyed the movie. The mournful touches of oriental music struck a strange cord in me, one that made me feel tearful...in the sense of saying goodbye to childhood, to innocence, to life itself.

While lounging in the sun over breakfast this morning, I discussed, among other things, the cultural schizophrenia of our time. The two men I breakfasted with had just completed a pat-on-the-back session about how to trick the opposite sex into liking you. Yes, it is a game, but I am sickened by manipulative and delusional behaviour, because society is rife with it. One of the guys asked me if the world ever didn't suffer from cultural schizophrenia. I realised again that so many people are still so far away from even beginning to think about energy and all the rest. What matters is playing the role of prince of the city, having the right car, and clothes, and job, and accumulating a series of experiences that boost the ego... There is no doubt that the disconnect between reality and the reigning societal mindset has never been more chronic than it is now, and probably will never reach this level again.

In 2 weeks, Dark Knight hits cinemas, a movie that starred the late Heath ledger, in the role of the Joker. The role - and its madness - arguably cost him his life. And the Joker in Dark Knight sums up the future in these three words:
Why So Serious?
There is probably not a diametrically opposite movie to Dark Knight than Kung Fu Panda. Dark Knight is dark, serious, gritty and real. Director Nolan has gone out of his way to show a superhero that has no special powers, and part of this effort has been a minimal use of special effects. Because Batman is real. Cuddly Kung Fu Panda is something like the Joker, except not murderous, nor prickly, nor mad.

From my bicycle, I see Dark Knight movie posters and I cannot think of a more appropriate movie (or even name for a movie) to usher us towards 2009/2010 and beyond. Mark my words, the next weeks and months will present us all with a reality check. We are likely to see vast swathes of value wiped off the world's stock exchanges. This may happen as soon as August, but we are certainly very close to some radical changes, and of course, we're already experiencing the first in a series of these (starting this Wednesday, and on and on and on...).

Africa is also increasingly becoming the setting for a battle between China and the USA (see below). In 10 years, both the USA and China will be importing more oil from the Gulf of Guinea (a coup in Guinea has been prevented recently, orchestrated by western powers) and Angola respectively. But when shortages take effect, the USA will not be pussyfooting around China, and a direct engagement with a major power (and both are nuclear powers) will be a virtual certainty.

As such, our position here in South Africa, at the ass-end of Africa, is becoming of increasing significance globally. Where will we stand if called upon to take a stand? Chinese nationals have recently been offered BEE status. Will South Africa become an agent of the Chinese, or the USA? Where will we stand? Because of the position Mbeki and other leaders have held for so long on Zimbabwe (Mugabe has not wasted an opportunity to express their hatred of colonising powers like Britain and America) I believe SA, and most of Africa, will stand with China. As such, the continent will burn in the crossfire.

Harvey Dent: The night is darkest just before the dawn. And I promise you, the dawn is coming!

I am also increasingly of the opinion that going into this Long Emergency Phase alone is not ideal. Better to be married or part of a community. Now though is not the best time to take young children into the theatre, but learning to take care of our children may remind us of how precious life is as we go into a period where many will be lost. The pressure is on, and the gauge of that pressure is an oil price that is now like a genie with its head out of the bottle. When we hit $150, probably by no later than Christmas, the oil genie will begin to operate all the tipping points upon which civilisation as we know it, turns.

We can prepare mentally, physically and spiritually in the mean time. Or we can enjoy the wee hours of the morning, while the party is still in full swing. Either behaviour, it seems to me, makes equal sense.

Meaker: Era of oil wars - Africa is the new Saudi Arabia


Michael Meaker: Four-fifths of the world's oil supply comes from fields discovered before 1970. Growing competition for [remaining] oil may escalate to something as hot and dangerous as nuclear proliferation.

Despite an unwinnable war in Iraq, the US is still constructing at least five large permanent military bases there in order, according to evidence given to a US Congressional Committee, to control access to Gulf oil, including in Saudi and Iran. As one neocon recently put it, "one of the reasons we had no exit plan from Iraq is that we didn't intend to leave". The US is also trying to force through a new Iraqi oil law that would give western, primarily American, oil multinationals control of Iraqi oilfields for the next 30 years.

The US maintains 737 military bases in 130 countries under cover of the "war on terror" to defend American economic interests, particularly access to oil. The principal objective for the continued existence and expansion of Nato post-cold war is the encirclement of Russia and the pre-emption of China dominating access to oil and gas in the Caspian Sea and Middle East regions. It is only the beginning of the unannounced titanic global resource struggle between the US and China, the world's largest importers of oil (China overtook Japan in 2003).

The struggle has also spilled over into West Africa, reckoned to hold some 66 billion barrels of oil typically low in sulphur and thus ideal for refining. In 2005 the US imported more oil from the Gulf of Guinea than from Saudi and Kuwait combined, and is expected over the next 10 years to import more oil from Africa than from the Middle East. In step with this, the Pentagon is setting up a new unified military command for the continent named Africom. Conversely, Angola is now China's main supplier of crude oil, overtaking Saudi Arabia last year.

The authoritative International Energy Agency foresees an oil supply crunch within 5 years forcing up prices to unprecedented levels and greatly increasing western dependence on Opec. And the oil industry itself in its own report Facing the Hard Truths about Energy, produced by 175 authorities including all the heads of the world's big oil companies, for the first time predicted that oil and gas may run short by 2015.

The geopolitical implications of this gathering crisis for world oil supply 2010-15 are immense. The risk of further military interventions and conflicts in the Middle East is clearly high. Total world oil reserves are estimated at 2.5-2.9 trillion barrels, of which half has now been already consumed, while half of the 51 oil-producing countries reported output declines in 2006.

More.

NVDL: I recall recent predictions saying oil would last us till 2070. Shortages in 2015 I think are quite optimistic. I'd say they're more immiment...2009/2010 if not sooner.

Media Delusion: Giant Saudi field is key to boosting oil output



KHURAIS OIL FIELD, Saudi Arabia (AP) -- This massive oil field surrounded by the desolate sands of Saudi Arabia's vast eastern desert feels like the middle of nowhere.

But what happens over the next year at Khurais, one of Saudi Arabia's last undeveloped giant oil fields, could hold the key to what drivers will pay at the pump for years to come.
More.

NVDL: They're hoping this massive oil field will be able to pump an extra 1.2 million barrels per day. In China, oil consumption is rising almost vertically. 2007 consumption in China was 347 million tons, ie 7mb/d, and continues to increase. It's ridiculous this psychology where one or two biggish fields are hailed as solutions when many more even bigger fields are depleting rapidly, and net consumption (global demand) is increasing, again, thanks to China.



From The Oil Drum:
As discussed on Casey Research, China is enjoying staggering growth rates for car ownership.

