Archive | August, 2008
August 14, 2008

Too easy

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LOLBush, courtesy of the Guardian. The entire gallery is quite good:

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August 13, 2008

Washington Post addresses offshore drilling myths

I was actually quite surprised to see this editorial in Tuesday’s edition of the Washington Post. It does a very good job of putting to rest a few of the myths in the current debate over lifting the moratorium on drilling in the OCS:

· Drilling is pointless because the United States has only 3 percent of the world’s oil reserves. This is a misleading because it refers only to known oil reserves. According to the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service (MMS), while there are an estimated 18 billion barrels of oil in the off-limits portions of the OCS, those estimates were made using old data from now-outdated seismic equipment. In the case of the Atlantic Ocean, the data were collected before Congress imposed a moratorium on offshore drilling in 1981. In 1987, the MMS estimated that there were 9 billion barrels of oil in the Gulf of Mexico. By 2006, after major advances in seismic technology and deepwater drilling techniques, the MMS resource estimate for that area had ballooned to 45 billion barrels. In short, there could be much more oil under the sea than previously known. The demand for energy is going up, not down. And for a long time, even as alternative sources of energy are developed, more oil will be needed.

· The oil companies aren’t using the leases they already have. According to the MMS, there were 7,457 active leases as of June 8. Of those, only 1,877 were classified as “producing.” As we pointed out in a previous editorial, the five leases that have made up the Shell Perdido project off Galveston since 1996 are not classified as producing. Only when it starts pumping the equivalent of an estimated 130,000 barrels of oil a day at the end of the decade will it be deemed “active.” Since 1996, Shell has paid rent on the leases; filed and had approved numerous reports with the MMS, including an environmentally sensitive resource development plan and an oil spill recovery plan that is subject to unannounced practice runs by the MMS; drilled several wells to explore the area at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars; and started constructing the necessary infrastructure to bring the oil to market. The notion that oil companies are just sitting on oil leases is a myth. With oil prices still above $100 a barrel, that charge never made sense.

· Drilling is environmentally dangerous. Opposition to offshore drilling goes back to 1969, when 80,000 barrels of oil from an offshore oil well blowout washed up on the beaches of Santa Barbara. In 1971, the Interior Department instituted a host of reporting requirements (such as the resource development and oil spill recovery plans mentioned above) and stringent safety measures. Chief among them is a requirement for each well to have an automatic shut-off valve beneath the ocean floor that can also be operated manually. According to the MMS, between 1993 and 2007, there were 651 spills of all sizes at OCS facilities (in federal waters three miles or more offshore) that released 47,800 barrels of oil. With 7.5 billion barrels of oil produced in that time, that equates to 1 barrel of oil spilled per 156,900 barrels produced. That’s not to minimize the danger. But no form of energy is perfect or without trade-offs. Besides, if it is acceptable to drill in the Caspian Sea and in developing countries such as Nigeria where environmental concerns are equally important, it’s hard to explain why the United States should rule out drilling off its own coasts.

August 13, 2008

Addressing Russia’s demographic crisis via the legal system

While I was a student at GWU, I spent 1.5 years interning for the Central and Eastern Europe division of the American Bar Association, where I certainly heard more than a handful of appalling stories about Russia’s legal system. This one, though, is really quite shocking:

A Russian advertising executive who sued her boss for sexual harassment lost her case after a judge ruled that employers were obliged to make passes at female staff to ensure the survival of the human race.

The unnamed executive, a 22-year-old from St Petersburg, had been hoping to become only the third woman in Russia’s history to bring a successful sexual harassment action against a male employer.

She alleged she had been locked out of her office after she refused to have intimate relations with her 47-year-old boss.

“He always demanded that female workers signalled to him with their eyes that they desperately wanted to be laid on the boardroom table as soon as he gave the word,” she earlier told the court. “I didn’t realise at first that he wasn’t speaking metaphorically.”

The judge said he threw out the case not through lack of evidence but because the employer had acted gallantly rather than criminally.

“If we had no sexual harassment we would have no children,” the judge ruled.

Since Soviet times, sexual harassment in Russia has become an accepted part of life in the office, work place and university lecture room.

According to a recent survey, 100 per cent of female professionals said they had been subjected to sexual harassment by their bosses, 32 per cent said they had had intercourse with them at least once and another seven per cent claimed to have been raped.

Eighty per cent of those who participated in the survey said they did not believe it possible to win promotion without engaging in sexual relations with their male superiors.

Women also report that it is common to be browbeaten into sex during job interviews, while female students regularly complain that university professors trade high marks for sexual favours.

Only two women have won sexual harassment cases since the collapse of the Soviet Union, one in 1993 and the other in 1997.

Human rights activists say that Russian women remain second-class citizens and are subjected to some of the highest levels of domestic abuse in the world.

August 11, 2008

The Ghosts aren’t coming

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South Ossetian Autonomous Region

April 16, 2008, 05:45
Welcome to Tbilisi, gentlemen – I hope you got some shuteye on the flight from Bragg, because now that we’re here we’ve got a lot of work to do.

