Saturday, March 31, 2007

Mr. Jeff Culbreath's new blog

It was originally at blog city, but is now at wordpress.

His latest entry: Is there hope for California?

I think there is hope for California, although today we are at a crossroads. This hope will either be confirmed or extinguished in a generation. Californians would do well to flock to those regions, towns, and neighborhoods where resistance to the designs of Leviathan is strong. There are many such places in this state, but most are still not very conscious of their plight. We see this realignment happening already: the cultural divide in California is getting wider and emerging on sharp geographical lines. When the timing is right - with state bankruptcy and financial insolvency on the horizon - the politicians in Sacramento may be willing to reconsider the benefits of subsidiarity.
In the post Mr. Culbreath mentions Mr. Christopher Zehnder's essay "Why is California so Weird?"

For more news about California from a Catholic pov, see California Catholic Daily. (Formerly San Francisco Faith, LA Lay Catholic Mission, San Diego News Notes, and La Cruz de California.)

I thought Mr. Culbreath had retired Hallowed Ground, but apparently he came back--this one has moved to Word Press as well. (Unless, of course, someone else took the name of Hallowed Ground after he retired it. I can't find any of the old posts at the blog city account.

Brief interview with Benjamin Barber


KAI RYSSDAL: We like to buy things, we Americans do. Cars, clothes, the latest and greatest gadgets. We buy even when there's nothing much we really need just because we can buy. Capitalism in its ultimate expression.

Author Benjamin Barber isn't gonna take it anymore. His theory is capitalism has been turned on its head and doesn't work the way it's supposed to. He writes about it in his latest book, "Consumed." Ben, good to talk to you.

BENJAMIN BARBER: Nice to talk to you, Kai.

RYSSDAL: You know, capitalism used to bring with it some implicit virtues. Is that now no longer the case?

BARBER: It brings virtues, but different virtues. And we don't really see them as virtues. That is to say, in the beginning of capitalism — in the 15th and 16th century — capitalism was focused on production, on hard work, on deferred gratification, on altruism. People investing and saving and capitalists acquiring wealth and keeping it in order to do further investments. All in the name of producing goods for people with very real needs and down the line making some profit from it as well. The problem is, today we have not a productivist economy but a consumer economy. And the emphasis today is not on production, but on consuming. And you've got a capitalism which is producing an awful lot of goods which are chasing very few needs, while real needs are going unmet around the world.

RYSSDAL: So is the real problem here a search for some kind of reallocation of resources so that more people can afford to consume?

BARBER: Well, the ultimate problem is how to redirect capitalism to what it does really well, which is to meet real needs and produce profits longterm for those who engage in meeting those needs.

RYSSDAL: Regrets are all well and good, but that boat's already sailed. It's not like you can turn around 150 years of capitalism and say "Oh well, now, you know what, we need to pull it back and do this the right way."

BARBER: Well, I'm not sure that's so. Because in fact, capitalism is actually on a kind of false journey now. Two-thirds of the world have very real needs. They don't have potable water, they don't have transportation, they don't have basic jobs. The dilemma is that those folks don't have the wherewithal to provide immediate profits. And here, you might say part of the problem is the short-term horizons of modern capitalism, which are looking for profits each quarter, each week, each day. In the longterm, the question is can capitalism readjust itself to what it does so well, meeting real needs by deferring its own gratification for profits? As I say, there is even within capitalism a number of ways of mobilizing the poor to becoming part of the marketplace — that's what micro-credit, Muhammad Yunus's wonderful idea . . . he just got the Nobel Prize, that's what that's about. De Soto's notion of capturing the invisible wealth that the poor hold, but is it legitimized, is another idea. The problems we face are very great, but the solutions are there for the taking.

RYSSDAL: What's America's export role here? Is it exporting capitalism throughout the world and trying to change things that way, or is exporting democracy?

BARBER: It's very interesting, because what we have been involved in is actually exporting infantilization. Exporting consumer capitalism for those who we think can play the game. When Secretary of the Treasury Paulson was in China in December, and then more recently President Bush in January, both said "The problem with China is they save too much. You know, we need a China that spends more, that consumes more." So once again, to the extent we're exporting, we are exporting a world of false needs so that others, too, will get engaged in keeping our capitalism afloat by buying the iPods and the new technologies, which for the most part are, at best, marginal improvements on traditional goods that are not really necessary.

RYSSDAL: When was the last time you did something just for fun?

BARBER: I have a . . . again, let me say, I have a lot of fun. Somebody said to me once, You couldn't be writing about this stuff unless you enjoy consuming. And that's true. I like shopping. This isn't a argument about abstemiousness or about asceticism. My problem is we live in a world where shopping and consumerism and advertising are ubiquitous and omnipresent. They're everywhere we go. I mean, imagine a world in which for every sign you see advertising something, we saw a sign about how wonderful the party or the president was. You know, we call that totalitarianism. But when we have a society totally dominated by consumerism and markets, we say, "Oh! That's liberty." I don't get it.

RYSSDAL: Benjamin Barber is a regular commentator on this program. He's also a professor of civil society at the University of Maryland. His latest book is called "Consumed." Ben, thanks for stopping by.

BARBER: Thanks so much, Kai.
Podcast: Charlottesville Right Now, mp3

website for Benjamin Barber; he is currently a distinguished senior fellow at Demos

some document related to the book

I think he recognizes the problem, but doesn't offer the right solution...

Cavemen Preferred Full-Figured Ladies

Via Lew Rockwell

Cavemen Preferred Full-Figured Ladies
Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News

March 27, 2007 — Thin may be in now, but prehistoric men 15,000 years ago prefered full-figured gals, suggest dozens of flint figurines excavated from a Paleolithic hunting site in Poland.

Since almost identical depictions have been found elsewhere throughout Europe, the figurines indicate a shared artistic tradition existed even then.

The findings are published in the current issue of the journal Antiquity.

Co-author Romuald Schild explained that the artifacts offer "a cultural inventory" for the late Magdalenian era (18,000-10,000 years ago).

In the paper, Schild and colleagues Bodil Bratlund, Else Kolstrup and Jan Fiedorczuk describe the carvings as "stylized voluptuous female outlines" that "are cut out of flint flakes."

The same symbolic representations of women displayed in the artifacts extend across Europe, added Schild, a researcher in the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology at the Polish Academy of Sciences.

Because the site, near the Polish village of Wilczyce, served as a late autumn/early winter hunting camp, it is likely men created the figurines when they were taking breaks from hunting arctic foxes, woolly rhinoceros and other game.

Most of the carvings show a slight curve in the breast area. Very exaggerated curves depict the buttocks, while tiny rounded tops served as heads. One figure's head was, at one point, polished and retouched.

Examination of the flint artifacts under high magnification revealed they were in "mint" condition with no signs of use as tools.

The book The Nature of Paleolithic Art by R. Dale Guthrie contains images of nearly identical renderings. It seems shapely women also inspired stone carvings and cave art, some of which date to 35,000 years ago.

Among the human depictions, "female images dominate and are nude, almost every one full-figured above and below," explained Guthrie, an emeritus professor in the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

Guthrie believes most of their creators were young men. He suggests it is not too difficult to theorize what was on their minds in their free time.

"Think of it, Paleolithic people must have been surrounded by a wealth of other available images," said Guthrie.

"For example, the (art subject) repetition could have involved: babies, butterflies, frogs, song birds, small mammals, flowers, beautiful clothes, battle scenes, shields, clan symbols and so on. These are absent or virtually unknown in Paleolithic art."

In addition to animal bones and the flint figurines, the researchers found hundreds of carefully perforated arctic fox teeth that had either been strung into a necklace or placed in a pouch before disposal of the animal's remains. The researchers believe the teeth may have had some kind of ritualistic, spiritual meaning.

The teeth and bones were found preserved in an ice wedge, where they had remained frozen in time until their recent discovery.

Interview with Jeremy Scahill

Author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army

Transcript; mp3

via Lew Rockwell

Is Blackwater really like the fictional Ravenwood of Jericho? Is it really such a threat to freedom and "democracy"? Or are these just fears of leftists and libertarians alike? What is Mr. Scahill's position on the 2nd amendment and gun control?

So is being a mercenary necessarily a bad thing? What then would we say to the Swiss, especially the Swiss Guards? Are most mecenaries men who would do anything for money? Or are they decent, God-fearing Americans? Somewhere in between?

One of his articles, In the Black(water)
other articles

America’s Remaining Jobs Are Not The Most Productive

America’s Remaining Jobs Are Not The Most Productive
Published 03/30/07 by Amber Metcalf - Print Article

The top jobs for Americans are neither valuable for the country nor achievable for the majority of the nation. Research conducted by Money Magazine and showed the 20 best jobs for young Americans belong solely to the service industry, in a servant economy .

What’s wrong with the service industry? The service industry creates an intangible product that is therefore non-tradable and unbeneficial for our country. Service companies sell just that: a service (example: giving each other hair cuts). Since this is not a physical product, the U.S. cannot sell it to competing nations. The result is money passed around among Americans instead of money coming into the nation from countries that buy our products.

