Saturday, September 10, 2005

Man with the Screaming Brain

For reasons I can't explain, I watched The Man with the Screaming Brain tonight on SciFi. Directed by SciFi standard Bruce Campbell, written by Bruce Campbell, story by Bruce Campbell and staring Bruce Campbell, it was not the worse movie I have ever seen. That distinction would go to Big Trouble in Little China (another story all together), with a close second to Alien apocalypse (staring Bruce Campbell) which was on just prior to MwtSB. Talk about your must miss TV.

Not to damn the movie with faint praise, but you know things are bad when the best actor in the film was Stacy Ketch, stunningly acceptable as the mad Doctor Ivan Ivonov Ivonovitch. Antoinette Byron and Valdimir Kolev were engaging as Jackie and Yegor, though both lost their roles too early as pawns to the plot. Ted Raimi was cute a Pavel and Tamara Gorski curiously Angelina Jolie-like as the evil Tatoya. Bruce Campbell always seems to play the same character, stiff and uptight savior of the world, though by the end of this spoof, he had seriously let his hair down and started to find the soul of William Cole.

Brief plot - Mad doctor finds a way to fuse brain tissue and is curiously, easily supplied with bodies to experiment with. Couples are united and divided, by death, only to find resurrection from the good doctor. Happy Ending.

Why is this germane to this usually serious political blog? It occurred to me that something similar would be fantastic for the Bush administration. Imagine W fused with Howard Dean, intelligent, though still often unintelligible, but with a heart, finally. Cheney with Al Gore, still stiff and self-important, yet well meaning and somewhat ethical. Condi with Hilary, er, um, maybe that one would just turn around in circles, but you get the idea. Make your own suggestions and if I think one is priceless I'll send you a Republican Jesus T-shirt (or donate the funds to Katrina victims).


Thursday, September 08, 2005

War on the Poor

Kanye West upset the administration's applecart with his assertion that Bush hates black people and therefore the catastrophic conditions in NOLA were allowed to go unnoticed and unaided by the federal government for so long. Meanwhile, fingerpointing and blame-placing have become the most talked-about topic in the aftermath of Katrina. The Bushies deny the former, while trying to deflect and misdirect the latter.

First, let me state for the record, I do not believe Bush hates black people. I don't think Bush particularly cares about race or ethnicity at all. In his life the only people of color or cultural difference have been just like him, wealthy, educated, powerful, and he is just fine with his people, no matter what they look like. See examples like Condi, Al G. and cousin Bandar Bush. Colin Powell would be on that list, but he committed the ultimate offense in Bushworld, he disagreed (and was proven right). He is no longer one of them, although it really has nothing to do with race.

The people Bush and his constituency hate are poor people. People who were not born wealthy like most of those in government. People who did not have the gumption to pull themselves out of the lower middle class like AG Al Gonzales. People who did not have the Rev Billy Graham pull them out of an alcohol and drug-fueled haze and put them on the path toward self-righteousness. People who depend on the government for their lives and their livelihood.

How do I know this? Because he proves it everyday, in everything he has done as our compassionate conservative president. Lets take a look - tax cuts for the wealthy; no federal healthcare program; disdain for social security; underfunding of education, social programs and disaster preparedness; an unnecessary war overseas staffed by low-paid enlisted, reserve and national guard troops; the assumption that everyone who wanted to get out of harm's way in NOLA could, sparking the slow response to calls for help.

Bush believes that a lean and mean federal government can take care of all the important problems facing our nation while simultaneously fighting terrorism and an unnecessary war, because he hates and refuses to look seriously at the problems, especially those facing the poor. He does not want the dead soldiers from Iraq or the dead from Katrina to be shown by the media because he and people like him don't want to see how their decisions effect the lives of others. His mantra is to say everyone is doing a great job, reward all those around him for their contributions, ignore all evidence to the contrary (and keep it out of the press) and the administration is always right. In Bushworld, they can do it all, for the people who matter.

Which brings me to Juan Cole. He posted an open letter to Donald Rumsfeld, which I have reprinted below.

