Apr 15, 2007

Welcome back, Thone! Where you been?

It’s been a while since I started this machine up and I must say that the recovery has taken and is taking much longer than I expected. I have been preoccupied with a number of things and have let the regular duties imposed by this blog slip by–health, wealth, stealth and the St. Patty’s Day party and sheer cussed inertia are the causes, but what the heck. I am back on track and looking to get this thing to the point where I get on and write at least once a week.

But I am on my way today, Sunday, April 15, and have been working all morning and listening to my answer to the Sunday morning talk shows (and going to church, for that matter): Ian Masters on KPFK for two hours from 11 AM (PDT). The first hour is called “Background Briefing,” the second, “Live from the Left Coast.” I have been listening every Sunday for the past three years to Masters, and though his manner can be most irritating at times--(he is especially prone to long rambling “questions” beginning with “But, . . .” that stutter through what he knows about a situation, only to end with “So, Ali Alawi, what’s your take on that?”)–much like this sentence, I am afraid, but there is no doubt that he has the most interesting guests and commentators of any current affairs program–bar none–on the radio today.

The most inneresting interview this day was with Ali Alawi, the former Defense Minister of Iraq and author of the recent book, The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace. The interview with him is a great update on the Iraq situation. Most surprising is his contrarian opinion that the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country may not necessarily lead to “absolute chaos.” Bot Repububs and Demoscats are too thoughtlessly parroting the chaos prediction these days. I myself figure it can’t get much worse than it is already. The chaos is really to be found in this country if we completely withdraw. Listen to the broadcast. It should be available as a podcast by Wednesday at the following site:
http://www.ianmasters.org/left_coast.html. Alawi was also interviewed on Charlie Rose’s Show on Wednesday, April 11, but I missed it. You can catch that interview at http://www.charlierose.com. Between them both you will get a good feel for Iraq. I can’t wait for his book to arrive.

Thanksgott for the internet and a good internet voice stream, not to mention podcasts if you miss a show. The current electronic blizzard and kerfuffle is really the most exhilarating situation I have ever been in. Ever. I love it. You can literally find anything you want on the Internet. (Remember 3 x 5 file cards in your library carrell? Boy, have we come a long way!) One of the gifts that any retirees should treat themselves to is a laptop computer with high speed internet connections and a quick course in how to go on line and find things.

Or how about this one from an email service I signed up for: one of the best recent essays on the energy crisis, because it puts the ethanol issues into perspective and shows you how the whole thing is really a boondoggle for big farm and food processing companies. (Hiss next time you hear the name Archer Daniels Midland on PBS or NPR). The piece is written by a bright guy named Byron W. King, who lives in Pittsburgh and writes for a site called Whiskey and Gunpowder–yeah, I know, but check out the whole piece at at:

The ideas that caught my eyes especially were toward the end of the piece when King points out (you can follow his math with your own calculator) that the best ethanol production, even after all the plants currently a-building go on line, would be 718,000 barrels a day or about 3.5% of daily oil consumption:

What appears at first to be an impressive number in terms of energy supply (11 billion gallons per year) is actually relatively small. In fact, it is almost in the "rounding error" of the nation's daily liquid fuel consumption of about 21 million barrels of oil per day. Quite frankly, the U.S. could "save" more than 3.5% of its daily oil use if the nation's carmakers built, marketed, and sold smaller cars, and if the nation's drivers collectively bought them. Or we could see much the same result if drivers collectively slowed down and drove their big vehicles at 60 miles per hour, or if more freight went via railroad, instead of truck over the highways. And would it be too much to ask the soccer moms and hockey dads of the country to consolidate their trips so as not to waste gas? Or what if more people decided to take a bus or light rail to work every now and then? And wrap your brain around this, for comparison: The amount of grain that is required to fill a 25-gallon tank with ethanol, one time, could otherwise feed one person for a year.

So will the U.S. really wind up running its motorized culture on corn-based ethanol? According to Cornell researcher David Pimental, if the entire U.S. grain crop were converted to ethanol, it would satisfy about 15% of U.S. automotive fuel needs. The answer is no.

Read the whole piece. I guarantee you will know what you are talking about when you next talk to your neighbor about how ethanol is going to save this country. Like most Americans, trendiness is everything, and no one really looks the stuff up. A shower is calling me since I missed the big rainstorm last night. That’s it for now from the workshop.

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