Monthly Archives: August 2005

Atchafalaya

This post has more info. Apparently, the rains may yet cause flooding.

This page has some background:

The Old River Control Structure

As time progressed, it became increasingly apparent that the Mississippi was diverting more and more of its flow down the Atchafalaya River. In the 1950’s, engineers observed that the Mississippi would soon cease to inhabit its current channel as the mainstream, and instead migrate to the Atchafalaya River Basin. The path by which the Mississippi would migrate was a small stretch of water, named the “Old River”, that connected the Mississippi to the Red River. Old River was formed when Captain Henry Shreve dug a shortcut across the the neck of Turnbull’s Bend in 1831. The Mississippi abandoned its old course and took the shortcut provided by Old River. As a result, the Atchafalaya River received more and more discharge from the Mississippi. Discharge was also increased into the Atchafalaya in 1840, when a 30 mile long log jam was removed from its headwaters by the state of Louisiana. This increased discharge caused most of the problems the Army Corps of Engineers would have to face.

In their study of the Atchafalaya River, the USACE was able to deduce several possible effects of the diversion. The discharge of water into the current Mississippi channel would decrease until it resembled a bayou. All the levees along the previous Mississippi channel would no longer be needed to prevent flooding. In addition, towns such as Morgan City, located within the current Atchafalaya flood plain would be swept away by the newly expanded river. An expensive levee system would have to be built along the Atchafalaya in order to preserve current standards of flood control. The old Mississippi channel would no longer be able to be used for navigation by industry without expensive and extensive dredging. Industry would lack the water it needed to perform many of its processes such as cooling and the dumping of wastes. Agriculture would suffer from the lack irrigation water, and cities such as New Orleans would suffer economically from the lack of trade and drinking water. The only thing the diversion of the Atchafalaya promised to bring to society was disaster, and legislators decided to prevent this disaster at all costs.

The Army Corps of Engineers was given the job of maintaining the current distribution of water between the Lower Mississippi and the Atchafalaya River channels (70%-30%). They did so by building the Old River Flood Control Structure which consisted of massive floodgates that could be opened and closed as needed at the entrance to the Old River. This structure was completed in 1963. In 1973, a large flood tested the ORCS to its limits. Huge scour developed underneath the large steel pilings which anchored the structure to the river bottom. The structure was almost swept away, and emergency concrete was poured into the holes as a kind of large Band-Aid. After the ’73 flood, the corps saw the need for a backup structure, and built the Old River Control Auxiliary Structure (ORCAS) to alleviate some of the pressure on the main control structure during large scale flooding.

Despite several close calls, the ORCS still manages to keep the Mississippi River in check. How long this will last, however, is a matter of opinion. The Army corps claims to have the situation in control; the Mississippi will not divert to the Atchafalaya as long as they are there to prevent it. However, what if the control structures necessary to prevent the Mississippi’s diversion to the Atchafalaya River were completely undermined and swept away during a flood such as the one in 1973? The ORCS has almost failed in the face of the Mississippi’s might before, and it could still do so. Can the Army corps withstand nature’s might indefinitely, or will physics and the Mississippi River win out in the end?

Researcher Raphael Kazmann at LSU suggested that the Mississippi would be the victor in the struggle of man against nature. In his 1980 study on the possible effects of the Atchafalaya diversion he states, “Probably the most important single conclusion reached by this study is that in the long run the Atchafalaya will become the principal distributary of the Mississippi River and that the current main-stream will become an estuary of the Gulf of Mexico…the final outcome is only a matter of time” (Kazmann 1).

In addition to the flooding problem, engineers now face problems caused by the lack of flooding. The channelization produced by the levees and control structures deprives natural wetlands of the sediments normally deposited during flooding. Wetlands rely on sediments from distributaries and flooding to counteract subsidence, the compaction of sediments under their own weight. Water flows faster in subsidized areas, and distributaries can rapidly expand into wide channels, causing wetlands to disappear under the influx of water. The coastal marshes of Louisiana provide a natural barrier against the erosion causes by the fierce storms which often come from the Gulf. Because of the loss of these wetlands, the Louisiana coast has receded several thousands of feet over the past few decades, and commercial fishermen have also been deprived of a ready source of income.

Most of the problems resulting from the levee system, including wetland degradation, stem from channelization. While the levee system could not be scrapped without a large financial loss, the USACE realized that diversion structures could help alleviate some of the problems caused by channelization. Diversion structures diminish some of the force of flood waters and the likelihood of crevasses (breaks in the levee) by providing flood waters with established escape routes. The first diversion structure, the Bonnet Carre Spillway, was built in response to the great flood of 1927. It was designed to discharge excess flood waters into Lake Pontchartrain and thence into the Gulf of Mexico.

