Friday: Fusion

In this roundup: Dakota Access Pipeline news, Hawaiian sovereignty and other indigenous peoples news, the death of space art, and fusion jazz.

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Thursday: Another Grungey Anniversary Observed

In this roundup: Recalling 25 years of Nirvana’s Nevermind, petro-pipeline-economic challenges, lead poisoning, anthrax, and cops gone wild. Read more

Tuesday: Change of Pace

I need a break — a change of pace after the last several day’s nonstop doom-and-gloom observing what has become an American version of the Day of the Dead. Add the nauseating bullshit misogynist circus piling on the “church faint” by a post-menopausal woman wearing too much clothing in humid weather while recovering from pneumonia. It’s unrelenting ridiculousness which can only be broken by the injection of dark humor.

I like this young director Almog Avidan Antonir’s body of short works, including this little zombie love story. Looking forward whatever he might have next up his sleeve.

The Dakotas

  • Lawmaker unintentionally makes armed law enforcement drones legal in North Dakota (Independent-UK) — Way to go, dude. Legislator submitted a bill to outlaw armed drones; wretched police union got to the bill with revisions and now law enforcement can use drones armed with non-lethal force. North Dakota is now the first state in the U.S. to legalize armed drones. Want to bet law enforcement is already preparing to use this technology against pipeline protesters?
  • South Dakota Yankton Sioux filed suit against U.S. government over pipeline (Indian Country Today) — While media focused attention on North Dakota’s Standing Rock Sioux protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Yankton Sioux in South Dakota filed against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Though the planned pipeline runs through tribal treaty lands, the government did not complete an environmental study or a consult with the affected tribe — same complaint in South as in North Dakota. The pipeline company, Energy Transfer, did not use tribe members to identify any challenges during planning of the pipeline route.
  • Trespass charges against journalist Goodman blows off First Amendment and Justice Dept. (Committee to Protect Journalists) — CPJ’s Carlos Lauria said the warrant issued for Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman is “a transparent attempt to intimidate reporters” covering the NoDAPL protests. Morton County’s warrant ignores Justice Dept’s joint statement with Interior Dept halting pipeline construction, in which the departments said, “we fully support the rights of all Americans to assemble and speak freely. …” Goodman clearly identified herself as a reporter.
  • Oil producers whine about pipeline delays interfering with cheap oil (Fortune) — These guys are just not catching the cluestick. It may take shareholder activism to wake these morons up about the end of fossil fuels and a need for entirely new business models instead of forcing oil pipelines through.
  • Standing Rock: a new civil rights movement? (Guardian) — Op-ed looks at the birth of a new movement where environmental and civil rights activism join forces to protect indigenous people and Missouri River — the longest river in the continental U.S.

Flint Water Crisis

  • Former state epidemiologist not talking about possible plea deal (MLive.com) — Corinne Miller, now retired, was arraigned in August on felony misconduct and misdemeanor neglect of duty. Miller suppressed action on children’s blood lead levels and told Michigan Dept of Health and Human Services employees to delete emails related to the blood lead data.
  • Water bill moves forward in Senate (The Hill) — Emergency funding for Flint and its lead-contaminated water system closer to passing as part of a $9.4 billion bill for water-related infrastructure and clean drinking water. The bill also includes assistance for Louisiana’s flood recovery. Money for Flint’s aid may be paid by cutting the Energy Dept’s Advanced Vehicle Manufacturing Technology loan program.
  • Water filters still needed by Flint residents through end of year, possibly longer (Detroit Free Press) — There’s no clear end to the water crisis, even though funding may soon be available. Thresholds for lead levels have not yet been agreed upon by state and federal officials. The amount of damage to the city’s water system continues to complicate recovery efforts.

Still Picking on Volkswagen

  • VW engineer plead guilty to conspiracy, wire fraud and violating Clean Air Act (Jurist.org) — The record of engineer James Robert Liang’s June indictment was unsealed on Friday, revealing he and co-conspirators designed, implemented, and lied about emissions controls technology which evaded emissions standards. One interesting bit of new information is the involvement of an unnamed third-party engineering company partially owned by Volkswagen, referred to in the indictment as “Company A.”
  • Awkward: Liang to be sentenced during North American International Auto Show (Detroit News) — Four months from now, smack in the middle press week for Detroit’s 2017 NAIAS, VW engineer Liang will be sentence in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Michigan. This op-ed notes Liang’s plea hints at a much-larger conspiracy in VW pursued by investigators. Somebody had to sign off on this design, at a minimum. And somebody had to tell Bosch what and how to make the non-compliant electronic controls units.

