August 22, 2011 archive

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For Jack Layton


Bye Jack…

I always liked this one simple quote from Jack… I think maybe it says a lot about his fundamental outlook on life.

When you’re sick, you present your medicare card, not your credit card. New Democrats will not stand idly by. We will be fighting each and every day for our precious medicare system.

   — Jack Layton


Porky in Wackyland

“Make sure everyone writes about this!”

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

A watershed moment for Obama on climate change

By Bill McKibben, The Washington Post

Published: August 16

The issue is simple: We want the president to block construction of Keystone XL, a pipeline that would carry oil from the tar sands of northern Alberta down to the Gulf of Mexico. We have, not surprisingly, concerns about potential spills and environmental degradation from construction of the pipeline. But those tar sands are also the second-largest pool of carbon in the atmosphere, behind only the oil fields of Saudi Arabia. If we tap into them in a big way, NASA climatologist James Hansen explained in a paper issued this summer, the emissions would mean it’s “essentially game over” for the climate. That’s why the executive directors of many environmental groups and 20 of the country’s leading climate scientists wrote letters asking people to head to Washington for the demonstrations. In scientific terms, it’s as close to a no-brainer as you can get.

(F)or once, the president will get to make an important call all by himself. He has to sign a certificate of national interest before the border-crossing pipeline can be built. Under the relevant statutes, Congress is not involved, so he doesn’t need to stand up to the global-warming deniers calling the shots in the House.

(T)he final call rests with Barack Obama, who said the night that he clinched the Democratic nomination in June 2008 that his ascension would mark “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” Now he gets a chance to prove that he meant it. In basketball terms, he’s alone at the top of the key – will he take the 20-foot jumper or pass the ball? It’s a rare, character-defining moment. Obama can’t escape it simply by saying that someone else will burn the oil if we don’t. Alberta is remote, and its only other possible pipeline route – to the Pacific and hence Asia – is tangled in litigation. That’s why the province’s energy minister told Canada’s Globe and Mail last month that without the Keystone pipeline Alberta would be “landlocked in bitumen,” the technical name for the heavy, gooey tar that is its chief export. Critics may argue otherwise, but Obama’s call is key; without it, that oil will stay in the ground for at least a while longer. Long enough, perhaps, that the planet will come fully to its senses about climate change.

It’s hard to predict what will happen. Earlier this summer Al Gore tossed up his hands in despair: “President Obama has never presented to the American people the magnitude of the climate crisis,” Gore said. “He has not defended the science against the ongoing withering and dishonest attacks.” Yet it’s hard to give up on the image of the skinny senator from Illinois and the young people who were his most fervent supporters – young people who, according to pollsters, wanted a climate bill by a 5-to-1 margin. That didn’t happen, of course; for now, the Keystone pipeline is the best proxy we have for real presidential commitment to the global warming fight.

The Dirt On Oil Sands

The term “oil sands” or “tar sands” oil refers to thick oil called bitumen that is mixed in with sand, clay, and water. Intensive energy is required to process the sands into crude oil.

Oil sands operations currently use about 0.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day. By 2012, that level could rise to 2 billion cubic feet a day…

Oil sands production harms human health in at least two ways: when extracted, and when processed and refined from bitumen into gasoline. As described above extraction pollutes water resources. Communities downstream, in some cases hundreds of kilometers downstream, have been impacted: directly, with elevated cancer rates; and indirectly, with their subsistence economy endangered by polluted fisheries.

The spread of refineries processing tar sands oil is a problem because the synthetic heavy crude produced from tar sands is laden with more toxics than conventional oil. Communities adjacent to tar sands oil refineries face increased carbon dioxide emissions, and increased exposure to heavy metals, and sulfurs.

Prevent A Tar Sands Disaster

By Nellis Kennedy-Howard, Yes! Magazine

20 August, 2011

Locked up in sand, clay, and bitumen, tar sands oil is one of the hardest to mine and refine and is also one of the dirtiest: extracting it creates three times more greenhouse gases than conventional oil. Mining the tar sands means not only deforestation but also the creation of massive lagoons filled with toxic wastewater. These ponds are leaking 11 million liters of toxic water each day and by 2012 are expected to leak 72 million liters a day.

