Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Black Gold, Mon!

Oil Fat Cats vs. Hugo Chavez: "That 'problem,' quite simply, is that Chavez, a radical populist who has been voted into office repeatedly by huge majorities in his own country, controls the largest reserve of petroleum outside the Middle East.

Neither Robertson, nor former oil executives George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice, nor their buddies at Exxon/Mobil, Chevron, etc., are happy about all this.

Even more scandalous for Big Oil, Chavez is using Venezuela's windfall not to fatten his own country's oligarchy but to benefit the Venezuelan poor and help neighboring countries.

Yesterday, while Robertson was issuing his half-baked Chavez clarification, the Venezuelan president was in Montego Bay, Jamaica, where he announced a new oil agreement with that country's prime minister, P.J. Patterson.

Under the agreement, Venezuela will supply 22,000 barrels of oil a day to Jamaica for a mere $40 a barrel. That's far lower than the current world price of about $65 a barrel. With the price of gasoline in that destitute nation already more than $3.50 a gallon, the Chavez plan means more than half a million dollars a day in savings for Jamaica on oil imports.

Chavez also announced his government will provide $60 million in foreign aid to Jamaica and finance the upgrading of that country's oil refineries.

The agreement is part of a broader Chavez plan called Petrocaribe, which he unveiled at a Caribbean summit in Venezuela last June."

Give Me That Oldtime Oppression

Give Me That Oldtime Oppression: "As a Christian, I claim a particular historical perspective, namely that handed down by the Bible. The Bible stands as the most anti-imperial tome in human history. It is the story of a people at odds with empire from its inception. The Bible gives us a look at empire from the perspective of the victims. The Jewish people experienced slavery, slaughter, exile and occupation at the hands of various empires.

In his critique of economic practices that allowed the rich to get richer while the poor starved, Jesus was undermining the very foundation of the exploitative Roman economic system. In his opposition the puppet government of the Temple, Jesus was denouncing Roman political repression. In his denial of the use of violence, Jesus was de-legitimizing the most important tool of imperial repression."

And the Declaration of Independence is more than a tad anti-imperial as well. So, why the rush to become the empire? If our country is based on the Bible and the Constitution, we should be trying to avoid being an empire, yet that is what we have become.

Car Watt Technology

A recent marketing video from battery maker Valence Technologies makes its point with all the subtlety of a Jerry Bruckheimer film: Unlike the competition's, its batteries don't blow up.

The Texas-based company is so confident of the safety of its product that it shot one with a bullet to see what would happen. Nothing much, it turns out. That's in stark contrast to the other lithium ion battery shown in the video, which explodes in a fiery ball.

It's simple chemistry. Lithium ion batteries are so potent that they've become ubiquitous in laptops and cell phones, but the cobalt oxide used to generate such prodigious amounts of electricity per gram is highly volatile. That's prevented larger-scale uses -- in cars, for example -- because the risk of a deadly explosion has simply been too great.

Not so with Valence's new Saphion battery, which is among a new generation of lithium ion cells that are beginning to crack the transportation market.

"It's an enabling technology," said Dean Bogues, Valence's president for North America and Europe. "We think, as batteries get better, that reliance on batteries to provide energy in your car will get larger.

As we prepare for $3/Gallon petrol, let's have our eye on the future: battery powered cars.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Pat Robertson: always a good quote

Mr. Robertson has set off an international firestorm with his comments on his television broadcast that the United States should kill Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, a leftist who sits atop the largest oil reserves outside the Middle East.

"If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it Mr. Robertson said on his program, "The 700 Club" on Monday. "It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war. And I don't think any oil shipments will stop."

"Without question this is a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil that could hurt us very badly," Mr. Robertson said. "We have the ability to take him out and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator."

Religious extremism cuts both ways: Robertson is like an Ayatollah for extremist "Christians". Would Jesus condone assassination? According to this prominent Christian and political activist, yes!

Every day we are becoming more like our enemy. Thanks for making that obvious, Pat!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Capitalism wins space race again...