The USACE has recently started to build other diversion structures whose main purpose would be to divert sediment-rich water into wetland areas in order to stop subsidence. The Caernarvon diversion structure, completed in 1991, was the first of these modern structures. It has significantly restored wetland acreage and wildlife in the area. The success of the Caernarvon diversion structure has encouraged the government to develop more of diversion structures. Construction of the Davis Pond Diversion Structure began in 1997. Further in the future is a possible third freshwater structure located on the Bonnet Carre spillway itself. The Bonnet Carre Freshwater Diversion Structure would divert river water into Lake Pontchartrain, and finally the Western Mississippi Sound. With the help of diversion structures, the wetlands of the Mississippi River Basin may be able to offset the effects of subsidence and coastal erosion.

As the year 2000 approaches, the future seems uncertain for the lower Mississippi. Many questions regarding its fate reside in the hearts of both citizen and legislator alike. When will the next record-breaking flood take place, and what will be its effects? No one can tell whether the capricious river will flood its banks for a final time and permanently send its main flow to the Atchafalaya. Will the mighty Mississippi winding past New Orleans be reduced to a bayou? How much wetland habitat will be lost to subsidization and how far will the Louisiana coasts recede? These questions remain unanswered. Much work remains to be done to counteract the damage caused by our attempts to control nature; it is up to us to see that matters don’t become worse.

No one is talking about the river.

The Mississippi “River” is really, more or less, a system of long lakes and channels and concrete from Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico. At one point in Louisiana, only a fortress of concrete keeps it from switching banks and heading to the southwest. Any serious disrpution to this system and it will happen.

If anything is left of New Orleans after this hurricane, there may be nothing left of the old Mississippi there either. Without the flow of the river, the seawater will back up further, and, indeed the industrial shipping on the river there will end.

update: the river and NO both made it. This time.

update 2: I guess they gave the all clear too soon. It’s getting worse down there. It’s apocalyptic. I still don’t have any information about the river controls near Simmesport, LA about 50 miles northwest of Baton Rouge, where the Miss is trying to change course (and would wipe out Morgan City)

EROI: How No One Wants To Think About Energy

With oil prices experiencing their first non-political spike serious conversations are finally being made about the sustainability of America and the world’s hydrocarbon-based future. Two of the elemental arguments go like this: Oil is approaching its peak, the Geological Pessimists contend, even as more people are going to be using more of it; drastic changes must be made. And: The price signal of expensive oil will drive more exploration, RD&D, and make more oil profitable from existing wells, counter the Ingenuity Optimists; human ingenuity will make oil more plentiful and cheap over time.

Energy Returned on Investment, or EROI, is how neither side wants to consider the problem. EROI essentially means taking the systems theory aspect of sustainability and applying it to energy. This makes the Ingenuity Optimists’ every-little-thing-is-gonna’-be-alright attitude sound like a pipe dream. There is natural pressure that allows oil to be extracted from wells, eventually this depletes and pressure has to be added to the well – usually be pumping water or natural gas into it – to force the oil out of the ground. Once unnatural pressure is necessary to extract the oil each new barrel from that well has a decreasing EROI.

The days of wildcatting, drilling randomly in a suspected oil field and hoping to find black gold, are long over. For years new wells have been more deep and distant from supply chains (the middle of the ocean, siberia, Alaska etc.) and have therefore owned worse EROIs. When the Ingenuity Optimists start clucking about billions and billions of barrels of Canadian shale oil just waiting to be pumped into your car they almost are certainly not considering the probability that it might well take two barrels of oil (once you consider processing; rocks, minerals and water must be cleaned from the oil) to produce every three barrels of usable shale oil.

Ah, but what if all of this pumping and processing is done by natural gas, coal, or nuclear power? Then you are just trading one energy source for the other. Perhaps these domestic sources are better (No Middle Eastern entanglements), but the mining and milling of coal, natural gas and uranium is dependent on… oil!

Forty dollars is about the price of gasoline that should be high enough to spark the incentives that the Ingenuity Optimists are counting on. That market signal has existed and only gotten stronger for over a year. The oil industry is not in wont of money, brainpower or political clout. If news of new technologies or new discoveries does not begin to materialize within a year, then it could well be that no ingenuity or creativity can stretch a finite resource infinitely.

EROI is also problematic for the Geological Pessimists who can taste the oil peak and fathom the post-petroleum future. I am a green energy stalwart, but I also recognize that each solar panel and windmill comes with an (probably mostly dirty) energy deficit that it must make up. Mining and processing silicon into a solar panel takes a lot of energy; solar energy is only clean once the panel has absorbed enough energy to equal that amount used to create it.

EROI is tougher on ethanol. As energy is transferred it becomes less organized. Currently, it takes more energy to turn corn into fuel then the ethanol the fuel provides. This would be a useful way to reduce Middle Eastern oil dependence, if farming weren’t already so reliant on oil.

This does not mean, however, that no solutions exist and that human ingenuity is worthless.

More to come.

Democracy Corps: My interpretation

The left-echo chamber at Kos says the Democracy Corps focus groups says that Democrats don’t have to compromise on their core values to win. Bull shit.