According to the study, staff nurse, personal trainer, and school teacher are among the top 20 jobs for young Americans in addition to several management and specialist positions. While they may be highly self-satisfying, 72 percent of Americans are not eligible for the nation’s top job titles. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the national college graduation rate was 28 percent in 2006. So in addition to holding no national benefit, these jobs are highly unattainable for nearly three-quarters of the nation because most require a bachelor’s degree.

The past five years have seen job growth in the service industry only with a net job loss in goods-producing activities. This is attributed mainly to the exporting of these jobs through outsourcing.

The U.S. has sent the majority of jobs in the production industry overseas leaving us with service jobs that most of us are not qualified to obtain. As one-fourth of the nation gets richer in their service-industry positions, the rest of us become rapidly unemployed as more and more industrial jobs leave the country.

Bartlett elaborates on GAO peak oil report

Published on 29 Mar 2007 by Energy Bulletin. Archived on 30 Mar 2007.
Bartlett elaborates on GAO peak oil report
by Rep. Roscoe Bartlett

House of Representatives - March 29, 2007
[Page: H3349]

The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Hill). Under the Speaker's announced policy of January 18, 2007, the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Bartlett) is recognized for 60 minutes as the designee of the minority leader.

Mr. BARTLETT of Maryland. Mr. Speaker, I come to the floor today to address two very timely items. One is a just-released report by the General Accountability Office entitled: ``Crude Oil: Uncertainty about future oil supply make it important to develop a strategy for addressing a peak and decline in oil production.'' This report was released at a news conference at two o'clock today, and so we want to spend some time discussing this report.

[Several minutes spent talking on the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.]

I have several charts here from that report. I think that might be a good way to begin this discussion. Let's look at the first chart.

Now, I have been to the floor a number of times before, and I have shown other versions of this same phenomenon, and that is the reality that our country a number of years ago reached its maximum oil production, and it has been downhill since then. This was predicted in 1956 by a Shell Oil Company scientist to a group of oil engineers and executives in San Antonio, Texas, on the 8th day of March, just a little over 51 years ago.

In 1956, he predicted that the United States would reach its maximum oil production in 1970. Now, in 1956, we were perhaps the largest producer of oil in the world. We were a large exporter of oil, and oil was king.

The industrial revolution was in full swing, and Shell Oil company told M. King Hubbert that he should not give that speech because he would certainly embarrass himself and them because he was employed by them. He gave the speech anyhow. For 14 years, he was a pariah.

On schedule, as he predicted, in 1970, we reached our maximum oil production. He had indicated that at that point about half of all the oil that we would ever produce would have been produced, and the second half, which is reasonable, would be harder to get and, therefore, would be produced more slowly. It would be downhill after that.

Yes, you know, advertise a little bump on the downhill. That little bump is that huge supply of oil that we found in Prudhoe Bay, up in Alaska. M. King Hubbert's predictions were for the lower 48. He didn't include the Gulf of

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Mexico. There is a little wiggle in the curve, hardly discernible by those discoveries in the Gulf of Mexico. But there was a little blip in the downhill slope, when we lowered the top of Hubbert's peak. So, right on schedule, we peaked in 1979. M. King Hubbert indicated, I think, it was in 1969, he predicted that the world would be peaking about now.

The question I always asked myself, if M. King Hubbert was right about the United States, and he gave us the basis of his analysis, which was very logical, if he was right about the United States, and since the United States is obviously a microcosm of the world, why shouldn't he be right about the world? If he was right about the world, shouldn't we have been doing something in anticipation of reaching a maximum oil production beyond which additional oil production would be impossible, prices would rise, oil, $65 a barrel today, and production would inexorably decline.

There is nothing that we have done in the United States to stop that. We have drilled more oil wells in the United States than all the rest of the world. Still we have not stopped that downward slope, just that blip from Prudhoe Bay; and now we are down to a bit over half of the oil that we produced in 1970, in spite of a vastly improved technique for enhanced oil recovery, for discovery of oil, 3-D seismic computer modeling and so forth.

The next chart that they showed is an interesting contrast, and this is a chart from our Energy Information Agency. In spite of the fact that they know that M. King Hubbert was right about the United States, that we did peak in 1970, and in spite of the fact that they know that he predicted that the world should be peaking about now, and there is every indication that he may have been right, they still are forecasting that the total production of oil, which is now they have it about 80, I think it's now about 85 million barrels a day, will do nothing but go up and up. They have this clear through 2030.

Now, they do show that the non-APEC nations are peaking and will fall off. That is true. Most of them have peaked, and they are falling off. But they believe their oil production will simply go up and up.

The chances that that is true, by the way, Dr. Lahere, who has written a couple of books on this subject, says it is absolutely impossible, considering the vastly improved techniques we have for finding oil. They are predicting that we will have as much more oil as all of the reserves we now know to exist in this country, that we are going to find at least that much more oil.

The next chart is a compilation of a number of authorities and their predictions of when peaking will occur. Some of them have very, narrow projections. A number of people think that peaking has already occurred. Others have gross uncertainty in their predictions. It could be any time between now and the next century. But if you look at the preponderance of these, most of these authorities believe that peaking will occur or could occur before 2020.

Now, of course, this kind of a consensus by the world's leaders is grossly inconsistent with the chart that we just saw where our Energy Information Agency is projecting an ever upward and upward projection production of oil.

The next chart is an interesting one which they showed us, and this is worldwide proven oil reserves by political risk. This is a very good report, and they are a very credible organization, which is why I asked them to do this report a bit more than a year ago. I am pleased it is out now, because they do have a lot of credibility. When the GAO speaks, people tend to listen.

They note that there are a lot of uncertainties about when the peak will occur, and probably the biggest uncertainties have less to do with how much oil is under the ground rather than risks above ground. One of these risks is a political risk. A lot of oil comes from places like Saudi Arabia and Venezuela and Iraq and Iran and Kuwait and so forth. So they list here the high political risk, the medium political risk, and the low political risk.

You see here that about two-thirds of all the oil in the world is in countries where, by their judgment and the judgment of experts which they quote, either high risk or medium risk. Indeed, the night before last, when England and Iran were kind of yelling at each other over the sailors that Iran has taken, oil jumped up $4. Now, it quieted down by yesterday morning, so oil was only up a bit more than $1 yesterday. But this shows the volatility of the market relative to the political uncertainty in these areas.

The next chart is a really interesting chart, and it shows another risk, and that is investment risk. A venture capitalist is unwilling to invest in places where they may lose their capital or a country, for instance, which now will permit venture capital but tomorrow may decide they are going to nationalize all the oil fields. Then you have lost all of your investment. So they are listing this by high and medium and low.

By the way, for about a third of all the places that oil comes from, there is no foreign investment, also no foreign visibility. We just have to go by faith on how much oil is in their reserves, because they won't let our people in. You can't make any investments there.

[Time: 16:45]

But I think here about 95 percent of all the oil in the world represents, in their view, high and medium risk. So when you add the political risk and the investment risk, you have a lot of uncertainty as to how much oil we are going to produce in the future, and this is added to the uncertainty of how much is there and when we will, in fact, reach that maximum capacity for producing oil.

The next chart is an interesting one. And I should have brought another one that shows it in a very poignant way by showing what the world would look like if the nations' size was determined by how much oil they have. And of course we are dwarfed in that because Saudi Arabia has many, many times as much oil as we. We represent a fourth of the world's economy and we have two percent of the world's oil. We use a fourth of the world's oil and import almost two-thirds of what we use.

Here they have the oil in the non-OPEC nations and the oil in Saudi Arabia. Look how big Saudi Arabia is. And then the rest of the OPEC nations, and then they have blown this up over here so you can see who else is involved in the OPEC nations. Notice that, what, over three-fourths of all of the oil is controlled by OPEC nations, and about a fourth of all of that oil comes from Saudi Arabia alone.

The next chart is a really interesting one and this shows, the two bars here, and one, these are the top 10 companies on the basis of oil production and reserve holdings. Now, these reserve holdings are sort of iffy, because for most of these countries there is little or no transparency, and they really won't let us look at their data. But we do know who is producing oil.

And here we see that big guys like ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell and BP and so forth are producing 22 percent of the oil. And Saudi Arabia, a bunch of national companies are producing 78 percent of the oil.

But look at the next bar over there, and that shows you who owns the oil. Ninety-eight percent of all that oil is owned, our big guys here that are pumping it, they don't own any of it. They have leases. They don't own the oil. The oil is owned by mostly OPEC Middle East countries and there they have up top, and that ought to be shaded gray because LUK Oil, I don't know if LUK oil is private or whether it is national. It is a huge oil company in Russia.

Well, this points to the problems that we have, and these problems encouraged 30 of our prominent citizens, Boyden Gray and Jim Woolsey and McFarland and 27 others, a couple of years ago to write a letter to the President with these facts in mind saying, Mr. President, the fact that we have only 2 percent of the known reserves of oil and we use 25 percent of the world's oil, and import two-thirds of what we use, and as the President says, much of that from countries that don't even like us, read down that list, this represents a totally unacceptable national security risk. And, Mr. President, we really need to do something about that.