Longread: Rakoff on Fiss and rights under a War on Terror
United States District Judge Jed S. Rakoff looks at a collection of essays by legal scholar Owen Fiss, written over the last 13 years while the U.S. the so-called “War on Terror.”

Toodles!

Thursday: Alien Occupation

Since I missed a Monday post with a movie clip I think I’ll whip out a golden oldie for today’s post.

This movie — especially this particular scene — still gets to me 37 years after it was first released. The ‘chestburster’ as scene is commonly known is the culmination of a body horror trope in Ridley Scott’s science fiction epic, Alien. The horror arises from knowing something happened to the spacecraft Nostromo’s executive officer Kane when a ‘facehugger’ leapt from a pod in an alien ship, eating through his space helmet, leaving him unresponsive as long as the facehugger remained attached to his face. There is a brief sense of relief once the facehugger detaches and Kane returns to consciousness and normal daily functions. But something isn’t right as the subtle extra scrutiny of the science officer Ash foreshadows at the beginning of this scene.

Director Ridley Scott employed a different variant of body horror in his second contribution to the Alien franchise, this time by way of a xenomorph implanted in her mimicking pregnancy in scientist Shaw. She is sterile, and she knows whatever this is growing inside her must be removed and destroyed or it will kill both her and the remaining crew. The clip shared here and others available in YouTube actually don’t convey the complete body horror — immediately before Shaw enters this AI-operated surgical pod she is thwarted by the pod’s programming for a default male patient. In spite of her mounting panic and growing pain she must flail at the program to enter alternative commands which will remove the thing growing inside her.

I suspect the clips available in YouTube were uploaded by men, or they would understand how integral to Shaw’s body horror is the inability to simply and quickly tell this surgical pod GET THIS FUCKING THING OUT OF ME RIGHT THE FUCK NOW.

I don’t know if any man (by which I mean cis-man) can really understand this horror. Oh sure, men can realistically find themselves host to things like tapeworms and ticks and other creatures which they can have removed. But the horror of frustration, being occupied by something that isn’t right, not normal, shouldn’t continue, putting its host at mortal risk — and not being able to simply demand it should be removed, or expect resources to avoid its implantation and occupation in one’s self? No. Cis-men do not know this terror.

Now imagine the dull background terror of young women in this country who must listen to white straight male legislators demand ridiculous and offensive hurdles before they will consider funding birth control to prevent sexual transmission of Zika, or fund abortions of Zika-infected fetuses which put their mothers at risk of maternal mortality while the fetuses may not be viable or result in deformed infants who’ll live short painful lives. Imagine the horror experienced by 84 pregnant women in Florida alone who’ve tested positive for Zika and are now being monitored, who don’t know the long-term outcomes for themselves or their infants should their fetuses be affected by the virus.

Body horror, daily, due to occupation not only by infectious agents alien to a woman’s body, but occupation by patriarchy.

I expect to get pooh-poohed by men in comments to which I preemptively say fuck off. I’ve had a conversation this week about Zika risks with my 20-something daughter; she turned down an invitation this past week to vacation with friends in Miami. It’s a realistic problem for her should she accidentally get pregnant before/during/immediately following her trip there.

We also talked about one of her college-age friend’s experiences with Guillain–Barré syndrome. It’s taken that young woman nearly three years to recover and resume normal function. She didn’t acquire the syndrome from Zika, but Guillain–Barré’s a risk with Zika infections. There’s too little research yet about the magnitude of the risk — this vacation is not worth the gamble.

But imagine those who live there and can’t take adequate precautions against exposure for economic reasons — imagine the low-level dread. Imagine, too, the employment decisions people are beginning to make should job offers pop up in areas with local Zika transmission.

What’s it going to take to get through to legislators — their own experience of body horror? Movies depicting body horror don’t seem to be enough.

Wheels
Put these two stories together — the next question is, “Who at VW ordered the emissions cheat device from Bosch before 2008?”

Pretty strong incentives for Volkswagen to destroy email evidence. I wonder what Bosch did with their emails?

Self-driving electric cars are incredibly close to full commercialization based on these two stories:

  • Michigan’s state senate bill seeks approval of driverless cars (ReadWrite) — Bill would change state’s code to permit “the motor vehicle to be operated without any control or monitoring by a human operator.” Hope a final version ensures human intervention as necessary by brakes and/or steering wheel. I wonder which manufacturer or association helped write this code revision?
  • California now committed to dramatic changes in greenhouse gas emissions (Los Angeles Times) — State had already been on target to achieve serious reductions in emissions by 2020; the new law enacts an even steeper reduction by 2030 in order to slow climate change effects and improve air quality.