It says that people in red states, and people that are uneducated and rural are believing everything they hear from the conservative media, and only disregarding them in extreme in-your-face circumstances like health care.

They say they don’t like the Dems on gay marriage and abortion and that it’s the press’s fault for making Iraq look bad. They say it’s lawyers who are at fault for their health care bills, and that it’s not fair that old folks don’t get 100% but “illegals do” (lol.).

I hear this kind of tripe from time to time, of course. But if you read between the lines, you don’t see a plan for a kind of DLC Democrat to come forward and say Hillary like softening things on abortion, and so forth.

What you see is a bunch of dumb hicks who are too worried about their own asses to give a shit about anyone else and as long as the Right wing media keeps feeding them fuel to that fire, they’re going to keep buying.

Fuck that and fuck them.

The only answer is institution building and ass-kicking Dean/Schweitzer/Hackett type candidates.

Final Pre-Preseason Power Rankings

(1) Phildelphia
(2) Ottawa
(3) Edmonton
(4) Vancouver
(5) Anaheim
(6) Calgary
(7) Pittsburg
(8) New Jersey
(9) San Jose
(10) Boston
(11) Toronto
(12) Atlanta
(13) Tampa Bay
(14) Los Angeles
(15) St. Louis
(16) Montreal
(17) Chicago
(18) Dallas
(19) Colorado
(20) Detroit
(21) Minnesota
(22) Nashville
(23) Florida
(24) Columbus
(25) Buffalo
(26) Islanders
(27) Carolina
(28) Phoenix
(29) Rangers
(30) Washington

I’m sure this will change A LOT after pre-season play. We just don’t know who’s going to not miss a beat and who’s going to take a long time to get back in NHL game shape.

Turn up heat on Iraq? Oil Peak; etc.

Kos says it’s time for the Dems to stand up against Bush on Iraq for real now. The establishment Dems are slow to jump on to that tac, even with Hagel doing so. Who’s right?

I think Hagel’s positioning himself for the 08 general even before he’s won the primary. But Democrats, especially older Democrats, have to remember how being anti-Vietnam has undermined their position as the war party for decades (wrongly, but in reality).

The solution? My first brainstorm if I had the ear of an 08 Dem candiate: a staged pullout of Iraq, with completion in a year, and, significantly, a portion of those troops redeployed to Afghanistan, Sudan, and South Korea.

As the NYT printed this weekend, there are a lot of people skeptical that Saudi Arabia can produce more than 15mb/day of oil. Whatever their theoretical peak may be, I doubt they will achieve 90% of it. Eventually, political unrest will spill into the Kingdom–moreso than it has. And if history is any guide, oil shocks are followed by demand shocks to producing nations as consumer nations use less. The next time that occurs, there could be serious unrest there.

There are a couple of possibilities. One, another 100 years of oil will turn up. Two, a war, precipitated by oil supply competition, will ruin the economy of a major consumer (and perhaps raise the demand for SPF 1,000,000 sunblock there) so the others can continue; or, three, we get over oil.

Since we have to do three anyway, why not start now when we have some control over it? That fickle whore, capital, currently the courtisan of the petrocracy, will turn it into a cuckold quick if money can be made in an alternative fuel. Are you listening fuel cell people?

Powell ’08? Has Colin Powell’s chief of staff’s comment that his bizarro-adlai moment at the UN was the low point of his career triangulation for 08?

Trade of the week: I still say go short on Clinton Dem nominee ’08. Whether she wins or not, she’s massively overvalued at 41. Sell short above 33, cover below 20. I also say go long on Wesley Clark. I got in at 0.5, he’s now around 5. He’s won the dKos straw poll several times now. Buy below 10, sell over 15. Go all in if Hillary is out.

Mission Accomplished?

Three of these articles are about high home prices, and, more generally, the “housing bubble.” Notice that the fifth article talks about a decrease in prices in an area that is 36% overvalued.

I just had the privilege of buying a condo at a 50% premium, according to the same article I just linked here in San Luis Obispo. Sigh.

So, I guess I’m wondering two things (1) does this mean last week’s rate hike did what they wanted and are they over, and (2) how do I play this?

Lou once and again.

Claude Lemieux… Stephane Richer… Tommy Albelin… Vlad Malakhov… and now Alexander Mogilny. Once a Devil, likely a Devil again.

(There’s gotta be quite a few others here I’m forgetting.)

OK, I went OCD and came up with a few more:

Corey Schwab.
Pascal Rheaume
John Vanbiesracist (kind of)
Ken Sutton (why!?)
Chris Terreri
Kryzfxzdfsdf Oliwa

Larry Robinson (Coach)

I was a week early.

So, it took until today for the markets to take a shit. Wal-Mart says it’s not going to be able to meet its projection for Q3 because the cost of oil is reaching into people’s wallets, finally. And for some reason, the Fed went on a rate-hike rampage. The rumor is that it’s over, for now. But I doubt it, and here’s why.