Well, the next chart is the one that I stopped with a couple of weeks ago when I was on the floor here, and I

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want to spend the rest of the time that we have today in talking about this chart. And, indeed, we could spend a couple of weeks talking about the chart, because what this looks at is the potential alternatives to these fossil fuels.

I would like to mention that there are several groups that have common cause in that area. Al Gore came to the Congress last week, I believe it was, and testified before obviously a packed committee room. He believes that we have global warming. Indeed, I think, a majority of our citizens and a majority of scientists now believe that we have global warming. You may or may not agree with whether our Earth is warming or not, but if you believe that we have a national security risk because we get too much of our oil from overseas, or if you believe that it simply may not be there because the world will peak out and there won't be enough oil because the demand keeps going up at about 2 percent, exponential growth, then you would want to do pretty much exactly the same things that those people who believed we have global warming want to do.

They want to get away from the fossil fuels because what we are doing in using these fossil fuels is releasing carbon dioxide that has been locked up by nature for a very long number of years. And we are now releasing that over a very short time period. We have about 8,000 years of recorded history in the world, and the age of oil, from pumping that first barrel of oil to pumping the last economically feasible barrel of oil, will probably be about 300 years. We are about 150 years into the age of oil, and in another 150 years we will probably have transitioned out of the age of oil and gas and coal. This is a relatively short time in the history of the world.

As I mentioned before, with the knowledge that M. King Hubbert was right about the United States, and we knew that of a certainty by 1980, because when we were already 10 years down the other side of Hubbert's peak. And the Reagan administration, my second most favorite President, decided that the thing to do, which by the way was totally the wrong thing to do, the thing to do was to encourage, to give our oil people a profit motive to go out and find oil. Now, you can't find oil that is not there. And you can't pump oil you haven't found.

But they were encouraged to drill, and drill they did. We now have 530,000 operating oil wells in our country. That is more oil wells than drilled in all of the rest of the world. They drilled and drilled. And if you have a pot that compares drilling with production, you will see that there was little or no increase in production as a result of this drilling, because this was 1980. We are already 10 years down the other side of Hubbert's peak and you can't pump what is not there. And M. King Hubbert was right, and we couldn't reverse that by drilling more wells. So now we are faced or will be faced very shortly in the future with the reality that we can't pump more oil; that we will have reached peak oil. And as you saw, a majority of all the experts in the world believe that that is either present or imminent. So we began to look for alternatives for this.

Now, I know that for the last several years we have had some programs in Congress where we have been sponsoring green things like corn, ethanol and so forth; and this is supposed to free us from our large dependence on fossil fuels. There are some finite resources. These are fossil fuels, but they are not the oil that we ordinarily, or gas or coal we ordinarily exploit. And they are exploitable. And we will get some energy from them. How much is yet to be determined.

Let me mention some of those. There are the tar sands in Alberta, Canada. These are huge reserves. They represent as much potential oil as all the known reserves of oil in the world, perhaps more than that. So why should we worry since there is that much there? They are now aggressively exploiting those fields. They have a shovel that lifts 100 tons at a time. They dump it into a truck that hauls 400 tons, and they haul it to a big cooker where they cook it and this oil, which is too stiff to flow, now is heated up so it will flow and some short chain volatiles are added to it so it will continue to flow when it is cooled.

And they are now producing about a million barrels a day. Boy, a million barrels a day. I can hardly count to a million. That sounds like a lot. And it is a lot.

But it is just barely over 1 percent of the 84 or 85 million barrels a day that our world produces and our world consumes. And they are using enormous amounts of energy, from what we call stranded natural gas. Now, natural gas is stranded when it is in a place where there aren't very many people. And since natural gas is hard to transport, it is very cheap there and so we say it is stranded. So they have some cheap gas there and they are using this gas, and I am told, everything you are told is not true, but I am told that they may be using more energy from the natural gas than they are getting out of the oil.

But from a dollar and cents perspective, it makes good sense because it takes them somewhere between 18 and $25 a barrel to make the oil, and it is selling today I think for about $65 a barrel, so that is a pretty good markup.

But the profit ratio you really should be looking at is the energy profit ratio. How much energy do you get out per unit of energy that you put in. And they may be getting out less than they put in. They know that what they are doing now is not sustainable for two reasons. One is the natural gas there will not last forever. Indeed, talking about natural gas, we have peaked in natural gas in our country. That stunned us. It was a couple of years ago we reached our maximum production of natural gas. We thought that was way off in the future. We reached that a couple of years ago. They know the natural gas will run out so they are talking about building maybe a nuclear power plant there to get energy to cook this oil. But another problem looms.

This vein, if you can think of it as a vein, is now near the surface or on the surface and so they are in effect mining it with huge pits. And they have a huge lake they call a detailing lake. It is really pretty noxious stuff there. And environmentalists are very concerned about it. But, soon, this vein will duck under an overlay and economically, they won't be able to take off that overlay. So what they are going to have to did is develop it in situ. And they yet don't know, economically, whether that is doable or not. So although there are potentially enormous amounts of energy available there, how much can we really get out, net energy?

Now, we may be getting out less than nothing net energy. We may be putting in more energy from natural gas than we are getting out of the oil. But the natural gas is stranded. It is hard to ship and the oil is in high demand and so it makes dollar and cents sense to do this.

Then we have the oil shales and they are a little different. They are not just a very heavy oil. It is bound in a rock, and it can be released with heat and pressure. And these reserves, primarily in Colorado or Utah, are enormous, perhaps as large as the tar sands in Alberta, Canada. So why aren't we sanguine about our future since we have a lot of this in our country?

None of this has really been economically exploited so far. In the last few years, Shell has conducted an interesting experiment there. They have gone in and drilled a number of holes and frozen those so as to kind of make a frozen vessel because they don't want this oil they are producing to leak out to contaminate aquifers. And then they cook it for a year, drill some other holes in the middle and cook it for a year. And they have gotten meaningful amounts after some processing because it doesn't start out as an oil. They get some meaningful amounts of oil from it. But, you know, how much can we surge that? How much will it cost to build? What is really the energy profit ratio from that?

The news accounts of this have been much more optimistic than the Shell Oil scientist who gave a report in Denver, Colorado, a couple of years ago that I attended. And he said, I think, that it would be 2012 or 2013 before they even knew whether it would be economically feasible to develop those oil shales the way they were developing them. Potentially, there is an enormous amount of energy there.

Let me note also that there is an incredible amount of energy in the tides. The moon lifts the whole ocean, what,

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2 or 3 feet. I carry two 5-gallon buckets of water, and they are heavy. This is a lot of energy. So why should we worry about the future? We have got all that energy from the tides. The reason to worry is that the energy is out there, but it is frightfully difficult to harness it. There is an old adage that says energy, to be useful, must be concentrated; and it is certainly not concentrated in the tides. And we have huge engineering problems in getting energy out of these oil shales. It may be there, but it is not something you would want to bet the ranch on.

The third one is coal. And there will be people who tell you don't worry about our future; we have 250 years of coal at current use rates. That is true. But be very careful when people say at current use rates because if we increase our use of coal only 2 percent, and I submit we will have to ramp up its use more than that as we run down the other side of Hubbert's peak and more and more energy is needed, but if we increase our use of coal only 2 percent, that 250 years shrinks to 85 years. You have to understand that at 2 percent increase, it doubles, that it is compounded, exponentially compounded, it doubles in 35 years. It is four times bigger in 70 years. It is eight times bigger in 105 years. This phenomenon, Albert Einstein said, was the most powerful force in the universe. He was asked, after the discovery of atomic energy, Dr. Einstein, what will be next? And he said, well, the most powerful force in the universe is the power of compound interest, and that is what we have here in this exponential compound growth.

[Time: 17:00]

But for most of our uses, we can't use coal. You can use electricity with it, but you can't run your car with it. So if we are now going to gasify or liquefy the coal, which, by the way, is very easy to do. Hitler ran his whole country on it, and South Africa did a lot of that, too. So we know how to do that, but it takes energy to do that. And if the energy to do that comes from coal, now you have reduced the supply of coal to about 50 years.

But we live in a world economy, and we share our oil with the world. It really doesn't matter today who owns the resource. He who has the dollars can buy it. It is bid up, which is why it is different prices different days, and he who has the dollars buys it.

So if we have to share our oil with the world, there is not much of a way to do that. Since if we keep all our coal, we won't be buying oil from someplace else, and they will therefore have the oil, and to a very large degree energy is fungible. So our 50-year supply of oil, if we share it with the world, shrinks to 12 1/2 years. Big deal. With only a 2 percent increase and the use of coal, if we convert it to a gas or a liquid and share it with the world, our 250 years shrinks to 12 1/2 years. There is a lot of energy there.

And, by the way, when you use coal, you have reduced more greenhouse gasses than using either gas or oil. So those who are concerned about climate change will have some big concerns about using coal. If your only concerns are national security and peak oil, you have less concerns about using coal.

