Just another Reality-based bubble in the foam of the multiverse.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

"Your Town is Next"

From Antifa commenting in Moon of Alabama :

Your Town Is Next

The central thread of the New Orleans situation is that there for years there wasn't enough money for protecting the city. So no protection was in place when disaster arrived.

The engineers charged with protecting the city from hurricane flooding saw their budgets slashed again and again since 2000, leaving them at the last to beg for emergency funds all this year for fixing just the weakest levees. The very levees now leaking billions of gallons of dirty water into the city.

No dice, said the Bush people. Iraq. 9/11. War President. It's hard. Vacation. Terry Schiavo. Vacation. 9/11 is hard.

Seeing a community heartlessly stripped of its ability to protect, feed or fend for itself makes you wonder -- what has Bush stripped from my community? What have we lost right here since 2000? Education, National Guard, police, gas prices, Medicaid, Medicare, Parks & Recreation, flood control, emergency preparedness?

What's been taken from my town, in the night, when no one was looking?

The Bush gang has been quietly stealing from all of us, to give to the rich, to run a war of aggression on behalf of their oil company cronies.

This is a bustout, town by town, across this country. A mafia crew is running the White House, siphoning off our assets to their pals, feeding upon America, running up debts for our grandkids to cope with.

It's catching up with New Orleans right now.

Your Town Is Next.

This is a comment on an excellent post by Billmon :

...media reports paint an picture of almost biblical desolation -- of pillars of smoke rising from fires that can't be as fought because there's no pressure in the water mains; of the risk that corpses from the city's vast above-ground cemeteries might be exhumed by the floodwaters and sent drifting through streets transformed into canals; of snakes, alligators and a three-foot shark -- yes, a shark -- spotted swimming in the fetid water.

Add in the raw waste from a hundred backed-up sewer lines, the rotting food from a hundred thousand kitchen refrigerators and the industrial filth of one of the country's largest ports and petrochemical centers, plus the corpses, dead animals, debris and the mosquito eggs -- many of them no doubt already hatching -- and you've got the makings of a first-class public health nightmare. Stew in the sun and the heat of a Louisiana September for a week or two, and watch the nightmare become a reality...

The big problem, or so I've read, is that while the river and the lake keep getting higher as sediment settles on their bottoms -- half a continent's worth, in the Mississippi's case -- the ground that New Orleans sits on keeps sinking lower -- in part because the same levees that keep the water out also prevent fresh layers of silt and mud from being deposited to offset natural subsidiance. As a result, the city is sinking at a rate of three feet per century -- about eight times faster than the world average. Which means the levees have to be raised steadily higher, and the pumps have to work steadily harder, to keep it dry.

Now that the worst has happened, many pundits, particularly on the left, are pointing to the budget cuts that have hamstrung the Army Corps of Engineers in its endless battle of New Orleans:

"The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars..."

...But the bigger story behind the drowning of New Orleans is what it reveals about the longer-term consequences of America's lunatic environmental priorities. For nearly 160 years, private industry and governments alike have been chopping and channeling the Mississippi and its tributaries -- turning rivers into drainage ditches, riverbanks into Maginot Line-style fortifications, and wetlands into factory farms. This has created the same self-defeating spiral that doomed New Orleans -- the rivers rise, the riverbanks sink, forcing the levees higher and higher, until some of them are now as tall as four-story buildings.

There's no future in this -- and for Southern Lousiana, home to about 40% of the wetlands in the entire continental United States, the future is now. Without the silt and mud that the Mississippi once spread liberally across the entire network of sloughs and bayous that flow to the sea, the Gulf of Mexico is not-so-gradually munching its way north -- even as the federal government spends millions each year to dredge the main shipping channels of sediment:

"Up to 35 square miles of Louisiana's wetlands sink into the Gulf of Mexico each year. To date, an area the size of Rhode Island has been lost. In some places, the coastline has retreated 30 miles..."

...even Dick Cheney might want to think about the effect the destruction of South Lousiana could have on his beloved energy industry. The infrastructure -- drilling platforms, ports, shipyards -- that supports something like 20% of all U.S. oil and gas production is being left further and further out to sea:

"As executive director of the Greater LaFourche Port Commission, [Ted Falgout] manages the country's largest transportation hub for offshore oil and gas drilling. There are 600 offshore drilling platforms within 40 miles of the port.

"The road connecting Port Fourchon to civilization, Louisiana Route 1, sits four feet above sea level for its final 18 miles. If a hurricane were to wash it away, nearly 20% of the total U.S. oil supply would be jeopardized. Gasoline prices might triple, Falgout warns."

Now, thanks to Katrina, the hidden costs of all those decades of insane policies are being made visible to the entire world.

...The real lesson of Katrina, though, is that the scenes we've been watching in New Orleans could be repeated in many other places in the decades ahead, if the worst-case scenarios generated by the global climate change models become realities.

It's easy, even for reasonable people, to disregard those scenarios. The worst case, after all, doesn't usually happen. But the flooding of New Orleans, like the destruction of Pompeii, is a graphic demonstration of the fact that sometimes the worst case (or something like it) does happen, especially when it is preceded by years of willful ignorance and blind self interest.

If the worst case for global climate change comes to pass, the environmental and economic losses will dwarf, many times over, the costs of Hurricane Katrina. They'll also reduce into insignificance the price tag on the Kyoto Treaty -- which itself may be too little, too late. If Shrub really thinks that doing something about climate change would "wreck the economy," he should spend some of his unused vacation time thinking about what just happened to New Orleans.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

They Write Letters

As I've mentioned, the correlation between burning fossil fuels, greenhousing, and storms is nothing new. Disasters like New Orleans have been predicted for some time. But as long as the people that own the government have an interest in burning all of our fossil fuels, for their profit and to keep us in line with their program, nothing will change.

Yet many people know better, and the best scientists have been fighting an unseen battle to get the word out.

In 2001, a letter to the Editor of Science magazine, organ of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, was written and published ( Science 6 July 2001; 293: 48-49 [DOI: 10.1126/science.293.5527.48] ) :

Climate Variability and Global Warming

Although uncertainties in global warming are many and varied, they are not as great as stated in the recent U.S. National Research Council (NRC) report (1). As Richard A. Kerr notes in his News of the Week article, President George W. Bush seized upon these uncertainties to justify the administration's limited response ("Bush backs spending for a 'global problem,'" 15 Jun., p. 1978). Specifically, Bush "emphasized that the contribution of natural climate variability to the past century's warming is uncertain," to quote Kerr.

Unfortunately, in the NRC report, two aspects of natural climate variability are conflated. First, there is natural variability that is tied to external forcings, such as variations in the Sun, volcanoes, and the orbital variations of Earth around the Sun. The latter is the driving force for the major ice ages and interglacial periods. Second, there is natural variability that is internal to the climate system, arising, for instance, from interactions between the atmosphere and ocean, such as El NiƱo. This internal variability occurs even in an unchanging climate.

In the NRC report and in its summary, natural variability is said to be "quite large," but both kinds of variability are treated as if they are internal. Glacial to interglacial swings are discussed without mention of the known causes. Several lines of evidence, from the instrumental and paleoclimate records (2) and from climate models (3), strongly suggest that the recent increase in global mean temperature is beyond that possible from internal processes and thus must be caused by an increase in heating. This reasoning also puts limits on how large aerosol cooling could be. Further, known causes such as changes in the Sun and volcanic activity in the past 50 years have, if anything, led to cooling in this interval, leaving only the human-caused increase in greenhouse gases as the culprit. This reasoning has also been quantitatively confirmed with climate models (3, 4).

A consequence of mistreatment of natural climate variability in the NRC report is that the caveats are overstated. Natural climate variability is dealt with much more thoroughly in the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment (4), which was developed over about 3 years (versus 1 month for the NRC report). The summary from the IPCC is that "[t]here is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities."

Kevin E. Trenberth
Climate Analysis Section,
National Center for Atmospheric Research,
Boulder, CO 80307, USA.
E-mail: trenbert@ucar.edu

References and Notes

1. Committee on the Science of Climate Change, Division of Earth and Life Studies, National Research Council, Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions (National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 2001). Available at http://www.nap.edu/catalog/10139.html
2. M. E. Mann, R. S. Bradley, M. K. Hughes, Geophys. Res. Lett. 26, 759 (1999).
3. P. A. Stott et al., Science 281, 2133 (2000).
4. IPCC, Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis, J. T. Houghton et al., Eds. (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge).

What Dr. Trenberth is saying to his colleagues is that the "known unknowns" aren't unknown at all. In fact, the evidence is known quite well. Not being one to take rebuffs from the President lightly, more work from his lab along these lines was pursued, and will be discussed here soon.


That Terra'ist Truthout site has a couple of interesting reports.

In Storm Turns Focus to Global Warming, Miguel Bustillo in The Los Angeles Times says:

...Most hurricane scientists maintain that linking global warming to more-frequent severe storms, such as Hurricane Katrina, is premature, at best.

Though warmer sea-surface temperatures caused by climate change theoretically could boost the frequency and potency of hurricanes, scientists say the 150-year record of Atlantic storms shows ample precedent for recent events.