Doug Henwood:

Long rates probably have more influence over the real economy than short rates; this is certainly true of the housing market. But lately Greenspan has been making it clear that he and his colleagues intend to keep tightening. Normal economic indicators wouldn’t normally support this policy bias; there’s plenty of slack in the job market, wages are flat, and aside from oil prices, inflation is quiescent. But it may be, public pronouncements to the contrary, that the Fed has finally decided to prick the housing bubble, tighten the belts of American consumers, and stop relying so heavily on borrowing abroad. If that’s their real intention, then Americans are in for a big surprise.

It’s a good of an excuse for this tightening as any I’ve read. It also makes a somewhat good policy choice in some ways. The means chosen to do it, though, are recession-inducing.

Once upon a time, in the immediate aftermath of the dot-com bubble, I advocated a brutal rate increase of >5%, because I felt the time had come to simply kill off all of the bad business models that had developped during that time; but once that happened, a stimulus-inducing, drastic drop should have occurred.

Instead, it tooks years for all of the hangover to shake out (and it’s not entirely out), including all of the Arthur Andersons, Enrons, Worldcoms, et al. And when the loosening came, it came just in time to spark off a massive increase in housing prices, which causes tons of its own policy challenges. Combine that with our Iraq-war induced spike in oil prices (why doesn’t the media admit this?)

NYMEX Light, sweet crude traded at just over $25/barrell in March of 2003, crossed the $30 line around the turn of 2004, flirted with $50 in fall ’04, dropped to $40, then never looked back on its way to god knows where.

Oil supply shocks. Devalued currency. Massive federal deficits. This is Republican economic policy.

UPDATE: Check out this AP piece.

Merrill-Lynch economists estimate that every penny-per-gallon increase at the pump drains about $1.5 billion out of consumers’ pockets. That means the increase in gasoline costs this year has reduced the amount consumers have to spend on other items by about $90 billion.

However, in a lucky break, that drag on consumer spending has been offset by continued low long-term interest rates, which have spurred homeowners to refinance their mortgages and use the savings to boost their consumption.

Officials at mortgage giant Freddie Mac estimate that the amount of cash homeowners will take out of their refinancings this year will total $162 billion, almost double the expected drain from higher energy costs.

“People are able to pull money out of their homes and put it into their gas tanks,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Economy.com. “So the overall effects on consumer spending have been small.”

That is critical since consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of total economic activity. Any serious cutback in spending because of the higher gasoline prices could quickly crimp overall economic growth.

I’m not sure this is supposed to be encouraging. 3.50% is still, I think, below the historical average (it’s harder that I expected to find data on that).

NHL Free Agency Update

I don’t think any of the recent signings will have big impacts in the W-L column for the teams involved. I don’t think John Leclair is going to do much–but he will age slower there than in Philly–and I don’t think Roman Hamrlik or Eric Lindros are going to be big difference makers for their respective teams. Some of these signings will impact ticket sales at least. If Pittsburg fans weren’t ready for a comeback, they should be now. Toronto probably won’t have any issues with selling tickets, but a Lindros cult won’t hurt.

I will be very interested to see some pre-season play, more than any other year. The reason? Simple. With so much time off, it will matter a lot for the first half of the season who’s in shape, who’s remained sharp and who hasn’t. Getting a glimpse at that will be more telling than usual.

I’m still curious about where Peter Bondra is headed.

US Sinks To 7-2-1 In Major Wars

When asked about the most recent defeat during a timeout with less than two minutes left in the third period with the score 5-0 Insugents, General Manager Bush said “It’s not over yet!” Assistant General Manager Cheney said from far above in the skybox that the other team was “in their last throes” perhaps thinking that they were tired near the end of the game from wars over the previous three millenia.

The US team has gone 1-1-0 in major wars since it decided to acquire all of its talent through free agency and foresake the draft used by the rest of the league. But free agency taketh away as it giveth–recently Colin Powell signed a deal with the Lecture Circuit All-Stars after he left the US team in disgust when it abandoned his patented offensive system.

The head coaches of the US team have been mired in a torture abuse scandal worse than any Mike Keenan meets rookie camp yarn spun in the last two decades. It has undermined their authority with the players, who have been put on the ice for shifts far in excess of the normal.

“The team doesn’t even provide the padding” one US player complained, “my mother had to send it to me–with as many shots as I face in a period, I simply cannot go without.” The US team was unable to meet its supply needs after it was gouged by sports apparel maker Halliburton in a recent contract.

“Sometimes,” one player who wished to remain anonymous said, “I don’t think this team is about winning the Cup anymore, I think it’s about making the management rich.”

Despite the dropping record, the season ticket holders have refused to clamour for a new front office team.

UPDATE: The U.S. is 1-2-1 in the last 60 years. The US is 4-0-1 under Democrats and 2-2-0 under Republicans. “Republican GMs are great for exhibitions,” one scout said, “but only Democrats have had the ability to win in the playoffs.”