I don’t know if I’m ready to see these on the road in Michigan. Hope the closed test track manufacturers are using here will offer realistic snow/sleet/ice experience; if self-driving cars can’t navigate that, I don’t want to be near them. And if Michigan legislators are ready to sign off on self-driving cars, I hope like hell the NHTSAA is way ahead of them — especially since emissions reductions laws like California’s are banking heavily on self-driving electric cars.

Google-y-do

  • Google’s parent Alphabet-ting on burritos from the sky (Bloomberg) — No. No. NO. Not chocolate, not doughnuts, not wine or beer, but Alphabet subsidiary Project Wing is testing drone delivery of Chipotle burritos to Virginia Tech students? Ugh. This has fail all over it. Watch out anyhow, pizza delivery persons, your jobs could be on the bubble if hot burritos by drone succeed.
  • API company Apigee to join Google’s fold (Fortune) — This is part of a big business model shift at Google. My guess is this acquisition was driven by antitrust suits, slowing Google account growth, and fallout from Oracle’s suit against Google over Java APIs. Application programming interfaces (APIs) are discrete programming subroutines which, in a manner of speaking, act like glue between different programs, allowing programmers to obtain resources from one system for use in a different function without requiring the programmer to have more than passing understanding of the resource. An API producer would allow Google’s other systems to access or be used by non-Google systems.
  • Google to facilitate storage of Drive content at cloud service Box (PC World) — Here’s where an API is necessary: a Google Drive user selects Box instead of Drive for storage, and the API routes the Drive documents to Box instead of Drive. Next: imagine other Google services, like YouTube-created/edited videos or Google Photo-edited images, allowing storage or use by other businesses outside of Google.

Longread: Digitalization and its panopticonic effect on society
Columbia’s Edward Mendelson, Lionel Trilling Professor in Humanities and a contributor at PC Magazine, takes a non-technical look at the effect our ever-on, ever-observing, ever-connected technology has on us.

Catch you later!

Tuesday: In a Season of Crime

Ride the train, I’m far from home
In a season of crime, none need atone
I kissed your face


— excerpt, Sue (or In a Season of Crime) by David Bowie

Bowie left us an amazing parting shot with his 25th and final album, Blackstar. The cut featured here is a free jazz/jazz-rock fusion work which sounds off-kilter or out of sync, the lyric melody not tracking with rhythm — until one looks at the lyrics as a story of confusion told at the same time as a driving lyric-less and inevitable story beats on at the same time.

Seems like an unintended metaphor for our general election politics.

Back to School, Fool
Guess who’s back in town? A bunch of Congressional lame ducks back from vacation — I mean — work in their districts where they glad-handed at county fairs between bites of deep-fried Twinkies and kissing babies for campaign photo ops.

Get back to work and produce funding for Zika research AND birth control, damn it. Your continued intransigence is costing lives — short, ugly, painful, deformed lives on which you are pitiless and merciless, you fundamentalist let-them-eat-cake hacks. It’s only a matter of time before somebody in your district ends up Zika-infected and pregnant after vacation trip to someplace warm like Miami — or mosquito-bitten during during their day job like lawn care or construction or mail delivery. Researchers are working incredibly hard with the limited funding they’ve had; there’s only so much they can do with inadequate funding. And birth control MUST be available to all who need it. Planned Parenthood can and does hand out condoms, you pathetic slack-handed weasels. Fund them.

STG if I was the president, I’d look at any way possible to trim funding to unusual projects in states with GOP senators and then declare an emergency, pull that trimmed funding to pay for subsidized birth control in the same damned states. With researchers now having found Zika infection may spread by bodily fluids like semen, vaginal fluid, saliva, and tears while documented cases mount, there’s ample grounds to write an executive order during a lame duck session.

Big Oil = Big Bully

The NoDAPL project is bad all around. There’s no good reason for it to proceed.

— The economics of oil supply and demand do not support it; the cost to proceed is simply not supportable.

— The environmental cost of this project and the oil it is intended to carry are untenable; investment of resources private and public should go toward non-fossil fuels.

— The project violates the rights of Native Americans in numerous ways and no good faith effort has been made to address them during planning, let alone now as construction begins. The current and future damage to the Sioux only exacerbates hundreds of years of abuses against their sovereign nation.