Oil giant TransCanada hopes to expand the project even further by building a pipeline that will pump dirty oil from northern Alberta, across the headwaters of major rivers, and down to the Gulf of Mexico where special refineries exist to handle the lower-grade oil. The pipeline, named Keystone XL, is expected to actually raise gas prices in the states it crosses because the refined oil will have to be shipped back up from the Gulf. This rise will be the equivalent of a “$4-billion-a-year tax on oil we already get from Canada, with all the money going from American wallets and pocketbooks to oil companies,” said Jeremy Symons of the National Wildlife Federation, in testimony before the House Energy Commerce Committee.

Tar Sands Action: Are You Discouraged, or a Flaming Firebagger?

By: Jane Hamsher, Firedog Lake

Sunday August 21, 2011 1:32 pm

I am happy that we were able to protest in front of the White House and that whatever happened as a consequence, it was probably going to be a matter of inconvenience more than anything else.  I’m not sure how much longer that will be true.  The growing economic despair of many Americans will only get worse with the austerity measures being pushed on us, and there are signs that both the surveillance state and the police state are preparing to respond with force.  It is unquestionable that this White House has only accelerated the rapidly advancing criminalization of free speech.

The decision to allow  the construction of the pipeline rests with the President alone.  He cannot blame Congressional gridlock or partisan intransigence.  The pressure on him to allow its construction is no doubt fierce – the oil companies will claim that it will create jobs and balance our trade deficit.  Yet whatever money goes back into the economy in the form of jobs will once again be extracted from the wallets of taxpayers, because that’s what the oil companies are good at orchestrating.  And any reduction in the trade deficit will be achieved at the cost of cracking open the largest known deposit of carbon on earth, second only to Saudi Arabia.

On This Day In History August 22

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

August 23 is the 235th day of the year (236th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 130 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1902, pioneering cookbook author Fannie Farmer, who changed the way Americans prepare food by advocating the use of standardized measurements in recipes, opens Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery in Boston. In addition to teaching women about cooking, Farmer later educated medical professionals about the importance of proper nutrition for the sick.

Farmer was born March 23, 1857, and raised near Boston, Massachusetts. Her family believed in education for women and Farmer attended Medford High School; however, as a teenager she suffered a paralytic stroke that turned her into a homebound invalid for a period of years. As a result, she was unable to complete high school or attend college and her illness left her with a permanent limp. When she was in her early 30s, Farmer attended the Boston Cooking School. Founded in 1879, the school promoted a scientific approach to food preparation and trained women to become cooking teachers at a time when their employment opportunities were limited. Farmer graduated from the program in 1889 and in 1891 became the school’s principal. In 1896, she published her first cookbook, The Boston Cooking School Cookbook, which included a wide range of straightforward recipes along with information on cooking and sanitation techniques, household management and nutrition. Farmer’s book became a bestseller and revolutionized American cooking through its use of precise measurements, a novel culinary concept at the time.

Cookbook fame

Fannie published her most well-known work, The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, in 1896. Her cookbook introduced the concept of using standardized measuring spoons and cups, as well as level measurement. A follow-up to an earlier version called Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cook Book, published by Mary J. Lincoln in 1884, the book under Farmer’s direction eventually contained 1,849 recipes, from milk toast to Zigaras à la Russe. Farmer also included essays on housekeeping, cleaning, canning and drying fruits and vegetables, and nutritional information.

The book’s publisher (Little, Brown & Company) did not predict good sales and limited the first edition to 3,000 copies, published at the author’s expense. The book was so popular in America, so thorough, and so comprehensive that cooks would refer to later editions simply as the “Fannie Farmer cookbook”, and it is still available in print over 100 years later.