But a paper published last month in the journal Nature by meteorologist Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is part of an emerging body of research challenging the prevailing view.

It concluded that the destructive power of hurricanes had increased 50% over the last half a century, and that a rise in surface temperatures linked to global warming was at least partly responsible.

"I was one of those skeptics myself - a year ago," Emanuel said Monday.

But after examining data on hurricanes in the Atlantic and typhoons in the Pacific, he said, "I was startled to see this upward trend" in duration and top wind speeds.

"People are beginning to seriously wonder whether there is a [global warming] signal there. I think you are going to see a lot more of a focus on this in coming years."

Hurricane activity in the Atlantic has been higher than normal in nine of the last 11 years, said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

This month, the agency raised its already-high hurricane forecast for this year to 18 to 21 tropical storms, including as many as 11 that would become hurricanes and five to seven that would reach major-hurricane status. That could make 2005 one of the most violent hurricane seasons ever recorded. A typical storm year in the Atlantic results in six hurricanes.

But the agency believes that the increase in hurricanes is most likely the result of a confluence of cyclical ocean and atmospheric conditions that tend to produce heightened tropical storms every 20 to 30 years. If global warming is playing any role in the hurricanes, it is a minor one, the federal agency maintains.

Computer models have shown for years that rising sea-surface temperatures resulting from global warming could create more ideal conditions for hurricanes.

Yet before Emanuel's research there were few indications that hurricanes had become stronger or more frequent, despite well-documented increases in surface temperatures.

Moreover, skeptical hurricane scientists were quick to point out that worldwide weather records were too inadequate for a thorough examination of such trends. They said that would require an analysis of storm activity going back hundreds if not thousands of years.

"There is absolutely no empirical evidence..."

I have found that training as a scientist is not always a guarantee of your objectivity, especially when your funding requires you abandon it. Just sayin'.

Bustillo continues:

...Nonetheless, some scientists have maintained that the rise in mean global temperatures over the last half a century - a well-documented trend widely linked to human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels - will inevitably have an effect on storms, if it hasn't already.

"It's the ocean temperatures and sea-surface temperatures that provide the fuel for hurricanes," said Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research who recently published a paper in the journal Science contending that climate change could cause hurricanes to produce more rain and thereby become more dangerous.

"It's the big guys, the more intense storms, that have been increasing," Trenberth said. Hurricane scientists have been "unduly influenced by what has been happening in their corner of the world in the Atlantic. But if you look more broadly, at what has been happening in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, there is a clear trend."

Such views remain controversial among veteran hurricane scientists...

To say the least.

Dr. Trenberth has published some interesting things recently in Science:

Uncertainty in Hurricanes and Global Warming
Kevin Trenberth
Science 17 June 2005; 308: 1753-1754 [DOI: 10.1126/science.1112551]

Modern Global Climate Change
Thomas R. Karl and Kevin E. Trenberth
Science 5 December 2003; 302: 1719-1723 [DOI: 10.1126/science.1090228]

Toward Integrated Reconstruction of Past Climates
Kevin E. Trenberth and Bette L. Otto-Bliesner
Science 25 April 2003; 300: 589-590 [DOI: 10.1126/science.1083122]

Changes in Tropical Clouds and Radiation
Kevin E. Trenberth, Bruce A. Wielicki, Anthony D. Del Genio, Takmeng Wong, Junye Chen, Barbara E. Carlson, Richard P. Allan, Franklin Robertson, Herbert Jacobowitz, Anthony Slingo, David A. Randall, Jeffrey T. Kiehl, Brian J. Soden, C. T. Gordon, Alvin J. Miller, Shi-Keng Yang, and Joel Susskind
Science 21 June 2002; 296: 2095 [DOI: 10.1126/science.296.5576.2095a]

Climate Variability and Global Warming
Kevin E. Trenberth
Science 6 July 2001; 293: 48-49 [DOI: 10.1126/science.293.5527.48]

Basically, he has some real evidence, and covers it in exquisite detail.

Farfetched? Certainly enough for me to blog on for a few days. I'll be reproducing some of it here for you to think about. Of course there will be massive farfetched interpretation for you.

In the second article, there's less objectivity, and more anger. Which, objectively, may be justified.

In Katrina's Real Name, Ross Gelbspan at the The Boston Globe says:

The Hurricane that struck Louisiana yesterday was nicknamed Katrina by the National Weather Service. Its real name is global warming... As the atmosphere warms, it generates longer droughts, more-intense downpours, more-frequent heat waves, and more-severe storms.

Although Katrina began as a relatively small hurricane that glanced off south Florida, it was supercharged with extraordinary intensity by the relatively blistering sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico.

The consequences are as heartbreaking as they are terrifying.

Unfortunately, very few people in America know the real name of Hurricane Katrina because the coal and oil industries have spent millions of dollars to keep the public in doubt about the issue.

The reason is simple: To allow the climate to stabilize requires humanity to cut its use of coal and oil by 70 percent. That, of course, threatens the survival of one of the largest commercial enterprises in history.

In 1995, public utility hearings in Minnesota found that the coal industry had paid more than $1 million to four scientists who were public dissenters on global warming. And ExxonMobil has spent more than $13 million since 1998 on an anti-global warming public relations and lobbying campaign.

In 2000, big oil and big coal scored their biggest electoral victory yet when President George W. Bush was elected president - and subsequently took suggestions from the industry for his climate and energy policies.

As the pace of climate change accelerates, many researchers fear we have already entered a period of irreversible runaway climate change.

Against this background, the ignorance of the American public about global warming stands out as an indictment of the US media.

When the US press has bothered to cover the subject of global warming, it has focused almost exclusively on its political and diplomatic aspects and not on what the warming is doing to our agriculture, water supplies, plant and animal life, public health, and weather.

For years, the fossil fuel industry has lobbied the media to accord the same weight to a handful of global warming skeptics that it accords the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - more than 2,000 scientists from 100 countries reporting to the United Nations...

Ah, yes, anger over farfetched possibilities, and a report of the opinion of a majority of the world's atmospheric scientists. Which, of course, must be balanced by the best meterologists Halliburton can buy.

But enough of balance.

More reality based facts for you, as real as the coliforms swimming 20 feet deep in the streets of New Orleans tonight, with reference citations, soon.

Homeland Insecurity

...The 2004 hurricane season, as you probably recall, was the worst in decades. In spite of that, the federal government came back this spring with the steepest reduction in hurricane- and flood-control funding for New Orleans in history. Because of the proposed cuts, the Corps office there imposed a hiring freeze. Officials said that money targeted for the SELA project -- $10.4 million, down from $36.5 million -- was not enough to start any new jobs. According to New Orleans CityBusiness this June 5:

The district has identified $35 million in projects to build and improve levees, floodwalls and pumping stations in St. Bernard, Orleans, Jefferson and St. Charles parishes. Those projects are included in a Corps line item called Lake Pontchartrain, where funding is scheduled to be cut from $5.7 million this year to $2.9 million in 2006. Naomi said it's enough to pay salaries but little else.

"We'll do some design work. We'll design the contracts and get them ready to go if we get the money. But we don't have the money to put the work in the field, and that's the problem," Naomi said.

There was, at the same time, a growing recognition that more research was needed to see what New Orleans must do to protect itself from a Category 4 or 5 hurricane. But once again, the money was not there. As the Times-Picayune reported last Sept. 22:

That second study would take about four years to complete and would cost about $4 million, said Army Corps of Engineers project manager Al Naomi. About $300,000 in federal money was proposed for the 2005 fiscal-year budget, and the state had agreed to match that amount.

But the cost of the Iraq war forced the Bush administration to order the New Orleans district office not to begin any new studies, and the 2005 budget no longer includes the needed money, he said.

The Senate was seeking to restore some of the SELA funding cuts for 2006. But now it's too late. One project that a contractor had been racing to finish this summer was a bridge and levee job right at the 17th Street Canal, site of the main breach. The levee failure appears to be causing a human tragedy of epic proportions:

"We probably have 80 percent of our city under water; with some sections of our city the water is as deep as 20 feet. Both airports are underwater," Mayor Ray Nagin told a radio interviewer.

Washington knew that this day could come at any time, and it knew the things that needed to be done to protect the citizens of New Orleans. But in the tradition of the riverboat gambler, the Bush administration decided to roll the dice on its fool's errand in Iraq, and on a tax cut that mainly benefitted the rich.

And now Bush has lost that gamble, big time. We hope that Congress will investigate what went wrong here.

The president told us that we needed to fight in Iraq to save lives here at home, and yet -- after moving billions of domestic dollars to the Persian Gulf -- there are bodies floating through the streets of Louisana. What does George W. Bush have to say for himself now?

Of course, it's not enough, whatever he says. You might also notice that despite a lot of Mission Accomplished talk, Bush has gutted the FEMA. Thank Hecate for the link.

Magical Thinking

Riggsveda at Corrente talks about Happy Talk for people who don't approve of those far-fetched notions in the media post-Katrina, and points to this piece by Jim Kuntsler.