What Hockey Can Learn From Karl Rove

No, I don’t mean to go sit in the penalty box. What I mean is how did Bush win two elections? Simple. He made his people (though there were less) care so much more that they were a de facto majority. He made his base care about politics more than the other side.

If hockey wants to comeback strong, it needs to mobilize its base. That means it needs to play its strengths as a fast, physical exciting game, not as a substitute for other sports. Get the people who remain interested everything else notwithstanding to open their wallets first. Then we can work on growing.

Bertuzzi was punsihed on the result, not on his intent

Sure, we’re going to hear the NHL reinstated Bertuzzi to help with star power after the lockout. I’m sure they did — but that doesn’t make it wrong.

Let’s review the facts here. Mr. Moore did not have clean hands here. He is exactly the type of player that would never be in the NHL if the Lady Byngists had their way. Yet there he was, playing the role of “grinder” and making Markus Naslund’s night a living hell. And when he got a beat down for it, everyone cried.

Sure, he suffered terribly injury, but that’s the kind of injury you have to be willing to accept whenever you play in the NHL. These things happen in hockey. Now, sure, Bertuzzi could have not hit him from behind, or not at all, but does anyone believe for a minute that Bertuzzi wanted to breake Moore’s neck and deal with all of this? No. No one does. Bertuzzi was punished for what happened, when what he did happens in almost every game in the NHL. This was nothing more than a calculated campaign by the Avalanche and their promoters at ESPN as one of the more marketable teams. When this kind of crap was perpetrated by Colorado or Toronto, no one did a thing.

And all of these scribes decrying how this reflects on the NHL should realize that now is not the time that the NHL should be alienating their true fans, the ones who accept some violence. Witness the outcry in Toronto when it looked like Tie Domi–the guy who climbed out of the penalty box to fight a fan in Philadelphia–might walk away.

Sure, you can attract some fans to watch the 10 PIM per year European pass and pass and pass and pass and shoot game, but these are exactly the fans who run away during, oh, say a lockout. Those of us that like gritty play AND skill both are the ones that are even around to read these puckpundit’s scrawls.

Let’s cut the crap. Obstruction makes the game boring, but hitting and emotion and fighting make it exciting. All penalties are not created equal.

Counterpoint: Will the Fed's anticipated move do anything?


10 straight rate increases with only minimal evidence of inflation or of a tight labor market have led me to criticize again and again the rate increases levied by the Fed.

But what if they aren’t having any effect? What if the market has made them irrelevant–or at least less relevant? Today’s WSJ reports on the flat yield curve and shows that these rate increases have had little effect at all on the credit market.

It’s hurting banks because they can’t turn around and charge higher rates for longer term loans, but people can still get the loans, due largely in part to securitized mortgages like REITs, which don’t depend on banks for their rate (at least as much).

So, it’s possible that clever securitization really has minimized the impact of these Fed hikes, and, so, it’s possible that the announcement that should be coming out soon won’t spike the market.

But I’m still not convinced. Trouble in the financial sector (in this case, the inability of banks to make money from lending) almost always spells trouble.

Krugman, Real Estate, and Black Tuesday

Krugman:

Meanwhile, the U.S. economy has become deeply dependent on the housing bubble. The economic recovery since 2001 has been disappointing in many ways, but it wouldn’t have happened at all without soaring spending on residential construction, plus a surge in consumer spending largely based on mortgage refinancing. Did I mention that the personal savings rate has fallen to zero?

Now we’re starting to hear a hissing sound, as the air begins to leak out of the bubble. And everyone – not just those who own Zoned Zone real estate – should be worried.

And why was there refinancing? Because the fed loosened the tap. People who locked in at or around 5% are sitting pretty right now, especially if they didn’t overencumber their equity. True, many just spent it, but that’s not a bad thing.

As for the personal savings rate falling to zero, does that include the equity that people are building in their homes? I’m 90% sure it doesn’t. Even if this bubble does hiss away, that portion of your monthly payment that goes into equity is really savings, and housing’s fluctuations are scarcely less violent than the stock market, where Wall Street is supposed to channel a good portion of our savings.

I’m not a common man, I don’t pretend to be. I’m also not an economist. But I think there is some wisdom in this move by the herd. “Savings” in the strict CD/bond/money market sense has been a bad bet in the last 10 years since there is so much lost opportunity on stocks and real estate. Why stash money in a savings account and get the 1% or so you’re getting now?

And there’s something else about a house: even if you’re mortgage is worth more than your place, as long as you can afford the payments, you can live in it. That’s something that would take an awful lot of bank books or stock certificates to do.

And, by the way, this should keep the Fed from hiking rates again. Yeah, sure, you want to “cool off” the economy (i.e. keep workers from becoming uppity) at a time like this, but doing so here is different since what Krugman says is true: we need this real estate market. It would do more than cool it off.

Tomorrow might be the black tuesday of real estate, especially if they hike the rates up more than just the one quarter. Expect stocks to take a shit too.

Coach Gretzky.

