The more things change, the more they stay the same

>> Saturday, October 17, 2009

Digby on the changes in the political blogosphere:

It would appear that the days of the single, old country blogger like myself are definitely on the wane. I would guess that within just a few years there won't be more than a handful of the sole proprietor, uncredentialed bloggers of today even cited anymore, although there may be a few who survive with communities and a large readership.

I'm not surprised. The form is cheap and immediate and big media are desperately trying to find ways to stay relevant. It was only a matter of time before they co-opted the scene. But the barriers to entry are so low that it's hard to imagine that there won't inevitably be somebody crashing the party with something different. There's always an appetite for a new voice or a new format. But in the end, the blogosphere will probably end up dominated by corpoate media and big money financed entrepreneurial projects. Same as it ever was.


I'm not surprised

Utah Departments try to keep up with demand for flu vaccine:

"If you think of an outbreak occurring on a bell-shaped curve, we appear to be at the base of what could be a steep climb to the peak," said UDOH Deputy State Epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy. "With vaccine in short supply, it's critical that people start taking proactive steps to protect themselves and their families against the disease."

Utah is one of 11 states that reported in the first week of October the spread of H1N1 is only on a regional level, not widespread as in 37 other states reporting their condition to the national Centers for Disease Control.

But new statewide data released Wednesday by the Utah Department of Health indicates a substantial increase in the spread of the pandemic H1N1 virus throughout the state.
I find it ironic that a friend of mine--who told me that "swine flu" and its related hubbub was fake a couple of months ago--is now sick with the flu along with her entire family. I really have to fight the urge to ask how "fake" she thinks it is now that she's sick and suffering from it. Of course, she and her husband both work in those germ factories also known as schools.
And overall for the country, deaths from pneumonia and flu-like illnesses have passed what CDC considers an epidemic level. About 6 percent of all doctor visits are for flu-like illnesses, levels not normally seen until later in the fall.

The CDC's Dr. Anne Schuchat says, "These are very sobering statistics."

This new strain is different from regular winter flu because it strikes the young far more than the old, and child deaths are drawing particular attention. Eighty-six children have died of swine flu in the U.S. since it burst on the scene last spring -- 43 of those deaths reported in September and early October alone, said CDC's Dr. Anne Schuchat.

That's a startling number because in some past winters, the CDC has counted 40 or 50 child deaths for the entire flu season, she said, and no one knows how long this swine flu outbreak will last. Half of those early fall child deaths are among teenagers, also surprising as preschoolers are thought to be most vulnerable.

Also in contrast to regular winter flu, swine flu sometimes can cause a very severe viral pneumonia in otherwise healthy young adults, the World Health Organization warned Friday.
My friend should really be glad that her infant seems to be recovering the quickest.

Fake: As if!


Profit from the Peak: The End of Oil and the Greatest Investment Event of the Century

>> Friday, October 16, 2009

This is the fifth book on peak oil I've gone through in the past two years. The previous ones: The Coming Economic Collapse, The Party's Over, Twilight in the Desert and The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight. Needless to say, it repeats a lot of information that I had already read before, particularly when you add in being a reader of The Oil Drum.

I'm not reading anymore books on this topic until I find something that doesn't rehash what I've already read before. It took me two months to get through this book, too long given that I could have read something else much more quickly. But I am glad I read it because it gives some excellent stock recommendations along with explanations of those companies backgrounds. It is what sets it apart from other peak oil books I've read. (The Coming Economic Collapse does have stock recommendations as well; however, the ones in Profit from the Peak are geared much more to renewable energy, which is what I prefer.)

I was glad to read that they not only talked about peak oil, but also peak coal, gas and uranium. Something I find lost on most people who still doubt peak oil.

In terms of world coal consumption, China uses 36 percent, the United States 10 percent, and India 7 percent.

In terms of coal production, China is the largest producer, and will hit its peak "within the next 5 to 15 years, followed by a steep decline." The United States is the second-largest producer at 30 percent, and will likely peak between 2020 and 2030. (p. 113)
China's coal peaking first is something I always find a bit ironic since so many are worried about the effects of pollution given that China is churning out coal-fired electricity plants at a rate of at least one a week. You have to have the coal to burn before you can pollute with it.

Of course, I also love the joke about shale oil: "Shale oil—fuel of the future, and always will be." (p. 119) All those people going gaga over the Bakken Formation are chasing a white elephant. They even detail what I like to call "The Total Recall Project" in southwestern Colorado by Shell.
An electrical element is buried in the ground to heat the rock to 600 to 700 degrees Fahrenheit for three to four years and cook the kerogen. But that would open the possibility of having the liquid hydrocarbons leak into the surrounding water table, so to prevent that, the engineers are sinking chillers around the perimeter of the area to create a "freeze wall" around the heated kerogen. (p. 131)
If you've seen Total Recall, you'll remember that at the end on Mars some rods were sunk into the ground to produce oxygen. Relatively speaking, it's the same strategy minus the nifty "freeze wall." You just need a power plant larger than what exists currently in all of Colorado to power it. And all the possible water within a hundred or two hundred-mile radius, which should be a snap given southwestern Colorado's parched climate! Oil shale = white elephant. The authors politely stated (on page 132) that "[a]t this point in development, we cannot recommend any investment angles on oil shale." Hint, hint...


Constructive Criticism

Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post:

I know that local officials say the Obama administration is more responsive and more effective than the Bush administration, but that's not saying much. What says more is that New Orleans still doesn't have an operational full-service hospital. And that an adequate flood barrier is still not in place.

"I wish I could just write a check," Obama said. If that was his message, he should have stayed home. We now know that our government can make hundreds of billions of dollars available to irresponsible Wall Street institutions within a matter of days, if necessary. We can open up the floodgates of credit to too-big-to-fail banks at the stroke of a pen. But when it comes to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, well, these things take time.

