Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Iran - the US' next great success!

Modern life embodies a conflict between “truth” and “aesthetics”. John Kenneth Galbraith, the late American economist, summed this up well. “A toothbrush does little but clean teeth. Alcohol is important mostly for making people more or less drunk. An automobile can take one reliably to a destination and back….its further features are of small consequences…There being so little to be said, much must be invented. Social distinction must be associated with a house…sexual fulfillment with a particular…automobile, social acceptance with….a mouthwash…etc. We live surrounded by a systematic appeal to a dream world which all mature, scientific reality would reject. We, quite literally, advertise our commitment to immaturity, mendacity and profound gullibility. It is the hallmark of our culture.”1

As oil tops 90 bucks a barrel, those who wrestle with their (d)illusions struggle to avoid the inevitable reality of the latest, pricey newsflash. Much of this is difficult to digest as Christmas sits around the corner. Thankfully, we’re personally attempting to curb our reliance on the oil vice prior to the arrival of an economic crisis (we’re already in the downturn) resulting from our own collective horrible mismanagement of our limited resources.

An oil man who was unable to satisfactorily run any of the businesses he was entrusted now gets to play economics. Firing the economic advisors who warned this Administration of inevitable failure did not magically reverse the outcome. The dollar’s tanking, oil’s rising and a credit crunch has strangled a significant portion of the US economy now that our debt has ballooned beyond the stratosphere. Now Bush tries to scare us again into believing that if we’re interested in avoiding World War III, we better be interested in keeping nuclear, sorry, NUC-U-LER technology out of Iran’s hands. Just like the Iraq fear-mongering ploy, this is a narrow explanation for a much deeper story. It’s an explanation for children. We’d ask you consider the following – a more valid and adult description of why Bush and his Capital Cronies feel Iran shouldn’t have nuclear power. These following excerpts were found at www.courtfool.com, written by an independent researcher in the Netherlands.

So, if the so-called proofs against Iran appear to be fabricated, what is the real issue? I think the general idea is clear to all. With its excessive energy consumption the US thinks, it is necessary to have pro-US governments in Iraq, Iran and, (for the UNOCAL pipeline project), also in Afghanistan. During the Cold War Saddam Hussein in Iraq and shah Reza in Iran were useful US’ allies, but those days are over. Thanks to Bush we now have wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Iran is located in between. Considering the reputation the US has built up in Iran a spontaneous uprising of a pro-US government is not likely to happen soon.

Another thing that explains Bush aggressive stance against Iran is its part in the weakening dollar. A new Iranian oil bourse, if successful, may even trip up US’ hegemony. [10]

At a glance, this is how it works. The world’s oil and gas is traded in US-dollars. Since 1971 the US has enjoyed the advantage of being the petrodollar supplier to the world. Supplying dollars to foreign countries means, the US can print money and purchase goods, services and investments with it. Since the foreigners need these dollars to buy oil, and keep them also in use in the international trade outside the US, the US has never had to deliver anything in return. Merely supplying money means free shopping. This is how US’ foreign debt grew to 3,200,000,000,000 dollars today. If at some point the world starts selling the trillions of dollars they currently hold, the exchange markets would be flooded with dollars, and, as a result, the value of the dollar would drop to next to nothing. It would trigger a financial crisis, but if the dollar becomes worth next to nothing, it means the foreign debt would vanish. So it is very advantageous to deliver currencies that are permanently needed and wanted abroad. And that is the case as long as the world needs dollars to buy oil and gas.2

We’ve suggested in the past that Bernanke’s persistent dedication to America’s debt habits is fully supportive of America’s oil habits. Lowering the interest rates again, they hope, will buy time while they carefully drive the dollar down to keep up the appearance that they’ve somehow paid down the federal deficit. Let’s all hope these boys don’t go just a little too far. We’ve seen the bubble created in housing explode because they went a little too far. The million dollar question becomes, how far can we go to maintain this lifestyle? The current credit crisis is not just a small bump in the road of financial life. These events are as related to oil as the Iraq War. The world is unveiling the ILLUSION the American economy has been employing. Helicopter Ben drops Dollars, housing unravels; Washington does what it can to keep the stock market rising while credit goes short; bankers attempt to open and clear, or we believe, flash mirrors while blowing smoke, in hopes to recover before the derivitives markets take them down - and suddenly Iran has become the next big threat! Bernanke was very concerned about inflation just a few months ago. Now, we await the potential lowering of interest rates for a second time, pending the Fed announcement this week. Maybe Bernanke is just trying to reopen the credit faucet because he knows we’ll all need it to pay our winter heating oil bills! Same old solution – borrow what you can’t pay for and hope to pay it tomorrow. But, back to Iran.