Assuming that the 7.3 million new car owners in 2008 each drive 5,000 miles a year, and they achieve 40 miles per gallon, the result would be an additional 45.6 million barrels of crude demand, equivalent to 125,000 bbl/day. In other words, new Chinese drivers will devour 25-30% of the recently promised Saudi production increase in a single year.

NVDL: Regarding these 'new discoveries', they need to more than just make up for high demand levels, they have to offset global depletion, for example from giants like Cantarell in Mexico (see above), and Saudi's own Ghawar, now more than 60 years old.

As Free As A Bird (PHOTOGRAPHY)

Ratcheting Mechanism: How Speculators Are Financing Bad Debt in the USA

NVDL: If I understand the contents of the letter below correctly, it means that speculators in the US are using oil futures markets (virtually the only long term growth market that remains) to finance bad debts. Unfortunately, oil markets are cyclical, and while long term they are climbing, they tend to dip slightly in August/September/October (after the US holiday driving season ends) and then dip again in February/March/April (as the US winter becomes spring). The speculators thus (also because of tuition payments made in July/August) will not be able to continue to win their bets during these months, meaning banks will go bankrupt and markets will face drastic drops during these periods.

It is possible that we will see world stock markets eviscerated by as soon as next month (August 2008).

From Kunstler.com:

James;
You may recall that a few weeks ago I wrote regarding my theory that a substantial chunk of the increase in the price of oil was due to speculation to offset bad debt portfolios by the larger east coast investment houses. What puzzled me was how this worked: because once the futures are bid up and the margins made, then the price of crude at the head assumes the previous month’s futures price! The short answer is that a kind of ratcheting mechanism is at work: once the price is bid up, it stays there until it is bid up again the following month.

It’s reported that the level of oil futures market activity by these investment houses is significant, with at least 10 percent of the futures market controlled in any one month. With each market manipulation, their margin per barrel is probably around $5.00. So if you take 10 percent of 85,000,000 barrels a day times 30 days in an average month times $5.00 you get a total of $1,275,000,000 in margin. With each month of these shenanigans, these banks can offset upwards of 12,000 subprime mortgages. Not a lot given that there may be upwards of 2,000,000 of these ticking time bombs, and considerably more if the banks fail to walk the razor’s edge they’ve defined for themselves. At this rate, it will take over ten years to offset the bad debt portfolios and only if few of those who have investment accounts make withdrawals. At the rate of +$5.00 a month, the price for a barrel of oil in 2018 would probably be over $900. It will never get there!

So each month, the investment houses pay out cash to those with account holders who demand it, offset bad paper and then go back to work the futures market with what’s left and what they borrow for 30 days from the Fed. As long as they work quickly, they can keep ahead of the game, at least until the price of oil destroys the underlying economic base. It’s reported that with Americans now paying around 11 percent of their income on energy, we are getting pretty darn close to the end of these shenanigans: in the 1973-74 time frame, the tipping point was reached when Americans had to pay more than 12 percent of their income for energy. When oil gets to $150/barrel in two to three months we’ll be past that point.

Another thing to note: a fair amount of funds in the investment accounts are withdrawn annually in the July-August time frame so that middle class parents can pay college tuition. This is one of the reasons why the market always drops in value in the late summer.

If you consider the combined effects of both the limits to oil futures manipulation and the annual July-August tuition dip and you have some of the makings of a perfect storm.
I think that we very well could be witness the effects of gravity on some very big shoes within the next two months.

It is a pity that potatoes do not have planting instructions written on them like Burpee seed packets do.
Regards,
GEORGE W. ABERT, AIA
ROSEMARY BEACH, FL
gwaaia@yahoo.com

Anxious in America


The straws in the wind are hard to ignore: If you visit any car dealership in America today you will see row after row of unsold S.U.V.’s. And if you own a gas guzzler already, good luck. On Thursday, The Palm Beach Post ran an article on your S.U.V. options: “Continue to spend upward of $100 for a fill-up. Sell or trade in the vehicle for a fraction of the original cost. Or hold out and park the truck in the driveway for occasional use in hopes the market will turn around.” Just be glad you don’t own a bus. Montgomery County, Md., where I live, just announced that more children were going to have to walk to school next year to save money on bus fuel.

On top of it all, our bank crisis is not over. Two weeks ago, Goldman Sachs analysts said that U.S. banks may need another $65 billion to cover more write-downs of bad mortgage-related instruments and potential new losses if consumer loans start to buckle.

More.

Buffett sees signs that recession is getting worse; also says inflation is a worry

Buffett said he disagrees with the idea that speculation was driving oil prices higher. At least nine bills proposing limits on that oil speculation have been introduced in Congress in recent weeks.

"In my adult lifetime, up until the last year or two, there's been a huge amount of excess supply available," Buffett said. "We don't have excess capacity in the world anymore, and that's why you're seeing these oil prices."

Buffett said he doesn't think it makes sense to impose a windfall tax on oil companies that have benefited from the high price of oil when other commodity prices have also increased. Steel, corn and soybean prices are all up significantly.

More.

NVDL: Seems like the media and the world need 'billionaires' like Buffet to state what is pretty obvious. What is obvious is that the US is in a recession, and that speculation isn't behind high oil prices, that it's not the oil companies fault that oil prices areso high. In the past Alan Greenspan said that 'oil was largely behind the war in Iraq' and everyone sat up like it was news. Quite scary. What's also scary is how the media misjudged the Mugabe affair. The headlines all screamed that Mugabe was finished after the 'first' election. A dictator in power for 28 years doesn't just walk away, that ought to have been obvious to SA media in particular.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Vogue Cover Model dies in fall from NYC building


NEW YORK - A European Vogue cover model fell to her death from her Manhattan apartment building Saturday in an apparent suicide, published reports said.

Ruslana Korshunova, 20, died around 2:30 p.m. in a fall from a building on Water Street, in Manhattan's Financial District, The New York Post, the Daily News and Newsday reported. The newspapers cited unnamed officials and police.
More.

NVDL: Wonder what happened here. She seems like a really sweet and attractive girl. Just 20. And it seems like the modelling world found her in an inflight magazine and plucked her out of obscurity...not quite the fairy tale ending.

Life Is Fragile (PHOTOGRAPHY)

The New Oil Order

The end of the world as we've known it is rapidly underway
When oil reaches $150, Americans will be spending around 12% of their incomes on energy. Some believe this value represents a tipping point. It may be. But whether it is $150 or not, we can begin right now to anticipipate the changes that are about to happen.

Globalisation in Reverse


The world prides itself on its efficiencies. We're able to produce vast amounts of food, effortlessly move goods and people around the world. It's been a world of choice up to now, with barriers flattened to allow the exchange of trade and world commerce. People and produce have been able to move virtually effortlessly all over the world.

All these selfsame efficiencies also work just as efficiently in reverse - that is to say, unravel quickly. An example of an 'efficient mechanism' in our lives, particularly in suburbia, is electricity. While electricity can allow us to to quickly cook meals and dry hair and warm our baths, when it is no longer there, the breakdown is very rapid.