Farmer provided scientific explanations of the chemical processes that occur in food during cooking, and also helped to standardize the system of measurements used in cooking in the USA. Before the Cookbook’s publication, other American recipes frequently called for amounts such as “a piece of butter the size of an egg” or “a teacup of milk.” Farmer’s systematic discussion of measurement – “A cupful is measured level … A tablespoonful is measured level. A teaspoonful is measured level.” – led to her being named “the mother of level measurements.”

I still have my copy.

On Doing Better Than 50%, Part Two, Or, Is “Made in USA” A Jobs Program?

When last we met, it was to discuss a Big Idea that the Obama Administration might apply to get some job creation going, despite a difficult Congress; the Big Idea was to look at the “Buy American” provisions that exist in our laws, regulations, and Executive Orders and see if we could practice a bit of “jobs arbitrage” by not just meeting the “Made in USA” requirements when governments across this country make purchases, but exceeding them.

(As it stands today, pretty much any “good or service” with more than 50% Made in USA content qualifies as a Made in USA purchase, even if 49% of the “good or service” comes from somewhere else).

At the time, I told you that if all went well we could look forward to comments from both Labor and the Administration as to the practicality of the Big Idea, and as it turns out I have comments for you that hit close to that mark – and a bit more besides:

On Saturday I just happened to bump into Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09); in the course of that conversation I told him what we’re doing here, and he wanted to offer a few thoughts of his own…and when you put all that together, I think we’re going to have a lot to talk about.

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

Time for a break from poetry…in order to create some art.

Almost every man wastes part of his life in attempts to display qualities which he does not possess, and to gain applause which he cannot keep.

–Samuel Johnson

Art Glass 36

Late Night Karaoke

Negotiations 101: How To Get What You Want

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

I’ve sat in on many negotiations and I still do, one of the things that I learned immediately is that you always start out asking for the universe. In other words, everything you hope to get the other side to agree on even if you know they won’t. It’s kind of rule #1 for both sides of the table. There are some lessons that the Obama administration could take away from the recent fight over toll increases on the Hudson crossings and trains from New Jersey to New York are managed by the NY/NY Port Authority, which also manages the sea and air ports.

The Port Authority  announced less than a month ago that it would need to increase the tolls and fairs to cover future capital bulding and improvements. What the PA proposed was ginormous:

The increases would include a surcharge of $3 to increase the cash toll for using its bridges and tunnels from $8 to $15.

The authority also proposed raising tolls for autos using E-ZPass on the Port Authority’s crossings from $6 to $10 roundtrip for off-peak travel, and from $8 to $12 in peak hours. It said an additional $2 increase during peak and off-peak hours will be implemented in 2014.

The agency also proposed raising the fare for the PATH trains running from Lower Manhattan to New Jersey from $1.75 to $2.75 in 2011, with the average fare increasing to $2 from $1.30 given the steep 25 percent discount, which will be fully preserved. The 30-day unlimited pass will increase to $89 from $54

Both governors of New York and New Jersey, who must both approve any increases, objected, citing the lack of accountability of the PA and the burden of such increases on commuters and truckers. So what was the end result? After meetings involving the board of directors and the two governors representatives it was decided that the PA would get its increases just not the way they wanted them, in exchange for an audit:

Aug. 19 (Bloomberg) — The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey approved raising bridge and tunnel tolls over five years by 56 percent, or $4.50.

The authority board, whose 12 members are appointed by Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York and Chris Christie of New Jersey, voted unanimously today for a $1.50 toll increase effective next month for cars using E-ZPass during rush hour. Drivers paying cash will see the fee jump to $12 from $8.

Commuters on PATH trains will see one-way fares rise to $2 in September from the current $1.75, followed by additional 25- cent increases annually. The tolls apply to the George Washington Bridge, the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, and three bridges connecting New Jersey to Staten Island.


The Port Authority also agreed to the governors’ call for an audit of its finances and to find cost reductions and increased efficiencies. New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli criticized the Port Authority’s spending on overtime earlier this week.