But, in any event, it is not our savior. You can't sleep well tonight because we have 250 years of coal at the current use rate. Because with an increased demand of only 2 percent, converting it to a gas or a liquid and sharing it with the world, that shrinks to 12 1/2 years.

The next two subjects we are going to talk about briefly are sources of energy from nuclear. We get 8 percent of our total energy from nuclear. We get 20 percent of our electricity from nuclear. When you drive home tonight, note every fifth business and every fifth house would be dark if it weren't for nuclear energy.

I have some friends who were strong opponents of nuclear energy. They are very bright people. And now they are looking at a future where the trade-off may be between having more nuclear and shivering in the dark without enough energy for light and heat. And when they look at those two alternatives, they are taking a new look at nuclear.

There are problems with nuclear. There are three fundamentally different ways you can produce nuclear energy. One is from the light water reactor. That is the only energy source we use. It uses fission nuclear uranium, and there is a finite supply of fission nuclear uranium in the world. We need an honest broker to tell us how much is there at current use rates and how much will be there if we ramp up the use, and we will ramp up the use.

China is now aggressively designing new nuclear power plants. They are building a coal-fired power plant, two a week. They have got to. They have got 1.3 billion people who want to abandon their bicycle and buy a car, and they are faced with kind of a mass revolt if they don't permit their people to enjoy the benefits of an industrialized society like the rest of the world does.

By the way, China has a bit less coal than we. They are mining more of it, so their coal will end before ours. So they are building a lot of coal-fired power plants, but they are also, I understand, planning to build 50 nuclear power plants. We haven't built one in about 30 years in our country. There has never been an accident or a death. There are accidents in coal mines, a lot more in China than here. We do a pretty good job, but still we have accidents and people die. They die from black lung disease from breathing polluted air. They die at the railroad crossing being hit by the train. We never seem to have a concern about the people who die as a result of using coal.

No one has ever died, there has not been any serious accident with nuclear, and a large number of people are concerned about nuclear. And there are problems with the waste product of nuclear because the second choice is a breeder reactor. If, in fact, we run out of fission nuclear uranium, then we will have to go to a breeder reactor. Our only experience with that in this country is building nuclear weapons. We have no commercial breeder reactors. They do, as the name implies, produce fuel; and they produce more fuel than they use. So you are kind of home free, except you have a huge problem with moving this stuff around and enriching it, and it is weapons grade kinds of stuff, so there are a lot of concerns.

I just have a notion, Mr. Speaker, that anything that is so hot that I can't get close to it for a quarter of a million years ought to have enough energy left in it to do something useful in it, wouldn't you think? You see, we call this spent fuel, and we have taken out only a relatively few percent of the energy of this fuel.

I would like to challenge our engineering and scientific people, and we have the most creative and innovative society in the world, to figure out what we can do with this thing which is now a huge liability and we are fighting over where to put it. We have put billions of dollars into Yucca Mountain out in Nevada, and we may not put it there. It is now stored in the back 40 or underwater in our roughly 800 nuclear power plants in this country. So there are problems with nuclear.

But there are also problems with not having energy and not going to be able to make nitrogen fertilizer for corn and not having heat for your house, and we need to rethink those.

The type of nuclear that gets us home free is fusion. By the way, we do have a huge fusion reactor. It is called the sun. That is what it is doing up there, and we have lots of energy from the sun. I understand that more energy from the sun falls on the Earth on any one sunny day than we use in a whole year if we could only capture that.

By the way, we are using sun energy, of course. Almost every energy source we use comes from or came from the sun. It was the sun that caused the plants to grow from which coal was made. Boy, do I know that. As a little kid in Western Pennsylvania, we had a coal furnace and we bought coal, which went from dust to big blocks of coal, some so big I couldn't put them in the furnace. There was a sledgehammer there leaning against the wall, and I would break the lump of coal to put it in the furnace, and sometimes it would break open and there was a fern leaf. Boy, I remember the feelings that went through me, and they still kind of do, when I looked at that fern leaf. And I said to myself how long ago did that grow and fall into the bog and with time and pressure and Earth being washed over, it became whole.

Most people believe that all of the oil and gas that we have is the result of subtropical lakes from a very long time ago. We see it now in algae that grows and it falls to the bottom. It has

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a cycle. It matures and falls to the bottom. Dirt washes in from the surrounding hills, more the next year. More dirt washes in. So most of our oil and gas is not in big lakes down there. It is trapped between grains of sand and rock and so forth. All of this, of course, is secondhand sun energy.

We get some direct sun energy. You can warm your house if your window faces south. It can produce electricity for you if you put solar panels on your roof. If you put a wind machine up, by the way, that is secondhand sun energy because the wind blows because of differential heating of the Earth.

It is no wonder, Mr. Speaker, when you look at what the sun does for us why many of our ancients worshipped the sun. As a matter of fact, the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox was an ancient pagan holiday because a new spring had come. The day and night were of equal length. So the first Sunday after the first full moon, and I have no idea why after the first full moon, it was a celebration to the goddess of fertility. Let's have lots of animals and let our crops grow well, and they were appealing to the goddess of fertility to make that happen.

I wondered as a little kid what relationship chickens and eggs and bunnies had to the Resurrection, because we call it Easter; and I was a big boy before I learned that, of course, it didn't have any relationship. But as a little kid I lived on a farm, and I knew rabbits didn't lay eggs, but in my Easter basket were rabbits and eggs, and that confused me. And then I went to church and we talked about the Crucifixion. What in the heck do rabbits and eggs have to do with the Crucifixion? The answer, of course, is nothing.

But very early in Christianity we wanted to make it attractive to the pagans, so we attached pagan significance to Christian holidays, and these are symbols of fertility. I once had a few rabbits, and pretty soon I had a whole lot of rabbits. And we now have bantam chickens, and if you let them do what they would like to do, they steal a nest out and they hatch and you would have a lot of bantam chickens by fall. So these were examples of fertility, and that is why we had them there.

If you are counting on nuclear fusion to solve our problems, you are probably counting on the lottery to solve your personal economic problems. I would have plan B, and I support all the money, about $250 million a year, we spend in nuclear fusion. But, boy, I want to have a plan B. We are really home free if we have nuclear fusion, because it is producing the same kind of energy that is produced from the sun. We have essentially an infinite supply of the raw materials here to make it, and it is nonpolluting except for the heat that it produces. But that is my personal conviction. Others think that they are better; some think they are worse. I think the odds are about the same as the odds of your winning the lottery. So if you are comfortable with solving your personal financial problems winning the lottery, you are probably comfortable believing we are going to solve our energy problems with nuclear fusion.

Well, once we are through those and whatever we can get from nuclear for the long term and are willing to live with, then we come to the true renewables: solar and wind and geothermal and ocean energy, agricultural resources. There are a whole host of those. Let's just look at those one by one.

The solar industry, that is, the solar panels, quite miraculously just a little bit of silicon there, and it is converting sun rays into electricity, and I have them and they produce electricity and charge some big batteries, and we get lights and run power tools and so forth from the energy stored in the battery. That industry in 2000 represented .07 percent of our total energy. That has really grown since 2000. Today, it still represents far less than 1 percent. It is growing 30 percent a year, more than 30 percent a year.

They had some recent problems with silicon, because they are competing with the semiconductor industry, and they are growing so rapidly, and there weren't enough silicon plants. The silicon people were very edgy because they built some plants in the 1970s when oil was way up and then it dropped down to $10 a barrel and nobody wanted solar panels anymore, and they got stuck with factories for which they had no market for their product, and so the investors were unwilling. I think they are kind of getting by that because most people think that oil is not going down to anything near $10 a barrel in the future.

Solar electricity today is produced at about 25, 26 cents a kilowatt hour. That is high. But the cost of electricity is going up. And, by the way, the more we learn about these solar panels, the more we make and the cost comes down. But, unfortunately, the price of lead is going up; and still the cheapest, most cost-efficient battery for storing energy is the lead acid battery. So as the cost of the solar panels comes down, the cost of batteries goes up. So if you want a self-sufficient system, the cost of that total system is not declining. If you simply want a grid tie, produce enough electricity, you can run your meter backwards.

We are trying to get legislation through to encourage our States, and I think that is all we ought to do, because I am an advocate of States' rights, to enact what is called net metering, that if you produce more electricity to use, they will buy it from you. This distributed production, by the way, is enormously important from a national security perspective.

Unlike electricity, if you put a gallon of oil in a pipe and it goes a thousand miles, you get a gallon of oil out. You put electricity in a wire and if you run it far enough, you don't get anything out the other end, what is called line losses. So having distributed production has a lot of advantages. Not everything is down when the power plant is down. And, furthermore, you have less line loss because you are producing it closer to where it is used. So we ought to be using that a whole lot more than we are.