Remember when Michael Jordon un-retired again to play for the Wizards? Yeah, I had almost forgotten that too. I think we might think about Wayne Gretzky’s decision to coach in the same way. Wayne has always been more comfortable mentally with holding the mantle of the game’s greatest player than Michael has — Wayne never quit to play baseball, and retired at the right time, only once — but he may not be able to handle the mantle of greatest player * below average coach.

I’m sure that his players will respect him and play their hearts out for him — who would want to embarass 99? — but, in reality, Gretzky is too nice of a guy, and lives in too much of a bubble to be effective at the kind of discipline-instilling coaching that his young Phoenix team will need.

What’s more, Phoenix, since Gretzky’s group took it over, has always been more about how hockey should be (in their opinions) than how it really is… the kind of team that would trade away a guy like Dallas Drake because he wasn’t a Lady Byng player. Every trade rumor and draft choice story talks about how they fit or don’t fit Phoenix’s image, or Wayne’s image.

I’m here to tell you folks, the emperor has no clothes once he hung up his skates.

The Niedermeyer Brothers

Now that Scott and Rob will have so much time to hang out together I wonder if they will ever be watching HBO’s hilarious series “Entourage” on a Sunday night. If they do, will seeing the dynamics of the relationship between brothers Vincent and Johnny “Drama” Chase make them (especially Rob) just a skosh uncomfortable?

To put it another way, would Rob Niedermeyer, an injury-prone at times gritty and at times invisible third or fourth line center, really be making 2 million per if he wasn’t Scott’s brother?

NHL Top 5 Shift

(1) Philadelphia – Forsberg and the new D men were the best signings.
(2) Pittsburg – Anyone want to take a penalty against this team? Signing Gonchar and Palffy is pretty amazing.
(3) Edmonton – Selke and Norris candidates?
(4) Anaheim – If you can’t defend their transition game, you’re finished.
(5) Chicago – All in all, their signings have dramatically improved this team.

Free Agency Period Predictions.
I will amend my predictions during the preseason.

West

Pacific
1 – y-Anaheim
2 – x-Los Angeles
3 – Phoenix
4 – Dallas
5 – San Jose

Northwest

1 – z-Edmonton
2- x-Vancouver
3- x-Calgary
4- x-Minnesota
5 – Colorado

Central

1 – y-St. Louis
2 – x-Chicago
3 – Detroit
4 – Nashville
5 – Columbus

Atlantic

1 – z-Philadelphia
2 – x-Pittsburg
3 – x-New Jersey
4 – Islanders
5 – Rangers

Southern

1 – y-Tampa Bay
2 – x-Atlanta
3 – Florida
4 – Washington
5 – Carolina

Northeast

1- y-Ottawa
2-x-Boston
3-x-Montreal
4-Toronto
5-Buffalo

Final Four

Philadelphia, Pittsburg, Anaheim, Edmonton

Is the US an oil hog?

Juan Cole recites liberal meme #34: the US is an oil hog, consuming over 20% of the world’s oil, and having only 5% of the world’s population.

Is that the correct measure? No. People don’t eat or drink oil. Oil is used to produce things, so the proper measure is GDP (specifically GDP, since GNP would measure oil used in other countries by American firms).

American GDP accounts for almost one-quarter, or 25% of the world’s GDP.

America actually uses its energy resources more efficiently than the world average. So, this isn’t an argument for oil efficiency, that we’re a “hog.” It’s an argument that the rest of the world needs to become more efficient.

We may be dependent on foreign oil, but many countries are dependent on our exports.

UPDATE: The feedback I’ve gotten on this ends up turning into comment about efficiency. Well, if we all used oil more efficiently, the country with the greatest GDP would still use the most oil. Our take of 10 barrels would still probably be 2.5, just as our take from several billion is 25%.

Unless of course you think it’s ok for other countries to pollute.

And anyone who thinks that I somehow support the energy policy of this administration should know better. I just think that this oft-repeated statistic doesn’t is silly.

The Fed Will Kill This Bull

Jobs! Higher wages! Stocks are kicking ass! The bond market stoked on the return of the 30 year bon! There is an almost Clintonian feeling in the air in most sectors of the economy right now–and it’s quite possible that it’s irrational exuberance II, but I doubt it. Earnings have been strong for a while now (once Bush’s taxcuts have worn off, it seems), so the fundamentals are up.

And even though there is evidence that unemployment is not as low as advertised and low, even negative inflation has been measured in the last three months, don’t expect the Fed to allow this to continue for much longer. They seem quite miffed that their short term rate hikes have failed to hurt the mortgage rates or longer term rates.

So, some might wait and see if their next hike echoes further up the interest rate chain, but chances are that the only real bull market of the 00s will be dead by the end of the year. God forbid wages should go up.

NHL Free Agency Winners: Bizarro World Edition.