— The companies investing in this project including Enbridge cannot assure the safe operation of this pipeline given the history of pipeline leaks across this country. In Enbridge’s case, this foreign-owned corporation has already proven unreliable and opaque in pipeline operations.

— NoDAPL should not proceed for the same reasons Keystone XL pipeline did not proceed: it is not in our country’s best interest.

I don’t know how anyone can look at this bulldozing of land containing buried Native Americans and not see it as a direct, deliberate effort to erase their existence. This is accursed behavior which in no way addresses the needs for alternative energy outlined in the Defense Department’s Quadrennial Review or our nation’s need to secure its people by reducing carbon dioxide output.

Odd Lots

  • Disposal wells in Oklahoma including Osage Nation shut down after earthquake (Tulsa World) — Yet another case where extractive fossil fuel business on Native American tribal lands has been highly problematic. 17 wells were shut down by the EPA after Oklahoma’s M5.6 induced earthquake this weekend; these wells are in addition to 37 other disposal wells shut down this weekend near the quake’s epicenter. Haven’t seen yet whether another earthquake of this magnitude could set off an overdue 500-year magnitude earthquake along Missouri’s New Madrid fault.
  • U.S. district judge denies federal plan to open 1 million acres of central CA public lands for fracking and drilling (IndyBay.org) — Bureau of Land Management didn’t do its homework on environmental risks from fracking, focusing too heavily on drilling instead. Sounds a lot like Army Corp of Engineers’ slap-dash disregard for externalities when it analyzed the NoDAPL, doesn’t it?
  • OK’s earthquake insurance market already under review (Tulsa World) — Insurers have only paid out on 20 percent of earthquake-related claims since 2010; the market has also undergone consolidation and 300-percent rate increases. No word yet on how much damage this weekend’s M5.6 quake or subsequent aftershocks have caused. Hope the public lights a fire under Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak about his review of the market. It’s grossly unfair the public must bear the cost of risk created by extractive industries as it is.

Longread: Lawsuit against DMCA Section 1201
Johns Hopkins University professor and cryptographer Matthew Green filed suit against the federal government in late July to strike down Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The current law prevents security researchers from adequately investigating products. Worthwhile read — this has huge repercussions on our safety and security given how much of the technology around us is copyrighted but leaky as hell and prone to hacking.

Hasta pasta!

Wednesday: If I Had a Heart

Crushed and filled with all I found
Underneath and inside
Just to come around
More, give me more, give me more


— excerpt, If I Had a Heart by Fever Ray

Today’s featured single is from Fever Ray’s eponymous debut album ‘Fever Ray’, the stage name for Swedish singer, songwriter and record producer Karin Elisabeth Dreijer Andersson. If her work sounds familiar, it may be that she and her brother Olof Dreijer also performed as The Knife. Karin’s work is reminiscent of Lykke Li’s and Bjork’s electronic/ambient works, redolent with dark rhythms and layers of deep and high-pitched vocals — very Nordic feminine.

Fever Ray has been very popular with television programmers; the cut featured here is the theme song for History Channel’s Vikings series. It’s also been used in AMC’s Breaking Bad and WB’s The Following. Other songs by Karin as Fever Ray including Keep the Streets Empty for Me have been used by CBS’ Person of Interest and Canadian TV’s Heartbeats as well as a number of films. I’m looking forward to her next work, wondering if it will be just as popular TV and film industry.

Fossil feud

  • TransCanada approval hearing delayed due to protests (Reuters) — Not just U.S. and Native Americans protesting oil pipelines right now; Canada’s National Energy Board deferred this week’s hearings due to security concerns (they say). The board is scheduled to meet again in early October about the planned pipeline from Alberta to Canada’s east coast. There may be more than security concerns holding up these hearings, though…
  • Big projects losing favor with Big Oil (WaPo-Bloomberg) — The ROI on big projects may be negative in some cases, which doesn’t service massive debt Big Oil companies have incurred. They’re looking at faster turnaround projects like shale oil projects — except that these quick-hit projects have poorly assessed externalities which will come back and bite Big Oil over the long run, not to mention the little problem of fracking’s break-even point at $65/barrel.
  • Big Insurance wants G20 to stop funding Big Fossil Fuel (Guardian) — Deadline the biggest insurers set is 2020; by then, Big Insurance wants the G20 nations to stop subsidizing and financing fossil fuels including Big Oil because subsidies and preferential financing skew the true cost of fossil fuels (hello, externalities).
  • Standing Rock Sioux continue their protest against the North Dakota Access Pipeline (Guardian) — Video of the protest at that link. Calls to the White House supporting the Sioux against the DAPL are solicited. Wonder if anybody’s pointing out fracked shale oil is a losing proposition?