Here’s the situation: We’ve been deployed at the request of the Georgian government to help them deal with rebels on their Russian border. Our area of operations will be the South Ossetian Autonomous region – 1500 square miles of small villages and rugged backcountry. The Ossetians have been skirmishing with the Georgian army for years, but lately the attacks have escalated to the verge of all-out war. Washington thinks that the Russians have engineered the current flare-up as an excuse to step in and annex the whole region. Our job is to cut the legs out from under the revolution before that can happen.

Did anyone else play Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon? It’s one of my favorite games for Playstation2. The plot involves a group of hardcore Russian nationalists who seize power in Moscow with the intent of reviving the Soviet Union. You lead a U.S. Special Forces squad through several missions in Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, and eventually Russia, where, in true Tom Clancy style, you gun down Russian fighters in Red Square.

Unfortunately for Saakashvili, though, there won’t be any Ghosts in Georgia, no matter how much he pleads for assistance from the United States.

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August 11, 2008

Weekend of bad luck

So, how was your weekend? Here was mine:

Saturday: For the past few months, I’ve been paying taxes to the state, er, sorry, Commonwealth of Virginia, have been registered to vote in the Great State of California, and have been driving with DC plates and showing my DC driver’s license to the doormen at Brickskeller. I decided that I need to change this, so after taking the XTerra to the state required emissions and safety tests, I went down to the DMV around 9am on Saturday. About 10 minutes before my number was called, an emplyee announces over the loudspeaker that their system that links up with the Social Security database had crashed and they would not be issuing any licenses to those who wanted to exchange their out of state license for a Virginia license. Ugh. My number is called shortly thereafter, and thankfully they are able to register my car and give me plates, so the visit isn’t a total waste of time. One of the DMV employees had mentioned that the other DMV locations were still issuing licenses, so I decided to drive to the Alexandria DMV so I could get all of this stuff done in one day. When I got to the DMV and told them I needed to get a Virginia license, the employee said that the system was down statewide (apparently this happens quite often) and that the Arlington DMV shouldn’t have directed people to other offices. WTF DMV, over?

Sunday: I decided that Sunday would be a good day to go to the beach, so I left Arlington around 7:30am and was making great time until I hit the Bay Bridge. The road was at a stand still about 1.5 miles from the toll plaza, and the information sign was flashing news of a delay on the bridge. The eastbound span of the bridge had been shutdown in the early hours of the morning after a horrible accident in which a semi-truck hit a jersey barrier and plummeted into the Bay below. There was one lane for eastbound traffic on the three lane bridge, so it took about one and a half hours to get across to the Eastern Shore. After that, traffic was pretty light for the next 100 miles to Assateague Island. Once I got to Assateague, though, it literally started raining and HAILING like crazy the minute I pulled into the parking lot. I waited for the storm to pass, all the while thinking, “Wow, this definitely doesn’t happen in California.” Once it stopped storming, I got out of my car and checked the surf. Choppy and nothing remotely rideable, but I tested the water and found it to be quite warm. At least it had that going for it. The air temperature was actually quite cold, and it was incredibly windy, but there were still a few people sitting on the beach as if it was sunny and warm. Another storm was quickly approaching, so I decided to head out. Assateague was incredibly beautiful, though, and I plan on visiting again, perhaps in September and October when the surf is (supposedly) a bit better. Assateague is a National Park, so there is no development anywhere near the beaches, just sand dunes and water that stretches for miles, as well as the occasional wild pony frolicking in the surf. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Traffic heading back was fine until I came within 15 miles or so of the Bay Bridge, where the 50 had turned into a parking lot due to the accident on the bridge. What should have been a 3-3.5 hour trip back to Arlington stretched to over eight hours. At one point, I was stuck in the middle of nowhere watching as my fuel gauge slowly crept downwards to empty, and praying that a gas station was nearby. Thankfully, one appeared before I ran dry. Needless to say, Big Oil made a nice sum of money off me that day, but I prefer to think that that I’m just contributing to my retirement fund every time I swipe my credit card at the pump.
While I was stuck in traffic, my mom called me to see what I was up to, and if I had made it out to the beach.

“Yeah I got to the beach and it started HAILING and there was no surf and now I’m sitting in traffic doing my part to change the climate.”

“Oh, well we’re sitting on the beach right now. It’s beautiful.”

Nice.

August 6, 2008

Happy the Hippo, Part Deux

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First off, cheers to the Washington Post for printing my Happy the Hippo rant in today’s edition of the Express:

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Second, in the comments section to that post, Jamie and I disagreed over the origin of the hippo statue on GW’s campus (H and 21st St NW if you want to check it out), but my mom promptly weighed in:

You’re both wrong. It was Martha’s Vineyard. I remember it well from Colonial Inauguration as I watched dollar signs dance before my eyes.

Thanks, mom (although, technically, I did say “or some other lame New England state”, a category that Massachusetts certainly falls under).

Third, large increase in blog traffic from people searching for information on Happy, as well as a bunch of visitors from the Smithsonian, which runs the National Zoo and is kicking poor Happy out.