I doubt these are the priorities Obama wants to be remembered for.
Much better than just posting "Failbama" over and over again on a message board.


Become a state then

Just finished listening to this interview (recorded last Friday) from Democracy Now:

JUAN GONZALEZ: So the people of Guam are US citizens but cannot vote in any kind of federal elections at all.

JULIAN AGUON: Yes. The document that purports to be our foundational or constitution document is actually a document passed by the US Congress, or the Organic Act of 1950, passed on August 1st, 1950. Basically, by virtue of that act, we are statutory citizens. US citizenship was extended to us. However, we’re not allowed to vote for the US president, and we’re not allowed to have a voting—an effective voting representative in the US Congress.

And that’s what’s so ironic, and you hear about—I just heard about the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to Obama, and that’s great, but for us, it’s really like the US has, you know, really justified its current war on terror, I mean, using all—employing all of the classic language of human rights and international law. And that was my specialty area in law school, international law and human rights, and for indigenous people specifically, as well as for colonized peoples.

And we don’t even have to necessarily talk about human rights in Guam; we’ll settle for civil rights. We just want to vote for president. So, I mean, even in America’s own backyard, nuclear contamination is not cleaned up. We can’t vote for president. We can’t really make changes in the US Congress. Yet, all the decisions made for us are made by people we don’t vote for. I mean, this is such a wildly deficient phenomenon today, I mean, because, really, I mean, I guess the best way to explain the Guam situation is that there’s nothing neo about our colonialism. This is such old school-styled colonialism, it’s unreal. It really is unreal. And I think that’s why the Chamoru people of late, our indignation and our moral outrage is sort of taking a new lease of life.
Guam residents don't pay federal income taxes like US citizens in California, Arizona, Alabama or Vermont. They either pay taxes directly to the Guam government or to the US government, which then gives the money back to Guam. Residents of Guam receive many of the benefits of US Citizenship, yet very little of the responsibilities. They may not be able to "vote" for president because they have no electoral votes, but they can send delegates to the national party conventions.

But, please, stop complaining that you have no "civil rights." Residents of the District of Columbia actually PAY federal taxes to the US Government and have no voting rights in Congress. Please pick a concrete movement such as independence, statehood or union with either Hawaii or the Northern Mariana Islands and be done with it.


Golly, this sounds SO familiar...

>> Thursday, October 15, 2009

What [Orlando] Letelier could not know at the time was that Chile under Chicago School rule was offering a glimpse of the future of the global economy, a pattern that would repeat again and again, from Russia to South Africa to Argentina: an urban bubble of frenetic speculation and dubious accounting fueling superprofits and frantic consumerism, ringed by the ghostly factories and rotting infrastructure of a development past; roughly half the population excluded from the economy altogether; out-of-control corruption and cronyism; decimation of nationally owned small and medium-sized businesses; a huge transfer of wealth from public to private hands, followed by a huge transfer of private debts into public hands. In Chile, if you were outside the wealth bubble, the miracle looked like the Great Depression, but inside its airtight cocoon the profits flowed so free and fast that the easy wealth made possible by shock therapy-style "reforms" have been the crack cocaine of financial markets ever since. And that is why the financial world did not respond to the obvious contradictions of the Chile experiment by reassessing the basic assumptions of laissez-faire. Instead, it reacted with the junkie's logic: Where is the next fix?
—Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, 2007, p. 106


So why can't we have Leif Erikson Day instead?

And that would be instead of Christopher Columbus Day. Because this is Columbus's legacy:

When Columbus first landed on Hispaniola in 1492, virtually the entire island was covered by lush forest. The Taino "Indians" who loved there had an apparently idyllic life prior to Columbus, from the reports left to us by literate members of Columbus's crew such as Miguel Cuneo.

When Columbus and his crew arrived on their second visit to Hispaniola, however, they took captive about two thousand local villagers who had come out to greet them. Cuneo wrote: "When our caravels, where to leave for Spain, we gathered one thousand six hundred male and female persons of those Indians, and these we embarked in our caravels on February 17, 1495. For those who remained, we let it be known (to the Spaniards who manned the island's fort) in the vicinity that anyone who wanted to take some of them could do so, to the amount desired, which was done."

Cuneo further notes that he himself took a beautiful teenage Carib girl as his personal slave, a gift from Columbus himself, but that when he attempted to have sex with her, she "resisted with all her strength." So, in his own words, he "thrashed her mercilessly and raped her."

While Columbus once referred to the Taino Indians as cannibals, a story made up by Columbus - which is to this day still taught in some US schools - to help justify his slaughter and enslavement of these people. He wrote to the Spanish monarchs in 1493: "It is possible, with the name of the Holy Trinity, to sell all the slaves which it is possible to sell. Here there are so many of these slaves, and also brazilwood, that although they are living things they are as good as gold."

Columbus and his men also used the Taino as sex slaves: it was a common reward for Columbus' men for him to present them with local women to rape. As he began exporting Taino as slaves to other parts of the world, the sex-slave trade became an important part of the business, as Columbus wrote to a friend in 1500: "A hundred castellanoes (a Spanish coin) are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten (years old) are now in demand."
Great man wasn't he?

So why not exchange Leif Erikson Day as holiday instead? I don't recall Erikson bringing smallpox, slavery or mass rape along with that short-lived colony in what is now present-day Canada. Yeah, Italians who love Chris Columbus would throw a fit, but Leif Erikson Day would be an improvement over what we're currently "celebrating" every October. It's certainly not the most important or significant holiday. It could be re-arranged to honor something else entirely. But if we're going to have a holiday honoring a European who traveled to the western hemisphere, let's at least honor one that didn't unleash the apocalypse on the millions of people who were already living there.


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