Zika-de-doo-dah

  • Adult mosquitoes can transmit Zika to their offspring (American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene) — Study looked at infected Aedes aegypti and albopictus mosquitoes and found the virus in subsequent larva. My only beef with this study is that Culex species were not also studied; they aren’t efficient carriers of Zika, but they do carry other flavivirus well and there are too many cases with unexplained transmission which could have been caused by infected Culex. Clearly need to do more about pre-hatch mosquito control regardless of species.
  • Three drugs show promise in halting Zika damage in humans (Johns Hopkins Univerity Hub) — Important to note some of the same researchers who demonstrated Zika caused damage in mice brain models earlier this year have now rapidly screened existing drugs to test against mice brain models. The drugs include an anti-liver damage medication (emricasan), an anti-parasitic (niclosamide), and an experimental antivirus drug. The limitation of this research is that it can’t tell how the drugs act across placenta to fetus and whether they will work as well and safely once through the placenta on fetuses. More research (and funding!) is needed.
  • Contraception no big deal, says stupid old white male GOP senator’s staffer (Rewire) — Right. If only McConnell and his staff could experience the panic of being poor and at risk of Zika. Not everybody in Puerto Rico has ready access to the “limited number of public health departments, hospitals, and Medicaid Managed Care clinics,” let alone other states like Texas which has such awful women’s reproductive care in terms of access and funding the maternal mortality rate has doubled in two years, up 27%. Pro-life, my ass. By the way, this lack of access to contraception affects men, too, who may unknowingly be infected with Zika and tranmit it to their sexual partners.

Longread Must-read: Super court
If you haven’t already done so, you need to read this investigative report by Chris Hamby at BuzzFeed. While it answers a lot of questions about the lack of perp walks, it spawns many more.

Hasta luego, compadres!

North Dakota and Feds Suppress Native American Pipeline Protesters

[top: planned Dakota Access pipeline route, via Dakota Access LLC; bottom: Keystone XL pipeline, via Independent-UK]

[top: planned Dakota Access pipeline route, via Dakota Access LLC; bottom: Keystone XL pipeline, via Independent-UK]

What’s the difference between these two pipelines? Only variations are the origin of the oil they may transport and their location as far as I can tell since they are described as competing pipelines.

Oh, and the Keystone XL pipeline was vetoed by President Obama a year ago this past February because Congress tried to ram through approval, attempting to “circumvent longstanding and proven processes for determining whether or not building and operating a cross-border pipeline serves the national interest,” according to the president.

In both cases — Keystone XL and the Dakota Access — the planned pipelines traversed Native American tribal lands and/or water systems upon which these sovereign nations relied. The affected tribes have protested the credible threats these pipelines pose to their health and safety as well as their heritage and sovereignty.

The threat is real; there have been 11 pipeline accidents since 2000 on lines carrying oil or gasoline across the Dakotas. One of those pipeline accidents resulted in roughly 20,000 barrels or 865,000 gallons of oil spilling beneath a farm in North Dakota in 2013. There was a ten-day lag after the farmer brought the spill to the company’s attention until the state’s governor heard about the accident — ridiculous, considering North Dakota is the 47th largest state in terms of population, at less than 800,000 residents. It’s not like there were a lot of people in the way. The spill covered an area equal to seven football fields and clean-up is still under way and may not be completed until some time in 2017. The North Dakota Tesoro pipeline oil spill is one of the largest in the U.S. to date.

Oil producers and pipeline owners/operators have frankly been lousy in their responsibilities to the public. It’s not just the 11 pipeline accidents in the Dakotas since 2000; it’s a rather lengthy list of them across the entire country and a lengthy track record of crappy response to the damage done to the environment. My state, Michigan, which is surrounded by the largest bodies of fresh water in the world, is also the site of the largest oil pipeline spill in the U.S. In 2010, more than 1.1 million gallons of oil spilled, much of it into a waterway. Alarms notifying the pipeline’s owner, Enbridge, of the spill were initially ignored for 17 hours, blown off as operation notifications.

Simply unacceptable.