The US is in conflict with Iran, since it was thrown out of the country in 1979. According to the US, Iran is a dangerous country of fundamentalists.

The geographical position of Iran, between the Caspian Sea and the Indian Ocean, complicates US ambitions to control the rich reserves of oil and gas on the East side of the Caspian Sea. To transport this oil and gas to world markets without crossing neither Russia, nor Iran, pipelines had to be built through Afghanistan. Plans were made in the early nineties, but the pipelines are still not there.

Meanwhile the US tries to frustrate all competing projects of other countries. Of course, this led to multiple conflicts of interest with Iran. George W. Bush would pretext the presence of Osama bin Laden to start a war against Afghanistan. [14]

In 1999 Iran publicly stated it wanted to accept euros for its oil as well. Iran sells 30 % of its oil production to Europe, the rest mainly to India and China and not a drip to the US, as a result of an embargo established by the US itself. In spite of Bush’ threatening tale, mentioning the country in his famous “axis of evil” [speech], Iran started to sell its oil in euros from spring 2003.

After that, Iran wanted to establish its own oil-bourse, independent from the IPE and NYMEX. It would start on 20 March 2006. Considering the very weak health of the dollar at that time, a success of this bourse could have led to a catastrophe for the dollar and thus for the US. That is why tensions were very high at the beginning of 2006. [15]

Finally the opening of the oil-bourse was postponed. After that Putin established an oil bourse in Russia as quickly as possible, which took away the interest of the Iranian oil bourse. [16] [17] [18]

The US accuses Iran of wanting to make nukes. Because the US has not sufficient influence to switch back the oil trade into dollars, it probably hopes that the Iranian nuclear sites will be bombed once again [19], so Iran would have to consume its oil instead of selling it in euros.

Moreover, a masterly plan has been conceived to take possession of the world market for nuclear fuel, in concert with a few other countries and using Iran as the pretext and the test case. With this plan the demand for dollars would be secured for a long time, even after the oil age. [20]3

We think, as usual, it’s important to follow the crumbs of money, especially when they are dropped in US Dollars. An oil strawman was put in place for a reason. There was not even an honest election. Now, it’s almost laughable to consider how our “leaders” are destroying the dollar while they try to ensure its continued use. Ironic, in fact.

We are quite aware of the dire fragility of the American Dream as we enter an era riddled with problems larger than many this nation has faced in the past. We used to be proud Americans, however, we’re not prone to sychophantic dishonesty, so don’t look for a whole lot of sugar-coated shit on this blog. We are now quite concerned, and not so very proud. Experiencing environmental and economic shifts related to both global warming and peak oil, does not appear to propel us to find solutions, like Americans typically would (when not being led around like puppets). Rather, we Americans allow our government to play war games around the world. Will true Americans continue to invest in the systemic illusion on which our culture thrives? Or will we eventually open our eyes?

1. Satyajit Das; Perfect Storms – Beautiful & True Lies In Risk Management, 2007.
2. Rudo de Ruijter; www.courtfool.com. From the entry, US-Iran: Raid on Nuclear Fuel Market.
3. Rudo de Ruijter; www.courtfool.com. From the entry, Cost, Abuse & Danger of the Dollar.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tranquility at the Rib Shack

Myspace Graphics - Fukitol Standing at the stop, it wasn’t even noticeable until the number 40 arrived and we climbed aboard. The clean cut, twenty-something guy is normally on the bus each morning and works at a local restaurant chain (evident by the screaming advertisement referred to as his uniform). He’s polite, quiet and dips his head in acknowledgement when greeted. Two mornings ago, something just wasn’t right. He shuffled feebly toward the bus and ascended the steps in an octogenarian-like manner, paused for a moment near the coin collector fumbling over his pants pockets with his fingers, yet never actually retrieving a ticket or cash for the fare. He lingered, then passed the driver by in a slow motion, “I remember touching my wallet, so I must have paid her,” kind of painless lumber, self-motivation clearly required for each step. Climbing up behind him, we registered our ticket as the driver asked, “He ok?” As if we’d have the scoop on his stuporous state simply because we got on at the same stop.

The polite guy managed to reach his usual seat. Ever notice how people will migrate to familiar places? We try to sit all over the bus….breaks up that routine feeling. Anyway, he meandered straight to the back of the bus and took the seat. The old ladies gawked. He walked by and they began the chatter of hens. One turned directly around inviting us to discuss polite guy’s condition, to which we had nothing to add realizing this could be health related or self-induced.