WN: Wired News:
"When the United States beat the Soviet Union in the first race to the moon, it confirmed the view, to many, that capitalism rules and communism sucks. But the state that President Reagan called The Evil Empire learned its lesson and embraced capitalism wholeheartedly, in space at least, while NASA ossified into a monstrous, inefficient bureaucracy that would have done Khrushchev proud.

Strapped for cash after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian Space Agency made money by having its cosmonauts shoot a Pepsi commercial on space station Mir. That worked out so well that the agency followed up with promos for Pizza Hut, The Lego Company, Popular Mechanics and Radio Shack on the International Space Station. It made even more money by flying the first tourists into space with the help of Space Adventures. Meanwhile NASA remains resolutely aloof from such crass commercialism.

But these commercial endeavors do more than simply keep RKA in the money. They also give it clear purpose: to keep the customer satisfied. In contrast, it's not exactly clear why NASA is going back to the moon, except that the president told it to.

The second moon race will have a decidedly different outcome than the first. But once again, it looks like capitalism will emerge the winner."

Ah, the irony of it all! Fascinating, really...

Friday, August 12, 2005

Hog Times

High on the Hog - New York Times:

"I have a suggestion for those Old World cooks who are wrestling with New World advice: take another look at the fat profile of lard. It has half the level of saturated fat of palm kernel oil (about 80 percent saturated fat) or coconut oil (about 85 percent) and its approximately 40 percent saturated fat is lower than butter's nearly 60 percent. Today's miracle, olive oil, is much lower in saturated fat, as everyone knows, but it does have some: about 13 percent. As for monounsaturated fat, the current savior, olive oil contains a saintly 74 percent, yes. But scorned lard contains a very respectable 45 percent monounsaturated fat - double butter's paltry 23 or so percent.

As with all dietary advice, the fat of the day will change. But eternal truths will remain: food is always best with little or no processing and eaten as close as possible to where it is grown. This goes for lard, too. The artisan pig farmers whose fortunes have been revived by a new market for pork with real flavor should look into selling lard because the supermarket kind is processed and dismal. And Dr. Frieden's request may produce a burgeoning metropolitan market.

The health department is suggesting alternative oils including olive oil and neutral oils like peanut, sunflower and cottonseed. Olive oil is a true gift of nature, of course, and good for anything on a grill or from the garden. But when it comes to cherry pie or fried chicken or French fries, excessive reliance on these oils has the potential to clear both arteries and restaurants. Chefs and short-order cooks can do everyone a favor - even the guardians of the public health - by reaching for the fat that everyone knows tastes the best: lard."

Lard: the new health food. I'm gonna go grab a stick now!

Duke of Lenny

A $50 Million Price Tag, and Still a Fixer-Upper? - New York Times: "But $50 million got people talking when relatives of Doris Duke, the late tobacco heiress, put the Duke Semans Mansion, a 20,000-square-foot Beaux-Arts residence, on the market in May. The 1901 townhouse is said to be the last great private mansion on Fifth Avenue - and at that price would be the most expensive private residence ever sold in the city.

Lenny Kravitz, the rock star and budding designer, has visited the house twice, said Mamdouh Nasr, the owner of an ice cream truck that has parked for 28 years on the corner of 82nd Street and Fifth Avenue, just steps from the mansion's front door.

To Mr. Nasr, it's clear evidence that the musician, who enjoys buying and fixing up real estate, is buying the home. 'To this guy time is money,' Mr. Nasr said. 'So why he comes inside two times?'

The Semans family, Duke descendents who own the property, are negotiating with Mr. Kravitz on the sale, according to a person informed of the deal who asked not to be identified because there is no signed deal."

Heads and Tales

US plays both Venezuela sides | csmonitor.com: "CARACAS, VENEZUELA - While the Bush administration engages in a war of words with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the US government has been giving permits to American arms dealers to sell weapons, tear gas, and other riot-control equipment to Venezuela.

At the same time, the US Congress has indirectly funded anti-Chavez pro-democracy groups.

'It's a bizarre working at cross- purposes,' says Adam Isacson, who follows Venezuela for the left-leaning Center for International Policy in Washington. 'You have bad relations with this government, and you're selling them the means to put down opposition protests.'"