The Native American tribes have no reason whatsoever to believe oil producers and pipeline owners/operators will act with any more care than they have to date. Further, they have no reason to trust the U.S. government about these pipelines, either. They have been betrayed and damaged again and again by the U.S. — excessive and mortal police brutality, theft of human remains, theft and mismanagement of billions in assets, the indignity of fighting to remove the name of a mass murderer from public lands, the catastrophic contamination of the San Juan River supplying water to the Navajo nation — the insults are endless.

The latest insult: North Dakota’s Governor Jack Dalrymple signed an executive order to obtain more funding for additional police to deter approximately 1,500 protesters. The state has pulled water supplies used by the protesters and refused to allow portable toilets to be emptied. This follows a temporary restraining order granted to Dakota Access LLC by a federal district court against protesters’ interference with pipeline work. Native Americans have also been prevented from leaving reservation land, which may be a violation of civil rights and treaties.

Native Americans have legitimate concerns with the Dakota Access pipeline. For one, its planned route crosses the Missouri River which serves as the entire water source for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe; the Army Corp of Engineers (ACOE) approved 200 water crossings by the pipeline in spite of requests by the Sioux to deny construction permits. The ACOE, however, reviewed and rejected an alternate pipeline route crossing the Missouri River near Bismarck as it was deemed a threat to the municipal water supply. This looks like outright racism on the face of it; the pipeline is a threat to 92% white Bismarck, but not a sovereign Native American tribe?

Secondly, the ACOE has been asked by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to conduct an investigation and prepare a formal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), requiring consultation with the affected tribes. No EIS appears to have been conducted to date. In addition to the health and environmental safety concerns related to the pipeline’s installation and operation, the historical significance of the area is inadequately documented. The lack of a thorough assessment means the current Dakota Access pipeline plan may disrupt an older Mandan village site where Mandan may be buried. The site has cultural and religious significance to tribes and should be protected by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation under federal law.

Dakota Access LLC is pressing for this pipeline to reduce the costs of oil. Shipping crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale reserve by rail or truck is more expensive than shipping by pipeline.

That is until ALL the true costs and externalities are added, like the spills, remediation, short- and long-term health and environmental problems are added. These costs haven’t been added to the true cost of oil and are instead a gamble which humans living nearest to the pipeline must pay if there is a failure.

[10-year monthly price of WTI per barrel via Megatrends]

[10-year monthly price of WTI per barrel via Megatrends]

While the oil producers and pipeline operators continue to hammer away at the cost of oil, the price of oil has fallen. They can’t drop the cost fast enough and deep enough to realize a return on investment. They will cut corners as much as possible as the price of oil falls — and it will, if demand for oil also falls as it has with the rise of hybrid and electric vehicles. Cutting corners means there will be greater risk the pipeline will not be adequately monitored or maintained, just as it wasn’t in Michigan.

As more and more alternative, green energy resources come on line along with the technology to use them, it will make even less sense to invest in pipelines which may not carry all that much oil. The Bakken Shale reserve is estimated at several hundred billion barrels of oil, but the amount which can be recovered readily and economically is much less than 10% of the estimated total reserve. If the oil is too expensive to extract AND competing energy resources are both cheaper and available, why build this pipeline at all? How is enabling our continuing addiction to oil in the long-term best interests of our country?

It will take some spine to do the right thing and force this project to slow down for a full EIS assessment. It will take even more spine to point out we are both at the end of fossil fuel and at the limit of our disregard for Native Americans’ lives. It can be done, however; just ask Canada’s Justin Trudeau how he did it.

Monday: Grey Bull

Hope you have some free time today to enjoy this short film. Grey Bull by Khoby runs 15 minutes long, but worth it. Its pace is slow, but the emotions this short musters are full and richly explored. I look forward to more from filmmaker Khoby.

Energy escapades
NV ENERGY: Last Friday I posted a link to a story about Nevada’s governor replacing a member of the Public Utilities Commission as a result of costly barriers to residential solar energy integration. Commenter jo6pac pointed out that Berkshire Hathaway-owned NV Energy (NVE) has been part of the challenge to increasing the use of individual residential solar-generated electricity in NV. I thought there was another electricity provider in Nevada besides NVE given the number of businesses switching from NVE. It’s a challenge, though, if NVE has near-monopolistic position in the state’s electricity market, especially since NVE has the second highest residential rates for electricity in the mountain west region.

But that’s only part of NV’s problem. Like much of the U.S., NV must phase out of fossil fuels like coal and gas — NVE’s standard energy mix relies on 75% or more fossil fuels. As a nation we’re not talking enough about exiting fossil fuels, and how to prevent economic damage while winding down an entire industry in the case of coal. The public does not owe corporations guaranteed profits, but there is a compelling reason for the state to minimize damage to the public’s interests by ensuring coal does not crash.