The same is true for the efficiency we get from driving to the mall to stock up on everything we need. When we can no longer do that, suburbia becomes dysfunctional, and a Dysfunctional Suburbia is implicit in The New Oil Order. And for air travel and so on.

The World Is Unflattening

Not long ago star New York Times writer Thomas L. Friedman wrote 'The World Is Flat'. Friedman's book now represents a manual for what is going to disappear the quickest. If you read the book critically, you will understand that the unstated premise for virtually all the flattening forces is cheap energy.

Now many of the companies that Friedman cites as successes are likely to crash and burn. Some of the world's wealthiest companies will disappear off the Fortune 500 in months, if not weeks, never to be seen again. McDonalds and Coca Cola are just two examples.

And as this process gathers momentum, the world effectively becomes a much larger place, and it becomes difficult to operate with the ease and convenience we've been used to...

Say Goodbye

The first casualty of high oil prices are vast swathes of the poor, especially the rural poor. They may disappear for a while from the aisles of commerce (informal industry mostly) but they will reappear in cities as massive disordered and desperate militias.

Meanwhile, industry can begin by bidding the airline industry a fond farewell. The biggest may survive longer, and Singapore Airlines with its supersized A380 might be the last to go. Airlines in the Middle East like Qatar Airways may also stay in business for an extra season or two. The future of air travel will belong to an elite few, and airlines as we know them simply will no longer operate. To date over a dozen international airlines have declared bankruptcy in the first 6 months of 2008 alone, including:

Air Blue (Pakistan)
City Star Airways (UK)
Frontier ASirlines (US)
Nationwide Airlines (SA)
Palestinian Airlines (Palestine)
Tavrey Airlines (Ukraine)
Jet4You (France)
Euromanx (Isle of Man)
Aeropostal (Venezuela)
Silverjet (UK) amongst others*.


The vast silos that are today's airport buildings may in 5 years be converted into art of technology museums.

Say goodbye also to the services that rely on airlines, such as courier companies. This means FedEx, UPS and affiliates like Amazon.com.

Giant scale operations - from air travel, to farming, to industry (think General Motors)will scale down drastically.

This represents an implosion in world tourism, which means world spectacles like the Fifa World Cup and the 2012 Olympics are going to be beyond the reach for 90% of consumers. This also has an impact on all those services that survive on international tourism - entire hotel chains, car hire companies, restaurants and the like.

Supermarkets like Wal-Mart, Carrefour (from France), Pick 'n Pay (in South Africa), Tesco's (in the UK) and countless others will first face stock shortages for fairly unconventional goods, and then more and more basic goods, including fruit abnd vegetables. These markets knocked out local markets once upon a time, ruining many local grocers and farming industries. These local operations are about to be reborn, and as they re-develop, these smaller local markets will subsume the supermarkets.

The End of Offshoring and Supply Chaining

Multinational corporations will quickly lose both their ability to make use of foreign labor sources, and to do so cheaply. Once again, trade is about to become more local. This means that if your country does not build computers for example, these devices are about to be priced virtually out of the market.

Electronics are going to go the way of airlines. Generics may survive, and some of the cheapest and most useful will survive better than more complex and far-to-source models. In countries where internet costs are not minimal, internet usage will drop drastically.

Media will shrink, from the number of TV channels, to the number of newspapers serving an area, to the number of magazines on the racks. Blogs however will continue their resurgence, but become more functional and community oriented. In some countries - depending on how long internet infrastructure is in place - newspapers will disappear entirely in favour of internet based data. In other countries, particularly where the internet is still a young industry, newspapers will reclaim all lost ground and the internet may disappear altogether.

More and more people will be renting, will be without cars and even mobile phones. The number of the urban poor will swell to alarming levels. All of this represents the end of endless choice.

The Beginning of Repair Shops

We will no longer be able to afford our throwaway culture. If something breaks, we will have to find people - technicians - to fix it. Warrantees and guarantees will become meaningless.

People will have to learn skills again - not only how to fix things, but also how to make things. When toilet seats no longer arrive in containers at coastal cities, or fishing rods, or piles of clothing, local industries will have to fill this vacuum. It will take time, and it will not be easy. Old people (with skills) will become the new celebrities.

The End of Capitalism


We will see a stock market crash based around the realisation (in markets) that not only is economic growth no longer logical, but depleting energy means breakdowns in all the financial architecture that was designed on top of it. From property markets, to banks, to entire industries including (of course) the auto and food industries. Obviously when entire banks fail, so will capitalism and what remains of the financial apparatus.

Money will have little or no value in the future, and commerce will be done via barter, and probably in a disorderly manner. Agriculture will become a big industry, along with other forms of resource management (mining, forestry etc).

Disorder

It goes without saying really that all these transitions are likely to be associated with unpleasant levels of public disorder. It's likely that around the world authorities will struggle to maintain law and order. Governments will have a hard time staying relevant and of use to suddenly impoverished mobs. These struggles will place additional strain on those Cheap Oil Relics that survive, for example municipal services, and roads. Who will maintain these in a world that can no longer afford very much?

One of the new projects (mentioned above)will be farming, but not so much with machines and the accoutrements of first world technology. Probably we will have to pay a lot of attention to the soil in order to produce anything of value and in significance. quantities. In the new world we will be particularly vulnerable to diseases and pandemics, and also to climate change. With so much to face, individuals will struggle. Communities with talented and skilled craftsmen who work together will do better to adapt. Sharing a common purpose or faith during this period will also benefit these groups over those that have become dispirited and lost their way.

Life is Beautiful (PHOTOGRAPHY)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Oil: Kunstler on the Energy Diet of the Future (YOUTUBE)


NVDL: James Kunstler probably has the best view in all oil commentary that exists today.

"I worry the most about [coming] social disorder...It's imperative that we restore passenger rail services." - Jim Kunstler

"America has become little more than an energy protection force, doing anything to gain access to expensive fuel without regard for the lives of others or the earth itself." -Bill Moyers quoting political analyst Kevin Phillips

BILL MOYERS: Oh no, they told us, Iraq isn't a war about oil. That's cynical and simplistic, they said. It's about terror and al Qaeda and toppling a dictator and spreading democracy and protecting ourselves from weapons of mass destruction. But one by one, these concocted rationales went up in smoke, fire, and ashes. And now the bottom turns out to be the bottom line. It is about oil.

Alan Greenspan said so last fall. The former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, safely out of office, confessed in his memoir: "…everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil." he then told reporter Bob Woodward, "if Saddam Hussein had been head of Iraq and there was no oil under those sands, our response to him would not have been as strong as it was in the first Gulf War."

Remember, also, that soon after the invasion Donald Rumsfeld's deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, told the press that war was our only strategic choice. "We had virtually no economic options with Iraq," Wolfowitz said, "because the country floats on a sea of oil."