There are thin films and there are still some technical problems in developing those economically, but these thin films, and some of the silicon things, too, can be put in things like the shingles on your roof. They look just like any other shingle, but they produce electricity. The siding on your house. Indeed, there is glass that you can get. It will look like the glass with a dark filter on it, but there is glass that you can put in your windows that will let light in and produce electricity at the same time. So there are some exciting things that are being developed in this area.

I spent New Year's Eve in Shanghai, and we met in China and had lunch with the young man who about 5 years ago started what is now the second largest solar panel manufacturer in the world.

[Time: 17:15]

Suntec, I think he calls his industry, and they now have a subsidiary in this country.

By the way, the top five producers of solar cells are in China and Japan. Number one is Sharp, and that is Japan. We used to have Solarex out in my district, now BP Solar, used to be number two in the world. Now they are not even among the top ten in the world.

This is the most creative, innovative society in the world that invented the solar cell. I worked at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab. We put the first solar powered satellite in space. The United States invented that. Like so much of the technology we invent, somebody else is benefiting from it.

I want the United States to be a leader in these areas. Indeed, I believe that we have such a creative, innovative society, that if we really challenge our people, we can become a world leader again; not just a world leader in how much oil we use, but a world leader in moving to these alternative ways of producing energy.

So I think there is a great future for solar, and I would like legislation out there that encourages people to put it on their roofs and encourages companies to build the plants. It is a national security issue.

Wind. Wind is now producing electricity in our country at about 2.5 cents per kilowatt hour. By the way, the leader in this in the world is little Denmark. Again, shame on us. The largest industrial country in the world, the leader technologically in the world, and Denmark is leading the world in building wind machines. They are really efficient.

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The little ones we used to produce, the blades turned very fast and they might kill birds and baths. Now they have huge blades. A single blade may be 60, 70 feet long. You may have seen them being moved down the highway. They move very slowly. It would have to be a really debilitated bat or bird that got caught by one of those.

Indeed, if you are really concerned about bats and birds, then don't have picture windows. I am sure, not so many for the bats, but the bird, you are are going to lose more birds on your picture window than you will ever lose from that wind machine that you put up to produce electricity.

We have wind farms out in the West. In the East here there are some Senators that are big proponents of wind, but not in my backyard. The NIMBY factor is very prominent. They would like that, but not in their view shed, thank you.

You know, pretty is as pretty does, and I think these wind machines are beautiful. Knowing what they do, I think they are very stylish just on their own. But knowing what they are doing they become even handsomer.

Geothermal. Now, this is true geothermal. If you go to Iceland, there is not a chimney in Iceland because all of their heating, all of their energy like that in Iceland comes from geothermal. They are close enough to the molten core of the Earth that they can get hot water. That is how they heat their houses and produce their energy there.

We call geothermal something which is a really good idea, but it is not geothermal. We call geothermal those heat pumps that we tie to ground or groundwater, rather than rather stupidly to the air.

If you think about your air conditioner in the summer, what you are trying to do is heat up the outside air. That may be 90 degrees. If you are trying to heat up groundwater in Maryland here, it is 56 degrees. That is really cool compared to 90 degrees, isn't it? And what you are trying to do in the wintertime is to cool the outside air with your heat pump.

It is a whole lot easier to cool 56 degree air. That looks really warm compared to 10 degree air. That 60 degree water is very warm compared to 10 degree air. So you get a lot more efficiency out of your heat pump. People will call that geothermal. That is okay. Please put it in quotes, because it is not true geothermal. True geothermal ties you to the Earth.

We are going to have to come back another day to talk about the rest of this, because I just wanted to skip down here to ethanol. Because there was this week, and we have only about 5 minutes remaining, there was this week in the Washington Post on Sunday, the Outlook Section, a really interesting article. ``Corn Can't Solve Our Problem,'' it says.

The first paragraph is really interesting. ``The world has gone full circle. A century ago our first transportation, biofuels, the hay and oats fed to our horses, were replaced by gasoline. Today, ethanol from corn and biodiesel from soybeans have begun edging out gasoline and diesel. Lost in the ethanol induced euphoria, however, is the fact that three of our most fundamental needs, food, energy and a livable and sustainable environment, are now in direct conflict.''

Interesting. I have here an article, and again we will come back again to talk about this, a really interesting talk given by Hyman Rickover 50 years ago the 14th of this May to a group of physicians in St. Paul, Minnesota, and he talks about this. He cautioned that if we try to get energy from our agriculture, we are going to be in competition with food.

Let me read from the jump page here what they say about this. It is really interesting.

``But because of how corn ethanol currently is made, only about 20 percent of each gallon is new energy.'' Eighty percent of all the energy you get out of a gallon of ethanol simply comes from the fossil fuels that are kind of recycled. The natural gas which made the nitrogen fertilizer, almost half the energy producing corn comes from that. The oil that made the tractor and the tires and the diesel fuel that pulled it through the fields and the energy used to mine the phosphate and potash rock and so forth, only 20 percent of every gallon represents new energy.

So they say this: If every one of our 70 million acres on which corn was grown in 2006, if we use all of that corn to produce ethanol, we would displace only 12 percent of our gasoline. And if you discount that for the fossil fuel simply recycled by growing the corn and processing the corn to produce ethanol, you now get just 2.4 percent of our gasoline displaced by ethanol. If we use all of our corn to produce ethanol, they very wisely note that you could have reached that same objective by getting your car tuned up and putting air in your tires.

Now, we are making a lot of corn ethanol. But compared to the 21 million barrels of oil that we use a day, 70 percent of that in transportation, we have produced relatively negligible amounts of ethanol. But it was enough to drive the price of corn from $2.11 a bushel in September to $4.08 a bushel in November, and up from that. And the poor Mexicans now are hungry because their tortillas have doubled in price, and my dairy farmers are going bankrupt because the cost of the food they feed their cows is up.

Just a caution, that one needs to be realistic rather than euphorically optimistic about how much energy we are going to get out of these alternatives.

I would like to say in closing, Mr. Speaker, that I am exhilarated by this. There is no exhilaration like meeting and overcoming a big problem. And we have a huge challenge. I believe with proper leadership, we may not have much energy, we have even less real leadership in this area, with proper leadership, I think that Americans could be exhilarated by the challenge. I think we would again become a major exporter with all of the technologies for producing energy from these alternatives.

Mr. Speaker, this is not a bad news story. This is a really good news story. America can lead the way. They can again be a real leader in the world. And I can imagine Americans going to bed at night saying, today I used less energy than I did yesterday and I am just fine. Tomorrow I am going to do even better. I think there would be fewer people on alcohol and watching bad movies and so forth if they had some real direction.

GAO releases peak oil report

GAO: U.S. needs a peak oil strategy
by U.S. Government Accountability Office

Click on the link to read highlights from the actual report. Editorial notes:

The complete 82-page report in PDF is currently posted at EV World (1.1 MB PDF)

The report PDF is also posted here (hat tip Rick Lakin)

The report has just been posted at GAO:
Full report


EV World also had a short article on the GAO report, saying:
It acknowledges three key facts: peak oil is real, no one is sure when it will occur and without consistent government policy that acknowledges its reality and plans for its eventuality, the United States, perhaps more than any other nation, will be the most seriously harmed economically.

The report, initiated at the request of Maryland Representative Roscoe Bartlett who has been the leading voice on Congress on the peak oil question, acknowledges that a decline in oil production, both conventional and unconventional, will occur within essentially one generation, likely sometime between now and 2040. The disparity in dates is attributed to the wide variance in the data and methodology used by various research entities from individuals like Dr. Colin Campbell and Professor Kenneth Deffeyes who see peak happening in the next few years to the USGS and Cambridge Research Associates who see a longer, but still historically brief window.
For more background, see The Peak Oil Crisis: The Studies by Tom Whipple. At the time, he predicted:
The GAO effort will almost certainly be the straightforward professional exercise we have come to expect from this organization. The study will probably acknowledge that world oil production will peak someday and the researchers, who work for the Congress, will do their best to give a balanced answer to questions of when production will peak and what might we do about it.
New at The Oil Drum: thread on the GAO report

Coverage from UPI: GAO: Lack of clear policy on peak oil

From Dow Jones: US Auditor: Energy Dept Should Develop Plan For Peak Oil Era

Reaction from Stuart Staniford of The Oil Drum:
I think this report is real progress. It's an even-handed summary of the debate, recognizes that the issue is potentially very important, and says the US govt should be doing a lot more to reduce the uncertainties and respond despite the uncertainties. I think this is a huge improvement from the EIA AEO's and the like, which essentially have a "no worry" message. The message here is "Worry!" I also like that the various demand-side alternatives discussed are all ones worth discussing (no "rebuild the railroads"), and that the challenges to rapid implementation of any alternative are discussed in a reasonably balanced manner. I also liked the pervasive discussion of the fact that these things need to be thought of light of the global warming implications (they even used "global warming" instead of "climate change"!) I thought the arbitrage between food prices and gas prices implied by ethanol should have gotten more play, however.

This is much more important than the Hirsch report, because it's not a contractor-done "Opinion of the authors only" thing. A very credible piece of the government has just officially endorsed that this is a huge issue. (And thus that I haven't been throwing away my reputation for nothing these last two years, and I'm happy about that).

