January 4, 2012 archive

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Fracking Idiots

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

I don’t know about you but I’m plenty tired of horseshitrace politics for the moment.

Well, since you insist.

Paul did not do as well as I expected last night, but still about 150% better than last cycle.  Twitter rumors reported by desperate and stupid MSNBC Teleprompter Readers that Johnson was dropping his Libertarian Party candidacy (leaving it available for a Paul Third Party run) were a HOAX!

Way to go “professionals”.

Santorum “won” by a whole 8 votes which means it’s time to start Google bombing again.  Romney didn’t disqualify, picking up that all important “Crash” McCain endorsement.

Losers– Bachman, hard to see how she can stay with no money and no votes.  Perry, outspent Romney by 3:1, now returning to Houston to “re-evaluate” despite strong polling in South Carolina.  Gingrich, may stay in out of pure spite and meanness, but almost sure to lose his South Carolina standing.

Now, about entropy and the heat death of the Universe.


Ohio Earthquake Linked To Fracking Injection Wells

Think Progress Newsflash


On New Year’s Eve, a magnitude 4.0 earthquake struck northeastern Ohio, the second quake to strike the region in a week. Saturday’s earthquake, which occurred in an area not typically known for this type of natural disaster, is being traced back to fluid injection wells at a Youngstown fracking site. According to the Akron Beacon Journal, “the quake was the 11th over the last eight months in Mahoning County, all within two miles of the injection wells.” They also point out that injection wells have been linked to earthquakes in other states as well, including Arkansas, West Virginia, Colorado and Texas. Two of the Ohio injection wells in question are now being shut down.

Fracking Linked to Earthquakes in Ohio; Wells Indefinitely Shut Down

By: David Dayen, Firedog Lake

Monday January 2, 2012 9:00 am

This is not the first time that fracking has been linked to earthquakes. Earlier this year, unusual earthquakes in Oklahoma were seen by many as helped along by fracking. The scientific consensus on that incident was that fracking can cause small tremors, but nothing of the scale as seen in Oklahoma, which did follow a natural fault line.

But Ohio doesn’t have as much history with earthquakes, though there are faults in the region. The frequency of the quakes is definitely unusual; there have been 11 in the past eight months within two miles of the wells. And the correlation between increased oil and gas exploration and increased seismic activity is becoming more widespread. It’s not that fracking releases so much energy underground into the faults, it’s that they place just enough pressure to trigger stronger quakes than we would otherwise see. Plus, scientists and not just state officials in Ohio participated in the shutdown of the fracking wells, seeking more information.

Expert Believes Wastewater Fracking Wells Causing Earthquakes in Ohio

By: David Dayen, Firedog Lake

Tuesday January 3, 2012 9:35 am

(O)ne expert has narrowed down the cause of the earthquakes, and he points to a wastewater well.

Both are wells used in the fracking process. One gets used for drilling and the other for injecting wastewater, but they are at root fracking wells (they dispose of wastewater for oil wells as well, but fracking uses a much larger quantity of fluids). If there were no fracking, there would be no wastewater and thus no wastewater wells. And according to John Armbruster, no earthquakes.

The earthquakes have been small and haven’t yet caused massive property damage. But according to Armbruster they will continue for at least a year. And causing pressure to a fault line gives the impression of needlessly stirring up a hornet’s nest. And of course, this is not nearly the only environmental problem associated with fracking. The quality of drinking water and air around well sites also draws much concern.

Ohio quakes could incite fracking policy shift

By JULIE CARR SMYTH, Associated Press

Tue Jan 3, 5:33 pm ET

(Ohio Governor John) Kasich told reporters over the weekend that he doesn’t believe the energy industry should be blamed for issues arising from disposal of their byproducts. That would be like blaming the auto industry for improper disposal of old tires, the first-term Republican said.

Scientists have known for decades that drilling or injecting water into areas where a fault exists can cause earthquakes, said Paul Hsieh, a research hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif.

“That’s widely documented and accepted within the science community,” he said. “It’s seen all over the world.”