Yeah, good plan, sell weapons to both sides. What are we doing?

Zoo Station to close

Germans pine over Zoo Station | csmonitor.com:

"'It's a legendary place,' says Petra Schulters, standing on one of the station's platforms recently with her daughter. 'If Berlin is mentioned together with a train station, then it's Zoo Station.'

Though missing the majesty of New York's Grand Central Station or astounding passenger turnover of Tokyo's Shinjuku Station, Zoo has crafted its own powerful story. Spectators to the 1936 Olympic Games got their first glimpse of the city through the large windows of the station. Visitors from Paris and Basel passed through the train station on their way to Stockholm, Warsaw, or Moscow.

In the early 1980s it became synonymous with the packs of teenage drug addicts who hung around the station, their story immortalized in the book and movie 'Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo.' Following reunification, the Irish rock band U2 paid tribute to Zoo Station with an eponymous song on their 1991 album 'Achtung Baby.'

Though rail officials ordered a renovation of the station in the 1990s and promised city planners to keep it on the long-distance grid, construction of the main train station near the heart of reunified Berlin marked the beginning of the end.

'Every generation creates something new and as a result something in the old generation needs to fade away,' says Laurenz Demps, a former professor of city history at Berlin's Humboldt University.

Or, as U2 put it:

Time is a train

Makes the future the past

Leaves you standing in the station

Your face pressed up against the glass."

First the Joshua Tree collapses and now this...

Monday, August 08, 2005

He Walks on Water

gizmag Article: SeaJogger allows you to walk on water:
"...it has a “stepper system” for the human power input, and instead of a propeller, there’s a quiet, effective and quite unique fin propulsion system. There is no need to take off your shoes or get wet. Just naturally walk on water. If you can walk, you can walk on water, with Sea Jogger."

Sunday, August 07, 2005

War on Terror Over?

AlterNet Mobile Edition:
"Colin Powell had suggested 'crime' as the frame to use. It justifies an international hunt for the criminals, allows 'police actions' when the military is absolutely required, and places the focus and the funding on where it should go: intelligence, diplomacy, politics, economics, religion, banking, and so on. And it would have kept us militarily strong and in a better position to deal with cases like North Korea and Darfur.

But the crime frame comes with no additional power for the president, and no way to hide domestic troubles. It comes with trials at the international court, giving that court's sovereignty over purely American institutions. It couldn't win in the administration as constituted.

The abstract noun, 'terror,' names not a nation or even people, but an emotion and the acts that create it. A 'war on terror' can only be metaphorical. Terror cannot be destroyed by weapons or signing a peace treaty. A war on terror has no end. The president's war powers have no end. The need for a Patriot Act has no end.

It is important to note the date on which the phrase 'war on terror' died and was replaced by 'global struggle against violent extremism.' It was right after the London bombing. Using the War frame to think and talk about terrorism was becoming more difficult. The Iraq War was declared won and over, but it became clear that it was far from over and not at all won and that it created many new terrorists for every one it destroyed. The last justification - fighting the war on terror in Iraq so it wouldn't have to be fought at home -- died in the London bombing."

How to fight Terror? Same way you dismantle an atomic bomb.

China's foot in door

WorldNetDaily: "Venezuela's defense minister has signed a deal to buy Chinese radar systems, the latest in a series of military purchases by the government of President Hugo Chavez.

The Chinese-made long range surveillance radars will be used by Venezuela's air force, defense officials said yesterday."

Friday, August 05, 2005

Osama Bin Saud

"With Fahd's death, people are just now beginning to consider: What happens after King Abdullah?

The real irony is this – democratic reforms are probably America's worst-case scenario. Recent limited elections permitted by Abdullah demonstrated this danger. It revealed that if truly free elections were held in Saudi Arabia, America's most important source of imported oil would be handed over to a democratically elected core of devout Wahabbi-following Islamic fundamentalists. And they are the principle source of al-Qaida's manpower and funding. It would, in effect, hand over the strategic control of the global economy to Osama bin-Laden and his cohorts."

Really interesting article full of opinion and bias, but some interesting history as well. We need to get serious about energy policies.