Fourth, Robin over at GW would like the University to adopt Happy as well, but mentions that the Mt. Vernon campus would make a better home for Happy rather than the Foggy Bottom campus. Ya know, I never thought about that, but Mount Vernon would be perfect. Much more space up there, and a lot quieter. The brunch is pretty good, too.

And last, but not least, if GW is unwilling to take Happy, it’d be awesome if the San Diego Zoo would step up and let him live at “Hippo Beach”. As we all know, San Diego has the best zoo in the world, and is much different than the National Zoo which seems to care only about pandas (yeah, I really don’t get the whole Butterstick obsession). I think Happy would be much more comfortable in San Diego. Seriously, wouldn’t you rather live in San Diego than DC?

August 6, 2008

Explosion on BTC Pipeline

Poor BTC. It’s my favorite pipeline (Is it weird to have a favorite pipeline? Yeah, I guess it is). The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has claimed responsibility, but whether this explosion was due to a terrorist attack has yet to be verified.

An explosion on the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline on Tuesday night in eastern Turkey has halted the oil flow along the one million barrels per day pipeline, a senior Turkish Energy Ministry official said.

“The fire is under control, but we need 24 hours from now to extinguish it. After the fire is put out, we can look at the damage and say when it will be possible to reopen the line,” the source said speaking on condition of anonymity.

A spokeswoman for British Petroleum, a shareholder in the pipeline, said oil flows were halted after a fire damaged a valve on a section in eastern Turkey, but exports from the Ceyhan port terminal continued from storage.

[...]

The pipeline, one of the world’s biggest, pumps over one million barrels per day from fields in the Azeri sector of the Caspian Sea to the Turkish Mediterranean coast, covering over one percent of global oil supply.
The BTC is an alternative to the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline that takes Azeri oil to Russia, from where it is sold on to Europe.

The cause of the explosion was not immediately known.

“Whether it is sabotage or some other reason, we still don’t have that information. At this point all our efforts have been focused on putting out the fire completely,” said the Energy Ministry official.

August 5, 2008

Disney guided tours WTF?

Apparently, Disney is now in the business of leading guided tours abroad:

Adventures by Disney is designed to take families to places they might be too timid to visit on their own — without loading on the schmaltz. Hiking Machu Picchu with an 8-year-old would be daunting for most travelers. With Disney promising to handle everything, it might seem doable.

[...]

Travel agents say the company is also bringing a degree of comfort and attention to detail that is missing from most family tours. Each day, guides surreptitiously take photos of families enjoying activities and slide copies under their hotel room doors during the night. Ice is carted around in Europe to make up for restaurants that lack it. After river rafting in Peru, guides surprise guests with hot chocolate and a warm towel.

[...]

While Disney characters do not populate the tours, the company relies heavily on what it calls “local storytellers.” For instance, in Venice the Disney tour guide might say, “Some people believe that you can even see the ghost of Marco Polo wandering these streets.” Around the next corner, Marco Polo, a local actor in historical garb, awaits.

Yeah, having someone cart around ice for your Fanta sounds like a real adventure, doesn’t it? God forbid you step outside your comfort zone when traveling. I pity the suckers who drop over $4,000 per person NOT INCLUDING AIRFARE for a week long trip to big bad Italy. Save your money and just go to the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. They have gondolas, pizza, employees dressed in silly costumes, and drinks with ice. It’s probably the same experience you’ll get with “Adventures by Disney”, but for thousands of dollars less.

August 5, 2008

Pet hippo

Dudes, check this out:

How freakin’ adorable is that? A pet hippo that sleeps with a pink blanket and pillow! I would totally get one, but I think a hippo violates my apartment building’s pet policy.

August 4, 2008

National Zoo kicking out Happy the Hippo

Dude, what the hell is wrong with the National Zoo? THEY ARE GETTING RID OF HAPPY THE HIPPO! This, quite simply, is a disgrace.

“With zoos you only have so much space available. . . . We don’t have a strong hippopotamus program right now.”

Happy has a little over a year before he has to move, a zoo spokeswoman said. The zoo has borrowed the giant crate in which he would be shipped, and keepers will soon start training him to enter it. A crane will probably be required to lift him, the zoo said.

But it’s not easy finding a home for a 7,000-pound adult male Nile hippo. Happy, who was born at the zoo 27 years ago, needs lots of clean water, for an array of reasons that include his indoor and outdoor pools, where he spends much of his time submerged.

He also needs his own room, so to speak. Male hippos are extremely territorial, and will attack other hippos, or people, that intrude in their space. “Happy doesn’t want friends,” Smith said, and “hippo space is expensive.”

Solution: The George Washington University should adopt Happy and build him a living area on the site of the old GW hospital. With the amount of money they are charging for a GW education these days, financing the project shouldn’t be a problem. And it makes sense. The hippo, after all, became GW’s secondary mascot after SJT, our University President at the time, purchased a hippo statue after drinking too many Bloody Marys (or so the story goes) while on vacation in Rhode Island. This gave rise to the Hippodrome, an inflatable hippo mascot that accompanied Big George and Little George at the basketball games, and a wide variety of GW hippo merchandise, which, admittedly, I own quite a bit of.


Seriously, if GW adopted Happy I would even donate to the Alumni Association. DO IT, GDUB!