Oklahoma’s sharpest earthquake on record, of magnitude 5.8 on Nov. 5, was centered on a county that has 181 such wells, according to Matt Skinner, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which oversees oil and gas production in the state and intrastate transportation pipelines.

The Good School; Principals or Principles

copyright © 2012 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

A few organizations have attempted to answer The Good School Question.  Each asks, “What epitomizes a great learning center?”  “How might we, as a society, give birth to quality institutions?” The solutions are many.   All of  the associations speak of guiding principles. A few also strongly favor Principal or Teacher Leadership.  The various alliances advance the premise; our first and foremost priority must be our children.  In prose, beautifully composed, mission statements submit, adult wants cannot come before the needs of our offspring. Yet, after careful examination it is difficult to discern this truth.  Many aspirations. Many a mirage.  How might we know which is which? Once reviewed, every one of us will decide what works well in education and how might we execute a plan. Will principles, Principals, or pedagogy lead learners to salvation.

Bank Robbery

Cross posted fromThe Stars Hollow Gazette

Obama administration’s fear of fraud prosecutions

Cenk talks with “Rolling Stone” contributing editor Matt Taibbi about his new piece on the Obama administration’s lack of prosecutions for white collar crime. “If they pushed all these prosecutions, investors worldwide would see how epidemic corruption is on Wall Street,” Taibbi says. “They’re afraid of what the international reaction would be.” Cenk says while he doesn’t think President Obama is personally corrupt, “It’s the system that corrupts all these politicians.”

Obama and Geithner: Government, Enron-Style

by Matt Taibbi

Strongly recommend this piece at the Huffington Post by Jeff Connaughton, a former aide to Senator Ted Kaufman. Jeff is one of the smartest guys on the Hill and is particularly strong on issues surrounding Wall Street and the regulatory system. In this piece, he takes apart the oft-stated mantra that what Wall Street firms did during and after the crisis was maybe unethical, but not illegal.

He takes particular aim at Barack Obama, who recently tossed that line out on 60 Minutes in what I thought was one of the real low moments of his presidency. Here’s Jeff’s take:

   Speaking in Kansas on December 6, (Obama) said, “Too often, we’ve seen Wall Street firms violating major anti-fraud laws because the penalties are too weak and there’s no price for being a repeat offender.” Just five days later on 60 Minutes, he said, “Some of the least ethical behavior on Wall Street wasn’t illegal.” Which is it? Have there been no prosecutions because Wall Street acted legally (albeit unethically)? Or did Wall Street repeatedly violate major anti-fraud laws (and should thus find itself in the dock)?

   The President is confusing “legal” with “difficult to prosecute successfully.”

The notion that what Wall Street firms did was merely unethical and not illegal is not just mistaken but preposterous: most everyone who works in the financial services industry understands that fraud right now is not just pervasive but epidemic, with many of the biggest banks committing entire departments to the routine commission of fraud and perjury – every single one of the major banks, for instance, devotes significant manpower to robosigning affidavits for foreclosures and credit card judgments, acts which are openly and inarguably criminal.

How Banks Cheat Taxpayers

by Matt Taibbi

A good friend of mine sent me a link to a small story last week, something that deserves a little attention, post-factum.

The Bloomberg piece is about J.P. Morgan Chase winning a bid to be the lead underwriter on a $400 million bond issue by the state of Massachusetts. Chase was up against Merrill for the bid and won the race with an offer of a 2.57% interest rate, beating Merrill’s bid of 2.79. The difference in the bid saved the state of Massachusetts $880,000. [..]

Except in four out of five cases, it still doesn’t happen that way. From the same piece [emphasis mine]:

   Nationwide, about 20 percent of debt issued by states and local governments is sold through competitive bids. Issuers post public notices asking banks to make proposals and award the debt to the bidder offering the lowest interest cost. The other 80 percent are done through negotiated underwriting, where municipalities select a bank to price and sell the bonds.

By “negotiated underwriting,” what Bloomberg means is, “local governments just hand the bid over to the bank that tosses enough combined hard and soft money at the right politicians.” [..]