UPDATE:
(1) Philadelphia – Foresberg, if he stays healthy (mentally and physically) was the best signing of the year. Derian Hatcher and Rathje too.
(2) Edmonton – Pronger and Peca will make this team tough to score on for the first time ever. If the rumors are true and they add Paul Kariya, this team has a chance at some hardware.
(3) Anaheim – This team is built for the new NHL rules. Automatically a contender in the west with the Niedermayer signing.
(4) Pittsburg – If Sid the Kid is what they say, this team could be hockey’s new harlem globetrotters. Sergei Gonchar is a pickup they never would have made before. Will they add CuJo?
(5) Chicago – They have to bounce ahead of LA here. Khabibulin is the reigning stanley cup winning goalie. This team hasn’t had championship goaltending in forever. (And they traded away two before they gained that status).
(6) LA – Roenick is too old and beat up to justify the headlines he’s getting. Luc Robitaille claims that the team is now a championship contender. No way, but it does put them in a better position to make the playoffs. No one is winning anything with Roman Cechmanek.
(7) Calgary – Calgary did better this year simply by being able to retain their ace. Anyone think they’ll trade for Al Macinnis? Adding some veteran help didn’t hurt either.
(8) Islanders – Peca and Yashin weren’t compatible and we don’t know if Satan will be either, but some addition by subtraction and a deal with Satan were classic Mad Mike plays.
(9) Boston – They should have tried harder to keep Gonchar instead of signing Graybeard Leetch, but this team has added a lot of role players that will make them win more games.
(10) Florida – Upon further review, this team’s signings are for purposes of golf, not hockey–but at least they’re trying…

which is more than can be said about …
(1) Colorado – Don’t tell us Kurt Sauer is the next Adam Foote, and don’t tell us that with the new rules Hejduk and Tangay will be able to make their Lady Byng image irrelevant. And no one else was as offended as me by Joe Sakic’s 52-goal contract year performance and immediate fall off, but something tells me Joe is going to mail it in this year too. ESPN would be foolish to hype this team as much as they have been.

(2) Detroit – This team ought to be the charter member of the Senior NHL. You read it here first: they miss the playoffs in this new, fast, young west.

(3) Rangers – Players weren’t even returning their calls. The only reason to ever go play in this shitty team was money, and that isn’t a factor anymore. If they don’t go into full rebuild this year, they’re craizer than we thought.

(4) San Jose – They predicably lost the Nieder race, but haven’t done anything else but hemmorage players. They might land Selanne or Kariya, but they have lost their chance to do anything to put them back on the map. If they make the playoffs, it’s a surprise.

(5) T.O. – Their GM should hire extra body guards, and watch for a pat quinn knife in his back. This team hasn’t done anything either. They will fall apart too. Jason Allison? Dude — they should sign him and Lindros, because they seem to be the team the most willing to intentionally injure other players.

Apologists for these teams say they are “waiting for next year’s crop.” What a crock of shit. There’s no guarantee that those players will be available anyway, since a deadline trade would leave the new team plenty of time to woo them and offer them the max. Furthermore, it’s a lie to suggest that they weren’t trying. Forsberg said no to Colorado. Niedermayer flatly rejected New York. Don’t believe that. It’s a new NHL.


The ten biggest winners in this free agency signing period:

(1) Philadelphia
(2) Edmonton
(3) Anaheim
(4) Pittsburg
(5) Los Angeles
(6) Calgary
(7) Florida
(8) Islanders
(9) Boston
(10) New Jersey (even still, yes.)

And the five biggest losers

(1) Colorado
(2) Detroit
(3) Rangers
(4) San Jose
(5) Toronto

What a reversal! Only Philadelphia is on the good list in both CBAs. Edmonton is all of a sudden a power in the west, and with no red line, the one-two punch of Niedermayer and Ozolinsh with Sergei Fedorov and Petr Sykora up front makes the Mighty Ducks as Mighty as they’ve ever been.

The Left is finally starting to get it on Roberts.

The direct confrontational approach to the Roberts nomination was doomed to failure from the beginning. Finally, they are discovering some of the man’s “hired-gun” qualities. He represented a pro-gay client, he has also represented Native Hawaiians against Ward Connerly like racial “blindness.”

Please, I don’t believe this guy is a liberal. I don’t even think he’s a moderate. What I do think is that he’s at least a thinker, and that’s the best we can ask for from a right-wing appointee. But the only way to oppose him, to make sure that the Senate does its job, is to tick off the shark-brained troglodytes on the Right into thinking that this man is not their ideal candidate. With Brownback and Coburn on the committee, you have to think that it can’t be that difficult to do. The Right is constantly worried about left-drifting justices like Souter. Here they very may well have one who will evolve towards the centrist type of position that he is replacing. We can hope.

Now, if they will just start taking credit for preemptively shying Bush away from a Scalia Jr!

The Stupidest NYT Op-Ed in a While

Without the much-maligned Wal-Mart, the [American] rural poor, in particular, would pay several percentage points more for the food and other merchandise that after housing is their largest household expense.

Beggar thy neighbor, eh? There are so many things wrong with this statement I don’t even know where to start, so I’ll start with the fact that these “rural poor” (i.e. American rural poor) are still in the very, very high percentiles in terms of income per capita world wide, and they are externalizing these costs on those that are very, very low in those same percentiles.

