Nasty business

Bono voyage: The business of Bites is business, and no business sickens Bites more than this business with Bono Vox, lead singer of Christianofascist rock band U2. Bites hasn’t deliberately listened to any U2 song since 1980’s “I Will Follow” and has an absolutely appalling memory of an evening spent listening to The Joshua Tree after inadvertently ingesting an eight-ball of MDMA. But that’s beside the point. The issue here is Mr. Vox’s continued meddling in the world of business.

It started several years ago, when Bono journeyed to Africa with Paul O’Neill, then treasury secretary for the Bush administration, the most unlikely pairing of pop star and politician since Elvis Presley petitioned former President Richard M. Nixon for a position as “Federal Agent-at-Large” in the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.

Not long after, Vox—who some say purloined the goggles-and-swept-back-hair look from his late, chicken-choking chum Michael Hutchence—pulled another Bono, boosting iPod sales into the stratosphere, dooming a generation of teenagers to premature deafness.

But now he’s really gone too far. Late last month, the still-cherished-by-liberals Irish singer played Beach Blanket Babylon with infamous right-wing media monopolist Rupert Murdoch and British Prime Minister Tony Blair at a shindig for Murdoch’s News Corp. in Monterey.

Could he go further? Of course he could. Last week, Vox popular finally found what he was looking for: A 40-percent stake in Forbes Media.

With or without you? When it comes to Bono, Bites says the latter.

Slippery customer: As a regular reader of the business section in countless daily periodicals, Bites is continually confounded by the lack of knowledge demonstrated by today’s jive-ass journos. The latest offender is the McClatchy Washington Bureau’s Kevin G. Hall, whose story on the push to drill for oil in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge appeared in the August 14 Sacramento Bee.

There are plenty of reasons not to drill in ANWR, but the “coming oil glut” reported by Hall is almost undoubtedly not one of them. For proof of excess, Hall cites a recent report by Cambridge Energy Research Associates, headed by Pulitzer Prize-winning oil historian Daniel Yergin, that predicts “oil supplies may exceed demand by 7.5 million barrels per day by 2010.”

Even if you accept the findings of CERA’s report—and Bites does not—Hall ignores the fact that the amount of the world’s recoverable oil reserves are a subject of considerable controversy. Peak-oil theory, gradually becoming conventional wisdom in the petroleum industry, holds that we are at or near the point where demand always will exceed supply, the threshold of an era of permanent shortage.

Which view is correct? Bites cannot afford CERA’s $2,500 report, but the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas says the study is characterized by unrealistic over-optimism. “More things could be said about the report,” ASPO said. “But it is obvious that it is not worth $2,500.”

Keep the Hummer if you must. But don’t say Bites never warned you.

Billion-dollar baby: Did someone say rising oil prices? They sure did. The current issue of the Sacramento Business Journal reports that the planned 1.4 million-square-foot West Side office complex near the Capitol has been “delayed indefinitely” thanks in part to the “near-record price for oil.” Bites repeats: When demand is high, and supply is low, the price goes up.

The high cost of oil, combined with increasing prices for steel, cement and other building materials, has pushed the estimated cost of the project from $319 million to $500 million, a 57-percent increase. Figure in the usual cost overruns, and it’s fair to say that an eventual doubling of cost might be somewhere in the ballpark.

Did someone say ballpark? Could the proposed $500 million downtown basketball arena be a billion-dollar basket case?

Bites has a bad feeling about all of this.