There is absolutely no good reason why all debt issues are not put up to competitive bids. [..]

[T]his is a bond issue, not rocket science. In most cases, all the top investment banks will offer virtually the same service, with only the price varying. Towns and cities and states lose billions of dollars every year allowing financial services companies to overcharge them for underwriting.

Much to Forgive: The Story of Bibi Sadia

by Kathy Kelly and the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers

January 3, 2012

Kabul – Bibi Sadia and her husband Baba share a humble home with their son, his wife and their two little children. An Afghan human rights advocate suggested that we listen to Bibi’s stories and learn more about how a Pashto family has tried to survive successive tragedies in Kabul.

Holding her three year old granddaughter in her arms, Bibi adjusted her hijab and launched into a narrative that began during the Soviet occupation.  The mujahideen had asked Baba to bring them medicines two or three times a week for those injured in the war. For each batch of medicines that Baba delivered, the mujahideen paid him a small sum of money. When the Russian occupiers discovered what he was doing, they beat him severely.  After that, the mujahideen accused him of spying for the Russians and they also beat him badly.

The vicious beatings gave him perforated ear drums requiring six operations and left him permanently hard of hearing.

They also left him mentally unsound, so that Bibi became the sole breadwinner for the family.  “During the time of the Taliban,” Bibi tells us with a soft smile, “I used to make bread, wash clothes and reap other people’s wheat to earn a living,” The mujahideen, having ousted Russia’s favored government and its army, were now in power and frowned on women working.  “I used to work by the moonlight, sewing clothes from animal hide”.

Eventually, Bibi found work as a cleaner at the Aliabad Hospital in Kabul, but the Taliban who had gained power frowned on women working. One evening, the Taliban had come to the hospital and insisted on taking a particular male staff member away.  Warned by the hospital manager, the man in question had managed to escape, but Bibi was not so lucky. When the Taliban spotted her working, they started slapping her. “I crouched in a corner and didn’t speak. When the hospital manager asked them why they were beating me, they said they had previously warned me against working at the hospital and that I hadn’t heeded their warnings.”  This incident was actually Bibi’s first warning, but not her last.


Fastest with the Mostest

Supply and Demand

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The key problem in Academic Economics at the moment is that it’s been replaced by tortoise shell shaking Shamen muttering mystical protestations of faith in the cult worship of Mammon by fairy believing fools.

The Misinformation Around Debt

By: David Dayen, Firedog Lake

Monday January 2, 2012 10:15 am

(T)he key problem for US debt at the moment is that there won’t be enough of it to meet current demand. Choppy waters elsewhere have made US Treasuries, the same ones supposedly downgraded by Standard and Poor’s, perceived as the safest financial instrument in the world. Treasuries sold at a higher pace than anytime since 1995. Government could finance at a negative long-term interest rate. The markets want the government to borrow more so they can get their hands on more Treasuries. This will also likely increase economic performance, improving yields across the board.

Nobody Understands Debt


Published: January 1, 2012

It’s true that foreigners now hold large claims on the United States, including a fair amount of government debt. But every dollar’s worth of foreign claims on America is matched by 89 cents’ worth of U.S. claims on foreigners. And because foreigners tend to put their U.S. investments into safe, low-yield assets, America actually earns more from its assets abroad than it pays to foreign investors. If your image is of a nation that’s already deep in hock to the Chinese, you’ve been misinformed. Nor are we heading rapidly in that direction.

Washington isn’t just confused about the short run; it’s also confused about the long run. For while debt can be a problem, the way our politicians and pundits think about debt is all wrong, and exaggerates the problem’s size.

(W)hen people in D.C. talk about deficits and debt, by and large they have no idea what they’re talking about – and the people who talk the most understand the least.

Perhaps most obviously, the economic “experts” on whom much of Congress relies have been repeatedly, utterly wrong about the short-run effects of budget deficits. People who get their economic analysis from the likes of the Heritage Foundation have been waiting ever since President Obama took office for budget deficits to send interest rates soaring. Any day now!