Shades of Daniel Plainview! You remember Plainview - the monstrous petroleum tycoon in the movie "There Will Be Blood." Half-mad, he shouts: "there's a whole ocean of oil under our feet!" then adds, "no one can get at it except for me!"

No wonder American troops only guarded the Ministries of Oil and the Interior in Baghdad, even as looters pillaged museums of their priceless antiquities. Our soldiers were making sure no one could get at the oil except…guess who?

Take a look at this headline the other day in THE NEW YORK TIMES: "deals with Iraq are set to bring oil giants back." Read on: "Four western oil companies are in the final stages of negotiations this month on contracts that will return them to Iraq, 36 years after losing their oil concession to nationalization as Saddam Hussein rose to power."[This blog quoted earlier this week from the same article]

There you have it. After a long exile Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP are back in Iraq. And on the wings of no-bid contracts - that's right, sweetheart deals like those granted Halliburton, KBR, Blackwater. The kind of deals you get only if you have friends in high places. And these war profiteers have friends in very high places.

Let's go back a few years, to the 1990s, when private citizen Dick Cheney was running Halliburton, the big energy supplier. That's when he told the oil industry that, "By 2010 we will need on the order of an additional fifty million barrels a day. So where is the oil going to come from?" Cheney asked. While many regions of the world offer great oil opportunities, the Middle East...is still where the prize ultimately lies."

Fast forward to Cheney's first heady days in the White House. The oil industry and other energy conglomerates have been handed back-door keys to the white house, and their CEOs and lobbyists were trooping in and out for meetings with their old pal, now Vice President Cheney. The meetings are secret, conducted under tight security. But as we reported in July 2003, among the documents that turned up from some of those meetings were maps of oil fields in Iraq and a list of companies that wanted access to them. The conservative group Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club filed suit to find out who attended the meetings and what was discussed. But the White House fought all the way to the Supreme Court to keep the press and public from learning the whole truth.

Think about it. These secret meetings took place six months before 9/11, two years before Bush and Cheney invaded Iraq. We still don't know what they were about. What we know is that this is the very oil industry enjoying swollen profits these days. It would be laughable if it weren't so painful to remember that their erstwhile cheerleader for invading Iraq - the press mogul Rupert Murdoch - once said that a successful war there would bring us $20 a barrel oil. The last time I looked, it was more than $140 a barrel. Where are you, Rupert, when we need the facts?

[It's a mistake to blame oil companies, and also a mistake to take away their profits. Good oil companies need to invest these profits into new projects, and with oil depletion the way it is, these investments need to be increasingly massive and well conceived. I don't think we ought to blame oil companies for seeking to get a pipeline into underutilised oil fields, however I do disagree with the method used, namely war and deception. Iraq's promised bounty may have been better extracted by an allied team of Iraqi and American oil men and others, as is the case with Arabia's Aramco. The Iraq case appears to me to be beyond mere 'policing' oil, as Kunstler refers to it, but actually a power-and greed based grab by the Americans...which has proved to be very expensive for not only America as a nation, but arguably the world...in terms of not just oil prices, but global security.]

At those hearings earlier this week, scientist James Hansen, who 20 years ago alerted us to the dangers of global warming, compared the chief executives of big oil to the tobacco moguls who denied that nicotine is addictive or that there's a link between smoking and cancer. Hansen said these barons of black gold should be tried for committing crimes against humanity and nature in opposing efforts to deal with global warming.

Perhaps those sweetheart deals in Iraq should be added to his proposed indictments. They have been purchased at a very high price. Four-thousand American soldiers dead, tens of thousands permanently wounded for life, hundreds of thousands of dead and crippled Iraqis plus five million displaced, and a cost that will mount into trillions of dollars. The political analyst Kevin Phillips says America has become little more than an "energy protection force" doing anything to gain access too expensive fuel without regard to the lives of others, or the earth itself. One thinks again of Daniel Plainview, in "There Will Be Blood". His lust for oil came at the price of his son and his soul.

I'm Bill Moyers.
Watch the video here.
More.

Are You Humans Smarter Than Yeast - and why does NVDL blog about Oil, H5N1 and 'bad news' all the time


I have often been accused - in my writing, and conversations - of being a pessimist. Just yesterday a close friend responded to an email I sent with a graph, and for the first time called me a 'Doom Prophet'. It was a bit of a joke, somewhat tongue in cheek...but it does raise the question: Am I a Prophet Of Doom?
Yes and no. Yes because I believe we face imminent damage as a civilisation on many fronts, and some of that damage isn't imminent, we've already moved into the 'zone' of contraction. So some of it is obvious. And no because I don't walk around thinking gloomy thoughts, or manufacture dark fantasies for fun. Reality is enough. And I aim to be constructive in breaking through our delusions.

Realistically the world (human and non-human) is faced with imminent disaster. Even if many of the 'bad stuff' doesn't happen, we face at a minimum a food crisis. I mean worse than we face right now. It is difficult to convey just how simple and perilous our situation is with food. The reason is because our lives are so used to consuming (and consuming energy) in the way we do, we find it hard to grasp that this might not carry on indefinitely. In order to grow stuff, we need all those diesel machines operating on giant farms to be able to operate (on diesel), using fertilizers, pesticides and...that is now no longer easy. Farmers are struggling to produce for a variety of reasons. We were raised in a time of television, telephones and air, road and rail transport. Tele and trans imply overcoming...and the last thing we expect is to be bogged down by basic limitations such as:

- blackouts
- food and fuel shortages
- not enough (when we're used to so much)

The reason my urgent appeals for changes in lifestyle appear to be counterintuitive (it's not counterintuitive, it's logic) is because our current culture is invested in:
- capitalism
- exponential growth (in business, population size etc)

In fact we suffer collectively from cultural schizophrenia. Societal norms and reality are out of whack, hence there is discord. We have movies that represent this right now: Kung Fu Panda and The Dark Knight. One is seated in feel good fantasy, where a fat overweight cartoon character becomes the most powerful warrior in the world (through a combination of luck and persistence). Dark Knight is stripped of color (other than in its mad villain) and utterly realistic (Batman is after all the only superhero with no superpowers). Both movies nevertheless represent some sort of fight against evil...and of course, when people feel the need to do something about the environment, the world, the easiest thing to 'do' is watch a movie where someone else does the doing, and you emerge from the cinema, voyeuristically fulfilled.

I've had conversations with many experts in their own fields - pastors (for religion), bankers and politicians (for economics), editors and journalists (for media)...and it is disconcerting to note to what extent beliefs and investments by those people in those industries predicate a certain type of thinking (that is essentially divorced from the possibility of practical reality). I have noticed that a lot of these 'experts' have very little practical or contemporary knowledge gained 'out of the box' of their beliefs. Meaning they have not examined a vast variety of materials to inform their opinions with perhaps better educated guesses. We focus on what we believe, which recycles the same information, meaning we learn preciously little that is new until we open ourselves to this.

