Sunday, November 18, 2007

Fireworks As OPEC Summit Ends

Well OPEC seems to be onto us and our highly levered currency. Several OPEC ministers (namely team Chavez and Ahmadinejad) entertained discussions this weekend of dumping the dollar as the currency tied to the oil trade. We suspect by tomorrow this'll be all over the media airwaves spun in any number of variations depending upon to whom one listens. Personally, we're not that worried for the short term. Having already ditched the car, we feel ready for the gas hikes. Chavez and Ahmadinejad are simply using their resources for the purpose of self preservation and protectionism. Those defenses could be appreciated and dealt with reasonably as they are fueled by fear based thinking built upon agressive Bush dipolomacy. Wouldn't our Utopian dreams be realized if George Dubbleya would just call in a troop of therapists rather than his troop of Generals? Don't forget Cheney.

From the BBC: Mr. Ahmadinejad said that all Opec countries had showed interest in converting their cash reserves into other currencies. "They [the US] get our oil and give us a worthless piece of paper," he told reporters.

Perhaps the Saudis took a cue from JayZ this weekend. Certainly they realized the U.S. needs no further pressure on our dollar in the middle of a credit crunch. But they also have an insider who knows our pain. Saudi Prince Walid has suffered the hammering of our subprime woes compromising his close relationship with another Prince by the name of Charles, formerly of Citgroup. Charles Prince made personal phone calls to The Prince during pinnacle moments of Citi's spectacular unwinding. The Saudi Prince now endures continued write downs in addition to enjoying the double whammy of dollar devaluation. Click for official JayZ video.

The question remains - how long can, or rather will, the Saudis, these friends of the Bush family, hold back a dollar sell-off? Fiat currencies cannot stand question.

The Candyman Can

Going a bit in reverse, we remember to bring up Friday night's ride home from work on the bus. It must have been a big payday. Or maybe they were extra jubilant because the holiday is coming up. Regardless, riding home Friday night was like sitting at the back of the party car. A group at the front, including the Fab Lady Driver, were involved in a Kaluah-spiked coffee klotch. Having one hell of a time, who steps aboard but a Candyman? Seriously, a middle-aged guy with a pillowy midsection unhidden by his Oxford shirt and windbreaker combination. Looked like an accountant stuck with two boxes of his kid's World's Finest school chocolates for sale. The eyes of the klotch immediately lit up as they all began drooling over the prospect of savoring the tasty treats displayed on the box wall. The biggest, loudest guy took the lead with, "Candy needa sit here by me....we lik'a da Candy Maaan!" The ladies hooped and hollared; laughing; happy to be off work. Big guy continued taunting and the look on the accountant's face declared he was nearing a tipping point, drawing very close to true nervousness. Just then the big guy let up and whipped out his wallet. He said "Really, come on dude, sell us the candy". Pleading, "we seriously want the candy." Others simultaneously dug their wallets out from under coats and sweaters (we've had a cold front come through the South). It was amazing how quickly the guy collected dollars. Gaining confidence, he shouted toward the back, "I've only got one chocolate and caramel left." We turned to the rap star next to us and commented, "guess if you got candy to sell, just sell it on the bus," to which he replied, "yeah." Then with eyes widening, gaze focusing as if the link had been made, "yeeeaaaah..." Stay tuned. Maybe the rap star will be peddling his own chocolate bars by next week.

Getting to Know That Which We Are Being Programmed to Hate

We believed our previous post on Iran would be sufficient, but leaving the TV on in the background is a dangerous game on a Sunday morning. Our faithful old Mitsubishi 32 inch - plain - non-cool - not flat-screen - TV is spitting out more propoganda on Iran. She'll do a number on the subconscious mind if we listen. Why is she doing this to us? We understand the media's manipulation agenda but these attacks get old after a while. There is so much more history, most of which is being ignored. Additionally, our media doesn't seem to be broadcasting attempts at negotiations for the nuclear power issue.

Reminded recently of Einstein's definition of Insanity - Doing the same thing and expecting a different result, we've decided to rebel against conventional American journalism today. Besides, we already heard this story back when it was written for Iraq. Let's go for a totally different approach...let's get to know each other (before we kill each other).

Since The Cosmopolitan Charlestonian loves to travel, we decided to take an internet photo and newspaper tour of Iran, rather than to allow our perceptions to be molded only by the news media. You may be amazed - we were. And, apparently we're not the only ones interested in citizen diplomacy. We found others reaching out.