And while they’ve been waiting, those rates have dropped to historical lows. You might think that this would make politicians question their choice of experts – that is, you might think that if you didn’t know anything about our postmodern, fact-free politics.

Clap louder.  LOUDER!!!

What is it about loud that you don’t understand?

On this Day In History January 4

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

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

January 4 is the fourth day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 361 days remaining until the end of the year (362 in leap years).

On this day in 1987, Spanish guitar great Andres Segovia arrives in the United States for his final American tour. He died four months later in Madrid at the age of 94.

Segovia was hailed for bringing the Spanish guitar from relative obscurity to classical status. Born in Spain’s southern region of Andalusia–the original home of the guitar–Segovia studied the piano and cello as a child but soon became captivated with the guitar. Knowing of no advanced teachers of an instrument that was generally banished to the cafes, he taught himself and in 1909 gave his first public performance at the age of 15. To successfully render classical material, Segovia invented countless new techniques for the guitar, and by his first appearance in Paris in 1924, he was a virtuoso. His American debut came four years later in New York City.

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

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

You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.

–Woodrow Wilson

Drips 1

Late Night Karaoke

So, how ’bout those candidates?

Ron Paul

Mitt Romney

Iowa Caucus Open Thread

Now many may disagree with me (including TheMomCat and we have discussed this lots of times) but I think the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire Primary serve a valuable role by forcing the .01% political elite to slum amongst us 99.99% rabble and kiss ass for votes instead of simply holding an auction.

Each one tests a different aspect of a candidate’s campaign.  In Iowa the test is organization, getting your votes to the poll and keeping them yours.  In New Hampshire it’s a test of campaigning, developing a message of broad appeal and delivering it.  Not so easy in a State with no big cities, no dominant newspapers (the Union Leader is a mere pretender) and only 1 TV Station.  It’s also a test of finances since you have to shop in Massachusetts where the prices are much higher, not because of taxes but because the market is bigger.

That said I thought no one could care less about the results of the Republican Caucuses than me.  I am proven wrong by Rick Perlstein

(Y)ou probably couldn’t find a political junky in America less interested to the supposedly hotly contested race for the Republican nomination. I called it for Willard “Mitt” Romney well over three years ago-the day he finished second to John McCain in 2008. That made him “next in line;” and our modern Republican Party pretty much always nominates the next in line, or at the very least The Logical Choice Of The Party Establishment. In 1968, it was Nixon, the former vice president. In ’76 it was the accidental president, Gerald Ford. The guy who came in second in ’76, Ronald Reagan, was nominated in 1980; Vice President Bush, the man who finished second in ’80, in ’88. Old Man Dole in ’96. Son of Bush in 2000. Mighty McCain in 2008.

Matt Taibbi’s critique is a bit more far reaching and less petty-

It takes an awful lot to rob the presidential race of this elemental appeal. But this year’s race has lost that buzz. In fact, this 2012 race may be the most meaningless national election campaign we’ve ever had. If the presidential race normally captivates the public as a dramatic and angry ideological battle pitting one impassioned half of society against the other, this year’s race feels like something else entirely.

In the wake of the Tea Party, the Occupy movement, and a dozen or more episodes of real rebellion on the streets, in the legislatures of cities and towns, and in state and federal courthouses, this presidential race now feels like a banal bureaucratic sideshow to the real event – the real event being a looming confrontation between huge masses of disaffected citizens on both sides of the aisle, and a corrupt and increasingly ideologically bankrupt political establishment, represented in large part by the two parties dominating this race.

The auctioned election process is designed to reduce the field to two candidates who will each receive hundreds of millions of dollars apiece from the same pool of donors. Just take a look at the lists of top donors for Obama and McCain from the last election in 2008.

Obama’s list included all the major banks and bailout recipients, plus a smattering of high-dollar defense lawyers from firms like WilmerHale and Skadden Arps who make their money representing those same banks. McCain’s list included exactly the same banks and a similar list of law firms, the minor difference being that it was Gibson Dunn instead of WilmerHale, etc.