I don't endorse exactly where the center of gravity of the report is (My reading of the evidence is that we are more-or-less at peak already, but I also think adaptation is not going to be as hard as some people think). But despite that, just the legitimization of the debate is a big deal.

Associated Press has just picked up the story. It will now be published in multiple newspapers and news sites. It's already appeared at:
Houston Chronicle
Business Week

Report: Gov't needs plan for oil peak
by Alan Zibel (AP)
The U.S. government is in need of a strategy to minimize potentially dire economic consequences after worldwide oil production peaks and begins to decline, the investigative arm of Congress said Thursday.

Though experts disagree about when daily oil output will reach its maximum level -- or whether they have done so already -- the Government Accountability Office said in a report that most studies have found oil production will reach a peak sometime between now and 2040.

The report warns that, as the world's largest oil consumer, the U.S. is vulnerable to significant economic troubles, brought about by rising prices, if a peak arrives and no technology exists to replace petroleum-based transportation fuels.
Coverage of the GAO peak oil report
by Staff

(includes a youtube clip of Matt Simmons)

Bartlett elaborates on GAO peak oil report
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, Energy Bulletin

Domenico Bettinelli on the new Robin Hood

His review.

More PC trash from the BBC apparently.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Father Cantalamessa on the Passion of Christ

Father Cantalamessa on the Passion of Christ

"We Are All Responsible for Jesus' Death"

ROME, MARCH 30, 2007 ( Here is a translation of a commentary by the Pontifical Household preacher, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, on the readings for this Sunday's liturgy.

* * *

A Historical Look at the Passion of Christ
Palm Sunday
Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Luke 22:14-23, 56

On Palm Sunday we will hear in its entirety St. Luke's account of the Passion. Let us pose the crucial question, that question which the Gospels were written to answer: How is it that a man like this ended up on the cross? What were the motives of those responsible for Jesus' death?

According to a theory that began to circulate last century, after the tragedy of the Shoah, the responsibility for Christ's death falls principally -- indeed perhaps even exclusively -- on Pilate and the Roman authorities, whose motivation was of a more political than religious nature. The Gospels supposedly vindicated Pilate and accused the Jewish leaders of Christ's death in order to reassure the Roman authorities about the Christians and to court their friendship.

This thesis was born from a concern which today we all share: to eradicate every pretext for the anti-Semitism that has caused much suffering for the Jewish people at the hands of Christians. But the gravest mistake that can be made for a just cause is to defend it with erroneous arguments. The fight against anti-Semitism should be put on a more solid foundation than a debatable (and debated) interpretation of the Gospel accounts of the Passion.

That the Jewish people as such are innocent of Christ's death rests on a biblical certainty that Christians have in common with Jews but that for centuries was strangely forgotten. "The son shall not be charged with the guilt of his father, nor shall the father be charged with the guilt of his son" (Ezekiel 18:20). Church teaching knows only one sin that is transmitted from father to son, original sin, no other.

Having made it clear that I reject anti-Semitism, I would like to explain why it is not possible to accept the complete innocence of the Jewish authorities in Christ's death and along with it the claim about the purely political nature of Christ's condemnation.

Paul, in the earliest of his letters, written around the year 50, basically gives the same version of Christ's condemnation as that given in the Gospels. He says that "the Jews put Jesus to death" (1 Thessalonians 2:15). Of the events that took place in Jerusalem shortly before his arrival, Paul must have been better informed than we moderns, having at one time tenaciously approved and defended the condemnation of the Nazarene.

The accounts of the Passion cannot be read ignoring everything that preceded them. The four Gospels attest -- on nearly every page, we can say -- a growing religious difference between Jesus and an influential group of Jews (Pharisees, doctors of the law, scribes) over the observance of the Sabbath, the attitude toward sinners and tax collectors, and the clean and unclean.

Once the existence of this contrast is demonstrated, how can one think that it had no role to play in the end and that the Jewish leaders decided to denounce Jesus to Pilate -- almost against their will -- solely out of fear of a Roman military intervention?

Pilate was not a person who was so concerned with justice as to be worried about the fate of an unknown Jew; he was a hard, cruel type, ready to shed blood at the smallest hint of rebellion. All of that is quite true. He did not, however, try to save Jesus out of compassion for the victim, but only to score a point against Jesus' accusers, with whom he had been in conflict since his arrival in Judea. Naturally, this does not diminish Pilate's responsibility in Christ's condemnation, a responsibility which he shares with the Jewish leaders.

It is not at all a case of wanting to be "more Jewish than the Jews." From the reports about Jesus' death present in the Talmud and in other Jewish sources (however late and historically contradictory), one thing emerges: The Jewish tradition never denied the participation of the religious leaders of the time in Christ's condemnation. They did not defend themselves by denying the deed, but, if anything, they denied that the deed, from the Jewish perspective, constituted a crime and that Christ's condemnation was an unjust condemnation.

So, to the question, "Why was Jesus condemned to death?" after all the studies and proposed alternatives, we must give the same answer that the Gospels do. He was condemned for religious reasons, which, however, were ably put into political terms to better convince the Roman procurator.

The title of "Messiah," which the accusation of the Sanhedrin focused on, becomes in the trial before Pilate, "King of the Jews," and this will be the title of condemnation that will be affixed to the cross: "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." Jesus had struggled all his life to avoid this confusion, but in the end it is this confusion that will decide his fate.

This leaves open the discussion about the use that is made of the accounts of the Passion. In the past they have often been used (in the theatric representations of the Passion, for example) in an inappropriate manner, with a forced anti-Semitism.

This is something that everyone today firmly rejects, even if something still remains to be done about eliminating from the Christian celebration of the Passion everything that could still offend the sensibility of our Jewish brothers. Jesus was and remains, despite everything, the greatest gift of Judaism to the world, a gift for which the Jews have paid a high price ...

The conclusion that we can draw from these historical considerations, then, is that religious authorities and political authorities, the heads of the Sanhedrin and the Roman procurator, both participated, for different reasons, in Christ's condemnation.

We must immediately add to this that history does not say everything and not even what is essential on this point. By faith we know that we are all responsible for Jesus' death with our sins.

Let us leave aside historical questions now and dedicate a moment to contemplating him. How did Jesus act during the Passion? Superhuman dignity, infinite patience. Not a single gesture or word that negated what he preached in his Gospel, especially the beatitudes. He dies asking for the forgiveness of those who crucified him.

And yet nothing in him resembles the stoic's prideful disdain of suffering. His reaction to suffering and cruelty is entirely human: he trembles and sweats blood in Gethsemane, he wants this chalice to pass from him, he seeks the support of his disciples, he cries out his desolation on the cross: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

There is one among the traits of this superhuman greatness of Christ that fascinates me: his silence. "Jesus was silent" (Matthew 26:63). He is silent before Caiaphas, he is silent before Pilate, he is silent before Herod, who hoped to see Jesus perform a miracle (cf. Luke 23:8). "When he was reviled he did not revile in return," the First Letter of Peter says of him (2:23).

The silence is broken only for a single moment before death -- the "loud cry" from the cross after which Jesus yields up his spirit. This draws from the Roman centurion the confession: "Truly this man was the Son of God."

Hei La Moon

Rhymes with Sailor Moon... not sure why Lam is transliterated as La here.

I met SC from 'Tino for dim sum today. We ended up going to Hei La Moon (617-338-8813, 88 Beach Street), which I had wanted to try with KK. SC was half an hour late because she got lost in the financial district and couldn't make her way to Chinatown. There restaurant was rather full, but there were still some empty tables. The selection of dim sum is smaller than Chau Chow City, but it's ok. However, it would be better to get dim sum at home or in NYC I would think. A couple at the table next to us ordered some dishes, including fish filet & vegetables, spicy salty pork, fried rice (Yang Chow?), and beef steak and vegetables. They had enough for 2 or 3 meals and ended up taking most of it with them. The dishes were rather big; too bad KK couldn't stay another day, or we could have tried the food there. I have the takeout menu--it's rather expensive. $9 for beef and vegetables, $10 for spicy salty pork.

I had a nice chat with SC about her wedding planning and related matters...

Afterwards, we parted ways, she picked her car up in a local parking lot and I took a walk over to Downtown Crossing, keeping an eye out for stores that might have picture frames, but not really interested in looking for them. So, I went to Border's and ended up staying there longer than I had originally planned. I found a ton of non-fiction books that piqued my interest, and I was able to take a peek at Deep Economy as well.

The List of Books:

Chosen Soldier, by Dick Couch

Consumed, by Benjamin R. Barber
I don't agree with his political theory and recommendations, but the data that he collects does provide strong support for thesis that the character of our children and young adults is being corrupted by consumerism.

Virgin: The Untouched History, by Hanne Blank

Sea Cobra, by Buckner F. Melton, Jr.