Trust in Free Markets? Well, I have some real estate on the Gulf you might be interested in...

Trust in Free Markets? Sure. Show me one, first. Like the Halliburton bid for Iraqi "reconstruction", right? Like the Free Market respects people who try to keep it Free.

Kuntsler also has a good post on the 22nd about all that Happy Talk by Happy People in the media last week about the price of oil:

Delusional thinking about oil was everywhere in the media last week -- as thick as advertising. Early in the week, Yahoo Finance ran a story with a headline (I paraphrase): "DOW Up Fifty Points as Oil Prices Plunge." The plunge they referred to was oil going from $63.90 a barrel to $63.30. Some plunge. This was after five days of oil ratcheting up out of the high $50s. (It ended the week around $65.)

NPR's Marketplace show and a separate wire story piece on the web offered similar headlines (or lead-ins) which said (again I paraphrase) "US Economy No Longer Affected By Oil Prices." Of course, this is exactly the kind of magical thinking you'd expect to see in a public on extended leave from reality, despite the ubiquity of "reality television." The accepted idea is that since America outsourced most of its heavy industry to China and elsewhere, we now have an economy that runs just fine on Tic-tacs and Diet Pepsi, and oil is not in the picture anymore.

Wrong. America consumes one-quarter of the world's daily production of 84 million barrels of oil. More than half of our share is burned in cars and trucks. In fact, our economy now amounts to little more than running 200 million motor vehicles around the suburban metroplexes in the service of ever more slapped-together McHousing developments, big box stores, and fried chicken huts. That's our economy. That's all we do anymore.

The New York Times chimed in with a cover piece in its Sunday Magazine titled The Beginning of the End of Oil? by veteran journalist Peter Maas. It presented a story that has been around the Internet for more than a year, based on investment banker Matthew Simmons' frequent public speeches about the apparent weakness in the Saudi Arabian oil industry (which Simmons published in book form last month as Twilight in the Desert). Apparently the Times editors have been mulling over the oil story for months and months, wondering if there is anything to it, and perhaps the movement of oil prices into the $60-plus range finally prompted them to run with it.

Maas's article is full of howling omissions and delusions. For one thing, Maas omits any serious reflection of the consequences of a global energy crisis, any specters of geopolitical blowback, or potential problems for America's non-negotiable easy-motoring way of life. That omission grows out of the delusional assumption that some magical market mechanism will conjure up a menu of just-in-time replacements for the vanishing oil. These are referred to as "alternative technologies," a term that points to a more fundamental delusion now rampant among the public, namely the mistaken belief that technology and energy are the same thing, that they are interchangeable, that you can substitute one for the other. Out of oil? Get new technology.

Note to public: technology and energy are not the same things, and continuing to think that they are may place our civilization in jeopardy.

The bottom line of the Times Sunday Magazine article is that they are still not convinced that global peak oil is for real, or that we necessarily ought to be worried about it, with all that "alternative technology" banging around out there in the innovational ethers of the magical market. They bring a magisterial cluelessness to the issue -- while the back pages of the Magazine are devoted to hawking the glitziest high-end products of the suburban housing bubble.

Finally there was the Sunday Times' editorial, "Foolishness on Fuel," which was really about the editors own foolishness. It essayed to assert that America's oil problem was entirely a matter of vehicle fuel efficiency -- with the presumption that our problems would go away if only congress had the spine to mandate higher gas mileage figures from the car industry. The editorial completely failed to recognize that there was any problem with extreme automobile dependency itself, that maybe we should be making other arrangements -- say, walkable communities, or railroad service on par with what they have in Latvia, or local economies liberated from the despotism of WalMart.

This week's performance by the media on oil issues shows how America will dissemble its way into a dark era.

That's the idea, isn't it?

Monday, August 29, 2005

Phase Shift

With the tragedy unfolding in New Orleans today, the loss of life and pain we feel, and the subsequent blow the national economy is about to suffer, it is important to realize that beyond this act of nature there is a very human factor responsible for much of this disaster.

From the decision to place the Lousiana National Guard in Iraq doing a job they never intended to do, to the paralysis of the federal agencies involved in emergency management, to the de-emphasis of predictive atmospheric science that could call this event before it happened, to the rape of the Lousiana coast line ecology for countless oil adventures, to the poor planning that places one of the main oil portals of the United States in harm's way, to countless acts of thoughtless greed making this act of nature even more difficult to bear, there is largely the cult of Dear Leader to blame.

The real disaster is yet to come home to us.

Consider this map, of what the world was in the Late Cretaceous age, and what will be again if one or both of the poles melt.

Consider what this dislocation will mean in terms of human suffering.

I know it's a bit beyond the people of Bu$hCo to grasp. Surely, though, there is someone in the Company this might strike home with. If only in terms of the money they'll lose if the entire Midwest goes under water.

And let me assure the Beltway Kewl Kids: once there's a body of water separating you from the surviving Rocky Mountain states, you're going to have a very hard time keeping your States United.


When I fetch stories, you can be sure I fetch 'em far.

People get into "he said, she said" types of arguments about whether global warming is real, and what it means, and what are realistic endpoints, and if those endpoints are valid.

But let's look at a couple of facts:

First, a relief map of the United States, courtesy of your government.

Notice the three darkest shades of green are areas averaging 500 feet of elevation or less. Notice the lowest elevation, to 250 feet- it extends in the south all the way north to Paducah, Kentucky. The 500 foot line extends all the way north to Lake Michigan. If one or both poles melted, how far north would the Gulf extend? To Traverse City and the Sleeping Bear Dunes?

It's better than the Gulf now in August. Melt the glaciers and there goes the neighborhood...

Farfetched, eh?

As far as melting the caps goes, let's look at some data from NASA here.

Farfetched, eh?

Now, how fast would all this happen? Some look for appreciable change by 2099. Some not at all. Some paint a rosy picture of our ability to cope anyway. It's important to note these changes aren't monotonic, and may synergize with other environmental factors.

In life, I have found it best to be prepared for the worst.

Which is not farfetched at all.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

"The enemy is inside the wire."

Thanks to Truthout for the link:

... "I ask you, Mr Bush, if you believe that this war is for "Our Freedom" and "Our Values" why don't you send your daughters to fight for freedom," wrote Fernando Suarez del Solar recently, who lost his son in Iraq due to the lies of Mr. Bush.

He continued, "Why don't your closest associates send their children to defend these values? Why are the children of immigrant families dying? Why are children from working families who are the least privileged dying? Why Mr. Bush? Why?"

Of course Suarez del Solar knows the answer. It's a rhetorical question asked of a prep school punk who has never earned nor risked anything. A smirking dimwit, who has never truly served his country, let alone fellow human beings outside of his gangster corporate crony pals who inserted him into the highest office…twice.

Today he chooses to ignore the fire which is spreading across the US as he ignores the debacle in Iraq, where the US military must leave, will leave, but are unable to leave for fear of tarnishing what is left of the now sordid reputation of the US.

I get emails daily from sources throughout Iraq…both Iraqi and American. Even inside US bases in the newest colony things don't seem to be going so well, according to an American man who is working there as support.

"I don't know how much longer I can stand working for these idiots and their brothers' mothers' sisters' cousin," he wrote me recently, "They have acres of armored air conditioned trucks but won't pay to fix the alternators, so the drivers must use the worst of the equipment…no armor, no air conditioning…You know the heat here, now add the heat of an engine to that cab and throw in a few rockets, mortars, and IED's [roadside bombs] and it makes for a very bad day. I'm trying to expose the corruption of the Third Country National contractors by finding them a forum to send the truth. Prisoners, slaves, concubines. My life may be a contradiction, but I will not compromise with evil. The enemy is inside the wire."

Wars for empire don't change…and Iraq is the perfect example. Invading armies using slave labor (foreign in this case due to their deep distrust of Iraqis), taking advantage of those who lack privilege, the poor, minorities, to do the dirty work while the top 1% make more money than ever before.

And the pirates behind the US policy-making in Iraq have chosen, perhaps to their chagrin at this point, to disregard some of the latest history from a past occupation of Iraq.

During the previous British occupation of Iraq, the resistance began in Fallujah. As a response the British shelled half of that city to the ground, much like the US military did recently as part of their failed policy. (US soldiers are now dying in and near Fallujah again.)

It was said that if the British left Iraq civil war would ignite. Just as we are hearing today, even though state-sponsored civil war is in full swing, thanks to the occupiers.

The rule of the British Empire over Iraq went on for three decades before the Brits withdrew. Every year of that time found an uprising against the occupiers…and now less than three years into the failed US occupation, lesser uprisings occur daily.

Attacks on US forces in Iraq are now back up over 70 per day…we'll cross the 2,000 dead mark before too much longer, and things are about to get much, much worse. As Iraqis continue to say, "Today is better than tomorrow." The same goes for US troops there.

There is a reason why a relatively recent Army survey found that 54% of all soldiers in Iraq reported either "low" or "very low" morale.

There is also a reason why, again according to the Army, that 30% of all soldiers returning from Iraq develop mental health problems 3-4 months after their return.