Putting aside that rather large topic, Friday’s story is really the inversion — it’s not the lone PUC commissioner who might have been batting for NVE, but the largest industry in the state damaged by electricity monopoly and using its power to persuade regulatory change.

This January 2016 article explains a lot: casinos want to exit NV Energy for another provider, but they are being assessed enormous exit fees over which they are suing. More than $100 million in fees between three casinos is a lot of pressure to remain with the status quo.

We’re entering a phase where electricity attains commodification — any supplier will do, and the user should be able to freely switch — but the traditional infrastructure based on coal and other fossil fuel sources with steep and long-term sunk costs can’t compete with commodified alternative energy suppliers. It’s a challenge not unlike the transition from brick-and-mortar retail to e-tail, or newsprint to online news. The legacy system must give way, but it’s going to hurt when there is little forethought put into the transition. Nevada’s PUC is in for a very rough ride.

SOLARCITY: Tesla announced it’s buying out all of the solar power systems company for a price $200 million below its initial offer last month. While SolarCity’s headquarters are in San Mateo, California, after the merger it will have battery production facilities in the Gigafactory under construction near Reno, Nevada. Last year the SolarCity sued Salt River Project (SRP) claiming SRP’s increased rates for residential solar energy users violated antitrust laws since the consumers could not leave SRP’s portion of the grid.

Which sounds a lot like the situation in the rest of Nevada where NVE charges higher rates for residential users who install solar panels as jo6pac pointed out (more in NYT via bloopie2). Is there another antitrust suit in the offing? Or will billionaires Elon Musk of Tesla and Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway have a meeting of the minds?

Frightening flooding

Troubled Turkey

That’s it for Monday, only one more month before Congress returns to DC. See you tomorrow!

Friday: Possibility

Let’s try a Swedish import today, a little something I can’t really classify by a particular genre. This piece is one of my favorites, one of the most haunting tunes I’ve ever heard. It’s probably dream pop for lack of a better label. Lykke Li’s most popular works tend toward indie and synth-pop, sharing a strong rhythm and English lyrics melded with Lykke Li’s unearthly vocals.

Try out I Follow Rivers (dance/synth-pop) and Sadness Is A Blessing (retro indie pop) for comparison. The latter in particular has a funky video featuring another famous Swedish artist, Stellan Skarsgård. Love his understated effort which acts like a punctuation to the singer’s work.

Speaking of Sweden…

Carl Bildt, a former prime minister of Sweden (1991-1994) and former Minister for Foreign Affairs (2006-2014), tweeted on Wednesday:

I never thought a serious candidate for US President could be a serious threat against the security of the West. But that’s where we are.

Bildt is known for his conservative politics and neoliberal business ethics. Pretty sure he wasn’t referring to Clinton.

Turkic troubles

  • Insane numbers of people arrested or detained after Turkey’s anti-Gülenist crackdown (EWN) — Graphic in article offers a breakdown. Doesn’t break out the journalists arrested; see Mahir Zeynalov’s timeline for a journo-by-journo roll call.
  • UN Special Rapporteur and OSCE worried about Turkey’s journalists (OSCE) — UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Representative on Freedom of the Media condemned President Erdoğan’s purge of journalism attacking free speech. The numbers bolster their concerns:

    Reports indicate that the Government ordered the closure of three news agencies, 16 TV channels, 23 radio channels, 45 papers and 15 magazines. Since the attempted coup, authorities have issued arrest warrants against 89 journalists and have already arrested several of them, blocked access to more than 20 news websites, revoked the licenses of 29 publishing houses, and cancelled a number of press accreditations.

  • Generals stepped down as military rejiggered (Euronews) — Looks like the president is grabbing power over the military in the same way the judiciary’s independence has now been smashed by removals from office. Hey, anybody worried at all about Incirlik air base while the Turkish military is reformulated?

Economic emesis

  • Investors ‘totally lost’ (Business Insider) — Credit Suisse’s clients are casting about for direction because there’s no strong performance in the market across any industry, and indicators are confusing:

    Here’s a summary of what clients are worried about: workers fighting back in the US, hitting earnings; equities still not cheap; US growth mixed; China still screwed; central banks’ empty policy cupboards; politics being nuts (protectionism, anti-immigration moves, anticorporate feeling); and technology running rampant and destroying business models.