The Daughters of Juarez, by Teresa Rodriguez

The Last Mughal, by William Dalrymple (Guardian review, another; New Statesman)

The Poincaré Conjecture, by Donal O'Shea (wiki on the Poincaré Conjecture)

Patriot Battles, by Michael Stephenson

The Lucifer Effect, by Philip Zimbardo (APS Observer, AIDP Blog, official website)

Baby Love, by Rebecca Walker

The Joy of Living, by Youngey Mingyur Rinpoche (Youngey Buddhist Center)

The Rules of Civility, by George Washington (online)

Blackwater, by Jeremy Scahill (youtube interview, Daily Kos, NPR, buzzflash, The Nation article, Bush's Shadow Army, CP article)

China: Fragile Superpower, by Susan L. Shirk (World Affairs Council, FPIF, The Fortnightly, World Affairs Council)

Japan Rising, by Kenneth B. Pyle (Foreign Affairs)

And a hum-dinger:
The Power and the Glory: Inside the Dark Heart of Pope John II's Vatican, by David Yallop

As I've noted before, Borders carries American Conservative, so I took a look at the current issue. I read Steve Sailer's review of The Wind that Shakes the Barley. He noted that the leader of the anti-treaty faction, Éamon de Valera was Catholic, implying that the faction was more Catholic than Socialist. True or false?

Then, a walk through the Common and onto Newbury Street. I missed the GAP on Newbury, but rather than turn back and look for it, I headed to the Prudential Center. I don't know what convention is being held at Hynes, but there were plenty of people wearing name tags strolling on Newbury and through the shopping centers. Sarge would have enjoyed the walk, even if we couldn't stop by Sonsie -- there were plenty of sights. I didn't know the afternoon Mass at St. Francis Chapel is at 4:45, so I missed the Liturgy of the Word. The chapel is definitely a good place for Catholics to drop by, if they are ever doing any shopping or business at the Pru.

I stopped at Teavana to try some of the tea blends and to look at the pots and sets. They are pleasing to eye, the pots and cups, but pricey. It made me think about how oil makes it possible for such products to be transported great distances and how it facilitates the acquisition of the instruments and product of culture, as well as certain customs, but not necessarily the spirit and the ideals. I can't help but prefer Chinese (or at least) Asian tea and teapots and cups, their colors, shapes, and designs--the notion of adding sugar or cream to my tea is rather bizarre.

I think I might have found some items at the GAP at Copley Place--lounge pants and some shirts (either v-neck or crew neck). When I return in a couple of weeks and if I don't find anything else that is suitable, I'll be getting these items. I'll give myself some more time to lose a bit of weight... (I don't recall seeing the stone-color nylon jacket at any of the stores; I don't really have the body type for it regardless, and I am suspicious of the zipper.)

No more Krispy Kreme at the Prudential Center. It's been replaced by Godiva and a clothing store.

Transformers TV spots

at Movies IGN

Poster: 1, 2. More pics.

X-Files 2?

Operation Anabasis

Operation Anabasis

By William S. Lind

Mysterious honeybee deaths drive honey prices higher

Mysterious honeybee deaths drive honey prices higher

Thursday March 29, 3:32 pm ET

Beekeepers throughout the United States have been losing between 50 and 90 percent of their honeybees over the past six months, perplexing scientists, driving honey prices higher and threatening fruit and vegetable production.

At a House Agricultural Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C. today, members of various organizations came together to share their concerns about what they have been calling the "Colony Collapse Disorder," or CCD.

Beginning in October 2006, beekeepers from 24 states reported that hundreds of thousands of their bees were dying and their colonies were being decimated.

In December 2006 beekeepers associations, scientists and officials formed the CCD working group, in hopes to identify the cause and solve the problem of CCD.

Most of the beekeepers who have recently reported heavy losses associated with CCD are large commercial migratory beekeepers, some of who are losing 50 to 90 percent of their colonies.

Moreover, surviving colonies are often so weak that they are not viable pollinating or honey producing units. Losses have been reported in migratory operations in California, Florida, Oklahoma and Texas, but in February some larger non-migratory beekeepers, particularly from the mid-Atlantic region and the Pacific Northeast reported significant losses of more than 50 percent.

Testifying in front of the committee this morning, Caird E. Rexroad, from the Agricultural Research Service, said that although they have a variety of theories as to what might be causing CCD, they believe stress on the bees might be the major motive.

"We believe that some form of stress may be suppressing immune systems of bees, ultimately contributing to CCD." The main four types of stresses that Rexroad identified were migratory stresses, mites, pathogens and pesticides.

According to the National Agricultural Statistic Service, honey production declined by 11 percent in 2006, and honey prices increased 14 percent, from 91.8 cents in 2005 to 104.2 cents in 2006. Daren Jantzy, with the National Agricultural Statistics Service, told CNN that these statistics are based on numbers collected mostly before the true impact of CCD was noted. Its impact will be more noticeable when the 2007 statistics are collected.

And the impact goes far beyond direct bee products, like honey and wax. Three quarters of the worlds 250,000 flowering plants - including many fruits and vegetables - require pollination to reproduce.

Dr. May R. Berenbaum, head of the Department of Entomology at the University of Illinois believes the economic impact of the decline in bees could be disastrous.

"Though economists differ in calculating the exact dollar value of honeybee pollination, virtually all estimates range in the billions of dollars," she told representatives at the House hearing.

But this is not a new problem. Over the past two decades concern has risen around the world about the decline of pollinators of all descriptions. During this period in the United States, the honeybee, the world's premier pollinator, experienced a dramatic 40 percent decline, from nearly six million to less than two and a half million.

In 2005, for the first time in 85 years, the United States was forced to import honeybees in order to meet its pollination demands. Berenbaum says that "if honeybees numbers continued to decline at the rates documented from 1989 to 1996, managed honeybees in the United States will cease to exist in the United States by 2035."

Some reactions to The Tudors

Ok, I watched the first two episodes. Not being an expert in history, I can't speak to the accuracy of the series. (Whether it is accurate or not would affect my judgment of the value of the series.)

St. Thomas More is shown as being "devout," which includes wearing a hairshirt?, having marks of self-flagellation on his back, and praying the confiteor every night. Is the series trying to depict him as a fanatic? Or does it respect his sanctity? I do not know yet, the later episodes will make the point of view of the series' creators more clear I would think, especially if there is a show-down between Henry VIII and St. Thomas.

The nudity is gratuitous (and when is it not?) and so are the sex scenes, which can certainly be hinted at without destroying the one's ability to depict a story. But Showtime and the producers have a stake in exciting the imagination and desires of the audience to get them hooked. Is that enough to warn people not to watch the TV series? I am not sure. Certainly, one can learn more about the period and its saints through good solid books. As for my main reason for watching, the costumes--the amateur experts at the Renaissance Festival forum have had mixed reactions to the quality and accuracy; however I note that many of the ladies at court wore their hair long and free. Was this proper to the time?

Thomas Tallis appears to be a minor character in the series...

Variety article on the show

Deep Economy

I saw this book at the Border's near Downtown Crossing this afternoon, picked it up and skimmed through it. It's definitely worth the time for a careful read, though I don't know if it would be worth buying for my personal library. Then again, I'm not someone who needs to be convinced. Even if one does not accept that global warming is caused by the introduction of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by human beings, still there are other environmental consequences that result from current economic arrangements which should cause one to question them, as well as their impact on communal life. Economic neo-liberals (and followers of the Austrian school) should definitely read the book and question their basic assumptions.

KQED | Forum: Bill McKibben: "Deep Economy"

Bees are a metaphor for the dangers of a global market: Of Mites and Men

Biblical Dating: Just Friends

Biblical Dating: Just Friends
by Scott Croft

Before continuing with this column, please review the preamble included at the beginning of Scott's first article in this series, "Biblical Dating: An Introduction."

* * *

One of the big questions hovering around the topic of courtship and dating is the role of friendship. How intimate of a friendship with someone of the opposite sex is OK? How do I move from friendship to dating? Won't the friendship be ruined if one of us expresses romantic interest and the other doesn't respond favorably?

Basically, the question seems to be how exactly single Christians should relate to members of the opposite sex in that large and awkward zone between "we've never met" and a deliberate dating or courting relationship.

Much of this is a fairly new problem. I won't repeat the full history lesson here, as several Boundless authors have already discussed it (John Thomas most recently, in his excellent piece "Stuck in the Just-Friends Zone"). Essentially, the historical reality is that until 30 or 40 years ago, long, intimate friendships between men and women in which each served as the other's emotional confidante, relationship adviser, and "best buddy" were far less common than they are today.

So, is the trend toward intimate friendships between single men and women a good thing? In my view, not so much. If you haven't read my previous columns on biblical dating, you'll be helped in thinking through this issue by reading "Biblical Dating: An Introduction," and perhaps "To Kiss or not to Kiss" as well. Based on some of the principles found there, let me offer a couple of practical reasons why I believe such friendships to be generally unwise, and then I'll suggest a positive role for friendship among singles in the Christian community. Then, as always, it's over to you to hash it out on the blog.