And there is a reason why soldiers like Nicolas Prubyla come home and join organizations like Iraq Veterans Against the War.

"Up until five days ago, I had large amounts of blood in my stool," he told me recently, "I've felt tired all the time, I have had loss of hair…loss of the feeling in my right arm…

I'm battling this stuff."

What he is battling is exposure to uranium munitions in Iraq. He is battling radiation sickness as the result of the most recent nuclear war waged by the United States of America. There is a reason why over 11,000 veterans from the '91 Gulf War are dead today, and over 250,000 others are on medical disability. That reason (hundreds and hundreds of tons of uranium munitions dropped on Iraq) is the same thing Prubyla is battling today.

"As the years go on this is going to effect a hell of a lot more people than we think…radioactive dust and the clouds of smoke and dust from firing the DU [depleted uranium] is getting to us now," he said, "And I know I'm not the only person in my unit-my boss got diagnosed with cancer, one of my other buddies who is 23 years-old is getting rashes….every time I do more research on DU-I'm seeing that I have all the side effects."...

We have met the enemy, and he is us.

What does depleted uranium do to people? This topic was covered a bit here, but depleted uranium isn't only for Darth Rumsfeld's Hot Rods. It's used where ever you want superior armor penetration and furious secondary ignition. It's heavily used in Iraq by American forces.

And although it's not fissile and only "slightly" radioactive, its half-life is 4.5 billion years. It's radioactivity is played down as "not remarkable" by defense analysts, and though it has similar toxic effects to lead, these are again "not remarkable" because lead is more soluble.

All the experts would scoff at the assertion there is any correlation between chronic inhalation of uranium oxide dust and cancer.

All the experts seem to be more interested in agreement and not stirring the water than carefully examining the health effects of this (now) ubiquitous component of the Iraqi desert environment.

Care to get rid of your weeds with Agent Orange, anyone?

Any pharmacologist not being paid to say things by the D.o'D., and unconcerned with peer review, would say that uranium-238 accumulates in the body more than lead because it is less soluble.

We have met the enemy, and he is our own complacent self-justification.

Shell Game

When it comes to the War on Terra, the democratic party leadership knows the Republicans aren't acting from a logical basis.

They know the Republicans are using the war, as well as the energy issue, as a way to get fithy rich.

They like that money, too.

That's the real reason Biden, Clinton, Lieberman, and even Kerry support the Iraq war.

No reason to look for any other agenda than the almighty dollar, campaign and otherwise.

This polarizing statement, justifiably, gets challenged by Lambert at Corrente.

Let repeat and elaborate my response here.

Many of the Democrats, like Bush were supported by financial contributions of more than $2000/ donor. I doubt there are many cockroach people kicking in those kinds of bucks. Having lived that lifestyle in the cracks of society more than once, I know there is just too much else people living like that need to do with that kind of money.

You can pick it apart by industry: in 2004 big financial groups gave around $190 million to the republicans, but $140 million to the democrats. That's a lot of sugar, and powerful incentive to treat them nicely. And it's easy to make it look individual.

And check out exactly who's doing the giving. In 2004, it's no surprise the defense industries gave almost twice as much to the republicans as to the democrats. Still, chances are the democrats aren't sneezing at that $6 million.

But it may surprise you that people from the securities and finance industries, gave almost ten times as much, about $50 million, apiece to both parties.

And who's the world's biggest private finance and equity investment group?

Surf around Open Secrets, the source of these data, by industry. Admittedly, the DLC and the Clintonistas are far more intelligent at this kind of shell game than Bu$hCo. It's harder to pin down who exactly gives where, or (aside from the Senator from MBNA ) who's got which sugar daddy.

Yet even Biden can make it look like individual donors. Sort of. Still, there's no question he's more circumspect than Cheneyburton.

Consider this: at close to a trillion being sunk into the War on Terra, the approximately $2.1 billion raised for the 2004 election is paying off somebody at about 1000 to 1.

Pretty good return for the money.

I am not going to go all Naderite and tell you not to support the Democrats. In fact, the best long term odds for this country lay in the American public sending a heavily Democratic Congress back to Washington in 2006, impeaching George W. Bush, and sending most of Bu$hCo to prison for quite a long time for their crimes against the American people and against humanity.

I am saying that we have a long struggle ahead, no matter who wins. Because no matter who wins, those who can feed Big Money into the machine will expect a big return on their dollar. Even if we get rid of the feudal Dominionists, we're going to have problems, so it is wise to face up to them.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

But This Isn't Frivolous

A group representing California religious schools has filed a lawsuit accusing the University of California system of discriminating against high schools that teach creationism and other conservative Christian viewpoints.

The Association of Christian Schools International, which represents more than 800 schools, filed a federal lawsuit Thursday claiming UC admissions officials have refused to certify high school science courses that use textbooks challenging Darwin's theory of evolution...

If we're lucky, this will be slapped down. Creationism is religion, not science. No one has a gripe with religious schools teaching it in religion classes, but don't pretend it's fact, when it simply isn't.

Unfortunately, I don't think we'll be lucky. This is exactly the kind of lawsuit the Dominionists want to take all the way to the Supreme Court. Which, as we all know, has the best Justice money can buy.

Identity Crisis

Two Nations At War

There are two nations at war in America. One has its founding holiday on July 4th, in memory of the declaration, in Congress assembled of 13 United States. It is a nation that is often at odds with itself, contentious, pressing interest against interest, faction against faction - as it was meant to do, in order to preserve the freedoms of all from the tyranny of a passing majority.

The other nation is not America, and it has as its founding national holiday September 11th. For it is on that day that it was able to turn a bare majority in the House of Representatives, a questionable election for the Presidency, and a tie in the Senate, into an overwhelming mandate to remake the country. That effort centered around invading Iraq, and then demanding personal fealty to the military from all US citizens.

That attempt has failed, which is why this second nation now urges war against the constitution. As the core of support for the ill considered, and indeed illegal and unconstitutional policies pursued has grown weaker, the movement for this other nation has grown more naked in its hatred of the Bill of Rights...

We have reached a near complete reversal of the 1960's. In the 1960's the left was the source of the most extreme groups. To some extent there were social causes, including discrimination against African Americans, and a war which claimed as many dead in a month as Iraq has in 3 years. However, as importantly, the members of the extreme parts of the left, and here I speak of organizations such as the Red Brigade in Europe, did not recognize the value of civil society. This was echoed in rhetoric by others, and was used as a broad brush to paint all of the left.

For the last 20 years, the pendulum has swung in the other direction. It has not been the left which has advocated violence, but the right. There have been bombings against clinics, there have been militia movements, there was the Oklahoma city bombing, which is still the worst act of domestic terrorism in the United States since the Civil War.

The right has increasingly placed an eliminationist and liquidationist rhetoric at the center of its political stance.

To understand how far we have come, let me recount a story from 1992. I was working at the American Legion in San Francisco, at 2 am in the morning, a member called up and said "David Duke is a pig fucker. I want you to know that." Well, now someone who is as extreme as David Duke heads that organization, and has joined the select company of those who engage in ovine fornication...

Exactly how does the NeoKKKon nation declare war on the Constitution?

Stirling talks about that here:

Any means necessary

The delegates vowed to use whatever means necessary to "ensure the united backing of the American people to support our troops and the global war on terrorism."

If anyone has any doubt that events are spiralling out of control, this should squash them. The American Legion has declared war on American Freedoms, it is shameful, dangerous and hateful. Deciding policy is the right and duty of all Americans, and they will take it away from me when the pry it from my cold dead fingers. This is militarism - the danger that flows from standing armies, oft warned by the founders against them, we have seen necessity force on upon us. But it can never be allowed to threat violence against civilians, nor can it be allowed to become a political faction.

In the United States, the military exists to serve the public, and not the other way around. If members of the military cannot uphold their oath to protect and defend the constitution, then they should resign immediately. If the troops can't fight knowing the truth about an illegal war, then we should withdraw them.

That's what's necessary. Let's see if they have the balls to do it.

Personally I doubt it, I also doubt that any official has the courage to do what is right, and arrest Cadmus for agitating for violent suppression of others civil rights. We are coming dangerously close to civil violence, simply because no one has the courage to stop the far right purveyors of it.

The American Legion members now have the ball in their court, if the can't repudiate the extremist and unAmerican statements of Cadmus, they will have dishonoured a proud organization, and they will have show that they have forgotten what it is they fought for.

An American always has the right to dissent. If we cease to have that right, we cease to be Americans.

We will always have that right as human beings, but we may not always have a nation that grants those rights inalienable.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The AEI Delegate Rattles His Sabers

First, an update on the Plame affair from the Los Angeles Times, to remind you of the facts, thanks to Crooks and Liars for the link.

Second, an update on the swinging UN delegate most likely to have whispered secrets to Judith Miller while giving mustache rides, John Bolton.

Not only is Bolton pre emptively condemning the IAEA report clearing Iran of having weapons of mass destruction, he's doing his best to trash the UN for his Big Time boss.

Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Fuhrer!