Now here’s the really painful part that is going to hurt New Yorkers the worst:

   Tolls on trucks using E-ZPass will pay an additional $2 per axle in September 2011, and then an additional $2 per axle in December of each year from 2012-’15.

   Tolls on trucks paying cash will have the same increase but will be subject to an additional $3 per axle cash penalty.

You know what that will do to the price goods coming in to the area? Look for everything to start to get real expensive.

One more little thing, so much for the promises of both governors not to raise taxes because this IS an increase in a tax on cars and trucks.

You should be either laughing or crying right about now but this is how it’s done. Ask for the ridiculous and just possibly you’ll get some of it.

So how does is this a lesson for the Obama administration? Simple, ask for the sublime and you can get the ridiculous but you have to stand your ground, and threaten even worse if you don’t get what you want.

Censored News: Tars Sand Protest at the White House

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

There was a protest in front of the White House today that got minimal coverage from the traditional media and its’ going to continue for the next two weeks. If you only get your news from the usual suspects, you would have missed any mention of it if you blinked. So what was the cause that over 65 people were willing to get arrested over? It was this, Keystone Pipeline Project. So what’s the fuss? The oil that will be pumped through this pipeline is the dirtiest oil in the world:

Alberta’s oil sands are America’s number one source of foreign oil The oil sands produce the world’s most harmful type of oil for the atmosphere, emitting high volumes of greenhouse gases during development, which contribute to global warming.

Oil sands and greenhouse gas pollution

   Oil Sands projects are the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas pollution in Canada.

   Production of oil from tar sands bitumen produces between 3 and 5 times the greenhouse gas pollution of conventional oil production.

   By 2015, the oil sands could emit more greenhouse gases than the nation of Denmark (pop. 5.4 million).

Oil sands extraction pollutes water

Oil sands extraction uses significant amounts of water (2-4.5 barrels per barrel of oil produced), which ends up in toxic tailings lagoons that have never been successfully reclaimed. An analysis using industry data estimated that these lagoons already leak over a billion gallons of contaminated water into the environment each year.

Oil sands production uses huge amounts of energy

The term “oil sands” or “tar sands” oil refers to thick oil called bitumen that is mixed in with sand, clay, and water. Intensive energy is required to process the sands into crude oil.

Oil sands operations currently use about 0.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day. By 2012, that level could rise to 2 billion cubic feet a day – more than the nominal capacity of the

proposed Mackenzie Gas Project. At the NWT-Alberta border, the Mackenzie Gas Pipeline would connect to a TransCanada pipeline, which would carry the gas onward to feed oil extraction in Alberta’s oil sands. The Mackenzie Gas Pipeline will likely fuel accelerated oil sands development, not provide fuel to heat homes in Canada and the U.S.

Who profits? Who else, the Koch brothers and other oil barons and perhaps even China.

Environmentalist Bill McKibben, the organizer of the Tar Sands Action two week protest, was among those who was arrested today but this will not end, as over 1500 have signed up to keep this going for the next two weeks and as expected he was along with Lt. Dan Choi, Jane Hamsher and Scarecrow of FDL. Jane attempted to livestream the protest but was arrested early on and her camera equipment was confiscated. It was apparently ladies first, how considerate.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) supports the protest and offers his support:

We can support the protests by writing the White House and representatives and sign the petition to Stop the Pipeline

Pique the Geek 20110821: Anesthetics

Anesthetics are as essential to modern surgery as are sterile fields and antiseptics.  There are a couple of reasons for that, the most obvious being that the patient most likely could not survive the shock and pain of any but the least invasive procedure with out them.  Interestingly, the use of anesthetics in the modern sense is quite recent, dating only from the mid 1800s.

There are two major divisions of anesthetics, general anesthetics and local ones.  General ones cause a more or less complete loss of sensation and consciousness, whilst local ones cause a loss of sensation for only a relatively small part of the body and leave the patient conscious.  In addition, general anesthetics fall into two wide classes, inhalation ones and intravenous ones.  We shall discuss, in general terms, inhalation general anesthetics tonight.