And as a matter of practical reality, we face critical issues in our time. South Africans face a smorgasbord of issues, and somehow manage to con themselves that they live in a great country, and that everything will be okay. It won't.

I consider myself a humanist. I used to consider myself an atheist, by I think I can euphemise that to agnostic. I believe religion has an important role to play as a cohesive force in communities. That said, the net effect of religion appears to be as a divisive force.

10 million vehicles will be off American roads as a result of high oil prices (watch above).Is this bad news, or is it something we need to know? Calling something 'good' or 'bad' robs us of knowing what it is before we begin to know what it is. There will be consequences and changes, and who can say whether these will be mostly good or not? Change seems to be what we equate with 'bad', but it's only 'bad' if we resist it, if we refuse to listen, if we're in denial. The world is in denial. Large sectors of populations are overweight, depressed, and working in treadmill jobs that don't make any sense.

The 'Bad News' I communicate is a series of urgent appeals. Yes, if your idea of living is that we continue on doing what we're doing consuming and destroying the planet (not just the creatures here, but for our own species ultimately),then yes, these appeals are not going to be 'positive'. You are probably not aware that driving in your car and going to parties does anyone else any harm...but probably somewhere in there, you have wondered if it is right that an individual can have so much power, be able to go through so much stuff. You judge the appeal too quickly, as 'negative' or 'bad'. Someone who suffers a heart attack at work might have an epiphany in the hospital bed afterwards, quit their job and do something else with their lives - and in that sense, the heart attack is a valuable and important message. In that same analogy you can understand how a doctor warning of a heart attack might not be taken seriously...but the heart attack is. Wouldn't it be great if people had the intellectual strength to appreciate the heart attack warning at face value? And some have. Some very obese people with obesity induced diabetes have turned their lives around.

I don't believe many people respond to the entreaties in this blog. By far the most traffic goes to 'Italian Chandelier' and 'The Human Cannon Ball'. This blog is for everyone else. The good news is that the world that is to come (not after we die, after a decade or two or more of austerity) will be the real world. It will be a bigger, scarier place, and we will - many of us - become human beings once again.

Banks Trimming Limits for Many on Credit Cards

The easy money that led Americans to depend on credit cards to pay their bills is starting to dry up.

After fostering the explosive growth of consumer debt in recent years, financial companies are reducing the credit limits on cards held by millions of Americans, often without warning.

Banks that issue cards like Visa and MasterCard, as well as the American Express Company, are cutting the limits for customers who have run up big debts, live in areas that have been hit hard by the housing crisis or work for themselves in troubled industries.

The reductions come as consumers, squeezed by a slack economy, a weak housing market and rising unemployment, are falling behind on monthly credit card payments in growing numbers.
More.

ALERT: H5N1 Virus Replikin Gene Counts Indicate a New More Virulent Influenza Cycle Has Begun


Replikins Ltd. has found that H5N1 virus replikin peak gene counts in 2007 in Hong Kong, Russia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Israel indicate that a new replikin cycle has begun. The mean replikin count exceeded the maximum of the previous cycle identified by the company. Although several conditions are required to produce a pandemic, the increase in replikin count, a feature of each of the last three pandemics, is now in the range of the increase seen in the 1918 H1N1 pandemic.

Russia Predicts $250 oil in 2009

OPEC has no influence on oil prices, according to Gazprom chief
Russia's biggest energy company has warned that oil prices will end at a 'radically' new level and that OPEC has little influence over the price of crude.

Alexey Miller, chief executive of Gazprom, said that the global economy is facing "a great surge in oil and gas prices" that will "end with prices at a radically new level."

His comments to the Financial Times came as oil surged to a new high of $141.98, leaving prices more than double where they were 12 months ago and casting a shadow over the prospects for the global economy this year and next.

Mr Miller also dismissed hopes that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries can do much to bring prices down. "Not a single decision has been passed of late that would really influence the global oil market," he said.

One Reason Left To Watch Wimbledon (PHOTOGRAPHY)

Mr. McCain’s description of a sermon he delivered :

One day I talked about the parable of when they asked Christ whether they should pay taxes and he held up a coin and said, “Render unto Caesar, etc.” My point was and still is that when we were flying in combat, we weren’t doing God’s work. We were doing Caesar’s work. So for us to go to prison and then ask God to get us out was not fair to God, to our religion, to our beliefs and to ourselves. It wasn’t a miracle that sent a SAM [surface-to-air missile] to hit my airplane. It was a guy, a technician at a SAM site.

I think it was important, a little bit for the stability factor, that it wasn’t God who was going to perform a miracle, end the war and bring us home. It was men. It was Caesar. I think the majority of those guys felt the way I did but we just had some, just as people turn to faith healing and that kind of stuff, we had some of that. A lot of times I would pray for strength and I think sometimes I got it. Pray for patience to get through the next minute when things were bad. I just don’t think it’s fair to expect too much out of what is basically not the Lord’s business.
More.

Facebook to users: Let's cut grammatical errors

NEW YORK - The online hangout Facebook is getting more serious about grammar. No more should users see jarringly incorrect declarations such as "Debbie changed their profile picture."

Those who haven't specified their gender in their Facebook profiles will be asked to do so in the coming weeks. That way, Facebook doesn't have to default to "their" or the made-up word "themself," as it had been doing.

While not knowing someone's gender poses grammatical challenges in English, it has created even larger headaches as Facebook expands to other languages, where a gender-neutral option isn't available in plural form.

More.

Friday, June 27, 2008

North Pole Could be Ice-Free This Summer - Yahoo! News

North Pole Could be Ice-Free This Summer - Yahoo! News

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The Floods: A Man-Made Disaster? - TIME

The Floods: A Man-Made Disaster? - TIME

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Don't hate the airlines — pity them - Tips- msnbc.com

I asked frequent fliers at random why they hated the airlines so much. Here are the top answers:

1. Complete inefficiency.
2. Always late.
3. Ruined my vacation.
4. They are liars and thieves.
5. General employee attitude.
6. Poor management.
7. They are a necessary evil.


But in the back of your mind, don’t you kind of feel sorry for the airlines?

Since the beginning of commercial aviation ticket prices have steadily decreased as compared to the inflation rate, while capacity has dramatically increased.

Oil prices are at unsustainable levels for airline survivability.
More: Don't hate the airlines — pity them - Tips- msnbc.com

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Chicago Under Attack — by Blackbirds - TIME

Chicago Under Attack — by Blackbirds - TIME

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FT.com / MARKETS / Commodities - Oil hits fresh record above $142 a barrel

FT.com / MARKETS / Commodities - Oil hits fresh record above $142 a barrel

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Petrol tipped to rise 80c next week

“Who benefits from the high crude oil price? There is no way that the oil-producing countries are laughing all the way to the bank because the increase affects their food prices as well.” Petrol tipped to rise 80c next week

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FT.com / In depth - Opec and US fuel figures at odds

FT.com / In depth - Opec and US fuel figures at odds

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The Times - 2010 fuel shortage warning

The Times - 2010 fuel shortage warning

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What is Peak Oil? Maybe It's Time You Found Out


Peak oil is the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum production is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline. If global consumption is not mitigated before the peak, a world energy crisis may develop because the availability of conventional oil will drop and prices will rise, perhaps dramatically.