What with the national head of the American Legion calling for its members to halt protests against the war in Iraq "by any means necessary", the increasingly fervent calls of Dear Leader for action, and Ayatollah Robertson issuing fatwahs against heads of states with oil and leftist tendencies, it probably isn't a wise time to point out that, unlike what Dear Leader says, the new Iraqi Constitution gives women only slightly more rights than camels, and that many women in Iraq that supported the War against Saddam are, well, bugging out.

Not that I blame them.

Nor would I want to give encouragement to the enemy.

Dear Leader does that all on his own quite nicely.

The Fourth Dimension, or Why Size Matters

Grasping the Depth of Time as a First Step in Understanding Evolution
By Verlyn Klinkenborg

Last month a team of paleontologists announced that it had found several fossilized dinosaur embryos that were 190 million years old - some 90 million years older than any dinosaur embryos found so far. Those kinds of numbers are always a little daunting. Ever since I was a boy in a public elementary school in Iowa, I've been learning to face the eons and eons that are embedded in the universe around us.

I know the numbers as they stand at present, and I know what they mean, in a roughly comparative way. The universe is perhaps 14 billion years old. Earth is some 4.5 billion years old. The oldest hominid fossils are between 6 million and 7 million years old. The oldest distinctly modern human fossils are about 160,000 years old.

The truth of these numbers has the same effect on me as watching the night sky in the high desert. It fills me with a sense of nonspecific immensity. I don't think I'm alone in this.

One of the most powerful limits to the human imagination is our inability to grasp, in a truly intuitive way, the depths of terrestrial and cosmological time. That inability is hardly surprising because our own lives are so very short in comparison. It's hard enough to come to terms with the brief scale of human history. But the difficulty of comprehending what time is on an evolutionary scale, I think, is a major impediment to understanding evolution.

It's been approximately 3.5 billion years since primeval life first originated on this planet. That is not an unimaginable number in itself, if you're thinking of simple, discrete units like dollars or grains of sand. But 3.5 billion years of biological history is different. All those years have really passed, moment by moment, one by one. They encompass an actual, already lived reality, encompassing all the lives of all the organisms that have come and gone in that time. That expanse of time defines the realm of biological possibility in which life in its extraordinary diversity has evolved. It is time that has allowed the making of us.

The idea of such quantities of time is extremely new. Humans began to understand the true scale of geological time in the early 19th century. The probable depth of cosmological time and the extent of the history of the human species have come to light only within our own lifetimes.

That is a lot to absorb and, not surprisingly, many people refuse to absorb it. Nearly every attack on evolution - whether it is called intelligent design or plain creationism, synonyms for the same faith-based rejection of evolution - ultimately requires a foreshortening of cosmological, geological and biological time.

Humans feel much more content imagining a world of more human proportions, with a shorter time scale and a simple narrative sense of cause and effect. But what we prefer to believe makes no difference. The fact that life on Earth has arrived at a point where it is possible for humans to have beliefs is due to the steady ticking away of eons and the trial and error of natural selection.

Evolution is a robust theory, in the scientific sense, that has been tested and confirmed again and again. Intelligent design is not a theory at all, as scientists understand the word, but a well-financed political and religious campaign to muddy science. Its basic proposition - the intervention of a designer, a k a God - cannot be tested. It has no evidence to offer, and its assumptions that humans were divinely created are the same as its conclusions. Its objections to evolution are based on syllogistic reasoning and a highly selective treatment of the physical evidence.

Accepting the fact of evolution does not necessarily mean discarding a personal faith in God. But accepting intelligent design means discarding science. Much has been made of a 2004 poll showing that some 45 percent of Americans believe that the Earth - and humans with it - was created as described in the book of Genesis, and within the past 10,000 years. This isn't a triumph of faith. It's a failure of education.

The purpose of the campaign for intelligent design is to deepen that failure. To present the arguments of intelligent design as part of a debate over evolution is nonsense. From the scientific perspective, there is no debate. But even the illusion of a debate is a sorry victory for antievolutionists, a public relations victory based, as so many have been in recent years, on ignorance and obfuscation.

The essential, but often well-disguised, purpose of intelligent design, is to preserve the myth of a separate, divine creation for humans in the belief that only that can explain who we are. But there is a destructive hubris, a fearful arrogance, in that myth. It sets us apart from nature, except to dominate it. It misses both the grace and the moral depth of knowing that humans have only the same stake, the same right, in the Earth as every other creature that has ever lived here. There is a righteousness - a responsibility - in the deep, ancestral origins we share with all of life.

The Universe has been around long enough for our Sun to form, age, explode, re-congeal and form the current planets, and for us to evolve.

That's a long time.

No human has the hardware, software, and "wetware" to accurately visualize this, we can only model it in our minds.

To imagine we are the apple of some hairy thunderer or cosmic muffin's eye is sheer delusion and mythological obsession based on a model of the universe formed in ignorance and superstition to please a medieval theocracy.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

As Cheney Preps Another Langley Visit to Get His War On

No Proof Found of Iran Arms Program
Uranium Traced to Pakistani Equipment
By Dafna Linzer

Traces of bomb-grade uranium found two years ago in Iran came from contaminated Pakistani equipment and are not evidence of a clandestine nuclear weapons program, a group of U.S. government experts and other international scientists has determined.

"The biggest smoking gun that everyone was waving is now eliminated with these conclusions," said a senior official who discussed the still-confidential findings on the condition of anonymity.

Scientists from the United States, France, Japan, Britain and Russia met in secret during the past nine months to pore over data collected by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, according to U.S. and foreign officials. Recently, the group, whose existence had not been previously reported, definitively matched samples of the highly enriched uranium -- a key ingredient for a nuclear weapon -- with centrifuge equipment turned over by the government of Pakistan.

Iran has long contended that the uranium traces were the result of contaminated equipment bought years ago from Pakistan. But the Bush administration had pointed to the material as evidence that Iran was making bomb-grade ingredients...

U.S. officials have privately acknowledged for months that they were losing confidence that the uranium traces would turn out to be evidence of a nuclear weapons program. A recent U.S. intelligence estimate found that Iran is further away from making bomb-grade uranium than previously thought, according to U.S. officials...

U.S. officials, eager to move the Iran issue to the U.N. Security Council -- which has the authority to impose sanctions -- have begun a new round of briefings for allies designed to convince them that Iran's real intention is to use its energy program as a cover for bomb building. The briefings will focus on the White House's belief that a country with as much oil as Iran would not need an energy program on the scale it is planning, according to two officials...

Unless, of course, they had enough foresight to realize the oil wouldn't last forever.

Iran built its nuclear program in secret over 18 years with the help of Abdul Qadeer Khan, a top Pakistani official and nuclear scientist who sold spare parts from his country's own weapons program to Iran, Libya and North Korea. Khan's black-market dealings were uncovered in 2003. He confessed on national television, was swiftly pardoned by Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, and is now under house arrest.

Pakistan has denied IAEA inspectors access to Khan and to the country's nuclear facilities, but earlier this year it agreed to share data and some equipment with the inspectors to expedite the Iran investigation. Among the equipment were discarded centrifuge parts that match those Khan sold to Iran.

John R. Bolton, now U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, served as the administration's point man on nuclear issuesduring President Bush's first term. He suggested during congressional testimony in June 2004 that the Iranians were lying about the contamination.

"Another unmistakable indicator of Iran's intentions is the pattern of repeatedly lying to and providing false and incomplete reports to the IAEA," Bolton said. "For example, Iran first denied it had enriched any uranium. Then it said it had not enriched uranium more than 1.2 percent. Later, when evidence of uranium enriched to 36 percent was found, it attributed this to contamination from imported centrifuge parts..."

Bolton has evidently exaggerated, since this uranium contaminated the centrifuge before the Iranians purchased it. Since enriched uranium is depleted of other elements, a trace sample from the centrifuge should have a certain degree of isotopic purity. In fact, the level of uranium decay products in the sample tells you precisely when the centrifuge was last used to purify uranium. Apparently the data show that the centrifuge hasn't been used for the purpose Bolton suggests.

In the meantime, European officials convened an IAEA board meeting two weeks ago to discuss Iran's actions and sought a new report for this week on its program. But the report was pushed back to Sept. 3 so that the group of scientists, including officials from the Energy Department, could meet one last time to draft an account of its findings, according to U.S. and European officials.

The IAEA had put together the group of experts in an effort to foster cooperation but also to eliminate the possibility that its findings would be challenged by the White House, officials said. In the run-up to the Iraq invasion in March 2003, the White House rejected IAEA findings that cast doubt on U.S. assertions about then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's arsenal. The IAEA findings turned out to be correct, and no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq.

The Poodle Gets Offered a Ring of Power

Via Truthout:

...He's eyeing up £250K job with arms trade link firm.

Tony Blair is expected to join one of the most exclusive groups of businessmen in the world after he leaves Downing Street.

The PM is being lined up for a highly lucrative position with the Carlyle Group - an American-based investment giant with strong links to the White House and the defense industry.

The firm has been nicknamed "The Ex-Presidents Club" because it has had a host of former world leaders on its books including George Bush Senior, his former secretary of state James Baker and former British PM John Major. There a also a large number of former US Army top brass.

