The Belle's birthday is coming up. Cause for celebration. I only want two things for my birthday. OK, maybe it could be considered three.
An electric car, specifically an EV1 (if you haven't seen it yet, watch Who Killed The Electric Car).
Solar Panels and the permit allowing them to be placed in downtown Charleston.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
"Masdar would be the largest and one of the most advanced sustainable communities in the world."
"The vision of One Planet Living is a world where people everywhere can lead happy, healthy lives within their fair share of the Earth's resources...Masdar gives us a breathtaking insight into this positive, alternative future."
Masdar is an impressive, cutting edge, carbon neutral, car-free, solar-using, sustainable city. It just sounds really cool..and awesome. But, we weren't the only ones impressed. President Bush appeared to be in his own state of shock and awe during Masdar's unveiling and presentation to him last week on his tour of the Middle East. For some reason as he walked around gawking at the greatness of Masdar and the vision behind it, we wondered what he could possibly have been thinking. We imagined Mr. Bush might have thought he was seeing things, like in one of those old Bugs Bunny cartoons where Bugs finds himself in the desert fooled by a mirage. Bugs is smart though, so about the only parallel with the President was the mispronunciation of the word mirage. LOL. It is true, though that interesting cross-references to historical analysis lie buried under the guise of these children's cartoons.
Masdar is located in Abu Dhabi (UAE). What we want to know is, where's our Masdar, Mr. President?
Some Great links:
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
I believe that the moment is near when by a procedure of active paranoiac thought, it will be possible to systematize confusion and contribute to the total discrediting of the world of reality. - Salvador Dali
So like some sort of strange spies in our own country, we’ve begun going “underground” for our news. It’s an election and there is trouble amiss in the financials. Everything we see on network television during this time will be paid for by someone with an unbelievably strong interest in the promotion and peddling of any number of saviors, from Viagra, to re-inflate many lost hard-ons watching thousands slip away in the markets, to cars that can now breathe air while spitting flowers out their mufflers. We can believe nothing we see right now.
So, off the beaten news path, we creativly dug around attempting to piece together clues to the enormity of this weeks' bubble led by credit insurers. We note that even Cramer went mad (again). Right before Monday's grand decoupling test, he expressed outrage over the lack of accountability and utter ILLUSION in charge of the markets right now, asking where’s the SEC, as he slid into a rant on country club cronyism. And did you know he’s, like, in his sixties? Looks good, eh? Plastic surgery or what? We don’t know…speculation…like everything else these days. There are times we've admired Cramer's blood-vessel bursting, spit-flying out of his mouth, insane tirades. This, however, is an excellent piece targeting Cramer's more thoughtful side, and with decent accuracy pinpointing a resentment that as a general observation seems to be building toward “big finance.” Cramer delivers, albeit with a born-again sense about him, in his usual dramatic flare.
Perusing the online news and gathering our thoughts as to where this financial trouble for the U.S. could be leading, we suddenly had a scary thought. Remember those chicks that disguised themselves in nothing more than sunglasses, dubbed the Barbie Bandits? Get ready for Act II, when Barbie, Skipper and Ken show up at the local teller window with a big, black knapsack and a couple of Magnums. Then, they bust ass for the border where the money might go just a little farther. Don’t worry - if you happen to be standing on line when the incident occurs, you will most likely be stunned like a deer in headlights by their trendy looks, coordination abilities and hip attitudes, sporting their fleece, black, hooded sweatshirts and Chanel sunglasses, picked up a day earlier with a five-finger discount at Macy’s. Don’t do anything stupid and it will all be over in a minute. Of course, the doomed trio will be caught as were the Barbies. They're just thinking about their next shopping spree. They haven't really thought this one through. Regardless, we may end up seeing any number of news stories in this country related to shop lifting, grocery-lifting, gasoline requiring payment before pump both day and night, dine and dash schemes and yes, bank robberies. And that’s when we’ll know the credit cards have run out.