Friendship That Invites Confusion and Frustration

In this column, we've raised several biblical principles regarding the way we should treat our brothers and sisters in Christ. I Thess. 4:1-8 admonishes us not to wrong or "defraud" our brother or sister by implying a marital level of commitment (through sexual involvement) when it does not exist. As I've discussed before, a broad (but sound) implication of this passage is that "defrauding" could include inappropriate emotional — as well as physical — intimacy. Romans 13:8-14 calls us to love others, to work for their souls' good rather than looking to please ourselves. More specifically, verse 10 reminds us that "[l]ove does no harm to its neighbor." Romans 14:1-15:7 offers a discourse on favoring weaker brothers and sisters above ourselves, valuing and encouraging that which is good in the souls of others.

Bottom line: I believe it is extremely difficult and rare — as a practical matter — to honor these principles in the context of a close, intimate friendship between two single Christians of the opposite sex. (For the verbally precise among you, I think such friendships between non-single Christians are also a bad idea, but that's not what we're talking about here.)

Intimate friendships between men and women almost always produce confusion and frustration for at least one of the parties involved. Close friendships by their very nature tend to involve extensive time talking and hanging out one-on-one. They tend to involve a deep knowledge of the other person's hopes, desires and personality. They tend to involve the sharing of many aspects of each other's daily lives and routines. In other words, they tend to involve much of the type of intimacy and companionship involved in — and meant for — marriage.

And yet, even with all this deep communication going on, at least one aspect of these friendships inherently involves a mixed message. No matter how clearly one or both of you have defined what's happening as "just friends," your actions are constantly saying "I enjoy being with you and interacting with you in a way that suggests marriage (or at least romantic attraction)."

The simple reality (of which most people are aware, whether they admit it or not) is that in the vast majority of these types of relationships, one of the parties involved either began the "friendship" with romantic feelings for the other person or develops them along the way. Either way, that person is now hanging on to the "friendship" in the hope of getting something more despite the "clear words" from the other person that he or she wants nothing beyond friendship.

To the extent that one person's romantic feelings have been clearly articulated to the other (and were met with an unfavorable response), to continue in some no-man's land of "good friends," is arguably to take selfish advantage of the vulnerable party. Yes, I know, the other person is an adult who is free and responsible to walk away if he or she is so unsatisfied, but like it or not, it tends not to work that way. Hope springs eternal, whether it should or not.

And that's the "clear" scenario. What if one person develops romantic feelings in a friendship in which no "clear words" have been spoken, such that the desires of the other person are a mystery? Especially if it's the woman in this position (as seems to be the case more often than not), she will likely feel that if she pushes for something more than friendship, she may lose the interaction and companionship she currently has. Still, given her desire for a husband — and perhaps to have this man as her husband — the status quo of "just really good friends but nothing more for some odd reason" will leave her unsatisfied, frustrated, and confused. I have seen and heard and read of such frustration and hurt playing out many times over.

Certainly, a man can find himself in a similar position with a woman he's attracted to, but given his obligation to be clear and intentional with the woman and to initiate the type of relationship he truly desires, he arguably has placed — or at least kept — himself in such a position. He simply is not "between a rock and a hard place" in the same way a woman is.

Finally, there's one more type of confusion to consider. How do others view your "friendship"? Ladies, might there be men who would have initiated with you but for their uncertainty about or discomfort with your intimate friendship with another man? Guys, has a woman perhaps turned you down over questions about a woman friend you spend lots of time with? Would you want to date someone knowing that he or she had a significant, pre-existing, and ongoing emotional bond with another single member of the opposite sex? If I were a single person desiring marriage, the answers to these questions would matter to me.

I admit we're not talking absolutes here, but almost. In my experience counseling and writing on this topic, everybody thinks (or at least claims) that his or her intimate friendship is the exception. "No way we'll end up in one of the situations you just talked about. Unlike most other people of our age and experience, we are (insert favorite answer here) (a) really astute students of our own and each other's hearts, (b) super-clear and talented communicators, (c) always honest with each other, even when such honesty entails huge vulnerability for whoever is speaking, (d) all of the above."

Maybe. But here I would pose the question that is relevant to so many aspects of the courtship and dating topic. Why risk harm to your own heart or to that of a brother or sister in order to have a type of companionship that, outside of marriage, is arguably questionable anyway? This brings me to my second argument against intimate one-on-one friendships between brothers and sisters in Christ....

Enjoying the Convenient, Delaying the Good

Let's assume for the sake of argument that your intimate friendship is one of those rare jewels that is devoid of the potential for hurt or confusion. There's another drawback to such friendships. They discourage marriage.

Men and women who are not called to long-term singleness and celibacy have a strong desire for companionship with a member of the opposite sex. This is good and right. As I've discussed before, Scripture seems to consider marriage (and children) to be a normal part of the progression toward biblical manhood and womanhood (see, among others, Gen. 1:27-28; 2:23-24; Mat. 24:38-41; Luke 20:34-36).

In the past, when both sexual immorality and intimate male-female friendships were much less accepted and less common in society, men and women moved more deliberately toward marriage earlier in life. By offering a taste of the companionship and interactions that make marriage so satisfying, with none of the accompanying commitments or responsibilities entailed in marriage, intimate friendships discourage the pursuit of the grown-up, God-intended outlet for marital desires — marriage. This is especially so in a culture — and a church — that struggles with the widespread sociological trend in its young adults known as "perpetual adolescence." Albert Mohler, Alex and Brett Harris, Candice Watters and other Boundless authors have written about this trend at length. In fact, the failure of many Christian men to pursue marriage well into their 20s and 30s may be one of the most disturbing results of this trend, but that's another topic for another day.

As you probably know, I believe Scripture to teach that engaging in the types of emotional intimacy and companionship involved in close male-female friendships — outside of marriage and for their own sake — is wrong (see everything else I've ever written for Boundless). But even if you don't accept that premise, such intimacy is still inadvisable in the sense that it delays and discourages marriage, which Scripture unambiguously calls good and right.

I would especially encourage women who desire marriage to give this argument some thought. If you are one of the many women to write me or Boundless Answers or another Boundless author to complain with great frustration that "Christian men don't initiate," consider this: Are you and your sisters satisfying the intermediate needs of your guy friends such that they feel no particular compulsion to pursue marriage?

Friendship Within A Context of Community

So am I saying that I'm against the idea of relationships growing out of Christian friendship? Am I saying that friendship among single brothers and sisters has no place? Am I saying that single men and women need to shun one another, speaking only to utter the words "will you date me," followed by "yes" or "no"? Absolutely not. In fact, I would argue that dating or courting relationships ideally grow out of friendship among co-laborers in the gospel. The question is what those friendships look like practically.

I Timothy 5 describes a relationship among Christian men and women not married to one another as that of brothers and sisters. The Lord has mercifully called us not to live the Christian life alone but as part of a community of believers. Single men and women can and should serve in ministry together, study the word together, and hang out together socially. They should go out together, gather around meals, watch movies. In my view, however, these activities should be done, for the most part, in groups rather than one-on-one. Men can initiate group get-togethers, and so can women. In fact, single brothers and sisters in Christ, like the rest of Christ's body, are positively called to care for one another. Men can (and should) give women rides home rather than have them walk alone at night. Men can come over and move couches. Women can cook a meal for a group of guys in danger of developing scurvy from a near total lack of vegetables. Knock yourselves out.

Friendships grow out of the body of Christ functioning and, in turn, result in interests beyond friendship. To be sure, the friendships that develop in this context are not the same friendships with the same level of intimacy that would develop from spending consistent time alone with someone, but they provide a context from which initiations and relationships can bloom. Remember, the world has falsely told us that a high level of intimacy with another person needs to precede any sort of commitment to another person.

Is there a precise formula for whether a friendship or series of interactions is too intimate? If there is, I don't know it. Hang out in groups; serve together. By all means, chat and be friendly with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Should a friend make the assumption that you're ready to marry him or her if you initiate a one-on-one conversation at church or at a group dinner? No. Have you blown two tires and gone screaming off into the trees if you ask someone to lunch or coffee once or twice? Maybe not. Depends on what happens from there.

Just be aware that "friendship" is no more a forum to play married than a dating relationship is. If you find that you are consistently showing one of your opposite-sex Christian friends more one-on-one attention than all the others, whether in conversation or through invitations out, it's probably time for (1) some clarification of intentions and (most likely) a change in the status of the relationship to something more overtly committed, or (2) a change in the way you interact with that person.

Beyond that, godly single adults will have to work this out on a case-by-case basis. As always, I welcome your comments. See you on the blog.

See the original article for all links. I do think that it is possible for women to have a lasting friendship based on virtue, so long as there are certain questions are settled, or if they come up both are mature enough to deal with them, no matter in which direction. But, nonetheless, such friendships are not easy to find and maintain, and I wonder if it is worth the effort, as it is difficult to eliminate Romantic possibilities beforehand (unless both know that the other person is incompatible).

If I were young again and at Christendom, then I would probably be wary of getting too close to the women, because for the most part, they would be compatible to one degree or another, so one must be careful to protect their feelings and one's own...