Mr. Blair has been keeping quiet about his plans after his departure from Number 10 - which could be as early as 2007 according to some Labour insiders.

But sources in the City have revealed that he is "seriously considering" a high-profile role with Carlyle - which manages $30billion (£20million) of investments worldwide.

The job could net Mr. Blair up to £500,000 a year for only a few days work a month giving speeches and making "networking" trips on behalf of the company.

The move comes after it emerged that the premier's financial affairs are in an increasingly perilous state His dream home has crashed in value by £700,000 in just seven months and he and Cherie have to find £13,000 a month for the mortgage.

The £3million loan the couple took out to buy the house in London's Connaught Square is 17 times Mr. Blair's current salary...

It probably takes some skills to stay in the saddle.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

They Didn't Used to Be a One Trick Pony

Defense Tech notes DARPA has evolved an unconventional attitude about what will make the United States military independent of petroleum.

Robots and plasma weapons, of course. And broadcast energy. Of course.

"...universal connectivity will allow commanders to track individual soldiers and robots as well as logistics system status and readiness,” the summary [of a February Darpa energy workshop] states. These capabilities, coupled with advanced modeling and simulation tools, will allow commanders to rapidly explore and exploit warfighting options, which in the end translates into shorter execution time lines and reduced energy requirements."

Darpa-ites also saw drones as a potential boost to oil alternatives.

"Using more unmanned systems will save energy because they will be smaller and lighter than manned systems that require armor, the summary states. Plus, robots and other unmanned systems “will allow reduction of the number of combat soldiers needed to accomplish the mission, further contributing to reduced energy requirements.”

Electricity will one day be the big replacement for oil, the Darpa conferees believe. And "since electricity can be generated from a variety of sources, it may be possible in 30 years to avoid having to rely on energy and fuel imported into a battlespace," Inside Defense notes.

The military would also need portable generators and "'ultra-high-capacity' electric storage devices to support directed-energy weapons and other 'futuristic gun systems' that require massive amounts of energy in short bursts."

But those ray guns shouldn't be wired up to the generators. The energy should be beamed through the air, instead. "This technology will be valuable because power lines are highly vulnerable to sabotage," the Darpa summary observes. Of course they are.

Yes, indeed, we are running out of fossil fuels, so the solution?

Better robots and ray guns, of course.

Of course, this is now. Prior to 2001 (you know- back when DARPA and Al Gore were busy inventing the internet), DARPA had a rather more forward view of alternative energy called Energy Harvesting:


The objective of this program was to develop energy storage and conversion components capable of harvesting energy from ambient sources (e.g., solar, wind, thermal, wave-action, currents [streams, rivers, deep ocean], chemical and thermal gradients, barometric fluctuations, biological, electromagnetic radiation, and human activities), and integrate those components with power delivery systems to increase the endurance by a factor of 10 over conventional systems.


Technologies that can harvest energy from environmental sources can significantly reduce or eliminate battery requirements. For low-power levels, place and forget sensors are feasible, as they will operate indefinitely. This will eliminate the need for battery replacement in highly dangerous or sensitive areas.
For the soldier, energy harvesting technology can be integrated with electronic components, reducing pack weight and increasing the total energy available, and therefore mission endurance.

Program Approach

Major thrusts include mechanical to electrical conversion via ocean currents, wave, heel strike and pack motion by using piezoelectric and electrostrictive materials; thermal to electric conversion at ground-air and ocean-air interfaces by using thermoelectric materials; harvesting energy from chemical gradients in ocean sediments; and exploring naturally occurring fuels (e.g., cellulose and sugars) as a source of hydrogen for small fuel cells. As the energy content is low for these processes, it is critical to integrate harvesting technology with the total power system and match the duty cycle of the application so that losses are minimized.

Major Accomplishments

The following major accomplishments have been achieved for this program, which spanned from FY97 to FY01:

* Achieved the highest specific energy density for a field-activated electroactive polymer and incorporated it into a boot that harvests 300 mW from walking (previous heel strike technology was 1 mW). One watt or greater per boot is achievable using this technology.

* Established the proof of principal for a new generation of nuclear batteries using icosahedral borides.

* Developed an implantable biofuel cell that operates on blood glucose and oxygen.

* Developed and deployed a benthic fuel cell that harvests energy from marine sediments.

* Established the basis for ATP-fueled biomolecular motor devices by integrating individual biomolecular motors with nanostructures and evaluating their mechanical properties.

That was then. So what happened to all these great ideas?

Darth Rumsfeld.

The Art of the Deal

So what makes the attempted Chinese acquisition of Unocal different from its bid for PetroKazakhstan?

The acquisitian of Unocal was portrayed as a national security threat to the United States:

Since the Chinese state-owned oil company CNOOC Ltd. offered to buy oil and gas company Unocal Corp. on Thursday, various news sources have been examining whether or not the deal would threaten US national security. "Congress was building pressure on the Bush administration to carefully examine the bid by CNOOC, which is 70 percent owned by the Chinese government," reports The Associated Press.

"Chinese bid for Unocal adds fuel to fire," reads a headline from Sunday's Washington Post.

In a report on National Public Radio's Morning Edition, Republican Illinois Congressman Donald Manzullo says he worries that the Chinese bid to buy Unocal could mean that China would keep the company's vast Asian oil reserves for itself, and not put the oil on the open market, thereby giving China an economic 'leg up.'

"The Unocal issue arises at a time of record oil prices, unease over China's $160 billion trade surplus with the United States and an appetite in Congress to punish China with tariffs unless it revalues its currency," reports Reuters.

"From the dusty plains of East Africa to the shores of the Caspian Sea, China is seeking to loosen the grip of the United States on world energy resources and secure the fuel it needs to keep its economy in overdrive," reports The New York Times...

Yet a similar deal for similar holdings in Afghanistan's neighber Kazakhstan doesn't raise a ripple of alarm?

Could it be because Kazakhstan is more strongly influenced by Russia than Afghanistan?

Or is it more because Unocal was the apple of Chevron's eye and both were under the financial umbrella of the Carlyle Group? And all historically heavily involved with Bush family finances and the War?

On the other hand, the Kazakhstan deal uses Carlyle-affiliated advisors on both sides of the fence:

Citigroup advised China National Petroleum on the deal while Goldman Sachs advised PetroKazakhstan. Citigroup has agreed to provide the Chinese company with a letter of credit for the entire value of the deal; the state-owned Chinese oil company will not borrow any money from other Chinese government agencies.

It's good to keep it all in the Family.

Anger is the Path to the Dark Side

To paraphrase what Master Yoda says, Once You've Had Black, You Never Go Back.

So just to keep everything on the side of goodness and light, Lambert at Corrente has compiled and is continuously compiling a list of things not to hate about the Bu$hCo Group and what they've done to the Republic.

Check it out.

So much to keep us on the Path to Enlightenment.

Monday, August 22, 2005

No Return to a Simplicity that Never Was

The end of cheap energy will not lead to some post-industrial Green world, where people contentedly live with what they make off the land.

Pre-industrial life was not serene and bucolic.

Human nature being what it is, if most can not afford luxury, the many will viciously fight for the perks of the elite.

A better example, according to David Morse, of what is in store if we do not develop efficient energy alternatives now may be found in the conflagrations developing in Africa.

A war of the future is being waged right now in the sprawling desert region of northeastern Africa known as Sudan. The weapons themselves are not futuristic. None of the ray-guns, force-fields, or robotic storm troopers that are the stuff of science fiction; nor, for that matter, the satellite-guided Predator drones or other high-tech weapon systems at the cutting edge of today's arsenal.

No, this war is being fought with Kalashnikovs, clubs and knives. In the western region of Sudan known as Darfur, the preferred tactics are burning and pillaging, castration and rape -- carried out by Arab militias riding on camels and horses. The most sophisticated technologies deployed are, on the one hand, the helicopters used by the Sudanese government to support the militias when they attack black African villages, and on the other hand, quite a different weapon: the seismographs used by foreign oil companies to map oil deposits hundreds of feet below the surface.

This is what makes it a war of the future: not the slick PowerPoint presentations you can imagine in boardrooms in Dallas and Beijing showing proven reserves in one color, estimated reserves in another, vast subterranean puddles that stretch west into Chad, and south to Nigeria and Uganda; not the technology; just the simple fact of the oil.

This is a resource war, fought by surrogates, involving great powers whose economies are predicated on growth, contending for a finite pool of resources. It is a war straight out of the pages of Michael Klare's book, Blood and Oil; and it would be a glaring example of the consequences of our addiction to oil, if it were not also an invisible war.


Invisible because it is happening in Africa. Invisible because our mainstream media are subsidized by the petroleum industry. Think of all the car ads you see on television, in newspapers and magazines. Think of the narcissism implicit in our automobile culture, our suburban sprawl, our obsessive focus on the rich and famous, the giddy assumption that all this can continue indefinitely when we know it can't -- and you see why Darfur slips into darkness. And Darfur is only the tip of the sprawling, scarred state known as Sudan. Nicholas Kristof pointed out in a New York Times column that ABC News had a total of 18 minutes of Darfur coverage in its nightly newscasts all last year, and that was to the credit of Peter Jennings; NBC had only 5 minutes, CBS only 3 minutes. This is, of course, a micro-fraction of the time devoted to Michael Jackson.