"US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld maintains that the US government can both take care of New Orleans and pursue the 'global war on terror.' Uh, Donald, let's look at this situation. First, much of New Orleans is under water. You stole money that should have been spent on its levees for the Iraq War, and you stole state national guards from Louisiana to fight in Iraq. (The state national guards hadn't signed up to fight foreign wars and were surprised when you kidnapped them, sometimes for a whole year at a time.) So you haven't actually done a good job with the effects of Katrina in New Orleans. In fact, the job has been so bad that some wags are saying they can't believe you personally were not in charge of the recovery effort.Then let's consider the war against al-Qaeda. You may have noticed that Ayman al-Zawahiri issued a videotape late last week. It was bundled with the farewell suicide tape of Muhammad Siddique Khan, the mastermind of the 7/7 bombers in London. It now appears that your inability to capture al-Zawahiri has allowed him to intrigue with Pakistani jihadi groups to recruit British subjects to bomb their own country. Bin Laden and Zawahiri are at large and free men, which is your failure.Then there is the war in Iraq. I don't need to tell you that that isn't going very well. In fact, what in hell are you doing in the godforsaken Turkmen city of Tal Afar? Is it really a big threat to the United States? Is it likely to be friendly to us if you drop 500 pound bombs on its residential districts?You left out the fourth war Bush is fighting, on the US poor. The average wage of the average American work fell last quarter, amidst rising corporate profits. Bush cut billions in taxes on the rich, and then gave $300 checks to some poor people, who didn't seem to realize that by taking it they were giving up all sorts of government services and maybe even their social security payments.So, Donald, maybe it is true that you can save New Orleans, occupy Iraq and fight a global war on terror all at the same time. But you, at least, cannot actually do these things successfully. Which is why you should have resigned a long time ago."

Juan Cole directed his anger at Rumsfeld, but as the ever eloquent Scott McClellan put it in his recent press report, the buck stops with the president. He is the one who charged in his 2001 inaugural address, "The grandest of these ideals is an unfolding American promise that everyone belongs, that everyone deserves a chance, that no insignificant person was ever born." If every person who came out of the scourge that was Katrina, every family of a soldier who died in Iraq, every citizen who has felt disenfranchised by an administration who vilifies those who disagrees with them, does not feel insignificant in the America Bush has created, don't worry. He still has three more years.

In Bushamerica, 99% of us are all poor, some just haven't noticed it yet.


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Misconceptions 4 - OPEC will save us!

The Common Misconceptions of Peak Oil 4:

OK, so far we have covered the following topics: Oil shale will save us; tar sands will save us; and deep water basins will save us. I want to come back to the issues of deep water developments for a few comments then lets discuss the topic of OPEC will save us.

I discussed in a previous post that deep-water basins are pretty much played out from an exploration stand point. What I didn’t discuss, but what Hurricane Katrina brought into sharp focus, was how vulnerable these deep-water developments are to disruptions. These developments are extraordinarily capital intensive and represent huge amounts of production (up to 250,000 BOPD) coming through a facility occupying a very small geographic area floating in the middle of the ocean. In the last two years Hurricanes Ivan, Dennis, and Katrina have had major impacts on production in the Gulf of Mexico. As discussed below, Katrina sidelined 140,000 BOPD from the Mars Platform alone. More and more of the Gulf of Mexico production is coming from these highly productive, extremely expensive, but remote and vulnerable facilities. The same is true for production from Brazil, Angola, Nigeria, Malaysia, Egypt and several other areas. Needless to say, if some of these facilities were not vulnerable from attacks by Mother Nature, many are in areas where one might worry about attacks by man.

Now, lets talk about OPEC. Of course lots of others have covered this topic in much more depth and from much more knowledge than I can, such as Matt Simmons, or Colin Campbell, or PFC Energy, but let me put my two cents worth in.

First of all, though OPEC stands for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, at least one of these countries, Indonesia, has reverted from being a net exporter of oil to a net importer of oil. There is no question that Indonesia has peaked in its production (absent some major deepwater finds that seem unlikely), and is sliding down that irreversible slope called depletion.