Read the whole definition on Wikipedia.

NVDL: 'Peak Oil' represents the last port of call for those bewildered souls seeking solace - or at least insight and understanding -into a rapidly unravelling world. James Kunstler is an intelligent, calm, sane and sensible voice of reason that has been communicating (in books, on the internet, on CNN and elsewhere) about the coming global emergency. He cautiously implores us to take action, and avoid panic. I on the other hand have less faith in our capacity for manners and good behaviour when things do go south...but like Jim, I firmly believe in the importance of communities, and becoming good neighbours to each other.

Other resources:
Who is James Kunstler?

Kunstlercast (audio discussions)
James Kunstler
Global Public Media
The Oil Drum

Koo Koo - Oil exports have been declining since 2005 (PICTURES SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS)



Steep decline in oil production brings risk of war and unrest, says new study

· Output peaked in 2006 and will fall by several mbpd a year
· Decline in gas, coal and uranium also predicted

Desperation and Wishful Thinking in the Media: Report predicts eventual drop in oil prices

Bloomberg News / June 26, 2008

NEW YORK - Oil prices will fall to $70 a barrel by 2015 as new production begins in countries such as Azerbaijan, Canada, Brazil, and Kazakhstan, the US Energy Department said.

NVDL: Just because we'd like to believe something, and we have some facts to support it, doesn't mean it's reality. This was published on Bloomberg yesterday. There is another word that starts with a B which I think is an appropriate term to refer to Bloomberg in the future. Thanks for the insight guys, but I think I'll get my news from www.theoildrum.com in the future. I am still waiting to see when a dollar sign and a number make headlines around the world. I thought we'd see it at $100. I somehow doubt we'll see it at $150 seeing how the Media are jumping around with stories on speculation and what not. I have a feeling $200 will do it. Of course, by then a few newspapers won't be around to tell us what we already know.

Oil At $140 Means The End Of Tourism

If you're in a foreign country right now, look right, look left, look all around you. Take a good long look. When the few days that remain slip through the hourglass, you will return to the airport that brought you and fly home courtesy of ticket prices paid some time ago. The chances are virtually certain that the country you have just visited will never be visited again by you, certainly not in the same way, and probably not in large numbers in a different way.

The Olympics - I hope you've bought your tickets. Because after the Olympics oil prices will be higher than the level airlines are meant to fly at, I've been predicting $150 by Christmas. It might be $200. The point is, these construction projects we see - malls being built, stadia - it's going to look rather silly in 6 months. South Africa's Fifa World Cup will not be a world cup; it might approximate the equivalent of the rugby tussle between provinces, the Currie Cup. Don't expect South Africans to believe you. They don't know that there's crime, 50% unemployment and an AIDS holocaust in their country, how on earth can they be expect to guess that fuel prices are worth worrying about.

Life is about to become very local. And it will probably slow down as airline staff are layed off, and fewer people zip around on vital transatlantic business meetings (our kids will wonder, what was that all about that you had to fly around the world to shake someone's hand - yes, when you had email and VOIP).

An interesting replacement industry will be farming. Instead of people wandering around with cameras and backpackls and booking into hotels, they will book into hostels and barnyards carrying shovels. But I'm getting ahead of myself. First airlines fail, then supermarkets, then suburbia... I know we want to watch NASCAR and Formula 1, and the Fifa World Cup. I realise this is what people want, what people demand. It's just not going to happen any more.

Major airlines facing closure 'within six months'

"I am convinced you will see one of the major US airlines which form five of the top 10 airlines in the world not being with us by Christmas-time if fuel stays where it is.

"The airline model was never built for $165 fuel."

More.

NVDL: Airlines will disappear quite quickly, and I think when they're gone, the collective sense of 'this is real' will set in. Probably people's moods will be clouded by 'doom and gloom', and ironic twist since in the run up to all this, they dismissed any reports that weren't about 'unlimited growth' with the same epithet. We will pay a heavy price for our lack of critical thinking, but a price our greedy irreverent species much deserves. Expect busses to make a major comeback from now onwards, and bicycles too.

Fuel prices a bigger problem than 'Sep 11 or SARS'

"Fuel will never go back down to the levels that we've known, say two years ago," he said.

"I'm hoping it will go down to a level where we can still continue to do quite well as an airline, but to do that we'll still have to restructure.

"So it is the biggest change the industry's faced in 30 or 40 years."

More.

New Oil Price Record: Light, sweet crude at $140.05

“The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences…
—Winston Churchill, November 1936


If you want to lower the price of oil, you have to hit demand. You hit demand by:
1) raising interest rates
2) allowing energy prices to reach a natural level (foregoing subsidies)
3) introducing additional taxes on fuel if 1) and 2) are not sufficient.

Naturally, being as hellent on spending and demanding-our-daily-bread as we do, politicians, governments and everyone else are trying to avoid the inevitable - which means oil can only go up.

On the news tonight in SA reference was made for the incredible petroleum demand inland, and that an additional 5 cent tax would be levied to help coastal refineries keep up. The tax is good in one sense, but the psychology of 'keeping up' with demand is wrong. Demand must be managed downward. It won't be, hence we face shortages and pretty severe market indigestion.

Meanwhile Jim Kunstler on the Kunstlercast was saying that airlines will probably be obsolete within 2 years. The carnage has begun. And as such rail is terrific investment for right now. Of course, it will take a few months for the market to digest the bad news, time that needs to be directed towards action (not digestion). Unfortunately, the media, governments, 'experts' and the masses are so far off the mark of understanding all this, that I am not sure if they ever will.

What I mean is society will tear itself apart and we will ask why and not really know why. We'll blame presidents and politicians, or oil companies or biofuels, or the most contemporary culprit, but no one will really know what to do...and we will expect someone to give us something for nothing, an answer, a solution, a reprieve. In our society we're used to getting what we want at the press of a button. But energy is different. It takes a process, a special set of circumstances to store...and when those systems aren't there it becomes a different world for people...we begin to feel the effects of life on earth like every other creature. We're ALL culpable. We all need to change. But we are sorely out of practise.

Bow and Arrow Bikergirl (PHOTOGRAPHY)


Pics courtesy Mark Velasquez.