Why is it, I wonder, that when a genocide takes place in Africa, our attention is always riveted on some black American miscreant superstar? During the genocide in Rwanda ten years ago, when 800,000 Tutsis were slaughtered in 100 days, it was the trial of O.J. Simpson that had our attention.

Yes, racism enters into our refusal to even try to understand Africa, let alone value African lives. And yes, surely we're witnessing the kind of denial that Samantha Power documents in A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide; the sheer difficulty we have acknowledging genocide. Once we acknowledge it, she observes, we pay lip-service to humanitarian ideals, but stand idly by. And yes, turmoil in Africa may evoke our experience in Somalia, with its graphic images of American soldiers being dragged through the streets by their heels. But all of this is trumped, I believe, by something just as deep: an unwritten conspiracy of silence that prevents the media from making the connections that would threaten our petroleum-dependent lifestyle, that would lead us to acknowledge the fact that the industrial world's addiction to oil is laying waste to Africa.

When Darfur does occasionally make the news -- photographs of burned villages, charred corpses, malnourished children -- it is presented without context. In truth, Darfur is part of a broader oil-driven crisis in northern Africa. An estimated 300 to 400 Darfurians are dying every day. Yet the message from our media is that we Americans are "helpless" to prevent this humanitarian tragedy, even as we gas up our SUVs with these people's lives.

Even Kristof -- whose efforts as a mainstream journalist to keep Darfur in the spotlight are worthy of a Pulitzer -- fails to make the connection to oil; and yet oil was the driving force behind Sudan's civil war. Oil is driving the genocide in Darfur. Oil drives the Bush administration's policy toward Sudan and the rest of Africa. And oil is likely to topple Sudan and its neighbors into chaos...

This is worth reading, and considering that most of the violence between nations in the world today could be remedied if fossil fuels were no longer a limiting factor for economic development.

Like MaxSpeak says (thanks to Atrios for the link)

Do markets really solve all problems? Most problems? Nothing ever goes wrong? I guess it depends on how you define "wrong." For instance, Amartya Sen wrote a book about poverty and famines which describes how markets solved the problems of people having no money to buy food: they die of starvation, the ultimate steady state.

If oil runs out, sure there will be substitutes. How fast will these come online, if they do? How much will they cost? What will be the costs of adjustment? Will that be fun? Who knows? Markets solve problems. Solutions do not exclude freezing in the dark, a new kind of equilbrium.

Nobody should be let loose in the wild with a Ph.D. in economics unless they've been required to take three or four courses in history, preferably taught by non-economists.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Running on Empty and Unwilling to Admit It

From the same flat earth people that give you "controversy" where none really exists regarding evolution we have this gem of "he said vs. she said" reporting on the Hubbert oil production curve in the Sunday Magazine:

This demand-driven scarcity has prompted the emergence of a cottage industry of experts who predict an impending crisis that will dwarf anything seen before. Their point is not that we are running out of oil, per se; although as much as half of the world's recoverable reserves are estimated to have been consumed, about a trillion barrels remain underground. Rather, they are concerned with what is called ''capacity'' -- the amount of oil that can be pumped to the surface on a daily basis. These experts -- still a minority in the oil world -- contend that because of the peculiarities of geology and the limits of modern technology, it will soon be impossible for the world's reservoirs to surrender enough oil to meet daily demand.

One of the starkest warnings came in a February report commissioned by the United States Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory. ''Because oil prices have been relatively high for the past decade, oil companies have conducted extensive exploration over that period, but their results have been disappointing,'' stated the report, assembled by Science Applications International, a research company that works on security and energy issues. ''If recent trends hold, there is little reason to expect that exploration success will dramatically improve in the future. . . . The image is one of a world moving from a long period in which reserves additions were much greater than consumption to an era in which annual additions are falling increasingly short of annual consumption. This is but one of a number of trends that suggest the world is fast approaching the inevitable peaking of conventional world oil production.''

The reference to ''peaking'' is not a haphazard word choice -- ''peaking'' is a term used in oil geology to define the critical point at which reservoirs can no longer produce increasing amounts of oil. (This tends to happen when reservoirs are about half-empty.) ''Peak oil'' is the point at which maximum production is reached; afterward, no matter how many wells are drilled in a country, production begins to decline. Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members may have enough oil to last for generations, but that is no longer the issue. The eventual and painful shift to different sources of energy -- the start of the post-oil age -- does not begin when the last drop of oil is sucked from under the Arabian desert. It begins when producers are unable to continue increasing their output to meet rising demand. Crunch time comes long before the last drop.

''The world has never faced a problem like this,'' the report for the Energy Department concluded. ''Without massive mitigation more than a decade before the fact, the problem will be pervasive and will not be temporary. Previous energy transitions (wood to coal and coal to oil) were gradual and evolutionary; oil peaking will be abrupt and revolutionary.''

Most experts do not share Simmons's concerns about the imminence of peak oil. One of the industry's most prominent consultants, Daniel Yergin, author of a Pulitzer Prize-winning book about petroleum, dismisses the doomsday visions. ''This is not the first time that the world has 'run out of oil,''' he wrote in a recent Washington Post opinion essay. ''It's more like the fifth. Cycles of shortage and surplus characterize the entire history of the oil industry.'' Yergin says that a number of oil projects that are under construction will increase the supply by 20 percent in five years and that technological advances will increase the amount of oil that can be recovered from existing reservoirs...

...One diplomat I spoke to recalled a comment from Sheik Ahmed Zaki Yamani, the larger-than-life Saudi oil minister during the 1970's: ''The Stone Age didn't end for lack of stone, and the oil age will end long before the world runs out of oil.''...

And damn the torpedos and those nattering nabobs of negativism indeed.

But it does end more or less on the correct note:

...The most worrisome part of the crisis ahead revolves around a set of statistics from the Energy Information Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Energy. The E.I.A. forecast in 2004 that by 2020 Saudi Arabia would produce 18.2 million barrels of oil a day, and that by 2025 it would produce 22.5 million barrels a day. Those estimates were unusual, though. They were not based on secret information about Saudi capacity, but on the projected needs of energy consumers. The figures simply assumed that Saudi Arabia would be able to produce whatever the United States needed it to produce. Just last month, the E.I.A. suddenly revised those figures downward -- not because of startling new information about world demand or Saudi supply but because the figures had given so much ammunition to critics. Husseini, for example, described the 2004 forecast as unrealistic.

''That's not how you would manage a national, let alone an international, economy,'' he explained. ''That's the part that is scary. You draw some assumptions and then say, 'O.K., based on these assumptions, let's go forward and consume like hell and burn like hell.''' When I asked whether the kingdom could produce 20 million barrels a day -- about twice what it is producing today from fields that may be past their prime -- Husseini paused for a second or two. It wasn't clear if he was taking a moment to figure out the answer or if he needed a moment to decide if he should utter it. He finally replied with a single word: No.

''It's becoming unrealistic,'' he said. ''The expectations are beyond what is achievable. This is a global problem . . . that is not going to be solved by tinkering with the Saudi industry.''

It would be unfair to blame the Saudis alone for failing to warn of whatever shortages or catastrophes might lie ahead.

In the political and corporate realms of the oil world, there are few incentives to be forthright. Executives of major oil companies have been reluctant to raise alarms; the mere mention of scarce supplies could alienate the governments that hand out lucrative exploration contracts and also send a message to investors that oil companies, though wildly profitable at the moment, have a Malthusian long-term future. Fortunately, that attitude seems to be beginning to change. Chevron's ''easy oil is over'' advertising campaign is an indication that even the boosters of an oil-drenched future are not as bullish as they once were.

Politicians remain in the dark. During the 2004 presidential campaign, which occurred as gas prices were rising to record levels, the debate on energy policy was all but nonexistent. The Bush campaign produced an advertisement that concluded: ''Some people have wacky ideas. Like taxing gasoline more so people drive less. That's John Kerry.'' Although many environmentalists would have been delighted if Kerry had proposed that during the campaign, in fact the ad was referring to a 50-cents-a-gallon tax that Kerry supported 11 years ago as part of a package of measures to reduce the deficit. (The gas tax never made it to a vote in the Senate.) Kerry made no mention of taxing gasoline during the campaign; his proposal for doing something about high gas prices was to pressure OPEC to increase supplies.

Husseini, for one, doesn't buy that approach. ''Everybody is looking at the producers to pull the chestnuts out of the fire, as if it's our job to fix everybody's problems,'' he told me. ''It's not our problem to tell a democratically elected government that you have to do something about your runaway consumers. If your government can't do the job, you can't expect other governments to do it for them.'' Back in the 70's, President Carter called for the moral equivalent of war to reduce our dependence on foreign oil; he was not re-elected. Since then, few politicians have spoken of an energy crisis or suggested that major policy changes are necessary to avert one. The energy bill signed earlier this month by President Bush did not even raise fuel-efficiency standards for passenger cars. When a crisis comes -- whether in a year or 2 or 10 -- it will be all the more painful because we will have done little or nothing to prepare for it.