Ironically, in Davos, Switzerland, The World Economics Forum is taking place while our stock market gyrates from day to day as if the U.S. has suddenly gone bi-polar. Several economists attending the event are openly criticizing our (the U.S.’) irresponsibility while Soros imagines the dollar will soon be replaced by the Euro as the world reserve currency. Suffice it to say, the news coming out of Davos is not very complimentary of the United States.
So, how better to wrap this post up considering the last few days seem to be of some consequence? In the last leg of this evening’s internet searches, we found an excellent presentation by Chalmers Johnson on his 2007 book, Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic. Chalmers helps make a lot of sense out of where we are right now. He explains military Keynesianism and the bankruptcy of America as a result of the policies the U.S. is operating under (which to this day are allowed to remain unchecked). This is a measured and level headed discussion on how it got to be this way. It’s looking more and more like our story…we might as well know it. Reflecting on the fall of Rome, Mr. Johnson casts a flame for a glimpse into our near future, which is far less Paris Hilton “hot” than the sportswear flaunted by the next phase of bank-robbing beauties and their boy-toys out to win back a few dead presidents they come believe are somehow still rightfully theirs.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Peter made an interesting comment in our discussion under Hang On To Your Thermostat. He said, "US population growth is relatively low (<1%/yr) of which almost half is due to net immigration. Even halting population growth will not solve the global problem of resource utilization. It is economic growth that presents the problem in utilization of our current energy (and other) resources. Hence the need to expand to alternatives beyond fossil fuels (unless 3rd world countries remain underdeveloped, which I doubt anybody wants!)."
We were throwing around the idea of population control (don't worry, it's just a concept whose cultural history intrigues us, not an actual present day hope for involuntary enforcement) but that's not the focus of this post. Pete's comment got us to wondering about the reasons why we have failed to expand to alternatives beyond fossil fuels to date. Moreover that the economy is now being restricted, in a roundabout sense as a result of our failure to transition to a model of sustainability. After all, it's been nearly two years since the President declared, "America is addicted to oil." Ask yourself how far we've come. Although we're not touching on the immigration part of the comment, you can ask yourself how far we've come there too.
Energy has really become part of The American Dream. We don't picture our lives without it. As a result, much resistance comes from people across the board because they're simply not sure what they are going to lose as The American Dream transitions to an American Green Dream. And the fear seems to trickle through various levels of society. Like a kind of program we run on our collective subconscious "national hard drive." At all costs, we work to maintain the status quo in many cases. The present-day bull market cycle phase in commodities though is shaking up the economy, and rightfully so. The result to the end user naturally is a drastic price adjustment. Three dollar gas certainly appears to have more people focusing on this issue.
A concern for "economic growth based upon resource utilization under our current energy policies," is well founded, as it seems to us, here, that our country is already experiencing the beginning stages of economic erosion as directly related to our energy consumption. The greatest problem being steadily rising fuel prices forcing change. It's very likely that our current resource management plan, which now includes in its repertoire, President Bush personally begging OPEC to release more oil, is collapsing. Our country may continue to experience economic hits manifest in housing bubbles,technology and financial bubbles, restricted credit, economic injections and eventual bank restructuring. As the old model falls apart, our level of ease through the transition will be mostly tied to how quickly we can change and move toward the adoption of biofuels being cautious to never, "write off viable alternatives due to perceived deficiencies."
Perceived deficiencies" are just that. Perceived. And those perceptions have been marketed to us. In S. David Freeman's book, Winning Our Energy Independence, an Energy Insider Shows How, he explains a sense of cold-war pride as the underlying sentiment upon which the habits of American energy consumption were built. "In the 1960's, the idea of saving energy was indeed considered anti-American. When I was the executive assistant to the chairman of the old Federal Power Commission in the early 1960s, I remember the reaction of my boss Joseph Swidler to the staff's projection of the U.S. electric demand for 1980. He said, "Folks, this is lower than what the Russians are projecting. We're not going to let Russia beat us. Go back and give me a higher projection that shows the U.S. as a winner." And they did. We actually thought the more electricity we used, the better off we were. Electricity was connected to "living better electrically," the industry slogan. Freedman suggests leaders like Dick Cheney still subscribe to this kind of nostalgic, post WWII attitude. Freeman notes, "as late as 2001, Vice President Dick Cheney said that conservation was simply "a sign of personal virtue...not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy."