This is a call for peace. Is anyone out there?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Dry Times

How is it possible to choke down these Zanax without a tall glass of water?

A quick overview of the situation on South Carolina’s back doorstep reveals that millions in Atlanta may soon be reaching for that little amber antidepressant container as Lake Lanier runs out. Fresh water resources are apparently limited, like (OMG!) oil. Although we realize this is shocking news, we must share with you, faithful reader, that water is not manufactured in China in limitless quantities. This holiday season, we recommend exchanging dowsing sticks – the perfect gift for that person you know that already has everything! So, here we go:

In a creative move, The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports, Forsyth [County] tries shame to reduce water use - At a meeting broadcast live late Thursday over the Internet and local cable television, County Commission Chairman Charles Laughinghouse publicly outed about 20 businesses and homeowners groups that have been repeatedly warned about violating the outdoor watering ban.

The Governor, though, is going straight to the top, decidedly asking God for water (prayer vigil is organized for the day before forecast of rain). Let’s hope for the miracle. In other headlines, Florida has backed out of an agreement forged just a few short weeks ago to share the water.

Meanwhile, Orme,Tennessee,just flat ran out of water. Done. Finito. The fire truck goes and gets it from another town while they feaverishly build a pipeline that should be done by Thanksgiving. They get to use water from the fire truck for three hours per night.

And back in Athens, Georgia the local Dental Clinic is “encouraging” its employees to use two portable toilets they have placed in their parking lot. Nice.

In Australia, a man kills his neighbor for watering his lawn.

Southern California reports drought (and we all saw the fires). Southern Florida is bracing itself along with areas of Nevada, Texas and Ohio. NOAA expects drought conditions to be no better next year.

In Texas, Boone Pickens pulls a heavyweight move purchasing and crafting rights to enact eminent domain and sell bonds. Look, when Gates, Boone and Buffett start playing around on the chessboard of energy and water, there are no further denials to be made on the resource issue - the big money has moved. These precision maneuvers carve out future pathways for commodities and resource trade as Wall Street adjusts to global warmingly changing markets.

Here in South Carolina, on a general scale, no one seems to be discussing this issue, despite the fact that our own Lake Moultrie is drying, and as previously mentioned, the drought is expected to persist. According to our own CPW, Charleston’s water supply is not in jeopardy (oh, but our rates are increasing December 1st). Although we find this a relief, we are also a bit skeptical, considering Charleston is downstream from, well, everything.
Digging just a little further, we were interested to know what kind of emergency plan Atlanta was implementing. We found nothing. Apparently, the Governor’s prayer vigil, which is now to be protested, is the closest thing to a plan they’ve got. And what of the economic impact? We don't see people wanting dry lakebed property anytime soon. As we consider the prospects of selling water to our neighbors, we find it may be time to get the old Cistern under the kitchen working again. Additionally, we ponder - what does a city do when the fabric of human existence is in question?


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Dr. Seuss or Hyundai – Take It In Pink

Has anyone noticed the new Hyundai car commercial? Hyundai goes all guilt trip on us and by the end of the commercial you’re desperately looking all over the refrigerator bulletin board for the therapist’s cell phone number. It’ll arm wrestle you into questioning your own moral integrity then kick you while you’re down, leaving you in the gutter to ponder every commitment you ever allowed to go unfulfilled. Yet somehow this screams Philosophical Dr. Seussery.

In Hyundai’s deep wisdom, a responsible male voice (Jeff Bridges?) tells us…

Instant gratification has us in a stranglehold. So much so, that we don’t want to fix things anymore. Just replace them. Don’t like your nose? Get a new one. Don’t like your job? Get a new one. Don’t like your spouse? Well, get a new one. What ever happened to commitment; to standing by our decisions?

Then, the invisible keyboard types out: 10 years/100,000 miles powertrain warranty. In the background, a menacing tune plays. Then you finally notice this beautiful car. ‘Ain’t never seen no Hyundai like that.

Are the car companies resorting to the manipulation of our morality in their desperation to sell cars in a sliding economy? It’s quite possible when we consider their situation. There most likely exists many a marketing challenge in the brave new world of hundred dollar per barrel oil. Mix in a full-blown green movement agitated by catastrophic global warming weather phenomena (causing some consumers to curb their driving habits), and these guys have got to be getting nervous. Or, maybe the commercial issues a warning veiled by that snazzy powertrain warranty.