Two stops later the bus driver got on the mike and said, “Sir - in the black Rockin’ Ribs t-shirt (fake restaurant name inserted to protect the innocent; hopefully we’re not violating any privacy or copyright laws), you have not paid your fare!” It took him a minute. With the prompting of other passengers, he got up and forced his heavy legs to transport him back to the front of the bus. His eyes were a little bugged out, although drawing on our newly acquired bus etiquette skills; we stole the peek ever so quickly, never risking a stare. The old ladies were provided more tidbits for immediate discussion as our mind began to move toward the thought that, wow, this guy got a hold of some great stuff at 7:30 in the morning! Once he made it to the front, he had to work really hard to drag the wallet out of his back pocket, still fumbling, causing the appearance of having no fare. An older gentleman, typically on the same morning route, stood and offered to pay his fare (any disruption to the flow is met with a number of creative solutions exacted by other passengers to get the show back on the road). Bus driver said, “No, no, he’s got it.” Then loudly she questioned polite guy, “you sure you’re OK,” to which the old ladies broke into another round of concerned discussion. We had half a mind to tell the two sitting directly in front of us that we split a horse tranquilizer at the stop, just to see what they’d say, but then thought better about spreading mistruths and rumors, regardless of their hilarity. Polite guy managed to fund his trip, we took off, and lucky for him the acceleration propelled him toward the back relieving the dragging weight of his legs.

An overactive imagination ran through a number of disturbing scenarios as we motored along just waiting for something to happen…you know…like, crazy druggy whips out gun and kills ten on CARTA bus. However, he stayed silent - not even a peep. All of our scenes were filled with violent endings, like news reels rolling out the worst possible situation, all of which could happen in the presence of someone on something. Of course, nothing happened at all. Maybe he was focused on maintaining composure rather than killing.

When we reached Polite’s normal stop, he walked a little faster. Reviewing his gait as the bus pulled away, his motion appeared slightly more normal. We’ve seen this particular guy nearly every morning now for two months. He has never displayed any type of lethargy in the past, causing us to wonder what exactly was going on that particular morning. We also wondered if the red sauce was mixed up with the yellow during Rockin’ Ribs lunch service that day. Additionally, he was not on the normal bus route this morning. Maybe he got fired. Notably, it is almost a full moon again.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Week of Rain and a Reality Check

So we’ve been called to the table by a friend following the blog, and apologize for causing you to wait so long for an update. Last weekend boringly demanded house work. Leo’s doggie hair had accumulated to the point large tumbleweeds gathered, with a force equivalent to magnets, in gigantic balls in every corner, and around furniture legs. We were forced to stop the presses to address this issue and somehow two weeks slipped by.

The week prior it rained. We’ve had drought here in South Carolina, so this was the first rainy week walking to bus stops. Amazingly all the umbrellas hiding at the backs of closets were found easing the perceived misery of this first wet week. We didn’t quit, but decided that from here on out, the umbrellas will live right next to the front door in an orderly fashion. They serve a great purpose now that the splash and dash three-step run/jump from the old porch’s wide, dry overhang to the courtyard parking space where the Jaguar used to lie in wait is no longer an option. Dealing with the rain didn’t suck that bad, so we remain to date, carless and in full utilization of our public transportation system, which again presented indisputable fodder for this blog.