In conclusion, we offer that economic growth under the previous model cannot continue, and it is already slowing down. However, for every action a reaction, for every cause an effect - a new economy will evolve from the old model, and there will be all kinds of niches to be filled. Overall, we're wasting precious time wrapping ourselves in the promises of worn out regimes.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Nearly six months have now passed since we gave up our car. Replacing our car with public transportation has sparked an interesting shift in our reality - the kind that forces one to step out of their comfort zone and approach life with a whole new perspective. We’re both depending on CARTA now more heavily and have become comfortable with the various routes, etc. And with the holidays’ passing it seems everyone has geared into full throttle. We’re right there with the rest of you. For 2008, we’re pretty much in bust your ass mode 24/7, with an ‘ole familiar focus on personal, business and spiritual advancement. All of the regular working folks have now returned to the bus routes we frequent most often during the day as well.
Miss Mary, a poised, sixty-ish, proper Southern black woman, has returned from her Christmas travels and wowed all her lady friends with stories of her children and her Grands in Florida (grandchildren in Southern speak). She confessed she wanted to stay with them and not come home to Charleston - the yearning of a Mother. Glad she decided to return, though, as she would otherwise have been missed. Miss Mary has secretly been labeled “The Bus Mother” by us. With a satisfied understanding she sits in her seasonally coordinated attire, a matching hat always tilted atop her head, watching all that goes on within a ten foot radius assuring an orderly ride. When the bus gets over-crowded Miss Mary will direct young guys first, then older gentlemen, in that exact hierarchy, to evacuate their seats to make them available for women boarding the bus at later stops.
Miss Mary won the affection of the writer the day she infamously asserted her power over the one guy on the bus that actually looked like he wanted to (and could) pop a cap in somebody’s ass. The bus was getting full and two older men were already standing while one younger golden-toothed man ignored the crowd and maintained occupation of his seat. We were at the last major stop and several ladies log-jammed in the entryway after the first of them realized there were no seats left. The seating hierarchy had already been violated and the situation was clearly not to the Bus Mother’s liking. With a newspaper rolled into a long and perfect extension of her forearm, she angled authoritatively in Grand Master CARTA’s direction and said, “go ahead now, and make room!” GMC looked around for a moment, coming to some kind of internal conclusion that leaving his seat was the better of all choices, and quietly assumed a spot among the other men grasping the overhead straps in standing position. The guy looked as if he’d been slapped. Miss Mary thanked him and proceeded to sit there pleasantly smiling until bidding us all goodbye when her stop was reached. We are glad to see the feisty Bus Mother back safely from her far-away journeys. This woman has no idea that there are people out there in the world that stand in awe of her magnificent powers!
With the regular players back on-board, riding CARTA is not much different than any other social activity in which people brought together for any singular purpose become familiars thereby forging a sense of community. In this case, the purpose is that we all happen to ride to and from work and school together.
We here at The Cosmopolitan Charlestonian have been thinking a greater sense of community will inevitably be born as our daily routines shift slowly from an automobile-based society to a public transit society. Many of those around us may not be completely prepared for this type of shift, but there is a very high likelihood it will eventually occur whether we like it or not. Such a shift may have to happen sooner rather than later considering recent interactions on the Straights of Hormuz with the Iranians (enflaming situations in the Middle East), the situation in Pakistan as well as continued missteps in Iraq and Afghanistan. The muddier the water gets in the Middle East, the more risk this country is under of suffering near-term oil shocks, seventies style. Aside from all that, the shear price at the pump is getting to some.
Found at CNU’s site, The Washington Post’s, The End of Sprawl, notes that high gas prices may be behind an emerging trend in middle-class movement toward urban areas supportive of public transit. While focusing on the economic vitality of cities and towns with the ability to move people about without reliance on a single resource, namely oil, they also touch on the social benefits of tweaking the habits to which we have become accustomed via life in cars.