Another significant OPEC member, Venezuela, has likely peaked in terms of conventional oil production. It is possible, that, given the right economic incentives, they could ramp up their heavy oil production much as Canada has. However, given the current political climate in Venezuela, I find that unlikely.

Nigeria is another OPEC member that, though not at peak yet, does not appear to have much ability to ramp up production much beyond what is already in the pipeline (Bonga, Erha, Agbami, Akpo, and a couple other deep water developments). Moreover, projects in Nigeria seem to take an inordinate amount of time to come on stream and cost much more than they would elsewhere in the world (Bonga for example). Expect increased production for about 5 years with decline setting in by 2012 to 2015.

OK, so who is left – Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Algeria, Qatar, UAE. Who am I forgetting? Oh ya – Saudia Arabia.

Lets look at some of these. Iraq? I mean who besides Dick Cheney expects Iraq to be boosting its oil production any time in the next five years. Iran? Most forecasts have them with production slightly increasing over the next few years but not significantly. In fact all of these other countries are forecasted to have flat to slightly increasing production over the next 5 years based upon announced major projects.
What about Saudi Arabia? They of course are the wild card in all of this prediction business. They have announced capital projects that they say will provide net increases on 2.5 million barrels per day by 2010 (from about 10 million per day now to 12.5 million per day in 5 years). There is a lot of skepticism about whether or not they can do this. Ultimately, only time will tell.

That said if the world is relying on Saudi Arabia to keep them out of the Peak Oil squeeze, they would have to increase their production capacity by about 2 million barrels per day every year from now until forever.

OPEC increases might stave off Peak Oil for a few years, but that is it. Even OPEC cannot forestall the inevitable demise of hydrocarbon man.


Sunday, September 04, 2005

Kudos to the Houston Chronicle

My hometown newspaper is one of the first papers to start addressing Peak Oil head on. The lead editorial today was PEAK OIL
Hurricane Katrina's aftermath only hints at what will happen when demand for crude outstrips supply.
This is one of the first occurences in a major media source where Peak Oil has been addressed head on with the term Peak Oil right up front. I can already see all the letters coming in from all locals saying that there's oil all over the place. Let the arguments begin.


A Houstonian's perspective on Katrina's aftermath

OK, lots of things to post about.

First the aftermath of Katrina. I spent yesterday at a local church trying to do something to help these poor people. There were probably 100 volunteers, and tons of goods were donated. The goal was to feed 1000 people with a barbecue and provide clothing, water, food, bathroom kits, etc.

The goal was admirable, but I had serious doubts about the expectations. The problem was that the plan required the refugees to find out about the event and get themselves there. In the end, the only about 40 to 50 people showed up, and these people, though hurting, were not the really desperate people that you see at the Astrodome. This scene was played out all over Houston yesterday.

There is a tremendous desire of people here in Houston to help and a tremendous feeling of empathy for our neighbors from Louisiana. The problem is trying to match up the bounty of Houston and the desire to help with the people who need it. Those people had to somehow know where to go and had to have transportation to get there. Most of the people who showed up to the church where I was drove there in their own cars and were staying in local motels. Of course, they had no homes to return to and had lost everything, but they could at least afford a hotel room for several days.

Regardless of the lack of success, it was cathartic for me personally to try to help and to talk to some of the people who did experience this. I have to admit that I was highly suspicious of the reports of extreme lawlessness and danger from violent individuals and groups. However, the people who showed up confirmed that their own experiences involved a struggle to survive both the elements and the other people who wanted to do them harm. Several of the people were very fragile emotionally, and could hardly talk about their experiences without breaking down. They said it was worse than reported on TV, at least for them individually. One poor woman, through tears, described old ladies up to their necks in water pleading for help.

The problem now is trying to sustain the effort. These people will need help for months at the least. Humans tend to be able to put out tremendous efforts over short time spans, but over the long term people get burned out. I must admit that our family has talked about taking in refugees to house them. My problem is that I am not sure I am willing at this point to commit to something where we would be the primary support for another family on an open-ended basis. That is a tough commitment to make to complete strangers.