Since the Carlyle people took over, there seem to be two classes of writers at The New York Pravda.

You have the outright Republican plants like Judith Miller and the witless parrots of the party line like Jodi Wilgoren.

Then you have the more traditional (for the Times ) people doing reality-based reporting, like Peter Maas. But they equivocate, perhaps to please their masters. It's only the big names with large readerships like Krugman, Herbert, or Dowd that can call it the way they see it.

And yes, if viable alternative energy sources are developed too soon, all that desert becomes only so much sand, and the House of Saud a backwater the wave of technological and social progress will never reach.

The Battle for America

Has Begun.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Active Denial

More people are starting to notice the new toys Darth Rumsfeld has in store for all of us.

Here are facts- but they're presented a little oddly:

A tough-talking Texan named Edward Hammond has to be a key element of any accurate study of the spooky history of what the military calls the "Active Denial System."

The head of The Sunshine Project, a Texas-based group opposing biological weapons, Hammond shows his disdain for military excesses through swear words and federal disclosure suits that seek to lift a window on military science projects. Two times now, he says, Marine Corp staff handling his Freedom of Information Act claims have mailed him the wrong envelope, mistakenly sending him materials meant for another military office, envelopes that contained classified information...

Obviously these people never visit places like Defense Tech or the DARPA websites, where you can download all you want to know about exotic science toys for free.

Some people should get out more often.

The Secrets of 'Active Denial'

The Active Denial System is a Pentagon-funded, $51 million crowd control device that rides atop a Humvee, looks like a TV dish, and shoots energy waves 1/64 of an inch deep into human skin. It dispenses brief but intolerable bursts of pain, sending bad guys fleeing but supposedly leaving no lasting damage. (During a Pentagon press briefing in 2001, this reporter felt a zap from an ADS prototype on his fingertip and can attest to the brief but fleeting sensation that a hot light bulb was pressing against the skin). ADS works outside the range of small arms fire.

After a decade-long development cycle, the ADS is field ready but not free of controversy. Military leaders, as noted in a recent USA Today article, say it will save lives by helping U.S. troops avoid bombs and bullets in urban zones where insurgents mix with civilians. Temporary pain beats bullets and bombs, but Edward Hammond's files have rekindled scientific questions about how the classified system works, what it does to the body and how it will be used in the streets of Basra or Baghdad or, one day, Boston...

Don't you love secrets that get buried in USA Today? Sorry, my snark is showing. Let us continue, for there are some interesting links.

But caution: some link to Department of Justice Homeland Security sites that imbed cookies in your machine and record your email address without providing information about anything. Look before you follow links.

There is this fun link, though, that goes to a .pdf on biological effects of this microwave weapon... except if you follow it you get a .mil site with Page Not Found, cookies, and tagged:

the majority if not all literature detailing research on the bioeffects of the weapons' specific wavelength (95 gigahertz) appears to have been conducted by researchers linked to the Pentagon's weapon development program. In an ADS fact sheet ( that's the bum link- follow it to no information and get 'scoped by .mil software ) , the Air Force says a panel of non-governmental scientists and medical experts reviewed bio-effects tests on humans. When asked for the names of those experts, a press official at the Air Force Research Laboratory's Human Effectiveness Directorate at Brooks City Base, Texas, said experts were not immediately available to answer. The Air Force's Garcia said he knows of no independent research. A Marine Corp spokesman said the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate, the military organization in charge of ADS, is "unaware of any release of classified documents or information relating to Active Denial System."

Sure. Just ask Raytheon... or better yet, since they've also purged their websites, go straight to the .gov Department of Energy lab website fluffpiece bragging about how they tested it for Raytheon.

Team investigates Active Denial System for security applications
Millimeter-wave device puts the ‘heat’ on adversaries

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A multi-organizational team is adapting for DOE use a technology that can help keep security adversaries out of DOE sites that contain nuclear assets.

The DOE Office of Security and Safety Performance Assurance (SSA) is exploring the potential to use directed energy weapons technology sponsored by the Department of Defense (DoD), named Active Denial Technology (ADT), to help protect DOE nuclear assets.

SSA is sponsoring Sandia National Laboratories, a National Nuclear Security Administration lab, to investigate how the technology can be used on adversaries by developing a new small-sized Active Denial System (ADS) to meet the unique and rapidly evolving security needs of DOE.

To help solve the many technical issues associated with this challenge, Sandia has partnered with Raytheon and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), because both organizations have significant experience with earlier ADS system developments.

ADS systems are a new class of nonlethal weaponry using 95 GHz-millimeter-wave directed energy. This technology is capable of rapidly heating a person’s skin to achieve a pain threshold that has been demonstrated by AFRL human subject testing to be very effective at repelling people, without burning the skin or causing other secondary effects.

The device is an alternative to lethal force.

In the mid 1990s the Air Force funded development of an ADT system demonstrator that was led by AFRL and built by Raytheon in partnership with Communications & Power Inc. (CPI) and Malibu Research. The success of this demonstration system has resulted in several ongoing DoD-sponsored projects, such as the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate’s Vehicle Mounted Active Denial System (VMADS) and the Office of Force Transformation’s (OFT’s) project SHERIFF.

Steve Scott, manager of Sandia’s Access Delay Technology Department, says, “DOE and Sandia have been closely tracking ADT developments and have recognized its potential to enhance the protection of DOE nuclear facilities. This has been confirmed by conducting a feasibility study in 2002, under the supervision of researcher Jim Pacheco.”

Acting on the feasibility study’s conclusions, SSA’s Carl Pocratsky (SO-20) initiated an effort at Sandia to explore and develop a small Active Denial System (ADS) that is more suitable for DOE fixed-site applications. To date, DoD efforts have focused on larger systems, considered by many to be better suited for military applications at extended ranges.

In 2004, the AFRL’s Human Effectiveness Directorate (HEDR) completed a study that analyzed pre-existing test data to estimate the potential effectiveness of an ADS that has a smaller beam. Also in 2004, Sandia conducted simulations of how the smaller ADS might be used and how it would perform against adversary attack scenarios within a DOE facility using the Joint Conflict and Tactical Simulation (JCATS) software modeling tool.

“The results of the AFRL small beam ADS effectiveness study and the JCATS study were very encouraging and provided a strong basis for continuing the development of a comparitively small ADS for DOE fixed-site applications,” says Pacheco.

“Recently there has been significant progress with this project,” says Willy Morse, Sandia’s principal investigator. “On May 5 we took acceptance of the SSA ADS prototype system built by Raytheon’s Advanced Electromagnetic Technologies (AET) Center in partnership with CPI and Malibu Research. Initial characterization and performance tests were completed at the end of May.”

On May 19 a memorandum of understanding was completed between DOE-SSA, Sandia, DoD-OFT, and AFRL. This memorandum establishes a formal partnership between the DoD and DOE in developing small-sized ADSs. During the next six months the AFRL’s Human Effectiveness Directorate, Brooks City-Base, is being funded by the OFT to complete human effects testing. This testing will use the SSA ADS system to determine its effectiveness for DOD applications and validate the conclusions of the 2004 small-beam-size effectiveness study sponsored by SSA.

Testing results from Sandia, AFRL, and OFT will guide the operational concept and design of a second-generation small-size ADS system expected to be fielded at several DOE nuclear facilities as early as 2008. DOE-SSA and Sandia will continue to actively seek opportunities to collaborate with other government agencies on technical issues associated with developing and deploying ADS systems.

System uses beam of electromagnetic energy to heat human
Active Denial Technology (ADT) provides an effective nonlethal active-response mechanism to disperse, disturb, distract, and establish the intent of intruders.

ADT emits a 95 GHz non-ionizing electromagnetic beam of energy that penetrates approximately 1/64 of an inch into human skin tissue, where nerve receptors are concentrated. Within seconds, the beam will heat the exposed skin tissue to a level where intolerable pain is experienced and natural defense mechanisms take over.

This intense heating sensation stops only if the individual moves out of the beam’s path or the beam is turned off. The sensation caused by the system has been described by test subjects as feeling like touching a hot frying pan or the intense radiant heat from a fire. Burn injury is prevented by limiting the beam’s intensity and duration.
Of course, you wouldn't want to hurt anybody with your weapon, right?

DoD-sponsored millimeter-wave human effectiveness testing, initiated in 2001, has demonstrated ADT as both effective and safe without any long-term effects. It is expected that the DoD-funded human effectiveness testing of the small-beam ADS by the AFRL HEDR during the next six to eight months will validate its effectiveness and safety as a nonlethal weapon system.

It's a great biz, being a Carlyle affiliate. You get $44 million to develop a new hell weapon, and the D.o'E. and D.o'D. do all the work and advertising for you. All you have to do is subcontract a little cut of the pie to Lockheed-Martin, the Patron of the Sandia labs. And you get to sell it to the Chinese, Saudis, and everyone else, too. All under Classified cover.