Charleston has a lot already going for it to support a movement toward urbanization as America adjusts to peak oil and any potential future disruptions of Middle Eastern supply. We are a port city with rail lines, shipping access and waterways that may be relied upon to fill niches above and beyond the vital roles of current day shipping. The City could once again be connected to electric rail cars as it has been in the past, providing another option as well. Regardless of high gas, oil shocks or other threats to our current systems, we will not stop moving things. People and goods may just have to be moved around differently. And in the process, we may experience a Renaissance of Community. The trick for us will be in knitting together communities on the outskirts. The Post’s article concludes:
Although the end of sprawl will require painful changes, it will also provide a badly needed opportunity to take stock of the car-dependent, privatized society that has evolved over the past 60 years and to begin imagining different ways of living and governing. We may discover that it's not so bad living closer to work, in transit- and pedestrian-friendly, diverse neighborhoods where we run into friends and neighbors as we walk to the store, school or the office. We may even find that we don't miss our cars and commutes, and the culture they created, nearly as much as we feared we would.
Back to work on Monday, it’s most likely we’ll be reading the paper, a book or chatting with one or two of our new acquaintances. We’ll be trading salutations with Miss Mary and we will not be missing our car.
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Here at the Cosmopolitan Charlestonian we've often pondered exactly how far a little conservation could go. When taking the following into account, a little conservation could actually sustain our most unquestioned personal freedoms. It's hot here in the South. In mid August you can fry an egg on the hood of your car, if (unlike us) you've got one. Naturally as the asphalt bubbles, instead of whipping up a batch of scrambled hen offspring, homeowners typically flee to the comfort of their recliners after a downward adjustment of their personal climate control aparatii, otherwise known as the in-home thermostat. Sweet tea in hand, life is once again bearable as the heat headache subsides and the sugar rush ensues. This is life in the South. But don't spill your tea when you read this one.
Swanky inclinations are often conceived in the great State of California and don't take long to manifest themselves throughout the rest of the nation in this fascinating United experiment. That's why California's Title 24 Building Standards should now concern all of us. Anyone in the building industry recognizes code is king. And anyone with half a brain recognizes that eventually some good (as well as bad) laws will be enacted as climate change escalates. This is where Title 24 steps in. The American Thinker published a post entitled Who Controls Your Thermostat, explaining that the State of California is considering mandating installation of Programmable Communicating Thermostats on all new residential construction in 2008. These thermostats would typically be controlled by the homeowner, however, during "pricing events" or emergency situations, i.e. the power grid is overtaxed, the utility or state would step in and take control of your personal home temperature.
Should the State of California move forward with this policy, we firmly believe the eventuality of its adoption throughout the rest of the nation will become an inevitable future reality. Consider the South for one moment. Much of our electricity comes from hydropower. In the face of an intense drought cycle and water shortages expected within the next ten years as stated by the United States General Accounting Office, it's not difficult to see the swiftness at which our systems would experience pricing events and/or emergency situations wherein our new friend, Big Utility Brother would step in and commence regulation of our home cooling mechanisms. Maybe this is for the best as the State is simply taking into account selfish human nature. But we here believe a lot of Suthunas would get just a little hot under the collar, no pun intended, over the prospect of having lost control of the regulation of their own personal comfort.
Unfortunately, in our humble opinion, The Thinker derails when it comes to solution.
The real question poised by this invasion of the sanctity of our homes by state power is -- why are we doing this? It seems to me to be the wrong fix for a problem that we don't have to have. The common sense alternative is to build new power plants so that power shortages don't occur. Of course, they can't be coal or nuclear power plants! The coastal elites have their minds set against those undesirables. The state has wasted billions of our dollars on wind generation that hasn't helped to meet peak loads. For natural gas, offshore drilling should be considered. While we have one liquefied natural gas terminal in Mexico supplying us with Indonesian and, in the near future, Russian, LNG, another receiving terminal to be supplied by Australian LNG was rejected by the State Coastal Commission.