We certainly don’t need Hyundai to tell us we’ve got some fucking issues here. That’s been pretty darn clear for a while now. Vive Viagara! Impressively, Hyundai invites you to it’s Thoughtspace at The music alone lulls one into a semi-catatonic empty-space area where we were thinking so deeply we started thinking about other stuff. Distracted, we stumbled upon Pink’s great, new, live video for, Dear Mr. President. In our opinion, this live cut is better than the album version. No overly incredible musicianship to be found, but this is a woman with a message that simply must be heard and finally faced. Impeach and Enjoy ;)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

New Urbanism Now to Avoid New Hermitism

Always willing to try something new, last Thursday The Cosmopolitan Charlestonian decided to attend a meeting on new urbanism. We jumped on our bikes and zipped over to 39 Rue de Jean, downtown Charleston, to pile into a room full of architects and town planners to enjoy an enlightening hour with the former Mayor of Milwaukee and current President, John Norquist, of The Congress for New Urbanism.

Feeling a bit like those lonesome island-like neighborhoods we’ve written about here, we found the presentation timely. Since giving up our Jaguar, we have become frustratingly aware of the bad design of our urban landscape and its complete reliance on the automobile. We wanted answers (and some hope) quick! Although we live downtown, our personal quest to crush our dependency on oil has segregated us from normal society in the same way any one of those gated communities sits – stranded, alone, miles of asphalt between you and it. Our friends are still part of normal society. And they live and party in those communities, tethered to the main artery by long, long roads, parkways, avenues and highways. And they still drive cars. Oh, how we miss them.

We made a choice. We kicked our car to the curb like an X (pick up Divorce Your Car by Katie Alvord when you get a chance). By Saturday night, that choice along with 50 years of urban sprawl caused us to miss our dear friend, Eddie Bush’s impromptu birthday party…a result of our damned global warming/peak oil/reduction of mass consumerism choice. And, of course, the party was, like, fifteen miles away, in a neighborhood on the outskirts of town with a bus line running no where close. So we immediately phoned a cab company, only to be told that a one way trip would equate to a Grand Total of $35.00 (plus we would tip another $7). Had our community been Newly Urbanized in the same fashionable manner the urbanist, forward-thinkers presented, we’d have been able to attend the party and would have been transported there on a reproduction electric trolley car. Who couldn’t just love this idea?

We’ve gotten around with no car and no trouble in cities like Amsterdam, London, New York, Washington D.C. and L.A. In Europe, even small cities (roughly the size of Charleston) offer wonderful public transit. The public transportation was so thorough and user-friendly in Jönköping and Huskvarna, Sweden, we even saw dogs on the bus sitting with their masters! In Amsterdam there are multiple lanes on every street - one for cars, one for electric street cars, one for buses, one for bikes and one for pedestrians. And they have giant bike parking garages! If you are an idiot and find yourself in the wrong lane, it is your own fault and people shake their heads in disgust while mumbling cruel Dutch words under their breaths. The New Urbanists appear to simply desire a return to the sensible architectural studies thrown away in a rebellion against two World Wars. Thus, the birth of Urban Sprawl, otherwise known as U.S. In car world there is little to be debated over with respect to urban design. However, the meeting did provide some hope for future connectivity.

The New Urbanist focus was on many of the issues we’ve already pointed out on this blog. Pedestrian unfriendly, disconnected neighborhoods segregated further by restrictive zoning laws have sprawled into a suburban nightmare reminding us constantly of James Howard Kunstler’s Eyesore of the Month. In most cases, this setup leaves anyone outside of a car subjected to a nice walk in the gutter (or over someone’s landscaping as we’ve pointed out in the past). America’s reliance on cheap oil, which is now obviously dwindling, has fueled more than just our vehicles – it has fueled an entire architectural movement toward big box theory flanked by giant parking lots devoid of human life. It’s no wonder the general population “looks down” upon those of us trudging over the beaten down footpaths carved into areas where a sidewalk should have been planned. We’re walking in gutters looking like we cannot even afford so much as an old klunker to deliver us to point B.

On a more positive note, we can fix this. A focus on infill development with a keen eye on urban design can save America from endless urban sprawl. Developers interested in green building must give great thought to the placement of their future buildings with rooftop gardens. There is no point in building green if the residents of said building must pollute for miles and miles driving to their new green homes. You too can join the Congress for New Urbanism for a mere hundred dollars. Their next presentation here in the States is to be held in Austin, Texas.

As far as the party, we hope to figure out additional alternatives for the future. Eddie – Happy Birthday! We hope you had a wonderful time and our thoughts were certainly on your special evening. We’re still figuring out the carless lifestyle. Cheers!