Crazy Over Cannabis


The link between marijuana and psychosis

At the end of last year I had a conversation with a woman whose husband had recently been institutionalized. When she began to describe her husband's behavior, I inwardly reacted by thinking: "She's probably just bitter." Except that her children agreed with her assessment of their father's craziness, and it was based on at least a decade of accelerating brokenness and dysfunctional patterns.

The family's assessment of the father was not dark, brooding, or vengeful but a sort of lighthearted we-give-up weariness. Since I had read an article on cannabis and its impact on mental stability, I referred to it, and she immediately affirmed her husband's habit of using cannabis.

So it came as something of a shock that a friend of mine, so soon after being privy to the above revelation, confided in me that his wife was also inclined to periods of "craziness." I asked him if she'd used cannabis, and he responded that she had and told me that when she was a supermodel (winning the same modeling competitions as South African actress, Charlize Theron).

She had graduated from cannabis to the designer drugs as well. The result, he told me, was that even in the safety of marriage, and the conventional domesticity of being a young mother, his wife would sometimes watch TV (without it being on), or have conversations with invisible people, or burst out laughing for no apparent reason. It reached the point where they agreed that she'd spend some time in hospital to aid a recovery and treatment of the psychosis.

More.

My Year Without a Car in South Africa


And why we all need to imagine what it's like

Take a triathlete, add a propensity for suffering, the capacity to endure, and a governing psychology predicting a never-ending oil famine, and you have the perfect volunteer for this assignment. But bidding your car farewell still means plenty of gnashing of teeth.

Woe betide the world when we suddenly wake up to discover: Ooops. Not enough oil for the world to get to the next station. And the world is some project. There are thousands of cities with black stuff running through their veins (pretty much symbolized by complex grids of glistening tar roads radiating into suburbia.)

I mean, just think about the daily demand of just a couple of cities out there with 30 million plus people (like Seoul, Tokyo and Mexico City). Everyday those people have to go to work. There's suburban sprawl everywhere, from Jozi to Jericho, that depends on cars swimming in and out to keep it fed.

Living without a car is a snap if you don't live in South Africa, or rural Australia, or most of the U.S. and Canada. I lived in a satellite of Seoul for four years and you know, I didn't even want a car. London was harder, since taxis are so expensive and buses just aren't nearly as ubiquitous as they are in the Far East. Living without a car in South Africa is about as fun as chewing on someone else's toenails. No, not something anyone would cheerfully volunteer for.

So how did I do it?
Read the rest - inclufing 10 insights drawn from the experience - here.

Oil Story Surges over 4000


I've posted stories before on oil, and also climate change, but suddenly the tickers are flying. Bizarrely, by far my most popular story is called WHY INSECTS CAN'T FLY STRAIGHT AT NIGHT, with over 15 000 hits alone.

Oprah Interview With Cormac McCarthy (VIDEO)


I read 'The Road' and was inspired pretty early on to write two books of my own, one, HOLIDAY (published on this blog) and another that I'm still working on, called FIRE, ICE AND THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD. Click on the tags below this post to link to those posts on this blog.

NEED MOTIVATION? (PODCAST, VIDEO and STORY)


The objective of this article is for the runner to download and listen to it on an MP3 player while exercising. This "running commentary" will assist especially those runners who need motivation and inspiration to get their legs and bodies moving in the first place.
Download podcast here.
Listen to podcast here, now.

Warm Up: Start your watch. Now stretch. Stretching is an important way to prevent unnecessary soreness after exercise. Think also what stretching implies: our reaching towards something previously unreachable. So it's with this mindset that we prepare for the run. We're going to improve not just our bodies and minds, but our selves. The whole person improves when you're propelling yourself through your neighborhood.

Start Running: Now as you start running, you'll feel your body feels awkward and stiff. That's one of the reasons why you're here in the first place; to flush out the stiffness, to push out the poisons that have accumulated in our bodies, even our thoughts, and to breathe the air. Exercise is how you feed your tissues with healthy amounts of bright red blood and oxygen. As you run, as you breathe, your body responds -- almost like flowers in rain. The color in your face, in your flesh, deepens. You begin to shine.

Don't resist the stiffness, or feel frustrated by it. Relax. Breathe. Now concentrate on each step you take. You shouldn't be running on the back of the foot, or the heel, or even the middle of the foot. Your foot should make contact with the ground somewhere between the midsole and front part of the foot. Landing on the heel leads to a heavy, energy inefficient style. Using the toes will soon hurt your calves and knees. And the middle of the foot is no better, because it just absorbs the momentum of each strike. Now, as your foot touches the ground, make sure it lands just past the middle of the foot. Do you notice the difference? Good.

Now your breathing needs to be smooth and calm. Don't gasp, or take shallow breaths or you'll get a stitch. By the way, if you do get a stitch, here's how to get rid of it. You'll need to inhale deeply and then, very important, exhale as completely as you can. When you do this, two things happen. Firstly, your breathing slows down, and second, if you exhale sufficiently, you'll interfere with the spasm in your diaphragm. It's a painful thing, a stitch, and exhaling as fully as possible won't be easy, but with some effort that knife-in-your-stomach-pain will ease. Of course it's better to not get a stitch at all, and to do that you need to breathe in relaxed, even breaths. Good. You're starting to move into your world once more.

It's these small controls we take over our bodies that are very significant. The more we run the more we're able to extend our control over more of ourselves. That means not only a physical command over ourselves but eventually deeper controls over the psyche and spirit, and this is how we first begin to reconnect to our sense of being. This is how we regain our power in the world. And as we begin to do that, we also connect to our very own personal power. And the feeling that accompanies our plugging ourselves back into present world awareness is simply this: good. It feels good. We feel alive. And each step seems to be a further celebration of this discovery.

One of the reasons running is such an essential activity is because it is reclaiming the power to move our bodies with our minds. You're probably finding that isn't easy to start off with. The mind is also a muscle, and with practice, the mind learns to endure, even enjoys the challenge of pushing the body. Moving the body over a road is also symbolic for the greater purpose that is our lives, and you'll soon learn, the further you run, the harder you're able to run, the better you'll run, and the better you'll organize and run your life.

An interesting premise for runners is this one, coined by Tony Robbins. He calls it the principle of "canI." C.A.N.I.. CanI. It stands for Constant And Neverending Improvement. While this can seem a daunting goal in especially your working environment, it's altogether achievable in terms of exercise. Start off by keeping your pace and exertion easy and manageable. Now have a look at your watch. Make a point of noting your time and position at five minute intervals. Your goal each week will be to improve either your distance (for the same period of time), or to run the same route at a better pace, not merely over the last or first section, but at each check point. This allows for a consistent effort. If you've just started running, improving distance should be a priority. Distance is also a good way to build up fitness, and lose weight. It's easier to be consistent running further at a manageable pace than to run hard one day, and be too sore or afraid to repeat the performance. By distance we're not really suggesting a certain number of kilometers (although obviously that's relevant), we're interested in how long we can be out there running. Thirty minutes should be a minimum, at any pace. You can always run 15 minutes away from your front door, and then turn around. You should then build towards 45 minutes, then one hour, and ultimately around two hours. The benefits of an hour run are not double a half hour run, they're probably triple. So, when you're able to be out there for two hours, you'll really feel light, like you're flying. That's where you want to be.