Wind generation cannot keep up with demand because there is just no replacement at this moment as powerful, easily transported and previously abundant as oil. And it's not that the "elites" are the only ones against coal or nuclear energy. Coal is dirty as hell and nuclear is dangerous as hell - take it from one of us here who is just old enough to REMEMBER the traumatizing Three Mile Island fiasco. The Honorary Belle grew up in coal country, afterall. Besides, there are many elites that have made bucket loads of money off of coal and would love nothing more than to see yet another coal plant erected. Last, the natural gas free-ride is about over as well. Both oil and natural gas supplies can no longer meet demand as the earth itself is seriously beyond its human carrying capacity. In other words, there are just too many of us demanding too much energy and using our limited resources with reckless abandon.
Until we as a nation get very serious about limiting population growth as well as using our limited energy resources exceptionally wisely there are few choices beyond submitting our freedoms one by one.
Saturday, January 05, 2008
Lately, you may find a sense of discord on these pages. We have grave cause for concern. Just four days into the New Year and Britney Spears, American cultural icon, suffers yet another breakdown. Trying more often to be in the world, not of the world, The Cosmopolitan Charlestonian widely appreciates the beauty of life; the energies that move space and time; the pieces of our selves knit from the fabric of humanity and the greater Universe. Stopping to smell the flowers while marveling at the intricacies of this amazing place, is, after all, the larger story behind this life experience. Britney is clearly not sharing our zen-like moments.
There seem recently to be a plethora of super sized problems facing America in addition to/as a cause of/resulting in Superstars locking themselves in bathrooms to evade giving up child custody. Despite all the good out there, all the positive efforts and cultural awakenings, too many obvious reflections of Britney can be found staring back at us as a sign of the times; a representation of American life. Seeing Miss McPopStar being hauled away to Hospital against her will in restraints suggests America has allowed expectation management to completely escape us.
Maybe someone should tell Britney the truth (this could be happening as we speak). Accountability still matters. Expectations do require management. Minor freak-outs (or staged freak-outs) are sometimes pallatable, hell, even profitable; mega freak-outs are simply not socially acceptable. Pills are not magic shifters of reality. Temper tantrums don’t often win friends and influence people. The innocent Mickey Mouse Club days are over. Laws do apply to her, too. All of humanity is not at her disposal, nor are the children she bred. Fame is a badge of honor to be worn by those with a special talent who selflessly share their gift with the rest of the world. Capitalistic greed typically leads to ruin, and Social Security will not be there for her in old age after she’s squandered her child-star earnings. These simple words of advice might really help her out though no one here is willing to go as far as smearing our mascara to emote on a YouTube video in her favor. Sorry, Brit. On a funny note, check out this Britney/ChrisCrocker Mashup we found on allieiswired.com (beware vulgarity).
To kick off 2008 Britney now epitomizes a cultural break-down happening right here, right now - a sort of unwinding. A short stay at Cedars Sinai will probably have no hand in “fixing” Brit any more than liquidity injections will fix a banking system breaking down of greed. It is quite possible with Oprah's help, Dr. Phil could fix both, however. Dr. Phil, meet Ben Bernanke. Please help with these dual systemic crisis. Brit’s breakdown has been a leading news story all day. A female reporter called her a victim of her fame. But is Britney a victim? Are any of us victims? Hardly.
It is becoming increasingly evident that a life dedicated to illusion, pageantry and useless drama is one that leads to eventual madness.
In the Art of Dreaming, Don Juan (a Yaqui Indian, not the philosophical lover of other stories) tells Carlos, “… most of our energy goes into upholding our importance … If we were capable of losing some of the importance, two extraordinary things would happen to us. One, we would free our energy from trying to maintain the illusory idea of our grandeur; and two, we would provide ourselves with enough energy to … catch a glimpse of the actual grandeur of the universe.” — Carlos Castaneda.