    Yeah, about the “workers fighting back”…perhaps if workers were better paid, making a living wage, all of the confusion would evaporate as consumption improved. There’s a reason home ownership rates have dropped below 1965 levels and it’s not because Millennials don’t want them (really crappy blame-casting, CNBC, catch the cluestick).

  • Nevada utilities commish not reappointed due to solar energy rate structure (Las Vegas Sun) — Something about this story tweaks my hinky-meter. Maybe a certain commissioner has friends who don’t want solar energy to become competitive? Which is really a shame considering the Tesla’s new Wonderwall battery plant now in the Reno area.
  • Five-year-long shortage of cancer drug forces reliance on disqualified Chinese maker (Bloomberg) — There’s been a shortage of doxorubicin since 2011, and companies the size of Pfizer — the largest pharma company in the world — rely on a facility in China banned by the FDA because of quality problems like contamination. What the hell is wrong with this picture?
  • Kazahk emigre sentenced for export violations (The Hill) — How did this guy pull off exporting dual-use technology to Russia for ten years? Doesn’t look like it took much effort based on available information. Have we cut regulatory oversight so much and been so distracted at the same time that we’ve given away the farm?

Something STEMmed

  • TSA’s keys compromised (TechCrunch) — Hacking’s not just for software. All seven of TSA’s master keys have been cloned; anybody can 3D print one and unlock baggage with TSA-approved padlock. Why even bother locking stuff? Of course bags can be so damaged during handling the lock may be worthless anyhow. Makes you wonder how many other physical security devices can be defeated with 3D printing.
  • Bees’ sperm dramatically affected by insecticides (SFGate) — Hey dudes, especially you in Congress. Maybe you ought to ask if insecticides reduce bees’ sperm production by 40% whether human sperm might also be similarly affected? Just sayin’.
  • Huge great white shark trolls family’s boat off east coast (Cape Cod Chronicle) — But there’s an app for that; they could ‘see’ him coming, thanks to an app which monitored the tag. Mixed feelings on this: glad the family was safe, but jeepers, how else can this tag be used?

Oikonomia
How screwed up is the United Kingdom post-referendum vote and how jacked up is the current economic system, when a disabled theoretical physicist and cosmologist must beg in an op-ed for his country to reconsider its understanding and reaction to wealth?

Worth recalling the word ‘economics’ originated from the Greek ‘oikonomia’, meaning “household management.”

Have a safe, relaxing weekend!

Thursday Morning: Don’t Feel Bad

While I am sorry a family has lost their father, I can’t mourn the bizarre passing yesterday of Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon.

McClendon had been indicted Tuesday for price fixing on real estate related to natural gas and oil development. Charges against him had been expected since 2012 when the violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act came to light.

But for a Michigander like me, this is not a remote and abstract story. Property over the Collingwood Shale formation in Northern Michigan was included in collusion between McClendon and Encana Oil & Gas executives to “avoid bidding up” prices. Between Chesapeake and Canadian corporation Encana, the two businesses owned nearly a million acres of Michigan — a chunk of land the size of Rhode Island.

Imagine it: two corporations buying a state-sized mass of land at rigged prices within a state. And all of it with underground water connected to a couple of the largest freshwater bodies in the world, much of it earmarked for fracking.

Energy visionary“? That’s what other resources leeches might call McClendon, who was at the heart of a dispute over Lake Michigan shoreline property. The land had been willed to “the children” of Benton Harbor by former residents J.N. and Carrie Klock, in memory of their daughter Jean, for use as a public park. In dedicating the land, J.N. Klock said, “…See to it that the park is the children’s.”

It was the only such lakefront park for Benton Harbor, a financially-challenged city with 89% African American residents. But the property adjoined the intended development of a Jack Nicklaus golf course, and the McClendon family as well as other notable figures (like Rep. Fred Upton and Whirlpool CEO Jeff Fettig) lived in the neighborhood of both the intended golf course and Jean Klock Park. The dispute caused considerable heartburn for Benton Harbor residents. It still boggles my mind that wealthy parasites like McClendon simply felt they could ignore the intent of the Klocks’ intentions, their proxies arguing the pricey (read: unaffordable to the average Benton Harborite) golf course would meet the standard of public access.

Note also, that Benton Harbor was among the Michigan cities to which an emergency financial manager had been appointed because of its municipal financial crisis — just like Flint, Michigan.

I can only imagine what other parasitic nonsense will emerge in the debris field left by McClendon. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Quick hits

That’s enough damage for now. Be anti-parasitic and do something nice for others today.

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