Friday brought the last morning drizzle. By afternoon the weather had cleared with a hazy sun and heavy blanket of humidity filling the air. The five o’clock whistle blew leaving only a short amount of time before the next bus arrival. Throwing on the raincoat just incase, we hastily made it to a nearby store in time to grab a few required toiletries. Passing the bus stop on the opposite side of the street, we noticed a couple sitting on the bench. In, out and back to the stop. The couple was still there and it was satisfying to know the bus had not been missed. Drawing closer, the couple’s disheveled appearance became obvious. Falling into their line of site while stripping off the sweltering raincoat, the man got up and began to rearrange the beaten, faded blue suitcases piled on the bench. Although this gesture was appreciated, we assured them moving the luggage was unnecessary. The man then offered a sideways smile and asked to borrow a lighter as he simultaneously patted his upper body in a staged search for an elusive pack of cigarettes. As part of the act, he quickly discovered (shocker) he was out. But this exercise offered a good, planned segway into his next bit of small talk which incorporated the smooth request for a dollar. You guessed it. To buy cigarettes. From what we understand, the current tax structure has elevated cigarettes far beyond the price of a single dollar. So, this too, like the lighter question, was met with our fervent “no.” He then blurted, “we’re on vacation.” “Well, that’s nice.” Honestly, how does one respond when vacation consists of standing at a bus shelter in thick Carolinian humidity with two dirt-caked, used-to-be-blue suitcases and several metal boxes asking locals for money? While we were still processing that information, the frumpy NeoHobo stuck out his hand. “Got bit by a dawwg.” A yellowish-blue mark accentuated a large scabbed over area on the front of his hand. Our eyebrows went up. “Yep, Golden Retriever.” OK, this sounded outlandish (we have a Golden), so with standard un-emotional, bus stop bland news anchor seriousness, we dared, “Golden Retriever, you say?” “Yep. I stuck my hayand in that car winder and it jus bit the shyit outta me.” Well, there you have it. Sticking one's hand into a car window to pet a stranger's dog is not exactly the most sound plan. Intelligence – questionable. The woman was digging around behind him in one of the metal boxes sitting neatly on the bus bench. NeoHobo continued, “we’re from Ash-veeelle, North Carol-eye-na, an this here’s my wyyyife.” The apple shaped woman rushed to his side with a peculiar “don’t go lookin’ at my man” kind of gaze, then added, “an we been married now two yea-yers.” From one of the metal boxes she had retrieved a white rat. Clutching it close to her chest, its long, pink tail snaked down the side of her hand and wrapped around her wrist as she stroked the animal. Is this really happening, became the question flickering between our synapses. Hobo guy kept up. “I toll ‘er I’d take her to all the places I been, so we’re on our way to Sullivan’s Eye-land…where else you think we ‘aught-ta go?” Completely perplexed by their definitions of travel and vacationing, and wise enough to recognize the great distance between our individual reference points, we politely suggested Folly Beach for a cool, laid back environment. Swiping at his browned, leathery face, NeoHobo reminisced, “oh yeah, I been there too - a long time ago, I remember now. I’s there once…so yeah, I promised her I’d take her everywhere I been.” The woman had left his side and was busy corralling the rat back into its metal box, but snapped her head in his direction as she curtly expounded, “but I’m payin fer this vay-cay-shin!” The economics of their wanderlust had obviously popped up in the past, clearly as an issue of contention. Dodging the financial planning discussion, NeoHobo quickly reaffirmed his need for cigarettes, to which we sensibly offered directions to the convenience store right on the other side of the trees. “You stay put now, hear?” “An keep waitin’ fer that bus,” he instructed the woman. The woman’s dirty navy sweat pants had ridden up her flat rear to an alarming depth as she continued to lean over the bench shoveling wads of Spanish Moss she pulled from the trees into a plastic cup. Neatly pulling out the straw and placing the lid on top, she said, “I’m gonna keep this…it’s really cool stuff and I can’t find it at home.” Then she rose, turned toward us, squared off, and announced, “I’m in college, you know. Yep, I’m an actor. An actor taking classes in Ash-veeele.” Just as we were wondering if it was worth while to mention the microscopic chiggers alive in the Spanish Moss the woman had handled, the bus rumbled around the corner. Thank God. Hearding us aboard, the driver surprisingly addressed the Apple-shaped woman directly as we found a seat. “You changed stops! I already called in your prior location at Patriot's Point!” The woman stammered grabbing at her long, stringy, black hair, and NeoHobo came running through the trees. Out of breath he exclaimed, “but we got tired of waitin’ at that stop!” The driver responded, “the bus to Sullivan’s Island is a call-in route. I called it in and you were supposed to wait where you were! Now I gotta call it in again, and you’ll have to wait here until they can come back this way!” The two transients looked defeated. Their travel itinerary had obviously suffered a severe blow. From the window we watched them walk in circles, arm motions between them suggesting the conversation was growing heated. The city bus pulled away.

Finally riding toward home we wondered where the transients were going to spend the night on an island recently recognized as the most expensive address in the area. Maybe they planned to unpack their bags and sleep illegally atop a dune on one of South Carolina’s most pristine beaches. Or maybe the actress paid in advance for a 10 bedroom beachfront rental where by midnight they’d be sipping champagne and enjoying succulent, deep red, brown sugar strawberries dotted with honey drippings. If only they could reach their destination!

We have no idea what valuable life lesson this experience was supposed to provide. We’ve travelled with no reservations, but this couple probably deserves a reality TV show dedicated to their travel follies. We’d tune in, mesmerized and unable to pull ourselves from the inevitable train wreck.