Those numbers tell us that both parties rely upon the same core of major donors among the top law firms, the Wall Street companies, and business leaders – basically, the 1%. Those one-percenters always give generously to both parties and both presidential candidates, although they sometimes will hedge their bets significantly when they think one side or the other has a lopsided chance at victory. That’s clearly what happened in 2008, when Wall Street correctly called Obama as a 2-1 (or maybe a 7-3) favorite to beat McCain.

The 1% donors are remarkably tolerant. They’ll give to just about anyone who polls well, provided they fall within certain parameters. What they won’t do is give to anyone who is even a remote threat to make significant structural changes, i.e. a Dennis Kucinich, an Elizabeth Warren, or a Ron Paul (hell will freeze over before Wall Street gives heavily to a candidate in favor of abolishing their piggy bank, the Fed). So basically what that means is that voters are free to choose anyone they want, provided it isn’t Dennis Kucinich, or Ron Paul, or some other such unacceptable personage.

If the voters insist on supporting such a person in defiance of these donors – this might even happen tonight, with a Paul win in Iowa – what you inevitably end up seeing is a monstrous amount of money quickly dumped into the cause of derailing that candidate.

The reason 2012 feels so empty now is that voters on both sides of the aisle are not just tired of this state of affairs, they are disgusted by it. They want a chance to choose their own leaders and they want full control over policy, not just a partial say. There are a few challenges to this state of affairs within the electoral process – as much as I disagree with Paul about many things, I do think his campaign is a real outlet for these complaints – but everyone knows that in the end, once the primaries are finished, we’re going to be left with one 1%-approved stooge taking on another.

The only place we can be absolutely sure this battle will not be found is in any national presidential race between Barack Obama and someone like Mitt Romney.

The campaign is still a gigantic ritual and it will still be attended by all the usual pomp and spectacle, but it’s empty. In fact, because it’s really a contest between 1%-approved candidates, it’s worse than empty – it’s obnoxious.

It was always annoying when these two parties and the slavish media that follows their champions around for 18 months pretended that this was a colossal clash of opposites. But now, with the economy in the shape that it’s in thanks in large part to the people financing these elections, that pretense is more than annoying, it’s offensive.

And I imagine that the more they try to play up the drama of these familiar-but-empty campaign rituals, the more irritating to the public it will all become. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if, before the season is out, the campaign itself will become a hated symbol of the 1% — with the conventions and the networks’ broadcast tents outside the inevitable “free speech zones” attracting protests the same way the offices of Chase and Bank of America did this fall.

Speaking of Matt Taibbi, Rajiv Sethi has an interesting piece up over at Yves place speculating on a Goldman-style ‘Pump and Dump’ in the Intrade prediction market driving the Santorum Surge (minds out of the gutter folks) and Romney’s enhanced chances of victory.

Public Policy Polling which has proven remarkably accurate recently predicts a Photo Finish with Ron Paul at 20%, Mitt Romney at 19%, and Rick Santorum at 18%; and as if you haven’t had enough Horse Race metaphors, John Aravosis points out this interesting graphic at Slate.

Jon Walker likes gambling on Poker better-

The Wild Card Factors

Probably the two biggest wild cards are turnout and whether Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry are able to hold their support. It is possible some of their socially conservative supporters might at the last minute move strategically to Santorum, because they see his momentum making him the strongest anti-Romney.

Similarly it is possible the Paul campaign could bring in a significant number of new, unlikely caucus voters tipping the balance for him. It is possible a large number of anti-war and/or anti-drug war independents will choose to show up at the caucus, change their registration to GOP, and vote for Paul. With overall turnout likely to be about only 130,000, as little as a few hundred votes could make a difference.

Now you can find a live blog almost anywhere except here.  Not only am I uninterested in any of the above (call me Uncommitted though some think I should be), I am also still visiting my TVless friend and if I want to watch the results at all I’ll have to do it through CurrentTV’s livestream and sadly my laptop lacks to horsepower to stream and blog at the same time.

However if you have any observations you’d care to share please do so below.

It is, after all, an Open Thread.

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