When you're able to run for two hours comfortably, it's time to add shorter, faster runs to your program, and other strengthening activities, like hiking or hill running. You'll probably also have noticed other runners on your route and tested your speed against theirs (and they've probably done the same with you). It's at this stage that you'll benefit from a race. A 10 kilometer race is a great way to start, but there is nothing wrong with being ambitious and trying, say, a half marathon (21.1km). A marathon though (at 42.2km) is a race of another order altogether, so let's leave that for the moment.

For a 10 kilometer run you should aim for a time of just less than an hour (if it's your first one), and then work your way towards 40 minutes. This implies a pace of 6 minutes per kilometer that you'll need to bring down to 4 minutes per kilometer. This is where running becomes such an interesting and wonderful experience. Initially even the 6min/km pace may seem a stretch. You'll feel out of breath and struggling. But as you implement canI, slowly and consistently, you'll notice an almost magical improvement. The body adapts, it strengthens. The pain you endure during each run is really your body saying: "I'm struggling, let's set up more systems so the blood can get around more quickly and efficiently in here."

Soon you'll be running at 5min/km and smiling inwardly to yourself, with thoughts perhaps along these lines: I can't believe I ran so slowly a few weeks ago. Now the 4min/km goal seems quite possible.

So you've just begun to explore your personal power, and as you get stronger, and move further, and faster, you'll be your own inspiration. Inspire yourself with interesting workouts. Try speedplay, what the Swedes call fartlek. Run one minute hard, then one minute easy. Try a different route. Race. Run cross country, or through a forest, or a along a beach. Visit a park early on a Saturday morning, get your run done, and enjoy the rest of your weekend. On a hot day, wait for the rain, then go running in it. On a cold day, run in the snow, blow plumes of hot air and listen to your footfalls crunching with each step. Running is about exploring the inner world as much as it's about moving through the outdoors. Running should sometimes feel like playing.

In this game, you make the rules, add dimensions to it. You decide how far, how fast, when and where and how. It's there for you to grow, and to move, and to flourish. You determine, every time you go out there, which level you'll ultimately get to. When you're done, stretch. The stretch after the run is more important than the stretch before the run. Stretch gently. Now stop your watch. Breathe. Look around you. This is your world.

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The Associated Press: Oil prices spike close to $139 after OPEC comment

The Associated Press: Oil prices spike close to $139 after OPEC comment

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Tips for Better Blogging - Webmonkey

If you've taken the plunge into self-publishing, you've probably already learned that setting up a blog is the easy part. Tools like Blogger, TypePad and WordPress make it simple to set up your own site with just a few clicks.

It's the next step -- the branding, promotion and the actual writing -- that's the toughest nut to crack.

If you want your blog to hit the big time, you'll need to dress up your site's public presence. Here are Webmonkey's tips for what you'll need to play with the big boys and girls of the blogosphere. Soon, you'll be swapping political commentary with DailyKos, and CoolHunting will be linking to you. Tips for Better Blogging - Webmonkey

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NVDL: These are pretty good, and it's good to know I'm instinctively abiding by most. Think I have too many widgets though...

Stocks tumble as more bad economic news piles up - Yahoo! News

Stocks tumble as more bad economic news piles up - Yahoo! News

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Oil spill ruling leaves Alaska victims stunned - Yahoo! News

Oil spill ruling leaves Alaska victims stunned - Yahoo! News

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Tyre used by highway gang to trap road users

Members of a Gauteng high school choir spoke yesterday of their 40 minutes of trauma on the N14 highway when a gang robbed them of cellphones, money, clothes and jewellery.
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Mugabe Insists That Zimbabwe Vote Will Be Held

Mugabe Insists That Zimbabwe Vote Will Be Held

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

OPEC president: Oil prices could hit $170 a barrel this summer - International Herald Tribune

OPEC president: Oil prices could hit $170 a barrel this summer - International Herald Tribune

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BBC NEWS | Europe | Biofuel use \'increasing poverty\'

BBC NEWS | Europe | Biofuel use 'increasing poverty'

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World\'s first rotating skyscraper unveiled in Dubai - Telegraph

World's first rotating skyscraper unveiled in Dubai - Telegraph

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Brain scientists discover why adventure feels good - Yahoo! News

Brain scientists discover why adventure feels good - Yahoo! News

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Blogging Is Good News for Africa - OhmyNews International

Blogging Is Good News for Africa - OhmyNews International

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Why Insects Can't Fly Straight at Night - OhmyNews International

I remember a "Garfield" cartoon where Garfield dispassionately watches a moth swinging around a candle in smaller and smaller circles. Then its wings catch fire, and with a bloodcurdling wail, the moth falls to Earth and dies. Garfield, without blinking says, "Well, at least it didn't feel any pain."

Why on Earth can't these creatures fly straight? Actually, most of the time they do. We just don't see them winging their way under the stars to a chosen flower.

The reason we see them swinging around is because their guidance systems are based on a good system that didn't take into account the invention of modern artificial lighting. These creatures have evolved over millions of years, and suddenly, in the space of less than a hundred, the environment changes radically, and now they're ill-equipped to deal with these changes.

The eyes of moths and mantises are geared to steering by the moon or stars, with both objects set at optical infinity. Their basic rule of thumb requires them to fly at a specific angle to an optical stimulus. Science Professor and author Richard Dawkins writes that if this angle is 30 degrees, and the object is not set to infinity, then the rays spoking towards the eyes are no longer parallel, but converge, like the spokes of a wheel. He goes on to point out that one can "produce an elegant logarithmical spiral to the candle" using an angle of 30 degrees.

The science is interesting, but the reality has the proportions of a Greek tragedy. The creature of the night caught into a crazy spiral of light and then death.

A huge thing landed next to my dinner this evening, which I was eating next to a strong bright overhead light. I thought it was a bizarre looking insect, and when I made a movement it sprouted wings, and so I had this big bat like insect swooping around in dizzy circles, flirting first with one light, then the next. It finally landed on my blinds and I got a better look at it.

I found a wide-rimmed wine glass and quickly covered the creature, then inserted a piece of paper between it and the open end. From 1 cm away I could see exactly what this thing was: a gray praying mantis. Now its pincers were exposed, with pink edges almost like grasshopper legs, with barbs, in reverse. As my eyes looked over it, its head swiveled around at me, and its two big bug eyes blipped some alien impulse of me to the brain inside the beaked shaped head.

I'm glad I am the larger than life monster in this scenario. Imagine being a moth sized human, held between the pincers of such a horrible dragon? Having its beak dig into your stomach, like the creature in the original "Alien"!

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