It’s typical Bushian reverse socialism with the World’s rich/america’s poor stealing from the world’s poor.

Second, these few percentage points simply do not compensate these folks for the dramatic lowering of their own salaries because of employers like, well, Wal-Mart. Any honest holisitic assessment of prices and wages would have to reflect that.

Third, decreases in costs hurt debtors. America’s poor are enduring an epidemic of bankruptcy, and it’s only going to get worse with the new law. Every time prices go down, debt gets more expensive, even if interest rates stay the same, because the dollars they have to pay back are more dear. This is why every episode of significant deflation in American economic history has accompanied a panic, depression, or recession.

How can something like this get on the NYT’s op-ed page?

Without the RPS a Listless Energy Bill

It was fair to expect some pointless corporate socialism to buy out the Conservatrons in the Energy Bill, and it does have some worthwhile provisions such as updating the grid and changing the antiquated daylight savings regime. The nickel and dime tax breaks for sustainable energy are nice; however, they do nothing to change the energy status quo. A Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), assuming it was properly constructed, would have begun to incorporate sustainable (I prefer sustainable to renewable) energy into a meaningful portion of the nation’s supply.

The RPS in the senate bill would have forced each utility to garner a modest (the EU is already shooting for 22% and, all told, we have better geological resources for this then they do) 10% of its energy output from sustainable sources (generally wind, solar and geothermal) by a set date. If structured properly this would have been accomplished through tradeable credits. In this way a utility in, say, Michigan in January could have traded most of its 10% requirement to a utility in Arizona where there would be ample solar energy to account for some of Michigan’s 10% on top of its own. In this way the most efficient sources would have been utilized first and, assuming that it is advantageous to sell credits (in other words, the Arizona Utility could say, hey we’re producing 12% of our energy from solar sources, now we are going to sell the 2% extra credit to a utility that can only make 8% this month and make a profit) it would have created an actual market incentive for RD&D of sustainable energy and lots of high-tech (research) and blue collar (maintanence) jobs – as opposed to the 2 billion dollars that the Energy Bill will pay oil companies to do seismic tests for offshore oil wells regardless if states want exploration there or not.

To be fair the RPS does have one disadvantage, if a utility has to buy most of its green quota then the people it serves will not see the benefits from the green energy. But hey, that’s capitalism – real capitalism I mean. If their customers are unhappy about it then, by golly, there is an incentive for that company to invest in developing a form of green energy available in its area.

In a poorly strucuted market that does not internalize the downwind externalities of convetional energy sources and compounds this problem by lavishing them with underserved subsides green energy will never account for more than around 1% of America’s total capacity. An RPS would have put economic momentum behind a meaningful amount of green energy. It certainly would not have solved America’s energy problems, but it would have put a real dent in them and created an atmosphere that encouraged innovation. Instead, just like hybrid engines, we will be buying this technology from foreigners; specifically, Denmark, Germany, Japan and yes, China.

Stuff it, Larry. The new CBA is already working.

Adam Foote to Columbus.
Bobby Holik to Atlanta.
Tony Amonte to Calgary.

and . . . Chris Pronger to Edmonton.

That’s right. Edmonton makes the splash so far. And expect it to continue. Really, what are the odds of Peter Forsberg ending up with one of the old regime’s big spenders? Philly doesn’t have room. Detroit doesn’t have room. Dallas, Colorado, and the Rangers can’t afford him either, unless they all reconfigure themselves.

Players are being traded as players again, not as contracts. It’s the way it should be. This means that the team with the best players managed by the best coaches all picked by the best general manager will win again. A team that needs a defenseman will be able to make a trade with a team that needs a forward if the players are roughly equal in value, because they will all be within the same limits.

30 teams is still too many teams, but with the talent finally spread out equally, there’s a good chance that that macro factor alone will improve the quality of gameplay, without the need for contraction or drastic rule changes.

UPDATE:

So, Philly gets Swedish Pete. But they have to unceremoniously dump Jeremy Roenick to LA to get it done. But for every move made by Philly, it has been Edmonton — not Colorado or Dallas — that has responded, and that’s a big difference.

The big movers: The Penguins, The Flames, The Oilers, and the Flyers. Only one name you’d have expected.

UN spells relief for Condi

So, who’s bringing the champagne and disco music to the State Department today? The Moustache has moved to the UN… Par-ty! It seems too that anyone in the Cheney mafia gets away with anything. This guy should not be in government at all, but alas and alack, at least he’s not anywhere that matters.

At least the Congress got something done. The highway and energy bills aren’t perfect (and you should be buying some caterpillar and some kind of uranium play) but at least they both take some pro-environmental steps. The energy bill encourages growth in non-fossil fuel energy and the highway bill (maybe I’m confused?) encourages hybrid vehicles.

Of course these are giant pork giveaways, but that’s how it’s done.